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When things go dark

Heat waves, strong winds, a power surge, a blown transformer, an ice storm or any of a dozen other reasons can create a blackout, no matter where you live. 

So, it's smart to have a plan for what you'll do, just in case. Here are some ideas to get you ready to outlast an outage. 

Published:Caption:Photo:James Martin/CNET
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Find a way to charge your devices

First, you're going to need a way to charge your devices so you can keep in touch... and be entertained, of course. 

Some good options are the Aukey 10,000mAh portable power bank or the Zagg charger.

Published:Caption:Photo:Alina Bradford/CNET
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Go solar

The problem with power banks, though, is that they only last a certain amount of time, then you're back to square one. 

A smarter choice is to go with a power bank that can be recharged by the sun, like Goal Zero chargers, the Portable Solar Power Bank or the Anker Solar Charger. As long as you have daylight, you have an unending source of power.

Published:Caption:Photo:Sarah Tew/CNET
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Keep yourself entertained

Now that you have a plan to power your devices, you'll need some entertainment. Netflix, Hulu and YouTube allow you to download videos and shows now so you can watch them later, without Wi-Fi.

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Read articles, Wi-Fi free

If reading is more your thing, you can set up Chrome for Android so that it downloads articles it thinks you'll like while you're online so you can read them offline, like during a power outage. This is how you set up the offline articles function.

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Check your email offline

You can use your email account while you're offline, too. Here's how to turn on Gmail's offline setting.

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Preserve food

For short-term outages (a couple of hours), you really don't need to worry about the food in your fridge going bad. 

Move some larger frozen items from the freezer to the refrigerator to supplement the cool air that's already inside. After you make the transfer, keep the door closed and the fridge will stay cold long enough for the power to come back on.

Published:Caption:Photo:Mitchell Chang/CNET
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Save the milk

For longer outages, you'll need to take action to save perishables like milk, meats, eggs, leftovers and cheeses. Here are some tips that will help you save your food.

Published:Caption:Photo:Alina Bradford/CNET
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Make a DIY air conditioner

If you live in an area that has brownouts or blackouts during heat waves, you can get prepared by making your own battery-powered air conditioner. 

It doesn't take a lot of DIY know-how, and all you need is an old cooler, PVC pipe, a battery-powered fan, some basic power tools and duct tape. You can get full instructions here.

Published:Caption:Photo:Alina Bradford/CNET
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Follow the weather warnings

No matter if it's a storm, heat wave or just strong winds that's knocking out power, you need to stay on top of the latest weather. 

Since you can't flip to the Weather Channel or your local news, you'll need a reliable app. Here are some good options.

Published:Caption:Photo:Alina Bradford/CNET
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Make plans for power-free cooking

Unless you want to survive on power bars and crackers, you'll need a way to cook without power. 

The best plan -- if you have a porch, patio or yard -- is to have a grill handy. Here's how to pick the best grill for your needs

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Get creative

You aren't stuck making hot dogs, burgers and steaks on your grill when the power is out. 

Here are 8 unexpected ways to cook with your grill.

Published:Caption:Photo:Josh Miller / CNET
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Supplement your candles

If you find yourself running out of candles, remember this tip: crayons are a great alternative. 

Use a lighter to slightly melt the bottom and stick it to a plate so it will stand upright. Then, light the paper around the crayon on the top. The paper will act as a wick and the wax will fuel the flame, just like a candle. 

Published:Caption:Photo:Alina Bradford/CNET
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Keep a go bag on hand

Just in case the weather gets too bad, keep a go bag on hand during the power outage. 

Go bags are prepacked with stuff you'll need if you have to evacuate or seek other shelter. Here's how to pick a bag and fill it with essentials

Published:Caption:Photo:Alina Bradford/CNET
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Make sure your water is clean

If you rely on your fridge's water filter for clean water, you'll need to have an alternative handy when there's no power. 

Filtering water pitchers are a good go-to. These are some things to consider before you go shopping.

Published:Caption:Photo:Tyler Lizenby/CNET
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