The old saying “love makes the world go round” may be less accurate then “electrical power makes the world go round”. We depend on electricity for our day to day existence. It wakes us up in the morning with our alarm clocks and starts our day off with coffee. It supplies the necessary power to recharge our cell phones and power our TVs. Power outages affect commerce, transportation and communication. The recent power outages in Venezuela demonstrate how the lack of power completely disrupts an economy and increases crime.
I don’t know about you but electricity is so integral in my life that when the power goes off I have no idea what to do with myself. No TV, no computer, no video games, no treadmill.
Power outages can happen for a number of reasons inclement weather, damage to power lines from construction, or when usage exceeds capacity. It is important to stay safe and know what to do if your electricity is disrupted.
In order to limit food spoilage keep your refrigerator and freezer closed. Your refrigerator will keep food cold and safe for 4 hours. A full freezer that is not opened can keep food safe for 48 hours. Monitor the temperature of your refrigerator and freezer. 40 degrees or higher and your food is compromised. If you aren’t sure if the food has remained cold enough throw it out. You don’t want to deal with the consequences of eating contaminated food.
If power goes out frequently in your area. Keep a good stock of food (peanut butter, crackers, canned tuna) that does not require refrigeration. This may not be the healthiest way to eat long term but you will be able to satisfy your hunger. You will also want to keep some bottled water on hand. Water can become contaminated when a power outage happens. When your power is out the grocery and other stores in your area are likely to be closed. There doors won’t open and their cash registers will not operate. Don’t count on other resources than what you have on hand.
Power outages can even affect your health. Some medication can be compromised by lack of refrigeration. Some medical devices depend on electricity to function. Oxygen tanks are a good example of a device that needs power in order to function. Discuss with your doctor options for power-dependent medical devices. If you are unsure if your medication is still safe, talk with your doctor or pharmacist to see if you should continue using the medication or wait until you can be resupplied.
A small generator or stock pile of batteries may be a solution for you to stay safe. Make a list of all the things that require electricity in your home. A small generator may not keep your whole house functioning but it could keep your refrigerator cold and your medication safe. Or it could also be used to keep your medical devices like oxygen systems working. Many radios and flash lights will only need extra batteries. With these batteries and tools you can get the news and have some light. Battery backups for phones and computers can help you deal with short lived power failures.
Do not try to heat your home with a gas stove or gas oven. This can be a carbon monoxide threat and a fire threat. If you choose to use candles to provide light only light the candles in the room someone is in. You don’t want a candle to tip over and start a fire.
If you decide to cook on your grill or with a camp stove only do so outside. Both of these appliances are designed to be used outdoors in an open area.
If you haven’t met your neighbors before, now may be a good time. Check on the elderly on your street to make sure they are warm enough and safe. As in any catastrophe our most at risk are the very young and the very old. Both of these populations can have complications from the cold quickly if your power outage happens to be in winter.
If you have very young children who are still dependent on milk or formula keeping a supply on hand is a necessity. Powdered milk can be bought in the grocery store which can be added to water in a pinch to create actual milk. Powdered milk has a long shelf life and is not expensive. This could be a huge help in a crises. Just think you could still have cereal and milk and cereal does not need refrigeration.
- Maintain a supply of non-refrigerated food and water for all the people in your household.
- Have a flashlight for each person.
- Have a battery operated radio.
- Keep an extra supply of all sizes of batteries that you may need on hand.
- Create a plan now for how to handle refrigerated medicines and electrical powered medical devices.
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