Be Prepared for a Power Outage
When power outages occur, it’s always good to be prepared. Whether it's a maintenance outage or a blackout from an unexpected storm, here are some tips to help you prepare for outages and lessen the impact until the lights come back on.
How to Prepare for an Electric Outage
Build Your Outage Supply Kit
- First Aid Kit: In addition to the usual items, also include prescription medications – check the expiration dates
- Bottled Water: Experts recommend a gallon per person per day
- Flashlights & batteries: Store them where you can easily find them – even when it’s dark
- Non-perishable food: Choose items that don’t require cooking or heating
- Manual can opener
- Coolers or ice chests: Have a few to store ice in case of a lengthy outage
- Special-needs items: This includes items for infants, the elderly, or the disabled
- Battery-operated radio: To access news reports
- Fresh batteries: For all battery-powered equipment
- External rechargeable battery pack: To charge cell phones and other electronic devices
- Non-cordless phone: To plug in during power outages
Home Preparation Checklist
- Keep important phone numbers (fire department, paramedics, police, hospital, doctor, relatives, etc.) by the phone
- Place flashlights in handy locations, such as near the phone
- Install surge protectors to help safeguard electronic equipment
- Familiarize yourself with your home’s utility boxes (electricity, water and gas) and how to turn them off; keep the proper tools to do so handy
- Frequently back up important work and files on your computer
- Learn how to manually open your automatic garage doors or gates
- Keep the gas tank in at least one car half full at all times
- If you have a portable gas generator, identify an outdoor location where you can safely use it during a power outage - never use it indoors
- Make a safety preparedness plan for your family, including a list and location of the above items and a plan for how pets will be cared for
- Be prepared to meet the special needs of any infant, elderly, or disabled people in your household
Be Prepared at Work: A Checklist
- Learn how to override or manually operate security gates
- Develop a business continuity plan that defines employee roles and responsibilities during an electric outage
- Create a list of critical equipment that must be turned off during an outage to prevent damage
- Try to keep mobile devices fully charged at all times
- Familiarize yourself with your office’s utility boxes (electricity, water and gas) and how to turn them off; keep the proper tools to do so handy
- Identify an off-site meeting area in case you need to evacuate
- If you plan to operate an emergency generator during any outage, please call us at 1-800-990-7788 to let us know (this helps us protect our employees from possible electrical back feed)
- If you have a portable gas generator, identify an outdoor location where you can safely use it in a power outage - never use it indoors
- If you do not have a generator, consider renting a portable one if needed - please note, we cannot reimburse you for this cost
Stay Safe During an Outage
Electronic and Appliance Tips
Your electronics and appliances can be vulnerable to outages. Here are some tips to help keep you safe and protect them from damage.
- Unplug them: Unplug expensive electronics and appliances to prevent damage. This includes televisions, computer equipment, washers and dryers, game consoles, fans, lights, etc.
- Use surge protectors: When you can’t unplug electronics, surge protectors can help prevent damage.
- Turn out the lights: Turn off all light switches and lamps except for one. You want to leave one “on,” so you’ll know when power returns. If the power is still out when you go to sleep, leave a bedroom light switch on to wake you so you can safety check your home.
Food Safety Tips
Perishable foods in your refrigerator and freezer may or may not be safe to consume after an electric outage. It depends on things like the length of the outage and outdoor temperatures. You can take steps to keep your food fresh longer. There are also things you can do to make sure your food is still safe to eat once the fridge is running again.
- Keep it closed: Open refrigerator and freezer doors only when necessary. Depending on the outside temperature an unopened refrigerator can keep foods cold enough for several hours. Placing blocks of ice inside will help keep food cold longer. Check food carefully for signs of spoilage.
- Draw the line at 40 degrees: Perishable foods should not be held above 40 degrees Fahrenheit for more than two hours.
- Coolers & ice chests: For outages longer than two hours, food items such as dairy products, meats, fish, poultry, eggs and leftovers should be packed into a cooler with ice. A separate cooler can be packed with frozen items.
- Cans & dry goods: Canned and dry goods and powdered or boxed milk, can be eaten cold or heated on a grill.
- Leave a light on: When you go to bed, leave a bedroom light switched on. It will wake you when power returns, so you can check the condition of your food.
- If you’re not home: If a power outage happens while you're out of the house, try to determine how long it has been out. Check the internal temperature of perishables in your refrigerator with a quick-response thermometer; any item above 40 degrees should be thrown out. If power comes back on in less than 24 hours and your freezer is fairly full, your frozen items should be safe. If the refrigerator was out for more than 24 hours, you should get rid of perishables.
Medical Equipment Tips
Some people depend on uninterrupted power to operate medical equipment in their homes. We try our best to notify Medical Baseline customers before maintenance outages and rotating outages. Since we cannot guarantee uninterrupted service you should always have a backup plan. This could mean a backup power system or other arrangements.
- Equipment backup: If your medical equipment is supplied by a hospital or a durable medical equipment company, work with them to develop an emergency or backup plan. Some companies may supply additional medical equipment and other services during emergency situations.
