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Your Guide on What to Do When the Power Goes Out

Toronto, ON 2003 Blackout

Picture this scenario: you’re sitting at home with your family watching television and enjoying an otherwise run-of-the-mill evening. Then, all of a sudden, *poof*! Your power goes out, leaving you in the dark.

Here’s a quick question: do you know what to do when this happens?

Have a look at our guide to understand your best course of action after an outage. That way, you can keep you and your family safe no matter the situation.

Initial Assessment

When the power first goes out, take the following steps:

1. Ensure You and Your Family’s Immediate Safety

This is a non-issue if there’s a power interruption. But in cases of extreme weather or other emergencies, guarantee the bodily safety of you and your family first.

2. If Possible, Determine the Reason for the Outage

If you have telephone or cellular service, a quick call to the power company can give you information on the cause, extent and estimated restoration time for an outage.

3. Maintain Food & Water Safety

Depending on the expected outage time, you may want to put a plan in action for your food/water. If the outage is less than two hours, food in your refrigerator and freezer will be fine. After that, however, temperatures may rise high enough to cause food-borne illness. To minimize the risk, avoid opening and closing the refrigerator as much as possible.

In most power outages, municipal water should remain unaffected. However, extreme weather or extended outages could compromise water safety. In cases like this, it’s recommended to avoid using it for anything that could come in contact with your mouth or body:

  • Drinking
  • Showers
  • Brushing teeth

If possible, use boiled or bottled water to avoid the risk of getting sick.

What to Do in Hot Weather

If an outage knocks out air conditioning during hot weather, your risk of heat stroke will increase significantly. It’s important to identify the signs of heat stroke and address it as soon as it happens. Symptoms include hot/red skin, dizziness or nausea, headaches, rapid heartbeat and a high body temperature.

To reduce the risk of heat stroke, follow these guidelines:

  • Keep well hydrated (water every 15-20 minutes)
  • Wear light colored, loose fitting clothes
  • Encourage air flow with open windows or fans if possible
  • Take cool showers/baths

What to Do in Cold Weather

Just like the heat, a prolonged power outage in the cold can quickly create an emergency situation. This holds especially true with most in-home heating systems that rely on electricity in some capacity.

Remaining warm is especially important in these situations. One of the largest risks with prolonged exposure to cold is hypothermia. Signs of hypothermia risk include cold skin, shivering and a body temperature below 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Without proper steps in place, hypothermia can quickly escalate into a life-threatening situation.

Maintaining a warm environment is the most important step in a cold temperature power outage. Use all the following tips to keep your family safe in the cold:

  • Wear coats, mittens & layered clothing
  • Keep doors & windows closed
  • Use a kerosene or space heater if possible

Preparing Ahead of Time: Your Power Outage Ally

First Aid Bag
First Aid Bag

(Image Credit: ProjectManhattan via Wikipedia)

As you can see, the problem with a power outage is how easily it can become a dangerous – or even life threatening – situation. It’s important that you understand what to do when the power goes out. This holds especially true when that power outage is a result of extreme weather or during periods of intense heat or cold.

The best way to remain prepared for a power outage is to be proactive. Get yourself an emergency kit for your home that is easily accessible. This kit should include all the following:

  • Flashlight
  • Batteries
  • Plenty of bottled water (replace regularly to prevent BPA seepage from plastic)
  • Dried and canned food
  • First aid kit
  • Any prescription or other medications such as inhalers

Remember, preparation is key when it comes to emergencies – weather-related or not. Make sure you’re prepared for a power outage to help keep your whole family safe no matter what happens.

(Title Image Credit: Wikipedia)