Power outages happen, but families do not have to be left in the dark when the lights go out.
“Treat power outages like any other potential emergency by doing as much advanced preparation and planning as possible,” said Gina Peek, Oklahoma State University Extension housing and consumer specialist. “Knowing ahead of time what to do and where to go will help you better manage during and after a power failure.”
Start by assembling or restocking an emergency preparedness kit with important supplies such as nonperishable food, a can opener, water, a flashlight, extra batteries, cash and a first-aid kit.
Homeowners with electric garage door openers also should take some time to find the manual release lever for that mechanism and know how to operate it. In addition, ensure the car’s gas tank is full and all cell phones are completely charged.
“Keep backup cell chargers in the house and in the car,” Peek said. “Be sure family members who rely on battery-operated or power-dependent items such as medical devices include them in the emergency plan.”
During a power outage, Peek recommended people rely on flashlights for emergency lighting rather than candles, which could be fire hazards.
OSU Extension Food Specialist Barbara Brown said it is important to keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed to preserve chilled and frozen foods.
“Most refrigerated food items can be kept safely for 24 hours in a refrigerator that is half-filled, while food in a full freezer will maintain its temperature for about 48 hours,” Brown said.
Other appliances should be turned off or disconnected to guard against potential power surges that could damage them.
“During a power outage in extremely hot weather, move to the lowest level of the house and wear lightweight, light-colored clothing,” Peek said. “If it gets too hot, consider going someplace cool. Some communities have cooling centers. If not, consider going to the library, supermarket, shopping mall or movie theater if available. In cooler weather, wear layers of clothing to keep warm.”
After the power is restored, check the refrigerator and freezer for spoiled food items. Perishable food that has been at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or more for two or more hours should be thrown away.
“Food exposed to temperatures of 90 degrees Fahrenheit or above should be discarded after one hour,” Peek said. “Also discard any food that smells off or is an unusual color or texture.”
Items in the freezer that are colder than 40 degrees Fahrenheit and covered with ice crystals can be safely refrozen. However, it is not unusual for food quality to have deteriorated when eventually used.
“People should always check with their doctor or pharmacist if they think any of their medications were spoiled or compromised as a result of a power outage,” Peek said.
For more information about preparing for power outages and other emergencies, contact the local OSU Extension county office or visit www.ready.gov online.