Mother and daughter waiting out a power outage in a fort with flashlights

How to Prepare for a Power Outage

Updated August 1, 2020 . AmFam Team

Do you know what to do if there’s a long power outage in your area? Use this checklist so you know what to do before, during and after a power outage.

Whether planned or unexpected, a power outage can be frustrating, and after a big storm, they can be dangerous, too. Prepare in advance by creating an emergency power outage kit with the things you’ll need like flashlights, first aid kits, canned food and bottled water. Exactly what should you do before a power outage? We’ve got the answers you need to help your family be ready for a power outage.

First off, you’re going to need a safety plan for everyone involved, and we’ve got just the tips to help you know what to do when the lights go out. From monitoring the temperature in your refrigerator with a thermometer to keeping little ones safely occupied, here’s what you should do before, during and after a power outage.

What Should You Do Before a Power Outage?

Preparation for the unexpected is why you have insurance — being ready for a power outage is no different.

Having the supplies you need will make the experience more comfortable. And anticipating what you’ll need can help you with everything from saving your refrigerated food to avoiding a messy sump pump issue that can save you thousands.

Start by thinking through what an emergency kit should have to best serve your family and review this checklist for items to stock up on before a power outage takes you by surprise:

Wind-up powered weather radio

Look for weather radios that come with rechargeable batteries. A few minutes of winding up the charger can get you an hour of playback, and some come with solar cells that charge from a window sill during an extended power outage.

Flashlights, batteries and glowsticks

For safety, rely on energy efficient LED flashlights and opt for glowsticks instead of candles during a power outage. Remember to buy alkaline batteries for their long shelf life and get extras for other items in your kit, too.

A refrigerator thermometer

Pick up an inexpensive outdoor thermometer that you can place in your fridge after a power outage. With it, you’ll know when you need to add more ice to help keep your refrigerated groceries cool after the loss of power.

Non-perishable food

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 by eating the food in your fridge first.

Several gallons of water

Plan on storing at least one gallon of water per person per day. Ideally, you should have at least three days’ worth for each person in your household if there is no power in your house.

Solar-powered cell phone charger

Staying in touch is easier with a reliable cell phone battery. Be ready for a power outage by picking up a camping solar collector or battery pack (Opens in a new tab)to stay charged.


Keep everyone toasty warm if the power goes out during chilly weather.

First aid kit

Start with different sized bandages, scissors, tweezers, tape, antiseptics, pain relievers and distilled water. Be sure to stock your kit with a few days’ worth of medications that anyone in the home is taking regularly.

Battery-operated back up sump pump

This one might be costly, but the last thing you need to worry about is your basement flooding because your sump pump stopped working when the lights went out. Get on a contractor’s calendar and have a backup sump system installed before you need it.

Surge protectors

Sometimes, when the power goes out, it can come back on with a powerful surge that damages your electronics. Get a quote on our equipment breakdown coverage — it’s easily added to your homeonwers policy. If your expensive electronics are damaged by a covered event like a power surge, your savings can be better protected.

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. If you’re going to be running your car during a power outage keep it outside to reduce the carbon monoxide risks.

How Can You Be Prepared for a Power Outage?

After you’ve got the physical things, you’ll need to be ready for a loss of electricity, it’s time to take on other tasks that will keep you safe in the aftermath of a storm that knocks out the power:

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.

Deal with medical concerns

If you rely on an electrical medical device, connect with the maker and find out about battery backup systems. Your health insurance may help pay for it. Then, talk to the power company to request that you be placed on a medical priority service list so your power’s restored ASAP.

Keep cash on hand

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 use their credit and debit card machines. 

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 a quote on a generator

If you’re thinking about a backup generator to prepare for power outages, get a quote from a licensed and bonded electrician. If you’re considering a portable generator, never run them inside a home or garage, and don’t connect them to your home’s electrical system.

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 a quote for sump pump coverage

If you have a sump pump, talk to your American Family Insurance agent (Opens in a new tab)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.

Have a plan for the kids

Come up with some games, crafts and fun activities for the family. Help keep your children occupied — it’s the best way to calm their fears.

