Tips on how to be prepared for a power outage

If you follow me on Facebook, you know that we lost our power for 4 days. Not so fun, and very unexpected. What was supposed to be a thunderstorm, turned into a derecho storm. The strong winds brought down a lot of trees and power lines in our area.

If you’ve been a reader here for a while, you may remember that in the fall we lost power for 5 days from a hurricane. Most of the time though, if we lose power, it’s back on within 24 hours.

Yvonne commented on my Facebook post that she would love to hear strategies for coping with these situations. We have learned a lot about dealing with power outages over the past several years, so I thought I would pass along some tips. Being as prepared as you can be helps a lot. Some of these are in the obvious category, but I’ll include them anyway.

Also, when our power goes out, we also lose our running water from our well, so I’ve included a few tips related to this issue as well.

1. Fill old juice/soda bottles with water, and then keep them in the freezer.

This first tip is one from my mom. I’m putting it first because I want to make sure I remember to do this! I think it would have really helped us. It’s like having your own ice blocks handy. These can also be moved to a cooler, if needed.

2. Flashlights

Have at least one per floor/living area or per person. We also have a worklight just like this Cooper Lighting LED120 35 LED Rechargeable Worklight (see the picture at the top of the post). It can act as a regular flashlight or act as an area light. It has a magnet clip and stays on the side of our refrigerator until we need it.

3. Save the power outage reporting phone number for your power company in your cell phone.

This makes it easy to report the outage quickly and get outage updates.

4. Have at least one cooler to help keep important food cold, or to transport food to another location.

5. Generator

If you can afford one and have the space, this would be great to have. We don’t have one, but several of our neighbors do. We do have an extra-long outdoor extension cord and have plugged our sump pump into a kind neighbor’s generator to keep our basement from flooding.

6. Have extra batteries for flashlights and radios.

We also have this Black & Decker VEC026BD Electromate 400 Jump-Starter with Built-In Air Compressor. It’s basically a portable battery pack that we mostly use for my husband’s CPAP machine  (for sleep apnea), but it is also great for charging cell phones and laptop computers. It will only last us about one night, though, without needing to be recharged.

7. Grill (and propane tanks/charcoal)

Cook your food before it goes to waste!

8. Extra gas for cars (or don’t let cars be on empty)

When the power outage is widespread, like it was for us this time, getting gasoline can be a challenge! Most gas stations were closed in our area, so the few that were open had crazy lines and wait times, and were running out of gas themselves.

9. Have canned food and can opener on hand

10. A safe heat source

We don’t usually lose our power in the winter, but when we do, I’m glad we have a wood burning fireplace.

11. Find a friend or family member with power!

When we lost our power in the fall, the weather was nice, so we stuck it out here at the house for 4 of the 5 days before staying at a friend’s house. We did catch a shower and recharge batteries/cell phones at another friend’s house before that. This time around, we were having hot, hot, 100 degree weather, so after the first day, we stayed with some out of town friends, plus one night at my parent’s house after they got their power back. We feel very blessed to have wonderful friends and family!

Losing running water due to power outage

1. Fill the tub with water

When I know a bad storm is coming and we might lose power, I start filling the tub. This water can be used to manually flush the toilets.

2. Keep extra water on hand

There are lots of recommendations about how much to keep. We usually only keep about 2 gallons, plus I fill some other containers when I know a bad storm is coming. Edit: When we know a really bad storm is coming, we store more water (10+ gallons).

3. Paper plates, napkins, cups, plastic forks/spoons, etc.

It’s hard to do lots of dishes when you don’t have running water.

4. Have baby wipes, antibacterial hand wipes, and hand sanitizer available.

Especially in the bathroom!

I’m not an expert on this topic. I’m just sharing what I’ve learned from experience. Do you lose your power very often? Do you have any tips to share?

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12 Comments

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12 Responses to Tips on how to be prepared for a power outage

  1. Farm Girl

    Thank you for sharing your tips – very timely!

    Oil burning lanterns are great for light and they also provide a little heat for winter outages. They are much safer than candles. We have a couple lanterns and keep extra oil on hand, just in case…

    • Elizabeth

      Yes! Thanks for adding that one! I do have one of those, and you are reminding me that I need to pick up some oil.

  2. chris k

    Solar lights are great to use indoors, also. Leave them outside in the day to “charge” and bring them inside at night. Flameless candles are great, too, to have on hand. They can be used as night lights w/ no worry of fire.

  3. This is a helpful post! You have some great ideas here!

  4. Meg

    These are so good! We haven’t lost power for days on end since the hurricane of ’08, so I’ve forgotten some of these things (like freezing the water in bottles — smart!)

  5. Kimberly

    We live on a boat and often have our water freeze in the winter. Knowing the weather forcast is very helpful. that way, we can make sure all the laundry and dishes are done. We also make sure our 300 gallon water tank is full for showers. Having meals prepared that do not require alot of mess and pot-dirtying is helpful, too.

    • Elizabeth

      Great tips, Kimberly! I agree that having laundry and dishes caught up is a huge help! It’s also a task I rarely accomplish! 😉

  6. WilliamB

    1) To clear up one thing: put bottles of water in your freezer BEFORE the power goes out – ie, do it as a matter of course. If you do that after the power goes out, your freezer will just warm up that much faster.

    1A) Don’t forget to leave some space for the ice to expand.

    2) In addition to keeping utility numbers on your cell phone, post them somewhere on paper. (Remember paper? That stuff that doesn’t need electricity to work?) Cell phones can run out of juice and then you’re still stuck.

    3) Have at least one battery-run radio on hand, and know where it is. I like the hand-cranked emergency systems: torch flashlight, radio, emergency band receiver, etc.

    4) One’s power cord for a generator needs to be heavy-duty *and* rated indoor/outdoor – because we all know that running a generator indoors is a lethal risk, right? Generators generate carbon monoxide as well as electricity.

    5) If you have gas to your house, know where the cut-off valve is.

    BTDT, have the t-shirt.

  7. Thanks for the tips!

    Fortunately, we have only had one power outage that last longer… about 24 hours. I remember I could have prepare dinner with grocery in the fridge since we have gas stove. But I do not dare to open the fridge for fear that the food inside would go bad as I would bring warm air in.

    What do you do with the food from the fridge? How long could those last?

    • Elizabeth

      Sorry it’s taken me a while to get back to you on this! The food in the fridge:
      – put it into coolers and/or move it to someone else’s house
      – add ice to the fridge to keep the food cool
      -eat it if it is still good
      -depending on what you are able to do and how long the outage lasts, some of it may end up in the trash

      How long the food can last depends on so many factors,including what type of food it is and how long the outage lasts. Really it depends on how long the fridge is in a dangerous temperature range (not cold enough). I think it’s best to have a “When in doubt, throw it out” policy.

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