9 Ways to Prepare for an Unexpected Power Outage

Darryl Brooks /

By Amanda Weiss

We don’t like to think about things that might go wrong, but sometimes doing so is necessary. Power outages are among the problems that can range from mere inconvenience to safety hazard. Whether caused by heavy storms or too much electricity use, power outages can affect anyone with wired electricity. Preparedness for power outages is important, particularly when their causal conditions pose a threat to your health and safety. For example, hurricane conditions can knock out power and make it difficult to seek out resources afterwards. Even if such an event takes you by surprise, there are habits of preparedness that can help. As a guide, here are 9 ways to prepare for an unexpected power outage.

1) Stocking Up Items

If a power outage persists and conditions are bad, you may be unable to buy resources for a while. Therefore, there are some crucial items you should stock up on, which are useful even in non-emergency situations. One of the most important things to have around is food. Particularly, you should buy plenty of non-perishable food items and bottled water. Good examples include protein bars, canned goods, and dried fruit. In terms of hygiene, you should buy baby wipes and hand sanitizer, which can be used as a means of conserving water. Batteries are also necessary, especially for radios, flashlights, hearing aids, and other necessities. Candles, Sterno fuel, and matches are also good to have if you need to heat up food or keep parts of the house lit. If you have an open flame, however, you should watch it carefully to avoid accidents.

2) Wireless Battery and Wind Up Devices

If your home does not have power, it can be difficult to find ways to maintain your regular routine. After all, many household devices run on electricity. For example, toasters, hair dryers, alarm clocks, and computers need to be plugged in. While you may be able to get by without some of these devices, others are more important. If your house is dark, you can benefit from battery-powered flashlights or even glow sticks. Having a battery-run radio is also a good idea, since it will allow you to keep up with news. If weather conditions are especially bad, this may be the only way to remain updated about receiving aid. For wireless phones, you may be able to charge spare batteries or energy cells beforehand. If you need to contact someone, this will be enormously helpful.

3) Cooking on a Barbeque

If you have no power for a refrigerator, you will need to cook any raw meat you have before it goes bad. Depending on where you live and what season the power outage occurs during, you may have limited cooking options. If it is safe to be outside, however, grilling food is a good way to go. Barbeques often run on either coal or propane, both of which can be stocked up on well before any unforeseen event. Many different types of food can be grilled, including meats and vegetables. You can also boil a pot of water to cook or make coffee, if your grill has an extra burner. Regardless, it’s a good way to preserve your perishable food items. Additionally, if the power outage is neighborhood-wide, you can invite others over and make a social event of it.

4) Keep Your Car Gas Tank Full

There are many possible reasons a power outage can occur. Some of these can cause electricity to be out for several days or even weeks. If this happens, you will likely need to travel at least short distances to get resources such as food. However, gas station pumps require electricity, so if they lose power, you won’t have a way to fill your car’s tank. It is therefore a good idea to keep your tank full, or close to full, at all times. Even if gas stations do have power while residential areas do not, there may be extremely long lines for gasoline. Additionally, if the power outage was caused by unsafe weather conditions, people may have been hurt. If they need medical attention and phones are down, you may have to go to a hospital or doctor’s office. To drive them, your car will need to have enough fuel.

5) Keep Coolers Ready

If a power outage comes unexpectedly, you may have food in your fridge that is at risk of spoiling. In this case, you must be resourceful to preserve what you can. One possible way to keep food cold without electricity is to store it in coolers. While these may not be a very long-term solution, they can help if electricity is out for only a short while. And if the power does stay out longer, you can eat the food in the cooler before nonperishable items. You should keep extra ice in your freezer to put into a cooler, if necessary, to keep the temperature of food down. Coolers are widely available at many stores and are also useful for outdoor events. Therefore, even if you don’t end up needing them during power outages, you can still use them.

6) Buy a Generator

If you live somewhere highly susceptible to power outages, you will benefit greatly from a generator. This is even more true if you experience an extended power outage. Generators can be expensive, but you do not need to buy one that will power your entire house. Keeping your refrigerator running, heat or air conditioning on, and a few lights or outlets is probably enough. This will prevent loss of perishable food and make your conditions much more livable. If you cannot afford a large generator wired into your house, you can purchase a cheaper portable model. This will supply the electric necessities. You can always be resourceful in finding ways to manage without your other devices. Regardless of the type of generator, you should test it before you need it, and keep fuel ready for use. It’s important to never run a generator inside your home.

7) Maintain a Contact List

Some power outages occur due to dangerous weather conditions or accidents. Therefore, certain measures should be taken to prepare for the possibility of someone getting hurt during a blackout. One way to do this is to make a list of people you can easily contact in an emergency. If you or someone in your house is injured or in need of something, there should be people around you who can help. It is important to consider that you may not have phone access during a power outage. Therefore, your contact list should include people you can get in touch with in other ways. For instance, in many situations, you may be able to go over to a neighbor to ask for assistance. You should keep your contact list in a safe place where anyone in your house can access it.

8) Use Surge Protectors

When the power goes out, it’s unlikely that you will think about whether your electronic devices will be okay. But if your power returns suddenly after an outage, your electronic valuables could end up damaged. When electricity first comes back after being out, it may surge in and fry your devices. Considering you may not necessarily know when the power will return, you should use surge protectors. Surge protectors ground some of the electricity that rushes in so that it does not overwhelm your electronics. You can buy power strips with built in surge protectors or have a whole-house protector installed for your electrical panel. When you regularly have everything plugged into a surge protector, you can focus on bigger problems during blackouts. You will have the security of knowing your electronics will still work when power returns.

9) Draft a Plan of Action

One of the best ways to prepare for any situation is to come up with a plan to tackle it beforehand. Being ready for a power outage is no exception. If you have several people in your house, you will be best able to deal without electricity if you have an idea of what each of your roles will be. This is especially important if there are children or people scared of the dark in your home. If a child knows where in the house they should meet their parents or guardians, they will feel safer. The same holds true for parents—they will not need to worry about trying to find their children. If everyone knows where to gather and where supplies are, they will be able to adapt to the situation quickly.

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