Preparing for a Power Outage

In the past few weeks, our house has been without power for 24 hours two three different times.  (I kid you not, while writing this post our power went out for 22 hours!)  About 2 1/2 years ago, we lost power for seven full days!  I’m determined to be prepared the next time the lights go out, so I am posting some of my research & learning experiences & maybe you can benefit from this too!

Here are some supplies you should have handy if the power goes out.

Utility Company Phone Number- It is always a good idea to call the utility company when the power goes out.  This helps them keep track of the number of outages.  They can also usually tell you the cause of the outage & give an estimated time of when it will be back on.  The number we call is completely automated & they even call you back to let you know when the power is restored.

Landline Telephone with Cord- Cordless phones won’t work during power outages & cell towers could be down. 

Cell Phone Car Chargers- If the power goes out for an extended period, it’s a good idea to have a car charger so you can charge your cell phone.

Battery Operated Radio- A radio can help keep you informed of bad weather or important news you may need during a power outage.  When we were without electricity for a week, my husband & I would put the kids to bed & listen to old radio programs on NPR.  It definitely kept us entertained until bedtime! 

Flashlights, flashlights, flashlights- We have flashlights in each bedroom.  We also keep one hung on the inside doorknob to the basement.  This is also helpful when we blow a fuse & have to go down in the dark basement to switch it back on.  It is also a good idea to keep a flashlight near the door you would use if you come home to a power outage.  (Remember, if the power is out, your garage door opener won’t work, so have another way to enter, such as a key!)  It is also good to have a crank or rechargeable flashlight in case you run out of batteries.

Extra Batteries

Candles & a lighter or matches  (If you use these, make sure not to place them anything flammable, & don’t forget to blow them all out before leaving or going to bed!  I personally prefer to use flashlights, but these are always good to have on hand for emergencies.)

House Key- Remember, if you come home to a power outage, your garage door opener & electric key codes won’t work. 

Cold Freezer Packs- Keep some cold packs in the freezer.  You can move them to the refrigerator or use them in a cooler to help preserve food.


Ready to Eat Food such as canned tuna or chicken, beef jerkey, nuts, granola bars, peanut butter (for sandwiches), etc. 

Grill or Camp Stove for cooking outdoors

Manual Can Opener

Thermometer to check the temperature inside your freezer or refrigerator

First Aid Kit

When the Lights Go Out…
1. When your power goes out, first check your circuit breaker to make sure you didn’t just blow a fuse. 

2. Call your local utility company to report the outage.  As I mentioned above, they can usually tell you what caused the outage & when the electricity is estimated to be fixed.

3. Stick some ice packs in the refrigerator or move items to a smaller cooler to keep foods that HAVE to be cold, cool.  Remember, not everything in your refrigerator needs to be kept cold (processed cheeses, whole fresh fruits, butter, jelly, ketchup, mustard, etc.).  Moving the items that have to be kept cold to a smaller cooler with several ice packs or ice can prevent them from spoiling. 

Try not to open the refrigerator or freezer doors unless absolutely necessary.  You may want to tie the doors together or put some tape on them to remind yourself & your children not to open them.  Keeping them closed will prevent the cold air from escaping & will help keep your food safe.

4. If the power is expected to be out for a long period of time, I suggest getting out of the house!  When our power was out for a week, I decided to use that time to focus on potty training our daughter.  That was NOT a good idea!  I was beyond stressed.  The laundry was piled up, all of our food was ruined, & my daughter was not cooperating!  Do what you can to save your food & then get out of the house!  You can kill time at the mall, library, or a bookstore.  Try to get home before the sun goes down, so you don’t have to fumble around in the dark!

5. If you find your car locked inside the garage, you can manually open an electric garage door by pulling down on the red cord to disengage the automatic function.  You can watch a short video here to see how this is done.

6. If your power is out for an extended time, such as a week, I recommend doing what you can to keep your home running normally (clean dishes by hand, wash clothes at the laundry mat, throw out spoiled food, etc.).  This will prevent a big work load once the power returns.  

When Power Returns…
When the power comes back on, you will want to make sure the foods left in your refrigerator or freezer are safe to eat.  According to the Food Safety website, refrigerated foods should be safe as long as the power is not out for more than four hours.  You should throw out any foods that have been held at 40 degrees for over two hours.  To check when to keep & discard refrigerated foods, refer to this list.  A freezer full of food should keep temperature for about 48 hours (24 hours for a half-full freezer).  This list is a great reference on what frozen foods are acceptable to keep & which need to be tossed. 

A Few Words About Safety
Always be cautious when using candles.  Never light them near fabrics, such as curtains, or anything that could potentially catch fire.  Make sure they are out of reach for children & pets & that they are not in a spot where they could get easily knocked over.  Store lighters & matches out of reach of children.  Also, make sure you have working battery operated smoke detectors.

Never use a camping stove or grill indoors.

If you usually keep the door that leads from your garage, into your home unlocked, make sure to lock it while your automatic garage door is disengaged.  Otherwise, you could come home to more than just your power missing!

If you chose to have electricity by using a generator, make sure to leave it outside.  Running a generator indoors or even in a closed garage can cause carbon monoxide poisoning & could be lethal!  Read & follow all the safety precautions for the unit.  During one of our recent power outages, a couple had to be treated for carbon monoxide poisoning caused by improperly using a generator.  Use a battery operated carbon monoxide detector to ensure safety. 

Well, hopefully I’ve covered the basics of surviving a power outage!  Did I forget something?  Do you have any tips?  Please share them in the comments below…I may need them, the way this summer is going!

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