You can't stop a power outage, but you can learn how to prepare for one.
Blackouts aren't just annoying. They can be dangerous if you're unprepared. Sure, power outages can interrupt your favorite TV show. But they can also cause food to spoil, cut air conditioning during a heat wave and impact medical devices. While you can't stop power outages from happening, you can prepare today before the next one comes.
Hurricane season will be here before you know it, but wildfires, storms and other inclement weather events can lead to blackouts, too. Even if you own a generator, portable power station or solar panels with a backup battery, taking the following steps can help you navigate a power outage with less stress and worry.
Here are additional ways your phone can help and how to keep your pets safe during natural disasters. Plus, the five things that could help you survive a power outage.
Blackouts happen for many reasons. In May 2022, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation warned of an increased risk of blackouts through much of western North America. At the time, the prospect of a hotter than normal summer, lower than normal hydroelectric reservoirs and potentially higher than normal demand for electricity looked like it could lead to power outages. With less supply from hydroelectric sources and more demand for cooling homes, supply could have fallen short.
More common reasons for blackouts are weather related. Wildfires, hurricanes, thunderstorms and snowstorms can bring down power lines or disrupt electricity generation, causing blackouts. As extreme weather gets more intense due to climate change, more blackouts could be a consequence.
If blackouts do occur in your area, there are a few things you can do beforehand to prepare.
Read more: Do Blackouts Affect Homes With Solar Panels? Sometimes
Blackouts are disruptive, plain and simple. Those disruptions could range from something as minor as an interrupted TV show to as life-threatening as a temperature-sensitive medicine going bad.
Most people grew up doing fire drills in school. Earthquake drills are expected on the West Coast. Tornado drills throughout the Midwest and South are regular occurrences. While blackouts pose less of an immediate danger, you can take a few steps to make sure you're as safe as can be.
The Department of Energy has a list of some things to have on hand for blackout preparation. That list is reflected below, with a few additions.
After the power comes back, the hard part is over, but you'll need to dispose of any spoiled food or medicine. With food, it's best to err on the side of caution. Throw things away if they've been unrefrigerated (above 40 degrees) for two or more hours, the Department of Homeland Security says. (The department runs the website Ready.gov with tips to prepare for almost any kind of disaster.) With medicines, it's best to consult with your doctor.
A blackout is bound to bring some sort of inconvenience, but managing those problems and staying safe is possible with just a bit of preparation.