What to do during and after a windstorm

March 18, 2019 by PEMCO Insurance
Listening to the wind howl outside your home is nerve-racking, especially if it's dark and you can't really see what's going on. These tips can help you stay safer when Northwest winds dish out their worst:

During the storm
  • Unplug electronics and appliances (except the refrigerator and freezer) that could be damaged by a power surge.
  • Sleep on the ground floor rather than in second-story bedrooms. If a tree falls on the house, ground floors are safer. If you have a tall tree on one side of the house, consider sleeping on the opposite side.
  • Don't drive, if possible. However, if you must drive, add following distance and avoid traveling next to trucks and vehicles towing trailers, which can flip in high gusts. Choose routes without wooded areas. Treat dark stoplights as four-way stops.
  • Never drive near a downed power line. If a power line falls on your vehicle, gently drive out from under it if you can. If you can't (the car is wrecked, the pole is in the way or you're tangled), DON'T GET OUT of the car. Assume the wire is live, meaning the ground surrounding your car is electrified, too. Call 911. Wait for help from emergency responders, who will turn off the power. Wave away any passersby who may try to approach the vehicle to help.

Very rarely, a car in contact with a power line can catch fire. If that's the case, and you have no choice other than to leave your car, remove loose clothing (that could flap against the car). Open the door wide, touching only the latch. Perch on the door sill with your arms tucked against your ribs (so you don't accidentally brush the door frame or another part of the car). Jump rather than step down so you land on both feet at exactly the same time (imagine a bird landing safely on an electrical wire). Once you're out, don't shut the door or grab something off the seat. Shuffle or hop away with both feet together until you're 60 feet from the car. By not touching anything else or lifting your feet independently, you don't complete the circuit and can avoid injury. Check out this video from Puget Sound Energy to see how.

After the storm

  • Don't try to repair or clean up anything until you're sure the storm has passed. Your safety comes first!
  • If a tree has fallen on your home, don't risk injury trying to salvage items from a damaged room if the roof appears unstable. If the structure is still sound, you can move items or stretch tarps to prevent water damage from rain.
  • If the power is out and you lack a safe alternative heat source (like a fireplace or woodstove), make arrangements to stay elsewhere such as a hotel, or with friends or relatives. Each year, carbon monoxide poisoning claims the lives of people who used generators, propane heaters, camp stoves or barbecues indoors or in an attached garage. Also, make sure all living spaces in your home are protected with working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors – a smart safety choice that becomes even more important when you're using a generator.
  • If you smell natural gas or hear a hissing sound, open windows and leave the building immediately. Don't use lights, cellphones or landline phones near the leak, which could spark and cause an explosion. Call 9-1-1 or the emergency line of your utility company from outside the house. Follow their instructions before you act, but if you need to shut off the main gas-line valve (usually the first fitting on the natural gas supply pipe next to your meter), it's important to have a wrench near the valve (store a crescent wrench inside a zippered plastic bag). Once it's off, don't turn it back on yourself. A qualified technician will need to confirm proper operation of all pilot lights and gas appliances once the gas is turned on again.
  • If your home has suffered damage, call 1-800-GOPEMCO or go online to report your claim as soon as you're in a safe place. As a Northwest company, we know how to help you with the aftermath of a windstorm. The sooner you contact us, the sooner we can get you lined up with the help you need to worry less and live more. 

Here's what to do to prepare before a windstorm.

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