3 tips for preparing for power outages

A power outage is a real inconvenience, but these three preparation tips will help you make the most of a potentially difficult situation.

3 tips for preparing for power outages

1. Set up an emergency energy supply

  • If your neighbourhood experiences frequent power outages or if someone in your household relies on electric power to run a life-support system, you may want to invest in an emergency generator.
  • A generator connects to the electrical service panel of the house and can supply enough power to run the furnace, well pump, refrigerator and lights.
  • Have the generator installed by a qualified electrician.

2. Be ready

  • Leave 2.5 centimetres (one inch) of free space at the top of the jug, as water expands when it freezes. The ice will extend the time the freezer stays cold and provide extra water when it melts.
  • Cordless phones won't work when the power is out because they rely on electricity. Also, make sure that your cell phone is fully charged, and buy a car charger for your cell phone.
  • If you have reason to expect a blackout (such as an approaching hurricane), set your freezer at its coldest setting.
  • Keep a back-up manual wheelchair on hand (or an extra battery on hand for a motorized wheel chair or scooter). Ask the power company about emergency measures for power-dependent people.
  • Never operate a portable generator indoors — not even in the garage. It emits carbon monoxide, which is fatal if inhaled. Follow the manufacturer's directions carefully to avoid electric shock or fire.
  • If you have advance warning that a storm is coming, pack eggs, dairy products, meat and fish in a cooler and surround them with ice.

3. What to do when the power goes out

  • First, check if there's power in your neighbourhood. If only your house is affected, try resetting your circuit breakers or replacing the fuses. (But don't touch a service panel in a flooded area; wait until the water is gone.)
  • If the rest of your neighbourhood is dark, call the power company.
  • Tune in to a local radio station (on your battery-powered radio) and follow the advice you're given.
  • Leave one radio or lamp turned on to let you know when the power is back.
  • An unopened refrigerator will stay cold for a few hours. A half-full freezer will keep food frozen for up to 24 hours, a full freezer for 48 hours.
  • Use 11 kilograms (25 pounds) per 0.3 cubic metre (10 cubic feet) of freezer space. Place heavy cardboard on top of the food and dry ice on top of the cardboard. In a full freezer, dry ice will keep food frozen for three or four days.If frozen food is coated with ice crystals and has not reached a temperature of 4°C (40°F) or more, refreeze it. Never refreeze foods that are completely thawed.
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