Hello, and welcome to week two of our hurricane blog series! Extreme weather (such as hurricanes ) and power outages often seem to go hand in hand. Power outages can have wide-ranging impacts, such as the disruption of communications, the closure of businesses and ATMs/banks, food spoilage and water contamination, and can prevent the use of medical devices. Knowing exactly what to do when a power outage occurs – whatever the reason – can minimize your risk of injury or illness when the lights go out.
1. Prepare Ahead of Time
We have talked extensively about the importance of having a hazardous weather preparedness plan. Part of being prepared is taking inventory of what you already have and making sure that your emergency preparedness kit is fully stocked. Key things to remember in the event of a power outage are backup batteries, portable chargers and power banks, and flashlights. Being prepared means that everyone in your home knows what to do in the event of an emergency.
Tip: Keep in mind that one aspect of a hazardous weather preparedness plan includes having an escape route. Know where your home’s safe places are in the event of weather emergencies, and check with local officials about heating and cooling locations open near you.
2. Know Your Medical Needs
If you use medical devices that are powered by electricity or take medications that need to be refrigerated, talk to your medical provider ahead of time. Learn how long medication can be stored at higher temperatures and get specific guidance for any medications that are critical for life.
Tip: If the power is out for more than a day, discard any medication that should be refrigerated, unless the drug’s label says otherwise. Consult your doctor or pharmacist immediately for a new supply.
3. Think About Food
Access to a safe water supply is key during an emergency, so be sure to have plenty of bottled water on hand before disaster strikes. It’s recommended that you have one gallon of water per person per day on hand. So if you have a family of four, you need at least 28 gallons for a week’s supply. Having non-perishable food in your safety kit is also especially important. Whether you stock it yourself or buy a pre-made kit, make sure that there is enough food for everyone in your household.
During a power outage, keep freezers and refrigerators closed. The refrigerator will keep food cold for about four hours. A full freezer will keep the temperature for about 48 hours. Use coolers with ice if necessary.
The Penny Trick: Before a power outage occurs, freeze a cup of water and then put a penny on top. Store it in your freezer. If the power goes out long enough for the ice to melt, the penny will be on the bottom, indicating that those frozen goods are spoiled and must be trashed.
4. Electronics and Appliances
One of the first things you should do during a power outage is unplug any appliances or electronics to avoid power surge damage once the power is restored. Sensitive devices should be on surge protectors to prevent damage if you can’t unplug them in time. This is important in case you experience power surges once the electricity comes back on, which could fry your electronics or overload your home’s circuits.
Be sure to install carbon monoxide detectors with battery backup in central locations on every level of your home to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. When using generators, camp stoves, or charcoal grills, always place them outdoors and at least 20 feet away from windows.
Tip: Leave one light plugged in with the switch on so that you can tell when the power is restored.
5. Don’t Forget about Entertainment
When I think about hurricanes, my mind flashes back to memories of the tropical storms that I’ve lived through. Some of my favorite hurricane memories (that has to be a thing other people say too, right? Finding the good in the bad?) actually involved some of those hours or days in the aftermath of a storm, right after we’d lost power. I actually learned how to braid my hair in the days after Hurricane Katrina, and we spent many days playing Scrabble at home.
Tip: Even though your cell phone still works after the lights go out, if you spend too much time on it, it will eventually run out of power. To preserve your battery for important calls, turn off any apps you aren’t using, dim the brightness, and break out the board games!