How to Prepare for Power-Related Emergencies and Disruptions

A power outage can become annoying and bothersome at times especially the sudden ones. Although short-term outages are not at all frustrating, it can still create interference to daily activities that depend on power usage.

Prolonged power disruptions, on the other hand, needs preparation.  During storm season (especially in the northern areas of Australia) we can lose power for a while.  However, if you do some careful planning, you can reduce damage and inconvenience.


I’ve broken up your preparation into three aspects:  before a power outage, during a power outage, and after a power outage.


Before Power Outage

The best preparation tip for every family is to assemble emergency preparedness kit. This kit should include:

  • Flashlight with spare batteries. A head torch (available at camping stores) is particularly useful as you can action things with two hands free).  If you are a larger family, more than one torch might be sensible.
  • First aid supplies
  • Whistle for signalling
  • Manual can opener (especially if your usual one is electric)
  • Moist towelettes
  • Cash
  • Bottled water – just in case.

Also think about the needs of other members of your family; pets, babies or even young children.  Having a game on hand which doesn’t require great lighting and keeps children occupied awhile may be useful.  Consider also an emergency plan if the situation is more serious than simply losing some power.  This may include a list of emergency numbers, although remember you will be often relying on mobile phones; most landlines these days require power to operate the handset.

If you know a power outage is on the way (or a summer storm), then also consider tidying up both inside the house and outside.  The outside tidy up is ensuring things (patio sets, tables, chairs etc) are secured, but think about inside too.  If it’s dark and you lost the lights, could you break your neck falling over the kids’ toys in the hallway or a skateboard in the middle of the kitchen?

Remember also that many garage doors are power operated; if this is the situation in your case, know where the manual key is, and every once in a while use it (as much to refresh yourself how it works).  If there was an emergency and you had to get somewhere urgently in your car, but the garage door doesn’t work … that can be a problem, especially if you are groping around in the dark.

It is also a great idea to talk with your power company about what to anticipate when disruption strikes.  It is imperative that you know what their protocol is during residential power loss.  If you are running critical medical services in your area, power companies should recognize you as their top concern to service.  In addition, if you plan on investing in generators at home, consult electricians before purchasing and installing.  Operating a generator safely is very important and should not be taken for granted.

If you are given notice, ensure that you charge mobile phones and any other battery-operated devices.  Make certain that you also have alternative charging methods such as power banks ready at hand.  Keep the tank of your car in full for evacuation purposes.   Remember, most petrol stations rely on electricity to power their fuel pumps.  In the case of a longer outage, ensure the gas BBQ has a full bottle; using the BBQ to cook food is a great alternative if the power is out a longer time.

During Power Outage

To avoid fire accidents in times of power outage, use flashlights instead of candles that can cause fires.  Also, keep doors of refrigerators and freezers closed so they can keep food cold and safe for several hours even without power.  Avoid driving as street lights and intersection lights will be out.

Since people nowadays rely too much on electricity, a power outage could mean a boring few hours. Come up with activities that can help pass the time.  Cards, jigsaw puzzles, board games and some good books can come handy.  Even now, Google some word and mind games that the whole family can participate in and even make that time a special bonding moment.

If you were watching TV or similar and the power went out, before you go to bed, if the power is still out, consider simply unplugging the TV.  Imagine power resuming at 1am and the sound blasting you awake.

After Power Outage

Quickly (before food refreezes) as soon as power resumes, check on your food and throw away those that have been exposed to 4 degree Celsius temperature for two hours or more.  Anything which doesn’t smell ‘right’ or colour looks ‘off’ should go.  Alternatively, consider feeding it to the dog.  Your mate won’t mind a bit of steak that’s been out a little longer than it should have been.    However, food in the freezer that is still colder than 40 degree Fahrenheit needs only refreezing although I would be cautious about refreezing chicken or fish.

If you have had a substantial loss, check with your insurance company, or insurance broker to see if you are able to make a claim on your policy.   Naturally, if your excess is higher, it may not be worth the effort.

After any power-related emergencies, re-stock used items in your emergency kits to get ready for another disruption that might come any moment. Need help with your electrical safety? Call 0403 026 531.

Check out Electrical Safety in Schools.