In the past century or so, we’ve come to depend on electricity for nearly all our basic needs: cooking, working, and functioning after sundown, in general. So, when the power is down, it can severely disrupt our daily lives and even pose a danger to our wellbeing. Power outages can happen due to extreme weather conditions, natural disasters, or problems with the electrical grid.
In these unfortunate scenarios, it’s important to know how to keep yourself, your home, and your pets safe. Here are a few essential tips on what to do when the power goes out.
If the power happens to go out when it’s cold outside, your first concern should be to save as much heat as possible in your home. Firstly, cover all the windows and doors with blankets and put plastic tape over them to keep out drafts and conserve the heat in your home.
The next step is choosing a “warming room”, in which you will spend most of your time until the power comes back on. After all, one room is much easier to keep warm than the entire house. Choose a small room with few or no windows, as it will be the easiest to keep warm. Have everyone in your household, including the pets, bundle up in that room with blankets and hot water bottles. Body heat is helpful, too.
One important warning: Do NOT use gas ovens, grills, or heaters indoors to stay warm! You’re sealed up in a room without proper air circulation, and doing so can cause a potentially deadly buildup of noxious gases.
The risk of heat exhaustion or a heat stroke isn’t to be taken lightly. Staying cool in hot weather is just as important as staying warm in cold weather. The first step to take if the power goes out in the summer is to cover the windows that directly face the sun with curtains or blankets. Here are a few more tips:
Related: 9 Tips to Help Keep Your House Cool
If the power is out for a long period of time, the food in your fridge and freezer is at risk of becoming too warm and starting to grow dangerous bacteria. Here’s what you can do to ensure that your food stays chilled during a power outage:
When the power is out at your home, there's also a chance that it's out at the municipal water center. This means that you will be out of running water for some time. If you have a bathtub, fill it to stock up on water.
The electricity outage may also render the water unsafe for you and your pets. Even if it looks clean, do check with the local authorities whether or not there is a boil alert in effect. If so, Diane Vukovic, a disaster preparedness expert, advises bringing the water to a full rolling boil for one minute. Continue boiling the water for 3 minutes, if you live at an elevation of 6,500 feet or more.
If your home uses well water, you will not have running water until the power is back on. One possible solution is to hook your well-pump to a gas-powered generator. Your local equipment rental service will usually offer these generators.
When the power goes out in very cold weather, pipes can easily become frozen, and they could even burst. To prevent it, you can leave all the cold water taps in the house on so that they are dripping. Even this small amount of water flowing through the pipes can prevent them from freezing solid.
However, this isn’t a good solution when running water is also a concern. In that case, “you’ll need to completely shut off your water at the main and drain water in the pipes. Collect it in clean buckets and pots so you can use it later,” says Vukociv.
If you're expecting a power outage, remember to unplug all your electronics and appliances: TVs, computers, microwaves, and the like. When the power returns, there may be a power surge, which can damage anything that is still plugged in. It may also be a good idea to have a fully-charged power bank on hand so that you are able to call someone in case of an emergency.
Share these important tips with your loved ones