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Preparing for a Power Outage

Prepare for what is the most likely to happen in your area. If you live in the Northeast, snowstorms would be the logical incident that you may have to prepare for and wind storms that can often cause power outages. Learn about your location and what is considered "normal".

Some of the hazards that can occur when there is a power outage are:

  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Food that has been at a temperature of 40 F or higher
  • Hypothermia
  • Live power lines

Carbon monoxide is a clear, odorless gas that can cause death or illness. These incidents usually happen during winter storms, hurricanes or other severe weather conditions when the power goes out. The use of generators, heating and cooling sources can cause carbon monoxide to build up in a home, garage or camper.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than 400 people die from accidental poisoning by carbon monoxide. This can not only affect people but also animals.


  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Vomiting
  • Chest pain
  • Confusion
  • Loss of consciousness


  • Do not use gas stove to heat home.
  • Never run a generator or any gasoline powered engine inside a basement, garage or enclosed structure.
  • Do not use charcoal grill or portable camping stove inside the home.
  • Consider going to a community shelter if it is too hot or too cold.
  • Seek medical attention immediately if you think that you or a family member has been exposed to carbon monoxide.

Food Safety

If the power is out less than 2hours, the food in your freezer or refrigerator should be safe to consume. If the power has been out longer then you should do the following:

  • Do not open the freezer. A full freezer will be okay for 48 hours.
  • Take food out of refrigerator and pack in cooler surrounded by ice.
  • Use food thermometer to insure that food is safe to eat. When in doubt, throw it out.

Safe Drinking Water

Water is the most important item to have in case of any emergency. Each person should have one gallon of water per day for at least three days. Boiling water for one minute will kill most bacteria and parasites. If you cannot boil the water, you can use unscented chlorine bleach. Add 1/8 teaspoon of bleach to one gallon of water and let sit for 30 minutes.

You should store at least a three day supply of non-perishable food that requires on refrigeration, preparation or cooking.

  • Eating utensils
  • Canned Juice
  • Crackers
  • Nuts
  • Dried fruit
  • Peanut butter
  • Dry cereal
  • Canned meat, fruits and vegetables
  • Food for infants

First Aid Kit

  • Antiseptic
  • Scissors
  • Gauze pads
  • Adhesive tape
  • Ace bandage
  • Non latex gloves
  • Band-aids
  • Tweezers
  • Sting and bite ointment
  • Instant cold pack

Avoid hypothermia by staying warm and dressing in layers. If your home is too cold then consider evacuating to a shelter.

If you come across live power lines do not try to move them. Call your local electric company or 911.


  • Whistle to call for help
  • NOAA weather radio (battery or hand crank)
  • Can opener
  • Cell phone with charger
  • Flashlight (battery or hand crank)
  • Local maps
  • Dust mask
  • Wrench to be able to turn off utilities
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Cash or traveler’s checks
  • Pet food and water

Special items

If you need to evacuate to a shelter bring passports, bank information, insurance papers, social security number, insulin, special foods and medicine for diabetics, extra pair of glasses. Keep important papers in a water proof container or air tight plastic bag. Remember that Red Cross shelters cannot accept pets. They do accept service animals.

Items for Children

  • Books
  • Crayons
  • Games
  • Formula
  • Diapers

Local Community and State Information can be found on the following website:

  • Each state is listed with information about how to contact your local emergency planners. This site will give you the name, address and phone numbers as well as common weather risks in each state.
  • Subscribe to alert services. Many communities now have email messaging and text alerts that are automated and send out information about road closings, bad weather and other local emergencies. Many schools have this automated service to alert parents that school is closed.
  • For more information: