Knowing how to prepare for a power outage can sometimes be a necessity.
Especially during times of Covid-19, so many of us are now working from home where we require a consistent supply of electricity to make a living.
As we write this article there are currently 13,000 people without power living in the state of Nebraska and thousands more across the country.
In 2020, hurricanes, heatwaves, windstorms, wildfires and other extreme weather events caused approximately 1.33 billion outage hours, up 73% from roughly 770 million in 2019.
Based on the statistics, it makes sense that you know how to prepare for a power outage. In this article, we explain exactly how to do that.
(If you are looking for fun things to do during a power outage, give this article a read.)
What is a power outage?
A power outage can be a short or long term state of electric power loss to certain given area. It can affect a single house, building, or an entire city.
Other common names for power outage include power failure, blackout, outage, brownout, power disruption or electrical failure.
Types of power outages
- A transient fault is a loss of power most commonly caused by a fault somewhere along a powerline. Power to your home will be automatically restored once the fault is found and repaired.
- A brownout is a sudden drop in voltage in a nearby electrical power supply. The term brownout was coined due to the fact that lights will dim when the power supply experiences a voltage sage. Brownouts cause equipment to perform poorly and sometimes even incorrectly.
- A blackout equates to a total loss of all power supply to an area and is regarded as the most severe form of power outage that can occur. Blackouts which are caused by a power station tripping are known to be fairly difficult to recover from quickly. These types of power outages can last for a few minutes or potentially up to a few weeks, depending on the nature of the blackout and the configuration of the electrical network
How to prepare for a power outage?
Step 1 - Invest in a Solar generator
First and foremost, if you are able to invest in a solar generator, do it! The reason for this is that you will have an almost unlimited supply of electricity as long as you have the means to charge your device. The means by the way, is via the sun.
Modern solar generators are capable of powering all sorts of loads, for example the AC200P 2000 watt hour solar generator is able to power the following devices:
- Refrigerator (100w) 17 + Hours
- CPAP (60w) 28+ Hours
- Laptop (60w) 28+ Hours
- Fan (12w) 140+ Hours
- Smartphone 180+ Hours
- Led lantern light (10w) 170+ Hours
- LCD TV (100w) 17+ Hours
And that's not even our most powerful solar generator.
A solar generator works by storing electricity for later use, electricity which attached solar panels generated by being exposed to the sun.
So even if you have no power at all, as long as there sun you will have access to electricity that you wouldn't of had before.
Step 2 - Organize an Emergency Preparedness Kit
It can be very unpleasant wondering around a dark house looking for all sorts of essentials during a power outage.
You can make your life much easier during this time by stockpiling all the essentials in a big waterproof tub of sorts:
- First-aid kit
- Battery-operated fans
- Car charger for charging cell phones
- Garbage bags for sanitation
- Hand-crank or battery-powered radio and an NOAA Weather Radio
- Hand sanitizer, and dry shampoo
- Tool kit
- Solar generator
Make sure that you conveniently label your kit, and tore it where it is easy to find. It is important that every member of your family knows where this kit is at all times.
Additionally, go through your emergency kit every 6 months to make sure it has up to date items, particularly in your first aid kit.
Step 3 - Stockpile water
It is very unlikely that your municipal water supply will stop working during power outage, however it has happened before in the past.
For example in July 1993 in Des Moines, Iowa about 400,000 residents, went without running water for 12 days when its water treatment supply was overrun by floodwater.
Also bear in mind if you use an electric pump for your well, you may have an issue if the power cuts.
The National Safety Council recommends that you stockpile enough water to get your through at least 3 days. In order to function correctly, you will need 1 gallon of water per person. For a 3 day emergency, you will need 12 gallons of water for a family of four.
Remember to also store additional water for other tasks like personal hygiene, cooking, cleaning and your pets!
Of course you could simply head to the grocery store and buy bottles of water to store. However, if you would like to save money you could do the following:
- Fill clean soda bottles, the ones from Coca-Cola for example with simple tap water. You will need to disinfect the containers first though. Wash them with soapy water, then sanitize them with a solution of one teaspoon liquid of household bleach per gallon of water. Leave this solution in the bottle for 2 minutes, then pout it out. Once this is done you will need to rinse the bottle out one more time, thoroughly. You can then fill the bottle with tap water, screw the lid on tightly and date the container. Make sure you store it in a cool, dry place.
