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How to prepare for power outages

  • How to prepare for power outages

    In the first hour of an average day, you probably get woken by an alarm clock, check your smartphone, sip on a cup of coffee while watching the news, and rinse off in a hot shower. Each one of those activities can only be enjoyed thanks to our modern system of electricity.

    Unfortunately for us and the luxurious way of life we've grown accustomed to, power outages come with the territory of being connected to grids—and those outages are on the rise. Pew Charitable Trusts concluded in a 2015 study that the United States experiences more power outages than any other developed nation in the world. This is largely due to two factors: our outdated electrical grid, much of which was put into place before World War II and isn't able to handle increased demand; and extreme weather events.

    Climate Central, an organization that conducts scientific research on climate change, found that severe weather caused 80% of power outages over nine years. These extreme weather events can be everything from a hurricane to a tornado to subzero freezes to heatwaves. With hurricane season upon us, and heat waves blanketing large swaths of the country, it seems as good a time as any to highlight ways to prepare for the power outages that are most certainly to come.

    Stacker has rounded up 50 ways to prepare for power outages. Using data from government websites, insurance firms, and news sources, we've compiled a comprehensive "loss of electricity" guide. From getting together an emergency outage kit to navigating food safety and planning for possible evacuations, the following list is sure to leave you feeling much more prepared the next time your lights flicker and cut out.

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  • Put together an emergency outage kit

    The Edison Electric Institute, an association that represents all investor-owned electric companies in the United States, recommends putting together an emergency outage kit. While their list has more than a couple of dozen items on it, you'd do best to start with the essentials: flashlights, candles, matches, a battery-powered radio, and several blankets.

  • Take an inventory of electronic items

    As you set out to prepare your emergency outage kit, you'd do well to take an inventory of all the essential items in your house that rely on electricity to run. This will help you plan for the number and size(s) of batteries your kit should include and other energy sources (like a generator) you might need to rely on in the short run.

  • Purchase a generator

    Power loss is often a result of extreme weather, and depending on the time of year, it might be impossible for you to go for hours or days without heat or air conditioning. Many homeowners would do well to buy a generator of a size and type that would meet their household's needs. Consumer Reports has put together a comprehensive guide for those in the market for a generator.

  • Invest in a Mule Light

    Those who are truly prepared for a power outage also have as many light sources as possible on hand. While traditional flashlights and candles are great options, a Mule Light, which is part glow stick part flashlight, is possibly the best. When used with its two included battery packs, the Mule Light has a use time of over 600 hours and is considered exceptionally bright.

  • Update your contact information with the electric company

    In the event of a power outage, your power company will be able to serve you faster if all of your contact information is up to date. Calling your provider ahead of time to update your phone number and e-mail address could potentially save you a huge headache down the line.

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  • Install surge protectors

    Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company urges clients to think of surge protectors like "inexpensive insurance for [their] priciest electronic items." These small, often cheap, devices can be plugged into your appliances in order to protect them from voltage spikes that happen when the power eventually flickers back on. Install them on your most valuable and pricy electronics like your computer, TV, and refrigerator.

  • Install carbon monoxide detectors

    One lesser-known aspect of power outages is the increased risk for carbon monoxide poisoning while the electricity is out or immediately after it's turned back on. Generators or cooking instruments can cause an excess of carbon monoxide, a dangerous, deadly gas (like a grill). Installing carbon monoxide detectors—especially those that are battery powered–—all over your house well before a power outage could end up saving your life.

  • Sign up for weather alerts

    Weather caused 80% of the power outages between 2003 and 2012, according to Climate Central. As climate change increases the number of extreme weather events we see within a year, it stands to reason that the number of power outages we see in the space of a year will increase as well. Do yourself a favor, and subscribe to your local weather alerts so that you can be in the know when these types of events are expected.

  • Know the risks in your area

    Along with subscribing to weather alerts, be sure to research the weather risks in your area. Do you live in a hurricane or tornado zone? Is your community prone to extreme cold or heat that could affect the reliability of the power? Knowing what you're up against, and how often to expect power outages, is possibly the best thing you could do for yourself when it comes to being prepared.

  • Refill your first aid kit

    We all hope that there'd be no major injuries or health issues during a power outage, but reality doesn't always play out that nicely. Check your family's first aid kit and make sure it's refreshed with everything you could need, from band-aids to ace bandages. While you're at it, check the medicine cabinet and make sure you have a decent supply of all over-the-counter medications.

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