How to Prepare for a Power Outage
Although rare, power outages do happen. Throwing your house into darkness for anything from mere moments to many hours, they’re disruptive and inconvenient. But without properly being prepared, a run-of-the-mill power outage can quickly become dangerous. Given that you don’t know when the next one might be, follow our guide below and be prepared for the next time your home loses power.
What Cause Power Outages?
There are lots of causes of power outages. It could be a failure of the power network you’re connected to—for instance, the electricity mains may have been overloaded, or a crucial part of the network may have broken down. Natural phenomena such as hurricanes and earthquakes are the next most common reason for large power outages, and can be tricky to remedy especially if the weather hasn’t improved.
Sometimes you will experience a power outage if your utility company are running maintenance on their network. If this is the case, you should be warned about the outage in advance, and your utility will display information about the outage on their website.
‘Rolling blackouts’ are also employed by electricity companies in order to conserve electricity when their supply is low. In this situation the company will reduce or cut off power to a region for a short period of time in order to keep the rest of the network up. The blackout will then roll over to another area to reduce inconvenience. Again, your utility should inform you if they are running rolling blackouts —and in most cases they won’t last very long.
How Are Power Outages Fixed?
Depending on the cause, it could take a matter of minutes to remedy an outage. More catastrophic situations could take hours or days to repair. This is particularly true in the case of natural disasters as the repair crew may need to wait for the weather to improve before they can even evaluate the damage.
For a power company, the most important thing is that they protect public health and safety. This means that primary focus will be on delivering power to hospitals, police departments, and water treatment facilities.
When it comes to actually fixing the problem, the company will need to examine the power grid in order to isolate the issue. Of course, power grids are extremely complex systems and there are many moving parts that may malfunction. That’s not to mention the amount of things external to the grid that can cause an outage, such as trees falling on distribution lines or transmission equipment.
How to Determine If Your Power Is Out
If you are without power, first check your breaker box and ask your neighbors. It may be that it’s just your property that is experiencing the outage, and you might be able to fix it by flipping a switch to restore power.
If you can’t see any lights on in your neighborhood, you should visit your local utility company’s website where they will provide updates on outages on their network. Here you should find more information on expected repair times and details of how the outage was caused. If you’re still worried, your local power company will have an emergency number that you can call for updates or information.
Tara customers can find out about outages, or report a blackout with your utility.
During An Power Outage Put Safety First
First of all, during an outage ensure that your gas stoves or other gas powered equipment are turned off. Gas can fill your home without you realising and be ignited when the power does come back on.
Next—and as long as it’s safe—go through your home, turn light switches off, and unplug electronics to protect them from a power surge. This is most important when it comes to your computers and televisions. You can also purchase surge protector plugs to keep these units from being affected. Remember to leave one light switch on so you know when the power’s back.
You may be tempted to, but never light camp stoves or charcoal grills indoors. These present a fire hazard as well as potentially releasing toxic fumes when your home’s ventilation system isn’t working.
How To Prepare Your Home For An Outage
It’s a good idea to dot a few flashlights around your house in places that are easy to find. Consider placing one near the front door, in the kitchen and inside your bedside drawer. Be sure to check the batteries every now and then—and it’s a good idea to leave some spare batteries along with the flashlight just in case. Candles can be good, but ensure they’re kept out of reach of children and pets, and well away from fire hazards like towels and curtains.
Although unlikely, a widespread power blackout may also cause an outage in phone service in your area. It’s good to have a battered powered or hand-cranked radio around the house for just this situation. NOAA Weather Radios will connect you to the government’s National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration which provides continuous weather updates 24 hours a day.
Extended blackouts can put your water supply at risk of contamination, and may even mean a water outage too. In this case you will want to have drinking water stored at your home. Our recommendation is that you store at least one gallon of water per person per day for at least 3 days.
Keeping the food in your fridge as fresh as possible is a priority. To do this, avoid opening the fridge as much as possible—this will let the cold air out and increase the temperature of the products inside. Food in your freezer should remain frozen for around 2 days as long as you don’t open the door unnecessarily.
If your local area is prone to blackouts we also recommend stocking up on non-perishable goods which don’t require cooking or water. Nuts and nut butters are very energy dense and contain a good amount of nutrients - and canned fish a good source of healthy fats and protein.
First Aid Kit
You will likely already have a standard first aid kit at your home. However, in the case of emergencies, an extra supply of hygiene products is also recommended. For those with long term medical issues, having a surplus seven-day supply is also a good idea—just remember to check medicines haven’t expired.
Have An Evacuation Plan
In the case of electrical outages it is recommended that you stay at home and wait out the fix. There may be a great deal of traffic on the roads, and traffic lights will likely be out too. However, there may be certain situations in which you need to leave your home quickly - so be prepared for these situations too.
Construct an evacuation plan for your family so that in the case of an emergency evacuation everyone knows what to do. Keep all important personal documents in one place so you can quickly grab them on the way out - this include passports, birth certificates and proofs of address. Ensure that everything is turned off. Turn the master switch to the off position on your fuse board and make sure that no gas powered equipment is running.
By being prepared for a power outage in advance, you can rest assured that you and your family will be safe and ready to face a few days without power.