Power Outage Safety and Preparation Tips

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Power Outage Safety and Preparation Tips

Snow, freezing rain, high winds, hurricanes, tornadoes, thunderstorms, winter storms, and earthquakes can result in power outages. In some cases, a power outage can last for days or weeks, depending on the extent of the damage. Therefore, no matter where you live, you’re not immune to power outages, so it’s best to be prepared so you’re not caught off guard on the day of the outage.

Why The Need To Prepare?

As a community, we rely on electricity for heating, cooling, food, drinking water, medical care, communication, and many other things. Power outages are especially dangerous during extremely cold temperatures or extremely hot temperatures. Those who use medical devices that rely on electricity may also be at risk during power outages. By preparing for power outages, you can minimize their impact and keep your family safe. Here are a few steps you can take short of getting an electrical inspection.

Prepare in Advance

Be Sure You’re Ready. That Simply Means:

  • Be kept informed by alerts, warnings, and public safety information during, before, and after emergencies.
  • For updates on outages, sign up for text or email alerts from your utility provider.
  • You should create and review your family’s emergency plan.
  • Prepare an emergency kit. Consider alternative charging methods such as auto, solar, and crank chargers for your cell phone and other devices that require power.

Prepare Your Home

  • Make sure that your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are working and have fresh batteries.
  • You may wish to buy a generator in case of a power outage. Learn how to use it safely before an outage by following the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Make sure you have enough heating fuel. You may want to consider backup heating options, such as fireplaces or wood stoves.
  • Make sure you know how to operate the manual release lever on your electric garage door opener.
  • In case you have life-supporting equipment, such as breathing machines or dialysis machines, or if you have other medical supplies that need electricity, talk to your health care provider about how to use them during a power outage;
  • Contact your local electric company and equipment suppliers about your power needs. Utility companies will sometimes put you on a priority reconnection service list;
  • Make sure the fire department knows that you require life-support devices; and
  • Ask your pharmacist about storing medication properly during an extended power outage if your medication requires refrigeration.

If you are preparing for an impending storm that will cause power outages, consider these additional tips:

  • Make sure your cell phone, laptop, and other electronic devices are fully charged.
  • Fill your bathtub and spare containers with water if you have a water supply like a well-water pump system that is affected by a power outage. The water in the bathtub should only be used for sanitation. You can fill up a bucket with this water and pour it directly into the bowl of the toilet to flush it.
  • Don’t forget to fill up your car’s tank. Some gas stations may not have working pumps during a power outage.
  • Keep your refrigerator and freezer on their coldest setting to keep food cold, but remember to set them back to normal once power is restored.

During a Power Outage

When the power’s out, do not panic. Instead, remember to do the following tips:

  • Monitor alerts. 

Make sure you are up-to-date on local weather reports, as well as any notifications you receive by phone, television or radio. You may be notified of a planned power outage by utility officials. Also, if local alerts and warning systems are available, sign up for them so that they will notify you by phone or text message.

  • Contact your support network. 

Tell the people in your network that you are OK, check to see if they are OK, and ask one another for help if you need it.

  • Keep food cold and when in doubt, throw it out. 

Fresh, perishable foods should be eaten first. To maintain cold temperatures, avoid opening the refrigerator and freezer. Food will stay cold for about four hours if the refrigerator is not opened. In a full freezer, the temperature will remain at the desired level for about 48 hours. You can use ice in coolers if necessary. Check the food temperature in your refrigerator and freezer with a thermometer. Discard any food that is warmer than 40 degrees F.

  • Prevent power overloads and fire hazards. 

Make sure all electronics and appliances are unplugged to prevent power surges and overloads. Use flashlights instead of candles. Do not turn off the utilities unless you suspect damage or a local official instructs you to do so. Gas can only be turned on by a qualified individual. If any circuit breakers have been tripped, contact an electrician to inspect them before turning them on.

  • Prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. 

Don’t use a gas stove to heat your home and do not use outdoor stoves indoors for heating or cooking. If using a generator, keep it outside in a well-ventilated area away from windows.

  • Decide if you need to stay or go.

Evacuate if your home is too hot or too cold, or if you have medical devices that need power. Communities often provide warming or cooling centers and power charging stations.