- Get on “Special needs” Lists: Contact your local fire department to learn whether they maintain a list of people with special medical needs. Being on this list may help them better respond to you during emergencies.
- Emergency contacts: Keep emergency phone numbers handy. This includes your doctor, police, fire and durable medical equipment company (if applicable).
- Backup plan: Develop plans to leave your home in the event of a lengthy power outage. Share this plan with family, friends, and others that should be aware.
Circuit Breaker Tips
If a circuit overloads or shorts, the breaker will trip and cut power. This helps prevent fire and possible electrocution. Resetting the breaker will restore power to the affected room(s) if there isn’t a current outage.
How to Reset Breakers
- Turn off light switches and unplug appliances in all rooms that have lost power.
- Find your circuit breaker box and open the cover. Inside you’ll see the circuit breakers –small switches that may be labeled (e.g., "kitchen," "bathroom" etc.).
- Find the tripped breaker – it’s the one that’s in the "off" position or the middle position between "on" and "off."
- Move the switch to the full "off" position and then back to "on." This should clear any overload and return power to the room.
- If the breaker re-trips, it could be for a number of reasons: too many lamps and appliances plugged in; a damaged cord or plug; a short circuit in a receptacle, switch or fixture; or faulty wiring. Be sure to identify and fix problems.
Notes & Warnings
- If a breaker continues to re-trip, reset it only when you've corrected the problem. You can also call an electrician.
- Most tripped breakers show an orange flag when a breaker is in the tripped position.
- If your home has fuses instead of circuit breakers, follow the same steps for finding the blown fuse. Make sure to replace it with a new one of the same amperage.
- When resetting a breaker use only one hand. Stand to the side to avoid electrical arcing if the breaker should malfunction.
- Working with electrical systems is potentially dangerous. If you're unsure of your abilities or about any aspect of the job, call an electrician.
Generator Safety Tips
A backup source of power can keep you up and running during a power outage. Generators can be dangerous if connected or used improperly. Before use a generator, consult an electrician to determine the proper equipment and safe set up for your residence or business.
- Equipment options: Choose a generator rated for more power than you think you will need. This is best determined by an electrician.
- Safety hazards: Every year people die in portable generator-related incidents. The primary hazards to avoid when using a generator are carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, electric shock, electrocution and fire. Follow the directions supplied with the generator.
- Getting connected: Use a heavy-duty, outdoor extension cord to connect electrical equipment to a portable generator. Be sure it’s rated more than the sum of the loads of the connected appliances. Make sure the entire cord has no cuts or tears and that the plug has all three prongs, especially a grounding pin. Do not run a portable generator indoors. Don’t connect a portable generator to your home's electrical wiring or electrical panel. This can lead to serious injury or electrocution.
- Beware of back-feeding: Never try to power the house wiring by plugging a generator into a wall outlet. This is extremely dangerous and can electrocute utility workers and even neighbours. Electrocution is the fifth leading cause of all reported occupational deaths.
- Work with an electrician: If you decide to wire a generator directly to your home, California state law mandates that you notify us. The only recommended method to connect a generator to house wiring is by having a qualified electrician install a power transfer switch, in compliance with national, state and local electrical codes. Work with a licensed electrician.
- Portable vs. permanent: Even a properly connected portable generator can become overloaded, become overheated and stress the generator components, which can lead to generator failure. For power outages, permanently installed, stationary generators are better suited for providing backup power to your home or business.
Tips for Driving During an Outage
A power outage can make driving dangerous. Besides traffic lights and street light outages, there may be emergency vehicles on the road. If you’re on the road when an electric outage happens, here are some tips to stay safe.
- Be extra cautious: Watch out for vehicles and pedestrians. Stop at all intersections even if you think you have the right of way.
- Don’t drive tired: Stay put or pull over. The combination of a power outage and fatigue can be dangerous.
- Use cell phones sparingly: Use your cell phone only if you witness an accident or run into trouble. The road needs your full attention during an electric outage.
- Be aware of others: A dark road without working traffic lights can cause someone to drive on the wrong side of the road. Make sure to look both ways. You may also find it more difficult to see pedestrians if there is a street light outage.
- Emergency cash: Try to keep some cash with you. Credit cards won’t work during a power outage.
Elevator Safety Tips
If you are in an elevator when the power goes out, the elevator will automatically stop where it is. There are a few things you can do to let the right people know that you’re stuck and need help.
- Press the “Open” button: If you are near a landing the door will open. Exit the elevator slowly and carefully, as it may not be level with the landing.
- Press the “Alarm” or “Help” button: Trained emergency personnel will respond within several minutes. Some elevators have a two-way speaker system or telephone. Do not be alarmed if you cannot make an outgoing call. Some phones are designed to only receive calls. Emergency personnel should call when they arrive at the building.
- Calmly call for help: Every few minutes, call for help or bang on the elevator door to attract attention.
- Wait for help: Never try to exit through partially opened doors or a ceiling service door. Wait for trained emergency personnel to arrive. Even though it may get warm, plenty of air is circulating in the elevator.