How to Stay Safe During a Power Outage

  
By Tim Chesonis •  Updated: 03/18/23 •  10 min read
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To stay safe during a power outage, you gotta be prepared with an emergency kit, know how to use things like generators safely, and have a plan for keeping warm or cool depending on the weather. Don’t forget to help out your neighbors and know when to call for help. Once the power comes back, make sure everything’s safe and get ready for next time.

Preparing for a Power Outage

Being ready for a power outage starts with having a well-stocked emergency kit. Essential items include flashlights, batteries, a portable phone charger, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, and a first aid kit. Also, make sure to have non-perishable food, water, and any necessary medications on hand.

To ensure your electronic devices are fully charged and ready to use, get into the habit of plugging them in when they’re not in use. Consider investing in a power bank as well, so you’ll have a backup power source for your devices when you need it most.

Having a solid plan in place for family communication is crucial during a power outage. Make sure everyone knows how to reach each other, establish a meeting place in case you get separated, and regularly review the plan together to keep it fresh in everyone’s mind.

Staying Safe Indoors

During a power outage, carbon monoxide poisoning is a real concern. To avoid it, never use gas-powered generators, charcoal grills, or other combustion appliances inside your home, garage, or any enclosed space. Keep them at least 20 feet away from windows, doors, and vents. Additionally, install battery-operated carbon monoxide detectors in your home and check their batteries regularly.

When it comes to using generators, safety is key.

Make sure to use a generator that’s rated for your needs and set it up outdoors, well away from your home. Don’t ever plug a generator directly into your home’s electrical system, as this can cause a dangerous backfeed. Instead, use heavy-duty extension cords to connect your appliances directly to the generator.

Handling food and water during an outage requires some extra care. Keep your refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature. A closed fridge can keep food cold for about 4 hours, while a full freezer can hold its temperature for 48 hours. As for water, if you’re unsure about its safety, boil it for at least one minute before consuming it or use water purification tablets. Stock up on bottled water as a backup plan.

It’s also probably a good idea to stay inside during a power outage, as crime rates increase (depending on the neighborhood), when there are widespread power outages. You may want to consider reading an article I have written, entitled, “The 4 Most Common Ways Burglars Break Into Homes“.

Preventing Fires and Electrical Issues

When it comes to lighting during a power outage, safety is always a priority. Candles can be cozy, but they can also be risky. If you choose to use candles, make sure to place them on stable surfaces, away from flammable materials, and never leave them unattended.

Flashlights and battery-operated lanterns are safer alternatives that provide ample light without the risk of fire.

Now, unplugging your appliances and electronics during an outage is a smart move. When the power comes back on, there can be power surges that could damage your devices or even cause a fire. Unplugging them helps protect them and gives you peace of mind.

If you think there’s an electrical issue in your home, it’s better to be safe than sorry. First, try to identify any potential sources of the problem, like overloaded circuits or water leaks near electrical equipment. If you can’t find the cause or the issue persists, don’t hesitate to call a professional electrician. They’ll be able to diagnose and fix the problem safely, so you can relax and know everything’s taken care of.

To read more on fire prevention within the home, you can click here to read an article I wrote, titled, “How to Protect Your Home from Fire“.

Staying Warm and Comfortable

When the temperature drops and you’re dealing with a power outage, staying warm is absolutely essential.

Here are some ways to keep cozy in cold weather:

  • Bundle up in layers, including warm clothing, hats, gloves, and thick socks.
  • Close off unused rooms to conserve heat.
  • Seal drafts by using towels or blankets to cover gaps under doors and windows.
  • Use your body heat to your advantage by gathering together with family members or pets.
  • If it’s safe to do so, consider using a wood-burning stove or fireplace to provide extra warmth.

Now, if you’re facing a power outage during hot weather, keeping cool is just as important. In fact, it could save your life.

In July 2021, during a heatwave, a 90-year-old woman from Portland, Oregon, died from heat-related causes in her apartment, which was without air conditioning. The temperature in her apartment was reported to be 99°F (37°C) at the time of her death. Her death was one of the many heat-related deaths in the Pacific Northwest during that time.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/jul/14/oregon-heatwave-deaths-power-outages

Here’s how you can beat the heat:

  • Stay on the lowest floor of your home, as heat rises.
  • Keep windows and blinds closed during the day to block out sunlight, and open them at night to let in cooler air.
  • Wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing, and stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
  • Use battery-operated fans or create a makeshift air conditioner by placing a bowl of ice in front of a fan.

