Editors' Musings

Blog: What to Do When the Power Goes Out

Mare-Anne Jarvela

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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Living in New York, the power

Living in New York, the power always goes out during a bad storm. One year we had no power for 5 days due to a really bad storm. Living in the country that means no lights, heat or water. I always kept 20 gallons of water in the laundry room for drinking, brushing teeth and cooking. I had a gas stove for cooking so I took a really huge pot I have and kept it filled with snow and melted it on the stove all day long. The steam heated the kitchen and the living room. It kept it nice and warm during the day. We would use the hot water for bathing in the sink. I turned the stove off at night.The house retained the heat for sleeping during the night. Many family members came to stay with me. I also filled coolers with meat and packed it with snow and set it outside on the enclosed back porch.

Power outage

Don't wait until dark to get busy!
I buy "glo-sticks" at my local $ store and keep them where I can find them.
Lookout for your elderly and or housebound neighbors, and bring in your animals (winter time) they can be a good source of loving heat.

Using solar powered lights

Using solar powered lights inside at night. Can be used as a night light in the bathroom or any area needed.

The last time we were

The last time we were expecting a tropical storm, I set large tupperware totes outside, filled with a few inches of water to keep them from blowing away. We were in the dark for two weeks, but the totes collected enough rainwater to cover our flush water supply!

About when the lights go out..

Remember to have batteries for flashlight and a portable radio as well.

I went to goodwill and found

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carolyn, I have sleep apnea.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don't eat yellow snow! :-)

You can use a pet taxi for

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

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

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

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!