This is the fourth and final part to this series on getting prepared for extended power outages. These are things you can do right before a power outage as well as things to do during a power outage.
In case you missed the first 3 parts to this topic, here are the links!
For an extra resource, see Essential Items to Purchase to Prepare for Power Outages.
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Things to Do as Soon as a Power Outage Is Announced
I am going to assume that you have read Part 1 and Part 3, because they cover things you have hopefully already done by the time a power outage is announced. If you haven’t hit those posts yet, go read those now. Part 2 is all about generators and fuel, so if that interests you, be sure to check that out too. But Parts 1 and 3 are important for everyone!
- Cell phones
- External chargers
- Electric shavers
- Electronic toothbrushes
- Electric cars
After charging everything, change the settings to “Low Power Mode” on any devices that have that as an option.
Buy/Make Extra Ice for Freezers and/or Cooler
This part is tricky. In addition to having your fridge and freezer as full as possible (which will likely mean filling several empty spaces with ice), it is also a good idea to have a cooler ready to go with ice. Depending on how full your freezer is at that moment, you may want a considerable amount of ice to fill in the gaps. If this is the case, fill large containers (ice cream buckets, 2 liter bottles, etc) with water and stick them in the freezer (hopefully you are already keeping a full freezer from what you learned you can be doing habitually on a regular basis in Part 3 ).
Also, make sure any reusable ice packs that you own are in the freezer and ready to go. This ice pack is my favorite one that we own and it stays frozen for days.
The idea of the cooler is to put any cold food you’ll want to be using within the first several hours of the power outage, in the cooler. That way you aren’t opening and closing your fridge/freezer. You can just open your cooler and only expose the small amount of food in the cooler to the higher temperatures, rather than your entire fridge/freezer contents.
Another way to use a cooler would be to purposefully put refrigerated food in it that you don’t plan on using during the power outage, but rather, want to save. If the power is expected to be out for longer than 4 hours, a cooler will keep your food cold longer than a fridge will (if it is a good cooler). The same idea applies, as far as not opening the cooler once it’s packed.
Freeze Refrigerated Foods That You Don’t Plan on Using Soon
Things like milk, meat, and leftovers freeze well and have a better chance at surviving a power outage if they start out frozen rather than just refrigerated.
Make a Meal Plan and Organize Food Accordingly
Decide what you will eat for meals that will not require cooking. Take a fridge/freezer inventory and plan meals/snacks using perishable things first.
Then organize your perishable items with the things you plan on using at the front of the fridge (or put them in a cooler, depending on which way you go on the cooler idea), and make sure all items are accessible so the fridge/freezer/cooler is open for the least amount of time possible each time you open it.
Do All of Your Laundry, Vacuuming, Dishes, etc.
While a clean house may not be your top priority, you might as well do it if you have time!
Once the power goes out, so will your ability to run appliances in your home.
Starting with empty laundry baskets, an empty dishwasher, and a freshly vacuumed house can definitely cut down on your anxiety during the power outage and immediately following the outage.
Fill All Cars up with Gas (And Extra Gas Cans if Desired)
See Part 3 for more details on the topic of gasoline.
Things to Do DURING the Power Outage
Put a Visual Reminder on Each Fridge/Freezer to Not Open It
A simple X-shape across the handles with masking tape does the job, and is probably the most effective. Just make sure there is something there that will definitely remind EACH member of the household to NOT open the fridge or freezer.
Keep Fridge and Freezer Closed
The fridge will keep food below 40 degrees for about 4 hours, as long as it remains unopened. If power is out for longer than 4 hours, you’ll most likely need to throw out your food. A freezer (if it is full) can keep food safe for up to 48 hours, but again, that is if the doors remain closed.
When in doubt, throw it out! 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 food still contains ice crystals or is 40° F or below, it is safe to refreeze or cook. (Source: Fema.gov)
This link from the USDA has an incredibly helpful list of specific foods that are typically refrigerated/frozen. It tells what is safe to refreeze/keep and what needs to be thrown out. I would highly recommend printing this out for reference for when power is restored.
If the power is out for more than a day, discard any medication that should be refrigerated, unless the drug’s label says otherwise. If a life depends on the refrigerated drugs, consult a doctor or pharmacist and use medicine only until a new supply is available. (Source: Ready.gov)
Disconnect appliances and electronics
Once the power goes out, unplug all appliances and electronics in your home. This is to prevent any damage to your personal belongings if there were to be a power surge when the power comes back on.
To assist you in making the most of this blog post, here is a free printable checklist for things you can do to prepare for a power outage right before, and during the outage!
Feel free to pin this image to help others prepare too!