Power Outages happen from time to time due to weather events or issues with the electrical grid. We have all experienced them once in a while. Rolling blackouts have been a relatively new event in the last twenty years. Residents of California have experienced them consistently for at least two years of the writing of this article. Electrical companies intentionally do rolling blackouts to reduce the load of the grid. Summer is a particularly tough time for the grid, and electrical companies need to ensure the power lines are not overloaded in the hot temperatures. However, rolling blackouts can happen in the winter when a state is particularly hit hard with winter weather and the grid has been damaged.
Rolling blackouts and power outages can last for an hour or days. While these events are inconvenient and sometimes a bit scary, they can be handled well by being prepared and having a plan. It would be best if you discussed these events with everyone in the household so they understand what they need to do when it happens. You can assign everyone roles in case this happens or have a general plan of what everyone needs to do.
First, you must stay calm when a power outage occurs. This is not an EMP or a CME, just a power outage. When it happens, take a couple of minutes to assess what needs to be done and start implementing your plan.
When a power outage or a rolling blackout occurs, everyone needs to walk around the house and unplug everything they can reach, especially electronics. Power surges can happen when the power first comes back on and you can lose a lot of electronics quickly if you don’t do this. I would also recommend plugging any electronics into a surge protector power strip to minimize the damage.
If your cell phone is not charged, you need to stop using your cell phone. You don’t know how long your phone will last or how long the power will be out. If you have a solar charger or an external battery charger, make sure your phone is plugged in and charged. We are accustomed to using our phones for everything, including mindless entertainment, which can quickly deplete the battery. You need to save your phone for calls, emergencies, and updates from the electrical company. I would also make sure to have a battery-powered radio to be able to listen to the news or any updates concerning the power outage or the weather.
You want to keep the food safe and keeping the refrigerator and freezer doors closed will help ensure that. You also need to ensure that everyone knows not to open the refrigerator or the freezer until the power comes back. Depending on how long the outage lasts, it will probably not be a problem unless the outage lasts longer than four hours.
Depending on long the power outage lasts, you will need to think about food. I have talked before about having quick, easy, shelf-stable foods ready to eat. This is the time to pull this stored food out. Food can be comforting to people, especially to little ones so giving them snacks and a juice box can help the power outage seem a little less scary.
If the power outage lasts longer than a couple of hours, you may need to think about meals. I encourage people to have a meal plan using their food storage so a meal will be already planned for events like this. Again, shelf-stable foods will be handy to have on hand to make a meal. If you want to make a hot meal, having a grill or a camp stove ready to go will help bring a hot meal to the table which also can be a comfort to the family.
Water is vital to everyone. You should have a minimum of one gallon of water a day per person in your household. I would recommend more for cooking, cleaning, washing hands, and more. However, you will still need more water. You can be creative in how you use water to reduce your usage. You can fill glass jars with drinking water and five-gallon buckets for non-potable water.
If you have pets or livestock, you will need more water on hand. Pets need water and will get thirstier when they are hot. You should have at least one gallon of water a day on hand for them, but I recommend a minimum of three gallons, especially for larger dogs. Livestock will also need more than just a gallon of water a day. You should always ensure their water is topped off or replaced every morning and night when the power is on. Having extra water on hand can be difficult for larger livestock, but not impossible. You can fill clean five-gallon buckets with water or have food-grade 55-gallon drums to keep the livestock watered. You can also use food-grade IBC totes that can hold 110 – 550 gallons of water to keep them watered. If you are using drums or totes, you need a way to get the water out. Installing a spigot or a faucet at the bottom will help drain the water more efficiently.
If the power outage occurs at night or lasts into the night, you will want some non-electric light choices to be able to see. Light is comforting especially at night when everything may seem too quiet. Flashlights and headlamps are also a good choice. I like to use battery-operated camping lanterns because they light up an area and can be hung if needed. Candles, solar lights, battery-operated lights, and other options are always good to have on hand too. Just be sure to have extra batteries on hand to keep them powered.
You may want to invest in a generator for your electrical needs during a power outage. I would definitely recommend this if you have an oxygen tank or other medically necessary equipment that you have to keep running. You would have an easier time keeping food from spoiling by plugging in the refrigerator or freezer. You can also run some small heaters in the winter to keep a room warm or fans in the summer to stay cool. If you have a higher-watt generator, you may be able to keep your central air running or power your water system if you have a well. In addition to having a generator, you must keep plenty of fuel and extension cords on hand. Generators need to run outside the home so you will need long extension cords to reach the generator.
Entertainment also needs to be thought about in a power outage. While you may think this would be a no-brainer, you need to be able to give options for the boredom. Having some books, coloring books, card games, and more on hand for these times can make the time go by faster.
Being able to stay cool or warm during a power outage can be tricky. In the winter, you can add more clothes and blankets to stay warmer for a few hours. If you have a generator, you can run some small electric heaters. You can also run an indoor safe propane heater to keep a room warm. If you have a wood stove or a fireplace, you will have no issues.
Keeping cool can be a different story. If you have a generator and fans, you will probably stay cooler. If not, your strategy will be a little different. Closing the curtains and blinds during the day and keeping the house closed up will keep the house cooler especially if you have just lost power. It would help if you did everything possible to keep the house cool. If there is a nice breeze blowing, you can open the windows to allow the breeze to cool the home down. You can also open the windows at night to allow the cooler air in the house and close them again in the morning to keep cool.
If the situation is getting too dangerous or uncomfortable for you, you can find a place with the amenities you need. Where I live, we have services from two different electrical companies. What line you are on determines whose service you have. If you have a similar situation, you might be able to find a friend or relative’s house who has electricity to stay at while the power outage is going on. If you live in the country, you may be able to find a place in town to go to, like the library or community center. If you live in town, you may be able to go to a friend’s house in the country. If it is a warm day, going to the pool or a lake may be a great way to cool off.
This may go without saying, but be safe. Do not use products or do things to stay cool or warm that will endanger yourself or your family. If the situation is getting so dire that you are considering using items in an unsafe way, you need to call for help and services.
If there is a danger of you having a power outage or a rolling blackout in your area, try to do what you can to minimize the usage in your home. To reduce usage, you can turn off any unused appliances, electronics, lights, and more. You should turn up your thermostat to 78 degrees F if you use the air conditioning. You should turn the thermostat to 68 degrees F if you use the furnace. If you are leaving home for the day, make sure everything is shut down, turned down, shut off, and turned off before leaving home.
We have very little control over these events, but we can do what we can to keep ourselves safe and comfortable. Just be sure to have a plan to survive and thrive. I would plan on being without power for multiple hours and days. You might only be out for an hour, but it is better to be overprepared than unprepared.
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