In 2013, there were a reported 14.5 power outage events per month throughout the United States, according to InsideEnergy.org. Some of these outages lasted a few hours, while others lasted for days. Make sure you and your family are equipped to handle any length of power outage with these basic safety measures and preparation tips.
Before a Power Outage
Stock an emergency kit with supplies and tools that can help you manage the absence of basic services. Make sure you have enough non-perishable food and water to last at least 72 hours. Invest in a set of two-way radios to keep you in contact with your family in the event you need to separate.
Other useful kit items include a flashlight, batteries, matches, first aid kit, duct tape, super glue, sewing kit, bungee cords and a battery-powered radio. Fill plastic Tupperware with water and store in the freezer — these blocks of ice can be used during an outage to keep your perishables cold.
During the Outage
Immediately turn off or disconnect electrical appliances or electronics once you’ve lost power. Power may return with momentary surges, which can potentially damage the motors of your appliances — refrigerator, washer, furnace and air conditioner — or the hardware inside of your computer. Pull out your emergency kit from storage and use flashlights for emergency light. Don’t use candles during a power outage, as they increase the risk of fire. Do not call 911 for power outage information; use this number only to report a life-threatening emergency. Use your battery-powered radio for updates.
Extended Power Outage
If you live in an area prone to summer blackouts or seasonal stormy weather, increase the amount of food and water supplies in your emergency kit to accommodate your needs for up to 14 days. For water consumption, set aside one gallon of water per person per day. If you have pets, make sure to set aside enough water for them, as well. Options to explore, beyond the realm of stored water are gravity-fed water filtration devices and water purification tablets.
Sanitation poses a risk in down-grid situations, which can lead to illness and even death. Reduce the amount of drinking water you use to wash things and make sure you are fully stocked with disposable dishes and flatware. Use disinfecting wipes and sprays and apply hand sanitizer after using the bathroom and prior to eating. Sort out a septic plan to accommodate whatever system you have in your house — this depends on whether or not your toilet has an electric pump.
When the power returns, do not touch any electrical power lines that may be down. Report any downed lines to official responders. Throw away any food that has a noticeable foul odor or any mold growth. Do not taste the food to see if it’s gone bad, as it may have harmful bacteria within it. If you are unsure that your food is safe, use a food thermometer — fish, poultry, store-bought eggs and already-cooked food may be unsafe to eat if these items have been sitting above 40 degrees Fahrenheit for more than a couple hours. Home-harvested eggs that have not been washed or scrubbed can last without refrigeration for up to several days.