Power Outage Tips

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Publishing Organisation:
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
  • English
  • Power outage
Disaster Management Phase

Before, During

A power outage is when the electrical power goes out unexpectedly. Extended power outages may impact the whole community and the economy.
  • A power outage may:
    • Disrupt communications, water and transportation.
    • Close retail businesses, grocery stores, gas stations, ATMs, banks and other services.
    • Cause food spoilage and water contamination.
    • Prevent use of medical devices.


Power Outage Tips

  • Keep freezers and refrigerators closed.
  • Use a generator, but ONLY outdoors and away from windows.
  • Do not use a gas stove or oven to heat your home.
  • Disconnect appliances and electronics to avoid damage from electrical surges.
  • Have alternate plans for refrigerating medicines or using power-dependent medical devices.
  • Check with local officials about heating and cooling locations open near you.
    • Go to a community location with power if heat or cold is extreme.

Preparing for a Power Outage

  • Take an inventory of the items you need that rely on electricity.
  • Plan for batteries and other alternative power sources to meet your needs when the power goes out, such as a portable charger or power bank.
  • Have flashlights for every household member.
  • Determine whether your home phone will work in a power outage and how long battery backup will last.
  • Know Your Medical Needs
    • Talk to your medical provider about a power outage plan for medical devices powered by electricity and refrigerated medicines.
    • Find out how long medication can be stored at higher temperatures and get specific guidance for any medications that are critical for life.

Food Storage

  • Have enough nonperishable food and water.
  • 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.
  • Monitor temperatures with a thermometer.
  • Throw out food if the temperature is 4 Celsius or higher.


Using Appliances During Power Outages

  • Install carbon monoxide detectors with battery backup in central locations on every level of your home. * * * * Avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Generators, camp stoves or charcoal grills should always be used outdoors and at least 6m away from windows.
  • Never use a gas stovetop or oven to heat your home.
  • Turn off or disconnect appliances, equipment, or electronics.
    • Power may return with momentary surges or spikes that can cause damage.

Generator Safety

  • Generators can be helpful when the power goes out. It is important to know how use them safely to prevent carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning and other hazards.
  • Generators and fuel should always be used outdoors and at least 6m away from windows, doors and attached garages.
  • Install working carbon monoxide detectors on every level of your home.
    • Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that can kill you, your family and pets.
  • Keep the generator dry and protected from rain or flooding.
    • Touching a wet generator or devices connected to one can cause electrical shock.
  • Always connect the generator to appliances with heavy-duty extension cords.
  • Let the generator cool before refueling.
    • Fuel spilled on hot engine parts can ignite.
  • Follow manufacturer’s instructions carefully.


Returning After A Power Outage

  • When in doubt, throw it out!
    • Throw away any food that has been exposed to temperatures 4 Celsius or higher for two hours or more, or that has an unusual odor, color or texture.
    • 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.


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