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How to prepare for power outage | Longterm and short term outages

In an uncertain world in fast-changing times it is understandable if your thoughts turn to how your household would fare if a major storm, grid-failure, emergency or other disaster took place. As electricity grid infrastructure ages in many regions across the world, people are finding themselves having to get used to rolling blackouts, sometimes for a prolonged period.

Power outages can be a relatively common event but if prolonged could leave your household without access to visual amenities and assistance, especially if you are remote.

It’s easy to take the status quo for granted, but being caught out unprepared would be a real shame if you could have prepared yourself even a little better.

Don’t leave it to chance

Knowing how to prepare for a power outage is important for both families and individuals as taking these timely steps will make all the difference if your property experiences a major power cut.

In this article, we will come alongside you and get the ball rolling, dealing with not only preparation for a short term outage but also the infrastructure you can embed on your property for resilience against a long term loss of power.

Handling short term power outages

Short term blackouts will mean that you are dealing with a loss of power to your property for minutes or hours. They are unlikely to be expected and hopefully are resolved quickly. These outages are typically because of bad weather (particularly lightning), network errors or damaged cables.

Depending on its cause, short lived power loss will affect just your property or a wider area with larger numbers of residences in your local community.

If an extended territory is involved the disruption will go beyond loss of power to your appliances, heating or tech and mean you may struggle to access stores, ATMs or transportation.

If the telephone network is down efforts to communicate will also be hampered.

You may feel that you will be able to rough it out but if you rely on powered medical equipment or the situation evolves into something more prolonged the situation could rapidly deteriorate.

Long-Term blackouts are becoming more frequent

Basic steps to prepare for a short term loss of power

  • Ensure that everyone who is old or responsible enough knows what to do in the event of a power outage.
  • If your property is large you may want to arrange an assembly point where family members can gather. Make sure that your meeting point is easy to get to and obstacle-free as you may need to reach it in the dark. Running a drill can also help everyone practice getting to the meeting place safely making steps easier to retrace if the real thing occurs.
  • Writing down essential contact details and emergency phone numbers is also worth arranging ahead of time as it may be difficult to use the internet for searches.
  • Prepare an emergency or ‘bug-out’ bag with essential supplies like food, water candles and matches – more on this below.
  • Your local neighborhood group may have an emergency meeting point or community center where residents can go in the event of a more widespread outage. Depending on the conditions outside you may want to relocate there.
  • If you have medical devices that require mains electricity it is crucial to create a preparedness plan with your physician. This will probably include consideration of the need for backup power for your device or the whole property.
  • Consider how you will manage the storage of perishables. Appliances like refrigerators and freezers should be left securely closed and only opened if absolutely necessary. Even without power, they are insulated and able to keep your perishables cold for several hours.
  • Make sure everyone knows how to protect themselves and the property against the dangers of power spikes and surges. When power is restored after a power cut, the sudden flow of electricity into all your appliances simultaneously can lead to damage and degradation of their circuitry which can even cause a house fire or electrocution. All appliances should be switched off and unplugged and only reconnected one by one after power has been reinstated.
  • Plans for backup power are a must for every household and you should seek to acquire as much equipment for alternate power as your family’s resources allow. More on this below.
  • Ensure that everyone in your household keeps battery-operated devices like phones, laptops, and medical equipment fully charged.
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Equip your family with the key items

Preparedness makes all the difference to managing during a power outage and securing safe, dependable sources of alternate power, as well as much needed supplies will greatly advantage your household over the hours or days that your power is down.

Emergency items for a power cut can be kept in a convenient holdall

A bug-out bag or BOB like the Prep store survival bag on Amazon is a great way of gathering and storing the emergency items needed to cope with a power cut. Bug-out bags are hard-wearing backpacks or holdalls that are designed to equip you with everything needed to survive for 72 hours in an emergency situation.

They are well worth having on hand for both your home and car and individual family members can have their own bags too.

To prep a BOB for power outage some of the following items are likely to be useful especially if the loss of power is prolonged.

  • Dynamo powered torches for each member of your household
  • Candles
  • A lighter and matches
  • Lanterns
  • A battery powered or wind up radio
  • Cash
  • Written down emergency contact details for your utility company and relevant civic agencies and community contacts (keep updated)
  • A charged basic mobile phone and spare batteries.
  • A portable power station, power banks or battery packs – more on these below.
  • Water filtration kits may be needed if the power cut is extensive and water sanitation is affected.
  • Canned foods that can be eaten cold or with minimal cooking. Dried foods such as cereals, dried milk and nuts.
  • Emergency supplies of medicines and a first aid kit.
  • A camping stove

Restore power temporarily with these key alternate power sources

Having a backup power source makes all the difference to handling a power outage calmly and keeping everyone safe for its duration.

Thankfully the range of portable power options means that some form of standby power is within reach of most households.

Here are some of the best options for tiding you over when the power’s down short-term.

1. Power Banks

Power banks are within the budgetary reach of most people and you may have one or two of these to hand for quick recharging or powering of mobile phones and laptops when away from home.