What to Do Before a Scheduled Power Outage

Sometimes power outages are planned. You’ll have a little warning to prepare and make the experience easier. If you know an outage is going to happen, take these steps in the prior to losing power:

Fill the tub with water

When the power goes out, you may lose water pressure. 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 power saving mode for even longer battery life and charge any external travel batteries you’ve got.

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. If you’re dealing with an extended power outage, you have some time to prepare before the ice becomes essential.

Stock up on food

Be sure you’ve got a big supply of nonperishable meals for emergencies. If you’re wondering what food to stock up on for a power outage, think about high calorie items, like energy bars and snacks with plenty of protein. Canned goods and freeze-dried meals are also great answers.

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 plus a reserve tank can come in handy.

Check for local emergency shelters

See if your city or state has established any emergency procedures and look for details on warming or cooling centers. If the power is out for an extended period, you may need to seek shelter elsewhere.

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 and your power outage emergency kit has set you up to be comfortable and entertained. Now you just need to remember to follow these tips and wait it out:

Stay home

Try not to travel if possible. Street lights and stop lights won’t be functioning during a power outage — your safety on the road can be compromised. If you must 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.

Avoid opening the fridge

Prevent your perishable foods from spoiling by keeping your refrigerator and freezer activity to a minimum. Before opening either, plot out exactly what you’re going to do, and be quick about it. Be sure to restock melted ice while you’re in there.

What to Do After a Power Outage

Once the power’s been restored, it’s important to remember that dangers can still lurk in and around your home. From avoiding pooled water to steering clear of downed power lines, the aftermath of a storm can be tough to navigate safely. Look at these tips so you’ll know what to do after a power outage:

Document the damage

Once you know that everyone is safe, take a slow walk around your home — inside and out —just to check if there has been any damage. If your basement was flooded and standing water remains, safely photograph the damage and use the MyAmFam app to file a claim, or connect with your American Family Insurance agent (Opens in a new tab) to file a claim.

Check your food in the fridge

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. If you discover that your food has spoiled after a power outage, connect with your insurance agent to see if your homeowners policy covers food loss.

Check perishable medications

If you have medications that might be spoiled, contact your doctor to see what to do.

Restock your kit

Did you tap into your power outage emergency kit? If so, it’s best to replace missing items immediately so they’re there when you need them again.

Check in with contacts

In addition to taking care of your home and your family during a power outage, it’s always a good idea to report yourself as safe via social media or text to your extended family and friends. Be sure to inquire about their well-being to make sure they’re doing okay.

Get Customized Homeowners Coverage

The most important thing during any power outage is your safety and the safety of your family. If you’ve done some preparation, you should not only be able to keep everyone safe, but comfortable and entertained, too! It’s also a great idea to check with your agent to make sure you have a customized homeowners insurance policy that covers you the way you need it to.

Related Articles

  • a couple looking at paperwork
    20 Questions to Ask When Renting an Apartment

    Choosing your new apartment isn’t an impulse decision. The choice you make will have an impact for a long time. There are many different things to consider as you tour one possible home after another. On top of that, landlords and management companies work hard to make them all seem perfect.

    How can you tell which one’s the right fit for you? Here are 20 key questions to ask when renting an apartment. The answers can give you a better idea of what you’d get from each one.

    How Much is Rent & the Security Deposit?

    Any apartment hunter should ask themself this crucial question: “How much should I spend on rent?” Setting a budget ahead of the search helps narrow the possibilities. You’ll save time by eliminating options that are too expensive.

    Still, relying on online listings alone may not be enough. It’s better to personally ask the landlord, whether by calling, emailing, or visiting. Make sure to also bring up the security deposit, as well as any other upfront costs they may ask of you. This will save you from unpleasant surprises before you sign anything.

    How Much are Utilities and What Do I Cover?

    Every apartment complex handles utilities differently. Water, electricity, air conditioning, heating, gas, and more may be split between landlord and tenant. Then there is the matter of which ones you’ll need to get yourself. Your apartment may come with cable and wi-fi, but you may be responsible for them on your own.

