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Office of Emergency Management
Power Outage

Sudden power outages can be frustrating and troublesome, especially when they last a long time. If a power outage is 2 hours or less, you need not be concerned about losing your perishable foods.

For prolonged power outages, though, there are steps you can take to minimize food loss and to keep all members of your household as comfortable as possible.

Before a Power Outage

  • Build or restock your emergency preparedness kit, including a flashlight, batteries, cash, and first aid supplies.

  • Make sure you have alternative charging methods for your phone or any device that requires power.

  • Charge cell phones and any battery powered devices.

  • Know where the manual release lever of your electric garage door opener is located and how to operate it.

  • Purchase ice or freeze water-filled plastic containers to help keep food cold during a temporary power outage.

  • Keep your car's gas tank full-gas stations rely on electricity to power their pumps. If you use your car to re-charge devices, do NOT keep the car running in a garage, partially enclosed space, or close to a home, this can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.

  • Learn about the emergency plans that have been established in your area by visiting your state's or local website so you can locate the closest cooling and warming shelters.

  • If you rely on anything that is battery-operated or power dependent like a medical device determine a back-up plan. For more planning information tips visit: Seniors and Individuals with Disabilities and Others with Access and Functional Needs

During a Power Outage: Safety Tips

  • Only use flashlights for emergency lighting, candles can cause fires.

  • Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed. Most food requiring refrigeration can be kept safely in a closed refrigerator for several hours. An unopened refrigerator will keep food cold for about 4 hours. A full freezer will keep the temperature for about 48 hours.

  • Take steps to remain cool if it is hot outside. In intense heat when the power may be off for a long time, consider going to a movie theater, shopping mall or "cooling shelter" that may be open in your community. If you remain at home, move to the lowest level of your home, since cool air falls. Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing. Drink plenty of water, even if you do not feel thirsty.

  • Put on layers of warm clothing if it is cold outside. Never burn charcoal for heating or cooking indoors. Never use your oven as a source of heat. If the power may be out for a prolonged period, plan to go to another location (the home of a relative or friend, or a public facility) that has heat to keep warm.

  • Turn off or disconnect appliances and other equipment in case of a momentary power "surge" that can damage computers and other devices. Consider adding surge protectors.

  • If you are considering purchasing a generator for your home, consult an electrician or engineer before purchasing and installing.

  • Only use generators away from your home and NEVER run a generator inside a home or garage, or connect it to your home's electrical system.

If your power goes out:

  • Report your outage! Never assume a neighbor has reported it.

After a Power Outage

  • Throw away any food that has been exposed to temperatures 40° F (4° C) for 2 hours or more or that has an unusual odor, color or texture. When in doubt, throw it out!

  • If food in the freezer is colder than 40° F and has ice crystals on it, you can refreeze it.

  • Contact your doctor if you're concerned about medications having spoiled.

  • Restock your emergency kit with fresh batteries, canned foods and other supplies

Electrical Equipment

  • Turn off and unplug all unnecessary electrical equipment, including sensitive electronics.

  • Turn off or disconnect any appliances (like stoves), equipment or electronics you were using when the power went out. When power comes back on, surges or spikes can damage equipment.

  • Leave one light turned on so you'll know when the power comes back on.

  • Eliminate unnecessary travel, especially by car, as traffic lights will be out and roads will be congested.

Using Generators Safely

  • If you are considering getting a generator, get advice from a professional, such as an electrician. Make sure that the generator you purchase is rated for the power that you think you will need.

  • When using a portable generator, connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator. Do not connect a portable generator to a home's electrical system.

  • Never use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal­burning devices inside a home, garage, basement, crawlspace or any partially enclosed area. Locate unit away from doors, windows and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors.

Traffic Safety

Eliminate unnecessary travel, especially by car. Traffic signals will stop working during an outage, creating traffic congestion. If you must drive, follow traffic rules during power outages:

  • Treat each traffic light as a four-way stop, with the driver on the right having the right-of-way.

  • Enter intersections only when it is safe to do so, using turn signals to let other motorists know your intentions.

  • Watch out for and obey police officers directing traffic within intersections. Yield to pedestrians, as always.

  • Proceed with caution only when traffic permits.

    Traffic Lights Flashing On and Off?

  • If flashing red: stop (treat like a stop sign).

  • If flashing yellow: proceed with caution.

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