They are usually rated in ampere hours to allow you to select a unit that will carry adequate charging capacity for your requirements. Clearly these handheld units are not going to power your whole house, but you can definitely benefit from using them in a targeted manner, for example, for keeping a cell phone topped up or powering medical equipment like CPAP. Look for good quality units that will hold their charge for a long time.

Here are some perfect options

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Last update on 2021-01-25 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

2. Solar-Charging Power Stations

Solar-charged power stations make a great intermediate investment for households who want a portable and easy to use stopgap for essential communication devices.

Battery power stations have far greater energy capacity than power banks and typically sport a range of outlets including household mains. A 1002Wh lithium-ion battery power station is even able to power an electric grill.

Some of the leading power solutions are able to be solar-powered, which is an ideal solution if you find yourself without power for an extended period.

High conversion efficiency solar panels can be combined with a power station to create a powerful solar generator system that can charge your power station even while it is in use.

If this setup could not get any better, you can directly charge items from the solar panel via its USB port. This ingenious combination makes the uncertainty of being without power all the more easy to bear as all you need is good exposure to sunlight to keep your appliances running a little longer.

Here are some suitable options

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Last update on 2021-01-25 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

3. Portable Dual Fuel Generators

Portable dual fuel generators are a gold-standard back-up for your property’s power supply. They are a varied marketplace but are available in wattages that can comfortably power a whole house. Dual fuel generators provide the option of using gasoline or propane.

Propane in particular may be preferable as it is easier to handle and store and could be also used to power a gas grill for cooking. Modern portable generators are surprisingly compact and even high wattage units can be wheeled around and do not take up too much space.

Remote start generators come with a key fob and bypass the sometimes arduous pull-starts, especially if the engine is cold. By taking a practical approach to power management, for example not running all appliances at once, you can get a lot of mileage out of a generator and may even want to consider running it as a priority if your electricity loss is ongoing.

Here are some suitable options

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Last update on 2021-01-25 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Gritting your teeth for a long term loss of electricity?

Here is what you need to know

When a power outage of hours starts to turn into days or even weeks, you need to brace yourself for dealing with a long term situation.

Major storms, hurricanes, wildfires and other catastrophic events have been known to leave households stranded without power for weeks while emergency services and engineers worked around the clock to restore damaged infrastructure.

A prolonged loss of power requires a pragmatic approach to the resources you have on the ground. It is likely that food will spoil and temperature extremes may make it hard to remain in your location safely.

Being prepared for a long-term power outage requires serious consideration, planning and investment as you will be exploring how you can operate your household off-grid.

This may seem an impossibility but beyond the immediate survival approach there are a lot of things you can do to build resilience in your home setup

  • Larger generators or backup power systems  may be a worthwhile investment if your property is remote. Powerful domestic standby generators can be integrated into your property’s power supply, starting automatically if the power fails for any reason. They all come with an Automatic Transfer Switch (ATS) that detects when power fails and starts the generator. The switch will also stand-down the generator when mains electricity is restored. These units are usually made by the leading engineering companies like Honda or JCB. Many run on mains gas, which may be a problem if the gas supply is also disrupted.

  • Wood-burning stoves or gas grills like the Redcamp Stove on Amazon will provide a reliable alternative for heating and cooking while you are without power long-tem. They are becoming increasingly popular with many families as they can help you save on utility bills and are seen as being part of a simpler way of life. A wood-burner is especially useful as you can safely heat your home with it and cook. Usually these stoves run on kiln-dry wood but when push comes to shove you can burn whatever you can to keep warm.

  • Propane heaters and furnaces like the Mr Heater portable furnace on Amazon are portable and can be used to keep an area of your home adequately warm. Propane tanks are easy to purchase and store on most properties safely.

  • Water purification systems like the survivor water purification kit on Amazon may be vital if you have no access to potable water. Large volume water filtration systems can serve a household and be replenished as needed.

  • Stores of canned or dried foods will outlast a failed fridge or freezer. A well-stocked pantry can be gradually built up over weeks or months with additional purchases at the grocery store.

  • Personal hygiene supplies and alternatives should be stockpiled, though disposable items are likely to eventually run out.

  • Medical supplies that do not require refrigeration can also be stockpiled at the discretion of your family doctor to meet requirements for a prescribed length of time.
bug out tent in the woods
First Aid kits are vital when Bugging Out in the wild

An important safety note

If you find yourself without heat, it is critical that you do not attempt to heat your home using makeshift fires, camp stoves or charcoal grills indoors.

The same goes for running a generator or using a gas stovetop or oven. This is because you run the risk of generating deadly carbon monoxide which is odorless, colorless and kills very quickly.

In conclusion

A lot is written about the pros and cons of the preparedness lifestyle, but it is prudent to consider how you and your loved ones would manage in the event of emergencies like a power outage.

Off-grid living is not just a lifestyle choice but may become a necessity if you find yourself without access to mains power for a prolonged period. 

Thankfully there has never been a better time to procure a wide range of robust and reliable back-up power options that will make all the difference to getting through a power outage in safety and relative comfort.

All the article on Oofgrid offer help and practical advice for using and purchasing a portable generator. However, We are enthusiasts and not qualified electricians. Always seek professional advice when working with electrical or Petrol appliances.