Climate Home Preparation: How to Prepare for Power Outages

Power outages come with different challenges depending on the season and location. Stay safe during a power outage with a few safety and survival tips.

Published on
July 26, 2023
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Climate Home Preparation: How to Prepare for Power Outages


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Climate Home Preparation: How to Prepare for Power Outages

Power outages can happen at any time of the year and can interfere with your daily needs such as lighting, air conditioning, heating, perishable items like food and medicine, communication, medical equipment, and cooking. Power outages can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days or weeks. This means it’s imperative to assess your individual household’s risks and needs during a power outage so you can plan and minimize the potential hassle and damage.

Preparing for power outages

When preparing for a power outage you’ll want to ensure you have the following items available: flashlights and fresh batteries, candles and a lighter or matches, a first aid kit, charged battery packs for your electronics, a battery-operated radio, and a corded telephone (State of California, n.d.).

Next, you will need to store enough water and non-perishable food for at least two weeks for each member of your household, including your pets (American Red Cross, n.d.). Power outages can often be unexpected, but non-perishables and water can be stored for long periods meaning you can keep these on hand without too much concern of expiration before use.

To keep perishable items fresh, you’ll want to keep your fridge and freezer closed as much as possible, only opening when you need to. When you do open the fridge or freezer, try to take out and use as much food as possible for that day so they don’t expire before use. Eat fresh perishables before non-perishables and use a thermometer to check the temperature of food and medicine before use to ensure it’s still okay for consumption. Toss food that reaches above 40 degrees F (American Red Cross, n.d.).

To prevent power overloads, electrical surges, and fire hazards when power is restored, it would be best to unplug all electronics, lights, and appliances. Flashlights are safer than candles during a power outage, but use what you have and remember to practice fire safety. (American Red Cross, n.d.). Once power is restored, turn your appliances on one by one to prevent a power overload (State of California, n.d.). Generators can come in handy during power outages, but make sure they are installed outdoors and away from windows for everyone’s safety (U.S. Department of Homeland Security, n.d.).

Different climates and seasons can also present another set of challenges during power outages, specifically in extreme climates. A power outage during a heatwave or winter storm can be especially dangerous. Here are some weather-related tips on preparing your home for power outages.

Power outages in the summer

Staying cool in the summer can be difficult as is, but without electricity and air conditioning, a power outage can quickly turn dangerous in extreme temperatures. Heatwaves or extreme heat is when the temperature reaches above 90 degrees for at least two days. Even if temperatures don’t reach above 90 degrees, humidity can increase the feeling of heat and worsen the heat’s effect. Therefore, you’ll want to pay attention to the heat index and humidity levels. 

No air conditioning in the summer can lead to the body struggling to maintain a normal body temperature, which can cause heatstroke, exhaustion, and death (U.S. Department of Homeland Security, n.d.). If you can safely remain at home for a power outage during extreme heat and seeking an alternative shelter is not an option, here are a few tips to keep you and your home cool!

Proper insulation will be your best bet against the heat–if you can plan for this before a heatwave you’ll be much more prepared to keep cool air in and hot air out. Weather strips around doors and windows will also help keep your home insulated. During hot weather, covering windows with darkening curtains and using window reflectors will prevent heat from seeping in (U.S. Department of Homeland Security, n.d.).

Some rooms can also become hotter than others–to prevent heat from seeping into the rest of the house it’s recommended to gather everything you need from the room and close it off for the time being. You can also use a thick towel or blanket to block off the room and keep the hot air inside (Gutierrez, 2021).

Even with these tips, the temperature in your home will still gradually rise so it’s important to reset when you can. When the temperature drops in the evening to early morning hours, open your doors and windows to let out trapped heat and allow cool air inside (Gutierrez, 2021). Don’t forget to close all windows and doors before it begins to warm up again though! Another tip for staying cool is to remember heat rises, so staying in a low position and on the lower levels of any building will be beneficial. A basement level would be ideal since they remain relatively cool year-round (McMahan, 2018).

Now that we’ve discussed keeping your house cool, let’s address some tips on how you can cool off and get your body temperature down. Wearing loose, lightweight, and light-colored clothing will be best for not trapping or attracting as much heat. Staying hydrated will be very important for your safety and comfort, as well as avoiding outdoor activities mid-day (U.S. Department of Homeland Security, n.d.).

