What to Do If You Lose Power and Heat

Ice Storm Power Outage

Losing power at anytime can create serious disruptions in your everyday life, however, when it is cold out it not only creates disruptions it can become deadly. Ideally, you are prepared for disruptions in cold weather, and have paid particular attention to keeping everyone warm during a power outage.

Things You Can Do before the Power Goes Out

If the local forecast calls for weather that could disrupt your power such as ice and heavy snows, you can take steps before the power goes that will be beneficial to you during the outage.

Turn up your refrigerators and freezers to the highest setting. You want the foods inside as cold as possible for when the power does go out. Considering combing contents into one refrigerator or freezer because the more food items inside of a freezer or refrigerator the longer the foods will maintain a safe temperature. Remember to turn down the settings when the power is restored.

Once the power goes out avoid opening the doors. Refrigerators if full can maintain a safe temperature in some cases up to 6 hours, while a full freezer can maintain safe temperatures up to 48 hours and one that is half full up to 24 hours.

Any perishable foods that have been stored above 40° F for more than two hours will need to be discarded.

Make sure all cell phones and other devices are fully charged before the power goes out, and check all flashlights and other battery operated devices.

Fill your bathtubs with water to use for toilet flushing and other sanitation needs. You can use the water for drinking only after proper purification unless you use a waterBOB.

If you rely on electricity for your heat then you will need to essentially close off portions of the home to conserve what heat is in the home. If you have a wood burning fireplace, or have a gas burning one then of course, this would be the room to gather in, otherwise pick a room that everyone can stay in and likely sleep in as well.

Your emergency supplies should have Mylar emergency blankets, wool blankets, sleeping bags, and consider bubble wrap as well. Bubble wrap can be used as an insulator between you and the floor. The material of course is made of air filled chambers. The air chambers will provide insulation and cushioning for sleeping.

The wrap can also be placed over windows to reduce heat conduction. Cut the wrap to fit and then wet the glass slightly and then place the wrap over the glass, it will cling to the glass.

People that are chilled or you suspect may be in the early stages of hypothermia can be wrapped in the material to help control the core body temperature in an emergency.

Hang Mylar or other blankets in doorways to reflect heat back into the room you are staying in and they can be placed over windows and outside doors as well.

Water pipes may freeze so make sure they are well insulated, and if you still believe they may freeze during an outage you can shut off the main water supply and open all faucets to drain the lines. Make sure you shut off the power to the hot water tank before shutting off the main water supply. The water in the tank will stay warm for hours, so it can be used for bathing and other needs or used as an emergency drinking water source after it has been filtered and purified. Attach a hose to the drain spigot to get water from the tank once you have shut off the main water supply. 

Snow banks can be used as emergency refrigerators during a power outage. Try to find areas that receive the least amount of sunshine. Radiant heat from sunlight will warm up surfaces beyond what the air temperature is. This is why you will see snow melting on surfaces even when the air temperature is below freezing. The food items will need to be under as much snow as possible and in waterproof containers.

Snow can be melted for drinking water but it must be warmed before drinking so you do not lower your core body temperature. If there are no obvious contaminates melted snow can generally be consumed without purification. However, if you suspect contamination then purify the water. If the snow has been contaminated with any chemicals then it cannot be used for any purposes. Do not consume water from melted icicles that hang from the roofline without purifying first.

Small propane heaters that are rated for indoor use will typically have a low oxygen shutoff valve. The valve will not allow a flame when there is not enough fresh oxygen in the room. Always use any heating device with caution and kerosene heaters, charcoal Hibachis and other fossil fuel devices should never be used in any confined space.

Consider a Generator

A transfer switch can be added so the generator is essentially wired to the home’s electrical system but this must be done by a professional. If you do it yourself and it is not done properly electricity generated can flow back through the lines hurting anyone working on the lines. This is important.

Fuel Supply for Heat and Cooking

If you have a wood fireplace then you will need an ample supply of wood that is accessible. Before the storm bring some wood close to the house so you do have to carry it through the snow or try to navigate icy surfaces with an armload of wood.   

One pound propane bottles are the only containers rated for indoor use and they can be used with camp stoves and small heaters as well as lanterns. 

Avoid outside as much as possible, because ice and snow or broken limbs may have brought power lines down. Ice sliding off of roofs can be a hazard as well, not to mention falling trees and limbs because of heavy layers of ice buildup.

To protect your electronic devices you should connect your devices to surge protectors of good quality. Unplugging the devices can prevent damage from power surges once power is restored.