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Preparing for Power Outages

By Jonathan Z. Kremer

Somehow power outages always seem to catch us at the worse times. Yet when they happen, most of use are not only caught unprepared, but really don't know what to do with ourselves once the power goes out. Here are some tips that should help keep you in the light the next time you have a blackout.

Safety precautions one should consider beforehand:

  1. Make sure that you always have working flashlights in your home with a supply of batteries.

  2. Installing emergency lamps around your home can be a great help. These lamps stay lit for
    2 - 4 hours, and go on as soon as the power goes out. This can be a life saver near stairways and electrical panels, as well as other sensitive places.

  3. A portable battery-operated radio or television can be handy during a long blackout.

  4. Cordless phones, or those with answering machines are power dependent. Have at least one phone that does not require power in case you need to call the power company or other emergency numbers. Keep your cell phone powered up at all times.

  5. Protect your electronic equipment and appliances with good quality surge protectors. For more information see -

  6. Computers are easily damaged not only from the various electrical surges and spikes, but from brownouts and "flickering" as well, especially during bad weather. Surge protectors aren't enough to protect computers, therefore it would be wise to protect your computer system with a UPS.
    To learn more about UPSs see -

  7. People who are medically dependent on electricity may need portable generators. Safely store fuel only in approved containers, outside - never in garages. Operate generators only outside, ensuring that exhaust will not enter the home through vents or windows. Only use fresh gasoline because old gasoline can ignite. Plug appliances directly into the generator using heavy-duty extension cords. NEVER attach generators to your electrical system, unless it is done through a qualified electrician who uses the proper transfer switches.

  8. It's a good idea to have a fire extinguisher handy, especially if you are apt to use candles for lighting. (Note: Candles are not recommended due to the high fire risk)

What to do when the power goes out

  1. When the lights go out, stay calm and evaluate the situation. First see if it is only a section of your home that's out or something that is affecting only your home. Sometimes the power outage is simply a tripped breaker or blown fuse in your electrical panel. If your panel seams OK, then see if your neighbors have power. That can give you an indication as to how widespread the blackout is.

  2. If you don't see anything wrong in your electrical panel, or you notice that the outage is more widespread, it's a good idea to report the outage to the electric company right away. (Note: The Israel Electric Company (IEC) put out a pamphlet, in Hebrew, on this matter, which you can find translated here -

  3. If you see any broken or fallen power lines, stay away and call the IEC or emergency (107)

  4. Unplug any sensitive electronics, such as computers, televisions and stereos, to prevent them from being damaged by any voltage surges or spikes that may occur when power is restored.

  5. Turn off all major appliances. Leave at least one light on so that you'll know when the power comes back.

  6. Keep refrigerators and freezers closed. Food will keep for 24-48 hours provided the door remains closed.

  7. Those homes with sewer pumps have limited storage capacity. Limit all water usage, and avoid flushing your toilet during a power outage.

When the power comes back

  1. Plug in those appliances that you previously unplugged, but don't be in such a rush to put everything on at the same time. If you need to use a number of major appliances right away, put them on one at a time, waiting a minute or two between each appliance. This will keep you from overloading your circuits all at once.

  2. When the power comes back on you may have to reset your clocks, VCRs, microwave ovens, programmable thermostats, burglar and fire alarms.

  3. Remember to restock your supplies (batteries, etc) for the next time.

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