Power Outages

Power Outage Composite

Preparing for Possible Power Outages

  • Pre-place flashlights and extra batteries on every floor of the residence/business. Carry small personal flashlights in vehicles, on key rings, in purses/briefcases, in back-packs etc. if power outages should occur in public areas.
  • Check with an electrician in advance to determine the appropriate generator size/power capabilities for safe use at your home; carefully read manufacturer's instructions for each generator unit to avoid potential electrical shock or electrocution.
  • Install and/or regularly check carbon monoxide detectors to minimize risk of CO poisoning if using generators on your property .
  • Secure heavy-duty, out-door rated power cords. Make sure these cords have no cuts/tears and that prongs/grounding pins are clean and are in good condition. To prevent "back feed" and serious injury to home occupants as well as utility workers, never connect a generator to a home's electrical system/panel.
  • Safely store enough fuel to operate generators (to sustain essential household functions for up to a week).
  • Determine which appliances can be safely unplugged during a power outage. For items that cannot be unplugged, secure heavy-duty power strips in advance to minimize the risk of surges/fire when electricity is restored.
  • If special electrical equipment is essential to sustain health, ensure your home has adequate back-up systems in place. Contact local health service providers and/or emergency managers if you need assistance in determining what equipment you would need case of long-term power outages.
  • Obtain sturdy coolers, capable of keeping ice and food frozen for multiple days and store them in easy to access locations. Freeze water in plastic containers in advance.
  • Make sure vehicles are full of fuel; obtain and safely store extra fuel in case the need arises to travel or to use a vehicle's battery for charging cell phones and electronic devices. Bear in mind that local filling stations may not be operational.
  • Keep phone chargers in your automobile to ensure you have adequate communication and a means of receiving emergency information.
  • Have a communication plan (PDF) and family emergency plan; determine in advance any special needs your family, neighbors, or pets may have during a power outage.
  • Keep a simple, non-electrical phone which can be plugged into a phone jack for continued telephone communications during power outages that persist for extended periods.
  • To minimize the possibility of water pipes freezing and bursting, insulate pipes well, especially those near outer walls and doors. Make plans in advance as to how to safely keep those sections of your home warm during power outages. Never use open flame to thaw pipes.
Safety  Measures During Power Outages
  • Take measures to keep food and temperature-sensitive medications cold. Surround food with ice and place in a sealed freezer, cooler or refrigerator. An unopened refrigerator will keep food cold for up to four hours; a sealed freezer can sustain its temperature for up to two days. 
  • Obtain a thermometer to ensure food items are kept within temperature. Do not eat any food that has been exposed to temperatures above 40 degrees.
  • Turn off electronic equipment and unplug appliances to minimize the risk of surges; leave one light or electronic device on so you know when power has been restored. Use surge protectors on appliances that cannot be disconnected.
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  • Report any downed power lines to the appropriate utility company. Assume all downed power lines are live.
  • Bear in mind that ATMs and other electronic services may not be functional; carry a reasonable amount of cash to obtain the items you need should banking systems and credit card services be impacted by the outages.
  • Dispose of out-of-temperature food items in heavy-duty garbage bags, washing/sanitizing your hands after contact. Use appropriate cleaning products to wash areas contaminated by affected food items to reduce risk of food borne illnesses. View information regarding disposal of debris and household goods during a power outage.
  • Be aware that many street lights may not be functional; stop at all intersections using the same traffic rules that you would at a stop sign. Be aware that safety lights and other street lighting may not be operational; proceed slowly and be cognizant of pedestrians, downed trees, fallen power lines, and other vehicles.
Traffic Rules & Tips for Navigating Non-Functional Stop Lights
  • Come to a complete stop.
  • Drivers should proceed in the same order in which they stopped at the intersection (first car leading, followed by second to arrive, etc.).
  • Make eye contact with other drivers to ensure your vehicle is seen and your intentions to proceed or yield are communicated.
  • If more than one vehicle stops at the intersection at the same time, the driver furthest to the right should assume the right-of-way.
  • Proceed slowly through the intersection; be aware of forward movement from other drivers who may not be familiar with traffic laws.
  • Be sure to use turning signals properly.
Power Outages in Public Buildings
  • Elevators will stop automatically in the event of a power outage; doors will open if the carriage compartment is close to a floor level. Exit carefully as the compartment and floor may not directly align. Never try to exit through partially opened doors or ceiling service doors. Keep calm and press the emergency alarm button.
  • If in a public venue, and lighting is limited, proceed slowly and carefully to designated exits. Use a cell phone or personal flashlight to illuminate walking areas. Be aware of multi-level steps or potential obstacles in your path. Proceed with caution if walking across parking areas or traffic routes; take measures to make yourself visible (turn on a flashlight, hold a mirror, etc.) to minimize risk of being struck by other vehicles.
  • Be aware that automatic doors may not operate in public facilities. Look for posted instructions on how to manually, yet safely, open door units.
Safe Use of Generators & Other Heating Sources
  • Be sure to use generators safely; never place a generator within a home or near a living area. Ensure ventilation is present, even if on a deck or porch; keep generators away from windows and vents to minimize the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Check that the generator is compatible with the electrical configuration of your home. Do not plug generators into standard household outlets.
  • Keep apprised of fuel levels in generators and watch units closely for signs of overheating.
Power outages, especially during colder weather, often prompt families to use additional heating sources in homes. While effective, these units may pose potential hazards if not used properly or if not regularly maintained or monitored. The following are basic precautions families can take to ensure the safe use of internal heating devices:

Wood Stoves
  • Carefully follow the manufacturer's installation and maintenance instructions; select units with solid construction, such as plate steel or cast iron metal.
  • Check for cracks and inspect legs, hinges and door seals for smooth joints and seams.
  • Use only seasoned wood for fuel; do not use green wood, artificial logs, paper or trash.
  • Be sure to keep combustible objects at least three feet away from wood stoves.
Fire Places
  • Install stovepipe thermometers to help monitor flue temperatures.
  • Keep air inlets on open, and never restrict air supply to fireplaces or wood stoves.
  • Use fire-resistant materials on walls around fireplaces and wood burning units.
  • Keep roofs and chimney areas free of leaves, pine needles, and other debris to minimize risk of fire.
  • Never burn cardboard boxes, trash or other debris in your fireplace or wood stove.
  • Place logs at the rear of the fireplace on an adequate supporting grate prior to igniting a fire.
  • Soak hot ashes in water and place them in a metal container outside the home.
  • Citizens should only purchase heaters evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
  • Ensure the unit has a thermostat control mechanism, and an automatic shut-off feature.
  • Do not place items on top of heating units; keep combustibles at least three feet away from a heater and unplug the unit when not in use.
  • Never fill kerosene heaters with other fuel sources; only use crystal clear K-1 kerosene. Use kerosene heaters in a well-ventilated area; refill the unit outside, taking precautions to not over-fill the tank.