18 tips for what to do before, during, and after a power outage

During the summer months, we can experience severe thunderstorms and winds, which may cause a blackout for an extended period of time.  Make sure you and your family are prepared for before, during, and after a blackout and follow these 18 tips from ready.gov.

Before a blackout

1. Build an emergency kit – Assemble an emergency kit in advance.  Include in your kit items that will help you manage without electricity, gas, water, sewage, and phones for at least 72 hours. Items such as foods, water, radio, batteries, and a flashlights should be included. For a complete list, visit the FEMA emergency supply list.

2. Make a family communications plan – Plan how you will contact your family in case you are in different places when disaster strikes.  Create a contact card for each family member that they carry in their wallet.

3. Follow energy conservation measures – Get in the habit of turning off lights and electronics every day to keep the use of electricity low and help power companies avoid rolling blackouts.  Also, set  your thermostat higher or lower as appropriate.

4. Fill plastic containers with water – Freeze containers of water and use to help keep food cold if the power goes out.  If you have well water, remember, when the power goes out your water supply is limited.  Keep large containers of water available to flush toilets while the power is out.

5. Be aware of medication that needs refrigeration – Most medication that requires refrigeration can be kept in a closed refrigerator for several hours without a problem.  Make sure to check with your physician or pharmacist about your prescription.

6. Keep your car tank at least half full – Gas stations rely on electricity to power their pumps , so keeping your tank half full will help ensure that you will get to where you need to be.

7. Know where the manual release lever of your electric garage door opener is located – Make sure you have a way of getting into your house if there is a blackout.  Keep a key to the front door with you in case you have trouble opening the garage.

During a blackout

8. Use only flashlights for emergency lighting -Candles are risky to use, so keep flashlights and battery operated lanterns at easy access.

9. Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed -Keep your food as fresh as possible.  Before eating food that was in the fridge or freezer, check it carefully for signs of spoilage.

10. Turn off or disconnect appliances – If the power returns with a momentary “surge” or “spike”, plugged in computers or appliances may be damaged

11. Use your generator safely – Don’t run a generator inside a home or garage.  Don’t 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.

12. Listen to local stations on a portable radio – Use a battery- powered radio or generator-powered television to receive updated information on the blackout.  Do not rely on your smartphone or tablet.

13. Do not call 911 for information – Only call 911 to report a life-threatening emergency.

14. Take steps to remain cool if it’s hot outside – In intense heat during a blackout consider going to a movie theater, shopping mall, or “cooling shelter”.  If you stay at home, move to the lowest level of your home.  Make sure to stay hydrated and drink plenty of water.  Also, make sure your pets are getting enough cool water as well.

15. Put on layers of warm clothing if it is cold outside – Never use your oven or burning charcoal as a source of heat during a blackout.  If it is too cold to stay in your home, plan to go to another location that has heat.

16. Eliminate unnecessary travel, especially by car – Traffic signals will stop working during an outage, creating traffic congestion.  If you have to leave for a safer location, plan your route accordingly.

17.  Elevators and escalators may not work during a power outage – If you have to evacuate, use the stairs or follow directions from emergency personnel.

After a blackout

18. Throw away any food that has been exposed to temperatures of 40 degrees for two or more hours – Throw away any food that may have an unusual odor, color, or texture.  When in doubt, throw it out.