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Prepare for Power Outages

There is a longstanding connection between weather and power outages. As summer unfolds, several indicators suggest that it is wise to pay attention to emergency plans related to loss of power.

Above-average seasonal temperatures are expected throughout the summer and will create extra stresses on the energy supply. Extended drought conditions in the Midwest and western and southern regions of the U.S. may be accompanied by unpredictable weather patterns, which in turn increases the probability of threats throughout the power grid.

The nature of today’s hybrid work environment has led to more safety and security concerns arising at home. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, which tracks outages from wildfires, hurricanes and snowstorms, the average American home went eight hours without power last year. When electrical power goes out unexpectedly, it is important to prepare for:

  • Disruptions to communications and transportation,

  • Sudden closings of retail businesses, grocery stores, gas stations, ATMs and banks,

  • Loss of air conditioning in summer (and heat in winter),

  • Food spoilage and water contamination, and

  • Trouble with some medical devices.

Many Americans have experienced prolonged blackouts that can have deadly consequences. During summer, heat exhaustion and heat stroke are concerns when there is no power for air conditioning. During outages, people may operate power generators indoors, which can cause carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide is an odorless gas produced when fuels (e.g., gasoline, coal, wood and natural gas) are not completely burned. When breathed, it replaces oxygen in the bloodstream and can prove fatal.

While power outages are often unpredictable, it is important to focus on what is controllable to prevent an inconvenience from turning deadly. Here are some tips to prepare for extended power loss:

  • Take an inventory of essential items that rely on electricity and have a plan for alternative.

  • Ensure you keep your mobile phones and other communication devices fully charged.

  • Store flashlights and back-up batteries in easily accessible places and make sure everyone knows where they are kept.

  • Prepare alternate methods for power-dependent medical devices and refrigerating medicines.

  • Create a go-bag with essentials like nonperishable food, water and other survival necessities.

During a power outage, here are some suggestions to lessen the impact and keep you safe:

  • If using a power generator for electricity during an outage, follow all safety directions.

  • Keep freezers and refrigerators closed. Closed refrigerators remain cool for about four hours. A full freezer will keep the temperature for about 48 hours.

  • Turn off or disconnect appliances, equipment, or electronics. Power may return with momentary “surges” or “spikes” that can cause damage.

  • Follow evacuation procedures when issued.

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.


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