As weather becomes more erratic and natural disasters increase, more people are at risk of suffering a power outage.
Be that people in wildfire areas, or regions susceptible to flooding, hurricanes and tornadoes, power outages will often come with the territory during catastrophic events.
Power outages can:
- Disrupt communications, water supply and transportation.
- Close retail businesses, grocery stores, gas stations, ATMs, banks and other services.
- Cause food spoilage and water contamination.
- Prevent use of medical devices.
The best way to survive a power outage, particularly if you don’t know how long it will last, is to be prepared.
Fortunately, there are a number of steps you can take to prepare for an outage. Also, you will be able to weather it better if you know what to do when one happens. Here are some tips from the Federal Emergency Management Administration:
Steps to take now
- Take an inventory now of the items you need that rely on electricity.
- Talk to your medical provider about a power outage plan for medical devices powered by electricity and refrigerated medicines. Find out how long medication can be stored at higher temperatures and get specific guidance for any medications that are critical for life.
- Plan for batteries and other alternatives to meet your needs when the power goes out.
- Sign up for local alerts and warning systems. Monitor weather reports.
- Install carbon monoxide detectors with battery backup in central locations on every level of your home.
- Determine whether your home phone will work in a power outage and how long battery backup will last.
- Review the supplies that are available in case of no power. Have flashlights with extra batteries for every household member. Have enough nonperishable food and water.
- Use a thermometer in the refrigerator and freezer so that you can know the temperature when the power is restored.
- Keep mobile phones and other electric equipment charged and gas tanks full.
How to survive during an extended power outage
- Keep freezers and refrigerators closed. The refrigerator will keep food cold for about four hours. A full freezer will keep the temperature for about 48 hours. Use coolers with ice if necessary. Monitor temperatures with a thermometer.
- Use food supplies that do not require refrigeration.
- In homes that have lost power but suffered little other damage, you can safely cook on a gas stove. Cook food that is at risk of spoiling first, so it doesn’t go to waste.
- Avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Generators, camp stoves or charcoal grills should always be used outdoors and at least 20 feet away from windows. Never use a gas stovetop or oven to heat your home.
- Check on your neighbors. Older adults and young children are especially vulnerable to extreme temperatures.
- Go to a community location with power if heat or cold is extreme.
- Turn off or disconnect appliances, equipment or electronics. Power may return with momentary surges or spikes that can cause damage.
How to stay safe after an outage
- Throw away any food that has been exposed to temperatures 40 degrees or higher for two hours or more, or that has an unusual odor, color or texture.
- If the power is out for more than a day, discard any medication that should be refrigerated, unless the drug’s label says otherwise. If a life depends on the refrigerated drugs, consult a doctor or pharmacist and use the medicine only until a new supply is available.
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