How to Prepare for a Power Outage
Whether planned or unexpected, a power outage can be frustrating and sometimes dangerous. Keeping a level head and following your safety plan will make the experience better for everyone involved — and we’ve got just the tips to help you prepare. From saving the food in your refrigerator to keeping little ones occupied, here’s what you should do.
What to Do Long Before a Power Outage
A little preparation can go a long way and this is certainly true with a power outage. Having the supplies you need will make the experience more comfortable and knowing what to expect can help you with everything from saving your refrigerated food to avoiding a messy sump pump issue.
Have an emergency preparedness kit. Create an emergency kit or, if you have one, give it a little attention. Some things to have in your kit include the following:
- Batteries. Check the lifespan of your batteries: cylindrical alkaline batteries have a shelf life of 5-10 years, cylindrical carbon zinc last 3-5 years, lithium cylindrical can be stored 10-15 years but elevated temps decrease shelf life.
- Flashlight. For safety, rely on flashlights, not candles, during a power outage.
- Water. Plan on having one gallon of water per person per day.
- Non-perishable foods. Stock up on snacks for the family and pets. If it’s a short power outage, it’s best to keep the fridge and freezer closed. If it’s likely to be a long one, start eating the fridge food first.
- Blankets. Keep everyone toasty warm if the power goes out during chilly weather.
- First aid kit. Hopefully no one is injured but it’s always best to be prepared. Start with: different sized bandages, scissors, tweezers, tape, antiseptics, pain relievers and distilled water.
- Contact list. Create a list of emergency services and contacts to keep in your supply box. Remember that you might not be home during the emergency, so the list should be inclusive enough for your kids or other family members to contact the people they need.
Address medical concerns. If you rely on a medical device that needs electricity, connect with your doctor to see what to do in case of a power outage. Then, talk to the power company to alert them of your situation. They will put you on a priority service list.
Keep a petty cash supply. If the power is going to be out in your area for an extended time, you might want to have some cash on hand. It’s not uncommon for stores to stay open during power outages, but they aren’t able to us their credit and debit card machines. This is where cash saves the day.
Get surge protectors. Sometimes, when the power goes out, it can come back on in surges which could damage your electronics. Having surge protectors will protect your electronics in the event of a power outage or a storm.
Get a power inverter for your car. This handy device turns your DC current from the car into AC current that can power a computer, phone, fridge or sump pump. Just remember, if you’re going to be running your car, you need to then keep it outside to reduce the risks from carbon monoxide.
Practice garage manual release. Don’t forget, your automatic garage door opener won’t work during a power outage. Knowing how to operate the manual release will give you the ability to come and go as needed.
Get advice on a generator. If you’re thinking about a generator, consult an electrician before purchasing or installing it. Never use them inside a home or garage, and don’t connect them to your home’s electrical system.
Be radio proactive. Get a battery powered radio for weather and emergency information or get a hand crank weather radio — then you’ll never have to worry about batteries.
Sign up for emergency services. FEMA publishes text messages that will keep you up-to-date on emergencies. You can also check to see if your local government and power company have similar services. It’s so much easier to plan and prepare when you have all the information available.
Get sump pump coverage. If you have a sump pump, talk to your American Family Insurance agent about adding sewer back-up and sump pump overflow coverage to your homeowners insurance. During the power outage, check your sump pump to make sure it’s not ready to overflow. Most sump pumps have a backup of some sort, but yours might require hand pumping to keep it clear.
Think about fun. Come up with some games, crafts and fun activities for the family. Keeping your children distracted is the best way to calm their fears.
What to Do Before a Planned Power Outage
Sometimes power outages are planned. This gives you a little warning to prepare and make the experience easier. If you know an outage is happening, take these steps in the hours before.
Fill the tub with water. When the power goes out, so do some of your plumbing features — including toilets! Did you know pouring a bucket of water into your toilet bowl can force a flush? It won’t refill, but it will remove any waste.
Charge phones. Your smart phone is already your lifeline to information, but it'll become even more important during a power outage. If you want the battery life to last longer, turn off unused apps and turn down the brightness of the screen. Try switching over to airplane mode when it’s not in use for even longer battery life.
Stock up on ice. Whether you buy ice or freeze water in plastic containers, you’ll appreciate it if your refrigerated food starts to warm up. Typically an unopened fridge will keep food cold for about four hours. A closed, full freezer holds its temperature for about 48 hours. So you have some time before the ice becomes essential.
Fill the car with fuel. If you need to get somewhere, you might find that the gas stations aren’t working during the power outage. You could also be using your car to help power some of your key electronics, so a full tank and even a reserve tank can come in handy.
Check local emergency notifications. See if your city or state has established any emergency procedures and warming or cooling centers. If the power is out for an extended period, you may need relief.
What to Do During a Power Outage
Once the power outage starts, you don’t have to be stuck in the dark. A little planning has set you up to be comfortable and entertained. Now you just need to remember to follow these tips and wait.
Stay home. Try not to travel if possible. Street lights and stop lights won’t be functioning so your safety on the road is compromised. If you have to go out and you see downed power lines, don’t go near them and be sure to report them to the utility company.
Leave a main light on. This way you know when the power comes back on.
What to Do After a Power Outage
Check your food. Throw away food that may have spoiled, it’s not worth the risk. If you have food in the freezer that is colder than 40-degrees and has ice crystals on it, this is safe and can be refrozen.
Med check. If you have medications that might be spoiled, contact your doctor to see what to do.
Restock your kit. Did you tap into your emergency kit? If so, it’s best to replace missing items immediately so they’re there when you need them again.
Check in. In addition to taking care of your home and your family during a power outage, it’s always a good idea to reach out to your extended family and friends to make sure they’re doing okay.
Look for damage. Once you know that everyone is safe, take a nice, slow walk around your home, inside and out, just to check if there has been any damage. If you’ve discovered damage, connect with your American Family Insurance agent to see how to file a claim.
The most important thing during any power outage is your safety and that of your family. If you’ve done some preparation, you should not only be able to keep everyone safe, but fairly comfortable and entertained, too! It’s also a great idea to check with your agent to make sure you have all the homeowners insurance you need.