Lights Out — What to do when your home loses power

This past weekend, following the wind storm that ravaged the Puget Sound, you might have found yourself without power. Were you prepared? Hopefully, by now you have power, but to be better prepared for next time, follow these steps:

power outage

  1. Put together a “lights out” kit. This should contain things like flashlights, lanterns, batteries, and even candles and matches. Something else to consider might be glow sticks, which are easy to carry or wear around. When putting these items together, keep in mind that you’ll want them stored in a place you can easily find in the dark, and perhaps split up throughout the house. When everything goes dark, the last thing you want to do is try to find your way downstairs to get to your kit. For a full emergency preparedness kit, see our list.
  2. Fill up on water. Water you pull immediately after the outage will be safe to drink, but if the power outage is extensive, the water sanitation system might not continue to function. You can plug your sinks and tubs and fill them with water, and you should consider grabbing a few pitchers and filling them up, too.
  3. Unplug your electronics and appliances. Not only should you unplug your cell-phones and computers, but kitchen appliances, such as toasters, coffee pots, etc. Anything with sensitive electronic components should be unplugged to prevent a power surge, which might damage electronics or worse, start a home fire when the power comes back on. You might also have forgotten about an iron or stove burner that was on before the power went off. If you’re away from home when the power is restored, you could be coming home to an unfortunate scene. To be extra cautious, you can just switch off your main breaker. This does mean that you might not realize when power is restored, so be wary of that.
  4. Find out what you’re dealing with. Go outside and look around (if you’re not in the middle of a storm) to see how widespread the outage might be. You can also call the power company, who will likely have a recording indicating why the power is out and the estimated time before restoration. Companies like Puget Sound Energy (PSE) have an outage map on their website, that you can access through your smartphone. Lastly, turn on your emergency radio. Tune-in to an AM station, and you will likely find a station covering the widespread outage.
  5. Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed. The food in the fridge will stay cool for 4 hours, and the freezer food should last up to 24 hours. If it doesn’t appear that your power is going to come back on anytime soon, it might be a good idea to start eating your perishable food, starting with dairy products. Try not to continuously open and close the doors, as more cool air will escape, and your food will spoil quicker. Lock-in as much cool air as possible. If you think that your food might be bad: when in doubt, throw it out. Nobody wants to deal with food poisoning, especially when the power is out.
  6. If the power goes out, so does your central heating. If it’s cold outside, like it is currently in Washington State, keep doors closed to rooms as much as possible, and cover the windows with blankets to trap in the heat. Your best bet for staying warm is to gather the family in a smaller room. See our post for more tips on conserving heat.
  7. As your cell-phone is likely your only device for communication, keep handy a portable charger, a solar charger, or even utilize your car charger.
  8. Lastly, you can always use a portable generator, if you have one. Never run a generator inside, as the fumes can be deadly.

Keep in mind anything that might pertain specifically to you and members of your family, such as medical devices that require power or medications that need to be refrigerated. For more information, go to