Winter Weather Series – Power Outages

       As winter is quickly approaching, it’s important to prepare for possible harsh weather conditions. Here in the Pacific Northwest, we typically face heavy rains and, at times, considerable wind storms. These conditions often result in fallen branches and uprooted trees that can cause widespread power outages. Often times we are lucky and power outages are resolved within a couple hours but, here at Panorama, last January reminded us this is not always the case. Unfortunately, there is always a possibility for long-term effects. Preparing for this possibility can increase comfort during tough conditions and even save lives.

During long-term power outages, the biting cold of winter makes its way into our homes, inviting along with it many potential hazards. As we age, our bodies become more susceptible to cold temperatures. This can be attributed to a number of reasons, including affects of certain medications and the body’s general reduced ability to regulate body temperature. This is why it’s particularly important for seniors to be vigilant in preparation for possible rough weather.  Seniors who chose to live in a Continuing Care Retirement Community like Panorama have already done preliminary planning. Our residents enjoy a built-in layer of protection that comes with living at Panorama. Although those who are independent are responsible for their own personal preparation, Panorama addresses preparation of the campus.

Several of our common buildings are on back-up generators. This provides a variety of locations for Panorama residents to stay comfortable and warm during a power outage. “Warming Centers”, as we refer to these locations, are hosted by members of the volunteer resident organization, the Storm Support Team. For the duration of a power outage, Panorama residents are kept up-to-date on the latest reports from Puget Sound Energy. We have in place a designated power outage reporting line as well as an emergency hotline that features a recording of the most recent update. This saves our residents from being fully “in the dark.”

Having our own Social Services department for independent living allows us to reach out to those residents who may need a little extra support. During emergencies such as a prolonged power outage, house calls are made to residents who cannot be reached by phone. These house calls are carried out by a Panorama social worker, Urgent Response Aid, or a CERT-trained member of the Storm Support Team. This adds a level of comfort for Panorama residents and those who care about them.

In addition, we work hard to ensure our residents are continuously educated in preparing for harsh weather. We post reminders and warnings to all residents on campus when Thurston County is expecting a storm. Although we stress that each person should take responsibility for their personal preparedness, Panorama residents have the advantage of knowing they have people working for them; and one of our biggest jobs before, during, and after a storm is gathering as much information for our residents as possible.

Tips and Tricks

It’s important to remember that everyday conveniences may not be accessible during a storm. Here are some tips on how to make sure you’re prepared for a long-term power outage:

  • If you own a vehicle, make sure the gas tank is full before the storm hits.
  • If you park your vehicle in a garage with an electric door, know how to open the door manually without power.
  • Have a few days’ supply of your required daily resources (food, water, medication, etc.)
  • Have an emergency kit and know where it is. It’s best to make sure it’s in an easily accessible place in case you have to find it in the dark.

During a power outage

  • Conserve water
  • Use battery-powered lights, rather than candles, to prevent fire
  • Wear several layers of lightweight clothing.
  • Keep refrigerator and freezer closed as much as possible to delay food spoilage
  • Consume easily-spoiled food first but throw out items that don’t feel cold to the touch
  • Eat regularly; the digestion process increases body temperature

*Beware of Carbon Monoxide poisoning*

  • Never use a generator, grill, camp stove, or other gasoline, propane, natural gas, or charcoal-burning devices inside or any partially enclosed area.


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