Steps to Take When Power Goes Out
Power outages are never fun. They create a whole lot of stress and make life extremely uncomfortable. In extreme cases, being without power can lead to life-threatening situations. Being prepared for when electricity ceases flowing into your home is the key to riding out the event with ease. This practical guide outlines the steps to take when an outage occurs.
Be Prepared for a Power Outage
Power cuts often occur without any warning. Problems with power lines or a simple power surge can lead to blackouts. Avoid challenges that come with sudden electricity loss by being proactive. If you can afford a portable generator, well and good. One will surely come in handy as you’ll be able to at least have some lights and a few essential appliances.
Prepare flashlights with extra batteries. Have some candles on hand, too. Oh, don’t forget the candle holders while you’re at it. Place the contact number of your local utility in a prominent, easy-to-spot area.
The most important thing in the event of a power failure is keeping your family safe. The dark can be scary for young children. Prepare them for it by playing a “lights-out” game beforehand. Remind everyone to drink plenty of water. Indoor temperatures during prolonged power outages in summer can be particularly dangerous for infants, toddlers, the elderly, and those with certain medical conditions. Keep an eye on your family members and be ready to call 9-1-1 in case of a medical emergency.
Things to Do During a Power Outage
The first and foremost thing you should – is to confirm that you’re experiencing a power outage. It might seem counterintuitive – it’s pitch-black after all, but there might be other reasons that your power went out. To confirm a power outage:
Look outside – see if the streetlights in front of your house are still on and/or whether your neighbors also lost power
Look around the house – see if you’ve lost electricity in every room. If not, you might have tripped a breaker, and one or more of the switches may be turned off. Just turn it back on and power should be restored.
Check your account balance – If you are on a prepaid electricity plan, your power might have gone out because your account balance has dropped below the required amount. Top up your amount to get it restored (if it’s the weekend, you might have to wait until Monday).
You’ve confirmed that you are definitely experiencing a power outage? Alright, let’s look at some of the things you should do.
Call the Power Company
The first step is to call the power company to come and fix the outage. If you have switched electric suppliers, you might be tempted to call your new electricity providers, but that’s not correct. It’s the utility company, or the TDSP, that is responsible for the safe delivery of electricity to your door.
If you are unsure who your Transmission and Distribution Service Provider (TDSP) is, one way to find out is to check your utility bill. It’s good to have one handy in a convenient, easy-to-access place so that you don’t have to search through it in the dark.
Stay in Communication
Phones that require connection to an electric outlet will not work during an outage, so your safe bet to stay connected to the outside world will be your cell phone and your battery-powered radio. Keep your cell phone charged so that you don’t end up with a 5% battery during an outage.
Stay as Comfortable as Possible
Power outages can last for several hours, so make sure you make yourself and your family as comfortable as possible. For example, drink plenty of water. Try to move your family into the room with the most comfortable temperature levels in your house. Dress in layers and wear a hat and gloves if you are cold. Play a game or engage in a conversation to pass the time quicker and keep everyone engaged.
Practice Generator Safety
If you are able to afford it, it might a good idea to invest in a standby generator that kicks in when the power goes out to keep your lights on. A home backup generator can back up your entire house or just essential items, such as the fridge. However, if you do buy one, make sure you have a professional electrician come in and connect it. Also, try to keep your generator outside, or at least in a well-ventilated location to avoid the possibility of CO poisoning.
Food Preparation & Preservation
Don’t try to wait out the power outage hungry! Try to keep a stock of canned, durable meals that you can heat up on your gas stove, camp-style like. If your gas stove uses electric switches, you can still light it on by turning the switch and lighting it with a match. Also, snacking in a stressful situation is tempting but avoid opening your fridge to preserve the cold air and not damage your refrigerated goods.
Check the Plumbing
You probably won’t think of your plumbing when the electricity goes out. But keep in mind that several plumbing equipment and fixtures need electric power to function. Your water heater and sump pump, for example, won’t work without electricity. You may still have a limited supply of hot water if your water heater comes with a tank. A tankless one won’t be able to provide hot water without electricity.
If you live in an area that experiences extremely low temperatures, your pipes can freeze during a power cut.
Prepare Outage Checklist
Protect yourself and your home from damage by following this outage checklist during an outage.
When the power returns after an outage, the sudden surge of electricity can fry your valuable electronic devices, such as computers, laptops, or television. Prevent this from happening by unplugging your appliances and devices. Leave a light on to let you know when the power has been restored.
Alternatively, you can turn off your main circuit breaker to avoid damaging power surges. Better yet, get a surge protector. Some electricity providers include surge protection with your energy plan. It might be a good idea to sign up for one of those next time you switch electric suppliers.
Using a flashlight is the best way to get around in the dark. Candles also serve as alternative light sources. However, they also pose some safety issues. Reports from the National Fire Protection Association state that over 8000 home fires each year come from candles.
So prepare your home for an outage by placing flashlights in strategic places. Don’t forget to get some extra batteries. If you have no choice but to use candles, place them in holders or Mason Jars for safety. Never leave a lighted candle unattended or go to bed while one is burning.
Close Your Refrigerator
Keep your refrigerator and freezer closed to preserve the food inside. Food items inside the fridge will remain cool for around 4 hours, and those in the freezer will last up to 24 hours. But that’s if you don’t let the cool air out by opening the door. Once the power has been restored, especially after it’s been out for several hours, check the food to ensure that nothing has spoiled.
Practice Generator Safety
If you can afford it, it might be good to invest in a standby generator that kicks in when the electricity goes out. A home backup generator can provide temporary power to your entire house or essential items, such as the lights and fridge.
