How to Stay Prepared for a Power Outage

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Nobody expects a power outage, so it’s important to plan ahead and keep yourself prepared. Whether it’s due to the weather or utility company’s scheduled outages, having the power out without preparation can turn a minor inconvenience into an incredible challenge. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to prep for an outage and keep your family prepared for almost any emergency. Read these tips to get in the know!

1. Check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors

When the lights are out, it’s even more important to know when there may be a gas leak or a fire. Keeping your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors fully operational can help avert disaster in an already tricky situation. 

Setting a reminder for yourself can help you remember to switch out the old batteries on your detectors, which should be done every six months or so. Keeping your family safe is a top priority and fresh batteries can keep your detectors running even when the power is off, so you’ll always know. 

2. Have extra sources of light handy

If your power is out, one of the most important things to have planned out is your source of light. This means having a stockpile of options in an easily accessible place. Keep a designated cabinet or drawer in your home where you keep your extra light supplies, so that you can find them without much trouble when the lights are out.

Make sure your stash has matches, flashlights, extra batteries and perhaps a few candles. It’s easy for one of your light sources to fail, so having an extra box of matches, batteries that aren’t dead, and some candles with full wicks will take the stress off when you’re first looking for light. 

3. Keep stocked on non-perishable food

Staying stocked with non-perishable food can be incredibly helpful during a power outage, especially when you consider that some of your fresh food will easily go bad without refrigeration. For this reason, having a pantry full of canned goods, dried fruits and nuts, grains and boxed meals will go a long way if your fresh foods spoil. Some brands even specialise in foods for camping and situations like disasters and power outages.

Before opening, nut milks do not require refrigeration as well as many soups and other dehydrated meals. You may want to stock up on easy and quick foods like oatmeal. There are even some full meals that can be prepared only with pantry-friendly goods. It’s a good time to be creative, and plan out mentally what types of food you will want to eat when the power is out. 

4. Prepare for your medical needs

When the power is out, it’s helpful and prudent to be prepared for any special medical needs your family has. Keeping a stock that is easy to get to and not expired is important. In case of an emergency, you definitely don’t want to be scrambling through cabinets, checking labels and expiration dates, especially in the dark. 

It’s also important that you have a list of information, so everyone in the family is accounted for. Having details such as allergies, common medications, prescriptions and any other records you may need to get to in a pinch, will help make sure everyone is safe and taken care of in an already challenging situation. Lastly, if one of your family members uses a ventilator or other medical device, making sure your house has a backup source of power can mean life or death!

5. Stay informed

Without television or internet, it is easy to miss any updates on your city’s power, or the natural events that may be causing it. Make sure you have some spare batteries for your smartphone, so that you can stay in the loop about weather patterns, evacuation recommendations, etc. 

Using your phone only when necessary and enabling push notifications from your weather app is a good way to make sure you won’t miss the most important information. There are plenty of sources you may want to check, such as your local news, your utility company’s website, and the weather channel.

6. Have a full tank of gas

While it’s less common for you to need to leave your house during a power outage, it’s better to be prepared in the case of a more serious event. Having your gas tank filled will take away unnecessary stress should you need to evacuate, run an errand for something essential, or stay with friends or relatives temporarily. You may even want to keep a small portable gas tank in the garage, should you find your tank low when you need to leave. 

7. Keep a to-go bag ready

If you need to leave in a pinch, having a to-go bag full of essentials is incredibly important. In the case of an emergency, the last thing you want to be doing is running around the house, trying to remember all of the important things you will need and all the various places they may be hidden. 

In your to-go bag, you can keep important documents, such as passports, social security cards, and other forms of identification. It’s also a good idea to have a few snacks, water bottles, extra batteries and chargers for your phone, and even a bit of spare cash. Keeping a few extra blankets and some of you children’s favorite toys can also make for a smoother ride. 

If you have pets, packing their leashes, toys and food will save you time on the way out. Lastly, keeping a good stock of medications you or your family members take regularly, as well as any prescription information, is absolutely essential.

8. Purchase a generator

If you live in an area where the power goes out often, you might want to invest in a propane or diesel generator to power your home. The longer the power is out, the more it becomes important to power appliances like your fridge, keep water running, and enjoy the comforts of your other appliances. This can keep your food from spoiling and creating a large mess to clean up later. It can also help you stay clean and comfortable, which is especially important in uncertain times. 

Make sure you operate your generator safely by keeping it dry, only refilling it when it is powered down and cooled off, and operating the generator outside and far away from your house (about 20 feet). Using propane or diesel instead of gas is also a good idea because it allows you to store your generator safely.

9. Keep yourself entertained

If you’re lucky, the power will only be out for a few hours. Unfortunately, when it pushes past a few hours, it’s especially important to keep yourself busy and give everyone something to focus on besides the power outage. If you have young children, it’s good to have some toys, books, flashlights, puppets, and maybe a few board games. 

It’s the perfect time to make a big pillow fort in the living room, or have story time with shadow puppets! Having art supplies that require little cleanup, like crayons, markers and coloring books, will help the hours go by much more quickly, without adding extra stress to the situation. 

10. Keep stocked on comfort items

Regardless of your climate, the weather outside will begin to affect you once the power goes out. If your power is out due to a more intense weather condition, it’s especially important to have what you need to stay comfortable. As soon as the power goes out, you’ll begin to feel the difference within your home. 

Keeping your home well stocked with sleeping bags, comfortable blankets, pillows, and warm clothing can help you stay warm in the event that you live in a colder climate. You may want to layer up, keep close to family members, and stay in one room of the house. Also, making sure you have taken steps to weather-proof your home will significantly help your home stay insulated and cozy.

If you live in a warmer climate, have some lighter clothes to change into, keep the fridge and freezer closed as much as possible, and stop your house from heating up as quickly by drawing the shades and curtains to block intense sunlight. You may consider having a few small, battery powered fans in the home to keep the air flowing in your home. 

11. Make sure you’re insured

In the event that the power outage is part of a larger disaster, it’s important to make sure your home and property are covered. Checking up on your home insurance policy can save you lots of trouble in case anything is lost or damaged.

Pay close attention to what is covered in the case of an emergency, such as an extreme weather event or fire. You may even want to check your life insurance policy, to make sure your coverage is up to date and there are no lapses in your policy. 

Whether you’re preparing for a disaster, a trip or simply trying to keep your home updated and sustainable, Practical Preppers has the information you need to roll with the tides in a changing world. Based in South Carolina, we specialise in sharing our passion for off-grid living and providing you and your family with solutions for an independent and sustainable lifestyle in the face of unpredictable circumstances.

Sarah Hollenbeck

Sarah Hollenbeck is a writer, homeowner and marketing specialist from Austin, TX. Having survived Texas' winter storm in her home with no power and water for days, she is passionate about helping other homeowners prep for the unexpected.