Power Outage Preparedness

Power outages that last minutes can be a nuisance, but power outages that last longer - for hours, days, or weeks - can be dangerous. Food borne illnesses, heat stroke, and hypothermia are just some of the adverse outcomes of an extended power outage.

Prepare for a power outage now and feel more assured about your family’s welfare the next time the power cuts out. Learn how to prepare for a power outage below with three simple, potentially life-saving steps.

How to Prepare for a Power Outage:

  1. Make a disaster kit that includes bottled water and nonperishable items.
  2. Take precautions, like powering up your cell phones, during a situation that causes power outage, such as severe storms.
  3. Know power outage dos and don’ts, like staying away from downed power lines.


1. Make a Disaster Kit with Water, Food, and Other Essentials

When a power outage strikes, there is a momentary thrill - the flashlight puppets come out, you might feel in touch with your primal roots - but it quickly gives way to concern about how long the power will be out. Give yourself peace of mind by being power outage ready with a power outage preparedness plan.

You shouldn’t open your refrigerator or freezer when the power is out (in order to conserve the cold air), so you’ll need a stash of non-perishable foods. You should also stock up on bottled water, since water treatment centers may not operate to standard. Be sure your kit has items for these and other contingencies. A few essentials include:

  • Enough non-perishable food for each family member for at least three days
  • 3 gallons of water per person (one gallon per day)
  • A first aid kit
  • Medications and prescriptions for one week (it may take longer to be able to refill prescriptions again)
  • Flashlights
  • Battery-operated radio
  • Extra batteries for the flashlights and radio
  • A Swiss Army knife or other multi-purpose tool
  • Toiletries and personal items
  • Cash and traveler’s checks

TAKE THE NEXT STEP: Purchase a battery-operated radio if you don’t already have one.

2.Take Precautions during Situations that Cause Power Outages

More often than not, you won’t know of a power outage in advance. However, some natural disasters, like hurricanes and earthquakes, frequently cause power loss. If a hurricane is approaching, or you just experienced an earthquake, a power outage may follow. A central concern, even with short power outages, is your refrigerator and freezer warming up too much and your food going bad. The tips below help address this and other power outage concerns.

Grab coolers: Fill the coolers with perishable items you can use during the first few hours of the power outage, like milk or yogurt, to prevent opening the refrigerator or freezer

Get ice: Add ice to your cooler or put ice around foods in the refrigerator to keep them cooler for longer.

Fill up your gas tank: Gasoline distribution may be reduced during an extended power outage, so be prepared with a full tank in your vehicle or stored safely in a container.

Charge up your devices: Charge your cell phones, laptops, and other communication devices before the power goes out.

Fill up jugs of water: Some buildings need a power supply to pump water, such as city high rises or in homes that run on well water. If you live in a place where your water distribution could be affected by a power outage, fill up jugs of water beforehand.

Gather warm clothes and blankets: If it’s cold out and the heater isn’t working, grab your warm weather clothes and extra blankets for the whole family to layer up. Check on neighbors, especially the elderly, in case they need extra blankets.

TAKE THE NEXT STEP: Purchase a portable charger that powers your devices. Most are charged through an electric outlet, but some are solar operated, allowing for recharging without an external power supply.

3. Know Power Outage Dos and Don’ts

As the hours pass during an extended power outage, more questions will come to mind about how to stay safe. Be confident about the security of you and your loved ones by knowing the dos and don’ts in advance. By adhering to these simple rules, your whole clan will be calm, collected, and more comfortable.

Do:

  • Report a power outage.
  • Disconnect appliances, equipment, or electronics to avoid a damaging power surge when the power returns.
  • Keep your refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to retain the cold air and therefore preserve your perishable food longer.
  • Listen to local radio reports or check your county website to learn if your water is safe to drink.
    • Try doing a Google search for “[your county name] drinking water safety” to find the up-to-date information on water quality in your area.
  • Listen to news on your battery-operated radio.
  • If you can, go to another location with power if it is excessively hot or cold.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to prevent heat-related illness if it is hot.
  • Layer up your clothing if it is cold.
  • Check on neighbors, especially those at risk like the elderly.
  • Report downed power lines.

Don’t:

  • Don’t eat food in the refrigerator if the power has been out for more than 4 hours.
  • Don’t drink water from your tap before treating or boiling it, or following other emergency guidelines.
  • Don’t use refrigerated drugs if the power has been out for a day or more. (Consult a pharmacist or doctor about life-sustaining drugs if a supply is not available.)
  • Don’t go near downed power lines or anything touching them.
  • Don’t use generators or grills inside your home or near windows.
  • Don’t use a gas stove or oven to heat your home.

TAKE THE NEXT STEP: If you or a household member has medical devices that require electricity, or take refrigerated medicines, talk to your talk to your medical provider about what to do during a power outage.

Following these preparedness steps, take some time now to prepare for a power outage and feel more confident the next time you experience a power loss.

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