How to Prepare for a Power Outage: Steps to take Before the Grid Fails


Author:
Last Updated: July 6, 2021

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:

Emergency Stove

An emergency stove serves two primary purposes during a power outage:

  1. It means you can cook meals
  2. 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:

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:

Emergency Heater

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:

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.

Leave a comment

  1. Excellent article on prepping for a power outage!

    Both my home & family were exceptionally well prepared for the Texas snow apocalypse that occurred in Feb 2021. We had no power for 50 hours, and my living room was at 33°F.

    While we easily cooked on our 2-burner propane stove in our kitchen, with the kitchen window cracked about an inch for proper ventilation, we also were able to keep everything in our chest freezer frozen as the bottom layer is 20ish or so 2L soda bottles filled with water.

    Our saving grace was our 14-passenger family tour bus… once the power was out, we had a choice between heating our living room with our propane heaters or running our generator to power our dairy barn heaters, or heading to the bus. When the bus hit 78°F and stayed at that temp for the remaining hours of the blackout (48+ hours), there was no choice… the bus won hands down! The bus used 1/4 of a tank of diesel every 12 hours, which amazed me and confirmed for the Hubster his decision to only purchase a diesel bus.

    The bus slept three adults, one rescue dog and one rescue cat, and kept five cell phones & one Kindle fully charged. I’d race into the house and make a pot of percolator coffee on our 2-burner propane stove, and whip up almost anything in the freezer or fridge to feed the three adults… steak & eggs, French toast with ham steaks, any one of a dozen “hearty” soups with cornbread made in the propane stove “hacked” into being an oven for awhile, grilled deli meat & cheese sandwiches, reheated crustless breakfast quiche, leftover fast food chicken with cole slaw & biscuits… you name it, if it was in our fridge/freezer, it was up for grabs. Thankfully we never had to plug either our refrigerator or our chest freezer into our (3750w-4000w) generator due to the temps never getting above 37°F. Not that it couldn’t have been done, it just would have required a little juggling of appliances & heaters in use.

    My only concern now is how this blackout scenario would play out in mid-summer when the temps can easily get above 110°F for weeks on end. Considering the mess the Texas electric grids are in, we may very soon find out how badly a blackout would work in the heat. Ugh!

    TX Griff

    Reply

Leave a Comment