Lights out: 4 ways to prepare for a long outage after the storm

(BPT) – As winter storm season arrives, homeowners should be ready for power outages that last for days or even weeks.

In recent years, storms have become more intense and frequent, resulting in extended power outages, which is disruptive to daily life. A recent study by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Stanford University looked at 13 years of weather and utility data. The study revealed power interruptions last 75 percent longer in years that were both abnormally windy and had a major weather event.

Blizzards, heavy snow, ice storms and strong winds can all conspire to cut off the power supply to your home, leaving your family in the dark and in the cold. It is impossible to predict when an extended power outage will impact your community, however, there are things you can do today to keep your family safe and comfortable. Now is the time to prepare before the first winter storms settle in.

“An extended power loss in the winter can damage your home and put your family at risk,” says Ed Del Grande, a home improvement TV host, author and syndicated columnist. “Water pipes can freeze. Houses can quickly fill up with dangerous levels of carbon monoxide from alternative heating and cooking sources. And food can spoil quickly in the refrigerator. That’s why it’s smart to plan ahead for a power outage so you can get through the days safely and comfortably.”

Here are some tips to help homeowners prepare for an extended power outage:

Have enough food and water.
Store enough to eat and drink for one week. Even if the stores are open, you’ll want to keep outside travel to a minimum, especially in tough road conditions. If you are using well water, be ready for the fact that a power outage will stop your water pump. Have an adequate supply of water on hand — about one gallon per person per day. Stockpile plenty of non-perishable food, such as canned meats and vegetables, protein bars, dry cereal and nuts. Be sure you have a manual can opener and a means to cook, such as a propane-operated camp stove — just be sure your cooking space is properly ventilated.

Have safe backup lighting.
To reduce risk of fire, swap out candles and kerosene lanterns for battery-operated flashlights and lamps. Stock up now on batteries before people deplete local supplies in the pre-storm rush.

Invest in a generator.
A ready power source could help your family get through longer outages in safety and comfort, in spite of the cold temperatures outside. During a winter storm, especially a bitter cold one with strong winds, the temperature inside your home can drop quickly. There are two backup power options for the home: a portable generator or an automatic standby generator.

A portable generator can be moved from place-to-place and is designed to power a handful of items in your home via extension cords. It must be manually operated and placed outdoors away from the home to avoid the potential for carbon monoxide poisoning.

A standby generator turns on automatically when the power shuts off and is permanently installed outside the home similar to a central air conditioning unit. It runs on natural gas or propane and hooks up to existing fuel lines in your home. A standby generator will keep all your appliances running, as well as everything else you take for granted: lights, television, computers, water heater, furnace and more. If you’re interested in learning about automatic standby power systems, visit for informational videos and other helpful details.

Plan for being cut off.
When the power goes out, it can be hard to anticipate all the implications. Stores may reopen, but they may not be able to process your debit or credit card right away. So keep enough cash to see you through a few days. Think of any medications your family would need and set aside a week’s supply. Finally, transfer essential information you have stored in your mobile phone to paper, such as phone numbers and addresses. You may have to go manual with navigation, so pick up paper road maps of your state or region from the service station.

“Despite all the forecasting technology we have today, storms can pop up with little warning,” Del Grande says. “Getting ready today is the key step to protecting your loved ones when the storm hits.”


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