What To Do When The Electricity Goes Off

No one can predict when an electrical failure may occur. Develop a plan that will help you minimize damage and inconvenience.

What would you do if your electric went out right now? If it's daytime, you would probably look up the telephone number of the electric company in the yellow pages and call to ask when power will be restored. But if the failure occurred at night, you might be trying to grope your way in the dark to find an alternative light source.

If you're not really sure what you would do or where to find the tools or supplies you would need, now's the time to put together a plan of action to prepare for a power failure. Whether from an act of terrorism or an act of nature, electrical power can be lost in an instant. Know what to do when it happens.

1. Get a flashlight or other light source. Keep flashlights with active batteries on hand. One per room is best, but at least one for each floor of your home is necessary. Store it in an easily accessible place and return it there after each use. Check batteries seasonally and keep fresh batteries or a battery charger handy. You may want to use a power flashlight, the large kind, for outdoor areas or the basement. Avoid using candles unless they are all you have and you can supervise them until the electric comes back on.

2. Bring the family together. This is important for young children at any time and everyone after dark. You don't want anyone falling down steps or tripping over objects on the floor if they panic when the lights go out. Rehearse your action plan before actually losing energy, so when it occurs, everyone will know what to do. Plan to meet in one area of the house, like the kitchen or living room. Call to the kids to stay where they're at until you can bring a flashlight to get them unless they can reach another flashlight that is located in their area and make their way to you.

3. Hook up the generator. If your home electrical wiring can run off a generator, keep one filled with gasoline for when you need it. A generator can operate a few basic appliances like an electric stove, the furnace, or the sump pump. Learn how to use it before a power failure occurs so you can quickly set it up in time of need.

4. Initiate personal needs options. If the power stays off for several hours and you do not have a generator, call a family member or friend to make arrangements for borrowing water or using someone's shower for bathing, especially if family members have to go to school or work. If your furnace isn't working, you may need to sleep somewhere else if the outside temperature is cold. Calmly help everyone to pack a change of clothes and pajamas if you must leave the house overnight.

5. Make arrangements for failed utilities. If the refrigerator isn't working for more than a few hours, ask a neighbor if you can move your frozen food to their freezer temporarily. Do the same for perishable items like milk, cheese, or butter. Don't try to move all your groceries as someone else's refrigerator may not have enough storage space for everything. If you leave your house, turn off the water line so your pipes won't freeze in cold weather. Turn off lights or appliances that were on when the power went out so these won't all come on suddenly when the electric is restored.

Planning these arrangements in advance can save you time and possibly money in the event of an actual power failure. Make a list and go over it with the family so everyone will know what to do when the time comes.

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