However, if you do buy one, make sure you have a professional electrician come in and connect it. Also, try to keep your generator outside, or at least in a well-ventilated location, to avoid the possibility of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Reset Your Thermostats
Outages often affect your HVAC system. For example, your thermostat may revert to its default settings when the electricity returns. This can lead to unpleasant surprises when your electricity bill arrives. So reset your thermostat to ensure you get your old settings back.
Ready Your Emergency Kit
It pays to be proactive in most cases. So even before an outage occurs, assemble an emergency kit to help tide you over the blackout. You can also use the kit when tornadoes or hurricanes hit your area.
Pack the following items in your emergency kit:
- Non-perishable food
- Extra clothes
- Fresh batteries
- Medical supplies
Summer Power Outage: What to Do
Having no electricity during a hot summer day can be a real pain. But you don’t have to suffer until the power’s restored. There are some things you can do to get some relief from the heat.
- Find the Coolest Spot: Look for the coolest spot in your house. This is usually the basement in most cases, as it sits at the lowest level. Assemble your family members in that area during the hottest part of the day. Oh, don’t forget to take your pets, too.
- Keep Hydrated: Getting dehydrated during an outage is a common occurrence. Avoid this health issue by drinking plenty of water. Drink a glass of water or other liquid every 15-20 minutes, even if you’re not thirsty. However, avoid drinks containing caffeine and alcohol. Such drinks cause frequent urination, which can hasten fluid loss.
- Use Natural Ventilation: You can keep cool without air conditioning by using a battery or solar-powered fan to produce a steady stream of air. While you’re at it, open the windows in the house that don’t receive direct sunlight to let air circulate in your living space.
Winter Power Outage: What to Do
If you get hot and sweaty during a summer power cut, losing electricity during winter will leave you shivering from the cold. The condition can become dangerous, especially if you live in an area that experiences sub-zero temperatures. That’s why you should be ready to take action if the power gets knocked out when it’s freezing outside.
- Dress Warmly: The goal is to retain body heat. Dressing in multiple layers of clothing can do the trick. Aside from layering your clothes, bundle up with a warm blanket or two.
- Gather in One Room: It’s easier to insulate one room than keep the whole house warm. Choose the smallest room in your home with the least number of windows. Stay there with the entire family. Don’t forget to carry warm blankets and sleeping bags.
- Use Alternative Heat Source: Propane and kerosene heaters can keep you warm while the power’s out. However, follow all the safety tips associated with using these alternative heat sources.
How To Deal With Kids During a Power Outage
Outages can be particularly stressful for kids. They either get scared or bored out of their skull. While the lights are out, watch out that they don’t do anything dangerous.
Keep Them Away From Source of Fire
Fires can be fascinating for some kids. The younger ones may not know that playing with a burning log can be dangerous. They can also trip while playing and get burned. So keep the young ‘uns away from fire sources to prevent accidents.
Keep Them Entertained
No power means no gadgets. You’ll need to look for electricity-free activities to let the time pass more quickly for your kids. Here are some suggestions.
- Read Stories: The younger ones will surely enjoy this activity. It will be a bonus for them if you can act out the parts or even just use different voices for the characters.
- Play Games: Ideas abound on what games you can play with your kids. How about thumb-wrestling, building forts, playing cards, or charades?
- Put on a Puppet Show: Put socks on your hands, and presto! You have puppets you can use for an improvised puppet show.
What to Do Once the Power Is Restored
You’re in luck if the outage lasts only a short while. Still, there are some things you’ll need to do once the lights turn on.
- Don’t plug in your appliances and electronics just yet. Wait a few minutes to prevent any damage to your devices in case of a power surge. Turn on your appliances one at a time, starting with the essential ones.
- Reset timers, alarms, clocks, routers, and other digital gadgets.
- Check if your HVAC system will restart. If not, reset it as well. You may need to turn off the thermostat and circuit breaker to restart the system.
- Throw out any food that might have gone bad while the power’s out.
Prepare an Emergency Power Outage Kit in Advance
Outages are becoming frequent occurrences. As such, preparing for it will make the event less stressful for you and your family when it does strike. Assemble an emergency power outage kit so you won’t be scrambling for necessities in the dark.
The kit should contain the following items:
- Food that won’t spoil (i.e., energy bars, canned or dried food)
- Water (allot 2 liters per person)
- Wind-up or battery-powered flashlights and radios
- Fresh batteries
- Manual can opener
- First aid kit
- Infant formula for those with small kids
Should I call 911 if my power goes out?
If you’re facing an emergency, by all means, call 911. But you don’t have to contact the emergency number to report the outage. Instead, call your utility provider, who is responsible for responding to issues related to electricity service.
Can a generator power a house full time?
It depends on the generator’s size or wattage. A small or portable generator of around 7,000 to 8,000 watts can power only essential appliances like lights, the fridge, a water or sump pump, the television, and mobile chargers. Meanwhile, home standby generators that provide up to 20,000 watts can power a whole house.
How can I keep my fridge cold without power?
The best way to keep the fridge cold is to avoid opening the doors. Likewise, keep the freezer doors closed to prevent the release of cold air. You can also place gel packs or a block of ice inside the refrigerator to maintain its internal temperature.
How long do blackouts usually last?
How long blackouts last depend on the cause. Some power cuts are over in a short time, while some last for days or even weeks. For example, severe storms that create extensive damage to electricity lines and other equipment lead to prolonged outages.
Power cuts are becoming regular occurrences. Extreme weather events can damage power lines, leading to massive blackouts. Due to increased demand, freezing weather or heat waves can overload the electrical grid.
Outages can throw your daily routine out of whack. But you can reduce the inconvenience it creates by being prepared. Having a plan in place also lets you lessen the safety risks they pose.