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Plan & Prepare

Family Preparedness: Power Outages

Read This First!

If you depend on electricity for a breathing machine or other life-sustaining technology, read this detailed checklist by June Isaacson Kailes for advice on preparing a backup plan for electrical power: Emergency Power Planning for People Who Use Electricity and Battery Dependent Assistive Technology and Medical Devices [pdf]

What's Your Plan?

Power Outages: The Facts

Power outages can occur at any time. Some black outs are short but others can stretch for hours or days and pose significant health and safety risks.

Power outage risks:

  • Food spoilage of refrigerated and frozen foods.
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning from unsafe use of generators and alternate heating sources.
  • House fires from unsafe use of candles and alternate heating sources

Conserve Power To Help Avoid Blackouts

The American Red Cross and the power industry recommend the following steps, to conserve power and help avoid blackouts:

  • In heating season, set the furnace thermostat at 68 degrees or lower. In cooling season, set the thermostat at 78 degrees or higher.
    • Consider installing a programmable thermostat that you can set to have the furnace or air conditioning run only when you are at home.
    • Heating and cooling use the most power. Adjusting the temperatures on your thermostat is the biggest energy conservation measure you can take.
  • Turn off lights and computers when not in use.
    • This is especially true about computer monitors. Avoid using a "screen saver." Simply turn the monitor off when you won't be using the computer for a while.
    • Turn the computer off completely each evening. It is no longer true that computer equipment is damaged from turning it off and on.
  • Close windows when the heating or cooling system is on.
  • Caulk windows and doors to keep air from leaking. Replace old windows with new, energy-efficient windows.
  • Clean or replace furnace and air-conditioner filters regularly.
  • When buying new appliances be sure to purchase energy-efficient models.
  • Wrap the water heater with an insulation jacket, available at most building supplies retailers.
  • If you have to wash clothes, wash only full loads and clean the dryer's lint trap after each use.
  • When using a dishwasher, wash full loads and use the "light" cycle. If possible, use the "rinse only" cycle and turn off the "high temperature" rinse option. When the regular wash cycle is done, just open the dishwasher door to allow the dishes to air dry.
  • Replace incandescent light bulbs with energy-efficient compact fluorescent lights.
  • Use one large light bulb rather than several smaller ones.

Learn More

Follow these links for further reading on power outages and preparedness.

(Much of the information on this page is adapted from information provided by the American Red Cross, FEMA and the National Weather Service).

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