    Only your landlord will know for sure, and they should be clear about what’s expected of you. Before leasing an apartment, you should ask what utilities are available and which ones are covered. Record the answers, factor the costs into your budget, and look for the place that offers the most for the least.

    How Does Parking Work?

    Some apartment complexes have their own parking lots, with many spaces reserved for tenants and a few set aside for guests. Others may give residents access to a dedicated structure, providing greater security — but possibly at a higher cost. Others still may only offer street parking, which can be expensive to maintain.

    In short, parking may be a complex situation involving specific locations and extra costs. If you have a car, don’t just ask if parking is available. Get the details. As you weigh your options, consider what’s best for your car as well.

    What’s the Pet Policy & Is There a Deposit or Fee?

    The pet policy won’t matter to every apartment hunter. If you have a furry friend or might want one someday, make this one of their first questions to ask when touring an apartment. A “no” answer is no deal, no matter how great the other perks may be.

    Some landlords may allow pets if you pay a one-time deposit or additional monthly fees. Make sure to keep that in mind during your search.

    What Amenities are Included?

    Utilities cover the most vital parts of a home — the things that make living there comfortable. Amenities are the complex’s welcome bonuses — the things that make living there enjoyable. Common examples include clubhouses, swimming pools, public kitchens, communal laundry machines, and fitness rooms.

    Amenities are great for those who use them, but their presence can justify higher rent. As your landlord takes you through each selling point on your tour, ask them whether these perks are included with your price. Also, make sure to consider if you’ll even use them.

    Do I Need Renters Insurance?

    Home insurance is for houses. If you live in an apartment, you look for renters insurance instead. In fact, some places make it mandatory for all residents. Be sure to ask your landlord in advance so you can make any arrangements you need.

    This practice is all about liability. Landlords have their own insurance, but it’s based on their duties and would only cover their share of the damages. Renters insurance offers protection for your living space and your belongings. Even if it’s not required, getting your own policy could bring you peace of mind.

    Can You Describe the Application Process?

    Applying for an apartment can be complicated and time-consuming. You might have to pay fees, undergo background checks and other screenings, and more just to see if you qualify. This may be preferable to the alternative: apartment listings that promise no credit check may be scams.

    You could always learn about each step of the application process as you go. Still, it never hurts to know ahead of time, especially if there are any fees and risks. If anything is unclear, the landlord should explain it to you.

    What Should I Know About Rent Increases?

    A variety of factors can change the value of an apartment. Examples include market shifts, new installations, repairs and replacements of fixtures. Your rent will likely not change for the duration of your lease. Once the time comes to sign again, though, your monthly payments may very well go up.

    This may not seem like a pertinent question when starting a lease. Still, making it one of your questions to ask when touring an apartment could be useful. How your potential future landlord approaches the matter can tell you what to expect. At the very least, it can help you choose whether to look for a new place well before your lease ends.

    What are the Lease Length Options?

    How long are you looking to stay at your next apartment? One year, two years, longer, less? Not everyone has a plan in mind, which means the apartment’s available options may give you an idea of what to expect in the future.

    Landlords always inform apartment hunters about the duration of their lease. However, you might need to probe them for other available options. Be sure to make this one of your questions to ask before leasing an apartment, even if they only mention one length that sounds good. They might have something better.

    Can I Make Changes to the Rental Unit?

    Your apartment may come pre-furnished, but it’s unlikely to be pre-decorated. Few people are content with blank walls and sparse spaces. Most prefer to personalize and beautify their home with art, decorations and other belongings.

    Unlike houses, apartments usually only have temporary residents. The building’s owner may not allow certain kinds of changes, believing they may hurt the unit’s future value. Take the time to go over policies. That way, you can get a better idea of how you’ll make your space feel like a home.

    How Do Maintenance Requests Work?

    Besides rent, tenants might only interact with their landlord through maintenance requests. After all, it’s the complex owner’s duty to keep everything in their apartments running smoothly. If your shower stops pumping heated water or your lock gets sticky, maintenance will get it fixed.

