Power outages can occur at any time—and they’re almost always unexpected.
When it comes to how to survive a power outage, there are few things to keep in mind beyond candle safety and digging out board games. By taking a few measures beforehand, you’ll be more comfortable –and less panicked—when the power goes out.
Prep for a possible emergency
While some power outages last no more than a few hours, those caused by natural disasters and storms can last for days. For that reason, first make sure you’re prepared to handle a worst-case scenario by compiling an emergency kit and creating an emergency action plan.
Some essentials that will help you survive a power outage include:
- At least two weeks of nonperishable food for each member of your household (don’t forget pets!)
- A least a gallon of water per person for those two weeks
- A manual can opener
- Flashlights for every room in the house (and possibly even a battery-powered camping lantern)
- A battery-powered radio
- Portable fans that operate with batteries
- Plenty of batteries
- Books, cards and board games to pass the time
- Surge protectors for your electronic devices
- Disposable dishes and silverware
- Hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipes
- An extra supply of medications and a plan for anyone in your home that relies on electrically powered devices for a health condition
Consider investing in a back-up method of heating food
It’s helpful to have a means of heating food that doesn’t depend on electricity. Some options include a camping stove or a barbeque grill. You can also manually ignite a gas stove—just make sure you have matches and know the proper technique.
Remember: Only use grills, generators and other carbon producing items outside. These items can produce carbon monoxide, which can be deadly if used indoors.
Know how to stay warm (or cool)
You’ll also want to have a plan to keep warm in cold weather (or cool in hot weather). Bundle up in layers and stay indoors to keep warm when you’re dealing with cold weather. Stay out of the sun, seek shade and wear light colors to remain cool in hot weather. Don’t forget to stay hydrated by drinking lots of water.
If you heat or cool your home with a method that doesn’t depend on electricity, make sure you have plenty of wood, newspapers and/or fuel stocked away.
Finally, if you are especially concerned about power outages, consider purchasing a back-up generator.
Don’t drink the (tap) water
When the power goes out, water purification systems may not be functioning. So fill up your tub with water—just don’t use it for cooking or cleaning without first purifying it. (Better yet: Drink from your bottled water supply.)
If you’ve run out of bottled or distilled water, boil or disinfect tap water first. Bring water to a rolling boil for at least one minute. If you don’t have a heating source, bring out the bleach. Add eight drops of bleach to a gallon of clear water (or 16 drops if your water is cloudy). Let it sit for at least 30 minutes before drinking.
Know what food is safe to eat
In an emergency, you should have nonperishable food items stocked and stored. But what about the food in your refrigerator—will it still be any good during or after the power outage?
Avoid opening refrigerator and freezer doors if you can. This will keep the cool air in for as long as possible. A full freezer will safely hold food for 48 hours; a half- full freezer will safely hold food for up to 24 hours.
If the power is out for longer than four hours, refrigerated items may start to spoil. Use a food thermometer to check the temperature of your food before cooking or eating it. Throw away any food that has a temperature higher than 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Power outages can be stressful. By being prepared, you’ll be able to survive a power outage without compromising your personal safety or running out of food, water or things to do.