Take care of first things first:
- Turn off or unplug all unnecessary or sensitive electric equipment (electric stove, computers, TV, sound systems) so they won’t be damaged by an electrical surge or spike when the power is restored.
- Leave one light switched on so you’ll know when the power comes back on.
- If it’s night, use flashlights and candles for illumination.
- If there’s no reason to stay up, go to bed and stay there until morning.
- If someone in your home is dependent on electric-powered life support equipment, provide a backup power supply in your emergency preparedness plan.
- Keep a non-cordless phone in your home, because it is likely to work even during a power outage.
- Perishable food in the fridge will be okay for a day if you don’t open it, and the freezer will be okay for 2 days unopened.
- Plan meals so you eat first those foods that will spoil without refrigeration, then start on what’s in the freezer.
- If it looks like the power outage is going to last multiple days (or weeks), use camp coolers and blocks of ice to keep perishable foods cold.
- Provide extra fresh air ventilation if you cook with a camp stove, but do not use it to provide space heat.
- Never use a BBQ, hibachi, or open fire in the house.
- Cook outdoors on an open fire, on a propane grill or using Dutch ovens and briquettes.
- If you have a fireplace insert with an iron top, you can cook on that.
- Discard unsafe foods that have a foul odor, color or texture. Fuzz growing on the food is a bad sign.
- A power outage during extremely cold weather is the most serious kind, because houses quickly cool down when the furnace won’t operate.
- An emergency power generator (operate outdoors), and a long extension cord leading directly to a few small electric space heaters can keep a room warm as long as the fuel lasts.
- Use the fireplace if you have one, and put on warm clothes.
- Wrap up in blankets or sleeping bags.
- Mild exercise will help keep you warm, but don’t exercise to the point that you perspire. Keep your clothing dry at all cost.
- Do not use open flame appliances for space heating, due to the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning.
- If it looks like the outage is going to be prolonged, one alternative is to evacuate to an unaffected area. Monitor reports of the outage on a battery operated radio, so you’ll know where to go.
Hot weather issues — Storms and accidents are responsible for most power outages. But in hot regions, a major power outage can be caused by the system being overtaxed due to excessive loads from things like air conditioners all being used at the same time. And a heat wave can be a deadly affair when the air conditioner doesn’t work. Remember the August 2003 heat wave in Europe that killed more than 40,000 people (15,000 in France alone)? The elderly, the very young, and the infirm are most at risk during heat-related power outages.
To keep yourself cool:
- Open windows on the shaded side of the house, for cross ventilation.
- Use exterior shades to block sun from hitting windows on the sunny side of the house.
- Use a spray bottle of water to cool yourself with a veil of mist.
- Be a kid again; play in the sprinklers.
- Drink plenty of water, and slow your pace to reduce perspiration or overheating.