Tips for enduring extended power outages (or what we learned from Snowtober 2011)

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(Image above as of Sat 8am EDT)

My friend Kai and I have been trading storm prep reminders, based on our experience with extended power outage following the Snowtober 2011 storm.

Note: These tips focus on what you can do now to make any post-storm power outages more comfortable. Please  refer to the Red Cross or your state’s web site for official safety tips.

  • Be aware: Understand storm timing and path to better anticipate how it might impact you. If ordered to evacuate, go. An old school battery-powered am/fm radio is great for staying informed after the power goes out. Sign up for your state’s emergency alert system.
  • Water: Stock up by filling existing containers or buy bottled water. I haven’t needed water yet post-storm but I’m not interested in risking being without if city water isn’t an option. If you’re on a septic system, fill up your tub pre-storm.
  • If you rely on well water: Be sure to fill up your bathtub with water so you can flush the toilet. (Thanks, Kevin Everett, for this tip!)
  • Medicine: If there are any prescription or over the counter medications you rely on, be sure you have enough on hand.
  • Food: Before the storm, eat the food in your frig and freezer — some folks like to fill their freezer with ice pre-storm. Be sure to have easy-to-eat unrefrigerated items like nuts, fruit, canned goods on hand. I also buy canned coffee since I need my caffeine fix first thing each morning.
  • Laundry: Do it now, because it may be your last chance for a week or so. (Thanks, Kevin Everett, for this tip!)
  • Planning to use a gas grill: Be sure your tank is full pre-storm. (Thanks, Kevin Everett, for this tip!)
  • Be prepared for cold: Gather blankets, sleeping bag(s), warm clothes.
  • Pets: Be sure you have adequate food, water, and medications for your pets. In addition, have pet carriers or crates on hand — essential if you have to evacuate to a hotel or shelter. If you find you don’t need to evacuate, consider lending your pet crates to your local shelter to enable folks with pets to stay if they weren’t able to bring their own crates.
  • Batteries: Check your stuff and determine what you need before you go to the store. I usually need AAA and D cell.
  • Rechargeable batteries: If you use rechargeable batteries, get (and charge) a second battery. (Hat tip to James Kendrick for this tip)
  • Safe light source: Have a safe light source on hand (not candles). I have a Coleman LED Lantern that works great to light up a dark room.
  • Charge your stuff: Whatever you might need for safety, communication, or entertainment, including cell phone, tablet, laptop, iPod, Kindle, etc. Remember that you can charge other stuff using your laptop and a USB cable.
  • Prep your phone: Remember to turn off WIFI and only turn on cellular data when actually using it (h/t @Jkendrick). Download apps you might need to watch local news via the Internet (e.g., ustream). Remember that larger apps frequently require wifi for download (something you won’t have during a power outage). Bookmark your electric utility’s mobile outage map. Consider getting and activating a pay-as-you-go mobile hotspot to enable Internet connectivity for your laptop or tablet if you don’t have a cell phone data plan.
  • USB car charger: Have a car charger on hand that lets you swap out USB cords, so you can charge your iPhone, etc. using your car battery if needed.
  • Get cash: No power = no ATMs. Have cash on hand, just in case.
  • Get gas: If power is out, many gas stations won’t have electricity to enable you to pump gas. Those that have electricity will have long lines… get gas now (for your car and generator).
  • Network: Talk to your neighbors so that you can offer each other support. Have a contingency plan if it gets too cold to stay in your home (my house hovered in the low 40s following Snowtober storm, making it impossible to get a good night’s sleep).
  • Help your neighbors: Help them find other accommodations if needed. Consider picking up inexpensive pay-as-you-go cell phones for elderly neighbors who don’t have a cell phone or landline. (Most of my elderly neighbors have AT&T uverse phone service which won’t work for long during a power outage.)
  • Employer contact info: Be sure to have your manager’s phone number and email on hand. If you work for a large company, save their office closure phone number to your cell phone.
  • Pay bills: If you use online bill pay, pay your bills now rather than risk late fees
  • Provide out of state friends/family with a way to monitor the storm: I’ll be emailing them links to the CL&P outage map, Ryan Hanrahan’s blog, and the Hartford Courant.
  • Keep frig cold: Keep the frig door closed. Also, pre-storm, take some freezer bags and fill them with water and make ice blocks. You can use them to help keep fridge cold longer if no power. (tip from ‏@growingwisdom via @AndersFinn)
  • Social media: During storms, twitter is a great place to get news & info. I recommend these folks for news & info during/after CT severe weather events –

My favorite tip of all (from Kai): Before the storm, take a warm shower and run around turning lights on/off because you can :-)

Also a caveat: There’s no guarantee cellular networks (phone or data) will be usable post-storm. Verizon Wireless worked without a hitch in my neighborhood post-Snowtober, but Sprint voice service was spotty. Your mileage may vary!

Notice any gaps in this list? Additional tips are welcome, please provide your twitter handle or web site in comments along with your tip — I’ll add them to this post with attribution (for as long as we have power & wifi :-)

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4 responses to “Tips for enduring extended power outages (or what we learned from Snowtober 2011)

  1. of course, pay bills :)

  2. what a great list! i’m nowhere near the east coast but I’m saving it for our next emergency. thanks

  3. Thanks for the post, Karen. I’ve been doing this, too:
    “Dave Epstein ‏@growingwisdom
    Tonight, take some freezer bags and fill them with water and make ice blocks. You can use them to help keep fridge cold longer if no power.”

    And I did all of my laundry. One difficult thing about last year was not being able to clean up the way I wanted to. Cleaning ahead of time is a good idea.

  4. Sorry, forgot to add my twitter handle, it’s @AndersFinn. :)

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