There is never a good time for the power to go out, but it happens periodically during storms or other instances, like an overloaded power grid.
Instead of being stuck in the dark, literally and metaphorically, let us help you create an action plan before, during, and after an outage.
As inconvenient as power outages can be, it is important to be prepared. From the supplies you may need, to how to safely reconnect devices and electronics once the power is restored, read on to find out how to prepare for a power outage.
Preparing Your Home for a Power Outage
Preparing your home for a power outage ahead of time is important. Being prepared is so much better than scrambling for candles and flashlights in a dark house.
Let’s discuss great ways you can prepare for a power outage ahead of time!
This is when you should be checking your inventory for batteries, portable chargers, or any other power source you can connect to once the electricity is out. You should have a flashlight for each member of your household to prepare for a power outage.
Candles and kerosene lanterns can be helpful, but they also pose serious risks of injury or death, so it is important to be careful if your power outage plan includes using candles or gas lanterns for light sources.
A carbon monoxide detector with battery backup should be installed on every level of your home. This colorless, odorless gas can kill you before you even know anything is amiss. This is a concern when using gas ovens, stoves, and generators.
Take inventory of all appliances and electronics that run on electricity or batteries so that you have enough on hand when the power goes out.
Make sure your electronics are all fully charged ahead of time so you don’t have any unpleasant surprises. A power bank may also come in handy if you find yourself with a dead battery during a power outage.
A surge protector is an invaluable tool to have when the power goes out! It protects electronics and appliances connected to it by diverting the ‘surge’ of electricity into the grounding wire, rather than overloading and frying your electronics.
If you have required medical equipment that runs on electricity it is vital to have a plan in place for when the power goes out. A generator can be incredibly useful during times such as this.
For refrigerated medications, you should find out how long the medication can be stored at higher temperatures so you will know whether to discard it or if the medication is safe for use.
An emergency kit is great to add to your preparations for power outages. Some of the most important things you will want in your emergency kit include water, food, light sources, batteries, and personal hygiene items.
Also in this emergency kit, you should include a first aid kit for any cuts, scrapes, or nonemergency injuries. A first-aid kit should have basic medical supplies like gauze for dressing wounds, bandages of different shapes and sizes, medical tape, antiseptic wipes, antibiotic ointment, and tweezers.
Other items you may decide to incorporate into your first-aid kit include a breathing barrier, over-the-counter pain relievers and fever reducers, an emergency blanket, roller bandages, and gloves.
An emergency kit should be specifically packed to meet the needs of you and your family. If you take any medications on a daily basis, you should include a few days’ supply of these medications in your emergency kit.
What to Do During A Power Outage
Once the power goes out, the first thing you should do is report the outage.
To do this, you can go to your local network operator’s website or call the toll-free number provided on your power bill to report or track an outage. You can also sign up for alert systems from your provider to manage a power outage.
If you are in an area that’s experiencing extreme temperatures or severe weather, it’s important to know when to leave and seek shelter elsewhere during a power outage.
Vulnerable and elderly people are more at risk during a power outage in extreme temperatures, so check on your neighbors if it applies.
If you use a medical device that requires electricity, it’s best to evacuate your home and head for the nearest community warming station or cooling center.
Food/Water Safety and Storage
Keeping your perishable food cold during a power outage can be challenging, so it is important to know when it’s time to throw it out.
That said, the food in your refrigerator will stay cold for around four hours, as long as the doors are kept shut. A full freezer can maintain its temperatures for around 48 hours before foods begin to defrost if the doors are not opened.
You can use coolers with ice to keep some items cold if needed, just make sure to monitor the temperature inside the cooler. Food begins to spoil in temperatures above 40 degrees. A good rule of thumb is that if you are in doubt, throw it out.
Having water and shelf-stable food, like canned goods and other non-perishables, stored can help you prepare your home for a power outage.
A rule of thumb for stockpiling water is to set aside one gallon per person per day for at least three days. Water should also be set aside for cooking and cleaning, as well as bathing.
Staying safe in a power outage means that you will need access to weather alerts. These alerts are vital for staying safe during severe weather such as tornadoes, flooding, high winds, etc.
Local weather alerts can be found through channels like radios and phones in the instance the power is out and you can’t access alerts on television.
Staying Cool in the Summer
It can be extremely uncomfortable, and even dangerous, to deal with a power outage in the summertime, but we’ve got you covered with these tips to stay cool!
A battery-powered or camping fan can help keep you cool during a power outage. You will probably need one fan per one-to-two people to help combat body heat as well as the outside temperatures, depending on the size of the fan.
Drink water! Drinking plenty of fluids will ensure you don’t dehydrate while sweating in the heat. You can also apply a wet bandanna to the back of your neck or head and fan it.
To keep the sun from beating down on your windows and heating up your house during a power outage, cover the windows facing the sun with dark curtains or blankets. The windows facing away from the sun can be opened to let in the breeze.
If you feel yourself beginning to overheat, a cool bath or shower can bring down your body temperature. If the heat gets too extreme, it may be best for you to evacuate your home and find a cooling center in your local community.
Staying Warm in the Winter
Keeping warm in the winter during a power outage is vital. There are a few things you can do to prepare your home for a power outage in the winter.
Applying weather stripping around doors and windows can help keep any drafts out, which helps your home retain its heat.
Sunlight coming through windows can help warm a room, but if your windows and doors aren’t insulated well leaving them uncovered can do more harm than good. At night windows can be covered with heavy drapes or curtains to prevent heat loss from around the windows.
To keep yourself warm you can wear several layers of clothing and bundle up underneath blankets and comforters. If you are in an extremely cold region, it’s a good idea to use insulated sleeping bags with other layers.
Condensing your living space is a smart way to keep warm during a power outage, considering how much easier it is to heat a smaller space.
If your home has a fireplace or wood-burning stove, close off the room so cold air can’t get in and heat can’t get out. Even if you don’t have an alternative heat source, your body heat, along with that of your family members, can help you keep warm in small spaces.
Outside doors should remain closed as much as possible to retain heat inside your home. If you need to go outside for any reason, make sure to shut the door immediately behind you.
Emergency thermal blankets are effective if you don’t have much space to work with when preparing your home for a power outage. These thin aluminized polyester film blankets are windproof and waterproof, reflecting heat back to the body.
If all else fails, evacuate your home and head for the nearest warming station in your community.
Safe Generator Use
Knowing how to operate a generator safely is a vital piece of information during a power outage. Always read and follow the instructions carefully.
A generator should always be used outside, at least 20 feet away from home windows, doors, and garages.
Carbon monoxide detectors make all the difference in preventing tragedy, so even if you are sure you are following instructions to the tee, invest in one!
Generators should be kept dry and protected from rain and flooding. Do not touch a wet generator, or it could result in electrical shock.
When connecting appliances to your generator, heavy-duty power cords are a must. These cords need to be able to handle the strain of the appliance on the generator.
When refueling your generator you should always allow it to cool completely, because combustion can occur in the event that fuel is spilled on hot engine parts.
Once the power goes out, you should disconnect any appliances and electronics from outlets to prevent damage from a surge when the power is restored. This includes TVs, video game consoles, and all home appliances.
Once you have accounted for the safety of yourself and your family and gotten everything else prepared, it’s time to think about entertainment.
In this digital age, it can be challenging to fill your free time during a power outage in the face of no electronics. Since you never know how long an outage will last, you should avoid using any of your charged electronics unless you have a wireless charger for them.
To combat utter boredom, play card games like Uno, Solitaire, Go Fish, etc., or board games like Monopoly, Clue, Candy Land, etc. Read a book you’ve had your eye on, catch up on chores like dusting and washing windows, or work on that to-do list to pass the time.
What to Do After A Power Outage
Once the power has been restored it is time to start checking everything out and making sure everything survived the outage.
Usually, pilot lights stay on when the power is off, but even if yours does go out you should be able to relight it without electricity.
If your pilot light went off when the power went out, you can easily and safely relight the pilot light after turning off the gas valve.
If your area has experienced flooding, it is important to remember never to enter a flooded structure unless you are sure the electricity has been disconnected.
Flooded electrical outlets, switch boxes, and breaker panels will need to be checked and cleaned by a qualified, licensed electrician before you use them, for your safety.
Restock Emergency Kit
Once the power has been restored you should take inventory of your emergency kit and first-aid kit. Make sure to replace anything that was used during the outage so that you remain prepared for the future.
Keep an eye on the expiration dates of the items in your emergency kits, removing and restocking items once their dates have passed.
Reconnecting Electronic Devices
Before reconnecting all your electronic devices give the electrical system a chance to balance after the power comes back on.
First, turn on the climate control inside your home and wait a few minutes to allow it to stabilize. The refrigerator and freezer should be plugged in next, followed by everything else shortly after.
Trash Questionable Food/Drinks/Medication
Check the food inside your refrigerator and freezers for signs of spoilage. If any of the items have reached temperatures of 40 degrees or above, throw them out.
If your power remains out for longer than 24 hours, discard any medications that require refrigeration and contact your doctor immediately.
If you are not sure if an item has spoiled, err on the side of caution and chuck it.
Preparing your home for a power outage is important to reduce the discomforts and risks that result from an outage. This step-by-step guide will help you make sure that your home is adequately prepared!
For more information about surviving when the power goes out, check out our guide on how to survive power outages.