Power outages are an unfortunate fact of life in our modern world. We don’t realize how much of our lives depend on an uninterrupted flow of electricity – until the lights, fridge, and furnace or air conditioner turn off.
Power outages can happen at pretty much any time. Whether it’s summer thunderstorms, fall hurricanes, winter blizzards, or spring tornadoes, there is always a risk that your power is going to fail. Even simple power grid problems that are not weather-related can cause multi-day power outages.
- Make Sure You Have Emergency Lighting
Lighting is one of the biggest issues facing families when the power goes out. If you don’t have any sort of emergency lighting, you’re going to be in the dark once the sun goes down – which could happen as early as 5-6 pm in the autumn and winter.
Emergency lighting sources are necessary to keep your family safe, and make sure that you’re able to keep living your day-to-day life. Some of the most useful emergency lighting sources include:
- Candles. Look for smokeless, clean-burning candles, made of beeswax or a similar wax.
- Propane-powered camping lanterns. Propane has a long shelf life, burns cleanly, and provides plenty of light. A safety lantern will ensure that you don’t have to worry about fuel spills.
- Electric flashlights and lanterns. Hand-cranked or solar models are preferable, as you will not have to worry about dead batteries.
We would recommend having as many of these light sources on-hand as possible, to increase your flexibility when reacting to a long-term power outage, and ensure you’ll always have plenty of light.
- Stock Up On Water And Non-Perishable Foods
It’s a good idea to have some potable water stored in a basement or storage area, just in case you can’t get clean water due to a power outage. You can purchase several gallons of distilled water from the store, or invest in a larger water tank from a water dispenser.
You’ll want to have at least two quarts of water available for each person in your family, per day that the outage may last. For maximum preparedness, you’ll want to have enough water on-hand for up to a week.
That means that, for a family of four, you’ll want at least 14 gallons of water. Consider purchasing more water if you think you may need it for cooking, cleaning, and other purposes.
Non-perishable foods are also a good investment. Ready-to-eat soups are handy, as are energy bars and other such foods, like nuts and dried fruit. These items can be stored for multiple years and still be edible. Dehydrated camping meals can also be handy, as they simply require boiling water to cook, and will store for years.
- Be Prepared For The Heat (Or Cold)
If the power goes out, your air conditioner will stop working, as will electric furnaces. If you have a gas furnace, it will also likely fail – most modern gas furnaces require electricity to run, not just gas alone.
That means you need to be prepared for the heat – or cold. Here are a few steps you can take.
In the winter
- Make sure you have plenty of extra blankets and bed coverings on-hand, to ensure comfort while sleeping.
- Try to ensure that your home is properly insulated and free of drafts. Keep all of your interior doors closed to maximize insulation.
- Minimize the number of times you enter and exit, to keep warm air inside.
- Check your fireplace and chimney yearly, if applicable, and keep a stash of firewood in your basement or garage.
- Move all of your activities into a single room, such as the living room, to capture more body heat.
- Wear a hat, gloves, thick socks, and boots inside, to minimize heat loss from your extremities.
- Consider pitching a tent inside if it’s extremely cold. A tent will help keep you warm by catching your body heat, and providing another layer of protection from the cooler air.
In the summer
- Wear light and loose-colored clothing made of breathable materials, like cotton.
- Keep your windows open at night to let cool air inside, and close them when it starts to warm up, to keep the cool air inside for as long as possible.
- Cover your windows with blinds and shades to keep the hot sun from heating up the interior of your home.
- Avoid sleeping in rooms located on the upper floors of your home. Heat rises, and second or third story rooms will tend to heat up very quickly.
- If you have a basement, consider sleeping in it and doing most of your activities in the basement, as it will usually be several degrees cooler than the rest of the house.
- Soak a thin towel or sheet in water, and use it to cover your body. As the water evaporates, it will take some heat with it, helping you stay cool. This is especially effective at night, as you try to sleep.
- Spend more time outside and in the shade, on porches or patios. Your home can heat up to a much higher temperature than the outdoors, and the breeze helps you feel more comfortable.
- Keep Ice And Coolers On-Hand, If Possible
If you have an extra freezer, or some extra storage space in your freezer and refrigerator, it’s a good idea to keep a bag or two of ice on-hand. Refrigerators can only preserve your food for about four hours after the power goes out.
But if you have some foam coolers and extra bags of ice on-hand, you can empty the contents of your refrigerator into these coolers. The ice will then be able to keep the food cool and edible for multiple days. This will help you get through the outage without having to turn to your non-perishable food items.
- Consider Building A “Disaster Kit”
Many disaster agencies recommend that families build a “disaster kit” that can be used in case of a natural disaster or a serious power outage. These kits can be assembled yourself, or purchased pre-assembled from many retailers.
Typically, your disaster kit should include things like emergency lighting, a first aid kit, any medication that you may need, disinfectant, toilet paper, personal hygiene items, and anything else that you may need during a disaster, especially if you have to evacuate.
Here’s a guide on building your own disaster kit from Weather Underground. Take a look, and think about whether a disaster kit is a good idea for your family. If you live somewhere prone to hurricanes, earthquakes, or tornadoes, it’s sure to be a valuable asset.
- Have Low-Tech Recreation Options Available
The above tips will help you take care of most of your basic needs, such as staying safe in the heat or the cold, and ensuring that you have lighting, food, water, and other basics on-hand in an emergency.
But one of the most overlooked issues caused by a power outage is boredom. We don’t realize how much of our entertainment is based on electronics – until none of them work.
While you’re waiting for your power to come back on, you’ll need activities to do – otherwise you’re going to go stir-crazy, especially if the weather conditions outside are not conducive to outdoor activities.
Board games and card games are a great source of entertainment, so consider investing in a few different entertainment options that the whole family can enjoy. You’ll get to spend some time together playing games – which is one of the only positive parts about a power outage!
Books are also helpful to have on-hand. Try to have some books for each family member, based on their reading level. When you have nothing else to do, you may be surprised at how quickly you can finish reading a book (or five!)
- Invest In A Generator For Increased Comfort
A generator is not a long-term solution to a power outage, unless you have an extremely large and expensive generator that is plugged directly into your home’s power grid – which is quite rare for most homeowners.
However, a portable generator can still be a valuable asset. With a portable generator, you may be able to run your refrigerator and freezer, some emergency lights, a small air conditioner or a space heater, and a number of other appliances in your home.
This will increase the flexibility that you have when responding to an emergency situation. As long as you have enough fuel on-hand, you can keep your generator running, and your most important appliances can still be used.
If you’re wondering what size portable generator you need to run essential appliances like your fridge, stove, and A/C units, here’s a helpful guide which can help you understand everything that you need to know.
Be Prepared For Power Outages – With These Tips
Power outages can happen at any time, and preparedness is the only thing that will keep you and your family safe, comfortable, and happy – even if the outage extends throughout multiple days.
So take another look through this article now, and think about these tips, and how you can start implementing them in your home today, to prepare for a potential natural disaster.