How to Prepare Your House for Blackouts

A small flame from a candle in a blackout.

Power outages can create a lot of havoc in a community. Not only do you lose the basic functions of your home when the electricity goes out, but it can cost you a lot of money if you are not properly prepared. Here is a quick guide on what to do before, during, and after a blackout.

Preparing for a Blackout

Go around the house and make a checklist of everything that's running on electricity. This includes appliances like refrigerators and freezers, and medical devices. If the device can use batteries as a backup power supply, make sure you have plenty on stock in case of an extended blackout. For refrigerated prescriptions, check how long they can tolerate higher temperatures. If your life depends on the medication, consider purchasing a smaller refrigerator with a battery backup to keep them cool in times of emergency. You should also install a thermometer in your refrigerator, so you know exactly how hot it got during the power outage.

Make sure all of your safety equipment inside the home can withstand an extended blackout. This includes smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. These safety devices should have a battery backup that is checked on a regular basis. You should connect your cell phone with weather alerts or invest in a battery-operated weather radio. Weather alerts can help you anticipate power outages and inform you how long the weather event will last. Make sure your cell phone is always charged and ready to go.

Supplies to Have on Hand in Case of a Blackout

A selection of batteries in preparation for a blackout.

Having supplies on hand before a power outage can be a real life-saver. Stocking up also avoids having to run to the store in the event of a blackout. Supplies you should have on hand include:

  • Water
  • Nonperishable food
  • Flashlights (one for each family member)
  • Batteries
  • Candles
  • Matches

In addition to these supplies, you should always keep your electronics fully charged and make sure your car’s gas tank is close to full. You do not want to be in a position where you have to go somewhere to buy something during an emergency (especially if your car's gas tank is on empty). More often than not, supplies will not be available during a time of crisis.

How to Deal With a Blackout Once it Occurs

Once a power outage hits, there are steps you should take to prevent loss. The average refrigerator will remain cold for about four hours, but you have to make sure the doors are kept shut tightly. If your freezer is full, the food inside should be good for around 48 hours. If the outage lasts longer than that, you can always fill a cooler with ice to keep things from going bad in the short term. You should also use battery-operated devices, like flashlights and cell phones, as little as possible to conserve their energy.

Safety During a Blackout

A red generator on a driveway.

Never use gas powered machines inside the house because it can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. If you plug an appliance into a generator, make sure the generator is outside and away from exterior windows. You should also avoid using a gas stove to heat a room as this can lead to a dangerous situation. Unplug sensitive electronic equipment as sudden spikes in electricity can damage computer components. In the event of an extended power outage, go to your local community center to warm up or keep cool. You can also check in on neighbors to see how they are doing, especially if they are older or have small children.

What to Do When the Power Returns After a Blackout

Once the power outage is over, open the refrigerator and check the condition of your food. If the food has been in temperatures above 40 degrees for over two hours, then you should throw it away. For medications, throw anything out if the power has been off for over 24 hours, unless the prescription says otherwise. Replenish your blackout supplies as necessary.