POWER OUTAGES: BEFORE, DURING AND AFTER
In the United States, we enjoy so many services every day that make our lives easier. But we can easily take them for granted, and one of the most common is the electricity which powers our homes and businesses. So when the lights go out, are you ready? Take a few minutes and learn more about how to prepare for power outages: before, during and after.
BEFORE A POWER OUTAGE
Your response to a power outage will be determined mostly by the actions you take before it even happens! If you don’t prepare ahead of time, when the power goes out, you’ll probably find yourself scrambling for basic necessities for you and your loved ones – and wishing you’d spent some more time preparing. So don’t be caught off guard! Readiness for a power outage only requires a small amount of your time and money. The more you get yourself and your family ready now, the fewer headaches you’ll have during a power outage emergency later. Here are some basic ways to get started:
- Make a checklist of the essentials: food, water, heat, and light. It’s best to have at least several days’ worth of extra food and bottled water on hand in case of an emergency. (And don’t forget about your pets – they’re family too!) Think about how you’ll preserve and cook your food without power, and how you’ll store and ration out water for each person and pet. Are there enough blankets in your home to keep everyone warm? Do you have enough candles, lighters, flashlights and batteries? To make things easier when the lights go out, set all of your essential items aside in a bin marked “Emergency Kit” that’s easily accessible.
- Talk to your family members about the actions you’ll each take if and when the power goes out. You’ll save a lot of wasted time and anxiety later if you discuss your plan ahead of time. Children especially will do much better if you periodically review the basic plan with them. Having your emergency kit in a familiar place that your family sees often will also reinforce the importance of readiness and will help family members to remember where to go for supplies if the power fails.
- Get to know your neighbors. If the power goes out, you may need to depend on the people around you, and they may ask for your help. An emergency situation may not be the best time for introductions, so if you haven’t done so already, reach out now and say hello!
- Plan alternate shelters in case you need to leave the area. If the situation at home gets unsafe or if you run low on supplies, will you stay with family or friends? Do you have a vehicle with enough fuel to reach them? Also consider what you’ll do if they are evacuating too and you need to find a temporary place to pitch camp – do you have temporary shelter basics like a tent, sleeping bags, outdoor cookware and fire starting capabilities?
- FEMA App. For great informational resource and disaster updates, download the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) app to your iPhone or Android device at FEMA App. There is a wealth of helpful tips and links on ways to prepare for any emergency situation, including detailed checklists of the items you’ll need from flashlights to food to many other essentials.
DURING A POWER OUTAGE
- Stay calm! Panic wastes your energy and it can spread easily to others, especially your kids. But if you’ve taken some of the steps mentioned above, then you should be in solid shape to get through the challenge ahead, whether it ends up being a few hours or even a few days.
- Disconnect powered devices from electrical outlets. This will save you money by avoiding any power surges that can damage or ruin your household electronics and appliances.
- Keep fridges and freezers closed. Every second they’re open will shed precious degrees of cold which are essential to keeping your food, drinks and medications at safe temperatures.
- Communicate with your neighbors. Power outages can be frustrating and even scary, but having people next door or down the street who you know can help, and who you can also help in return, will make the situation feel more positive.
- Be safe! To avoid poisoning from carbon monoxide, don’t use an outdoor grill or camp stove to heat the interior of your home. Also, if you have an emergency generator, make sure to run it away from open windows or doors so that the exhaust doesn’t enter your home and threaten your health. Finally, don’t use your gas stove to heat your home’s interior!
AFTER A POWER OUTAGE
- Once you’re sure that the power is back on for good, safely reconnect your appliances and equipment and ensure they are still in proper working order.
- “When in doubt, throw it out!” Throw out any food that has reached a temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit and above for over two hours, or any food that has an abnormal color or odor. The rule of thumb is:
- Also discard any medication that was not refrigerated properly.
The #1 key to dealing with power outages is preparation, and you’ve taken an important first step by reading this introduction. Now take the next one and get started on your power outage plan!
More Info? For more information about Emergency Preparedness, check out our other post: HOW TO PUT TOGETHER YOUR OWN EMERGENCY KIT