At one time or another, we have all experienced the sudden and unexpected emergence of darkness and silence stemming from a power outage. Maybe it was a rolling blackout, or maybe it was an electrical malfunction, but whether it lasts for a few minutes or a few hours, it can really ruin your day if you don’t take the proper precautions. Before the lights go out again, here are a few important considerations.
Determining the Cause
Check the circuit breakers to see if you have blown a circuit. If you can’t determine the cause of the outage, contact your local utility company for more information. The problem may be widespread in your neighborhood, or—failing that—it may signify a more serious electrical problem in your home.
Keep a supply of filtered water on hand. A power outage can interfere with filtration systems and compromise the quality of your water supply. It’s best to keep plenty of bottles of filtered water in your emergency supply kit, but more on that later.
Securing Your Data
Keep an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) on hand. A UPS device enables you to temporarily maintain power for certain electronic devices when the power fails. It’s useful for office equipment, laptops, alarm systems, medical devices and other equipment the failure of which may contribute to data loss or compromised safety. You’ll also want to invest in some surge protection to prevent your important electronics from suffering permanent damage.
Protecting Your Electronics
Unplug major appliances until the power returns. Connected appliances can create a power surge when electricity returns. A surge protector can minimize this risk, but it’s still a good idea to disconnect your major electronics.
Maintaining Your Safety
Make sure your alarm system has a backup power supply of its own. Since we’re on the subject of uninterruptible power, it’s important to address the importance of maintaining your home security system during an outage. If your system is entirely hardwired and contains no backup battery, burglars may cut off your power supply just to disable your alarm. That’s why it’s so important to ensure that your system is equipped to compensate for power outages.
Preparing for Anything
Create an emergency plan. The CDC recommends keeping an emergency supply kit with water, dried and canned food, flashlights, first aid, batteries, medications and a digital thermometer. You should have enough supplies for at least three days.
Illuminating Your Path
Install some battery-powered lights. As kids, we all remember our parents breaking out the candles and lighting them during a power outage. Some of us still keep a drawer full of these waxy wonders for just such an occasion, but nowadays you can head down to your local store and purchase light bulbs that run on AA batteries. Keep a few battery-powered lights on hand and you can illuminate your home without exposing yourself to the fire risk posed by candles.
Keep a battery-powered radio. In the event of a widespread outage or other disaster, you’ll want to keep up with the latest developments, and you may not be able to rely on your cell phone, so keep a quality handheld radio on hand…and make sure to keep an ample supply of batteries.
Preserving Your Health
If the power outage lasts longer than 4 hours, throw out the food in your refrigerator. If it lasts longer than 24 hours, throw out the food in your freezer. It’s no fun having to throw out a week’s worth of groceries, but it’s even less fun to spend your entire night vomiting bacteria-ridden food.
Exercising Good Judgment
Keep all generators, charcoal grills and gas heating mechanisms outdoors, away from all doors and windows. For many frostbitten homeowners, it can be tempting to generate heat by any means necessary, but the carbon monoxide exposure can be deadly.
Preventing the Worst
Install carbon monoxide alarms on every floor of your home. Even if you take steps to avoid carbon monoxide exposure, you must still be diligent about monitoring your indoor quality, especially when an outage occurs. Move outdoors or near an open window if the carbon monoxide alarm sounds.
Spend some time on non-tech hobbies. Read a book, play games with the family, get back in touch with a world free of pixels, texts and other technological distractions.