Are You Prepared for a Power Outage?
Power outages can happen without warning. There doesn’t necessarily have to be a thunderous storm, blizzard or strong winds rolling in to shut down your electricity. Grids can fault at anytime, even on a clear day with no adverse weather to blame. Will you be ready when it happens next?
Why Prepare for a Power Outage?
The scary thing about power outages is that they’re unpredictable in their timing and their duration. Would you be ready if a power outage were to occur right now and last for two days? How about three? What about an outage that lasts a week straight? It can and has happened. Even if you haven’t experienced a lengthy outage, doesn’t mean it’s impossible, especially if you live in an area that experiences extreme weather and natural disasters.
According to the official website of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, power outages can:
Disrupt an entire community, including communications, water and transportation
Close businesses in lei of a disaster and outage like grocery stores, gas stations and even ATMs
Cause food to spoil and water to become contaminated
Prevent the operation and use of certain medical devices
If this isn’t cause for preparation, what is? If an extended power outage were to occur, you may not have access to crucial supplies, the transport for viable access for supplies or the supplies you do have could spoil very easily. What’s worse is if you or someone in your family relies on medical devices, they may not have access to them or the devices may not function in an outage. The bottom line: preparation will save you and your family’s lives.
Preparation for Extended Outages
Getting your supplies before a power outage occurs is key. First, your family needs at least one gallon of water per person each day during an emergency to function. If you have pets, tack on additional water to keep them hydrated as well. More water will be required for hygiene and cooking.
It’s important for you to be prepared with at least a week’s worth of water for your family and consider the other ways you could obtain and purify water from different sources. There are water purifiers you can purchase (see: LifeStraw Personal Water Filter as a cheap and effective alternative), purification tablets, using heat for water to become drinkable and seeking out water in nature if the emergency becomes unexpectedly prolonged.
Power outages send people running to the store (if possible) immediately, desperately grabbing items off shelves in a matter. You don’t want to take the gamble as to whether you’ll be lucky enough to be ahead of the stampede of scared, doomsday-prepping people or not. It’s better to do this when there’s not an emergency.
Being smart about what kind of food you have during an outage can determine how long you can get by. Of course, you’ll want to load up on foods that are shelf-stable and won’t spoil quickly like:
Canned vegetable (beans are a great option)
Canned soups or prepackaged insta-noodles like Ramen
Beef or chicken bouillon cubes
Cereals in airtight containers
Crackers stored in airtight containers
Instant coffee and tea bags
With these items, you’ll want to keep an important tool - a can opener. The official FEMA website has a full list of foods you can safely store and consume should an emergency and a power outage happen.
Like water, gathering your full month’s worth supply of food for an outage can get expensive. You don’t have to stock up your basement or storage area right away in one shopping trip. Knock a few items off your list every month or so while doing your regular grocery shopping, and soon enough, you’ll be ready for a prolonged power outage or emergency should it ever occur.
Essential Items & Daily Practiced Habits
It’s not all about food and water. There are other items you can and should do to prep for an outage.
Stock your home with a battery backup for devices, extra batteries, plenty of flashlights, candles, blankets and sleeping bags. Install carbon monoxide detectors to your battery backups on every level of your home. For medical devices that rely on power, talk to your medical provider before an outage occurs about what to do during an outage in order to use the device.
For your refrigerators and freezers, place a temperature gauge inside so you can know the internal temperature when the power is restored. Be sure to throw out food if the temperature is 40 degrees of higher. The same goes for medication that should be refrigerated during a power outage and was not. Consult a doctor if you’re not sure.
Other items you should have in your home for a power outage include:
Feminine hygiene products
LED or solar lanterns
Flashlights and batteries
Candles and matches
Over the counter medications like Tylenol, Advil, and Aleve
Neosporin, Band-Aids, and other first-aid supplies
Hand and feet warmers
Get in the habit of keeping your phone and other devices charged at all times. If a power outage or emergency strikes, you’ll at least have power in your device to last you until you find access to a battery charger.
What Should You Do If There’s a Power Outage
As we’ve mentioned already, power outages can happen to anyone. When one does occur, do you know what to do? Below, you’ll see a few things you need to do in order to ensure everything goes smoothly during an power emergency.
Turn Off Your Large Appliances
One thing many people don’t consider when the power goes out is the health of their appliances - they’re more focused on their families (and rightfully so). However, if you do have a power outage, take a couple minutes to go around your house and unplug any major appliance.
There are a couple reasons for this. The first, and most obvious reason, is because they may suffer from a power surge. When you do regain power to your home, there will be a surge of electricity that hits all of your appliances. This could fry the motor/battery causing them to break down. This could be avoided with a surge protector which will absorb the surge and break rather than your appliances.
Also, restarting all your appliances as once with a surge can double the amount of electricity you typically use. Doing this process at a much slower pace could help keep your energy bills at a tolerable level.
Report the Outage
Another thing you absolutely must do when there’s a power outage is report it to your energy provider. You’ll be able to do this through a phone call or on the contact page of the website. This is a great time to see how your energy provider reacts to the situation. If they drag their feet getting your power back, it may be time to switch your energy provider.
Conserve Power with Your Phone
Being able to communicate during a power outage is crucial. Landlines and cordless phones won’t work during a power outage. That means you’ll be 100% reliant on your cell phone. Surfing the web and watching videos may be a way to kill time but will also quickly kill your battery. Keep in mind, you won’t be able to charge your phone without leaving your home. What if the power outage is town-wide? It’s better to conserve your phone battery for real emergencies.
Protecting You & Your Family During a Power Outage
Being prepared is half of the battle during an extended power outage. Having your food, water and other necessary supplies for you and your family can establish your health and wellness for the duration of the outage and emergency.
Prepping for a lengthy power outage shouldn’t be tackled in one fell swoop. Build your inventory over time and keep in mind that although power outages are usually no longer than a day or two, they very well can be two weeks - or worse. Stocking up on food, water and essential items that would even get you by a week or a couple days is better than not having anything at all. Emergencies are unpredictable and deadly at their worst, but so long as you’re prepared, you and your family can stay healthy and safe.