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Blog: What to Do When the Power Goes Out

June 11, 2009

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Being in a power outage can be very frustrating. Here is some advice that may help you the next time there is a storm and you lose power for a few or more days.

To avoid darkness:

  • Attach a strip of glow-in-the-dark tape to your flashlights to make them easy to find.
  • Invest in headlamps. You will have your hands free and can even read a book in bed while wearing one.
  • Stock up on kerosene lamps (visit secondhand stores and flea markets), lamp oil, and wicks before the next storm.
  • Buy candles when they are on sale (after-Christmas sales are great!). It doesn't matter if they are all red!

To stay warm:

  • As soon as the power goes out, drape all windows with blankets or whatever you have. Uncover south-facing windows during the day to let in the Sun's warmth.
  • Select one room in which people—and pets—can spend most of their time together. Close off the doorway and try to let the collective body heat accumulate in that room.
  • Call shelters and hotels to see if they will allow pets, in case you need to leave your home and bring your pets.

Cooking and eating:

  • Have potluck dinners with your neighbors and take turns hosting. You'll be eating better and getting to know your neighbors at the same time.
  • Use your outdoor grill for cooking, but only outdoors. Never use one indoors. Look for great recipes in our database.

To avoid damage:

  • Protect water pipes from freezing by wrapping them with layers of newspapers and then plastic wrap.
  • To avoid damage from falling branches, don't park your cars under trees.
  • Open your refrigerator or freezer door only when absolutely necessary. Plan ahead to minimize the time the door is open.
  • Fill clean plastic milk jugs with water and put outside to freeze solid (if the weather is cold enough). Put these jugs into coolers, which can serve as temporary refrigerators.
  • Take your houseplants to your workplace or a friend's house.

For folks who lose their water when the power goes out:

  • Fill up your bathtub with water when a storm threatens (for washing and flushing).
  • Pack snow in buckets and bring indoors to melt.

Do you have any helpful power outage tips? Please share them below.

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Mare-Anne, our senior editor, joined The Old Farmer's Almanac in 1992. In her spare time, Mare-Anne loves to garden and always plants a large home garden with a variety of flowers and vegetables. She also enjoys cooking and traveling to Sweden, where she was born.

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I went to goodwill and found

By Diana Biggs

I went to goodwill and found a couple of the chafing dish holders you put the candle under .They are great for warming food.We keep lots of crackers and spreadables on hand just in case.

From SE, NC: 1. Female to

By Village Ambassador

From SE, NC:

1. Female to female hose connector:
If you lose water you can get it from a well or a neighbor, without it the two male ends of you're hose trying to connect to their hose won't work.

2. Battery powered lanterns and flashlights.

3. Always keep an extra (full) LP Tank.

4. Before storms get too close make sure you have lunch meats, bread, PB&J, etc.

5. Generator Safety !!
NEVER back feed power to a house !! It is illegal and very dangerous. Have your house (and well) wired for separate generator outlets or install a $500.00 transfer switch.

6. Write down important phone numbers, once cell phones die you will never remember the phone numbers in it.

7. Get an old powerless phone.

8. When appliances wear out change them to gas, stove, hot water heater, a heater to use in emergencies that doesn't need power.

9. Before a storm: Do laundry, dishes, refill meds, grocery shop, etc.

10. Make sure you have an emergency kit !!

In the winter, use bins to

By Garnet Barkley

In the winter, use bins to store refrigerator items and keep them in the garage. If the bins are close to the house walls, chances are items will not freeze. You can use newspaper to insulate the food. Hang blankets from doorways to block off rooms that are used from those that arn't. Remember to open them a few times a day to allow fresh air in, especially if using a fireplace or wood burning stove or kerosene heater. When it's extremely cold, we go in and out through the garage instead of opening the front door and letting cold air directly into the house, especially id it's windy.

Put the power company phone

By David Mason

Put the power company phone number in your contact list. Nothing worse that needing that number and no Internet connection to find it.

Put the power company phone

By David Mason

Put the power company phone number in your contact list. Nothing worse that needing that number and no Internet connection to find it.

Battery powered LED lanterns

By geni

Battery powered LED lanterns are a safer alternative to candles--especially with children and pets. I like to keep drinking water on hand in 5-7 gallon containers made for that purpose.

What do you do if you are on

By Carolyn Ramey

What do you do if you are on oxygen?? Can't be around flames or any kind of smell!!

Carolyn, I have sleep apnea.

By Phil Berry

Carolyn, I have sleep apnea. When the power goes out I have a power converter that hooks to my car battery. Mine is a 400 watt and runs the unit fine.

The power tends to go out

By Claire

The power tends to go out most often when there's been an ice storm where I live. One problem - the grill takes about twice as long to cook something when it's cold. Next time, I'll try using my cast iron in the fireplace.

We have a phone that doesn't

By Storme Arden

We have a phone that doesn't rely on power (not a cordless) that we use if the power goes out. Learned after Hurrican Juan hit us in Hfx. In New Brunswick we have frequent power outages, but luckily a wood stove.

and remember, electric can

By onyx3718

and remember, electric can openers don't work if the power's out ---- always have a manual opener for emergencies.

stock up on those "glow

By downeastcajun

stock up on those "glow sticks" and bracelets after halloween ... put one around each pet's neck to avoid tripping over them in the dark! (got this tip from my sister and niece who live in hurricane-prone louisiana) :-D

"Pack snow in buckets and

By custard

"Pack snow in buckets and bring indoors to melt."

Don't eat yellow snow! :-)

You can use a pet taxi for

By WNathan67

You can use a pet taxi for keeping things cold during the snow storms. And the door on the cage keeps critters out. The cooler works good as well. Put them outside in the snow and build walls around them. Works great.

Bring in some of your solar

By Diane Falbe

Bring in some of your solar lights for light in your house.

We did it during the Hurricane Ike. 2 weeks with no power.

Thank God we had a gas stove.

Don't forget you can use the

By horsewhisperstg

Don't forget you can use the wood stove for cooking also if you have one!!! Takes patience but is well worth it!!! I make a killer wood stove Pot Roast!!! You can cook any thing in a pot or pan.. :)

There is some wonderful

By pregan88

There is some wonderful information in this article, but what I did back in 2003 during the ice storm.......Threw a hissy fit until Shawn (hubby) went and bought us a generator!!!!!!

I can relate to this! Dave


I can relate to this!

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