How to Survive During a Blackout

Be prepared the next time your power goes out.

FlickrMike K

When the power goes out due to a massive hurricane, storm, or natural disaster, you should be prepared to live without power for at least a day or two, and possibly a few weeks. Before you're sweating it out in candlelight, take a look at our blackout survival guide.

Have a Flashlight: If you haven't done so already, go out and buy at least one small, inexpensive flashlight—one that takes 2 D cell or 2 AA batteries. If you already have a flashlight, swap in new batteries. Leave it standing on a book shelf, or on an easy-to-reach countertop so that you can get to quickly and safely in the dark.

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Be Prepared to Empty the Fridge: A freezer packed with dry ice will stay cold for days, but it's tough to find dry ice at the local corner store. So if you've been without power for more than four hours, start emptying the fridge now. Even if the power does come back soon, chances are your food won't, and you don't want to let food melt in the freezer or, even worse, rot in the appliance. Cleaning that up is not a mess you want to deal with.

Shut Down Your Appliances: If your power goes out, make sure you turn off your air conditioner or reset the thermostat so the air conditioner will not turn back on until you turn it on manually. When the power does turn back on, the combined load of thousands of air conditioner spooling up simultaneously can be enough to trip the grid again, starting another blackout. However, if everybody turned on their air conditioners individually, it would stagger the power demand on the grid. Every small bit of help counts during an emergency.

(Also, now's a good time to unplug that circular saw you were using when the power went out.)

Don't Overdo AC: When you do turn an air conditioner back on, don't set the thermostat lower than 78 F. This is good practice in general: Although it doesn't seem very cool, the dehumidifying effect of air conditioning will make your house much more bearable, even at 78 F.

Use Passive Cooling: If the power goes out, open as many windows as possible, especially windows and vents in the attic and the upper floors. However, use shades on the sunny side of the house (south and west) to minimize solar heating. This is a good practice in warm months, even when you've got your AC cranking like a Pratt and Whitney turbofan.

If you really got caught off guard, take this opportunity to learn from the mistake and assemble an emergency preparedness kit consisting of lighting, food, water, a first aid kit, tools and anything else you'll need.

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