Power outages often take you by surprise, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t prepare yourself ahead of time! In a time when the frequency of power outages is steadily increasing in the United States, you definitely don’t want to just brush off this possibility and simply hope for the best. This is especially true in summer months due to severe weather and increased use of electricity to power things like air conditioners. So in order to get through a power outage safely and relatively painlessly, you need to prepare for the possibility in advance so that you aren’t stuck playing catch up.
Create an Emergency Plan
The first thing that you need to do to prepare for a power outage is to create an emergency plan for your family. This emergency plan won’t just come in handy for power outages, but can also help you through severe weather events like hurricanes, tornadoes, snowstorms, etc. Every family is unique and each emergency situation is unique, so you will need to create a plan that is specific to your family’s needs and disasters that are most likely to impact your geographic area. But how do you create an emergency plan?
- Be sure to consider any special medical needs for family members. For example, do you have any medication that needs to be refrigerated? How do you plan on preserving this in the event that the power goes out and your refrigerator cannot keep the medications cool?
- Be sure to create an emergency evacuation plan in the event that you have to evacuate your home during a power outage. Set up a close-proximity meeting place and an additional meeting place in case your family gets separated.
- Be sure to consider your pets as well. Always include your pets in your plan and gather any pet-related supplies – do not leave them behind!
- Create a communication plan so that each family member can stay in contact with one another, even if they aren’t necessarily in the same area. Designate an emergency contact who lives in a different area.
- Delegate different tasks to different family members. Make sure that everyone knows their roles and practice periodically so that everyone will be on the same page in the event of a real emergency.
Assemble an Emergency Kit
Once you have an emergency plan, you need to assemble an emergency kit. The exact items in your emergency kit can vary depending on your needs, the length of the power outage, the weather, and other factors. At the same time, there are a few staple items that every emergency kit should include:
- First aid kit with bandages, gauze, antiseptic wipes, antibiotic ointment, tweezers, thermometer, and pain relievers.
- Enough water for one gallon per person per day for at least three days. This is especially important for long-term power outages that can affect the water sanitation system and render tap water unpotable.
- Enough non-perishable food for three days. The food in your refrigerator will spoil after four hours with no power and the food in your freezer will spoil after 24 hours with no power.
- Crank or battery-powered radio so that you can stay up to date with the weather and local news.
- Lighting sources like LED emergency lights that can easily switch from the grid to an internal battery, a solar or crank LED flashlight so you don’t have to worry about batteries running out, or even a LED hat light that easily attaches to a baseball cap for optimal lighting. Candles aren’t necessarily ideal in a power outage. Not only do they not provide very much light, but they also pose a huge fire hazard! So stick with LED lights and flashlights instead.
- Backup battery sources – whether that be power banks for cell phones or extra batteries for radios, flashlights, etc.
- Manual can opener to open your non-perishable food items.
- Cleansing wipes, garbage bags, and plastic ties so that you can still observe basic hygiene practices.
- Pet food, medications, and water for any pets.
- Infant formula, diapers, bottles, and wipes for babies.
- A sleeping bag or warm blanket for each family member if you experience very cold winters.
- Battery-powered fans and instant cold packs if you experience very hot summers.
- Paper and/or plastic utensils that you can use to eat and throw away instead of wasting water to wash them.
- Entertainment items like books, games, puzzles, or a deck of cards to keep everyone entertained without televisions, video games, and computers.
This might seem like a lot. However, taking the time to assemble this emergency kit now can quite literally save you later on in the event of a power outage or other emergency. Keep your kit in a designated location that is easy to access. Make sure that each family member knows where it is located.
Test and Adjust
Just because you have created your emergency plan and assembled your kit doesn’t mean that you can just leave them and forget about them! In fact, both of these items require frequent practice, maintenance, and updating. For example, you may need to replace expired food items within your non-perishable food supply. You also may need to periodically charge your backup power sources. If one of your family members requires a new medication, you need to account for this in your plan and kit. If you get a new pet, you will need to adjust your plans to accommodate them as well. Overall, it’s a good idea to revisit your emergency kit and practice your plan at least twice a year. That way, each family member will be prepared for a power outage or other emergency at any given time.
Dealing with a power outage can range from a minor inconvenience to a major problem depending on the cause and duration. In the event that a power outage is caused by severe weather like a hurricane, tornado, or snowstorm, you need to make sure that your family is adequately prepared ahead of time with a well thought out emergency plan and a well-stocked emergency kit.