    Asking about the process of filing maintenance requests can give insights to how landlords view this responsibility. Does the process seem straightforward or complicated? Are approvals easy, or do they require a great deal of evidence and demonstration? The answers may reveal how long this landlord will let you live with inconvenience. Few questions to ask about apartments are more revealing than this.

    What’s the Guest Policy?

    In most cases, a guest policy doesn’t apply to someone who’s just visiting for a few hours. It covers situations where someone might want to stay at a tenant’s apartment for a few days or longer. Depending on the terms of the policy, you might even need permission for someone to spend the night.

    Don’t just assume that any landlord would be okay with your best friend crashing on your couch for a while. Get the details on the guest policy before moving in. They’ll tell you what permissions they’d grant and how you can get them granted.

    What’s the Neighborhood Like?

    The oldest real estate myth holds that three factors must guide where you choose to live: “location, location, location.” There’s more to it than that, as this list of questions to ask when renting an apartment should make clear. Still, the area around the complex is important to consider.

    Getting info on the neighborhood is valuable to any apartment hunt. Try to get your landlord’s perspective about any areas of concern. We also recommend exploring on your own, both by car and on foot. See if any useful places are close by, such as grocery stores.

    How Soon are You Looking to Fill the Unit?

    In most cases, you won’t be the only person viewing an apartment. Others have likely received a grand tour, and others may be waiting in line to see the place as well. Landlords might be screening you as much as you’re screening them.

    Landlords are also usually interested in starting a new lease as soon as the current one ends. One way to get noticed is to strike quickly: ask when they’d want you to move in. You should still weigh your options, but don’t procrastinate.

    Do I Need a Cosigner?

    People with rental history have a record that landlords can review. If this is your first time paying rent, they won’t know if they can trust you to make payments on time and consistently. Adding a cosigner to the contract can make it easier. Their signature promises that even if you can’t pay rent, someone else can pay for you.

    Many renters with no history may worry about background checks and credit checks. However, there are some landlords who won’t ask for them. While the answer will likely be a yes, it doesn’t hurt to have it on a list of first-time renter questions.

    What Payment Methods are Accepted?

    Rent payments can take a variety of forms. Before you make any assumptions, though, you should double-check what’s allowed. Each place will have its own policies. Some offer more payment method options than others.

    You might be able to set up a regular automatic withdrawal from your bank account. You might have to do it online. The landlord might accept checks or cards (warning: anyone who only takes cash is likely a scammer). There’s only one way to know for sure.

    What Furnishings & Appliances are Included?

    Preparing for the big move is a big task. It’s not just deciding what to take, but also figuring out what you need to get. Each apartment is different: some come fully furnished with appliances, while others only have a bed.

    Asking this question is important because the answer can impact your budget. It can even make or break your apartment options. Ask about beds and bedding, chairs, sofas, tables, kitchen appliances, TV sets and anything else that matters to you in a home.

    How Much Notice Do You Give Before You or a Representative Shows Up at the Property?

    An interesting agreement comes with living in an apartment. It’s your home, and you pay to stay there. But someone else owns it and covers many responsibilities related to it. Technically, they have at least some right to enter at any time for any reason.

    Even so, many building owners respect their tenants by giving them advance notice. Depending on the person and situation, you may have days or hours or minutes to prepare. We recommend asking how much notice they usually give. It could save you some major headaches.

    What’s Your Late Fee Policy?

    Accidents can happen. Paychecks can come late. You might have temporary money problems. Most apartment contracts provide some leeway for late rent payments. But they might charge a late fee.

    Given that it’s so common, there’s no problem with asking about late fee policies. You’ll want to know the terms just in case anything happens. You’ll also want to know the limits according to state law, so you can see if the fee is fair. Just try not to seem too eager, and don’t count on being able to do it often.

    What’s Your Subletting Policy?

    Subletting is when a renter temporarily moves out and lets someone else cover their lease. A landlord may refuse to rent to your candidate if they don’t meet their requirements.

    Even if you don’t plan to leave during your lease, you may still want to know your apartment’s subletting policy. Life may surprise you. Being aware can save you some time and trouble in looking for someone to take over.

