woman with candles during power outage

What To Do In A Power Outage: Before, During And After

Katie Ziraldo5-minute read
June 28, 2021

In the electrical age, there are few moments as frustrating as when you lose power. Power outages can be stressful, overwhelming and even dangerous if not handled properly. To help homeowner’s during these times, we’ve compiled a list of everything you need to know before, during and after your power is lost to keep your family safe and comfortable.

What Is A Power Outage?

Power outages – also known as power failures, power blackouts or simply blackouts – are defined as situations when the electrical power goes out unexpectedly. Power outages can be caused by a number of things including severe weather such as snow storms or hurricanes, fallen trees and equipment failure.

How To Prepare Yourself And Your Home For A Power Outage

From food spoiling in the fridge to losing critical heat in the cold months of winter, there are a number of situations caused by power outages that are less than ideal. The best way to tackle these obstacles it to be prepared ahead of time, so let’s look at some of best ways to prepare your home.

Assemble An Emergency Kit

Compiling an emergency kit can provide peace of mind in a number of emergency situations, including power outages. Each homeowner’s emergency kit may look a little different depending on the demands of their family, but some of the crucial items to include are:

  • Batteries
  • Flashlights
  • Battery radio
  • Wax and battery candles
  • First-aid
  • Medications
  • Emergency contact information
  • Pet supplies
  • Non-perishable food and water

Purchase Surge Protection

Power surges can damage or destroy your home’s appliances and electronics. One way to protect these valuables is to purchase a surge protector – a small power strip with multiple outlets that is designed with grounding wires to create a pathway for the extra electrical current to follow instead of overpowering your electronics.

Install Smoke And Carbon Monoxide Alarms

Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas that is both odorless and colorless, and therefore impossible to recognize without the appropriate alarms installed in your home. Carbon monoxide is found in the fumes created by fireplaces, stoves, furnaces and more. You may use these gas-powered items more frequently when the electrical power is out, so it’s important to have the appropriate smoke and carbon monoxide alarms to stay safe.

Sign Up For Alerts

Information is power! Most energy companies aim to provide real time updates on outages, including the scope of the outage and the estimated time of power restoration. Signing up for these alerts can keep you in the know as the situation progresses.

Plan For Electrical Medical Needs

For some, a power outage can be life threatening. If you rely on electricity for your medical needs, such as having medicine that has to be refrigerated or an oxygen machine that needs a power hook up, it’s important to plan ahead. The best way to prepare for these emergency situations is to determine a plan with medical device providers for your essential needs.

Prepare The Fireplace And Clean The Chimney

If you have a fireplace in your home, it may be one of the best ways to keep warm when you lose power. But chimney fires are common when they are not properly cleaned, so be sure to keep up on cleaning the fireplace between uses.

Install A Non-Electric Stove And Heater

Installing non-electric appliances in your home, such as stoves and heaters, can give you access to certain crucial household functions that are otherwise lost during an electrical outage.

Determine How To Keep Your Home Cool Or Warm

Losing heat in the dead of winter can be worrisome, so having a plan ahead of time is crucial. In addition to dressing in layers, portable generators can be a great temporary solution. But these generators should never be used indoors due to dangerous fumes. Instead, focus on saving the heat you already have in your home by covering windows and doors with blankets.

If you lose power in the warmer months, you may be wondering how to keep cool. Opening non-sun-facing windows can create a comfortable breeze, while covering sun-facing windows can keep out the hot sun. When in doubt, taking a cold shower or bath can also help to lower your body temperature. And of course, be sure to stay hydrated!

Make An Evacuation Plan

The Red Cross recommends researching, developing and practicing your evacuation plan twice a year. Your evacuation plan should include a clear plan for any children, senior citizens or pets in the home who may need special care.

What To Do During A Power Outage

Preparing for a power outage is one thing, but surviving during a power outage is a completely different story. If you were unprepared for your power outage or if your circumstances have recently changed, be sure to consider the following reccomandations.

Avoid Opening The Refrigerator And Freezer

Refrigerators and freezers should remain closed for the duration of the power outage to avoid unnecessary food spoilage. Most unopened refrigerators can keep food cold for about four hours, while freezers can hold their temperature for up to 48 hours. Opening your fridge or freezer will significantly decrease the amount of time it will take for your food to spoil, so avoid opening them if possible.

Turn Off Appliances And Unplug Electronics

Especially during inclement weather, it’s not uncommon for the power to flicker on and off due to temporary surges or spikes. This is bad news for your appliances and electronics, which typically receive a consistent stream of energy from your home. To protect from unnecessary damage, turn off all appliances and unplug all electronics during the power outage and reconnect them when the power has safely returned.

Avoid Driving

When the power goes out, your first instinct may be to hop in the car and head to a friend or family member’s house outside of the affected area. While this instinct is understandable, it can also be dangerous as the electricity needed to power spotlights and other traffic signals are likely also impacted by the outage. If possible, avoid driving and stay put until the situation is resolved.

Evacuate

If staying put isn’t an option, you may need to consider evacuation. If you’ve prepared an evacuation plan ahead of time, the process should be relatively simple. If not, you may need to do some research to determine the best place to go. Be sure to consider each member of your family and any unique needs they may have when choosing your destination.

Steps To Take After A Power Outage

When your power returns, you will likely be eager to return to business as usual. However, there are a few important things you must remember to get your home back in order.

Throw Out Perishable Foods

Depending on the length of the power outage, you may need to dispose of any spoiled items. Certain foods, including most meat and dairy products, will spoil and make you sick if they have been exposed to temperatures above 40 degrees for two hours or more. If you’re unsure if a certain food has perished during the outage, it’s probably best to dispose of it just to be safe.

Cautiously Turn Appliances Back On

It’s a good idea to wait a few minutes before plugging in and turning on your appliances in case of any last-minute surges or spikes in electricity. We recommend turning on only your essential appliances and electronics first, followed gradually by the other electronics in your home.

Reset Clocks, Alarms And Timers

Digital clocks in your home will have been impacted by the outage, so before you forget, be sure to reset all clocks and alarms.

The Bottom Line: Take Back Your Power By Having A Plan

At best, losing power is extremely inconvenient. At worst, it can also be incredibly dangerous. To protect your family from the dangers of power outages, it’s important to plan ahead. From assembling an emergency kit, to determining an evacuation plan, and protecting your electrical appliances from energy surges, there are a number of steps that should be taken before the power even goes out to protect your household until power is restored.

Looking for more ways to prepare? Learn about the best generators on the market!

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Katie Ziraldo

Katie Ziraldo found her love of writing through her experience working with various newspapers, such as the Detroit Free Press. Her financial literacy stems from her four years as a Recruiter, when she learned the details of every role in the mortgage process. As a writer, she uses that knowledge to create relevant content for homeowners to help them reach their goals.