Power outages can happen suddenly. Sometimes, the lights flicker and come back on, but more serious damage to power lines can cause outages that last days or even weeks. Plan to make the hours or days without power as comfortable as possible. Here are some tips to prepare your home:
Turn off appliances
A big thunderstorm, a fallen tree or a rolling blackout can throw your life into chaos. Knowing what to do when the lights go out can help keep you safe, calm and prepared. Before the power goes out, turn off appliances with electronic components like computers and televisions. Unplugging these items eliminates the risk of voltage surges when the power returns and helps reduce demand on your electric supplier’s system. It is a good idea to have a flashlight and a battery-operated radio in your home for emergencies that may arise during a power outage. If you are experiencing a prolonged outage, consider adding weather preparation materials to your kit, such as blankets and hand warmers for cold months or bottled water and non-perishable food if the outage causes spoiled foods in your fridge and freezer. Make sure you assemble all these supplies in one place so you don’t have to search through drawers or closets in the dark. Having an extra phone charger to charge your device and stay connected is also a good idea.
Turn off lights
No matter the season or circumstance, a power outage can strike at anytime. Severe weather, grid problems, or even a downed tree are some of the reasons of power outages. In some cases, this can last days. Turn off lights and other appliances in your home to avoid unnecessary damage when service is restored. Unplugging electrical devices, such as televisions and microwaves, is also a good idea to avoid overloading the system when power is restored. Organize your emergency supplies in one easy-to-find location so you don’t have to shuffle through drawers when the power goes out. Include a battery-operated radio, matches or candles, bottled water, non-perishable food, blankets and backup chargers for cell phones. Consider adding medical supplies, especially any medications that require refrigeration or have an expiration date, to your list of preparedness items. Also, list family and emergency contacts and store a neighborhood map to help you find your way in the dark.
There’s no bigger risk than leaving electronics plugged in during a power outage. If the power returns, it’s likely to cause a surge that could damage them. Unplugging appliances and other devices in your home before a storm can save money and keep items safe. While it would be impractical to unplug every machine and device in your house (everything from the refrigerator to a digital clock radio), it is important to get into the habit of doing this with your more frequently used items. These electronic “vampires” use up to 10% of household energy even when turned off and in standby mode.
Unplugging your chargers is one of the easiest ways to start saving energy. Each charger uses between 1 and 10 watts of electricity when turned off but still plugged in, which can add up over time. If all homes in the UK were to unplug their chargers daily, we’d save enough energy to power 25,000 homes for a year! Unplugging chargers also prevents your appliances from being damaged by a power surge.
Turn off the water.
During extended power outages, water pipes can freeze and break, especially if they are located in uninsulated areas. To avoid this, shut off your home’s main water valve before the outage occurs and drain any faucets. If you have a water heater, it’s also a good idea to turn it off and drain any hot water. Suppose your area expects an extended power outage. In that case, you should call your local power company and ask about their protocol for contacting customers and determining which areas will be serviced first. They might offer to put you on a priority list, which can help alleviate some of your anxiety during a long outage. Keep a kit containing supplies for at least three days and put it in a central location where you can access it easily. It includes a battery-operated radio, flashlights, matches or candles (with proper holders), bottled water and non-perishable foods. You should also ensure you have communication devices that work without home power, like a crank radio or non-cordless phone, charged backup chargers for your cell phones and a paper list of emergency, family and work contacts.
Make a plan
Severe weather and natural disasters can cause power outages that last hours or days. If you need to figure out how your local power company will communicate during an outage, consider contacting them before the storm hits. Please find out how to report an outage and ask about their protocol for prioritizing service for homeowners who need it the most.
It’s also a good idea to plan with your family for what to do in case of an outage. Make a list of responsibilities, like gathering flashlights, and make sure everyone has a copy. It will help ensure that no one gets left behind if someone is out of the house when the power goes out. You should also keep a few extra supplies on hand just in case the outage lasts an extended time. Stocking up on food and water and having some ways to entertain yourself (like word games or puzzles) can make the experience less stressful for everyone.