Power Outage Checklist
When was the last time you were without electricity in your home or business? Power outages can range anywhere from a brief flickering of the lights to several days without power due to downed power lines. Being prepared can prevent irritation and frustration, as well as help avoid the longer-term risks and hazards associated with power outages. Remember when in 2021 Texas suffered through a severe cold snap and people died for lack of power. Extended power outages are not something you should underestimate.
Having an emergency plan in place for your home and family when a power outage occurs provides a sense of control, ensuring everybody knows what to do if it happens. The checklist below provides you with preparations to wait-out outages that last anywhere from a couple of hours to 3 days or more.
Know your local vulnerabilities and prepare for that. Use our power outage checklist to get started with the essentials.
1. Use Emergency Lights
Being without light when a power outage hits after dark is one of the greatest inconveniences. It can also be quite scary. There is nothing quite like stumbling around in the dark house searching for a flashlight only to find that the batteries need to be replaced.
Emergency lights are a great solution to this problem. You can plug such lights into an electrical socket to charge them, or use light bulbs with built-in batteries to replace the existing bulbs in light fittings. These lights are designed to detect a power outage and will automatically turn on when you're left without electrical power.
Furthermore, portable emergency lights have a battery and can charge phones and other devices. Many of them also come with a solar charging option that is very useful for extended outages. It is recommended to choose units that have a USB port. Then, the lights can also act as backup power banks for phones or other devices.
2. Purchase A Power Generator
More and more households are turning to backup generators to ensure that they have power when they need it most. There are a number of different options available. The following 3 options are the most popular:
A portable generator isn't designed to power your whole house but only a few lights, an appliance or two, and a couple of electrical sockets. It cannot and should never be connected to your home electrical system. It is also not safe to use gasoline, diesel, or gas generators inside, due to the potential carbon monoxide poisoning.
There is a wide range of portable generators available on the market to meet the needs of different types of households. The unit can be powered by gasoline, diesel or natural gas. Natural gas generators are generally quieter while diesel generators are the noisiest.
Solar generators work by storing energy captured from the sun by solar panels in a battery and then converting that energy for use. The generator consists of a charge controller to regulate the charge held by the battery in order to protect it. It also has an inverter that converts the DC (direct current) that is stored in the battery into AC (alternating current), which is the type of current used to power household devices, appliances, electronics, lights, etc.
Solar powered generators are a great source of renewable energy and can be used either in the case of an extended outage or as an alternative to receiving grid power. Not truly generators in the strict definition, they are solar panels with a battery storage system. The generators are also available as a portable option or as a back-up generator.
Whole House Generators
Whole house or back-up generators (usually having an electrical output between 1200 and 4000 watts) are the ultimate solution to a power outage. The generator is hard-wired directly to the wiring in your home at the breaker panel. It begins delivering power the moment it detects a power outage. The advantage here is you do not have to go outside, haul the generator out of the shed or garage, and hook it up in the wind, rain, or snow. The system is designed to provide as much or as little power as is required relative to the capacity that the generator can deliver.
For example, it can run either all the lights in the home or a few select lights. The aim is to provide sufficient power to the home until the grid power is fully restored. Whole house generators can either be fuel-driven or battery-operated. The battery versions are usually solar-powered.
A backup generator needs to be professionally installed and safely connected by a certified electrician. The generator will become a permanent fixture that will normally be located close to the house but not inside the home. When choosing a backup generator, it is important to keep in mind the capacity, energy requirements of the home, fuel efficiency, and durability, as the generator will be located outdoors, exposed to the weather and elements.
3. Protect Your Electronics And Devices
Your devices and electronics can become damaged if they are plugged into a wall socket and turned on during a power outage. It is important to turn off all electronics and unplug them from the wall socket as soon as possible after the power goes out. Once the electricity is restored, it can cause a power surge which can be harmful to your electronics.
Alternatively, you can use surge protectors. These are devices that protect electronics during power surges, regulating the amount of power electric devices receive from the grid. However, remember that even if you have surge protectors installed, it is still recommended to turn off and unplug electronics.
On the other hand, if you have installed a whole house generator with an automatic transfer switch, you might not need to unplug electronics. It's still recommended to use surge protectors to protect the devices when grid power is fully restored, though.
* If a household member is reliant on life-sustaining medical equipment, it is critical to have a backup power supply to continue providing energy to the equipment. A whole house automatic transfer unit is recommended to provide a continuous supply of power to all the electricity-dependent medical devices.
4. Ensure Proper Food Refrigeration
Your refrigerator will continue to keep your food cold for around 4 hours with no power if the door remains closed. A full or deep freezer stores food at colder temperatures and will therefore last longer – between 24 and 48 hours after a power outage starts – depending on how full it is.
If you have a full freezer, transfer the food from your refrigerator into the freezer after 4 hours. If not, use a cooler with ice packs inside to keep the food cooler for longer. If food defrosts and warms to a temperature of 40 degrees F for more than two hours, it is no longer safe to eat and should be discarded. If it is winter and you have snow banks, you can pack your food into metal trash cans (clean), and bury them in the snow. This will be at least 32'F (0'C), enough to keep food cold.
Have your refrigerator connected to your backup or portable generator to keep your food cooler for longer and save having to dispose of it for a power outage that lasts longer than 4 hours. You can cook and eat or store the food to avoid waste. It's also recommended to at least have several cans of shelf-stable foods and non-perishable food supplies.
5. Remember About Water
Most people are unaware that a power outage can affect the safety of their water supply. If the cause of the outage was a natural disaster like a flood, tap water might be contaminated. Make sure to have enough drinking and bottled water stored in a cool dark place to last your family at least 72 hours. You can determine how much water for drinking and cooking your family needs by measuring it for 3 or so days and writing it down.
Also, be sure to turn off the main water supply to the house and run the taps. Water in the pipes can freeze in winter due to a lack of heating and cause damage and leaks to the internal plumbing of the home.
6. Stay In Communication
It is important to stay in communication during a power outage or other type of crisis. Most importantly, have a backup power supply for cell phones. Modern phones and lines are connected to the power grid and will not work during a power outage. Opt for a wired home phone that connects only to the phone line and does not require electricity to operate.
Your Wi-Fi or internet connectivity will probably also be disrupted. However, cellular or network service should continue (at least until the generator running the cell tower runs out of fuel.) It is also recommended to have a battery-powered radio on hand to stay updated on any information regarding the power outage from the local officials.
Proper emergency preparedness is essential when dealing with power outages. Hopefully, our power outage checklist will help you stay protected whenever a blackout occurs, be it a long or short one. The best idea is to equip yourself with a reliable emergency power generator that will keep your essential household appliances working during an outage.
It will serve as your first line of defense, which is why it's vital not to try to save money here and get a generator that will keep your family safe. For additional resources, refer to our emergency generators guide.