What To Do When the Lights Go OutBy Suzi Hoge
Imagine a windy night in Southern California, when lights begin to flicker and the electricity goes out. You notify your local power company and find out it will be hours before power is restored.
But your first step should happen before the power outage occurs:
Position easily accessible flashlights so they are easy to find when the lights go out — on your nightstand, and some on each floor or area of the house.
If nothing else, commit to do this first step.
Gather all of your power outage supplies: a collection of items that will be helpful/crucial/comforting when the world is dark.
What might you put into this supply box, bag, or drawer?
- Flashlight and batteries — also consider plug-in flashlights that are always kept charged.
- Headlamp flashlights
- Glow sticks (for longer outages)
- Battery and/or solar lanterns
- Small battery lights (think tea lights) to put all around the house.
- Battery radio/CD player — a battery radio is good for news updates; and you can use those old CDs for a little music to pass the time.
- Hand-crank-powered flashlight, crank-powered small radios and power banks
- Cell phone charging cord for a car
- Emergency contacts and phone numbers written down on paper (Cell phones might go dead with their stored contact information.)
Can you assemble your power outage supplies by the end of the month? Give yourself a few weeks to gather items. You never know when a power outage will strike.
- Clean away any tripping obstacles — push chairs under tables, remove slippery rugs, etc.
- Let your friends/family/significant contacts know your power is out — and if you are OK or need help.
- Position some small battery lights or lanterns to orient you and help you move around safely.
- Map your walking paths
- Light top and bottom of any stairs
- Gathering areas
- Medical equipment that operates with electricity — nebulizer, CPAP, oxygen concentrator, etc. It is best to have a plan and/or alternate equipment before any power outage. What equipment you have, when it is needed, and how crucial it is, will determine whether you need to re-locate to get the needed treatment. A portable, travel nebulizer can be charged and used in place of an electrical one. Bottled oxygen can be kept on hand.
- Unplug electrical items that are not on surge protectors. Leave one light on so you can see when the power returns.
Helpful to have on hand
- Power banks for your phone and/or iPad/computer
- Ice chest for any medications that need refrigeration if the outage is long
- Some cash, as ATMs may be down if the outage is widespread.
- Gas in your car gas tank. It is a good idea to refill at the halfway point so you always have a good amount of gas in your car.
Now what to do?
- Listen to music and/or news on a battery radio.
- Play cards; you don’t need much light for simple card games.
- Read your Kindle or e-reader if you have one — or a real book with a battery-powered book light.
- It’s a good idea to keep some food available that takes minimal preparation time and little or no heating. Think crackers, granola bars, jerky, fruit cups, etc.
- If the power will be out several hours it is best to avoid opening the refrigerator and/or freezer.
- Do you have a gas stove? Most gas stoves now have an electric starter. You may be able to use the burners if you can light one with a match. With a burner working you can make coffee and cook and/or heat food.
- Keep a manual can-opener handy
- Depending on how your water is delivered, loss of electricity may also limit/stop water. Be sure to have some drinking water stored and perhaps some older, out-of-date water that can be used to flush toilets.
- You might also need some hand sanitizer if water is limited.
Need to leave?
- If you have a garage with an electrical door, an elevator in an apartment building, etc.: What is your plan for when the lights go out?
- Do you know how to easily find and use the stairs in the dark? Does emergency lighting come on when the power goes out?
- What happens to your electric garage door? In some cases, they automatically open and some have manual ways to open them. Find out before an outage happens.
- If you do need to leave, what do you need to take with you? Contact information for your family, friends, medical providers, medications, medical equipment, change of clothing, toiletries, book, playing cards, etc.
Controlling your comfort
- Depending on the time of year and weather, conditions may get cold or hot.
- Do you have blankets, sleeping bag, etc. in case your heating goes out?
- On the other hand, what will you do if things get hot? Can you open windows, moisten towels, sit outside in the shade?
- If the heat or cold becomes too much, does your community have heating or cooling centers/shelters? Do you have friends, family, or Pasadena Village members you can stay with? Can you re-locate if needed?