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I’m going to make a prediction. Your electrical power will go out at least once this summer or fall. It might be a brief outage or it may be an extended blackout. But you’ll be without power for a period of time.

Now, I realize that’s not a bold prediction. Power outages happen all over the country every day. But I mention it because it’s worth thinking about.

Do you have a plan for the next time it happens? If it occurs at night, you might grab a flashlight off the nightstand if you remembered to leave it there. Next you may check breakers in the basement to see if a fuse blew.

Regardless of what time of day it happens, you might look at houses in your neighborhood to see if they have any lights on. Or maybe you use your cellphone to call the power company to report the outage. 

Knowing what to do is key

As with just about everything else in life, the better prepared you are to deal with an outage, the better off you and your family will be.

Today I’m going to offer you with a refresher course on things to do before your power goes out. And while it’s out. As well as what to do once power is restored.

I’ll even toss in some safety tips along the way. You might want to print this out so you can be ready to deal with the next outage without even thinking about it.

Knowing exactly what to do when the next inevitable power outage occurs will come in handy. And it will certainly speed up your efforts to handle the situation.

Hurricane Elsa starts the parade 

First, though, I’d like to review a couple of recent examples in which Americans lost power in their homes and businesses.

The strongest Atlantic Ocean hurricanes usually occur in August and September. But Elsa recently became the strongest July storm in the Caribbean Sea since 2005. It made landfall in Florida and eventually reached Maine

Does that mean we’re in for another rough hurricane season? The weather experts think so. Nearly all of them predict an above average Atlantic hurricane season. Even if it doesn’t match last year’s record-breaking 30 named storms.

And as we know, hurricanes and other severe weather knock out power every time. Sometimes for just a few days and other times for a week or more.

Wildfires raging in the West

As of this writing, more than 60 wildfires are scorching portions of 10 Western states. Thanks to high temperatures, drought and lightning strikes. One of these blazes is nearly twice the size of Portland, Oregon. 

Thousands of people have been forced to evacuate their homes. From Alaska all the way to Wyoming. More than one-half of the largest fires are in Arizona, Idaho and Montana. That’s according to the National Interagency Fire Center.  

Not surprisingly, power is going out all over the area. Even in places where people are not evacuating. One of the fires disrupted service on three transmission lines providing up to 5,500 megawatts of electricity to California.

Last year was a record-breaking wildfire season in America. Well over 50,000 wildfires burned more than 9 million acres. Are we headed for another record in 2021? 

Before a blackout

The better prepared you are for a blackout, the greater the chance you’ll be able to handle it. Here’s what to do prior to a blackout.

  •           Put together a supply of emergency food and water for your family. Start with 72 hours’ worth, then build it up.
  •           Build an emergency kit or bug-out bag. Store your kit in an easily accessible place. Consider having an additional emergency kit at your place of business in case a blackout occurs while you’re at work.
  •           Make a family communications plan and discuss it with family members. Conduct a dry run every few months to make sure everyone is ready to carry out the plan.
  •           Follow energy conservation measures to keep the use of electricity as low as possible. This can help power companies avoid imposing rolling blackouts. 
  •           Fill plastic containers with water and place them in the refrigerator and freezer. Leave an inch of space inside each one, as water expands as it freezes. This chilled or frozen water will help keep food cold during a temporary outage. 
  •           Be aware that most medication that requires refrigeration can be kept in a closed refrigerator for several hours without a problem. If unsure, check with your physician or pharmacist. 
  •           Keep your car tank as full as possible. Gas stations rely on electricity to power their pumps. In addition to being your emergency transportation, your car could also be your charging system and the only heating or air conditioning you’ll have for a while.
  •           Know where the manual release lever of your electric garage door opener is located and how to operate it.
  •           Get a good supply of cash. Some stores may not be able to process credit card and debit card purchases. Cash machines may not work. 

During a blackout

If you’ve prepared for a blackout, you’ll be ready to deal with it when it happens. Following are some recommendations.

  •           Use only flashlights for emergency lighting. Never use candles during a blackout due to fire risk.
  •           If you’re using a generator to power lights, be careful how long you keep them on. If your home is the only one lit up at night, you could become a target.  
  •           Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed to make sure your food stays as cold and fresh as possible. 
  •           Turn off or disconnect appliances, equipment and electronics that were in use when the power went out. They could be damaged if power returns with a momentary surge.
  •           Leave one electrical item on – such as a light – so you’ll know when your power returns.
  •           If it’s cold outside when the power goes out, wear layers of clothing. Open window blinds and curtains during the day to let sunshine in.
  •           If it’s hot outside when the power goes off, go to the lowest level of your home. Drink plenty of water. Keep window blinds and curtains closed to keep the heat out.
  •           Make sure your pets have plenty of fresh, cool water and anything else they need for survival and comfort.
  •           Fill the bathtub with water, as your faucet water flow may decrease or stop entirely. Duct tape the drain so water does not leak out. Fill other containers with water as well.

After a blackout

Once power is restored, here are some tips to stay safe. 

  •           Throw out food that’s been exposed to temperatures of 40 degrees Fahrenheit or higher for two or more hours. Same thing for food with an unusual odor, color or texture.
  •           Don’t use taste – or even odor or appearance – to determine if your food is still good. Food can look and smell OK but may contain bacteria that causes food-borne illnesses. 
  •           Don’t turn all appliances back on at once. Turn your heat or air conditioning back on first. Then wait 10-15 minutes before starting up other items or appliances you may need. 
  •           If the water from your faucet has not been running but now it’s working again, don’t drink from it right away. Let it run for a while. Listen to local broadcasts or contact the local health department to find out if a nearby water source has been compromised. Water purification systems usually rely on electricity. 

Patriot Power Sidekick 

People who have not prepared for an emergency will struggle with a temporary blackout. And fall apart in a medium-length blackout. 

But if you have fully prepared, a temporary blackout will be nothing more than a minor inconvenience. And a medium-length blackout will be one you can handle with some determination.

My suggestion for handling short-term blackouts is the new Patriot Power Sidekick. This mini solar generator never needs gas and costs less than an iPhone.

It weighs only six pounds. But with its 300-watt capacity, you can use it to power your cellphone or laptop and keep medical devices running. Plus, power lights for safety and comfort, turn on lights to ward off looters and so much more.

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