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How to Survive a Power Outage

Updated on July 8, 2012

Top Four Ways to Survive a Power Outage

  • Understand family and food safety
  • Determine if you will stay or leave your house
  • Maintain quality of life
  • Be a good friend and neighbor

We have all had our power go out due to storms or any sort of bad weather. More than anything, lack of electricity in your house is a major nuisance. What becomes bigger than an annoyance is sustained lack of power. Anyone can tolerate a power outage for a couple of hours, but what if you were like us and on day eight of a power outage?

Hurricane like winds ripped through our Midwestern city toppling eighteen power lines on a busy street. As a result, we have been living without power for over a week.

How do you deal with a power outage?

Enjoy Grilling Out

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Son enjoying grilled cookie dough and thawing ice creamI love grilled (roasted) cauliflower!
Son enjoying grilled cookie dough and thawing ice cream
Son enjoying grilled cookie dough and thawing ice cream | Source
I love grilled (roasted) cauliflower!
I love grilled (roasted) cauliflower! | Source

Critical Food Safety

Without power:

  • A refrigerator will become unsafe when the temperature gauge reads greater than 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Consider purchasing ice and keeping dairy products in a cooler.
  • A partially full freezer has twenty-four hours before food reaches a danger zone
  • A full freezer has forty-eight hours before food reaches a danger zone.
  • Try to limit or prevent opening refrigerators and freezers to contain as much cold air as possible.

Family and Food Safety

It is critical to triage the situation and understand how long your power could be out. Often when power outages are reported, estimates are given stating when power will be restored. Because our estimate was initially five to seven days, we needed to deal quickly with some critical items: temperature of the house and freezer and refrigerator items.

If you are anticipating successive days with a lack of power and you are elderly, have an infant, or have compromised health, you may want to consider temporary housing or a cooling station. Local churches and the American Red Cross offer cooling stations and shelters. Excessive heat or cold may not be suitable conditions for waiting out a power outage. Assess your situation and understand your family needs.

After evaluating our family situation, we moved on to our food. We purchase one quarter of a cow each year. Cooking all the meat was not an option and neither was losing our beef investment. We chose to immediately find a friend with power and freezer space.

We additionally needed to evaluate what food could be grilled and what we were willing to lose.

This power outage was a learning opportunity and that first afternoon we realized that the following items could be grilled:

  • Chicken nuggets and French fries
  • Cauliflower
  • Cookie Dough

We lined the grill with foil and the nuggets and fries turned out just like in the oven. The cauliflower was roasted and is now my new favorite was to prepare this vegetable. It was amazing. I kept the cookie dough in a block and the edges got a little brown. I had trouble getting it off the foil. I ended up with a pile of warm, cooked cookie on a plate. We topped it with thawing ice cream, passed out the forks and the kids went to town.

Once we knew that our food was safe, we had a chance to be adventurous. The kids had fun and what did we really have to lose?

What is your longest power outage?

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Where to Stay During a Power Outage

It was time for fight or flight. We do not have elderly, infants or anyone with compromised health in our family so we decided to wait out the outage. Due to a heat index of over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, many neighbors left and let us know of their departure.

If you decide to leave your home and sleep somewhere else during a power outage:

  • Exchange cell phone information with a neighbor
  • Let a neighbor know if plants or grass should be watered
  • Notify neighbor if mail and paper will still be delivered
  • Leave on an outside light so that it can be determined if power is restored

We ended up watching multiple houses, watering many plants and keeping an eye out for pockets of power being restored. We were pleased that our neighbor left their exterior lights on so we were able to let them know that while our power was not on, theirs had been restored and they could return home.

Generator Safety

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Keep the generator away from the house, well ventilated, grounded, and lockedStore gasoline away from the generatorPrevent toxic fumes from entering the house by keeping doors shut and blocking windows with towels
Keep the generator away from the house, well ventilated, grounded, and locked
Keep the generator away from the house, well ventilated, grounded, and locked | Source
Store gasoline away from the generator
Store gasoline away from the generator | Source
Prevent toxic fumes from entering the house by keeping doors shut and blocking windows with towels
Prevent toxic fumes from entering the house by keeping doors shut and blocking windows with towels | Source

Quality of Life During a Power Outage

Because we have a basement that was much cooler than the remainder of the house and had access to a generator, we chose to stay. Our house is our largest financial investment and we wanted to make sure it was safe. If using a generator during a power outage, it is critical to review generator safety so that your family is unharmed.

