We’ve been experiencing extreme weather events lately, including an onslaught of storms that have been knocking out electrical power. Winter can be an especially hard time to deal with a power outage, especially if your home relies on electrical power for heat.
When the power has unexpectedly gone out, there’s no need to panic. You can do a lot of things to prepare, and keep your family safe and warm during and after a winter power outage.
Preparing before a power outage
The weather is unpredictable. You need a good energy plan. You also need to be prepared so that you can keep your home from turning into a freezer during an electrical power outage. The good news is that you can do something about it right now.
- Buy some flashlights, invest in a battery-operated radio and make sure that you’ve got plenty of batteries. Another handy device you’ll want is a 3-in-1 hand crank radio, flashlight and phone charger. Store these items in a place that’s easy to get to and be sure to check them periodically.
- Stock up on bottled water.
- Insulate your home before the cold season arrives. Caulking and weather-stripping doors and windows can prevent freezing drafts from entering.
- Power outages can be lengthy. It’s a good idea to have other heating equipment, such as a wood-burning stove. Be sure to have plenty of firewood and fuel on hand and have it located in a well-ventilated space. It’s also a smart idea to have a wood chimney cleaned and inspected before winter. The warmest room in the house is where your family will want to gather and weather the storm.
- Invest in some candles and stock up on matchbooks so that you can still have light. Since you’re going to want to stay warm, move all your activities to one room. It doesn’t hurt to have a deck of cards on hand so you and your family can pass the time and stay entertained.
What to do during a power outage
Okay, so the lights are out, and you’ve got everyone at home. Now it’s time to keep them safe. You’re prepared and ready to weather the winter storm and ride out the electrical power outage like a team of champs.
- Conserve the heat inside your home. An excellent technique to keep the heat from escaping is to roll up a towel and place it at the base of the door. You’ll also want to gather up some blankets and hang them over the door for an added layer of protection from the cold.
- Did you just go grocery shopping? Don’t worry, the food in your refrigerator can stay cold and is safe to eat for up to 4 hours. Frozen food can last for 24 and up to 48 hours (depending on how densely packed the freezer is).
- If you have a portable gas generator, never run it inside the garage, house or in an enclosed area.
- Remember all that firewood you gathered? It’s time to fire up the fireplace! Try not to use all the firewood too quickly — conserve wood by burning it in intervals, and let the room cool between fires.
- Turn off computers, TV and other electronics to avoid a power surge once the electrical power returns. You’ll want to leave at least one light on — that way, you’ll know that the power is back on. Once your electricity is up and running again, make turning off unused electrical devices a part of your energy plan routine.
- There’s no doubt that a winter power outage can be stressful. For seniors, the stress level is higher and can even be deadly. Make sure any elderly or disabled person is dressed warm, covered up well or kept near the fire.
- If you have a tent, consider putting it up inside your home (if you have enough space). A tent adds another layer to protect you from the cold air. Plus, depending on how many loved ones you have around, being in a tent makes it easier to capture body heat and stay warm.
What to do after a power outage
Harsh weather can do more than create a loss of electrical power in your neighborhood. Heavy winds and downpours can cause significant damage. For this reason, you’ll want to be extra cautious if you need to venture outdoors.
- If possible, wait until the day to go outside. You’ll want to assess the damage before you go too far. A harsh winter storm can knock down electrical wires, and you may not be able to spot them. It’s best to assume a downed line is live, which is highly dangerous.
- Be a good neighbor and check in to make sure they’re safe.
You’ll feel a lot better knowing how to keep your family safe and warm when the harsh, unpredictable weather arrives. Plus, knowing how to conserve heat can also be an essential part of your winter energy plan so that you can lower your winter energy bill.