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Blackouts/Power Outages

Blackouts/power outages are a loss of power to an area.

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Blackouts/power outages can happen anywhere, and to anyone, which is why it is so important to be prepared. Power loss is often caused from one of the following: snow, ice storms, hurricanes, tornadoes or other storms with high winds. Flooding, animals, and vehicle or construction accidents can also cause power outages.

Take Action Before a Blackout/Power Outage

If a blackout/power outage is two hours or less, do 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.

Steps to Be Ready

  1. Prepare an Emergency Kit. The Emergency Kit should be easily accessible should you and your family be forced to shelter in place (stay at home) for a period of time.
  2. Complete the Emergency Contacts Card pdf file and place one in your Emergency Kit.
  3. Complete a Family Emergency Plan pdf file and discuss it as a family. This is a simple way of keeping each member of the family informed on critical information: where to reconnect should you be separated when the black out or power outage occurs, who to call (when power is restored), and what you will do should a blackout/power outage occur.
  4. If you use medication that requires refrigeration, most can be kept in a closed refrigerator for several hours without a problem. If unsure, check with your physician or pharmacist.
  5. If you have an electric garage door opener, find out where the manual release lever is located and learn how to operate it. If you regularly use the garage as the primary means of entering your home upon return from work, be sure to keep a key to your house with you, in case the garage door will not open.
  6. Keep your car fuel tank at least half full because gas stations rely on electricity to power their pumps.
  7. If you use a motorized wheelchair or scooter, have an extra battery. If available, store a lightweight manual wheelchair for backup.
  8. If you know a rolling blackout will occur, fill plastic containers with water and place them in your refrigerator and freezer. The chilled or frozen water will help keep food cold during a short power outage.

Be Safe During a Blackout/Power Outage

During a blackout/power outage, remember what is in your Family Emergency Plan if you are at home. If you are at the office, school, or in a store, follow the instructions given to you. Also, listening to a portable radio can provide the latest information.

  • Contact your power company to report an outage in your area
  • Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed. An unopened refrigerator will keep cold for 4 hours and a full freezer will keep the temperature for about 48 hours. For food safety tips visit
  • Leave one light on so that you'll know when the power comes back on.
  • Turn off electrical equipment you were using when the power went out.
  • Use flashlights for emergency lighting, candles can cause fires.
  • Only use your generator outside of your home, do not run it inside a home or garage or connect it to your home's electrical system.
  • If it's very hot outside, try to stay cool by going to the lowest level of your home or by going to a movie theater, shopping mall, or "cooling shelter". Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing and drink plenty of water, even if you don't feel thirsty. Remember to provide plenty of fresh, cool water for your pets.
  • If it's very cold outside, wear many layers of warm clothing. Do not use your gas oven as a source of heat. Try to find a place that has power and go there to stay warm if it is safe to travel.
  • Eliminate unnecessary travel, especially by car. Traffic signals will stop working during an outage.
  • If a power line falls on a car, you should stay inside the vehicle until first responders arrive to assist.

Take Action After a Blackout/Power Outage

  • Throw away any food that has been exposed to temperatures 40°F for 2 or more hours or that has an unusual odor, texture, or color. 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 are concerned about medications having spoiled.
  • Do not touch any electrical power lines and keep your family and pets away from them. Call 9-1-1 to report downed power lines.
  • Check in with your neighbors.

Blackouts/Power Outage
Words to Know
A failure of electrical power supply.
Electric Grid
The network that gets power from the power company to the consumer. It consists of power stations, transmission lines, and transformers.
Energy Conservation
Using less energy by turning off lights or the TV, or walking, or biking instead of driving a car.
Power Outage
A short- or long-term loss of the electric power to an area.
Rolling Blackout
When electric companies shut down power to an area for a certain amount of time in order to avoid a total blackout of the power system.

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