12 Ways to Prepare for a Power Outage
Tricks to help you stay safe and comfortable — and save your food
A storm’s coming that could knock out your power. Instead of waiting for it to happen, there are ways you can prepare, even if you don’t have a generator.
Power outages due to severe weather are on the increase, according to a Congressional Research Service report. From 2003 to 2012, winter storms and severe weather resulted in 80 percent of major power outages across the country, according to a study from Climate Central, an independent organization of scientists and journalists researching and reporting on climate change.
Here are a dozen ways you can get ready for a possible short-term power outage.
Make sure you have fresh batteries for your flashlights. It’s smart to have one battery-powered flashlight for each family member. Relying on candles during a power outage can make a bad situation infinitely worse by causing a fire, according to John Drengenberg, consumer safety director for UL.
Take out cash. Remember, the ATMs won’t work if there’s no power.
Charge all cell phones. Your cordless landline phone won’t work if the power goes out. Have a car charger handy so you can charge your cell phone in the car if need be. Charge your computers, too, while you’re at it.
Get your wheels ready. Make a trip to the gas station and filler up, the American Red Cross advises. If the garage door requires electricity to operate, know how to manually override it so you can open it by lifting it up.
Trim your trees. If you have tree branches hanging over your house, garage, driveway or power lines, hire a contractor to cut them so they don’t fall during the storm and damage your property, recommends the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety.
Stock up on ice. As a general rule of thumb, if the power’s been out for less than four hours — and you haven’t opened the door — the food in the fridge is probably still good, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). But after that, you risk spoilage. Have a cooler and some ice on hand so that you can move foods you most want to save.
If you can, buy dry or block ice to keep the refrigerator and freezer as cold as possible. Fifty pounds of dry ice should keep an 18-cubic foot fully stocked freezer cold for two days according to USDA.
Move foods from the fridge to the freezer. Do this for items you won’t need right away. They’ll keep longer in the freezer. The fuller your freezer, the longer your food will last, according to the FDA. A full freezer gives you about 48 hours, and a half-full freezer, about 24 hours if you haven’t opened the door. If the freezer stays at or below 0 degrees F, the food is okay.
Stock the pantry — and make sure you have a manual can opener. The American Red Cross recommends having a three-day supply of non-perishable, easy-to-prepare food on hand.
Get the grill ready. Have an outdoor grill? Fill your propane tank or make sure you have charcoal on hand in case you need to cook on a grill. Never grill indoors or you risk carbon monoxide poisoning, not to mention a fire, says Drengenberg.
Stock up on drinking water. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends having at least one gallon per person per day of drinking water. Bottled water is the safest option, the CDC says. But you can fill clean two-liter plastic soda bottles with tap water, too.
Fill the tub with water. You may need this water to flush toilets and wash up, especially if your home relies on electric pumps.
Unplug your gadgets. If you don’t have surge protectors, unplug electrical equipment and appliances when the storm arrives to avoid damage caused by outages or power surges. Disconnect or shut off any appliances that may turn on automatically when power is restored or you may risk overloading your home’s electrical circuits, according to the Mississippi Public Service Commission.