Your How-to Guide for Handling a Power Outage

Do you have a plan for the next time a blackout happens?  Are your three main bases covered – power, food, and water?

Because Hurricane Hilary flooded Southern California, damaging roadways and forcing residents to stay locked inside their homes…

Not to mention the historic rainfall in the Northeast that brought floods to New York, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut.

And heat waves in the South increased stress on vulnerable power grids. Meanwhile, Texas officials urged thousands of residents to “reduce their energy consumption” and endure the brutal heat. 

So if you don’t have supplies and a plan… You might be in a whole lot of trouble in the near future…

Know what to do

As with just about everything else in life, the better prepared you are to deal with an outage, the better off you and your family will be.

Today you’ll get a refresher course on things to do before your power goes out. And while it’s out. As well as what to do once power is restored. 

You might want to print this out so you can be ready to deal with the next blackout without even thinking about it.

Knowing exactly what to do when the next inevitable power outage occurs will come in handy. And it will certainly speed up your efforts to handle the situation. 

Your 3 main bases 

Below are some before, during, and after tips for how to handle a power outage. But before I get to them, let’s look at those three bases again.

Power – You need back-up power. A portable, solar-powered generator will help you keep lights on and power most appliances. If you only have a gas-powered generator, do NOT run it indoors or even close to your residence. Power banks are perfect for smaller electronic devices. Tactical flashlights kept in various places in your home will also be a big help. 

Food – You need non-perishable food with a long shelf life. Make sure your survival food provides plenty of nutrition. Variety in your stockpile is also essential, especially in a longer blackout. And make sure the foods you store are ones your family will eat.

Water – You need at least 1½ gallons of water per person per day. One gallon is for drinking and the half-gallon is for cleaning, washing, etc. You should also have a water purification system for your home and smaller water filters for outdoor use. 

Before a blackout 

The better prepared you are for a blackout, the greater the chance you’ll be able to handle it successfully. Here’s what to do prior to a blackout:

  • Put together a supply of emergency food and water for your family. Start with 72 hours’ worth, then build it up.
  • Build an emergency kit or bug-out bag. Store your kit in an easily accessible place and let everyone in the house know where it is and what it contains. Consider having an additional emergency kit at your place of business in case a blackout occurs while you’re at work.
  • Make a family communications plan and discuss all aspects of it with family members. Do a dry run every few months to make sure everyone is ready to carry out the plan if necessary.
  • Follow energy conservation measures to keep the use of electricity as low as possible, which can help power companies avoid imposing rolling blackouts. 
  • Fill plastic containers with water and place them in the refrigerator and freezer if there’s room. Leave about an inch of space inside each one, because water expands as it freezes. This chilled or frozen water will help keep food cold during a temporary power outage.
  • Be aware that most medication that requires refrigeration can be kept in a closed refrigerator for several hours without a problem. If unsure, check with your physician or pharmacist. 
  • Keep your car tank as full as possible because gas stations rely on electricity to power their pumps. In addition to being your emergency transportation, your car could also be your charging system for your cell phone, and possibly the only heating or air conditioning you’ll have for a while. 
  • Know where the manual release lever of your electric garage door opener is located and how to operate it. Garage doors can be heavy, so remember you may need help to lift it. 
  • Keep a key to your house with you if you regularly use the garage as the primary means of entering your home. Just in case the garage door will not open. 
  • Get a good supply of cash. Some stores may not be able to process credit card and debit card purchases, and cash machines may not be working. 

During a blackout

You’ve already prepared for a blackout, so now you’re ready to deal with it. Here are some recommendations:

  • Use only flashlights for emergency lighting. Never use candles during a blackout or power outage due to the risk of fire.
  • If you’re using a generator to power any lights, be careful how long you keep them on. If your home is the only one lit up at night, you could become a target.  
  • Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed to make sure your food stays as cold and fresh as possible. Check food carefully for spoilage. 
  • Turn off or disconnect appliances, equipment, and electronics that were in use when the power went out. They could be damaged if power returns with a momentary surge or spike.
  • Leave one electrical item on – such as a light – so that you’ll know when your power returns.
  • Don’t call 9-1-1 to gain information about the power situation. Use it only to report life-threatening emergencies. 
  • If it’s hot outside when the power goes off, go to the lowest level of your home. Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing and drink plenty of water even if you’re not thirsty. Keep window blinds and curtains closed to keep the heat out.
  • Make sure your pets have plenty of fresh, cool water, and anything else they need for their survival and comfort. 
  • If it’s cold outside when the power goes out, wear layers of clothing. Don’t use your oven as a source of heat. Open window blinds and curtains during the day to let sunshine in. 
  • Fill the bathtub with water, as your faucet water flow may decrease or stop entirely over time. Duct tape the drain so that water does not leak out. Fill other containers with water as well, such as buckets.

After a blackout

Once power is restored, here are some tips:

  • Throw out any food that has been exposed to temperatures of 40 degrees Fahrenheit for two or more hours. Same thing for any food that has an unusual odor, color, or texture. When in doubt, toss it out. 
  • Don’t use taste – or even odor or appearance – to determine if your food is still good or not. Food can look and smell OK, but may contain bacteria that causes food-borne illnesses.
  • Don’t turn all your appliances back on at once. If everyone does that, it could overtax the grid and result in another regional blackout. Get your air conditioning or heat back on first, then wait 10 or 15 minutes before starting up other items or appliances you may need.
  • If the water from your faucet has not been running, but now it’s working again, don’t drink from it right away. Let it run for a while and listen to local broadcasts or contact your local health department to find out if a nearby water source has been compromised during the blackout. Water purification systems usually rely on electricity, so they might not be working properly during a blackout.

Being prepared = self-reliance 

People who have not prepared for an emergency will struggle with a temporary blackout and fall apart in a medium-length blackout.

But if you have fully prepared, a temporary blackout will be nothing more than a minor inconvenience. And a medium-length blackout will be one you can handle with some determination. 

A long-term blackout will be a huge challenge for everyone. But you’ll be a leg up on everyone else if you are fully prepared with your power, food, and water needs.


  • Anthony Tavano - September 03, 2023

    Thanks for all you all do to open our eyes and mine to help us stay safe. But it is hard to talk to the ones who do not beleave in what you are telling them. And they are saying that you spend too much money on what others say .What am i to do?
    Anthony Tavano. Thanks

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