Power Outages

Be Prepared for When Power Goes Out

By Robert Ricard, Faye Griffiths-Smith and Mary Ellen Welch


Publication # EXT015 | 2018 | Updated 2021

Reviewed by Stacey Stearns and Kara Bonsack


Power outages can occur at any time. Some are short-term and may last for a few hours. Others can last for several days to a week or more. Can you recall how you and your family were affected the last time this happened? Start preparing now so you can be safe and more comfortable when the power goes out.

Basic emergency supply kit and plan

Have flashlights with working batteries for all household members. For your safety, keep portable chargers and power banks at hand for your phones, laptops, and tablets.

Start planning now in case you need to leave home due to an event. Think about where you may go. Contact your local town hall about shelters and COVID-19 rules. Carry a printed list of important phone numbers. Assemble Go-Bags with at least three-days of supplies for family members and pets. Discuss safety planning with your health care providers for refrigerated medicines and electric powered medical devices. If you have a car, fill it with gasoline, so you could drive away if ordered to evacuate by local authorities.

Household chores in advance of a storm

Pick up tripping hazards. Wash, dry, and put laundry away. Assemble warm clothing and blankets in cool weather and freeze jugs of ice water in warm weather. Dispose of garbage.

Clean food preparation and eating areas. Keep food on hand that does not require cooking or refrigeration. Set refrigerator and freezer to coldest temperatures 24 hours in advance. Put food thermometers in the refrigerator and freezer and follow USDA food safety guidelines. Make lots of ice and store the ice in containers or bags. Store beverages that do not require refrigeration in an ice-filled cooler. During a power outage, the food in a full freezer will last twice as long as in a half-full freezer, so it is good to fill it with containers of ice. Keep the refrigerator/freezer doors closed once the power goes out.

Protect your appliances

Use surge protectors to prevent appliances from breaking once the power comes back on. Make lists/take photos and remember to turn all appliances on once the power returns.

Stay safe!

In extreme heat or extreme cold, try to get to a safe place with family or friends, or at a shelter or warming/cooling center. Older people and young children are at greater risk. Do not heat your home with an oven or gas/oil devices. Do not touch, walk, or drive under/over downed power lines.

Have working smoke detectors with battery backup in each bedroom and on every level of your apartment or house. Replace the batteries twice a year. Do not remove batteries for another use.

Carbon monoxide (CO) detectors with battery backup are also necessary for your family’s safety. Locate CO detectors in the hallway by the bedrooms in each sleeping area. CO is a gas that you cannot see, smell, or taste, but it can make you very sick and even be deadly. Hire a licensed professional to service fuel burning appliances like your furnace, stove/oven, or generator annually. Use generators, camp stoves, and grills outside only.

Portable generators can provide limited power during a power outage. Always follow the generator manufacturer’s usage directions. Only a licensed, professional, electrician should perform installations, so the generator operates safely. Keep generators at least 20 feet away from your house/apartment. Prevent carbon monoxide gas from entering your home and garage. Let the generator cool off before adding gasoline to prevent fires.

Visit the UConn Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN) at eden.uconn.edu for more information.

This work is supported by Smith-Lever Special Needs Competitive Grants Program 2018-CONS201805400/1017643 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017, October 17). What You Need to Know When the Power Goes out Unexpectedly. cdc.gov/disasters/poweroutage/needtoknow.html

Department of Energy. (n.d.). Using Portable/Emergency Generators Safely.

energy.gov/ceser/activities/energy-security/emergency-preparedness/ using-portableemergency-generators-safely

Federal Emergency Management Agency. (2018, March 18). Be Safe During A Power Outage. ready.gov/power-outages#tips