Taking a shower can also be a great way to cool down, just don’t make the shower too cold as it will combat the effect of lowering your body temperature. If you take a shower that’s too cold, it may feel nice at first but it will also raise your temperature in an attempt to warm you up, defeating the purpose of taking a shower to cool down (Gutierrez, 2021).

Emergency room doctors will also use ice packs around a patient’s body to lower temperatures, and you can do the same with a wet cloth. Place wet cloths on your head, wrists, armpits, or groin to cool off as these tend to be the hottest parts of the body. Having wet hair can also help you to stay cool (Gutierrez, 2021).

A battery-operated fan is great for comfort during a heat wave and power outage, but you shouldn’t rely on them as your primary cooling device. Fans create comfort with their airflow, but they don’t “reduce body temperature or prevent heat-related illnesses” (U.S. Department of Homeland Security, n.d.). Ultimately, if you can’t stay cool in your own home, you should seek out cooling centers identified by local officials where you can safely cool off. Watch out for symptoms of heat exhaustion, heat cramps, and heat stroke, and remember to check in on your neighbors, family members, and seniors.

Power outages in the winter

A power outage during the winter months can be just as dangerous, as winter temperatures can drop to freezing and lower during winter storms. No heating in the winter could lead to frostbite, hypothermia, and death so it's important to know how to stay warm in a power outage as well. Many of the tips for power outages in the summer can be used for winter with a few tweaks for keeping hot air inside your home and cold air out.

Proper insulation will be just as important for keeping your house warm. Weather stripping around windows and doors and installing storm windows will help. You can also cover windows with plastic to provide extra insulation (State of Michigan, n.d.). Keeping windows and doorways covered with blackout curtains or thicker materials like blankets will help. Since warm air rises, you’ll want to retreat to an upstairs level if possible. 

Darker clothing and layers will be your best friend while trying to stay warm. Heat is often lost through your head and extremities like fingers and toes, therefore wearing a hat, gloves, and socks will be helpful. Wearing a scarf around your neck and mouth will also keep your lungs protected (State of Michigan, n.d.). 

Stay indoors as much as possible, especially when its coldest at night and during a severe weather event. Portable battery-powered heaters, hand warmers, and finding as many blankets as possible can also help you stay warm. Lighting candles can also be beneficial as they emit heat but always remember your fire safety and check your carbon monoxide detectors are up-to-date.

Without electricity, access to warm food may be difficult but if you can, warm food will keep your body warm. If the weather permits, you can get takeout or delivery, get a warm cooked meal from friends or family with power, or use an outdoor camping stove. Just remember to never use an outdoor stove or heater indoors, or use a gas stove or oven to heat your house (American Red Cross, n.d.). Lastly, to ensure your running water remains intact and your pipes don’t freeze, keep all your faucets running with a slight drip.

If local officials alert your area to evacuate homes without power during the winter, you should seek out an alternative shelter if possible. Your local officials will identify heating locations available to you.

Once your safety and health have been accounted for, you can start planning for entertainment options. Card games, board games, and books are all great ways to remain occupied during a power outage (McMahan, 2018). If it doesn’t require electricity, a power outage would also be a great time to start that hobby you’ve been meaning to try. Think arts and crafts like drawing or painting, crocheting or knitting, or making jewelry. As long as it doesn’t require electricity the sky is your limit! Keep activities like these on hand for rainy days and you’ll be prepared for a power outage as well!

Keep in mind that staying home during a power outage isn’t always safe and applicable for everyone. If you have medicine that needs refrigeration or are using a power-dependent medical device, you should seek out the nearest place available for your needs. Additionally, during extreme weather such as heatwaves and winter storm events, it can be safer to seek out locations near you with heating and cooling options if your household can’t stay warm or cool. During a power outage and extreme climate events, your local officials will identify these locations available to you (U.S. Department of Homeland Security, n.d.).

Bridge Homes aims to keep you and your home prepared for any climate events that may occur. Up next in our Climate Home Preparation series: Hurricane and Flooding Season.


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