What to Do In a Power Outage

What is a power outage?
When regular electric service has been interrupted by damage to power lines or power stations due to storms, floods, land slides, earthquakes, it's referred to as a power outage. Most people have come to rely on electric power for their day-to-day survival needs.  In some situations, electric power can be out for days or weeks. You can plan ahead for the possibility of losing electric power by knowing where the flashlight and other emergency supplies are kept.

silhouette-965567_1280What should I do if the power goes out

  • Check the fuse box to see if there is a blown fuse or a tripped circuit breaker. Sometimes the power outage will be limited to your own home.
  • If one needs to be replaced, turn off all large appliances or unplug them before you replace a fuse or a breaker to avoid damage to the electrical system.
  • Check your neighborhood to see if others are without power.
  • Call to report the power outage. Call only once to keep the line open for other customers. Most landlines should still work.
  • Check with your local authorities to find out the numbers you should call beforehand.  Keep these numbers in a place you will remember.

What to do when you see damaged or downed power lines in your neighborhood?

  • Don't get near any fallen or sagging power line.
  • Call the utility company about the line.
  • Keep children or others away from the problem area.

How to protect your electric appliances from electrical power surges when the power returns:

  • Sometimes when power is restored, power levels can vary considerably. This variation can damage electrical appliances.
  • Turn off the lights and electrical appliances except for the refrigerator and the freezer.
  • After you have turned off the lights, go back and turn on one single lamp so that you will know when the power is working again.
  • Wait at least 15 minutes before turning on the remaining appliances after the power has been restored.
  • Use power-surge protectors on your desktop computer or laptop to make sure your data is protected.

Special precautions for those using life support equipment at home:

  • People who depend on electrical equipment to treat a health problem should have a plan in advance of a power outage.
  • In some cases, this may mean purchasing a backup power supply such as a generator or going to a health care facility that has back-up power.
  • People who use life support equipment should register with the local utility. When they do this, the utility will make them a top priority for power supply repair and restoration.

How should I use a power generator?

  • For your safety, always follow the manufacturer's instruction on the use of power generators.
  • Since most generators are powered by gasoline and can generate carbon monoxide gas, run them outdoors where the fumes will not cause illness.
  • Power generators should never be plugged into your home's main electrical panel as this may result in serious injury or death to utility personnel working to restore power.
  • Instead, plug the generator directly into the appliance you wish to use during the outage.
  • Safely store extra gasoline to be ready at a moments notice.

How long will the food in my refrigerator and freezer remain cold enough to prevent food borne illness?

  • It is important to keep freezer and refrigerator doors closed to prevent the loss of cold air.
  • A fully loaded refrigerator may keep food fresh for about six hours.
  • A fully loaded freezer may keep food frozen for up to two days.
  • If any food in the refrigerator or freezer is warmer than 41° F, throw it out.
  • In a severe emergency or disaster, expect electric power to be out for several days. Consider relocating to a shelter or to a friend's home where heat and power are available.

WARNING: Never use charcoal, gas, or propane heaters indoors. Doing so can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. These can also increase the risk of fire.

Make sure you have adequate food and water stored.  Freeze-Dried-Food is perfect for this situation as you only need to add water to eat it.

12 thoughts on “What to Do In a Power Outage”

  • J.S. Mitchell

    Keep in mind that land line cordless phones will NOT work during a power outage. If you have a land line and only use a cordless phone, simply purchase an inexpensive no frills phone, plug it in anywhere and you will then have phone service during an electicl power outage.

  • Cris Trulsson

    If you call in a power outtage, call your report in to your local power supplier, NOT the police. The power company will have notified the local police command center if there is a wide-spread outtage; so they are aware. They will be dealing with a greater volume of calls at that point such as downed trees power lines etc. Do call the police if you see a downed power line or of downed trees are in the roadway causing a hazard but PLEASE do not call it in on 911 unless the situation is causing an IMMEDIATE hazard to the saftey of humans...

  • Michael Hughes

    Best book on a EMP incident or attack?

  • Chris Erickson

    Our power has just gone out two different times for several hours and it scared me how dependent we really were. It was a good trial run to place flashlights where they can easily be found and extra blankets handy and snack foods and water easily accesable. Thankyou for this.

  • J.S. Mitchell


    By EMP I assume you are refering to Electronic magnetic pulse - the high energy emanation from an air burst nuclear weapon that disables electronics, electric transmission etc. In theory you could be at a distance where you are impacted by EMP without the accompanying blast devastation.
    Aside from possibly contracting cancer some years later, I think the only thing possible is to be prepared to hunker down for an extended period.

  • andrew T

    "* If any food in the refrigerator or freezer is warmer than 41° F, throw it out."

    Now I think that's crazy. Food in the refrigerator above 41 & throw it out??? Heck that's about the temperature most of it is anyway. Just start munching on your cheese & lunchmeat.

  • Lenny

    Best book on an emp is One second later by William Fostchen,fiction but too close to reality,a good read.

  • Conrad Cooper

    I'm not an expert but I'm pretty sure that refrigerators and freezers can also be damaged by power surges and/or low power. So probably they should also be on surge protectors.
    I know I have been told to unplug the refrigerator in case of power outage so it will not be damaged by a surge when the power returns. I also know for a fact I have seen a situation where a power line was cut by an accident and refrigeration equipment was damaged.

  • cassnadra kirkman
    cassnadra kirkman January 19, 2010 at 3:20 am

    when all plans fail be ready for disasters by paul r williams, md
    this is a great instruction and reference book. it also instructs on how to get a community prepared

  • badphobar

    I believe if you have a house and family the need for a UPS with small a marine battery with a generator(Furnace fuel source if possible); or a Battery, an inverter and a generator are needed to keep your Furnace, Sump pump, freezer, fridge, radio and light going.

    In Ice storm country may be a great idea, maybe a necessity.

    Solar, water and wind are good for extra bonus nonfuel power.

  • Thomas

    Here's how you deal with the freezer issue: Put a single ice cube in your freezer in a plastic bag. Do this now. That way, if your lights go out while you're gone, you have a good indication as to whether or not your freezer has thawed. If the ice cube is completely liquid, or if it has melted and re-frozen (will be a different shape) your stuff has thawed.

  • Lynn H.

    Thomas: Thas is a fantastic idea.

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