With the recent storms in California, it is particularly necessary to be prepared for emergency situations.

There are two types of power outages you’re likely to encounter. The first type are outages of short duration that are either planned or are caused by unexpected storms, utility damage, or accidents. Short-term outages usually last no longer than a few hours and are more of a nuisance unless you have special power needs as in the use of medical equipment. The second type are those caused by emergency situations (often weather-related), such as floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, and wildfires. Emergency-related outages can be short-term but often stretch on longer from a day or two to, in worst cases, weeks.

Whether short-term or long-term, power outages are much easier to cope with if you have done some preparation in advance. A few steps you can take to be ready when the lights go out include:


  1. Flashlights: Keep a flashlight for each area of your house in a place that is easily accessible and be sure everyone knows the spot so you can quickly find lighting if the power goes out.
  2. Batteries: Keep batteries in stock for the devices you want to run when the power is out, such as flashlights, weather radios, etc.
  3. Surge Protectors: keep all appliances and expensive electrical equipment on surge protectors not only to protect from storm related surges, but also power surges when services are restored.
  4. Food: Resist opening refrigerators and freezers so that food stays as cool as possible. Generally, refrigerated food will maintain temperatures for about four hours. Your freezer will hold safe temperatures for about 48 hours if it’s full. If you have any doubt about your food’s safety, throw it out.
  5. Full charges: If an outage is planned or if you have warning of impending bad weather, charge all your devices and any battery packs you have that can recharge.
  6. A battery-powered radio to hear the news.

Many of the early steps of a long-term outage will be the same, but you will probably have additional concerns with a longer outage. Because emergency outages often come with a warning, you’ll also have more time to prepare, but if you live in an area that experiences severe weather conditions, it’s a good idea to have an emergency kit prepared.


  1. Lighting: In addition to flashlights, you may want to stock battery-operated lanterns to provide ample and long-term lighting for living areas. Only use candles or other flame sources as a last resort because of the hazard of fire.
  2. Food: Because cooking sources may not be available, you should keep a variety of non-perishable food sources with long shelf lives on hand, such as peanut butter, canned foods, granola bars, cereal, crackers, dried fruits.
  3. Cooking source: If you have a grill, be sure to stock propane cylinders or extra charcoal. Camp stoves can also be handy but should only be used in a well-ventilated area and in a space safe for open flames.
  4. Power sources: In addition to plenty of batteries and well-charged battery packs, you may want to invest in solar chargers if you live in an area where severe weather occurs. You can also invest in a generator, but be sure it is properly installed. Finally, stock up on fuel and gas up all your vehicles as power outages may prevent gas pumps from operating.
  5. Heat: If you have a fireplace, be sure to have plenty of firewood stored in a dry place. In areas of extreme cold, it’s also a good idea to have cold weather sleeping bags for each member of your household.
  6. Water: If your home operates off a pump, then power outages will cease water service. In addition, many emergencies, such as floods and hurricanes, can contaminate water sources. It is thus a good idea to keep a supply of potable water on hand. A good rule of thumb is store at least three days worth of water, calculating for a gallon per day for each member of your household.

Written by Ivan Young in partnership with maintenance supplies and equipment distributor, IMS Bolt.