What should you do in case of a loss of power? Here are some of our best survival tips for having survived many power outages domestic and abroad—before, during, and after a power outage.
Tornadoes, hurricanes, severe thunderstorms, flooding, and icy weather events can easily knock out power in your home. But even an animal or a random RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade) can cause a power outage.
Regardless of the cause, deal with all safety issues: then we can focus on bringing light to the dark, staying warm and dry, and providing food to yourself and your family. Nothing makes the situation worse than accidentally receiving a causality in the confusing darkness.
Light Up The Night
I personally recommend LED headlamps for every family member. They are lightweight and allows for extended battery life. Also, it will enable you to physically account for all members of the family. The downfall is having halogen lights blinding you during conversations; just angle them down.
You can make your own lanterns out of a headlamp by strapping the headlamp onto the jug with the lamp’s front-facing the inside; the light reflects off of the water and can illuminate more of the room. There is no need to buy battery sucking lanterns.
Avoid using candles or an open flame as a light source, as it could be a fire hazard, mainly if there are children or pets in the home. While romantic, they can tip over too quickly in an emergency situation. However, if this is all you have on hand, just be careful not to leave candles or fuel-lit lamps unattended. If you must, please put the candle inside a metal bucket or old coffee can.
Don't use your cell phone as a flashlight. Save the battery for emergencies, as you don't know how long the situation will last.
Select one room in which people—and pets—can spend most of their time together. Pick a room with few or no windows on the south side for maximum heat during the day and layer up with warm clothing.
Drape all windows with blankets, comforters, or quilts. Uncover south-facing windows during the day to let in the Sun’s warmth.
Never burn charcoal for heating or cooking indoors. Never use your oven as a source of heat.
Make a list (in advance) of shelters and hotels that allow pets in case you need to evacuate with yours.
COOKING AND EATING
Open your refrigerator or freezer door only when absolutely necessary. Plan ahead to minimize the time the door is open.
If the door stays closed, a refrigerator without power will keep food safe for four hours. A full freezer will hold its temperature for 48 hours (or 24 hours if half-full). Store food outside if the weather is cold enough (40 degrees or less). Monitor temperatures with a thermometer.
Keep ice packs in your freezer for use in coolers or your refrigerator in case of an outage.
Eat foods that are going to spoil first. Prioritize your meals based on shelf life. Good examples are vegetables, bread, fruit, and meat. Save canned foods, beans, and soups for extended outages.
If the situation allows, cook on your outdoor grill—but only outdoors. Due to the possibility of fumes and fire, never use an outdoor grill indoors.
If it’s cold enough outside, fill clean plastic milk jugs with water and put them outside to freeze solid. Put these jugs into coolers, which can serve as temporary refrigerators for food supplies. DO NOT PUT YOUR FOOD UNSECURE OUTDOORS TO KEEP COLD... you will be heartbroken the next morning by foraging animals.
When extreme weather threatens, fill up your bathtub with water (for washing and flushing).
Note: If you expect temperatures to drop below freezing in your house, avoid filling up the tub, as you could end up with a frozen (and cracked) bathtub.
In cold climates, pack fresh snow in buckets and bring it indoors to melt.
In winter, keep pipes from freezing by turning on a slow trickle of water. Protect water pipes from freezing by wrapping them with layers of newspapers and then plastic wrap
Keep your vehicle’s gas tank at least half full! Gas stations rely on electricity to power their pumps.
Never drive across power lines outside. Never!
To avoid damage from falling branches, plan ahead and don’t park your cars under trees. If possible, remove any potentially hazardous or weak-looking branches well ahead of storms. Deadfall is a significant factor for people getting stranded in their homes after severe weather.
Don't use your vehicle for warmth or charging electronics unless it is an absolute emergency.
The best way to get through a power outage is to avoid it altogether. Investing in a home generator can save you a lot of time and stress during emergency outages, as it can keep your heat and light running when you really need it.
Make sure you take care of your generator. Generators are very finicky and require regular maintenance. Generators are not designed to just sit; start your generator periodically.
Also, test the load on your generator and fuel consumption. You will find what your generator can handle and how quickly it consumes fuel. This will allow you to maintain a dedicated level of reserve fuel on hand.
However, NEVER run a generator inside a home or garage, or connect it to your home’s electrical system to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
Today, we also rely on technology for communication and safety. Keep cell phones charged.
If the power is out, dim your phone's brightness and turn off the wifi to save battery life. Also, switch your battery to low power mode under settings.
Turn off or disconnect appliances and other equipment in case of a momentary power “surge” that can damage computers and other devices.
We also recommend a surge protector to safeguards electronics from the harmful effects of power surges and voltage spikes. They can damage common appliances, sensitive AV electronics, and computer equipment.
Have plenty of fully charged emergency battery chargers to keep phones and critical devices charged.
AFTER A POWER OUTAGE
When in doubt, throw it out! Throw out any perishable foods that have been exposed to temperatures above 40°F for more than two hours. If you’re unsure whether something is still good, it’s better to just throw the item out and not risk becoming ill.
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.
Also, check the FEMA website for emergency grants and funding that could be possible from the disaster. If your loss is severe enough, you can contact your homeowner's insurance or renter's insurance company to inquire about filing a claim.
These are just guidelines and are obviously not the final answer to every situation. We cover many techniques to thrive in uncertain conditions, like a power outage during our survival courses.