(Editor’s note: With rolling power outages today in Texas because of record cold weather, we’re reprinting this guide from last summer.)
Doesn’t it always seem like power outages happen at the most inconvenient moments? Power outages can leave homes and businesses feeling frustrated and helpless – and quite literally left in the dark. When the power goes out, it helps to know what to do and who to call.
There are a few easy ways to make sure you’re actually experiencing a power outage and not something else entirely. Here are three steps to take to confirm your power is out:
Perhaps the most important takeaway is to call your utility – not your energy provider. While your provider is in charge of your energy plan, your utility is responsible for restoring service during power outages, damaged power lines, and other emergencies.
Your utility company depends on the service area where you live. If you aren’t sure which utility is yours, it is listed on your energy bill. See our utilities page to learn more about each company and find contact information.
One you’ve confirmed you’re experiencing a power outage and have notified your utility, there are a few other steps to take to protect yourself and your home from further damage.
Protect your appliances. Power surges and spikes can fry your valuable appliances, especially during a power outage. Invest in a surge protector to make sure your appliances and electronics are protected. When the power does go out, safely unplug important appliances, such as TVs, computers, or large appliances.
Opt for flashlights. Everyone loves a nice candle. However, in the event of a power outage, lighting your home using candles can add a new hazard to the mix. The National Fire Protection Association warns that U.S. fire departments respond to 8,200 home fires each year resulting from candles. Instead, prep your home with flashlights and extra batteries. Not only will flashlights light your home better, but they won’t burn your home down while you wait for power to be restored. If you absolutely must use your candle for light, be sure to never leave it unattended.
Keep your refrigerator closed. It’s pretty well-known at this point that opening your refrigerator releases a lot of the cold air that will otherwise preserve your food. Keep your fridge and freezer closed for as long as you can so your food doesn’t spoil more quickly. The USDA recommends disposing of meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and leftovers after four hours without power.
Invest in a backup generator. During power outages, generators can keep your lights on, power appliances, and much more. If you’re able, it’s worth investing in a generator to protect yourself from longer outages. That being said, there are a few important safety measures to take when using a generator.
Reset your thermostats and check your clocks. Your HVAC system may be affected by sudden outages, so it’s important to reset your thermostat once power has been restored. Even if your HVAC is fine, your thermostat will likely have reset itself to its default settings or timers, which could leave you with an unpleasant surprise on your energy bill if you don’t realize it. You should also reset your clocks, which will return to a default setting as well.
Assemble an emergency kit. An emergency kit is important during power outages, as well as other events such as hurricanes. Prepare your emergency kit with non-perishable food, water, extra batteries, medical supplies, extra clothes, and blankets. You will be very thankful to not have to find all of these items in the dark after the fact.
With these easy steps in mind, you can prepare for power outages in advance. And while we can’t guarantee the power won’t go out at the worst time possible, we can promise that preparing ahead of time will make the inconvenience easier and safer for your home.
Caitlin Cosper is a writer within the energy and power industry. Born in Georgia, she attended the University of Georgia before earning her master’s in English at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.