Power outages are a surprisingly common occurrence due to grid failures, old infrastructure, and extreme weather. My experience in emergency medicine has brought me face-to-face with many power outages and assisting individuals that are in the midst of one. Although they can be frightening, the following steps will help you remain safe during the next blackout.
Check If You Can Fix it Yourself
If the power goes out at your home, check your electrical panel to see if it’s just a flipped breaker switch. If the switch is off, just turn it back on and see if your power returns. If not, call your electric company and see if they can send someone to help. If the power in other homes near you are out, check your electric company’s website to see if they list a reason and estimate for when the electricity will return.
If you see a power line down near your home, call a non-emergency number and report it. Avoid approaching it, as it could be dangerous.
Keep Fridge and Freezer Doors Closed
Your fridge has the potential to keep food cold for four hours, and your freezer can maintain its temperature for 48 hours. Be careful not to open the doors more than you need to in order to keep your food cold! You can also use coolers and ice. If you have a thermometer, use it to check the temperatures to ensure your food remains at a safe temperature. If any food has been exposed to temperatures more than 40 degrees for over two hours, throw it away.
Try to use flashlights rather than candles. Using candles as a main source of light can present a fire hazard. For example, if someone were to knock one over, a fire could spread very quickly.
Unplug Your Belongings
Unplug your appliances and electronics before the power returns. When it comes back on, there could be a power surge, which would damage your devices. Even if it doesn’t cause any damage, you may have to reprogram some electronics.
You should, however, keep a light or radio plugged in and turned on. This way you will be able to tell when your power returns.
When your power comes back, wait a few minutes before you plug everything back in. When the electricity returns, all the appliances and devices put quite a strain on the electrical infrastructure. You can reduce the level of strain and increase the longevity of your appliances by waiting just a little before your plug everything back in.