Power Outage Preparedness: Are You Ready

When the lights go out, are you ready?

As California continues to deal with longer, hotter summers as well as growing threat of wildfires as a result of climate change, everyone living in our state should take steps now to prepare themselves and their families for events like a Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) or rolling blackouts.

Such events may leave many Californians without power for hours and in some cases days. Moreover, other natural disasters like earthquakes, floods, cyber attacks and wildfires also have the potential to disrupt power for long periods of time.

Power outages can impact the whole community and the economy by:

  • Disrupting communications, water, gas, and transportation.
  • Closing retail businesses, grocery stores, gas stations, ATMs, banks, and other services.
  • Causing food spoilage and water contamination.
  • Preventing use of medical devices.

There are, however, many ways you can prepare for these events to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Preparing for a Power Outage

Take inventory of the items you need that rely on electricity. Plan for batteries and other alternative power sources to meet your needs when the power goes out, such as a portable charger or power bank. Have flashlights for every household member. Determine whether your home phone will work in a power outage and how long battery backup will last. If possible, keep vehicles fully gassed and have cash on hand if ATM’s are unavailable.

Conserve Energy When Called Upon

During extreme heat events, California’s power grid operator may predict an increased demand for electricity that exceeds grid capacity. During these times, called Flex Alerts, consumers are urged to conserve electricity, especially during the late afternoon and early evening, when the grid is most stressed due to higher demand and solar energy production falling.

The following conservation measures can help the power grid during a time of tight demand and supply:

  • Before 3 p.m., “pre-cool” buildings by setting air conditioning thermostats lower than usual; also, charge electronic devices and electric vehicles; and run dishwashers, washers and dryers and other major appliances.
  • After 3 p.m., set thermostat at 78° or higher
  • Cool with fans and draw drapes
  • Turn off unnecessary lights and defer use of appliances

Know Your Medical Needs

Talk to your medical provider about a power outage plan for medical devices powered by electricity and refrigerated medicines. Know how long your medications can be stored at higher temperatures and get specific guidance for any medications that are critical for life.

Food Storage

Have enough nonperishable food and water for every member of your household for three days. Open freezers and refrigerators only when necessary. Your refrigerator can keep food cold for four hours. A full freezer will maintain temperature for two days. Use coolers with ice if necessary. Monitor temperatures with a thermometer. Throw out food if temperatures reach 40 degrees or higher.

Using Appliances During Power Outages

To avoid carbon monoxide poisoning, install carbon monoxide detectors with battery backup in central locations on every level of your home. Generators, camp stoves and grills should always be used outdoors and at least 20 feet from windows. Never use a gas stovetop or oven to heat your home. Turn off or disconnect appliances, equipment, or electronics. Power may return with momentary surges or spikes that can cause damage.

Returning After A Power Outage

Throw away any food that has been exposed to temperatures 40 degrees or higher for two hours or more, or that has an unusual odor, color or texture. If the power is out for more than a day, discard any medication that should be refrigerated, unless the drug’s label says otherwise. Consult your doctor or pharmacist immediately for a new supply.

For more tips on preparing for a Power Outage, visit flexalert.org