Power Outage Preparedness

Power Outage Preparedness

Electricity is indispensable, a Power Outage can be absolutely devastating and can halt the regular flow of life in an instant. Electricity powers businesses, lights-up cities and towns, and drives most of the necessities and conveniences in our homes.

Power failures have many causes: storms, earthquakes, extreme heat, construction mishaps, and severe weather to name a few.

On this page you will find general safety tips, information, and materials to help you prepare for and cope with sudden loss of power or an electrical blackout.

Topics On This Page:

- Heating, Lighting & Cooking
- Food Safety
- Drinking Water Safety
- Extreme Heat and Cold
- Avoid Carbon Monoxide
- Using Generators

- View our Emergency Power Generators Page for detailed use of a generator and where to purchase.

Topics On This Page:

- Heating, Lighting & Cooking
- Food Safety
- Drinking Water Safety
- Extreme Heat and Cold
- Avoid Carbon Monoxide
- Using Generators

- View our Emergency Power Generators Page for detailed use of a generator and where to purchase.

Heating, Lighting & Cooking

  • Heating during a power outage:
    Use Fireplace, wood stove, or Kerosene heater

  • Lighting during a power outage:
    Use battery-powered flashlights or lanterns rather than candles,
    if possible.
    *Never leave lit candles unattended.
  • Cooking during a power failure:
    Emergency cook stove.
    Charcoal or gas grill. (Outdoors Only)
    *Never use a charcoal or gas grill indoors — the fumes are deadly.

    If you have a gas kitchen range: (light top burners with match,
    electronic ignition will not work without power).
    *Be sure there is no damage to fuel lines before lighting any appliance.

Having a backup generator to assist in your - Heating, Lighting, and Cooking...
will be worth it's weight in gold when the time comes that you need to use it!

Here are a couple of good sources for generators:

Solar Generators - Highly Recommended Solar Generators
Gas Generators - A Large Selection of Gas Generators

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Food Safety

If the power is out for less than 2 hours, then the food in your refrigerator and freezer will be safe to consume. During a power outage, keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to keep food cold for longer.

If the power is out for longer than 2 hours, follow the guidelines below:

  • For the Freezer section: A freezer that is half full will hold food safely for up to 24 hours. A full freezer will hold food safely for 48 hours. Do not open the freezer door if you can avoid it.
  • For the Refrigerated section: Pack milk, other dairy products, meat, fish, eggs, gravy, and spoilable leftovers into a cooler surrounded by ice. Inexpensive Styrofoam coolers are fine for this purpose. If no cooler is available and you have access to ice, put ice inside your refrigerator.
  • Use a food thermometer to check the temperature of your food right before you cook or eat it. Throw away any food that has a temperature of more than 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
For guidelines on Food Safety After a Power Outage, American Red Cross provides tips on safely storing your food and a chart to help you determine if your food is still safe. View or Print Food Safety In A Power Outage Guide

*Adobe Acrobat Reader required to open guide: Free Adobe Download

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Drinking Water Safety

During a power outage, water purification systems may not be functioning fully. Safe water for drinking, cooking, and personal hygiene includes bottled, boiled, or treated water. Your state, local, or tribal health department can make specific recommendations for boiling or treating water in your area. Here are some general rules concerning water for drinking, cooking, and personal hygiene. Remember:

  • Do not use contaminated water to wash dishes, brush your teeth, wash and prepare food, wash your hands, make ice, or make baby formula. If possible, use baby formula that does not need to have water added.
  • You can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to wash your hands.
  • If you use bottled water, be sure it came from a safe source. If you do not know that the water came from a safe source, you should boil or treat it before you use it. Use only bottled, boiled, or treated water until your supply is tested and found safe.
  • Boiling water, when practical, is the preferred way to kill harmful bacteria and parasites. Bringing water to a rolling boil
    for 1 minute will kill most organisms.
  • When boiling water is not practical, you can treat water with chlorine tablets, iodine tablets, or unscented household chlorine bleach (5.25% sodium hypochlorite):
  • If you use chlorine tablets or iodine tablets, follow the directions that come with the tablets.
  • If you use household chlorine bleach, add 1/8 teaspoon (~0.75 mL) of bleach per gallon of water if the water is clear.
  • For cloudy water, add 1/4 teaspoon (~1.50 mL) of bleach per gallon. Mix the solution thoroughly and let it stand for about 30 minutes before using it.
  • Note: Treating water with chlorine tablets, iodine tablets, or liquid bleach will not kill parasitic organisms.

