Bad weather, issues with the electrical grid or severe temperature extremes can all result in a loss of power. In most cases, it is unknown how long your power will be out for, so it is imperative that you are prepared. With the right preparation, you can maintain comfort while you wait for your utility power to be restored.
1) Gather Food and Water
Whether power is out for a day or a week, you need easy access to water and food. For every day your power is out, each person in your home needs one gallon of water. Ideally, you want to always be prepared for one week of no power. For example, if you have three people in your home, you should have at least 21 gallons or water stored and ready for use during a power emergency.
Make sure that you also consider water for things like hygiene and brushing your teeth. This water should be in addition to the one gallon a day per person.
There are small personal water purifiers that you can use if you are unable to store a lot of water in your home. These are relatively inexpensive and make it possible to do things like collect rainwater and clean it so that it is safe for drinking.
You want food that will not go bad due to a lack of refrigeration. Just like the water, you want enough food to last everyone a full week. Some MRE meals (stands for Meals Ready To Eat) are always good to have in case of emergencies. The following are examples of foods that store well:
- Peanut butter
- Powdered milk
- Chicken or beef bouillon
- Dried fruit
- Fruit juices
- Canned beans and vegetables
- Granola bars
Make sure that you have a can opener handy for the canned goods. You can also choose canned foods that have a pull-top lid so that they are easy to open.
Depending on the external temperature, the items in your freezer and refrigerator may remain safe to consume for a few days. Get a food thermometer so that you can ensure that the items you consume are safe. In general, any perishable food sitting at temperatures above 40 degrees Fahrenheit for longer than two hours should be thrown away.
2) Figure Out Ways to Prepare Food
If a power outage lasts more than a couple days, you will want to have a way to make hot meals, especially if it is cold outside. Having a few items that allow for cooking can help you to maintain a healthy diet for your family.
Once of the simplest options is a small charcoal grill. You can use these no matter what the outside temperature is like. These only require some charcoal and starting fluid to provide fire, both of which are easy and inexpensive to obtain. Keep a bag of charcoal and a bottle of starting fluid on your property so that they are always available.
A hot plate allows you to grill foods like you would on your stove top. Now, these require some electricity, so if you do not have a generator, consider getting a cord adapter that lets you plug the device into the cigarette lighter port in your vehicle.
There are also solar stoves and propane stoves. These operate much like a regular stove. If you choose the propane type, make sure that you have easy access to propane during bad weather so that you can use your stove when you need it. For a solar stove, ensure that you allow for enough time to charge it before use.
3) Staying Cool or Warm
One of the biggest issues during a power outage is temperature regulation. When it is too hot or cold, this can be dangerous for all people, but especially the elderly, children and the medically fragile. You also have to consider the safety of your pets in temperature extremes.
Always have plenty of blankets for when the power goes out in the cold months. Having a sleeping bag for each member of the family is also a good idea since these tend to have excellent insulation. Gloves, foot warmers and insulated hats for each person can also help you to keep everyone warm during a cold weather power outage.
When the weather is hot, you want items that can keep people cool. Items that are easy to use include portable fans that operate using batteries, spray bottles with cold water and instant ice packs. You might also consider keeping a few cooling blankets on hand that can be helpful during extremely hot and humid temperatures during a power outage.
4) Prepare for Injuries
You want to have a first aid kit on hand no matter what, but it is especially important during a power outage. Since it can get dark and you may be dealing with severe weather, there is a higher risk of minor injuries that you can treat at home if you have the right supplies.
The following are essential elements of a first aid kit:
- Updated first aid manual
- Different sizes of sterile gauze pads
- Different sizes of adhesive bandages
- Hydrogen peroxide or a similar antiseptic solution
- Sharp scissors
- Disposable instant cold packs
- Alcohol wipes
- Non-latex gloves
- CPR mouthpiece
- List of emergency phone numbers
- Adhesive tape
- Elastic bandages
- Antiseptic wipes
- Antibiotic ointment
- Over-the-counter medicines, such as those for pain and allergies
- Hydrocortisone cream
- Safety pins
- Calamine lotion
Consider how many people live in your home to determine the right amount of each item. When you are getting the supplies, anticipate everyone needing to use one of each item at the same time to ensure that you have enough of everything.
Since many of the items you put in your first aid kit have an expiration date, check your kit about once a year. If anything is expired, throw it out and replace it. Doing this once a year ensures that you have a first aid kit that is ready for use should you need it.
If anyone in your family takes prescription medicines, having a week’s supply of each medicine in your kit is also a good idea. During an extensive blackout or a severe weather power outage, pharmacies may not be open or accessible. Having these medicines in your kit ensures that you have them so that no one has to go without important medicines during a power outage.