Lastly, a power outage can be a great opportunity to spend quality time together and engage in non-electric activities. Break out the board games and puzzles for some friendly competition, or read books and tell stories by flashlight or candlelight. Get creative with arts and crafts projects or try your hand at drawing or painting. If it’s safe to do so, go outside for a walk, play sports, or simply enjoy nature. Remember, power outages can be an adventure, so stay positive and make the most of the situation!

Helping Neighbors and Vulnerable Populations

During a power outage, it’s important to look out for each other, especially elderly neighbors and those with special needs. To help them, you could offer to check in on them regularly, assist with any medical equipment they might rely on, or even invite them to join your household if it’s safe and comfortable for everyone. Make sure they have access to essential supplies, like food, water, and medications, and help them stay warm or cool depending on the weather.

Collaborating with neighbors during an outage can be a real lifesaver. Literally.

You could pool resources, like sharing a generator, food, or water, and take turns cooking meals or watching each other’s children. Communication is key, so consider setting up a neighborhood phone tree, group chat, or even a walkie-talkie system to stay connected and share updates.

To safely check on others without putting yourself at risk, always assess your surroundings before venturing out. Avoid walking or driving through flooded areas, downed power lines, or debris-laden streets. If it’s not safe to go outside, use your phone or another communication method to check on your neighbors. Remember, safety always comes first, and it’s better to be cautious than to put yourself or others in harm’s way.

When to Call for Help and Report an Outage

Figuring out if a power outage is localized or widespread can help you understand the scope of the situation. First, check if your circuit breakers or fuses are the issue. If they’re fine, peek outside to see if your neighbors’ lights are out too. You can also call nearby friends or family to see if they’re experiencing an outage. If multiple homes are affected, it’s likely a widespread issue.

To report a power outage to your utility company, start by locating their emergency phone number, which can usually be found on your bill or their website. When you call, provide them with your account information, address, and any details about the outage, like if you heard a loud noise or saw a fallen power line. Some utility companies also offer online or mobile reporting options, so check if that’s available for your area.

Call for emergency assistance during a power outage if you or someone else is in immediate danger, such as experiencing a medical emergency, a fire, or a gas leak. If you see downed power lines or other hazardous situations, it’s important to report them to your utility company and keep a safe distance. Always prioritize safety and trust your instincts – if you feel it’s an emergency, don’t hesitate to call for help.

Post-Outage Safety and Recovery

Once the power is restored, there are a few steps to ensure safety before resuming normal activities. Check your home for any signs of damage or hazards, like broken glass or water leaks. If you used a generator, make sure to turn it off and let it cool down before storing it away.

Wait a few minutes before turning on appliances and electronics to avoid overloading the electrical system.

To assess any damage caused during the outage, start by inspecting your home’s exterior, looking for fallen trees, damaged roofing, or broken windows. Inside, check appliances, electronics, and your electrical system for any signs of damage. If you spot anything concerning, contact a professional to handle repairs. Don’t forget to evaluate any food in your refrigerator and freezer, discarding items that may have spoiled due to temperature fluctuations.

Preparing for future power outages and emergencies can give you peace of mind. Revisit your emergency kit, restocking any used items and adding anything you found you needed during the outage. Review your family communication plan and make any necessary updates. Finally, consider investing in additional safety measures, like a whole-house surge protector or a more powerful generator, to help protect your home and make future outages more manageable.

Closing Thoughts

Staying safe during a power outage involves being proactive and informed. From preparing an emergency kit to knowing how to handle food and water during an outage, having a plan in place can make all the difference. Keep in mind the importance of staying warm or cool, depending on the weather, and make the most of the situation by engaging in non-electric activities with your loved ones.

Don’t forget to look out for your neighbors and vulnerable populations, as coming together as a community can provide valuable support and resources. Know when to call for help, and always prioritize safety above all else. Finally, once the power is back on, assess any damage and take steps to prepare for future outages.

The key takeaway is to be prepared, vigilant, and adaptable. With the right mindset and knowledge, you can turn a potentially challenging experience into an opportunity for growth, resilience, and togetherness. Stay safe, stay strong, and remember – we’re all in this together!

Tim Chesonis

Tim loves writing and helping people succeed. He brings a wealth of wisdom and insight from an entrepreneur's perspective, loves Linux, his iPhone and his iPad. When he's not writing another article, he's probably binge-watching “The Middle” or “Breaking Bad”, (again). To learn more about Tim, click here.