Extended power outages have the ability to impact the whole community. They can affect transportation, businesses, and community services. Outages also can cause food spoilage, water contamination, and the inability to use medical devices.
These are some things you can do before, during, and after a power outage to keep yourself and your home safe:
Before an Outage
- Think about your medical needs. If you need to, have a backup plan to refrigerating medicines and charge power-dependent medical devices. Discuss a plan with your primary care or medical device providers for your medical needs.
- Take a home inventory. Figure out what essential items run on electricity, and what you would do during an outage.
- Stock batteries. This includes keeping portable charging packs charged, to use for phones and other devices.
- Store food. Have enough nonperishable food and water to support everyone in your household for at least three days if evacuating or two weeks if staying at home.
- Create a contact list. Create a plan of where you will go and who you will stay with if an outage lasts long enough that you need to leave home. Make sure everyone involved is on board with this plan. Keep a paper copy of your contact list.
- Sign up for alert systems. Knowing when storms and severe weather is coming will help warn you to prepare for potential outages.
- Check smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. Replace these if necessary, and do routine monthly battery checks. Never use a generator or gas oven in the home to stay warm. Avoid using candles during a power outage due to the extreme risk of fire, unless in an approved container. Replace alarms that are greater than 10 years old.
- Use surge protectors. Place surge protectors in the outlets that you use for charging electronic devices and appliances.
- Decide on your threshold point for staying or going. Plan now for how long you’ll stay in your home during an outage before going to the designated location on your contact list. This could differ depending on the weather and temperature, length of the outage, and reliance on medical devices. Also, keep your car gas tank at least half full.
- Create and maintain an emergency kit. Your kit should include nonperishable food, water, battery packs, flashlights, and a variety of other items. Learn more about what needs to be in your kit here. Don’t forget to prepare a pet emergency kit for your companion animals.
During an Outage
- Keep freezer and refrigerators closed. Food that needs to stay cold will go bad quickly. Refrigerators will keep food cold for about 4 hours as long as they are kept closed. Full freezers will keep temperature for about 48 hours (24 if it is half full) if the door remains closed.
- ONLY use generators outdoors and away from windows. Stay 20 feet away from windows. This helps prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Do NOT use a gas stove or oven to heat your home. This will also help to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Unplug electronics and appliances to protect them from power surges. This is especially important if you don’t use surge protectors.
- Check with local officials about heating and cooling locations nearby. Decide if you need to go to your backup location on your contact list.
- Keep alert notifications on. Keep an eye on the weather or any other events that could make the situation worse.
After an Outage
- When in doubt, throw it out! If refrigerated food is exposed to temperatures 40 degrees or higher for 2+ hours, don’t eat it. Check the odor, color, and texture of all cold foods before cooking or consuming them.
- Check medication. If your outage has lasted more than a day, throw out medication that should be refrigerated unless the label says otherwise. Call your doctor or pharmacy immediately to get replacements.
- Avoid downed power lines. Stay 35+ ft away from downed power lines and call 911 to let them know.
- Avoid flooded areas. There may be downed power lines you can’t see, avoid bodies of water to avoid electric shock.
- The American Red Cross:
- FEMA: https://www.ready.gov/power-outages
- Department of Energy: Guides to power outages, fuel shortages and more
- CDC: Power outages
- USDA: Further information on food safety