Sudden power outages, whether full or partial, can be very upsetting. Being prepared can reduce your stress if you find yourself in this unfortunate situation. Here are some steps to help you develop a plan for dealing with a loss of power.
- Check to see if your neighbors have power. If they do, the problem may be inside your home.
- Check your circuit breakers to see if they have tripped. Resetting a circuit breaker may restore your electricity. If you have fuses, replace any that have blown.
- If a particular appliance or device has stopped working, make sure that it’s securely plugged in. Try plugging it into a different outlet to see if the outlet might be defective. If a GFCI outlet has stopped working, try resetting it.
- Call your electric supplier: PECO if you’re in the Philadelphia area. Even a partial power outage (dimming lights, certain areas of your home without power) can be caused by reduced voltage from your utility company. You can report a power outage on PECO’s website if you’re unable to reach them by phone.
- Keep your refrigerator and freezer closed. You can wrap blankets around these for extra insulation. An unopened refrigerator can keep food cold for about four hours, and a full freezer will keep everything frozen for about 48 hours.
- Put together a power outage survival kit to include a flashlight (or two) with extra batteries, bottled water, non-perishable food, a first aid kit, a manual can opener, and a clock or watch. Keep this in a designated area so that you’re not trying to find it in the dark! This may seem like overkill, but remember that in 2012, 4.2 million people in 11 states lost power due to a derecho storm system. It took 7-10 days to restore power in some areas. In the same year, Hurricane Sandy kept some New Yorkers without power for two weeks.
- Unplug devices with electronic or digital components, such as microwaves, audio and home theater equipment (televisions, video game consoles, stereo systems), alarm systems, washers and dryers, and computer equipment. Air conditioners should also be turned off during power outages. Unplugging your equipment will prevent damage to it from momentary voltage surges when power is restored. Once your power is back on, wait a few minutes before turning on these devices. This will prevent a sudden surge in demand on your home’s electrical system.
- Protect your devices with surge suppression equipment. To provide maximum protection for your valuable gadgets and appliances, use a two-tier approach: whole-house surge protection at your panel, and individual surge suppression devices at the point of use.
If a full or partial power outage is caused by an issue within your home, it’s time to call a qualified electrician. An electrical problem of this magnitude requires professional inspection and diagnosis to ensure your safety and comfort.