Tips for Maintaining a Functioning Home During a Power Outage

Most people don't think about what happens when the power goes out. Yet in the United States, power outages caused by extreme weather have increased almost 70% since 2000. Some say that trend is continuing upward. There are many ways you can keep your home functioning during a power outage, even if you pride yourself on frugal living.

Lights

Your home might have great natural lighting, but that won't help as soon as the sun goes down or if the power outage happens during the night. Many people get flashlights, then shove them in a drawer or box until they are needed. The challenge with this is you have to go looking for them when the power is out and when you find them, you're not sure if they still work. It's good to keep several flashlights on hand and placed in more than one room, along with extra batteries for each one.

Consider picking up a package of LED light sticks. They will each last for several hours and won't require batteries. Other people have solved the lack-of-lighting issues by installing solar panels. Roughly 2 million solar panel systems have been installed in the United States. Still, others rely on candles for lighting during this time. However, this is not recommended unless the candles are safely used and monitored at all times to avoid accidental fires.

Fire or Fuel

Once the power goes out, if you have an electric stove, you won't be able to cook. The microwave won't work. Always keep a propane or butane camp stove in your supplies. In addition to matches, you'll also want to keep lighters on hand. This way, you can start some coals in the grill or light propane for propane camp stoves. You'll want to save more than one can of propane on hand, stored safely in the garage or other outbuilding of your home.

Communications

Landline phones usually stop working when the power goes out. In addition, some cell phone towers also stop working, which will interrupt cell signals. Make plans now to communicate effectively with your family. A citizen band (CB) radio or ham radio can help coordinate things between you. Some families use a service like GroupCast, that delivers multiple messages quickly, even during large-scale inclement weather. To stay connected to outside events, keep battery-powered radios with extra batteries or crank radios in your home and each vehicle.

Water

Always keep plenty of water on hand. Your body needs at least one gallon per day to maintain basic hydration levels; plus, you may need more for cooking food or hygiene. You should also have several gallons stored if there's no running water available due to flooding or another disaster (think hurricanes). Water purification tablets can be used as an alternative, but you should strictly follow the instructions and keep them away from children.

Temperature Control

Losing power during mild seasons won't be too much of an inconvenience when maintaining a comfortable indoor temperature. Opening and closing windows will help as well as adding or removing layers of clothing. However, you'll want to make sure you have extra warmer clothing on hand for winter during extreme temperatures. More importantly, consider obtaining a high-quality generator and testing it before every significant storm. Only use the generator outside and never near any windows.

Food

Avoid opening the fridge and freezer unless you must. Some people freeze empty gallon milk jugs full of water and leave those in the spare space of their freezers. When the power goes out, the extra ice helps keep things cooler longer. As the fridge starts to warm up, they transfer those ice blocks from the freezer to the refrigerator to enable the food to stay cool. While this is helpful, you'll still want to get a food thermometer and learn how to use it. If the food coming out of the fridge is more than 40 degrees Fahrenheit, you want to throw it out and don't eat it. Keep non-perishable proteins, crackers, and other things your family likes to eat on hand.

Medications

If you have any medications that are supposed to stay cold, make backup plans to keep them cold during the power outage. Think about talking to your doctor about getting replacement medications refilled if your medications don't make it.

If you want to be prepared for any situation that might arise when there's no power, make sure you have everything covered. Any power outage can last longer than expected. If the power outage was caused by extreme weather, it's essential to keep these supplies on hand to keep your home functioning.

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