CHIÈVRES, Belgium -- Due to the current renovations of nuclear plants in Belgium, there are reports of possible planned power outages in the country during the winter. While the Belgian government is trying to prevent a power shortage, people should be prepared in the event of an outage this season.

According to Mélanie Chaballe, energy manager at U.S. Army Garrison Benelux, the Belgian media will announce at least one day in advance if an outage is planned in the country. The outages would not affect neighboring countries.

The U.S. Army Garrison Benelux Public Affairs Office will relay the information via email, Facebook and the official garrison website.

The outages would not be country-wide, but, instead, in designated zones from approximately 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. According to Chaballe, Belgium is divided into eight zones. The media reports will state which zone the outage is in. Chaballe advised that people know which zone they are in by visiting their commune's grid operator's website.

During power outages, USAG Benelux locations should not be affected, because power supply will come from back-up generators, according to Chaballe.

"If people feel unsafe because their home does not have electricity, then they can go on base [during the outage] because the garrison locations will have electricity," she said.

Mission partners, however, may not have power. People working in mission-partner organizations should know if their office has back-up generators and determine an outage plan.

PREPARING FOR AN OUTAGE

People should, however, always be prepared in the event of a planned or unplanned power outage. Chaballe recommended that people have an emergency kit in their home, such as flashlights, a battery-powered radio, blankets and non-perishable foods. For families, it is important to remember children's needs, especially infants.

If there is a planned outage, people should also think ahead and take steps such as charging their phones and preparing food before the outage. In some areas, the water supply may be affected, according to Chaballe, so people will need to be prepared for that as well.

DRIVING DURING AN OUTAGE

Street lights may be affected during a power outage. According to Chaballe, if drivers approach an intersection where the street lights are not working, they should look for signage such as a yield or stop sign and follow those directions. If there is no street sign at the intersection, then the "priority to the right" rule applies to driving.

People are not advised to drive in an area affected by a power outage, because there is a higher risk of accidents.

MONITORING USAGE AT ALL TIMES

Regardless of planned outages, people should always monitor their electricity consumption.

"What everyone can do is try to reduce their consumption," said Chaballe. "For example, try to run appliances such as your dishwasher, washing machine and dryer during the night time. Some people may not know that it is cheaper to run it at night from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. and during the weekends."

Chaballe also recommended that people save power by limiting their usage such as unplugging electrical devices when not in use and turning off lights when a room is not occupied.

People should also monitor the temperature in their home by either programming a thermostat or adjusting radiators. The rule of thumb is to program thermostats no more than 20 degrees Celsius (or 68 degrees Fahrenheit) in occupied rooms. When not at home, people can set their thermostats to as low as 13 degrees Celsius (or 55 degrees Fahrenheit).

If homes are heated by radiators, people should turn down the radiators to 1 or snowflake setting (labeled as a * on most radiator handles) when not in the room for a long period of time.

OTHER TIPS

Chaballe does not want people to worry about a power outage affecting their holidays as the Belgian government is proactively trying to avoid planned outages. While people should not be concerned, they can download the Elia4cast app, which is available on Apple and Android devices. The app shows the current status of power for the next seven days in Belgium.

The USAG Benelux Public Affairs Office will also provide updates as we receive them. The updates will be posted on the official USAG Benelux Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/USAGBenelux) and website (https://home.army.mil/benelux).