Wherever you are on the planet, your city is prone to power outages at least once a year. In fact, there are even some large cities in the US that experience rolling blackouts at least three times per month! These are mainly due to aging infrastructure and increasingly crazier weather conditions.
Thankfully, power outages no longer mean having to sharpen bamboo sticks in preparation for break-ins and looters. In fact, recent large-scale power outages in NY – the city famous for high instances of looting back in the 1970s – were relatively peaceful with people sharing their resources with total strangers.
However, just because violence and mayhem are at an all-time low during these frustrating times doesn’t mean you should let a power outage leave you and your family in the dark, both literally and figuratively. In this article, we’ll talk about how you can prepare for a power outage. We’ll also give you a few pointers on what you should do during a blackout.
How to Prepare for a Power Outage
Here are a few ways you can prepare your home and family for unpredictable power outages.
Keep an Emergency Kit
An emergency kit should be a collection of items that’ll come in handy during emergency situations. Such a kit should contain flashlights and extra batteries as well as a hand-cranked radio. It’s also a good idea to have a first aid kit around during power outages since injuries are more likely to occur when you can’t see.
Have a Cash Stash
During a city-wide blackout, ATMs and electronic payment methods are more than likely going to be out of commission. This means you’ll have to revert to the caveman way of paying for goods using cash. Even though it’s not entirely recommended that you leave your home during a power outage, if you need to purchase food and other necessities, you’ll have to pay in hard cash.
Purchase a Generator
One of the handiest tools you can have during emergency situations that knock out the power in your city is a generator. Either a standby generator or a portable generator can be useful in situations like this. When looking for a potential generator, make sure that you understand the wattage ratings (surge and running) since they let you know how much power the machine can supply at any given time.
We could go on forever and explain the benefits the types of generators (standby, portable, conventional or inverter generator), but during a power outage, the most important thing is that you have enough fuel to last you for several hours/days and that you don’t try and force the generator beyond its capacity.
Stock Up on Non-Perishable Food Items
You never know how long an unplanned power outage will last. In some cases, it might just be a brief minute or two, but you should always prepare for the worst case scenario. In these situations, the food in your fridge might go bad and need to be thrown out. Because of this, it’s a good idea to stock up on canned foods and bottled water.
Use Your Phone’s 4G Service
When the lights go off, so does your internet router. The only way to check for any new updates on your city’s situation is by relying on your phone’s internet service. Make sure that you pay your bills on time and have plenty of data to last you for a couple of days at least. Perhaps during a power outage, you should refrain from opening YouTube and other internet quota-hungry apps and sites.
Tips on What to Do during a Power Outage
The following section serves to provide you with information on what you need to in the event of a power outage. Hopefully, you’ve already stocked up on all of the essentials beforehand.
Check the Breaker Switch
The first thing you need to do is determine whether you’ve actually been hit by a power outage or if it’s just your home that’s without power. You need to check out the breaker switch on your home’s electrical panel to see whether it’s still on or not. In many places, a sudden power outage can simply mean that your home is using too much electricity and you need to unplug a few appliances.
While you’re outside, check to see if your neighbors’ homes are also pitch-dark. If they are, then you’re most likely experiencing a power outage. Use this time to get to know your neighbors and cuss out your utility company together.
Learn How to Connect a Generator to Your Home
The simplest way to make use out of a generator is by plugging your electronics directly into the provided outlets. However, since you want the generator as far away from your home as possible due to sound and air pollution, it’ll be impossible to plug your refrigerator or TV into the generator.
The best, most reliable way to supply your home with energy during power outages is to hook up your generator directly to your home’s electric panel via an outdoor inlet box. You can modify which circuits will receive electricity to keep power usage within the generator’s capacity. This can become much more convenient if your home has an automatic transfer switch installed. The switch will automatically change from UTILITY mode to GENERATOR mode when it detects a lack of flowing energy coming from power lines.
The next best thing would be to use long extension cords that run from the generator through your home’s windows, but then you’re just creating a tripping hazard. This option doesn’t provide power to the light bulbs in your home, so you’re still pretty much in the dark.
Do NOT Use Candles
The only thing you should use to illuminate the dark is a flashlight. Roughly 20 homes are engulfed by flames every year due to candles, and they don’t even take into account how many occur during power outages. When the electricity goes out, you may find yourself becoming slightly more reckless in how you would go about making the best out of a bad situation, and it’s this recklessness that could actually cause improper treatment of candles and fire.
Only Access Your Fridge/Freezer if Necessary
Many modern refrigerators and freezers are designed to keep its contents cool and fresh for around 24 hours without power. This, however, is only achievable if the doors remain closed at all times. For this reason, you should only open the doors if absolutely necessary, though “necessary” can mean different things to different people. Just be sure to keep your fridge’s doors closed as much as possible so it can retain as much cold air as possible.