What to do in a Power Outage
Is yours the only house with no power?
The first thing to do if the lights go out is determine whether it is a blackout of the immediate area or just you. There are a couple of ways of doing this. The easiest thing to do if it’s nighttime is simply have a look outside to see if the streetlights and/or the neighbours’ lights are on. Just simply searching for ‘power outage’ online should bring up the information at the top of the page about where the outage is, how widespread it is and how long it might last. Take note of the time the power goes out because this will be useful later when you are trying to determine what to keep and what to ditch from the fridge.
Charger in the Car
Once you have that information, it’s probably best to put your screens away to preserve the battery’s charge, unless you have a charger in the car.
Another way of checking if it’s only your house that has no power is to take a look at your switchboard and check that all of the switches are in the ON position.
Sometimes you discover the cause of the power outage is powerlines that have been brought down in an accident or by a falling tree. Always assume that the lines are live and keep well away from them. It’s always good to check on the neighbours as well and warn them if there are fallen powerlines to watch out for.
Because there is a chance of a power surge when things come back on, it’s advisable to turn off and unplug all appliances, just leaving a lamp to show when the power is back on.
Blackouts can often coincide with dinner time and if you are lucky enough to have a gas cooker and one of those LED torches you can put on your head like a personal headlight, you can go ahead and cook away. Unfortunately many gas cookers theses days are dependent on electric ignition that you can’t override with matches. What’s most important is that you don’t bring any gas BBQs inside. The carbon monoxide they produce dissipates outside, but accumulates to dangerous and even fatal levels inside. You can’t smell or notice carbon monoxide and it has often been a killer during major power failures. The same warning applies to outdoor patio heaters.
You need to be careful about opening the fridge too much because you will lose the cool air. Fridges are well insulated and can keep food cool enough for several hours, but this is compromised by constantly opening the door. One trick that can help if you have highly perishable food is to shift any ice bricks from the freezer to the fridge and use it like an esky.
Make Sure Candles are Safe
If you’ve been lucky enough to have access to gas for cooking, you could break out the candles and have a candlelit dinner, but keep in mind that candles are a fire hazard and shouldn’t be left burning. Make sure that nothing flammable is near them. As light they are not very useful. A good LED torch or headlamp is a much better way of finding your way around a darkened house.
After the Power Outage
The first thing you are likely to do after the blackout is start turning things back on, beginning with the fridge. It’s time to sort out what has spoiled. For perishable foods with ‘use by’ dates, if the temperature of the fridge was 5 degrees or over for less than 2 hours, the food can be refrigerated again. The same food kept in those conditions for more than 2 hours and less than 4 hours can be cooked and eaten straight away, but can’t go back in the fridge, so it’s the bin for anything you don’t have an appetite for in that time frame. Four hours and longer is too long for meats and cheeses and the like. You should discard them in those circumstances. If you are really organised, a thermometer can tell you if your fridge has gone over the 5 degree mark during the blackout. Otherwise, it’s safest to assume that the temperature was over.
Frozen food that stays under the magic 5 degrees can be refrozen, but again anything over 5 degrees is consume or toss.
Published: 4 May, 2021