A little bit of prep work goes a long way
Whether it’s thanks to a winter storm, a natural disaster, or just bad luck with downed power lines, every homeowner will likely face a power outage at some point. While always inconvenient, some prolonged outages can be downright scary if you are unprepared.
Thankfully, doing a little prep work can help you tackle your next steps with confidence. Read on to find out exactly what you need to be sure you stay as safe and comfortable as possible during the next power outage that comes your way.
Creating Your Kit
Stocking up on supplies for a power outage won’t help when the lights start flickering if you don’t know where they are. As you gather your items, pack them together into a large plastic tote and store your tote in an easily accessible location. Be sure to check your kit annually to be sure your items are all still in good working order.
What Goes in a Power Outage Kit?
1. A Light Source
When the power goes out, your first priority, especially if it’s nighttime, will be seeing clearly. Make sure you have these items in your kit.
Flashlights for each family member
If you live in an area where prolonged power outages are common, stock your kit with enough extra batteries for every light source and consider adding non-battery-powered light sources. Hand crank or solar-powered flashlights can be a great option for long-term use.
Having clean water on hand is vital for anyone living through a prolonged power outage. While you’ll need water for drinking, you’ll also want to consider how much you might need for each family member’s hygiene needs and for outdoor cooking (if that’s an option for you).
Your power outage kit should include at least 3 gallons of water per family member, according to FEMA, as well as a small cup or water bottle that you can use to make consuming water easier.
If you experience any sort of power outage that lasts more than a couple of hours, it’s likely that you’ll get hungry. Non-perishable food that is easy to open and doesn’t require cooking is essential for your power outage kit.
Stock up on items that are high energy and don’t take up too much pantry space. This includes things like:
Canned chicken or tuna
Canned fruits and vegetables
Spreadable jellies and jams
Crackers and long-lasting wafers
Don’t forget to include a can opener, basic utensils, and napkins. If you have kids, consider including a few treats that will provide a fun distraction during what otherwise might be a stressful time.
Stocking up on prescription medication can be tricky, so always keep track of your prescription medications and medical equipment so you can easily access them during a power outage. If your doctor can prescribe you an emergency supply of a prescription to have on hand, keep that in your kit, but be sure to swap it out before the expiration date.
If a storm or other inclement weather is in the forecast, check the dosage remaining and order refills as needed. Also, pay attention to the battery life on devices such as nebulizers or oxygen tanks to determine if you should obtain a backup battery or small generator in case of an emergency.
Other helpful medications can include:
Aspirin and/or ibuprofen
Cough and cold medications
5. First-Aid Kit
Unfortunately, accidents can happen anytime, even during a power outage. Like with any home emergency kit, you’ll want to have a well-stocked first-aid kit on hand. When compiling your first-aid supplies, make sure to include the instructions, as well as the contact information for any healthcare providers your household may need to reach.
Your first-aid kit should include the following items:
Antibiotic ointment packets
Several pairs of latex gloves
Sterile gauze pads
Adhesive cloth tape
An instant cold compress
An oral thermometer
An emergency first-aid booklet
You can make your own kit containing these items or purchase a complete kit that will come stocked with everything you need.
6. Personal Hygiene Items
It’s essential to keep germs at bay as much as possible during a power outage. Depending on the makeup of your household, you’ll need to include items like:
Feminine hygiene products
Toothbrushes and toothpaste
Instead of trying to round up loose items with the beam of a flashlight to guide your way, stock your kit with extras before the power outage hits. While most items in your kit can be checked and replaced as needed annually, diapers and other hygiene items might need to be replaced on a more frequent basis.
7. Batteries and Battery-Powered Chargers
While you should be sure to store enough extra batteries for your flashlights, that’s not the only thing you’ll need extra power for. If you use walkie-talkies, a radio, or medical devices that require battery power, add replacement batteries for these devices as well.
You’ll also likely be using your phone for information and updates, so be sure to include an external battery pack or solar-powered charger. While you might be tempted to pull this out of your kit when you travel or for at-home convenience, it’s essential to keep it in your kit for use during a home emergency.
With no screens available during a power outage, everyone (especially the younger members of your home) is likely to get bored and antsy quickly. Activities to include in your kit should be those you can enjoy by flashlight, such as:
Coloring books and crayons
9. Sources of Warmth and Cool
An outage during the winter months can be particularly alarming, as most furnaces will not work without a backup generator. Staying physically close together and dressing in layers will help keep everyone as warm as possible. You should include:
Summer power outages can also be uncomfortable, particularly if you live in a hot climate. Add several small battery-powered fans to your kit to be sure you have access to at least a little bit of cool comfort.
10. Communication Devices
Your cell phone will be an important link to obtaining information about the power outage, and keeping it charged is essential. Include a range of communication and charging devices in your kit so that you’ll have something that works no matter the conditions of your power outage. Consider adding the following items to your kit:
Spare battery packs
USB chargers (to use in the car or with a laptop)
A battery-powered radio
A spare fully charged flip phone