There are all kinds of things that can cause a power outage, from animals to storms, to an overloaded power grid. Here are a few things you can do to get through through one and ready for the next!
Prep Lighting - Have LED flashlights and lanterns ready in a place you know with some glow in the dark tape on them. Head lamps are a good option, too. They not only add light, but, keep your hands free as well. It's best NOT to use candles or things with an open flame, especially with pets or children present. This can cause a fire hazard. Your cell phone can act as a light as long as the battery lasts. A portable USB battery pack can add a lot more life to the battery. *TIP: strap a headlamp to a water jug in a room. The light will be reflected even more by the water and help light up a space.
Prep Safe Space - Pick one room in the house that has few or no south side windows where everyone can gather. Cover up as many of the windows as you can with blankets and only take them off south side windows during the sunny part of the day to let in some heat. Don't use charcoal or an oven or stove for warmth. These can cause toxic fumes in the home. Also, make a list (in advance) of shelters and hotels that allow pets, in case you need to evacuate with yours.
Food Issues - Open your fridge or freezer only when absolutely necessary. Plan ahead to minimize the time the door is open. Keeping the doors closed can keep food safe for hours. A full freezer will keep its temp for 48 hours or if half full 24 hours. If it's 40 degrees or less outside, store food outside, but have a thermometer to monitor the temperature. Always have frozen ice packs in your freezer so they can be placed in a cooler or the fridge to keep things cool during an outage. Be careful what you eat. Eat things you know won't spoil easily. Canned vegetables, beans and soups will all be okay. If you have one, cook on your wood stove. Heat canned soup and boil water for tea and instant coffee. If it’s cold enough outside, fill clean plastic milk jugs with water and put them outside to freeze solid. Put these jugs into coolers, which can serve as temporary refrigerators for food supplies. *TIP: Never use a grill indoors to cook, however if the weather allows, grill outside!
Water Problems - When extreme weather threatens, fill up your bathtub with water (for washing and flushing). Note: If you expect temperatures to drop below freezing in your house, avoid filling up the tub, as you could end up with a frozen (and cracked) bathtub. Also, you can fill up buckets with snow and bring it in to melt for water.
Car Safety - Keep your vehicle’s gas tank at least half full! Gas stations rely on electricity to power their pumps. Never drive across power lines outside. Never! If bad weather is threatening, don't park your car under trees and remove any unsafe branches well ahead of any bad weather.
Generators & Tech Safety - Generators can keep your home with power for a long time, so investing in one can be a good idea, but don't run them inside the house, they can put out poisonous fumes. Also, be sure to keep your cell phone charged and ready to go. If there are power surges, unplug any appliances you think could be damaged by one (like your computers or other devices). A surge protector helps to keep your tech gear safe as well.
Food Safety - When in doubt, throw it out! Throw out any perishable foods that have been exposed to temperatures above 40°F for more than two hours. If you’re unsure whether something is still good, it’s better to just throw the item out and not risk becoming ill.
Pick Up, Recharge & Replace - Make sure you've put out any candles and kerosene lamps you may have used and recharge batteries in your flashlights, headlamps and any other emergency devices you have used. Put back all the blankets, extra clothing and other items as well. Make sure all your other emergency gear gets back where it belongs so it is ready for the next emergency you may have.