Plan & Prepare
Power Outages: What to do During a Blackout
(Much of the information on this page is adapted from information provided by the American Red Cross and the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes)
During A Blackout: The Basics
If someone in the home is on life-support or otherwise electric
dependent due to a disability, immediately notify your
Utility and your local Police Department.
For everyone else:
- Call your utility to determine area repair schedules.
- Listen to your battery-powered radio or television
for updated information, and for any directions from public
- Remember: A battery-powered radio is a key part of your Emergency Supply Kit.
- Use only a battery powered light, such as a flashlight,
for emergency lighting! Due to the extreme risk of fire,
DO NOT use candles during a power outage.
- Avoid elevators.
- Turn off or unplug lights and appliances to prevent
a circuit overload when the power returns. Leave one light
on to let you know when power has been restored.
- Protect yourself from carbon monoxide poisoning:
- Do not operate generators indoors.
- Do not use charcoal to cook indoors.
- Do not use your gas oven to heat your home.
- All of these activities can cause a deadly buildup of carbon monoxide gas. Use space heaters with proper ventilation.
- Keep your refrigerator and freezer doors closed
as much as possible to avoid food spoilage.
- Be sure to check on neighbors, especially the
ill, those with electric-dependent medical needs
and the elderly.
- If it is cold outside:
- Turn on faucets slightly to prevent pipes from freezing.
Running water will not freeze as quickly.
- Put on layers of warm clothing.
- NEVER use your oven as a source of heat!
- If power may be out for a prolonged duration, plan
to go to another location that has heat to keep warm.
- During a heat wave:
- Watch for heat-related illnesses, especially
in children who may not be able to verbalize how they
- Drink plenty of water, even if you do not feel
- Provide plenty of fresh, cool water for your pets.
Refer to "Help! The Power is Out!" (as PDF
also available in Spanish)
available from the American Red Cross. This two-page flyer
provides information on food safety and storage during power
"Help! The Power is Out!" also contains a useful chart
to help you decide whether to keep or discard foods after
a blackout, depending on the type of food, temperature and
duration of the outage.
Here are a few food safety tips:
- Always remember: Food that has not been refrigerated
can cause severe health problems.
- Items in a full freezer will stay frozen for about
two days with the door kept closed, and about one day in
a half-full freezer.
- If there is space in your refrigerator or freezer, consider
filling plastic containers with water (remember to
leave half an inch of space inside each container, because
water expands as it freezes).
- These containers of chilled or frozen water will help
keep food cold by displacing air that can warm
- Refrigerated foods can keep for up to four hours
during a blackout.
- Discard any perishable refrigerated foods that
have been above 40 degrees F for more than two hours.
- Discard any food with an unusual odor, color or
texture. Remember: "When in doubt, throw it out."
Refer to "Fact Sheet: Using a Generator When Disaster
Strikes" (as PDF
also available in Spanish)
available from the American Red Cross.
Here are a few generator safety tips:
- Before obtaining a generator, get advice from a licensed
professional such as an electrician.
- Learn about air quality permit requirements that
may exist in your area.
- Due to the extreme dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning,
always keep the generator outdoors. Never operate
it inside, including in the basement or garage.
- NEVER connect a generator to a home's electrical system
unless you have an approved power transfer switch installed
by a qualified electrician!
- Instead, connect the equipment you want to power directly
to the outlets on the generator.