The Power is Out—Now What?

April 2024

Electrical linemen working on a power pole from a cherry picker, repairing and moving electrical service lines.

A power outage can happen at any time. Fall and winter bring windstorms and inclement weather, where high winds, ice, and snow can cause more frequent outages. However, summer heat and wildfires also pose a similar risk of outages and local service issues. Plus, as wildfire season lasts longer, there’s a greater chance of experiencing public safety power shutoffs (PSPS).

Anticipating the what-ifs of going without power for extended periods of time is safer and gives a little added peace of mind too. Here are some ways to prepare yourself, your family, your home, and even your pets for a power outage.

A family works together to plan for a natural disaster or weather emergency with an emergency kit.

Prepare Your Home for a Power Outage

  1. Set up a support network of people who can help you stay in your home or evacuate. Make a paper copy of your contact list.
  2. Sign up for alert systems through your city, county, and power company so you can receive email and text updates. Keep chargers/batteries for your cell phones and computers on hand.
  3. Stock up on a two-week supply of nonperishable food and water. Plan on using coolers and ice to extend food refrigeration. Keep a thermometer in the fridge, freezer, or cooler to monitor food temperature.
  4. Have frozen cold packs or water frozen in plastic bags or bottles ready in your freezer.
  5. Have a hand crank radio and multipurpose tool handy.
  6. Have five to seven days of food and water on hand for each of your pets.

Watch our Prep for a Power Outage video for more details about getting your home ready for an outage and building a home emergency kit.

What to Do During a Power Outage

  1. Check local weather reports and keep your cell phone charged to receive updates.
  2. Let people in your network know that you’re OK and check on them as well.
  3. To keep food cool, avoid opening your refrigerator and freezer. An unopened refrigerator can keep foods cold for up to four hours. A full freezer will stay cold for about 48 hours if the door remains closed.
  4. Unplug your appliances and electronics to avoid power overloads or damage from power surges. Use flashlights, not candles.
  5. To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, don’t bring outdoor stoves or propane heaters inside or use your gas stove to heat your home. If you use a generator, keep it outside in a well-ventilated area away from windows.
  6. Finally, evacuate your home if it’s too hot or too cold. Your community should provide warming and cooling centers and power-charging stations.

A downed power line pole stretches across a road, surrounded by broken tree limbs.

Stay Safe After a Power Outage

  1. Stay at least 35 feet away from fallen power lines and anything they’re touching. Call 911 and let them know about the downed lines right away.
  2. Avoid electrical shock: Don’t go into flooded areas or use any electrical equipment or electronics that may have been submerged.

Always Be Prepared

Mother Nature can be so unpredictable. But if you’re prepared, you won’t feel powerless when the power goes out. Whether it’s an outage from weather, local service issues, or a public safety power shutoff due to wildfires, you want to be ready.

Learn more about creating a home emergency kit


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