Power Outages: What to Do When the Lights Go Out

October 11, 2017

Whether it’s caused by wind, trees, a rogue car or some other anomaly, the result is the same: you have no power.

We don’t often realize how much we rely on electricity until we’re sitting in the dark with a half-cooked dinner on the stove. In light of a recent outage on San Juan Island, we’ve provided ideas on how to prepare for, endure, and recover from a power outage.

Prepare

  • Flashlights! Make sure you can safely navigate in the dark without the risk of fire and candles. Keep flashlights in easily accessible places around your home, so you can find one no matter where you are when the lights go out.
  • Batteries – and not just for flashlights! Keep an extra charged battery for your phone and other important accessories. Car chargers are also a great tool when the power is out.
  • Keep plenty of  bottled water and nutritious canned food on hand, and remember a manual can opener. Be sure to have extra pet food for your furry friends!
  • In cold weather, have extra blankets and warm clothes available, and ensure that doors and windows are properly sealed.
  • When the power is out, pay stations and ATMs are likely down as well. Keep a modest amount of cash on hand in case of emergency expenses. Make sure it’s stored in a safe place.
  • Most gas station pumps rely on electricity. Try not to let your car get below half a tank, and keep an extra can of gas in your garage.
  • A crank- or solar-powered weather radio will keep you updated on conditions and emergency announcements.

Endure

  • Avoid burning candles, if possible. Open flames scattered through a home are a real fire hazard. If you do use candles, NEVER leave them lit while you’re sleeping or out of the house!
  • Unplug electrical devices in case of a surge when power is restored. Expensive electronics like computers and TVs can be damaged by a power surge.
  • Stay out of the fridge! In a short outage, an unopened refrigerator will keep your food at a safe temperature for 4 hours, while a full freezer will stay cold for up to 48 hours.
  • Take advantage of the lack of electronic distractions. Read a book, play board games, or spend quality time with friends and family.
  • If the outage is weather-related and you must leave the house, drive with caution and avoid downed power lines!
  • Using your gas oven as a heater puts you at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Be sure to turn your oven and burners off if you lose power while cooking!

Recover

  • Plug in and reset all electronic devices. Make sure to set all digital clocks and alarms to the correct time!
  • Throw out any perishable food that has been exposed to temperatures over 40° F for more than 2 hours, or anything that has an unusual smell or appearance.
  • Restock! Don’t put it off. Take note of what worked and what didn’t, and use that knowledge for next time.