Power outages do more than just put out all your lights. Losing power can lead to ruined food, loss of internet and the inability to live comfortably in your apartment.
On average, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, a typical power outage lasts around two hours. While this isn’t long enough to wreak major havoc in your home, it’s enough to highly inconvenience you.
What to do in a power outage
The most important thing to do in a power outage is not panic. These things happen, and as long as you’re able to think clearly and make good decisions, you’ll get through the darkness.
1. Check your circuit breaker box
The first thing to establish when you lose power is whether it’s a single unit issue or something more widespread. Making sure a circuit breaker isn’t tripped in your own apartment is the best place to start.
You’ll usually find your breaker box in a bedroom closet or on the wall in a hallway. Look for a gray or black door, assuming it wasn’t painted over to match the wall. Make sure you have a flashlight with you to see everything clearly.
When you open the box, you’ll notice if a breaker has tripped because it won’t firmly be in the “on” position. You can check each breaker to see if it wiggles too. If a breaker is in the “off” position or looks like it’s sitting in the middle, you’ve got a tripped breaker. Just flip the breaker back on and you’re back in business. If the breaker is in the middle, switch it all the way off before turning it back on.
2. Report the problem
If you check your breaker box, and everything looks in order, it’s time to take the DIY out of the process. Contact your property manager to report the problem and get more information. They’ll most likely be able to tell you whether or not it’s affecting the entire building and what steps are in place to remedy the situation.
You can also simply look around to other buildings in your area to see if they look like they don’t have power either. If all the windows in neighboring buildings look dark, you know this is a much larger problem and something the electric company is most likely already working on repairing.
It still doesn’t hurt to report your outage to your electric company though.
3. Avoid damage from power surges
When the power does come back on, there’s a risk a power surge will take place. This can scorch walls or even lead to small electrical fires.
To prevent this from happening, go through your home and unplug appliances and electronics. Even though you’re eager to get back to using everything as soon as you get electricity back, it’s best to play it safe until after the power returns.
4. Monitor alerts
Even with the power out, as long as your phone is already charged, you should have the ability to monitor alerts regarding your electricity. Check in with your power company for regular updates and report your issues if they haven’t documented anything wrong in your area.
If your power outage is weather-related, keep an eye on local news updates and weather reports to stay on top of any evacuation announcements or other important information.
5. Keep a clean supply of water
With prolonged or widespread power outages, there’s a chance drinking water could get contaminated. This happens when the loss of electricity extends to the water sanitation system in your area.
Even if this happens, the water you can immediately pull out of your faucets is still okay to drink. To provide yourself with a solid amount of clean water when the lights go out, fill up tubs and sinks right after you lose power.
What not to do during a power outage
The most important thing not to do during a power outage is panic. You need to think with a clear head to act safely. However, a few other no-no’s are worth noting when it comes to staying in your apartment while the power is out.
- Do not open your refrigerator or freezer if you can help it. This will keep the food inside cooler for longer and prevent spoilage.
- Do not try to use a gas stove to heat your home. You should also avoid bringing in an outdoor grill for indoor heat. Doing so can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. If you have a fireplace, go ahead and light that, but otherwise, bundle up with blankets or get to a warmer location.
- Do not leave lit candles unattended for light. It’s OK to use them while you’re in the room with them, but make sure you blow them out before you leave. Flashlights are always a safer bet when moving from room to room and make a great first choice in light sources when you lose power.
- Do not assume you can get out of your apartment complex. If you live in a gated community, chances are the gate runs on electricity. If you’re opting to leave your apartment while the power is out, make sure you either know how to manually open your community gate or that your management office has taken care of the issue.
- Do not go near pooling water or power lines. If you’re outside at all during a widespread power outage, stay clear of fallen power lines and large puddles of water. You have no way of knowing when the electricity will come back on and charge up a wire or a pool of water where a line is hiding.
- Do not waste hot water. Losing power doesn’t mean you can’t flush toilets or even take a shower, but the amount of hot water you have when the power goes out is not much. To avoid cold showers, on top of everything else, use the hot water you have sparingly.
Prepare in advance
Since the odds are good you’ll experience a power outage at least once, why not prepare in advance? You can make a lights-out kit to ensure everything you’ll need in an emergency is in one place.
Put together a few flashlights, extra batteries and an emergency radio if you have one. Consider adding a remote charger for your cell phone and even a few bottles of water.
Store your lights-out kit somewhere that’s easy to get to even in the dark.
Stay safe when the lights go out
We all pay an electric bill and come to rely on the utility’s availability whenever we need it. This is what makes it so stressful when the lights do go out. Knowing what to do in a power outage, and preparing in advance, are the best steps you can take to handle the issue until the light returns.