    Know the Best Questions to Ask When Renting an Apartment

    Any of these questions to ask when renting an apartment can help decide your future home. Having so many factors to consider may seem intimidating at first. As you gather information, though, you may find that each new detail narrows down the options. Soon enough, a few apartments will rise above the rest. No matter which of them you pick, you benefit. Ask away.

    Renters Insurance from American Family Insurance

    Even while you’re still apartment-hunting, it’s never too early to start thinking about renters insurance. If you have any questions about that, feel free to contact an American Family Insurance agent. Once you’ve learned what we have to offer, you can get a quote online and get protection for your next home.

  • Woman sitting at table writing a home inventory for homeowners insurance.
    Woman sitting at table writing a home inventory for homeowners insurance.
    9 Steps to Create a Home Inventory for Insurance Claims

    Your home is more than a roof over your head. It’s where your dreams grow, your family thrives and memories are made. But the possessions you keep inside are important, too.

    Whether you’re renting an apartment or own your home, you’ve most likely got an insurance policy designed to protect your dwelling and the things inside. Should the unthinkable happen and you have to use that insurance policy, it’s important to have a plan in place. And a home inventory list is a great way to get started!

    We’ll walk you through how to create a home inventory so — in the event of the unexpected — you’ll be more prepared and have a streamlined recovery.

    What Is a Home Inventory?

    Quite simply, a home inventory is a complete list of all the items, especially valuables, in and around your home. The best home inventories include photos, descriptions and dollar values of each of your belongings. The more detail, the better! It’ll help you provide a comprehensive list to your agent of items lost in the event your home is damaged or destroyed, allowing you to get the most out of your coverage.

    When your describing the items in your list, remember that the more information, the better. Here’s a quick reference list of the type of information you should include in your home inventory list:

    • An in-depth description of the items. For example, rather than writing down “diamond ring,” be more descriptive, such as: “an emerald cut diamond ring, with white gold shank, accent stones and initials inscribed below the bridge.”
    • Make, model, and/or serial number of the items.
    • Date of purchase, receipts and photos.
    • Estimated replacement cost if you bought it today. Do note that the value of the items might be different today than it was when you first bought them. This is especially true with jewelry, and other valuables.
    • Appraisals at time of purchase. Especially if your items were appraised for insurance purposes.

    Why Do I Need a Home Inventory?

    Whether you’re a homeowner or a renter, everyone can benefit from a home inventory!

    If you ever have to make a claim, a home inventory is a great asset to have, especially after stressful events like theft, storm damage or a fire (take a look at how one renter used their home inventory after facing an apartment fire).

    When you make a claim, you typically submit information on everything that was lost — which can be difficult to do off the top of your head for all your possessions. Remembering to replace your TV or computer are no-brainers, but when it comes to remembering each piece of jewelry in your jewelry box, things tend to get overlooked. Having a personal property inventory will help, along with knowing how to properly insure your jewelry.

    When you have your home inventory checklist, you know exactly what needs to be replaced, and you’ll have peace of mind knowing your entire household is protected.

  • A row of houses in a neighborhood with storm clouds that will bring strong rain and roof leaks behind it.
    A row of houses in a neighborhood with storm clouds that will bring strong rain and roof leaks behind it.
    Reasons Why a Roof Leaks

    You’re admiring the rain from the comfort of your home when you notice a sound — the unmistakable drip of water dropping onto your floor. The first and hardest step is figuring out why your roof is leaking. And with these tips, you’ll find the culprit in no time!

    Here’s Why Your Roof Is Leaking

    The list of reasons why your roof is leaking may seem long, but don’t worry — when it comes to finding the leak and fixing it, the finding is the hardest part. And the good thing about these problems? They can all be fixed. Check out the list and see what’s troubling your roof:

    Your roof is old

    Roofs don’t last forever. Protecting your home and everything inside it from the elements comes with a cost. And with all that rain, snow, ice, wind and even sunlight wearing down your roof, it becomes more susceptible to leaks. Every roof will eventually need to be replaced, so learn more about how long your roof should last based on what it’s made of.