With the generator, we were able to quickly rectify the thawing freezer and warming refrigerator. If you are lucky enough to use a generator, keep in mind others that do not. Offer to refrigerate or freeze food items. Spread the ‘generator’ wealth if you have it. In our situation, power resumed quickly for half of our neighborhood while others, like us, remained without power. In the midst of celebrating the return of your power, remember that others are still without. Take lending a hand to a new level. Offer your generator to those who do not have one. An idle generator is a wasted generator during a power outage.

There is a fine line between being proud and just being silly. We denied some offers for help on day one and two of the outage. After day three, we accepted offers to:

  • Do a load of laundry
  • Let the kids play at an air conditioned house
  • Eat dinner a friend’s house

We have five children seven and under and needed to maintain some quality of life.

Understand the wattage of your generator and how appliances or electronics such as televisions and DVD players will affect its output. Our generator allowed us to plug in our basement television and DVD player. We set up mattresses on the floor and made a slumber party in the basement. We purchased two large bean bag chairs and put those in the basement as well. Two kids each night were chosen to sleep in the bean bag chairs. The kids have asked that the power not be restored so that they can continue to have summer slumber parties. I explained, “Let’s get the power back on and we can still do the slumber parties. There is no reason we can’t all be happy!”

Power Outage Quiz

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Be a Good Friend to Those in Need

The saying, “Treat others as you would like to be treated” speaks volumes during a power outage. I am amazed at the number of friends who checked in on us daily. Friends and family were offering visits to their houses and one even offered us their home while they are on vacation. A wonderful friend not only allowed us to use their washer and dryer, they returned our folded clothes to our house.

We will survive. At this point we might be a bit more than annoyed and a little bit sweaty. But, our family is safe and our kids are happy. We have maintained a positive attitude and our kids have yet to complain.

There are estimates that our power will return today. In the meantime, we reflect on the overall health and well-being of our family and friends. We are reminded of the wonderful support system that we have.

While we are sweaty and our patience is dwindling, what we lack in power, we make up for in blessings.


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    • twinstimes2 profile image

      Karen Lackey 5 years ago from Ohio

      Thanks for reading, Tips. We thought that ours would last a day and then we heard 10! I guess 8 was a blessing.

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 5 years ago from USA

      These are excellent tips for power outages. We had a power outage that lasted four days here, but unfortunately, I didn't know it was going to take that long, so I didn't look for other places to store my food. Voted up.

    • twinstimes2 profile image

      Karen Lackey 5 years ago from Ohio

      Thanks, Sharyn! What is even better is that we have power again! It was definitely a learning experience and could not have happened on a hotter week! Thanks again for reading and commenting!

    • Sharyn's Slant profile image

      Sharon Smith 5 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

      This is such a great hub Karen! You really know how to pull any topic together with great facts and personal experience. Very well done. I love all the extras, the quiz and the important side boxes. Great job!

    • twinstimes2 profile image

      Karen Lackey 5 years ago from Ohio

      Good point on the truck stops, Wilderness! I would imagine that both extreme and extreme heat both have their challenges. My husband and I did kid that the outside would have become our fridge if it was winter instead of summer. Glad you survived your outage, too!

    • wilderness profile image

      Dan Harmon 5 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      We lost power once from an ice storm in February for 10 days, but circumstances were much different.

      Cooling or thawing food wasn't a problem - put it outside in a snow bank! Freezing pipes in the house was, though, and was something that had to be taken care of. The house needed heated, at least partially - cooling off was all too easy. Pipes were drained to their lowest point, in the basement, and that's where he "lived" and provided heat.

      A generator would have been nice for TV and such, but few generators will run the big appliances like an electric furnace (a gas furnace would have run, though) and hot water tank. We're campers and made good use of camping equipment.

      Just one more hint for those without power - truck stops have showers...

    • twinstimes2 profile image

      Karen Lackey 5 years ago from Ohio

      Vespawoolf, thanks for commenting. We tried to make the most of our 'new' situation. Our biggest challenge was the heat index was over 100 degrees and it was just plain hot! Thanks for sharing, too!

