How to Keep You & Your Family Safe During a Power Outage
Power outages can be scary and overwhelming, especially prolonged power outages. Luckily, there are things you can do to minimize loss and keep yourself, your family and your pets as safe and comfortable as possible.
Since you never know when a power outage may occur, you should always be prepared. A few simple ways to make sure you’re ready include creating an emergency preparedness kit and household evacuation plan. A good emergency preparedness kit might include warm blankets, flashlights, batteries, bottled water, canned food, a manual can opener, medicine, first aid, a radio, etc. In the event that some of your family members are outside of the house when an outage hits, it is helpful to have a designated meeting point in case of an emergency. Make sure that all family members are aware of the agreed upon location and it will be much easier to connect with each other, even when cell phones are dead or out of service. It’s also good practice to stay informed about your local community’s risk and response plans, which you can find here.
If you are experiencing a power outage, we recommend the following:
- Use flash lights in the dark, NOT candles.
- Avoid any unnecessary travel, including by car.
- When using a generator, make sure that you understand the risks of carbon monoxide poisoning and how to use generators safely. Here is a great resource from the Red Cross on generator safety.
- Keep your refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. Unopened refrigerators can keep food cold for about 4 hours, while a full unopened freezer can keep its temperature for about 48 hours (24 hours if it’s half full).
- Eat all perishable food first, before food from the freezer. When you’ve eaten all of the perishable food, move on to the non-perishable foods stored outside the refrigerator and freezer.
- If your power outage lasts more than one day, prepare a cooler full of ice for your freezer items.
- Keep food in a cool, dry place and keep it covered at all times.
- Turn off and unplug all unnecessary electrical equipment.
- Turn off or disconnect all appliances including stoves, microwaves, etc. until power comes back on. This is important because power surges or spikes can damage your equipment when the power comes back on.
- Leave only one light turned on so you will know when the power returns.
If your power has returned, we recommend the following:
- Never touch downed power lines. Keep yourself, your family and your pets away from power lines and report them to your utility company immediately.
- Throw out any unsafe food. Meat, poultry, fish, eggs and leftovers that have been exposed to temperatures higher than 40 degrees Fahrenheit for 2 hours or more, have an unusual odor, color or texture should be thrown away. Not sure if something has gone bad? When in doubt, throw it out! It’s not worth getting yourself or your family sick.
- Don’t rely on the taste or smell of food to determine its safety. Some foods can look and smell normal, but if they have been sitting at room temperature too long, bacteria can form and cause food-borne illnesses.
- If food in the freezer is colder than 40 degrees Fahrenheit and has ice crystals on it, you can refreeze it safely.
Power outages can happen under many different circumstances and are not always weather-related. Here are some tips on how to conserve energy, save money and help reduce power outages in the future:
- Unplug appliances when they’re not in use. Did you know that as much as 10% of the electricity consumed in your home is drawn by appliances and devices that aren’t even being used? Appliances draw power just by being plugged in. Simply unplug your phone charger, toaster, coffee machine, hair dryer, etc. when you’re not using them.
- Go light on the Air Conditioning. In the summer, set your thermostat at 78 or higher, wear light summer clothing, shut curtains and blinds during the day, spend more time outside catching the breeze and opt for meals that don’t require the stove. In the winter, set your thermostat at 68 or lower, wear warmer clothing, use flannel sheets and a down comforter and shut vents in empty rooms.
- Wash clothes with cold water whenever possible. Wash only full loads of clothes. Clean the dryer’s lint trap after each use, or use a drying rack instead.
- Wash only full loads of dishes and let them air dry.
- Check the temperature settings on your refrigerator and freezer. Your fridge should be 40 degrees Fahrenheit or cooler and your freezer should be 0 degrees Fahrenheit or cooler.
- Replace incandescent light bulbs with energy efficient halogen, CFL or LED bulbs. Use natural light instead of light bulbs whenever possible and always turn the lights off when you leave a room.
Now you’re ready to prepare for and handle any power outage! For more useful tips and information, visit the Red Cross website here. For important information concerning your home security system during a power outage, please check our Customer Support page.