How to Prepare for a Power Outage

man with a flashlight on during a power outage

Power outages can strike suddenly without a care for your plans or activities. One minute you’re watching TV with the lights on and the fan running, the next minute you’re sitting silently in the dark. Most power outages get resolved within a few hours, but they could last a day or more in the worst circumstances.

With a little planning ahead, you can minimize the uncertainty and disruption a power outage can cause.

How do you prepare for a power outage?

There are some instances when power outages are planned. Brownouts and rolling blackouts are often deliberately implemented by power companies to cope with peak power demands and/or to prevent a worse blackout. Your utility company should alert you to planned outages. More than likely, however, a power outage will strike without warning due to inclement weather. Having a plan in place will keep you from scrambling to figure out what to do.

Stock Up on Essentials

During an extended power outage, it might be difficult to buy food, water, and other supplies. Not only will demand be extremely high, but store computer systems could malfunction and interrupt the purchasing process. Just knowing you have what you need to survive will reduce the stress and anxiety caused by a power outage. Here are a few power outage essentials:

  • Several Gallons of Water (One gallon per person, per day)
  • Backup Power Generator
  • Nonperishable Food (3-day Supply)
  • First Aid Kit and Medicine (EpiPens, Prescriptions, Ibuprofen)
  • Extra Clothing (hats, gloves, scarves, jackets, snow pants)
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Extra Toilet Paper
  • Battery-Powered Flashlight
  • Blankets
  • Can Opener
  • Unscented Candles
  • Extra Fuel (Gas, Propane, etc)
  • Battery-powered/hand-crank radio
  • Eating Equipment (Plastic Plates, Cups, and Utensils)
  • Cooking Pot
  • Extra Cash
  • Tools (utility knife, pry bar, ax)
  • Matches
  • Extra Batteries
  • Fire Extinguisher
  • Extra Pet Food (If applicable)
  • Whistle

Stay Informed

Follow the news for weather threats and be aware of any planned power outages from your utility. Lightning, ice, and strong winds can all cause blackouts either directly or indirectly, so if these conditions are expected, be ready for the lights to go out.

What to Do During the Outage

Your power will turn back on eventually, and you’ll be ok. Knowing what to do in between will reduce interruptions and unnecessary stress. As soon as the lights go out, there are a few steps you should take.

  • Find out what’s going on and stay informed. Is the power outage affecting your neighbors, your neighborhood, or just you? Report the outage to your power company to make sure they’re aware. Turn on your battery-powered radio, call or check your power company’s website frequently, or check social media frequently for updates.
  • Unplug your appliances. When the power comes back on, the initial surge could damage your appliances, especially if they’re not plugged into a surge protector. Electronics, such as TVs and computers, are particularly sensitive. To prevent damage, unplug everything as soon as the power goes out.
  • Conserve your phone’s battery. Your phone is your lifeline to the outside world. Unless you have a battery charger on hand, don’t use your phone carelessly.

After the Outage

  • Check for Flooding
    If your power outage accompanied a severe storm, you should check for basement flooding, especially if you didn’t have backup power and your sump pump went out.
  • Turn on Appliances
    With the power back on, you can start plugging in and turning on essential appliances again. Do so gradually to allow the system to stabilize. Then you can turn on your secondary electronics.
  • Clean Out Your Refrigerator
    If the power outage lasted more than four hours, the perishable food in your fridge is no longer safe to eat, and you will have to throw it away before you forget. Your freezer food should still be fine unless the outage lasted for a day or more.
  • Get Ready for the Next Outage
    If you went through the supplies in your home emergency kit, remember to restock for the next power outage. At this point, if you didn’t have a backup generator, you might appreciate its value even more. And don’t forget to reset your electric clocks because they stopped at the time of the outage!