After a Power Outage

Your power might be restored, but you shouldn’t be careless to roam around your house. Instead; 

  1. Keep away from power lines. Stay at least 35 feet away from fallen power lines and anything they are touching. Call 911 and let them know.
  2. Avoid electrical shock in flood areas. Don’t go into flooded areas or use any electrical equipment or electronics that may have been submerged. Have a qualified electrical inspector check the electrical system.
  3. When in doubt, throw it out. If food is 40 degrees F or warmer, especially dairy and meat, throw it out. 
  4. Prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Keep generators, camp stoves and charcoal grills outdoors only in well-ventilated areas at least 20 feet away from windows.
  5. If the power is out for more than a day, discard any medication that should be refrigerated, unless the drug’s label says otherwise. Consult your doctor or pharmacist immediately for a new supply.
  6. Make sure you’ve put out any candles and kerosene lamps you used during the outage. These can be a fire hazard when left unattended.

Other Tips You Must Keep in Mind During Power Outage

First Aid for Electrical Shock

If you believe someone has been electrocuted take the following steps:

  • Look first. Don’t touch. The person may still be in contact with the electrical source. Touching the person may pass the current through you.
  • Call or have someone else call 911 or emergency medical help.
  • Turn off the source of electricity if possible. If not, move the source away from you and the affected person using a nonconducting object made of cardboard, plastic, or wood.
  • Once the person is free of the source of electricity, check the person’s breathing and pulse. If either has stopped or seems dangerously slow or shallow, begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) immediately.
  • Don’t touch burns, break blisters, or remove burned clothing. Electrical shock may cause burns inside the body, so be sure the person is taken to a doctor.

Power Line Hazards and Cars

Downed Power Pole and Power Lines

When a power line falls on your car, you should remain in the vehicle. It is the safest place to be. Don’t let anyone touch the vehicle or the line. Contact the local utility company and emergency services for assistance.

You should only leave a car that is in contact with a downed power line if it catches fire. You should open the door. Do not get out of the car. You might get shocked. You should instead jump out of the car so that your body clears the vehicle before touching the ground. As soon as you clear the car, shuffle at least 50 feet away from the vehicle with both feet on the ground.

During any type of power line emergency, dial 911 or call your electric utility company’s customer service center or dispatch office immediately. Do not try to help someone else from the car while you are standing on the ground.

Dangers of Gasoline Siphoning

When natural disasters like hurricanes and floods strike, gasoline may not be available prior to, during, and after. Occasionally, people might want to put gasoline from one container into another container if they do not have enough gasoline. This can be accomplished by siphoning. Siphoning can be harmful to your health. Do not attempt to siphon gasoline. This can result in serious injury or illness.

Possible injuries and illnesses from any form of siphoning include:

  • Burns and injury from unintentional combustion of gasoline and/or gasoline vapors. In the event, a lit cigarette comes into contact with gasoline or its vapors, or the vapors come into contact with static electricity, this can occur
  • Experiencing drowsiness, headaches, confusion, or trouble concentrating after breathing gasoline vapors
  • Upon contact, skin, eye or mucus membranes may be irritated

Other possible injuries and illnesses from siphoning when you use your mouth for suction include:

  • When gasoline is inhaled during mouth-based siphoning, the lungs can be damaged
  • If any gasoline is swallowed, the signs and symptoms of the digestive system may be experienced, including nausea, vomiting, and stomach pain
  • Immediately seek medical attention if you breathe gasoline fumes or swallow gasoline and feel ill

Safety at Work During Power Recovery

People at work may suffer electrical or traumatic injuries as power lines are re-energized and equipment is reactivated following an outage. Employers and employees are recommended to be aware of those risks and take preventive measures if they are in contact with or close to power lines, electrical components, or moving parts of heavy machinery.

Generator Safety Tips

The best way to survive a power outage is to avoid it altogether. A home generator can keep your heat and lights on during emergency outages, which can save you a lot of time and stress. 

Nonetheless, NEVER run a generator inside your home or garage, or connect it to your home’s electrical system to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.


Power outages can be a hassle, but there are ways to make the best out of a bad situation. To minimize inconvenience and safety risks, it’s always best to prepare for power outages in advance. This way you will be able to weather any storm with confidence.

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