5) Consider a Generator
Buying a generator is the easiest way to maintain comfort and power during an outage. Generators come in a wealth of sizes, allowing you to find one that will meet your needs and budget. It is imperative that you ensure the correct generator sizing so that you power enough items without overloading your generator.
Make a list of everything you want to maintain during a power outage. For example, something for heating and cooling, your refrigerator, some lights and a television are things people commonly want to keep running. Of course, you can also opt to get a whole house generator so that you do not lose access to anything electric during an outage.
Once you determine the needed wattage, you can check out a website like Generator Whiz to see which ones are available. Read reviews, learn more about what to look for in a generator and get the facts regarding how to pick the best one for your home. All of this information will help you determine the right size and features.
If you choose a generator with a transfer switch, have an electrician install it. This will ensure it is done right so that there are no issues when it comes time to use your generator.
6) Ensure Sanitation
When you do not have electricity, you may not be able to flush your toilet. This could cause issues if the outage lasts more than a day or two. Having a toilet that you can dump and clean easily is the best option because the waste will not sit for days.
You might consider a portable commode for this purpose. They are easy to empty, and you can rinse them out with a little soap and your outdoor water hose. Just be mindful about where you dump the waste because you do not want to just leave it in your yard. If you do empty it outside, you might consider burying it at least two feet underground for sanitary reasons.
7) Maintain Your Personal Hygiene
If your hot water heater is gas-powered, you will still have hot water and can shower normally during an outage. However, if your water heater is electric, you will need to plan for your personal hygiene needs.
The following can help you to maintain your hygiene during a power outage:
- Hand sanitizer
- Disposable utensils
- Paper towels
- Diapers (if you have a baby)
- Baby wipes
- Dry shampoo
- Disinfectant wipes or spray cleaner
- Feminine hygiene products
Consider the needs of your family to make a list of the items that you will need. In general, having one of each of these items per person is a good starting point. Maintaining your personal hygiene will keep you comfortable and help to keep your family healthy during an outage.
All of these items tend to have lengthy expiration dates, so you can create a hygiene kit and put it away without needing to worry about it. About once a year, check your kit to see if you need to replace anything that has expired. This will ensure that you have all of the important hygiene items available when your power goes out without notice.
8) Keep Your Communication Methods
When the power is out, you want to ensure that you can communicate with the outside world. Have a charger handy for your vehicle so that you can keep at least one cellphone charged at all times. This is important because if there is an emergency, you need to be able to call first responders without a delay.
You can also purchase backup batteries that plug into the charger port on your cellphone. These will charge your phone without you needing to plug it into your vehicle so that your phone is on you while it is charging.
9) Think About Lighting Options
You will want light for when it is dark so that you can move around your home as safely as possible. Battery-powered lanterns or lights that you can charge in your vehicle are a good choice. Make sure to have at least one light that is always ready for use so that should your power go out at night, you can immediately get some light.
You should also have some candles around for power emergencies. Just be careful about where you place these since they can be a fire hazard if they get knocked over. If you have pets or kids, only light candles where you can keep a constant eye on them.
Another option is solar-powered lights and lanterns. You can put them outside during the daylight hours to charge so that they are ready once you need them during the nighttime hours. Just make sure to put them outside as soon as it gets light because many of them take an average of eight hours to charge completely.
Some people prefer to be hands-free when they are moving around at night. There are inexpensive headlamps that you can use for this purpose. These lights typically run on either AA or AAA batteries, so it is easy to keep them ready for use.
10) Explore Battery Options
Make a list of all of the battery-powered items in your home. Jot down the batteries that they require and build a small stockpile of batteries to power each item for at least a week.
It is a good idea to always have a stash of AA, AAA, C and D batteries available. If there is a major outage in your area, batteries are one item that will sell out the fastest. Having a supply ready ensures that you can power your items without having to worry about finding the appropriate batteries.
11) Stay in Touch with Local News
You want to be able to keep an eye on the situation, especially if the power outage is due to severe weather. Having a radio that is powered by batteries is an ideal choice. It is also important to keep a tablet or cellphone charged since most have a data plan that will allow you to access local news websites.
Test your radio every few months to ensure that it still works. Store the batteries separately so that they do not corrode in the radio. Plan to have enough batteries to last at least a week.
12) Prepare Some Entertainment
Your television and other electronics are not easily accessible during a power outage. Because of this, you want to have some non-electronic things to keep yourself and your family entertained.
Some examples include:
- Decks of cards, such as regular playing cards and Uno
- Board games
- Outdoor toys and activities when the weather is safe and pleasant
- Art and craft supplies
- Dice and dominoes
It is best to get a plan together as soon as possible. This ensures that should you lose power you will be ready to handle it. With preparation, you can also maintain your usual comforts.