Modern society has become dependent on electricity for just about every convenience we enjoy and nothing makes that more apparent than when the power goes out. The power can go out for a multitude of reasons, but most commonly it’s the result of storms. As a result, a large part of preparing for a power outage is also preparing to deal with severe weather.
The steps to take to prepare for a power outage are very similar to those that you would take to deal with any emergency. Being without electricity has a few unique aspects when compared to other emergencies, but preparations for one situation will greatly assist with another.
Most power outages last only a few hours, but it’s not uncommon for them to last several days. A good motto to hold to when preparing is to “plan for the worst, but hope for the best.” The best case scenario in dealing with a power outage is that you won’t even notice it except when you wake up and see all the clocks in your house blinking 12:00. In the event of an extended outage, however, a little preparation will go a long way.
The most important tool in your kit for being able to deal with a power outage is information. Knowing the impact and expected duration of the power outage will greatly aid you in your decision making. When the power is out, your TV won’t work and it’s likely that your internet will be down as well.
There’s a good chance, however, that your cell phones will still work for a while as the cell towers typically have a backup generator to keep them going in the event of a power outage. Your first action should be to contact the power company to get the information directly from them. It’s likely that they will have some sort of automated information line that will give you updates on the current outages.
You can prepare for this situation by simply adding the power company information number to your address book on your phone.
The next best way to get information is with an AM/FM radio. Having a small, battery or hand powered radio in your kit is a great way to be able to get updates on the weather and the efforts to restore power.
When the power is out, your refrigerator will also lose power and the food inside will start to spoil. The exact time it takes for food to spoil in the absence of refrigeration varies, but most things take a few hours of being at room temperature so you’ve got some time before you need to start throwing food out. Keeping your fridge and freezer closed as much as possible will help extend the life of perishable food and reduce the need to throw out spoiled food.
Your stove and microwave will also be without power so you won’t be able to cook anything except over a fire or camping stove. Having a supply of canned and other durable food on hand will offset the danger of running out of edible food during an extended outage.
The plumbing in your house may or may not continue to work when the power is out depending on how your house is plumbed. Your electric water heater will stop heating the water, but it will still contain a large supply of water that can be accessed in the event that there is an extended outage.
During an extended outage, it’s important that you keep informed about possible contaminants in the water system by listening to radio broadcasts. Should you learn that the water supply has been contaminated somehow, you’ll likely end up having to boil any water you get from the taps in order to make it safe for consumption.
Having a supply of bottled water on hand will help to offset the risk of running out of clean drinking water.
It’s likely that a power outage is the result of severe weather so you should certainly have a plan for how to deal with the loss of environmental controls inside your home. If the power is out, your heating and cooling systems will also be offline. The combination of severe weather and the loss of heating and cooling produces a high risk situation.
In areas that have particularly cold temperatures, it may be wise to have a kerosene heater or supply of firewood on hand to help heat your home. Piling on extra blankets will also be helpful in warding off the cold.
One tactic used in the arctic is to make sure that your vehicle’s fuel tank is topped off before a big storm so that you can take shelter inside it while you wait for the storm to pass. Should you employ this technique, make sure to check periodically that the exhaust pipe is clear and able to vent the exhaust. During a snowstorm, the snow may drift up and block the exhaust pipe which can cause it to backup into the vehicle.
Having a supply of flashlights, batteries and candles will make it possible to see during the power outage. Using candles for light has become a bit of a treat and you can make a fun event of it playing board games by candlelight. Be careful, however, to make sure that your candles are secured and not in danger of tipping over while you sleep.
Keeping your mind busy can do a lot to help ease nerves during a power outage. While it’s clearly not a critical requirement to keep entertained, it is a critical requirement to remain calm and entertainment can help meet that need.
Break open your favorite board game or a deck of cards and gather up with your friends, roommates, or family and play a few games. Playing games by candlelight can turn what would otherwise be an unpleasant memory into a fun family event.