Recently, hundreds of thousands of California residents felt the pain of new policies and procedures instituted by utility providers. People found themselves without power for up to four days as a result of these companies trying to limit their liability for any potential fire damage.
Unfortunately, this appears to be the new normal for Californians. As long as devastating fires continue to burn and the state continues to clamp down on utility providers, residents everywhere will continue to be the ones most impacted as they sit in darkness without the use of their power. However, now that the first iteration of these outages has come and gone, we’ve learned a number of things about how you can prepare when these outages may be on the horizon. Here are a few valuable tips that can help you through an outage.
Assemble an Emergency Kit
The first thing all homeowners should have is an emergency kit. A properly-equipped kit can help you survive for several days without power, providing you with light, heat, and even food and water so you can continue to sustain yourself and your loved ones.
A proper emergency kit should have all of the following:
- Enough food and water for at least five days. This means enough for at least three meals per day for all members of your family. Try to use foods which require little to no preparation and have extremely long shelf lives. Pop-Tarts or boxed cereal make great breakfast options. Anything that requires refrigeration or freezing should be considered a “no-go” because there’s a strong chance you’ll lose your refrigerator or freezer during an outage. You should also have a minimum of one gallon of water stored per day per child and three gallons of water per day per adult. Be sure to stock up on a minimum of five days’ worth of pet food as well for any furry family members.
- A propane-powered camping stove or grill. These simple propane grills could be a lifesaver when it comes to the light preparation your food might need. They’re great for everything from boiling water to heating soup. They can even help you eat some of that food which may be on the verge of spoiling in your no-longer-working refrigerator or freezer. Propane canisters are also extremely inexpensive and can last for decades without issue.
- A first-aid kit. Have bandages in case anyone gets hurt, an emergency blanket in case someone gets cold, and cold compresses or heat pads for injury treatment. Keep this kit stocked: if you use something out of it, replace it.
- Flashlights and batteries. Having several different flashlights makes getting around your home in the dark safer and easier. When the sun goes down, you’ll be glad you have a flashlight if you find yourself in need of a trip to the bathroom.
Have an Emergency Supply of Cash
When the power goes out, card readers and other electronic payment methods will no longer work in stores. Internet connections, which also depend on electricity, will likely also go down. Have several hundred dollars in cash stored somewhere safe. You’ll be glad you have it if you have to make a trip to the store for something like firewood to stay warm or a re-stock on supplies, particularly because most stores that remain open won’t be able to accept debit or credit cards during this time.
Have a Tank of Gas on Standby
When the power goes out, gas pumps will either be closed or inundated with residents trying to fill up. Getting gas for your vehicle becomes difficult. It never hurts to have several gallons or even at least one full tank’s worth of gas on standby, stored in your garage or outside. There’s a good chance you’ll need to drive somewhere during one of these power outages—make sure you have the gas to do so.
Portable and Standby Generator Maintenance
Generators can help you keep your basic lights on and most necessary appliances running in the event of an outage. These emergency backup units can provide you with just enough power for your most important things, like refrigeration, water, lights, and cooling fans. Some standby generators can even restore power to your heating and cooling system if they’re large enough!
With a portable generator, it is important to make sure it has enough fuel to keep running. Check the oil for discoloration or funny odors. Add oil if needed.
Standby generators need very little attention, however, an annual maintenance and inspection service helps them stay at their best. Standby generators also need to be checked for oil and changed after extended runs of 200 total hours.