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How to prepare for the next big power outage or blackout

May 03, 2021

Over the last decade, weather-related power outages have become more frequent and severe across the U.S. Many last only a couple of hours, but outages that stretch on for days can quickly escalate from minor inconveniences to hazardous, or even life-threatening events. Health and safety risks can also be compounded by extreme heat or freezing temperatures, as we recently saw in Texas.

There are a number of things you can do to ensure that your home and family remain as safe and comfortable as possible during a power outage. We’ve broken them down into:

  • Steps you can take right now
  • Steps to take before a possible outage and
  • How you can future-proof your home to avoid the impacts of a grid outage

Steps to take right now

Regardless of whether or not a power outage or blackout is predicted in your area, you should assemble an emergency supply kit and ensure that everyone in your household knows what to do in case of an emergency. These are fundamental safety measures that will ensure your home is prepared for unplanned power, weather, or other extreme events.

1. Create an emergency supply kit

Item Details
First aid kit Include extra medications or other medical equipment for special health needs.
Essential documents in a weatherproof case Include a list of preexisting health conditions and medications, as well as emergency and important phone numbers.
Hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes For messes and sanitation if you have no or limited access to running water.
Personal hygiene items Including toilet paper, personal sanitation bags, feminine hygiene items, etc.
Flashlights with extra batteries Lanterns, headlamps, and handheld flashlights are all good options. Some flashlights are even hand crank or solar-powered.
Hand-crank, solar-powered, or battery-powered radio To stay informed on essential weather and emergency updates. Some radios can be powered by multiple sources.
Extra batteries Be sure to include various sizes for all of your critical devices.
Cash Nearby ATMs and credit card machines will be inoperable without power.
Other useful tools Fire extinguisher
Manual can opener
Digital thermometer
Emergency whistle
Dust masks (one per person)

Alternately, you can purchase a preset emergency supply kit. If you buy one, be sure to review all of the contents of your kit and add your own personal essentials, such as medication and documents.

2. Create an emergency safety plan and make sure all family members know what to do.

Action Details
Designate an emergency meeting location If family members get separated, make sure everyone knows where to gather to find each other.
Plan for any special needs If possible, store back-up medication and other critical supplies. Make a plan for caring for any household pets or owned livestock.
Ensure everyone knows where to find emergency essentials Include:
  • Emergency supply kit (see above)
  • Emergency numbers
  • Medication and other health-related needs
Create a back-up evacuation plan Ensure you know how to open your garage door manually. If you are unsure, park your car outside of your garage.

You can register your family on Red Cross website to let loved ones know that you are safe. You can also call 866-GET-INFO to register if you don’t have internet access.

Steps to take right before a power outage

Most utilities alert their customers when extreme weather may trigger power outages. Some utilities even initiate Planned Safety Power Shut-offs (PSPS) in order to protect electrical equipment from damage from wildfires, hurricanes, or other natural disasters. If a power outage or a blackout is predicted in your area, you’ll want to make sure your household has sufficient food, water, and items to mitigate extreme cold or heat danger.

Make sure you have enough food and sufficient food storage to last at least three days.

Action Details
Stock up on non-perishable food It’s best to buy foods that do not need to be warm or heated before eating.
Pre-cool your freezer and/or refrigerator Lower the temperature setting in your fridge. You can also create large ice blocks by freezing water in plastic bags or open food containers. Once frozen, these ice blocks will help your freezer stay cold for longer. You can also use these in a portable cooler.
Consider purchasing extra food-related items A portable cooler with ice can keep your perishable foods good for longer. A camping stove and fuel can heat water or cook small meals. *

*Warning: only cook with your stove outside and in a well-ventilated area to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning and fire danger. Keep the stove and fuel away from flammable materials and out of reach of children at all times.

Make sure you have enough potable water (1 gallon/person/day) for at least three days.

Action Details
Stock up on in-house water Fill your home’s bathtub and other large containers with potable water.
Purchase bottled water We recommend 5-gallon bottles to minimize plastic waste.
Consider purchasing water purification methods Iodine tablets and water filters are the two most common methods.

Tip: You can also boil your water to kill harmful bacteria, viruses, and protozoa. Make sure your water reaches a rolling boil for at least one minute. If the water is cloudy, first pour it through a coffee filter to eliminate extra particles and silt. Learn more here.

Make sure you have any additional items for managing extreme heat or freezing temperatures, if relevant to your region.

Cold weather Hot weather
Sleeping bags or additional warm blankets
Hand warmers and toe warmers
Warm hats (wool is the warmest)
Battery-powered fan
Heat-blocking curtains

Future-proof your home against power outages

You can also protect yourself and your family from blackouts by adding energy storage. An all-in-one smart energy system, like Enphase Storage, provides seamless and automatic backup power for your home.

It’s late evening and your entire block loses power. But thanks to your home energy storage system, your refrigerator keeps humming, your home security system is still armed, and your kids are able to continue doing their homework. You feel reassured, knowing that your energy storage system has stored enough electricity and has enough power to keep you and your family safe through this grid outage.

Reliability is the number one reason that homeowners seek out backup power systems. What’s more, battery storage help you get the most out of your rooftop solar by maximizing your use of the solar energy produced.

For home backup systems, reliability means more than the peace of mind that backup energy is available to keep your lights on. It also means having enough power to keep your critical appliances running or even your entire home.

Enphase offers two sizes of its all-in-one, AC-coupled residential energy storage systems. Both are modular, which means that you can mix and match for scalable sizing that can be customized for a home’s current and future energy needs.

Enphase’s System Estimator tool provides you with an instant estimate for the optimal energy storage size for your home’s energy needs.

Get prepared now

You never know when the next extreme weather event might cause a power outage that could leave you in the dark for days. Take the necessary steps now to prepare your home and family for a safe outage experience.

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