There are a number of things you can do to prepare yourself for a power outage. These can happen with advance notice — for example, when your power company schedules work that requires an area to go without power for an extended time period — but usually happen unexpectedly, due to weather or equipment failure.
The first step is to prepare an emergency preparedness kit. This should include a flashlight (candles are too risky), batteries, first aid supplies, and some cash for purchases in the case that electronic-based payment methods aren’t working. A battery operated emergency radio is also a good item to have, as it will give you a way to monitor events in the absence of the Internet or TV.
Another thing to do is to have a plan for charging devices such as smartphones, two-way radios, and laptops. This can be done in advance when inclement weather or a planned outage is expected. Having a portable charger that can use your vehicle’s battery is also a good tool. There are also solar battery chargers on the market that can do this simply and without hassle.
If you live in an area where outages are more common, it might be worth investing in a generator. But never operate one indoors, including in the garage, as carbon monoxide poisoning is a real danger. Do not hook a generator directly to your home’s electrical system and always use properly rated extension cords.
Any medical device that someone in your household depends on that is battery or electrically operated is of particular concern. Develop a backup plan that is well thought out and practical.
Unplug sensitive electrical devices like computers and televisions when the power goes out, since there may be a power “surge” when the electricity comes back on that can damage this kind of equipment.
Here are some basics you can do if you know a power outage is on its way or is likely due to a major weather event:
- Have a cooler handy and buy some ice or freeze containers full of water so that you’re ready to keep perishable foods from rotting. Perishable foods should only be consumed if their temperature is 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius) or lower.
- Ice can also be put in your refrigerator to keep it colder longer — though it will melt and a towel at the bottom of the refrigerator to soak up the water is a good idea — but don’t open the door unless absolutely necessary. Perishable food can last for about four hours in a refrigerator, about 48 hours in a freezer (if the doors are not opened). Put blankets over freezers and refrigerators to help them retain their colder temperature.
- If you have electric garage doors, then scope out where the manual release is and how it works.
- Get a full tank of gas in your vehicles.
- Research your local government’s emergency plans, which can be found on state or local government websites. Shelter locations should be verified as part of this process. Some agencies offer text or email emergency updates.
- Don’t plan on driving anywhere unless absolutely necessary. Traffic lights won’t be functional and that leads to congested roads and dangerous crossroads.
- Leave a light on somewhere obvious in the house so you know that the power has come back on.