How to prepare for an extended power outage

Published 10:30 am Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Planning ahead can help make adverse situations more manageable. Such is the case when storms strike and the power goes out. Extended power outages may not be pleasant, but some proactive planning can make it easier to withstand blackouts.

• Establish a local support network. Support can be just as valuable as supplies when confronting power outages. The American Red Cross urges individuals to identify people who can help them during an extended power outage. Such individuals may help you stay at home or evacuate if the power will be out for a lengthy period of time. Support networks can include relatives who live in nearby towns, but also neighbors. A single street can be served by different substations and main power lines, so friends or neighbor across the street may keep their power when your house does not, or vice versa. When the power goes out, support networks can pool their resources in various ways, including sharing refrigerators or allowing neighbors without power to access the internet. Such support makes it easier for everyone to get through the outage with as little interruption to their lives as possible.

• Print a list of important contacts. If the power is out, it’s only a matter of time before smartphones lose their battery power. Phones can always be plugged into vehicles to get a quick power boost, but that’s not the most practical way to keep phones charged, especially if local roads are closed. A printed list of important contacts, including nearby relatives like seniors who may be incapacitated, doctors and school officials, ensures people whose phone batteries have died can still contact their loved ones and other important individuals so long as they can use a neighbor’s or a loved one’s phone.

• Learn to use your generator. Consumer Reports notes that improper operation of a generator can quickly prove deadly. If carbon monoxide concentrations are too high, individuals can lose their lives in as little as five minutes. And this is no insignificant threat, as the Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that 95 people died from generator-associated carbon monoxide poisoning in 2017. CR recommends operating generators at least 20 feet away from the house. Individuals should familiarize themselves with their generators upon purchasing them so they aren’t forced to endure a trial by fire when the power goes out.

• Stock up on essentials. The Red Cross recommends keeping a two-week supply of nonperishable food and water in the house, making sure to date each container of water and replace it every six months. Keep some extra coolers in the house so food can be stored on ice before it spoils in the refrigerator or freezer. In addition, make sure there’s enough blankets in the house to keep everyone warm overnight, as it’s not safe to use outdoor heaters indoors. Stock up on battery-powered lights and candles to light the house at night, but make sure all candles are extinguished before going to bed.