Preparedness Empowers You

It saves lives, property, and time.

Emergencies happen, often with little or no notice. By taking action beforehand you can be prepared for any emergency.

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Sailor assigned to Marine Expeditionary Force Engineer Group (MEG), Officer in Charge of Construction (OICC), works under the light from a flashlight torch during one of the many power outages at Camp Ripper, Iraq. U.S. Navy photo by Builder 2nd Class Michael W. Hollman (RELEASED) 050214-N-7254H-001

Power Outage

A powerful geomagnetic storm took place on March 13, 1989, and set off a major power blackout in Canada that left six million people without electricity for nine hours.

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.
  • 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


Be Ready Navy—Be informed before, during, and after an incident; make a written family emergency plan; and build an emergency supply kit good for at least three days.

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