How to Prepare for a Power Outage

It’s impossible to predict with 100% certainty when a storm or another natural disaster will hit. Hurricanes, earthquakes, fires, and other unexpected issues leave millions of people temporarily without power each year.

Expecting the unexpected and preparing in advance can help to protect residents’ safety and comfort in the event that a power outage occurs, so it’s worth taking the time to come up with a plan. Read on to find out how to get started.

Invest in a Backup Power Source

In areas of the country that experience frequent power disruptions, it’s a good idea to have a backup power source established before the next storm hits. Solutions like standby generators and home battery banks allow residents to keep their essential electronics, appliances, and medical devices running when there’s a disruption to the main power grid.

Some of these generators and battery banks are designed to run entire homes for short periods of time, while others can only supply enough power to keep essential systems running. Before investing in a backup power source, take the time to calculate the household’s electricity needs and buy a generator or battery bank that is sized to accommodate them.

Put Together an Emergency Kit

The last thing anyone wants to deal with after the lights unexpectedly go out is a mad scramble for flashlights and other supplies. Put together an emergency kit in advance and place it somewhere that’s easy to access even in the dark.

Assemble everything that could be required to weather a short power outage comfortably in one plastic storage box and leave it on the main level of the home to reduce the need for navigating stairs in the dark. A good power outage emergency kit should have:

  • Flashlights
  • Batteries
  • A hand-crank radio
  • A first-aid kit
  • Necessary medications
  • A multi-tool
  • Sanitation items, such as hand sanitizers
  • Personal hygiene items
  • A charged cell phone
  • Charged power packs
  • Emergency contact information
  • Some extra cash

Putting together an emergency kit now will also help to reduce the need for last-minute shopping, which can create a lot of extra headaches. When people learn a storm is coming, they often flock to stores to stock up on essentials. Reviewing the family’s needs and ensuring that all of them will be provided for in advance can allow the household to spend time on other preparatory measures instead of braving overcrowded stores.

Stock Up on Food and Water

Stocking up on non-perishable food items and bottled water in advance is also a great way to avoid stressful situations as storms approach. As a general rule of thumb, families should keep one gallon of water per person for each day they expect the outage to last. Coming up with an emergency evacuation plan allows families to determine how long they plan to stay at home before leaving the area if there’s a long-term power outage, making it easier to calculate water needs.

When it comes to food, look for non-perishable items like dried grains, dried or canned beans, canned vegetables, dried fruits, and protein bars. Don’t forget to include some special treats, especially if there will be children weathering the storm at home. Tensions can run high during prolonged power outages, and having snacks available, especially to children, can help to keep everyone feeling a little calmer.

Make Plans for Cooking

There are plenty of ways to heat food without electricity. If the household already has a backup generator, that’s great. If not, come up with a backup solution such as buying a camp stove and a small supply of propane, or even building a rocket stove for outdoor use. The ability to cook hot meals can make a big difference when it comes to both comfort and health.

Be Able to Purify Water

Unless someone in the family is an avid camper, the chances are good there won’t be water purification tablets or a filtration system just sitting in a closet somewhere. The ability to purify water is essential in situations where prolonged power outages are likely because, while boiling water can destroy most pathogens, there are other contaminants that aren’t as easy to eradicate. When shopping for water purification tools, buy a hand-pumped or gravity-fed water filter, some iodine tablets, or a LifeStraw instead of relying on filtration or purification devices that require electricity.

Buy a Food Thermometer

When the power grid goes down for any period of time, it’s always best to avoid opening the refrigerator. If the outage is short, the food may still be safe to eat once the power is restored. Having a food thermometer on hand will allow those responsible for evaluating food safety to check internal temperatures of perishable items after the power is restored or before all of the food in the refrigerator spoils if the outage goes on for days instead of hours.

Develop an Evacuation Plan

Every family should have an emergency evacuation plan. Adequate preparation for a prolonged power outage usually helps people avoid having to put that plan into use, but it’s worth figuring out local evacuation routes, looking up accommodations in advance, and setting up meeting points outside the home. Ideally, the plan will never be put into practice, but if a power outage is caused by severe inclement weather, the whole family will be safer if everyone is on the same page about when and how to evacuate the area.

Plan Some Activities

Though most people think of power outages as being stressful disruptions to normal life, prolonged outages can also be quite boring. Planning some activities to occupy the whole family can help to reduce anxiety and pass the time more enjoyably, especially if there are young kids involved who may need welcome distractions. Try including some puzzles, books, magazines, or games in the emergency kit along with all the basic necessities to turn an otherwise stressful experience into an opportunity for family bonding.

Prepare Now to Avoid Problems in the Future

Power outages can be stressful, but they don’t have to be. The best way to prepare is by purchasing a backup power source. Even if the family has a generator, though, it’s always best to take the additional preparatory steps described above, just in case.