MPSC offers safety tips during power outages due to winter storms

Follow safe practices if power is out in areas affected by recent ice storms, high winds, or snow.

“Snow, ice, and high winds have buffeted all parts of our state this past week, leading to power outages for many residents,” said Sally Talberg, chairman of the Michigan Public Service Commission. “It’s really important to be aware of possible dangers when the power is out, and we urge all Michiganders to show extra caution and care to be safe while utilities work to restore electricity.”

The MPSC offers tips and resources for storm-related issues such as what to do if power goes out, proper use of supplemental heating sources indoors, and portable generator safety.

Ice and high winds can bring down power lines. Stay at least 25 feet away from any lines on the ground and always assume it is live. Call 911 or your local utility to report downed power lines.

If you lose power, contact your local provider by phone or online to report the outage. Be sure to tell the service provider if there is emergency medical equipment in the home. Unplug appliances and other devices to prevent electrical overload when power is restored.

Portable generators can be handy to provide power for vital needs if electric service is interrupted, but it’s vital that they are used properly. Never use a generator indoors or in closed spaces because they give off dangerous carbon monoxide, which is odorless and colorless and can be deadly. When running generators outdoors, keep them away from windows, garages, doors, or other openings to keep carbon monoxide from entering a residence.

Supplemental home heating must also be used carefully indoors. Electric heaters should be placed on solid, level services, and should never be left unattended. Don’t plug heaters into extension cords or plug more than one heater into and outlet.

Electric ovens or stoves should never be used as a supplemental heating source.

Fireplaces and kerosene heaters must be properly vented. Make sure flues are open when fireplaces are in use to avoid harmful fumes from entering a residence. Make sure rooms where kerosene or gas heaters are being used are properly ventilated and oxygen depletion detectors are installed.

During crisis situations, be aware of utility imposters who are trying to take advantage of customers. Check out these tips on how to identify imposters.

If a residential or commercial customer’s power is out for more than 120 hours, they may qualify for a credit on their bills. To request an electric outage service credit, customers should contact their electric utility. Electric outage service credits are explained here.

The MPSC provides a formal utility complaint process to resolve problems that might arise during or following an outage. Call the MPSC’s Customer Assistance line at (800) 292-9555. Affected customers during an outage can also call 2-1-1 or go to 211.org for information about services or warming centers.