10 Ways To Be Better Prepared For a Power Outage

Flashlight , isolated on white background

The 2013 ice storm left millions of people throughout North America without power for days and some, weeks. It’s not just an ice storm that can leave you without power, it could be a hurricane, tornado, local downed wires or — worst-case scenario — a widespread power outage like the Northeast blackout of 2003.

We count on electricity for heat, food, communication, finance and even medical needs. Even gas powered appliances such as furnaces and hot water heaters need electricity to run. Before the next power outage hits, start prepping now.   

  1. LED battery operated mounting lights

It’s amazing how much we depend on light for our emotional well-being. Nothing can put us in panic-mode faster than instant blackness. Just prior to the 2013 power outage that hit parts of North America in the dead of winter, I purchased LED battery operated lights, with on/off switches and mounted them strategically throughout my home.

I placed them under cabinets in the kitchen to light up the counters, if needed, and above each door in the bathrooms. I also added them to bedrooms and any other areas that required quick access in sudden darkness. Over three years later, these powerful LED lights are still working great — definitely worth the minimal investment.

  1. Emergency candles

Keeping odorless candles on hand are necessary for emergency blackouts, but they can also be messy and a fire hazard. So you may also want to consider picking up a few 100-hour-plus emergency candles. These emergency candles burn odorless and smokeless liquid paraffin, making them great emergency light sources. The liquid fuel is contained, with only the wick exposed, so you can extinguish it and use it repeatedly.

Unless you’re adept at starting a fire by rubbing two sticks together, then you better make sure you have lots of matches on hand. Keep a book of matches taped to the candles for easy access during a power outage. And be sure to include longer wooden matches or a butane wand for lighting a fireplace, outdoor fire pit or outdoor barbecue, if necessary.  

  1. Flashlights

Have flashlights ready, in easily accessible locations throughout your home. And be sure to also keep plenty of fresh, spare batteries on hand. One powerful flashlight is good, but additional small, handheld LED flashlights is better.

  1. Emergency phones and pocket chargers

If you use a landline, keep one phone with a handset and attached cord in your home, since many cordless phones will not work in a power outage. Cell phone users should keep their cell phones charged and at the very least, pick up a cell phone charger for the car.

Some cell phone providers also carry emergency cell phones that don’t require charging, but run instead on AA batteries. Just make sure you understand the usage fees that apply when using the emergency cell phone.

You might also want to invest in a portable charger that works for charging cell phones and even laptops. Portable chargers come in all sizes and charging capacity, depending on how much you’re willing to shell out.

  1. Garage doors

If you have an automatic garage door opener, a power outage will obviously shut down the power to your doors making it impossible to exit or enter with a remote. So learn how to use the manual release to open the doors. And keep the instructions handy, taped to the inside of a closet door.

  1. Manual can opener

This may seem like a no-brainer, but if you’ve used an electric can opener for years, you may not have one tucked in the back of the drawer. If you are a coffee drinker, you may also want to keep a French press on hand and pre-ground coffee as well.

  1. Battery radio with crank option

If you don’t have one, consider purchasing either a battery-operated radio, solar radio or hand crank radio so that you can stay in touch with the world in case of an emergency. Some hand crank radios come with USB ports to charge your cell phone. Just make sure your radio is in working order by testing it at least once a year.

  1. Blankets

During the 2013 power outage, the temperature inside our home dipped to below freezing. If that happens you need enough blankets to keep everyone warm — including pets.

  1. Electrical surge protector

Once the power goes out, unplug electrical equipment such as computers, printers, televisions and audio equipment to avoid damage from electrical surge once power returns. Believe me, this can happen, and it did to me.

You may want to consider having a whole home surge protector installed by a certified electrician. Complete home surge protectors attach to your home’s panel box that houses breakers. Unlike power bars that only protect the TV or computer systems, it connects to all home devices including water coolers, refrigerators, freezers and anything else that could be damaged with an electrical surge.

  1. Portable generator

Generators can be expensive, but if your budget allows they can be very handy for keeping your fridge, stove and even portable heat lamps running. But that doesn’t mean you need to keep it running all through the night. Your fridge will be just fine if left closed throughout the night.

Learn to use your generator safely, and test it monthly.  And since they run on gas — and it will go through gas fairly quickly — don’t forget to store enough fuel to run it for up to a week. And adhere to the following safety tips:

  • Before running your generator make sure to place it at least 10 feet from the house to minimize risks from carbon monoxide (CO) leaking into the house, and also the risk of the generator’s hot muffler melting vinyl siding, suggests Popular Mechanics.
  • Make sure you have working CO detectors in the house.
  • Never fuel the generator when it’s hot. Remember: “Let it cool before you fuel,” says Popular Mechanics.

Points to remember

Before an outage, let your power company know if you use special health care equipment like oxygen generators or dialysis equipment that requires ongoing power. Some power companies may prioritize the response to your area in the event of a power outage.

Keep your car’s fuel tank at least half full. Many gas stations may also be affected in a power outage. And if there is a major storm predicted, fill your tank in advance.

Don’t scramble at the last minute — start now! A little advanced prep will go a long way to make you and your family, feel safe, secure and comfortable during a power outage.

—Katherine Marko

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