Step 4 - Prepare for cold temperatures
In cold weather, when there is no electricity, blankets are a must. If your home is located in a region that is known for extreme weather events such as snow storms. Make sure you have high quality winter sleeping bags (one for each family member).
Sleeping bags are great for trapping heat against your body, make sure not to sacrifice on quality here as cheap sleeping bags are worthless in very cold weather.
You can also make sure you have a supply of emergency thermal blankets (also known as space blankets), these are made of thin aluminized polyester film. They are extremely effective yet inexpensive option if your storage space/budget is limited.
These space blankets are wind proof and waterproof and reflect heat back against the body to help you keep warm during a power outage. Make sure you also keep a few of these blankets stored in your van or car when doing any long distance road trips.
Lastly, make sure you stock enough firewood in your home. A fireplace will work wonders during a power outage that hits you during the winter months.
Step 5 - Stockpile non perishable foods
It is not uncommon for shelves to be emptied as soon as the weather forecast in announced. Avoid fighting all the crowds and keep your kitchen stocked with foods that do not require cooking.
Good options include:
- Peanut butter
- Nuts & seeds
- Packages tuna
- Canned Fruit
- Canned vegetables
- Dried fruit
8 Reasons the power goes out in the US
1. Natural disasters
Severe weather is not the only natural reason blackouts occur. Extreme natural disasters such as wildfires, earthquakes, floods and mudslides are able to dismantle the electrical power supply in seconds.
Although much less common, volcanoes erupting or massive tsunami’s are also reasons for power outages. The types of events are able to knock down electric transmission lines, damage transformers and break up substations.
2. Motor vehicle accidents near power lines
When it comes to local power outages, major car accidents can also cause a blackout. A car or truck can lose control crashing into a utility pole which will bring down the power lines and thus the power to that given area.
Power outages caused by this type of accident usually only affects a small local area.
3. Equipment failure
The majority of technological equipment out there at one time or another, can be faulty, caused by wear and tear due to age and exposure to the elements. Because of this, transformers can seize, insulators corrode, insulation cables can crack and wither and wires snap.
Distributing so much power throughout an area requires a lot of complex equipment. Such equipment can fail at any time, it’s best you know how to prepare for a power outage in the event this happens.
Believe it or not, but trees can be a cause for a blackout. Not trees as they are, but rather falling trees blown over by high winds or heavy snow build up. A power outage can be caused by a simple old tree falling and breaking a powerline in your area.
Believe it or not, but wildlife can also cause a power outage. Animals such as birds, squirrels, and all sorts of other small animals can chew through power lines while foraging for food.
6. Damage by the public
There are stories of people taking out powerlines unknowingly by simply doing some garden work. However, there are sometimes more deliberate reasons for power outages caused by humans.
Such as when thieves attempt to steal wire and other critical components for the copper inside. This act may result in a random power outage.
7. High energy demand
There are times when it is a perfectly sound sunny day outside and all of the sudden, the power cuts. Why might you wonder?
Well a common yet fairly unexpected cause of power outages is due to too many people drawing too much power in a given area at one time
For example, on an incredibly hot summers day, there may be millions of people using their air conditioning at the same time. The result being an excessive demand which can overload the power grid and lead to a blackout.
8. Planned power outages
Sometimes the power is cut intentionally by the utility companies themselves. It may be your utility will need to cut the power to perform routine maintenance.
Other times, when there is not enough electricity available to meet the demand of the public, the utility will cut the power supply in given areas to make up for the lack of supply.
This is quite prominent in various countries, such as South Africa, where rolling blackouts known as loadshedding happen on a frequent basis.
Knowing how to prepare for a power outage can be extremely valuable in times of need. We recommend that you do your research on the topic and stay up to date on all the happenings with regards to planned power outages.
For the times when an unexpected blackout occurs we hope this article served as useful resource.