What To Do In A Power Outage? 7 Dos and Don’ts

January 8, 2021 | Cristina Dinulescu

Power outages can be quite troublesome, but when they happen suddenly, they can also be extremely frustrating. If the power outage is 2 hours or even less, the impact may not be very significant. Your perishable foods, for instance, will be fine. However, for longer ones, you might want to learn what to do in a power outage in order to minimize losses as much as possible and keep everyone in the household comfortable.

Severe power outages can have a serious impact on the entire community and even the economy. Basically, a power outage is when the electricity goes out completely unexpectedly, which is why it can: 

  • Interrupt communications, transportation, and water. 
  • Close gas stations, ATMs banks, groceries, retail businesses, and other services. 
  • Limit the use of medical devices. 
  • Cause water contamination and food spoilage. 

The length of the interruptions in electricity service, as well as the frequency of these outages vary across the several distribution systems that serve about 145 million customers in the United States. 

The truth is that a local power outage can be a terrifying experience. Everything changes instantly. One minute, you are watching TV or casually enjoying dinner and the next, your entire home is completely silent and pitch black. You might be aware of what to do in a power outage, but do you know what not to do? Unfortunately, some myths of steps to take during an outage can be quite dangerous. So, here’s a list of things you should do and things you should never do during a power outage. 

1. Do Prepare in Advance

power outage preparedness

For power outages that are sudden, making advanced preparations is close to impossible. For those that can be predicted, you can certainly start prepping in advance and assemble your very own emergency preparedness kit. Make sure you keep your supplies within easy reach and that you can also take with you in case of evacuation. Here are some of the basic supplies you should have in your kit: 

  • Food: easy-to-prepare, non-perishable (make sure you pack a 3-day supply in case of evacuation and a 2-week supply for home); 
  • Water
  • Hand-crank (NOAA Weather Radio is ideal) or battery powered radio;
  • Extra batteries;
  • Flashlight; 
  • Multi-purpose tools;
  • Extra cash;
  • Cell phone with chargers; 
  • Deluxe family first aid kit;
  • Medications (7-day supply), plus any medical items if applicable;
  • Sanitation and personal hygiene items;
  • Emergency blanket;
  • Copies of personal documents; 
  • Family and emergency contact information.

2. Don’t Light Candles

Candles may be romantic and may help you set a certain atmosphere, but they’re definitely not what to do in a power outage. They are dangerous, as they may cause a fire. What’s more, they don’t produce that much light anyway. So, sticking to a bright lantern is a much better solution. 

Don’t forget that a power outage can affect your home security system as well. If that’s the case, you should consider alternative lighting solutions for your property too. 

3. Do Keep Food From Spoiling

power outage food tips

To keep our food from spoiling, you may need to keep freezers and refrigerators closed. Your fridge will keep the food cold for about 4 hours and a freezer will maintain the temperature for about 48 hours. 

Additionally, you might want to consider using extra coolers. Packed with ice, these can keep the food colder for a longer period. A digital quick-response thermometer is also useful because this way you can monitor the temperature and make sure that it’s cold enough for your food to be properly preserved. 

4. Don’t Keep Electronics Plugged In

Before the storm hits, you should unplug all your electronics. A lightning strike could cause significant damage to your equipment. However, it’s best to unplug your electronics all-around your house, because this offers protection, especially when you can’t see the storm coming. 

In these cases, a good idea to keep your equipment safe is installing a surge protector breaker, which is usually hard-wired to your electric panel. Some people use surge-protected power strips for sensitive electronics, but a whole-house protector is a much better solution. 

5. Do Pay Attention To Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide poisoning is a real risk during a local power outage, and you should know how to avoid it. One way is to make sure you use generators, charcoal grills or camp stoves outdoors and 20 feet away from windows. Avoid using an oven or a gas stovetop to heat your home. 

If you do have a generator, make sure you install carbon monoxide alarms outside sleeping areas and on every level of your home. This way, in case something goes wrong, the alarm will go off and warn you. 

6. Don’t Play On Your Phone

While this isn’t a tip you’ll often find when searching what to do in a power outage, it is important to avoid playing on your phone, no matter how appealing it may seem. When you’re sitting in the dark, with no electricity and nothing to do, your smartphone does seem like the only way to make time go faster. However, you should avoid doing it, as you don’t know how long the power outage will be. The last thing you want is for your phone to die and you not being able to make important calls, such as to emergency services

7. Do Stay Safe After The Power Outage

power outage

Once the local power outage passes, it’s important to still be aware of some safety guidelines. If you aren’t exactly sure that the food left in the refrigerator is still good to be consumed, you might be better off throwing it away. Dispose of any food that has been exposed to temperatures of 40 degrees or higher, for a period of two hours or more. 

When it comes to refrigerated medicine, you need to dispose of anything that has been out for more than a day. Make sure you check the label for more information. And consult with either the doctor or the pharmacist for a new supply. 

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