Electrical power can go out for any number of reasons. An unexpected outage can have unforeseen consequences. Without electricity you may experience a shortage of food and clean water, as well as extreme temperatures. You should be prepared to manage without power for an extended period of time.
How to Prepare for a Power Outage
- Be informed and know power outage terminology.
- Rolling Blackouts
- Rolling blackouts, or temporary power shortages, may happen from time to time when power companies turn the power off in certain areas to curb usage.
- Rolling blackouts occur during peak seasons and hours of energy consumption, usually in the summer, 4–7 p.m.
- Power companies try to warn affected areas of planned rolling blackouts, but they cannot always do so.
- The power is usually out for only about an hour.
- Summer Blackouts
- Extreme heat is usually the cause of summer blackouts.
- Summer blackouts are dangerous because they eliminate the most effective ways to beat the heat: fans and air conditioning.
- In the absence of these means of keeping cool, make sure you stay hydrated.
- Take cold showers or baths to cool down.
- Space Weather
- Emissions that erupt from the sun as magnetic energy builds to a peak at the sun’s surface, sending radiation, solar winds, or magnetic, high energy particles through space into Earth’s atmosphere.
- Space weather, sometimes called solar storms, can produce electromagnetic fields that cause extreme currents (power surges) in wires, disrupting power lines, and even causing widespread blackouts.
- Rolling Blackouts
- Make a family emergency plan.
- Back up computer files regularly.
- Keep your car tank full because gas stations rely on electricity to power their pumps.
- Keep a key to your house with you if you regularly use an electronic garage door opener to enter your home.
- Know where the manual release lever of your electric garage door opener is located and how to operate it.
- Build an emergency kit.
- Make sure you have flashlights and batteries.
- Make sure you have a battery-operated radio.
- Stockpile plenty of nonperishable food and bottled water.
- Keep at least $100 of cash in small denominations to provide you with a means of purchasing needed items when credit card machines and automated teller machines (ATMs) do not operate without power.
What to Do If There Is a Power Outage
- Use flashlights rather than candles for light.
- Turn off the electrical equipment you were using when the power went out.
- Eliminate unnecessary travel, especially by car as traffic signals will stop working during an outage and accidents may occur.
- Remember that ATMs and elevators may not work during a power outage.
- Drink and use bottled, boiled, or treated water. Water purification systems may not be working when the power goes out, so water may be unsafe to use.
- Make sure your pets have plenty of fresh, cool water.
- Try not to open the freezer or refrigerator too much. A full freezer should keep food for 48 hours.
- Pack dairy products, meat, fish, eggs, and other items that can quickly spoil in a cooler surrounded by ice to extend their usability.
- Throw out any foods (meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and leftovers) that have been exposed to temperatures higher than 40° F (4° C) for two hours or more, and any food that has an unusual odor, color, or texture, or feels warm to touch.
- If the power goes out in extreme heat:
- Stay hydrated by drinking a glass of water every 15–20 minutes.
- Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.
- Keep the air circulating by opening doors and windows.
- Be aware of the possibility for a heat stroke.
- If the power goes out in extreme cold:
- Wear several layers of warm clothing.
- Keep moving to stay warm.
- Be aware of the possibility for hypothermia, which happens when one’s body temperature falls below 95ºF.
Where to Find Additional Information
- Department of Homeland Security (Ready.gov) & FEMA—www.ready.gov/blackouts
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Space Weather Prediction Center—http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/AboutUs/index.html