Extended power outages might threaten your safety or health unless you are prepared for the outage and know what to do when it happens. The best way to be ready is to start preparing in advance. Make sure that you have an emergency preparedness kit in your household that will meet the needs of your family for three days. The Federal Emergency Management Agency provides a checklist on its emergency preparedness website Ready.gov, which you can use as a guide. Your family should have a “Lights Out” kit on hand, which should include a flashlight per person, extra batteries, radio and clock powered by batteries, canned food, bottled water, first aid kit, a manual can opener, and alcohol-based cooking fuel. Moreover, having a corded phone as a part of your emergency kit is also important, as cordless phones will not work when the lights go out. Make sure that fuses and circuit breakers in your electricity box are clearly labeled and you know how to change fuses or reset circuit breakers.
When the lights go out, plug out all the electric appliances in order to prevent damaging electric overload when the power comes back. Have your refrigerator and freezer set to the coldest temperatures before the outage and try to keep their doors closed as much as you can when the power goes out. In the event of an outage, food that stays in the freezer will remain frozen for two to four days. When using alternative cooking methods, be extra cautious. In order to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, do not use propane or kerosene heaters, charcoal-burning grills, or camp stoves indoors, and do not use a gas oven or stove to heat the house. The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning may include headache, weakness, dizziness, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, and confusion.
If during the outage you use a portable generator, plug the appliances into it. Do not connect the generator directly to the electrical system of your home, because it can send power up the line. Make sure to take extra caution with placement of the generator, because of the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Have carbon monoxide monitors installed in your home and check them regularly.
After a power outage, make sure to report any power lines that are down to your utility company. Throw away any unsafe food. If you are not sure whether the food went bad, do not rely solely on the smell. Some bacteria can grow in food and produce toxins that cannot be destroyed by cooking. When in doubt, just throw it out. Preparedness is the best way to get through the power outage and remain safe and healthy, so make sure to be ready and follow the necessary steps to protect yourself and your family.