From summer storms to winter blizzards, many areas of the country are prone to severe weather throughout the year. Among the many threats that accompany these storms is the possibility of a prolonged power outage, which can leave you and your family in a precarious position. To make sure your household is prepared, consider these tips and plan ahead while the skies are clear.
Before you encounter another power outage, make sure you are ready to handle the challenges that come with a loss of electricity:
An emergency power outage kit will go a long way toward providing you with the tools you need during a power outage:
If the lights go off, the first thing to do is determine whether it is really a power outage or a problem with your own breaker. Reach for your flashlight and check your main electric panel. If you have tripped a breaker, one or more of the switches may be turned off. Simply turn it back on and power should be restored.
If it is not a fuse or breaker, check to see whether that power is out for your neighbors, too. Power can be lost in a very localized area. For instance, houses that are served by the same pole-mounted power transformer will be dark, while houses next door are fully lit.
If it is an outage, call your utility company and report it. Sometimes it can be hard to get through because other customers are also reporting interruptions. Please be patient. It is likely they already know about the problem and are working to fix it.
Cordless phones or extension phones that require connection to an electric outlet will not work during power outages. Models that only need to be plugged into the phone jack will work. Cell phones will be a lifeline as long as their batteries don't run down, and the antennas don't get damaged in the storm.
A battery radio lets you keep up with the news from the outside world. Make sure you have extra batteries. You could also use your car radio in an emergency, but remember the dangers of running a vehicle in an enclosed garage.
There are several good reasons to turn off any appliances you were using when the power went out:
There are two options for turning off your appliances, both with advantages and disadvantages:
If the outage is likely to be prolonged, prepare to stay comfortable:
Indoor temperatures can soar during prolonged summertime power outages. This can be uncomfortable for anyone, but it can be dangerous for infants, toddlers, the elderly, and those with certain medical conditions. Families with at-risk members should know of multiple climate controlled safe spaces where they can wait for power restoration. While it may be tempting, do not create a fire hazard by running extension cords to the home of a neighbor who still has power, whether for air conditioning or other electric needs.
The choice to install a standby generator is yours. They can be useful during a power outage if you have the correct one for your home and if it is safely connected. If you choose to use a backup generator for your home, call a licensed electrician to help you properly connect it. Never operate a generator inside your home, garage or basement. If you choose a portable generator, don't connect it to your home electrical system, but instead, connect it directly to the devices and appliances you want to power or charge.