Regardless of where you live, power outages are always a possibility. In fact, the average U.S. home loses power at least once per year.
If losing electricity isn’t enough excitement for you, it tends to occur during extreme weather like a hurricane or winter storm, making the ordeal even more stressful.
The good news? There are simple steps you can take to keep yourself and your home safe when the power goes out:
1. Preserve your cellphone battery
Communication is key during any emergency. While you may be tempted to pass the time playing games on your phone, it’s best to shut down all of your applications, turn off location services, and dim the screen. If you have multiple phones in your home, leave only one on at a time to preserve as much battery life as possible.
(Have power but worried you might lose it? Here’s how to prepare for a power outage.)
2. Unplug electronics and appliances
When the power comes back on, it can send a surge of electricity through your home. Power surges, while relatively rare, can damage electronics and appliances. To be careful, unplug them when you lose electricity. (It won’t make much of a difference since they can’t turn on anyway.) This way, you can rest assured there won’t be any damage after the outage.
3. Keep your refrigerator doors closed
Keeping food fresh can be difficult during a power outage. A refrigerator can keep food cold for about four hours without electricity — maybe a little longer if you have a full freezer. Each time you open the doors, the cold air trapped in your fridge escapes, reducing the length of time your food will stay good.
4. Test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
To be safe, press the “test” button on your detectors to make sure they’re working. Are your detectors wired into your home’s electricity? They should have a backup battery, but it’s good to check.
Lights already came back on? Here are more tips for what to do after a power outage.
5. Watch out for carbon monoxide risks
The number of carbon monoxide-related poisonings goes way up during power outages. Most occur when people try to stay warm with gas stoves or by running grills, generators, or vehicles indoors. A good rule is to only use your home’s existing heating system. If you have a generator, keep it outside, at least 20 feet from the house. If you need to warm up or charge electronics in your car, make sure it’s not parked in a closed garage.
6. Use flashlights instead of candles
We already touched on the dangers of heating your home with gas stoves or grills … well, candles pose a risk too. A well-monitored candle can be safe, but it’s easy to set it down and forget about it, which can be dangerous. A safer way to have light while there’s no power is to fire up some flashlights instead.
If possible, the best thing to do during a power outage is hunker down and bust out some board games! That said, if you ever feel unsafe, trust your gut and call for help.