We rely on electricity for all aspects of our lives. When it goes away, so do climate control, food storage and preparation, lights, and many forms of communication. Many times, a large-scale power outage is one of several secondary emergencies following a major disaster like a tornado, winter storm, or earthquake. If power lines are down over a large area, it may take days or even weeks for crews to get the power back on (a fact long-time Lexingtonians will recall from the 2003 and 2009 ice storms). Throughout October, we’ll be looking at ways to prepare for power outages and minimize their impact on our safety and comfort.
As with any other emergency, our response to a power outage gets better if we plan for it. Planning lets us think through actions and make decisions ahead of time, when we have the leisure to do research, experiment to see what works and what doesn’t, and work without other pressures. As part of your overall emergency planning, you can take some small preparedness actions that will pay large dividends in an extended outage.
As part of your normal routine…
- Keep power outage information links, apps, and contact numbers on your phone.
- Have at least one – and maybe two – power bank batteries so you can charge your phone several times if the power goes out.
- If you have empty space in your freezer, fill it with containers of water. Ice warms slower than air does, so a full freezer stays cold longer. This can fill a dual role as part of your emergency water reserve.
- Know how to use the manual release on your garage door so you can get your car out of the garage when the automatic opener is inoperable.
- Drive off the top half of your car’s gas tank – fill up when the needle is on ½, not E. Gas stations rely on electricity to run their pumps, so you may be unable to get gas during a large-scale outage.
- If you have special medical equipment needs like an oxygen generator or dialysis machine, notify your power company. This will help them prioritize restoring power to your home.
- Get an NOAA Weather Radio with battery backup. Some radios even have a built-in hand-crank generator to keep its batteries charged.
- Have flashlights and batteries for each family member. LED lanterns are a good option for general lighting, as they tend to last longer than other types of lanterns.
- Try NOT to use candles for lighting. Candles can be a fire hazard.
- Buy a food thermometer. Use it to test food that was in the refrigerator or freezer to make sure it’s still safe to eat. Here’s a chart on what to keep and what to toss if the power is off for more than a few hours.
- Have a family emergency kit that has supplies for a variety of emergencies. Here’s the checklist.
- Make sure that fireplaces, wood stoves, and other alternative heating devices are in good shape and safe operating condition. If you use a heating device that burns fuel, make sure you have a carbon monoxide detector in the room.
- Stock up on food, drinks and snacks that don’t need to be heated or cooked. Make sure it’s something you LIKE to eat.
Report the outage to the utility company. Don’t assume they know. In many cases, you can text Kentucky Utilities, Blue Grass Electric or other utility companies with outage information. Many utilities have phone apps to make this easy. Download your utility’s app and know how to use it.
Unplug expensive electronics and turn off power strips. Your home may receive power spikes when the power comes back on, which can damage anything that’s plugged in at the time.
Keep food cold. Don’t open freezers or refrigerators any more than necessary.
Stay aware with a battery-powered or hand-cranked/solar emergency radio.
Stay in one room of your home. Block it off with drapes or blankets over doorways. It’s easier to stay warm in one room.
Have books, playing cards, or board games to stay occupied.
Have a plan in case you do need to relocate. Know where you’d go in case you do need to get out and warm up for a while or a day to two.
Check on neighbors to make sure they’re OK.