Energy companies brace for winter storm

(KSFY) - As a blizzard bears down on a large portion of the Upper Midwest, Xcel Energy is offering tips to stay safe when it comes to power-related emergencies.

Xcel officials say strong winds and snow can occasionally cause power outages, and the company has crews on hand to work on any outages that might occur.

Xcel customers can report power issues or track outages at the company's website.

South Dakota Rural Electric Cooperative customers can also track outages or report problems at the company's here.

The following are some additional safety tips via Xcel energy:

Stay away from downed power lines. Always assume an electric line, even one that is on or near the ground, is energized and therefore dangerous. Never, under any circumstance, touch or move a downed power line. If you come across a downed power line, leave the area and report it immediately by calling 1-800-895-1999.

Build a home emergency kit. Xcel Energy recommends assembling an easily accessible kit that can be used in the event of a power outage. Useful items may include:
o Xcel Energy phone numbers - 1-800-895-1999 for residential or 1-800-481-4700 for business
o Battery-powered radio or television
o Flashlights
o Batteries
o Back up phone chargers
o A phone that does not require electricity
o Non-electric alarm clock
o Bottled water and nonperishable food
o Manual can opener
o First aid kit
o Extension cords (for partial outages)
o Manufacturer's instructions on how to manually open power-operated doors (e.g., garage doors)

Heating safety. If using a space heater, take care to ensure safety as more than 65,000 home fires are attributed to heating equipment each year in the United States, according to the Electrical Safety Foundation International. When using a space heater, make sure the heater has the label showing it is listed by a recognized testing laboratory, and read the manufacturer’s instructions and warning labels. Additionally, inspect heaters for cracked or broken plugs and connections; don’t use it if they are frayed, worn or damaged. Never leave a space heater unattended. Turn it off when leaving a room and don’t go to sleep with a space heater on.

Observe food safety. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, food safety is directly related to the temperature of the food. To maintain refrigerator and freezer temperatures, keep doors closed as much as possible. A full freezer will stay at freezing temperatures for approximately two days and a half-full freezer approximately one day. Visit the USDA website for more information.