Safety & Education

Montana-Dakota Utilities is Committed to Zero®. We are committed to zero incidents and injuries. Our goal each day is to provide safe and reliable service. Our commitment to safety extends to our customers, our employees and to the communities we serve.

Coping with a power outage

Storms can and do cause power outages in our region during each season. Whether it’s a winter blizzard, a spring ice storm or a summer thunderstorm, electrical service is sometimes the victim. Here are some important tips to help you prepare for and cope with a power outage.

Every home should have a battery-operated radio, flashlight and, of course, plenty of fresh batteries. In fact, don’t wait until you hear there’s a storm on the way before you run to the store and find them sold out.

If you have enough warning before a storm hits, and your water supply would be affected by an electric power outage, fill your bathtub and spare containers with water for cleaning or washing. (Do not leave small children unattended near a filled bathtub.) You might want to buy a few gallons of bottled water to have on hand at all times.

If you know a storm is headed your way and may threaten your electric service, turn your refrigerator on its coldest setting -- but remember to turn it back after the storm has passed. Food in a freezer will keep up to 48 hours under those conditions if the freezer is full.

Keep canned food, a non-electric can opener and other non-perishables in the house just in case. Freeze-dried or dehydrated foods can be prepared with a minimum of heat.

During an emergency, a can of Sterno in a holder on a flameproof surface can be used for cooking. But, never use charcoal indoors. It releases deadly carbon monoxide gas.

View the 'Storms & Power Outages' brochure for additional information.

Downed power lines

Storms can down power lines. Storm-downed lines should always be considered dangerous – so stay at least 6 feet away. Power lines draped over highway barriers or fences can energize them for great distances. Don’t touch anything that’s in contact with the wire. If a power line falls on your car, stay in your car. You’re safe as long as you do.

Never try to cut fallen wires. Consider every fallen wire dangerous. Report it to authorities or call Montana-Dakota. If you see a fallen power line, stay far away from it and warn others to stay away, too. Call your electric utility company or the local police right away. All downed power lines should be considered energized and dangerous.

Never try to reposition a downed line with sticks, poles or other items that are normally considered to be “nonconductors.” To some extent, electrical current can travel through most materials -- even ones that are said to resist it.

If your car comes into contact with a power line stay inside and wait for help. The vehicle’s rubber tires help protect you from becoming a pathway for current to flow to the ground. If you must leave your vehicle, open the door and leap as far away from it as possible. Above all, do not touch the vehicle and the ground at the same time.

  • Appliances - Make sure all sensitive electric appliances such as microwave ovens, VCRs, televisions and computers are protected with surge suppressers. For complete protection when a storm hits, unplug as many appliances as possible. Be sure to turn off or disconnect appliances that would go on automatically when power is restored -- refrigerator, freezer, water pump and especially the stove. If a burner is on when your power returns and there is a flammable object on the element, it could start a fire. Once power is restored, plug in appliances one at a time.
  • Backup generators - Please do not use a backup generator if your MDU power has been disrupted. By connecting a backup generator to your home electric circuitry, you might energize our electric distribution lines and endanger our line crews who are restoring power.
  • Report any downed, hanging or burning wires to Montana-Dakota or to the police or fire department.

Life-sustaining equipment

Anyone requiring life-sustaining equipment such as iron lungs, chest respirators and rocking beds must have an emergency standby power supply.

Life sustaining equipment includes any electrically operated support system such as tank-type respirators (iron lungs), Cuirass-type respirators (chest respirators), intermittent positive pressure respirators, hemodialysis equipment (kidney machines), mechanical nebulizers, suction machines, rocking beds, apnea monitors or other similar equipment.

If you are a landlord with tenants using such equipment, please advise them of the safety equipment requirement to have an emergency standby power supply.

Montana-Dakota does everything possible to provide reliable service. But, because of weather, mechanical failure, and other circumstances beyond our control, we cannot guarantee uninterrupted electric service.

Natural gas safety

Buy only gas appliances with the American Gas Association Blue Star Seal, an indication that the appliance meets industry safety standards. And make sure you follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Only qualified technicians should work on your gas appliance. Call Montana-Dakota Utilities Co. or another certified gas appliance repair service.

Check your gas flame periodically. It should have a bright blue appearance. A yellow or orange flame means the appliance needs service work. Don’t forget to replace your heating system filter several times during each heating season.

Combustion air is vital for gas appliances. Make sure no obstructions are blocking the appliance’s air intake and regularly check the venting of your gas furnace and water heater by touching the vent pipe (be careful...if operating properly it will be hot).

If you smell gas . . .

We add an odorant to your natural gas so you can detect a leak should one occur. If you think you might have a gas leak, call us at our toll-free number: 1-800-MDU FAST (1-800-638-3278)

If the gas smell is very strong, leave the building immediately and use a neighbor’s telephone. Also, do not light any matches, operate any light switches or electrical devices or pull plugs from outlets because any of these could ignite accumulated gas.

Never use your range as a heater. Your gas range has one purpose - to cook food. It should never be used as a secondary source of heat. When your oven door is left open, it prevents the thermostat from cycling and periodically turning the gas off. This constant burning could create a situation that could cause asphyxiation or fire.

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Other Safety Information

Check out these websites for additional safety information: