Most power outages only last a short time and are more of an inconvenience than an emergency. However, long-term power outages do occur – especially during winter and extreme weather. If you aren’t prepared, these power outages can become true disasters.
This guide will go over how to prepare for a significant power outage, including items to have ready and steps to take.
Food for Power Outages
At the very minimum, you should have 14 days’ worth of emergency food in your home (30 days is even better). Typically, we think of things like dry beans, rice, and pasta as emergency foods.
However, all of these foods must be cooked – something that you might not be able to do during a power outage.
For this reason, it is best to have a supply of food that doesn’t require cooking.
Good foods for power outages include canned meals (soup, ravioli, etc.), crackers, pretzels, jars of hummus and pate, cheese in a can, shelf-stable boxes of milk, and juice, cereal, and energy bars.
For more ideas, see this post on Survival Foods To Stockpile.
Water during Power Outages
Boil alerts are often issued during power outages because the water treatment facility cannot treat water without electricity. You will need a safe supply of drinking water to last you through the power outage.
Also, be warned that water outages sometimes occur alongside power outages, such as during flooding, hurricanes, or severe blizzards. Without enough water, you won’t be able to do things like flush your toilet or wash your hands.
For more, read:
- How Much Water Do I Need to Stockpile?
- How to Store Water Long-Term
- Do Water Filters Work During Boil Alerts?
- Ways to Treat Water During Emergencies
- Emergency Toilet Options
- How to Hand To Clean Hands Without Running Water
- How To Get Water From a Well With No Power
An emergency stove serves two primary purposes during a power outage:
- It means you can cook meals
- It allows you to boil water.
Not all portable stoves are safe to use indoors because of the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. You’ll need to make sure you have an indoor-safe stove and follow proper ventilation guidelines.
For more, read:
- Ways to Cook without Electricity During Power Outages
- The Best Indoor Emergency Stoves
- Carbon Monoxide Detectors for Power Outages
Lighting for Power Outages
While you can survive without light, having emergency lighting makes life during a power outage much more manageable (such as when you’ve got to go to the bathroom in the dark!).
There are many options for emergency lighting. Ideally, you will have at least two different options. This would give you a backup in case one stops working or isn’t safe. For example, candles aren’t safe during suspected gas leaks, so you want to have a battery-powered lantern as a backup.
For more, read: 9 Types of Emergency Lighting .
Also see our guides to:
Chargers and Emergency Power
At the very least, you’ll want a supply of batteries for your emergency devices. A good rule of thumb is to have 10 spare batteries per device (though this number varies depending on the batteries’ quality, how you store them and how power-intensive the device is).
The next level of preparedness is having a way to recharge batteries, including your phone battery. This is pretty simple to do with solar power banks or portable solar panels.
If you want a larger-scale solution to keep larger appliances like your freezer, an AC unit, or heater running during a power outage, you’ll need a generator or portable power station.
For more, read:
- Best Batteries for Emergency Preparedness
- How to Store Batteries Long-Term
- Hand-Crank Phone Chargers
- Solar Power Banks
- Portable Solar Chargers
- Best Indoor Power Station
- Best Dual Fuel Generator
Power outages are more likely during extreme weather, such as blizzards. To survive the cold weather, you’ll need a way to heat a part of your home.
Like with stoves, not all emergency heaters are safe to use indoors. Many people die due to carbon monoxide poisoning from incorrectly-used heaters.
It might seem counterintuitive to open a window during a winter power outage, but you’ll need to crack the window at least a tiny bit to allow fresh oxygen into the room.
For more, read:
- Best Emergency Propane Heaters
- Kerosene Emergency Heaters + Safety Advice
- DIY Emergency Heaters from Household Items
Other Power Outage Supplies
In addition to the items above, make sure you have these power outage supplies prepared:
- Emergency radio: This allows you to get emergency alerts and broadcasts. Read about emergency radios.
- Fire extinguisher: Make sure you have it nearby whenever using candles, propane stoves, or anything else that has a flame.
- First aid kit: See a complete list here.
- Lighter and matches: You’ll need these to light candles, stoves, etc.
- Sleeping bags: In cold weather, your entire family will likely sleep in one room in sleeping bags to conserve heat. See these recommended sleeping bags.
- Manual can opener: For opening canned emergency food.
- Home repair items: You may need work gloves, plastic sheeting, duct tape, tarps, plywood, tools, and other supplies to board up broken windows or other storm/blizzard-related damage.
- Solar shower: These allow you to take hot showers even during power outages, so long as there is adequate sunlight during the day.
- Off-grid washing machine: In case of a long-term power outage, you can use one to wash clothing. See how to make a bucket washing machine and other options off-grid washing machine options.
- Instruction manuals: Even if you think you know how to use your emergency devices, have the instructions on hand in case any issues come up. Also, have instructions for anything you need to do during the power outage, such as shutting off the gas, water, and electricity at the mains.
- Corded phone: Cordless landline phones won’t work during power outages. Have a corded phone as a backup so you can make calls, especially if your cell phone battery dies.
- Activities: Books, board games, and other activities can help pass the time and keep your family calm during the power outage.
- Bug out bag: You should have this packed ahead of time, so you don’t forget essential items if you need to evacuate in a hurry. Read our guide to Bug Out Bags here.
A Plan for What to Do during and after the Power Outage
The final thing you need to prepare for a power outage is a plan. Your plan needs to include information like how to keep food in your fridge from going bad, how to shut off power at the main, and how to get in contact with family members.
For more, read what to do after a power outage.