Disaster Preparedness: Power Failure

Photo of electrical workers fixing power lines.

Wikimedia Commons. CC License.

After the “Polar Vortex” this winter and recent mass flooding, many Michiganders have a new appreciation for disaster preparedness. Michigan’s most common potential disaster situations include thunderstorms, power outages, tornadoes and extreme winter temperatures. This special series will offer a few suggestions on how to make sure you and your family are ready.

It is important to be prepared ahead of time for an extended power outage. Here are a few things to consider if you find yourself without power.

  • Report the outage on your cell phone. Most companies will offer an estimated restoration time, which can help you plan ahead.
  • Create a “Lights Out Kit” for short term power loss. It should have at least one flashlight per person, extra flashlight batteries, a battery operated radio, battery cell phone chargers, glow-in-the-dark sticks for kids, extra water and snacks. If you need to leave your home, it’s advised to have a “go bag” for each family member. This isn’t something you want to prepare in the dark!
  • Most cordless home phones will be useless without power. Having at least one landline with a cord connection is advised.
  • The CDC suggests keeping these items ready at all times.
  • Tap water may be unsafe to drink, so use bottled water until you are sure the water is safe. It’s suggested to store one gallon of water per family member, per day, for these situations.
  • Know when to seek alternative shelter. We all know there is no place like home, but extreme heat or cold can cause dangerous situations. It’s best to begin to plan early with family and friends, or investigate temporary hotel lodging.
  • If you have a gas powered generator, never run it in the house or even the garage due to potential carbon monoxide poisoning. A generator must be run completely outdoors where it can properly ventilate. Charcoal grills can also cause carbon monoxide poising and should never be used indoors for cooking or heating purposes.
  • Make sure your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms have a battery back-up and replace the battery at least twice a year.
  • Food is typically safe for about four hours during a power outage. It’s advised to keep the refrigerator door closed as much as possible. For more specific information on food safety, refer to this chart.
  • If you find a downed power line, call 911 and keep others away from the area until help arrives.

– Erica Surman, RN, BSN, Pediatric Trauma Program Manager, Beaumont Health System

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