Use a bleach solution to rinse water containers before reusing them. Use water storage tanks and other types of containers with caution. For example, fire truck storage tanks and previously used cans or bottles may be contaminated with microbes or chemicals. Do not rely on untested devices for decontaminating water.

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Extreme Heat and Cold

(*The following procedures are not substitutes for proper medical care.)

Heat -

Be aware of yours and others’ risk for heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps and fainting. To avoid heat stress, you should:

  • Drink a glass of fluid every 15 to 20 minutes and at least one gallon each day.
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine. They both dehydrate the body.
  • Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.
  • Take frequent cool showers or baths.
  • If you feel dizzy, weak, or overheated, go to a cool place. Sit or lie down, drink water, and wash your face with cool water. If you don't feel better soon, get medical help quickly.
  • Work during cooler hours of the day when possible, or distribute the workload evenly throughout the day.
Cold -

Serious health problems can result from prolonged exposure to the cold. The most common cold-related problems are hypothermia and frostbite.

Hypothermia is a medical emergency and frostbite should be evaluated by a health care provider.

Recognizing Hypothermia

Warnings signs of hypothermia:

  • shivering, exhaustion
  • confusion, fumbling hands
  • memory loss, slurred speech
  • drowsiness Infants:
  • bright red, cold skin
  • very low energy
Recognizing Frostbite

At the first signs of redness or pain in any skin area, get out of the cold or protect any exposed skin—frostbite may be beginning. Any of the following signs may indicate frostbite:

  • A white or grayish-yellow skin area
  • Skin that feels unusually firm or waxy
  • Numbness: A victim is often unaware of frostbite until someone else points it out because the frozen tissues are numb.
What to Do

If you notice any of these signs, take the person’s temperature. If it is below 95°, the situation is an emergency—get medical attention immediately. If medical care is not available, begin warming the person, as follows:

  • Get the victim into a warm room or shelter.
  • If the victim has on any wet clothing, remove it.
  • Warm the center of the body first—chest, neck, head, and groin—using an electric blanket, if available. Or use skin-to-skin contact under loose, dry layers of blankets, clothing, towels, or sheets.
  • Warm beverages can help increase the body temperature, but do not give alcoholic beverages. Do not try to give beverages to an unconscious person.
  • After body temperature has increased, keep the person dry and wrapped in a warm blanket, including the head and neck.
  • Hypothermia: Get medical attention as soon as possible.
  • Frostbite: Should be evaluated by a health care provider.

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Avoid Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide is a highly poisonous gas that is colorless, odorless, tasteless and virtually impossible to detect. Avoid carbon monoxide poisoning by knowing how to use a generator safely, preferably before a Power Outage occurs.

NEVER operate a generator in enclosed or partially enclosed spaces. Use carbon monoxide detectors in nearby enclosed spaces to monitor levels. Generators can produce high levels of carbon monoxide very quickly, which can be deadly. (Details on safely using generators below)

Common sources of carbon monoxide in the home include malfunctioning fuel-burning appliances such as hot-air furnaces, space heaters and natural gas ranges. A power outage can sometimes cause a malfunction. It is wise to have your appliances checked by a professional after a power outage incident. Other sources are woodstoves, charcoal grills, motor vehicle engines, fireplaces and even burning cigarettes.

Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning:

The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are similar to the flu. A person may experience headaches, dizziness, weakness, sleepiness, nausea, confusion, tightness of the chest, fluttering of the heart, redness of the skin and loss of muscle control. If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning, immediately go outside and breathe deeply. If symptoms are severe, get medical attention immediately.

Using Generators

Go to the Emergency Power Generators Page for information on using generators, how to be safe when using generators, and recommended generator retailers.

Free guides, information, and new technology links:

Emergency Power Outage Guide:
Free power outage guide from the American Red Cross.

After an Emergency and Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Fact Sheet
CDC's National Center for Environmental Health [NCEH].

Electrical Safety Foundation International
Visit ESFI site.

(Adobe Reader required to open guides: Free Adobe Download)

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