When your power goes out during a storm, it can make a harrowing situation even more stressful. Not only will your children need light to reassure them and ensure their safety, you may also want to have contingency plans in place to power your furnace to stay warm or operate your sump pump to minimize any damage to your home. Preparation is the key and here's how you can plan for the moments after a power outage during a storm.
Proper Prep Starts Before the Storm
Obviously, the time of stress will be as and just after the wind and rain or snow has barreled through your community, but you can ease that anxiety by being prepared before the storm arises. You shouldn't even wait until weather forecasts change – instead have these emergency kits ready to go. “Prep Steps” include:
• Having a flashlight, plenty of batteries, candles, matches, and other items readily available in a convenient location.
• Making sure to have an abundant supply of water available for drinking, cooking, and hygiene.
• Filling your pantry with extra dry and canned food that won't go bad without refrigeration.
• Having blankets and/or subzero sleeping bags available for every resident of the house.
• Having a battery-operated (or solar or wind-up) radio for both entertainment and storm status updates.
If you live in an area where power goes out frequently, you would be wise to outfit your home with a back-up generator. An automatic-on whole-house setup – in which a powerful generator (10 kW or more) capable of running the power needs of the entire home comes on automatically when power goes off – is ideal but very costly.
A more affordable route is to purchase a portable generator powerful enough to run your furnace/boiler, water heater, refrigerator, water pump if necessary (if your home uses a private well), sump pump if necessary, lights, and small appliances – and allow it to be connected to your electrical panel through a transfer switch or special receptacle. You should consult an electrician to help with this. Total cost should be one-fifth (or less) that of a whole-house automatic-on generator.
All of this advice may seem more like doomsday prep rather than for a power outage after a storm, but why leave your family's safety to the reliability of a weather forecaster or your local utility companies? It's better to be prepared with the necessities and not need to use them than the other way around.
Minimizing the Damage of the Storm
Your best bet is to leave as few things to chance as possible. One way to possibly avoid broken windows and subsequent heat loss and rain entry from a storm is by trimming your trees when they are overgrown. You should also know where your emergency water and power (circuit breaker) shutoffs are and how to properly use them.
Another way to hopefully avoid heavy damage from winter snow and ice storms is to perform an autumn inspection. Make sure your roof is in strong enough condition to handle the heavy load of winter weather buildup. Check to see that there are no gaps around windows and doors that will lead to heat loss. Have your furnace or boiler inspected so it will efficiently heat your home after the power is returned.
Do a Dry Run
A power outage after a storm is likely going to result in household chaos – unless you're fully prepared to put your strategy into place. This involves “storm practice” of easily locating your emergency flashlight units and getting the family into their safety locations. You should make sure you know how to operate any alternative heating sources safely and to ensure that they are filled with fuel. You should know how to start your generator (outside your home) and be aware of which appliances you want to run off of it. If you don’t have a generator, figure out how you are going to charge your cell phone and have all the proper emergency numbers stored accordingly.
During the Storm
Proper preparation only gets you so far. During the storm and the subsequent power outages it's important to stay calm (which is why the practice runs help). Try to unplug as many electrical components as possible both to avoid damage and to make the utility company's job easier in lowering the surge when poser comes back. Check for downed power lines (safely) and make sure to report them to your power company. In the winter, it's also important to check up on people in your area to make sure they are safe. Your preparation might save not only your life, but also your neighbors.
Ideally you'll never have to use these steps to prepare for a power outage after a storm, but when you are confident and prepared it will be just another day at the (snowy, windy, and ice-filled) office.
Footnote: The photos in the lead image are courtesy of the following (clockwise from top left): Home Depot, Modern Survival Blog, MakeUseOf.