A winter power outage presents special challenges, including no heat, downed telephone lines and snow-blocked roads. Our advice is to start preparing now for the next power outage. With a little advance planning, you can keep your family safe and comfortable when that next winter storm hits and the electricity goes out. Here are a dozen helpful tips to prepare for a winter power outage so you won’t be suffering for hours or days in a cold, dark house.
1. Create a basic emergency supply kit
The Ready.gov website recommends stocking up on important items before the power goes out, including a flashlight, batteries, cash and first aid supplies. In addition to a conventional flashlight, get a hand-crank flashlight that works without batteries, like the super-bright ER310 by Midland that provides 130 lumens of light and has low, high and strobe modes, as well as an SOS beacon.
2. Stock up on food and water
Stock the cupboard with non-perishable food and a couple of gallons of drinking water per person in case the power outage keeps everyone housebound for a few days. Keep a non-electric crank can opener in your kitchen drawer. Fill a few clean pails or the bathtub with tap water for washing and flushing toilets.
3. Be sure your car is ready to go
Since most service stations use electricity to pump fuel, keep your car’s gas tank full at all times in case there’s a prolonged power outage. A battery-powered portable jump starter like the one shown here by Stanley is a great investment in case your battery won’t turn because of cold temperatures and the power outage prevents you from using an electrical jump starter.
4. Fill important prescriptions
A power outage can occur at any time, so don’t let important meds run low in the winter time. Consider switching to a local pharmacy that makes home deliveries or sign up with a mail order pharmacy so no one has to venture out in bad weather to pick up medications.
When television is no longer an option for getting news, a battery-powered or hand-crank weather-alert radio is a must-have for automatic official, up-to-the-minute information on severe weather, local hazards and other emergencies. A good choice is the Emergency Dynamo Crank Weather Radio by Midland that doubles as a flashlight. It can be powered by a hand crank, solar panel, rechargeable Li-Ion battery or six AA alkaline batteries, so you’ll always be informed.
6. Keep a battery-powered cell phone charger handy
If you’re like many Americans and no longer have landline phone service, you will need a way to charge your cell phone during a power outage. A battery-powered cell phone charger like the 2,400 mAh PowerNow Buddy or the higher capacity 5,600 mAh PowerNow Grande (which can also charge a tablet) provide an easy way to charge cell phones when the electricity is down. Both use a long-life lithium ion battery with nearly a year of shelf life.
It is incredible how dark your yard can be during a power outage! Keep family and friends safe and scare away intruders by installing a few solar-powered floodlights around the perimeter of your house to light up walkways, driveways, garages and sheds. These floodlights turn on when motion is detected at night. When charged in full sunlight, the light can activate up to 150 times when on for 60 seconds at a time.
8. Set up special lighting for indoor safety
To keep everyone safe when the lights go out, plug in a rechargeable nightlight like the Datexx Sentina LED that turns on automatically during a power outage. Use it to light up a main hallway or room.
9. Unplug all TVs, computers and appliances during a power outage
There’s an added risk of power surges during an outage that can destroy your appliances. When a blackout occurs, unplug everything except one light, so you’ll keep your electronics safe and know when the power has returned.
Electric sump pumps don’t pump during power outages and can lead to a messy flooded basement. A battery-powered sump pump alarm will sound a loud warning if the water level in your sump pit rises to a dangerous level, so you can take preventive action before the pit overflows.
For protection when no one is home, the PumpAlarm Cellular Water Alarm sends text message alerts to your cell phone or mobile device when the water level in the pit gets too high. It also notifies you when there’s a power outage.
In addition to equipping your sump pump with an alarm, it’s a good idea to add a battery-powered backup system so your sump pump will continue to pump water during power outages. Metropolitan Industries offers the high output Ion Storm Pro 2100DC Battery Backup System that pumps up to 2,100 gallons per hours as well as two complete flood control systems that include one or two heavy duty 1/3 HP sump pumps and a battery backup power pack powerful enough to pump for up to 20 hours.
11. Dress in layers to stay warm
Trapping air in between several layers will keep you warmer than wearing one heavy piece of clothing. Start with a base layer that insulates well, followed by intermediate layers.
12. Stock up on firewood, wood pellets or other alternative heat sources
Plan ahead for a non-electric way to heat your home during a power outage and make sure you have enough wood or fuel on hand. Remember, however, that many alternate heat sources — including portable propane or kerosene heaters, fireplaces and wood stoves, opened kitchen ovens and gasoline generators located in a poorly vented place — can produce deadly carbon monoxide (CO) fumes. Protect your family from odorless, invisible CO by providing adequate ventilation and installing a CO alarm with battery-backup that will continue to operate when there is a power outage.