Blackout Blueprint: Prepping for Power Outages & Post-Outage Tips

The time to prepare for a power outage is before there's one on the horizon. Our tips will help you prepare, stay safe, & recover when the lights come back on.

Published January 17, 2024
woman on her phone in a power outage

Power outages happen, they're as much a part of life as paying taxes and streaming services announcing that they're raising their prices. So when you know there's bad weather on the horizon, it makes life much easier to prep for a power outage rather than react to one. Sometimes, they just happen, though. Here's how to prepare for a power outage and what to do if you're not prepared. 

How to Prepare for a Power Outage

All power outages will look a little different, and what you need to do to prepare won't necessarily look like what your neighbor, cousin, or friend needs to do. Some steps may or may not apply; however, being informed is a great tool for your power outage arsenal. 

Keep Your Flashlights and Batteries in a Consistent Place

The last thing you want to do during a power outage is have to hunt down where your batteries, candles, and flashlights are located. Keep them all in the same place and make sure it's somewhere that's easy to get to, especially in the dark. 

Create an Emergency Kit

Keep those batteries and your emergency kit supplies together. Playing a game of hide and seek in the dark is no way to spend a power outage. Stock your emergency kit with flashlights, batteries, unscented candles, a lighter or matches, non-perishable food, water, and a first aid kit. 

@kanececi I’d rather over prepare than under prepare #stormprep #blizzard #poweroutage #lakeeffectsnow #michigan  original sound - Ceci

Charge Your Electronics Ahead of Time

If you, like me, have a knack for never charging your phone, I say this with love: you need to charge your phone, friend. And then don't go downloading a million things when it's not plugged in.

Charge your tablet, laptop, external batteries, power banks, and e-readers. Charge 'em all. Even your headphones. 

Have Backup Power

Whether a generator, a large battery back-up, or smaller power banks for charging small electronics, they're not of much use if they're not fully charged. It's better to just keep these charged rather than frantically plug all of them in the day before. I say this from experience.

Know What You'll Need for a Safe Temperature

If it's a heatwave, you'll want to stock up on lots of water. If it's winter, layers are the best bet. Skip the showers to stay warm, but do dab yourself with a cool, damp cloth if it's sweltering. 

Stock Up on Essentials 

Matches, candles, and water can go a long way. Especially if you need the water to flush the toilet. Depending on your location, some news stations may advise that you fill your bathtub with water before a storm hits. 

As for food, skip anything that needs cooking, unless it's safe to grill outside. Have a store of ready-to-eat foods on hand, even if that means dry cereal or granola bars. Protein bars are always great. 

Related: Hurricane Safety Tips: Make Sure You're Prepared for Anything

Preparing for a Long-Term Power Outage

materials for a power outage

If that Nor'easter is knocking on your door, a hurricane is spinning your way, or you just know it'll take longer for your power to be restored, here are a few ways to prep. 

Have Additional Non-Perishables on Hand 

If you know the power will be out a long time, it's better to have additional non-perishables on hand than just cereal. Dried fruits and meat are great, as well as soup, especially if you're able to safely warm them up on the grill or with a gas stove. 

Consider Alternate Shelter

Only if it's safe to do so, consider going somewhere that does have power, be it a warming shelter, a friend's house, or even a hotel. 

Follow a Communication Tree

For when battery power or even cell service is difficult, have a designated outside person who can communicate to others how you're doing. This will save your battery from telling everyone and also keep friends and family from panicking if they can't immediately reach you. 

Related: Flood Safety Tips: How to Prepare for a Flood & Stay Safe

What to Do if You're Not Prepared for a Power Outage

The power outage is imminent, or it's already here, and you're scrolling in the dark. We'll keep these tips brief so you can conserve your battery. 

  • Stay calm, take a breath. 
  • Conserve resources and all battery power in your electronics the best you can. 
  • Use flashlights sparingly and as needed if you don't have many batteries and only use lanterns, candles, and other light sources in rooms you're currently in. 
  • Prioritize what you need to charge if you have external batteries. Charge your phone before charging your tablet or e-reader.
  • Try not to open the fridge or freezer, as every time you open the door, you let the cold out and decrease the amount of time the food will stay cold and safe to eat.

What to Do When the Power Outage Ends

Run through this list once the lights come back on and you hear your furnace or air conditioning coming back to life.

  • Take a quick check of your electronics to make sure nothing is fried or zapped from the power returning. If it is, unplug it.
  • Reset those clocks or anything else that needs power cycling.
  • Restock those emergency kits. Make sure you have refreshed your supply of batteries, candles, and anything else you used. Recharge those external battery packs, too. 
  • If the power has been out for four hours or more, you'll need to get rid of everything in your fridge. If it has been out for more than 48 hours, you'll need to get rid of anything in your freezer. 

Power Outage Tips

Just because you're in the dark doesn't mean you need to stay that way. These tips will help you feel prepared and keep you sane. 

  • You can unplug electronics that could be damaged from a power surge when the electricity returns if they aren't already connected to a surge protector.
  • Embrace the lack of technology! Read that book you've been meaning to read, take some time to journal, or clean out that closet.
  • But also, take it easy. You don't need to be productive. Play a card game or board game.
  • Stay warm! Layers are your friend in the winter. Don't take a warm shower. Do stay bundled up in bed or on the couch.
  • Make checking on your emergency kit and essential supplies into a monthly habit or routine. Take a quick five minutes out while the coffee is brewing to do a sweep and then purchase any necessities.
  • Freeze a glass of water and place a quarter on top. Based on how much it melts, you can gauge how long your food was exposed to unsafe temperatures. 
  • Do not leave candles or any flames unattended. 

Once the power is back, consider what worked well for you (having the flashlights in the kitchen cabinet made them easy to retrieve) and what didn't work out so well (maybe keeping the batteries in the basement isn't the best idea). 

Change up what you need to sooner rather than later. You never know when Mother Nature will unplug you next! 

Power Outage Power Plays

Don't be left in the dark! A power outage happens, but with just an ounce of prevention, you don't need to track down that pound of cure. Especially if you're stubbing your toes in the dark looking for batteries. But now that you know what to do, you don't need to stress about that power outage. 

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Blackout Blueprint: Prepping for Power Outages & Post-Outage Tips