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July 23, 2019, 8:38 p.m. EDT

Watch out for these illnesses in a heat-wave power outage, and other advice to stay safe

A full freezer will hold its temperature for around 48 hours during an outage; a half-full freezer will hold for about 24 hours

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By Meera Jagannathan, MarketWatch


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There are ways to prep for — and survive — the heat-wave power-outage double whammy, experts say.

Man, it’s a hot one — with a power outage, to boot.

Power outages impacted tens of thousands of New York City residents during this weekend’s unforgiving heat wave, as energy utility Con Edison /zigman2/quotes/207137172/composite ED +0.21%   apparently took about 30,000 Brooklyn customers off power temporarily to make repairs. Residents in other areas, including Queens, the Bronx and Westchester County, also reported outages.

Con Edison announced Monday morning that it had restored power overnight to more than 30,000 people, and expected another 21,500 without power to have it restored by the afternoon. Some 8,952 customers remained out of service by Monday evening, according to the company’s outage map .

A full freezer will hold its temperature for around 48 hours during a power outage, while a half-full freezer will hold for about 24 hours.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo both fumed over the outages, with de Blasio questioning the utility’s response to what he called a “preventable” situation and Cuomo insisting Con Ed “should have been better prepared.”

A Con Edison spokesman did not return a MarketWatch request for comment. “We are completely focused on getting customers back in service, and we regret the distress they are under,” read a statement posted to the utility company’s website.

Over the weekend, temperatures in New York City hit 94 degrees Fahrenheit , and reached 98 degrees in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and Boston.

New Yorkers weren’t the only ones stuck in sweltering weather without air conditioning. Severe storms knocked about 600,000 customers in southeast Michigan off of the electric grid, as utility DTE Energy /zigman2/quotes/205073403/composite DTE -1.65% announced Monday afternoon that about 200,000 people were still without power. The Washington, D.C. area also experienced storm-related power outages in recent days.

And temperatures will only grow hotter. A recent report on heat and climate change from the nonprofit Union of Concerned Scientists found that “extreme heat days are poised to rise steeply in frequency and severity in just the next few decades,” should present global emissions continue.

Make sure your pantry has food and supplies that are not refrigerator-dependent, so you’re not reliant on food in your fridge if the power goes out.

“This heat would cause large areas of the United States to become dangerously hot and would threaten the health, lives, and livelihoods of millions of people,” the report’s authors wrote. “Such heat could also make droughts and wildfires more severe, harm ecosystems, cause crops to fail, and reduce the reliability of the infrastructure we depend on.”

But there are ways to prep for — and survive — a heat-wave and power-outage double whammy:

Plan in advance if you can. Before severe heat or a power outage strikes, run through a checklist of supplies — like water, non-perishable food, batteries, flashlights and an AM/FM radio — that you’ll need on hand, said Jim Judge, a Florida-based member of the American Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council. “Every time you go to the store, you pick up a few items,” he told MarketWatch.

For folks on a budget, building an emergency-preparedness arsenal over a couple of months’ worth of paychecks can be less stressful and more cost-effective than trying to stock up day-of, Judge added. “If you plan on this … then it’s not so much of a financial hit when something does occur unexpectedly,” he said. “Before long, you’ve got your items already prepared, so that if something does occur then you’re in pretty good shape.”

Many cities and states around the country have rules that prohibit price-gouging in emergency situations, Judge said. But you may still wind up overpaying to buy someone’s generator in a pinch, he said, and basic provisions could be in short supply during an emergency. “There are items that can cost you more money during an event than prior to an event,” he said.

Opt instead for flashlights and battery-operated lanterns, which won’t set your already-scorching home ablaze if a cat or strong wind topples them.

Keep your refrigerator shut. A full freezer will hold its temperature for around 48 hours during a power outage, while a half-full freezer will hold for about 24 hours. A refrigerator, kept closed, will keep food cool for about four hours. In other words: Try not to shove your head in the freezer to cool off.

“Make sure your pantry has food and supplies that are not refrigerator-dependent, so you don’t have to constantly go into your refrigerator to access [food] once power goes out,” Ira Tannenbaum, an assistant commissioner in New York City’s Office of Emergency Management, told MarketWatch.

