Archive for Thursday, December 14, 2006

Plan ahead for when electrical power goes down

December 14, 2006

You're sitting there, minding your own business, and "pop" the lights go out. Or you're in bed sleeping like a baby ... and sleeping ... and sleeping.

"Isn't that darned alarm ever going to go off?"

You sit bolt upright in bed and stare at the alarm 12:00 ... little red light - blink, blink. Rats, the power's off. You fumble for your watch. It's 9 a.m. and last time you checked, you needed to be at work at 8 a.m.

Power outages happen all the time -- usually when it is least convenient. So what do you have in your plan?

I'm sure you all have a flashlight -- one that you haven't checked the batteries on for, say, six months. And that flashlight is where?

I'm sure you all have a few candles. How about matches? I'll bet they aren't with the candles. Candles are not guns so matches can be kept with the candles.

To locate the flashlight or the matches -- say it is night -- you need a flashlight to find the flashlight. Not a pretty picture.

Then there is the phone call you make to the power company, or should I say the busy signal you are listening to. You are positive that you are the only house without power. Have you looked out the window?

So, now what do we know?

Your next thought might go something like this ... Power out, late to work, can't get through to the power company, power will be on when you get home ... you hope.

You arrive at work already in a "dark" mood, because your electric toothbrush didn't work and the only real toothbrush you have is the one under the sink used to clean the grout. You haven't had your coffee, no electricity, no coffee, the garage door wouldn't open until you got in the car and pushed the button on the remote and maybe it didn't open then, either.

Day one, harbinger of night one. The power is still out when you get home.

Let's assume you have found the batteries, the candles and the matches. What else do you need -- ah, yes, dinner. But, the microwave, refrigerator and other appliances, oven and stove are all electric. So, you decide to go out to eat. All the street lights are out and you realize you need gas in your car. Gas pumps operate electrically and they are all dark as well.

Hopefully this scenario doesn't last too long, but there have been times in our recent past where it was a week or more before the power came on. Have you learned anything from that? Where are your flashlights, camp lights, batteries, barbeque, extra propane tank, sweaters, blankets and manual toothbrush?

I hope to give you a few pointers that might help before the next dark period.

Surviving a power outage

  • Never use a charcoal or gas grill inside.
  • Minimize driving. Gas pumps are actually electric gas dispensers.
  • Try to stay dry

When lights go out

  • I know this sounds goofy, but try to remember which lights were on and then turn all but one of them off. Power surges can cause the power to go out again.
  • Unplug small appliances, but leave refrigerators and freezers plugged in.
  • Turn off and unplug computers

Your gas furnace will not work -- thermostats, fans and blowers all run on electricity.

How to stay warm

  • Layer clothes
  • Shut the doors to all rooms not in use
  • Close blinds, shades or drapes
  • Hang blankets over the doors to the rooms that will be used

Alternate heat sources

  • Have fire extinguishes nearby


  • Read the instructions and follow them.


  • Use foods that will spoil rapidly first
  • Keep cold food cold. Some of what is in you're the refrigerator may be able to be stored outside.
  • Eat food that does not require refrigeration

What you need before the next power outage

  • Flashlights, batteries, matches
  • Battery-powered radio
  • Canned, non-perishable food and a manual can opener
  • Extra blankets and warm clothes
  • One gallon of water per person or pet per day
  • A landline phone
  • Entertainment like board games and crossword puzzles

-- Clarin Blessing is the assistant director of training and public education with the Johnson County Emergency Management and Homeland Security. Blessing can be reached at (913) 715-1002 or by e-mail,

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