The average person thinks about their career, daily routine, personal relationships, and even their vehicle, but how many of us contemplate the implications of a blackout? In some parts of the world, it is not uncommon to hear about blackouts. In fact, they occur regularly in the summer in parts of New Zealand and Australia. A blackout can happen any time. What causes a blackout?
During periods of high power use, the demand for electricity increases more than what’s available. This may cause power failures. Also called load shedding, energy providers may switch off the power for a short duration to cope. Sometimes blackouts happen due to natural disasters like bushfires, flash flooding, earthquakes, etc.
If you live in an area that is prone to frequent environmental fluctuations, it helps to prep for a blackout.. Unfortunately, most people fail to follow this safety measure. Nevertheless, if you ever find yourself in a blackout situation, here are some things you should do immediately:
1. Evaluate your surroundings.
The power can go out for many reasons, but the best place to start is in your own home. Check to see if a defective appliance or a blown out light bulb is behind the fault. Then look outside your home into your surrounding area. If the neighbors’ homes are still receiving power, then perhaps the safety switch in your house has tripped.
If all the neighbors’ homes are also cloaked in darkness, then check to see if the cause of the outage is visible within your area only. A power line or tree might be the culprit. If so, report it immediately to your electricity supplier. Try to stay put indoors.
2. Look for sources of lighting.
You need to be able to move around your home and property in a safe manner with another source of light. What would you use? Candles are a good and affordable option. They cast a nice glow. If you plan on using candles, beware of fire hazards. Avoid placing the candles near flammable materials. Torches with LED lights are an excellent choice because this won’t drain the batteries. Both candles and torches offer excellent nighttime visibility. Avoid using the phone torch as it may use up too much of the battery power. Since you don’t know how long the power will be gone, it’s best to save your phone battery power. Fuel-based lamps are useful during camping excursions and in blackout situations as well. If you’re facing one, now’s the best time to pull these out.
3. Practice food safety.
Many food items can quickly spoil if they’re not cooled sufficiently During the blackout, try to make sure the frozen or refrigerated food is kept cool. As a rule, if the food item is cold, then eat it. If some foods can be shifted to the freezer, then it will stay colder for a longer time. Try to keep the fridge door shut for as long as you can. This minimizes the cool air from escaping. You might consider following the 2 to 4-hour rule established by the Australian Institute of Food Safety. It recommends the following:
- If the blackout lasts less than 2 hours, then it is safe to refrigerate and or eat the food item.
- If the blackout lasts between 2 and 4 hours, you may still eat the food but avoid placing it back into the refrigerator.
- If the blackout lasts for more than four hours, then throw away the food item.
In case you have doubts about eating or storing certain foods when the power is restored, then it’s best to throw the item out. Eating the food item can make your sick. Check your refrigerator’s settings to ensure that the temperature is set to low. This helps ensure the food will stay fresh for some time. In addition, there are some medications that require refrigeration. Check with your pharmacy if it is safe to take medications that aren’t refrigerated for some time.
4. Turn off all appliances.
In the event of a complete power outage, walk around your home and turn off all the appliances switches. The power may come back unexpectedly. A sudden power surge can cause significant damage to the hardware in your television, computer, laptop, etc.
5. Use your phone cautiously.
Turn on your cell phone’s data connection to receive updates from your power supplier. Visit the supplier’s website for updates. Local news channels will likely provide information about the blackout as well. To ensure your phone battery lasts for a long time, switch it to a low battery setting. Minimize the brightness and turn off the Bluetooth and WiFi. It helps to have a portable charge at the ready and charged at all times.
6. Help your neighbors.
Check to see if your neighbors are home and okay? In case they’re an elderly couple or people with special needs, try to visit their home. It is a polite gesture to offer your help. Check to make sure they have portable sources of power. Don’t forget to check in with them in periodically in case the blackout extends for some time.
7. Find ways to pass the time.
The blackout may last a few hours, so you will have to find ways to keep your mind occupied. One of the best activities is talking. Talk to your family members. If you live alone, step outside onto your porch and have a conversation with your neighbors.
Another excellent pass time is star gazing. If you live in a bustling city or densely populated suburban locale, then outside. This is perhaps the only time you might get to see a clear sky without light pollution. Try spotting the constellations!
8. Keep medical supplies ready.
If you don’t have information about how long the blackout will last, it is extremely beneficial to keep your first aid kit ready and accessible. In case you’re taking regular medications, i.e. for diabetes or blood pressure, ensure you have enough on hand. It also helps to have certain over-the-counter medications on hand as well such as ibuprofen/acetamenophen, cough syrup, pain balm, bandages, etc.
9. Check your windows and doors.
If the blackout hits you at night, perform a routine check of all your windows and doors to make sure they are secure. Ensure nothing is kept open. Unfortunately, theft and robberies can occur at anytime!
10. Check your pets.
If you have house pets, make sure you know where they are at all times. If they sleep in a different room from yours, it helps to keep them close during a blackout. Ensure they’re fed and hydrated well.
11. Evaluate your food supply.
If the blackout looks like it may go on for some time, check your food supply. If it’s safe to do so, visit your nearest store. Stock up on non-perishable food items such as the following:
- Canned vegetables and fruit
- Dry pasta
- fresh fruit
- Juice boxes
- Dry milk powder or HTC milk
- Water bottles
- Pet food
- Infant formula
Some other essential items to stock up on are:
- toilet paper
- bathing soap or shampoo
- laundry detergent
- hand sanitizer