If dry ice is available in your community — Con Edison, for example, said it would distribute the frozen carbon dioxide in two Brooklyn locations — then make sure you handle it properly and follow the instructions, Tannenbaum said. As for potentially spoiled food: “We always say, ‘When in doubt, throw it out,’” Judge said.

Blow out those candles. Opt instead for flashlights and battery-operated lanterns, which won’t set your already-scorching home ablaze if a cat or strong wind topples them. “Candles used to be good back in the day, but they’re dangerous,” Judge said.

If you use life-sustaining medical equipment that requires electricity, plan ahead. Many communities throughout the country have resources and facilities for those with access and functional needs or disabilities , Judge said, so reach out to your local Red Cross or emergency-management office to find out what’s available near you.

Check in advance to see if your local energy utility can help, added Tannenbaum: Con Edison customers and household members who use life-support equipment, for instance, can register to have the company reach out in the event of a power outage or emergency.

Those who use life-support equipment can register to have Con Edison reach out in the event of a power outage or emergency.

Check on your elderly neighbors, who can be especially vulnerable in heat waves. “[We] also encourage friends and family and neighbors to check on the elderly, or anyone nearby who might have a medical condition, to make sure they have the support they need,” Tannenbaum said.

Protect your body from the heat. Drink lots of water, wear loose-fitting and light-colored clothing, and avoid unnecessary sun exposure or labor if you’re outdoors or without the a/c, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) spokeswoman told MarketWatch in an emailed statement.

Avoid alcohol and caffeine , said Judge. And be aware of the signs of heat-related illness, including heat rash, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. (The CDC has a list of symptoms and action items here .)

In a heat wave, spend time in locations with a/c such as shopping malls, public libraries, or public health-sponsored heat-relief shelters in your area.

“Air-conditioning is the best way to protect yourself against heat-related illness and death,” the CDC spokeswoman added. “When it is extremely hot, spend time in locations with air-conditioning such as shopping malls, public libraries, or public health-sponsored heat-relief shelters in your area.”

Don’t forget about your furry friends. “Keep your eye on animals,” Judge said. “Make sure pets are hydrated and kept out of heat as well.”

Implement some cooling hacks at home. If you had the a/c on before the power went out, keeping your home well-insulated can help maintain the temperature, Tannenbaum said — but if you’re hot in your apartment, make sure you’re letting a breeze in through the windows. Close your blinds to keep the sunlight out, added Judge.

Be smart about batteries and electronics . Stock up on spare batteries for emergency devices like radios, flashlights or battery-operated fans, Tannenbaum said, and make sure you haven’t swapped them out to use in your remote control or some other item.

Unplug your appliances and electrical equipment after an outage hits to avoid a power surge, he added. And if you know ahead of time that there could be a power outage, keep your cell phone and other devices charged.

Listen to local authorities, who can keep you posted on the power outage. Many communities have “points of distribution” for giving out emergency supplies to the public, Judge added, “so it’s important to stay tuned to the local authorities if water and other provisions are going to be handed out until power comes back on.”

And see if your city has its own alert system: New York’s Notify NYC program , for example, pushes out emergency-related messages via its website and app. The Red Cross also offers a variety of mobile apps .

If you have a generator, take appropriate precautions. “If your power is out and you’re using a portable generator, make sure it’s outdoors, and at least 20 feet from any door, window, vent, or air conditioner to avoid carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning,” the CDC spokeswoman said. Don’t run your generator in a garage, added Judge.

/zigman2/quotes/207137172/composite
US : U.S.: NYSE
$ 91.49
+0.19 +0.21%
Volume: 1.14M
Oct. 18, 2019 6:30p
P/E Ratio
21.71
Dividend Yield
3.24%
Market Cap
$30.39 billion
Rev. per Employee
$805,710
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/zigman2/quotes/205073403/composite
US : U.S.: NYSE
$ 127.34
-2.14 -1.65%
Volume: 2.47M
Oct. 18, 2019 6:30p
P/E Ratio
21.03
Dividend Yield
2.97%
Market Cap
$23.34 billion
Rev. per Employee
$1.34M
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