Prepare Your Home for Fall and Winter Power Outages


Don’t let October’s howling winds, rain, ice, and even snow put you in a spooky situation! We are heading into the time of year when power outages are a fairly common occurrence. Fortunately, there are steps that you can take to make sure that you, your loved ones, your house, and your possessions all stay safe and protected during a power outage.

Plan for Outages Before They Happen

Gather emergency outage supplies, including the following:

  • flashlights and candles, along with matches/lighters and plenty of fresh batteries
  • battery-powered radio and clock
  • portable gas or oil heater
  • portable generator
  • bottled water (a good rule of thumb is one gallon per person per day in your household)
  • nonperishable food, a (nonelectric) can opener, disposable plates and utensils, coolers and ice
  • first-aid kit and prescription medicines
  • blankets or sleeping bags, sturdy shoes, clothing, outerwear, and gloves
  • care items for infants, elderly, and disabled family members
  • sanitation and personal hygiene supplies, including hand sanitizer
  • pet supplies
  • a list of emergency phone numbers
  • extra cash
  • important documents such as ID, insurance, and bank information—all stored in a portable, waterproof, fireproof container

Inform your electric company of any essential medical equipment that requires electricity. Discuss special needs with local emergency management officials and develop an emergency plan. Keep your contact information up-to-date with the electric company so you are kept in the loop during an outage.

Make sure computers and other sensitive devices are plugged into separate grounded circuits from major appliances so they won’t be harmed by the electrical fluctuations that happen before and after an outage. Use appliances with built-in surge protectors, and install surge protectors for computers, televisions, and entertainment systems.

Fill extra space in your freezer with containers of water. That will keep your food frozen longer during an outage.

Learn how to manually operate your electric garage door opener so you aren’t stuck during an outage. Keep your car’s gas tank at least half full whenever possible, and fill up before a forecasted major storm hits. Stock your car with a car charger for your cell phone.

During an Outage

Notify your electric company immediately; don’t assume your neighbors already have contacted the company.

Turn off all appliances to avoid a circuit overload (and a resultant additional outage) that might happen if power is restored to all your appliances at the same time. But leave a lamp on so you know when your power is back on.

In cold weather, open your blinds during the day to let the warm sunlight in. Cover the windows at night to keep in the heat as much as possible. Gather your loved ones together in a central room with your fireplace or portable heater to promote warmth. If the temperature is likely to fall below 55°F indoors, turn on your faucets a little bit. The drip will help prevent your pipes from freezing.

Keep your freezer and refrigerator doors closed. The contents of a full freezer will stay frozen for up to 36 hours—if the door stays closed. To prevent your milk and meat from spoiling, pack it into a cooler with ice.

Power Outage Safety Tips

Steer clear of downed power lines, flooded areas, debris, fallen wires, and anything that touches them. (Treat them all as if they are energized.) Report downed lines that you see to your electric company.

If you use a generator, do not operate it inside your home, garage, or any other enclosed space. Similarly, only use portable stoves, kerosene heaters, lanterns, and the like in well-ventilated spaces.

Keep up-to-date on weather forecasts and special news announcements on your battery-powered radio so you’re aware of special instructions and, if necessary, evacuation routes.

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