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Power Cuts: Electrical Power Outage and Emergency Preparations

Updated on February 1, 2015

How Prepared Are You If the Lights Go Out?

Electricity. The lifeblood of the modern home. It is all too easy to forget how dependant the modern home is on electricity to function as normal until something happens to the electricity supply. Very often, only then will some people realise how ill-prepared they have been for such an event and struggle to cope in what may even be only the very short term. That is why it is imperative to consider back-up procedures of many types, should something unexpected occur to disrupt the electricity supply to the home.

It is not possible to watch TV during a power cut
It is not possible to watch TV during a power cut
Electric kettles and coffee-makers are useless during a power cut
Electric kettles and coffee-makers are useless during a power cut
Gas stoves often have an electric ignition system
Gas stoves often have an electric ignition system
Lamps and other lights are no good in a power cut
Lamps and other lights are no good in a power cut

The Sequence of Events which Caused this Page to be Produced

Electricity is something which most of us take for granted. When we flick a light switch, we expect the light to come on immediately. When we turn the TV on, we expect a picture to appear on the screen. When we switch the shower on, we expect a streaming jet of hot water to instantly begin flowing in order that we can wash. By way of introduction to this potentially very important subject, a short list of this author's recent experiences may provide perfect illustration of its importance:

  1. 12.45pm - Internet connection to laptop is severed. It is noticed that laptop is now functioning on back-up battery power.
  2. 12.46pm - TV system LCD screens have gone blank. Switching on a nearby lamp brings no result.
  3. 12.50pm - Fusebox checked and all appears to be in order.
  4. 12.55pm - Neighbours next door confirm similar loss of all electrical power.
  5. 1.00pm - Coffee time? Instant is all that is available and (electric) kettle not much use. Stove is gas - but ignition is electrical and served by the mains. Frantic search for a box of matches takes several minutes to pay dividends.
  6. 1.30pm - Frustration is building. Time to go for a walk.
  7. 2.00pm - Return from walk to find power still off. Time for more coffee.
  8. 2.25pm - Power restored.
  9. 2.30pm - The idea for this page is born.

One hour and forty minutes without electricity in broad daylight. Hardly a disaster but still a considerable inconvenience. What if it had been dark? What if it had been really cold outside and the domestic central heating was electrical? What if this happened to you...?

A functioning flashlight and candles are vital in a power cut
A functioning flashlight and candles are vital in a power cut
Spare batteries may be required for flashlights
Spare batteries may be required for flashlights
Matches may be needed to light candles
Matches may be needed to light candles

The Most Important Thing: Let There Be Light

An electrical power cut can happen at any time of the day or night and for any one of a number of reasons. When a power cut occurs during the hours of darkness, the immediate priority will be light. Without a light source, fuse boxes can not be checked, movement around the home will be difficult and fraught with a number of dangers and indeed little at all will be possible other than remaining still and waiting out the power cut.

It is imperative to have emergency tools close to hand in the event of a power cut. A flashlight should be the priority and keeping small flashlights and even electric lanterns in the home is an excellent idea. Checking the batteries regularly and having plenty of spares is not something which should be neglected. Candles and matches are ideal for longer power cuts, where battery power is likely to be drained.

It is vital that these essential tools be kept in an easily accessible place and can be reached without too much difficulty in the dark. An emergency light source in every principal room in the home is a good idea. All family members should be aware of where these items are stored and be able to get to them as easily as possible in an emergency..

Cooking Without Electricity During a Power Outage

It is entirely possible that an electrical power outage will cause significant problems regarding cooking in the home. Where the power cut is lengthy, preparing even the very simplest of meals may prove difficult and bread and cheese can only be appetising for so long! This means that some thought should be given as to what action would be taken in these circumstances.

It is firstly a good idea to ensure that there is always some food in the house which does not require cooking. This will cover everything from bread and cakes, to cheese and spreads, to cold cuts of meat. A little bit of thought in this respect can allow foodstuffs of these types to be purchased which have a very long shelf life.

Ideally, however, an alternative cooking source is the preferred option. If the weather is fine, outdoor grilling may be possible and provide an impromptu treat for the family to take their mind of the power cut. Where this is not possible, a small portable stove, such as those used when camping, is something which can be bought extremely inexpensively and provide very welcome back-up in an emergency. Particular smaller stoves will not last long on one gas canister but they can be used to quickly heat canned food or boil water for such as instant noodles.

Important!!! Safety is paramount in this situation. Under no circumstances should a stove designed for outdoor cooking only be used indoors.

Winter Power Cuts: Heating Your Home

If the heating in your home is largely or exclusively dependant on electricity, a Winter power cut could cause at best severe discomfort. Wrapping up well in outdoor clothes will help but it is far better to have some form of alternative heat source available.

Portable gas heaters are easily stored in a garage, spare bedroom, or outhouse of some type and can make a significant difference to the coldest of rooms in an emergency. Gas canisters in the bigger heaters can last for many hours and provide at least some comfort for a family stuck in this unenviable situation.

Power Outage Drill - One Man's Interesting Experiment

Portable Generators - Ideal for Longer Power Outages

Where a power outage is longer term, a lack of electricity can cause serious problems in every day life. For this reason, it may well be worth considering investing in a portable home generator. This would particularly apply in locales where power outages are frequent, perhaps due to inclement Winter weather or even tropical storms.

Although portable electrical generators will not provide enough electricity to substitute fully for the mains supply, they can allow vital appliances such as refrigerators or deep freezes to continue to function, perhaps in such an instance providing the difference between a large amount of food spoiling or being saved.

The generators featured to the right are but a small sample of those available through Amazon at considerably discounted prices. Click on any of the images or links for further details of how these appliances could potentially help you, or perhaps to browse the range in full.

Top Tips for Making Your Emergency Power Outage Preparations

This page can only look at so many different scenarios which can develop during an unexpected power cut. The way in which each home will be affected by such an occurrence will differ and it is thus important to consider your own domestic situation in order to be fully prepared for such an emergency.

The best way of making these preparations is over a period of time and by getting everyone who lives in the house on board. A list should be drawn up, consisting of two different columns and kept in a central place, such as the kitchen. The left hand column should be titled, "Issue," and the right hand column, "Solution." (See illustrative example below) As all members of the family go about their daily domestic lives, they should think about those necessary tasks which would be affected by loss of electricity and add the issue to the list for everyone to ponder and hopefully resolve.

Be Prepared... Be Safe... Be Comfortable...

Flashlights, batteries, candles, matches
Warm clothing, portable gas heater
Camping stove, outdoor grill

Do you have any tips to share in preparing for electrical power failures?

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    • Gordon Hamilton profile image

      Gordon Hamilton 6 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom

      Thank you, H.Kephart. You are absolutely correct. At the time, it was an experience I could have donw without but I am certainly better prepared should it happen again.

    • H.Kephart profile image

      H.Kephart 6 years ago from United States

      Good content, nothing works like personal experiances.