    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 5 years ago from Peru, South America

      This is a great hub! Living in Peru, we have experienced power outages. We learn so much about ourselves and about coping during times of crisis. I love your positive attitude of enjoying life despite the bumps in the road. Help of friends is always welcome at a time like this, as you mentioned. Voted up and shared!

    • twinstimes2 profile image

      Karen Lackey 5 years ago from Ohio

      Thanks, lilalollie, for reading and commenting!

    • twinstimes2 profile image

      Karen Lackey 5 years ago from Ohio

      You lived without electricity for 2 years, Goodlady? Now there is a hub topic! I guess if you chose to it would be better. I would love to hear more about those two years. Thanks for commenting.

    • twinstimes2 profile image

      Karen Lackey 5 years ago from Ohio

      Thanks for reading, CyberShelley. My husband and I are strong willed and we gave each other a hug last night when the power returned. We agreed that we toughed it out and never argued. We got less patient, but kept ourselves in check. Thanks for commenting, too!

    • twinstimes2 profile image

      Karen Lackey 5 years ago from Ohio

      Thanks for reading and following, eHealer. Our power came on last night and our house is no longer 90 degrees. Our kids are still sleeping in the basement. They still wanted their slumber party. Thanks for commenting.

    • twinstimes2 profile image

      Karen Lackey 5 years ago from Ohio

      I am so glad my husband got the generator last week. That really helped us out so much. Thanks for commenting, jellygator!

    • twinstimes2 profile image

      Karen Lackey 5 years ago from Ohio

      Rajan, thanks for reading. Regular power cuts would absolutely be a challenge. We found that staying positive and helping others got us through it with good spirits. Our power came back last night. Hurrah!

    • twinstimes2 profile image

      Karen Lackey 5 years ago from Ohio

      Thanks, Janine. I am sure that people lose power more often than we do so we are lucky in that regard. It was an experience for us all. Thanks for reading, Janine!

    • lilalollie profile image

      lilalollie 5 years ago from The Netherlands

      Great hub! Thanks for the tips!Lilalollie

    • GoodLady profile image

      Penelope Hart 5 years ago from Rome, Italy

      Your Hub is brilliant and so extremely helpful and SO practical. ALL your tips are incredible. Just shows how clever we can be in the face of adversity. I bet your kids loved it all.

      We lived without electricity for two years and it was great (though we didn't have to try to save things in the freezer etc.)

    • CyberShelley profile image

      Shelley Watson 5 years ago

      twinstimes2, glad your power came back on, that was some staying power which you turned around, good on you! Voted up and interesting.

    • eHealer profile image

      Deborah 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      I am so sorry so many people are experiencing this crisis right now. These are great tips and ideas for surviving a power outage anywhere. Thank you for a very useful hub. I am following you and voting you up!

    • jellygator profile image

      jellygator 5 years ago from USA

      Glad you made it through ok. We had a 4 day outage once during a huge snow storm and I found that a generator and a propane heater can be very good things to have.

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 5 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Very interesting write. During summers we have regular power cuts for some hours everyday. Though we have learnt to live with this and have power invertors as back up for lights and fans it still does affect our mood and working when the cuts prolong to a day or more.

      It is very important in such cases to be helpful to all those who are in need and share our resources if we can. There are so many other things that we can do to help others. Interesting and useful pointers in your hub.

      I hope the power has been restored by now. Your hub is a very useful reminder and will be indeed a help to those who face this situation. So sharing this. Also voted up, useful and interesting.

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 5 years ago from New York, New York

      We lost power briefly last year during a hurricane, but had friends on the other side of town without power for days. It truly was the luck of the draw. From what I do know from word of mouth you summed up perfectly. Very informative hub and have voted up and shared.

    • twinstimes2 profile image

      Karen Lackey 5 years ago from Ohio

      Our power just came on a few hours ago, Chrissie, and we are so fortunate. The kids were sitting on the basement steps with the lights still out. They said the no electricity was fun. We are all happy that the house is starting to cool off though. Our thermostat said 90. Ouch! Thanks for reading!

    • chrissieklinger profile image

      chrissieklinger 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      So many people are in this situation right now and you found ways to make a bad thing, positive. Great job!