It can be unsettling when your power goes out unexpectedly. Whether you’re dealing with a major weather-related event or a different type of outage, knowing what to do can mean the difference between an inconvenience and a lot of stress. The main goal is to stay calm and focus on keeping yourself, your family, your pets, and your home safe.
A power outage can happen anytime, so it’s important to know what to do if you have one. We’ve put together eight things to do when the power goes out, no matter what the cause:
What to do when the power goes out
1. Confirm the power is out
While this may seem obvious, you need to figure out if this is a local event or something centralized to your home, like a blown fuse. Check your main electric panel to see if a breaker tripped. If you don’t have any tripped circuit breakers, the problem is likely affecting a broader area. Are the streetlights out? Are the other houses dark? Check with your neighbors to see if they are experiencing the same issue.
2. Report the outage
Call your utility company and report the outage so they are aware of the situation and can begin to fix it. They’ll be able to provide you with the estimated restoration time and any necessary steps you need to take.
3. Find an alternate light source
Locate a flashlight or battery-powered lantern rather than candles. While candles are the traditional choice, they pose a fire hazard, especially if used in an unattended area. For a convenient option, you can buy light bulbs with built-in batteries that stay charged in the light sockets until needed.
4. Unplug your appliances
Turn off and unplug sensitive electronics (TVs, computers, tablets) and appliances to protect them from power surges when the power is restored. It doesn’t matter if the power is out for a few minutes or a few days; the risk of damage is the same. Having too many large appliances plugged in could trip your electrical breakers.
5. Keep your fridge and freezer closed
Your food will stay coldest and safest if you keep the fridge and freezer closed while the power is off. Opening the doors allows the cold air to escape, causing your food to spoil faster and dangerous bacteria to grow. Food needs to remain at 40 degrees or below to stay safe. If you keep them closed, your fridge should maintain its cold temperature for about fours and your freezer for up to 48 hours without power.
When in doubt, throw it out. If at any point your food is above 40 degrees for two hours or more, throw it away. Eating food not kept at the proper temperature may cause illness, even when thoroughly cooked.
6. Keep the family safe and comfortable
Weather is a frequent cause of power outages, and the conditions will determine what steps you need to take to stay warm or cool.
If the electricity goes out in the summer, take the following steps:
- Gather family and pets in a basement or other cool location
- Wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing
- Stay hydrated
- Open windows that aren’t facing the sun to let in a breeze
- Close curtains or blinds to block out the heat from the sun
If you have a power outage during the winter, do the following:
- Dress in multiple layers to maintain body heat
- Gather everyone in a small room with fewer windows
- Minimize drafts by rolling up towels around windows and exterior doors
- Bundle up with blankets and sleeping bags
- Never use an oven or stove to heat your home
Give extra consideration to infants, toddlers, older people, and those with medical conditions.
7. Use backup power sources
Many people turn to power generators when dealing with an outage. They can keep your fridge going and provide power for critical medical equipment. If you have an alternative power source like a generator, ensure it’s properly installed and operated according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Gas- and diesel-powered generators can be dangerous if misused and should always be outside to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
8. Stay in communication
Communication during a power outage is essential for your comfort, safety, planning, and peace of mind. Use a power bank or solar charger to keep your cell phone charged. Local utilities often provide text alerts, so you’ll need your phone to stay on top of any updates.
Get to know your neighbors and check in with them if the power goes out. They may be elderly or vulnerable and need assistance or have information and updates you haven’t received. There’s an added sense of security knowing others are concerned for your well-being.
Allen Plan, Urban Courtyard Homes Collection, Easton Park, Austin, Texas
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