Most of us don't think of power outages until we're searching for flashlights or candles in the dark. Some think the light on their cellphone will be good enough to make it through power outages. That might work if power outages happen only when your phone is already fully charged. But, what about being prepared for power outages that happen suddenly, when you are least prepared?
Now that winter is here and it is darker outside longer, the effects of power outages can be longer and differ from power outages during warmer months. A power outage need not be a disaster, regardless of the time of the year, if we learn about the different types of power outages and how to prepare beforehand. Let's look at two types of power outages, how to prepare for power outages and some tips for making it through one.
Implications of a Power Outage
As you know, the first implication of a power outage is no power. You might first notice a flicker of lights, especially during a storm, or the lights and all electronics might suddenly shut off. At that point, you need to verify what type of power outage is happening. Power outages can either affect your individual home, your entire neighborhood or your city. You should know how to tell which one is occurring and have a plan for either type.
Widespread Power Outages
When the lights go out, besides running around flipping switches, look outside. Are your neighbors' homes dark? If it's dark out, are the street lights on? If you answered yes to the first question and no to the second, chances are the power outage is affecting more than just your home. There isn't much you can do at this point, and the issue has most likely been reported.
Just Your Home
Ask the same questions here, but if your neighbors have lights and the street lights are on, then most likely the power outage pertains to just your home. You would want to call the utility company and let them know. They will have to have someone come out and find the cause of the power outage. They will tell you if the issue is something that is their responsibility to fix or if you need to call a certified electrician. In either scenario, you need to be prepared to be without power.
HOW TO BE PREPARED
Being prepared for power outages means more than making sure there are candles and flashlights in your home. You need to have a short-term plan of what to do right after the power outage and a long-term plan to keep everyone, including pets, healthy and safe for its duration. Let's consider power outages that just apply to your home as a short-term outage and widespread power outages as a long-term outage. While both types of power outages will have some of the same points in being prepared, there will be differences in the number of supplies and types of supplies.
Just Your Home
If the power outage is only in your home, the information below should help you make sure everyone is okay until power is restored.
Alerting your local electric company allows them to come out and either locate the problem specific to only your home or find an issue that is causing a more widespread issue.
Widespread Power Outages
A widespread power outage might last longer than one that is just affecting your home. A widespread outage might take longer to locate or require the removal, or replacement, of equipment. Some things that can cause a widespread power outage include a car hitting a telephone pole, a natural disaster or a cut power line somewhere in the neighborhood. Dealing with a widespread power outage might require more supplies and ones that will be needed for a longer period.
10 TIPS FOR LIVING THROUGH POWER OUTAGES
Living through a power outage is manageable as long you've prepared in advance and use your resources wisely. Below are tips for getting through power outages without too much difficulty whether the power outage is just at your home or widespread.
A quick side note about medications: there are medications that require refrigeration. If you're experiencing a widespread power outage, a full refrigerator will hold its temperature for about 48 hours and one that is half full: for about half that time. If the power isn't back on within those time frames, go purchase a cooler and some ice to store medications. Place medications in double, zippered plastic bags to ensure they are usable when needed.
This also goes for refrigerated infant formulas and foods that are not going to be used within 24-48 hours. Keep them in separate plastic bags to avoid spillage and cross-contamination with medications. Putting in cold beverages can help keep the coolers colder longer. Frozen food will last 24-36 hours. Again, as those times approach, transfer these items to ice-filled coolers if you can or cook it up, and share it.
This is a time to look out for those around you too. Make sure if there are those who are elderly, or with a special need, you check up on them. They might not be prepared, or if they have a cognitive issue or are elderly, they might be agitated or confused. Help them locate basic supplies in their home, and reassure them that this is a temporary situation. If you find them in medical distress, call 9-1-1, and wait with them until help arrives.
The key is to remain calm. This is especially true if you have young children. Children can become nervous and worried if you are. Don't forget to put things to keep young kids occupied in your disaster kit. Keep simple card games, storybooks, and board games in a dry location with the rest of your power outage kit. It's also okay if you forget these things. Use your imagination. Help them build a fort in a main room. If it's daylight out and the power outage is not due to a dangerous situation, take them outside to play for as long you can. This will help younger kids with restlessness focus on something else.
So, the lights are out. This was something exciting when we were kids. As an adult, it can be stressful depending on how long the power outage lasts. It can be a minor inconvenience when it's just your home that's having the power outage. When the power outage is widespread, the situation can become worrisome. The concern about hot water, food spoiling or no internet or television increase. Again, the key is to remain calm.
Don't forget that you might have tasks to do after the power is restored. Reset clocks and any alarms that run on electricity. Go through your fridge and freezer. If the food feels warm or freezer items are cool/cold but soft, don't chance it; throw it out. Check your homeowners' insurance policy to see if losing food due to a power outage is covered.
Being prepared for a power outage is the same as preparing for a fire escape plan or what to do during a natural disaster. The key is all in the planning that needs to take place before a power outage becomes an issue. It's not a bad idea to include a power outage plan in your home disaster planning and reviewing it occasionally with your family. That way everyone will know where everything is to help your family stay safe and live through a power outage.