What to do During a Blackout

The Lights Went Out, Now What? What to Do Before, During and After a Blackout

A power outage, also called a blackout or power failure, is a short or long-term loss of electric power to an area. There are many causes of power failures in an electricity network, including faults at power stations, damage to electric transmission lines, problems with substations or other parts of the distribution system, a short circuit, or the overloading of electricity mains. Though a blackout is typically an unexpected event, with a little preparation you can be ready to face the dark.
Here are a few tips to help you prepare for a blackout:

  • Build an emergency kit, and make a family communication plan.
  •  Have several flashlights with fully-powered batteries handy, at least one per person in the home, and one per floor.
  • Be aware that most medication that requires refrigeration can be kept in a closed refrigerator for several hours without a problem. If unsure, check with your physician or pharmacist.
  • Keep your car tank at least half full, because gas stations rely on electricity to power their pumps.
  • Know in advance where the manual release lever of your electric garage door opener is located and learn how to operate it. Always keep a house key with you for alternate entrance.
  • Buy glow sticks for the kids and add them to your emergency kit. This will bring a little levity to a scary situation for children afraid of the dark and for the older ones fighting boredom.

During a blackout

  • If you have the option, use flashlights for emergency lighting instead of candles due to risk of fire.
  • Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed to keep your food as fresh as possible. If you have any concerns about whether the food is still OK to eat, don't do it! It can be dangerous to eat food that might have spoiled.
  • Turn off or disconnect appliances, equipment (like air conditioners) or electronics after a power outage. Power may return with momentary "surges" or "spikes" that can damage computers, as well as motors in appliances such as air conditioners, refrigerators, washers or furnaces.
  • Do not run a generator inside a home or garage.
  • Do not connect a generator to a home's electrical system. If you use a generator, connect the equipment you want to run directly to the outlets on the generator.
  • Listen to local radio and to a battery- or generator-powered television for updated information.
  • Leave on one light so that you'll know when your power returns.
  • Do not call 911 for information - call only to report a life-threatening emergency. Use the phone for life-threatening emergencies only.
  • Take steps to remain cool if it is hot outside. In intense heat when the power may be off for a long time, consider going to a local movie theater, shopping mall or cooling shelter that has power. If you remain at home, move to the lowest level of your home, because hot air rises and cool air falls. Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing, and drink plenty of water, even if you do not feel thirsty.
  • Put on layers of warm clothing if it is cold outside. Never burn charcoal for heating or cooking indoors, and never use your oven as a source of heat. If the power may be out for a prolonged period, plan to go to another heated location (the home of a relative or friend or a public facility) to keep warm.
  • Provide plenty of fresh, cool water for your pets.
  • Eliminate unnecessary travel, especially by car. Traffic signals will stop working during an outage, creating traffic congestion.
  • Remember that equipment, such as automated teller machines and elevators, won't work during a power outage.

Simple ways to pass the time

Spending time at home during a blackout without the normal conveniences of light and electricity can be challenging, but it can also be fun with a little creativity. If everyone is safe and your only focus is to find something to do, think of ways to spend time together as a family that don't require electricity.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Read books.
  • Play board games.
  • Play with your kids, unplugged. No video games or tablets allowed. Build forts, play hide and seek, and truly interact.
  • Sit in a circle and tell stories, like you would around a campfire.
  • If you're alone with your significant other, light candles (safely, of course) and have a date night.
  • Weather permitting, have a barbecue. Grill all of the meat and vegetables that might spoil during the outage.
  • Hold an impromptu ice cream social! Get out all of the ice cream in your freezer before it melts. (Blackout calories do not count!)
  • Have a home gym? A blackout could be the perfect time to exercise.
  • Watch movies you've downloaded on your lap top on battery power.
  • Use the blackout as a time to rest - take a nap!

After a blackout

Keep in mind, food that has not been properly refrigerated can cause severe health problems. After a blackout, throw out all food that may have spoiled.
A few things to consider:

  • Discard any perishable refrigerated foods that have been above 40 degrees Fahrenheit for more than two hours.
  • Discard any food with an unusual odor, color or texture. Remember: "When in doubt, throw it out."
  • Take photos of the contents of your refrigerator before throwing things away. Your insurance carrier may provide coverage for food that spoils under certain circumstances.

Blackouts are inconvenient, but if you're prepared, a time of crisis can turn into a time for playing, reconnecting or even getting some much-needed rest.



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