Power Outage Preparedness
by Kalie Souknary | January 15, 2019
Power Outage PreparednessPower outages have a nasty habit of choosing the absolute worst time to happen. Whether it’s when you’re taking the finest souffle you’ve ever made out of the oven, or that crucial moment of the big game, they can go from a mild inconvenience to a major problem in a matter of seconds. And if they do last longer than a couple of minutes, a power outage can quickly become a danger to you and your family too. That’s why we highly recommend everyone practices power outage preparedness, to ensure you’re ready whenever the next blackout might strike.
Why Do Power Outages Happen?A power outage can happen for a wide range of reasons. There could be a mechanical failure in your local energy network, rough winds may have downed a power line, or someone may have damaged a line during construction. Whatever the cause, power outages can be over in just a few moments or may drag out over a matter of days depending on how extensive the damage is. In the case of natural disasters, getting a qualified team to fix the problem may take considerably longer as engineers will need to wait until it’s safe to reach the site. In some cases an outage may be deliberately caused by your local power company to perform routine maintenance. You should be warned in advance but these notices are easy to miss sometimes. Planned blackouts, also called rolling blackouts, may also be brought about by your local utility company trying to manage unusually high demand or a compromised energy supply. In this situation the power company will cut power to a certain area in order to prevent the whole network losing energy at once. This localized blackout is then ‘rolled over’ to another area shortly after in order to minimize disruption. Rolling blackouts don’t tend to last too long and power should be returned to you after a maximum of an hour. Your utility company should warn you in advance of any rolling blackouts they have planned.
How Does A Power Outage Get Fixed?Your utility company doesn’t want you to be without power longer than necessary, and they will do whatever they can to restore electricity to your property as soon as possible. However, before they can do this there are a few things that they need to take into consideration. The most important of which is—is it safe to send in a team to repair the problem? Outages caused by hurricanes or wildfires may be extremely dangerous to remedy, and engineers and technicians will need to wait until the storm has passed or fire put out before they can go in. Additionally, no two outages are alike. A simple problem with the maintenance system, for instance, could be fixed in mere minutes. The more complex job of clearing a tree, replacing an electricity pole, or repairing a transformer can take a good while longer. It is also worth noting that power companies will prioritize public health and safety, meaning that hospitals, police departments and essential utilities will be their primary concern in the case of an outage.
How To Identify A Power OutageIf the electricity has gone out in your home the first thing you should do is check your breaker box to see if all the switches are in the “ON” position. If one or more are switched off, try flipping them the opposite direction to see if the power comes back on. Next, have a look out at your local neighborhood—are your neighbor’s lights on? What about streetlights? If you don’t see anything on in the local area then you’re likely experiencing blackout. If you have access to the internet on your phone you can often look up outages in your area. Check your utility company’s website as they should post information about planned or current outages. You will also be able to report a power outage online with most utility companies. If you don’t have internet, or have other concerns, your local power company should have an emergency number that you can call. Are you an Amigo customer? You can report an outage with your utility company from here
Always Put Safety First During a BlackoutIf your neighbourhood has lost power, it’s important that you make sure that you and your family are safe. Shut off any gas-powered equipment in case of a leak, which could be ignited when the electricity does come back on. Following this you should go through your home and turn electrical equipment off—leave one light on to signal that you’ve got power again. Due to the high likelihood of a power surge when you do have electricity again, it is important to unplug sensitive and expensive equipment off— think computers, TVs, servers, etc. For those with electric heating in colder climates, it may be tempting to light a stove or charcoal grill to keep warm indoors. Do not do this. Open flames not only present a fire risk but release potentially hazardous gases that can harm you in enclosed environments like homes. Layer up, close the drapes, and close all interior doors to reduce heat loss.
Home PreparednessTo get your home ready for a blackout there are a few things we highly recommend you stock up on well in advance.
Water SuppliesAlthough unlikely, it is possible that a power outage may also mean a water outage—they tends to happen during natural disasters like weather events. And given that you don’t know how long a blackout may last, it is important to have a stockpile of bottled water in your home for such an eventuality. Think: most people need up to two liters of water a day to stay properly hydrated.
Non-Perishable FoodsIt’s a good idea to have a cache of non-perishable food which doesn’t require cooking or additional water to prepare. We highly recommend products such as nut butters which are very energy dense, canned fish which are a great source of good fats, and dried fruits and nuts which will boost energy and deliver vitamins.
Regarding the food in your fridges and freezers—try and keep the doors closed for as long as possible to keep the unit and food inside inside it cold. Most fridges will keep cool for a few hours without power, and freezers for up to 48 hours. Just make sure that any food which does defrost during a blackout isn’t refrozen once the freezer is working again!
FlashlightsWe suggest you keep a few flashlights in key places around your house just in case of a blackout. Put one by the front door, have one in your bedroom, and one in the kitchen. From time to time you should check the batteries in the flashlight and keep some spares handy too.
RadioIf your phone is out or battery or you can’t get any signal, a battery powered radio such as a NOAA Weather Radio will keep you connected to the outside world and give you updates on the weather in your local area.
First AidYour home’s first aid kit should be restocked to ensure you have everything you need. We also recommend adding additional hygiene products to your standard kit in the case of a longer power outage.
Have A Get Out PlanMost blackouts will be over very quickly, but in the case of a severe outage or dangerous weather you may need to evacuate your home. In this case you should have a get out plan ready for both you and your family. Think about what you need to take with you—where are all your important documents such as passports, birth certificates and house deeds? How will you evacuate your pets? Can you lock down your property? Where will you convene with your family?
Having a simple plan to action can save lives. So get your home prepared for a power outage today and rest assured that you and your family are ready for any situation.