Texas gets its share of bad weather throughout the year, but the summer months can be particularly difficult to handle. The sweltering heat can hit you anywhere across the state, torrential rainfalls are common precursors to severe storms along the Gulf Coast, and then there are winds so strong that they can strip limbs off of trees. These severe weather conditions are not only inconvenient and dangerous for many Texans, but we’re often left in the dark when energy transmission lines are damaged. In fact, in recent years weather-related power outages account for 80 percent of all power outages in the United States, according to a 2014 report by climate change researchers at Climate Central, which analyzed 28 years of power outage data. And Texas seems to get the brunt of the outages, ranking No. 2 in the country (behind Michigan) with 57 outages affecting more than 800,000 customers annually.
Thanks to the volatile mix of tornado-force winds, Faustian droughts, and an approaching hurricane season, it’s likely many Texans will experience a power outage this summer (if they haven’t already). However, no matter where you are, we at Brilliant Energy want you to be prepared. Here are 5 ways to help you prepare for the next power outage.
Preserve your food
If the power is out for two hours or less, don’t stress about your perishable foods. Your freezer will keep its temperature for about 24-48 hours, notes the Red Cross, while the fridge will keep food cold for about 2-4 hours. So keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed so the food stays cooler longer. If the power is out for a prolonged amount of time, disaster preparedness groups recommend surrounding your food in ice in the refrigerator or a cooler to keep the food safe. Use a food thermometer to check your foods temperature regularly. If anything smells funny, or if it has been exposed to temperatures higher than 40° F for two hours or more then throw it out.
Unplug your electronics
When the power does come back on, you don’t want the surge of electricity to harm your electronic devices. So turn off and unplug any unnecessary equipment, such as computers and stoves. Just keep one light on so you’ll know when the power is back on.
Pack emergency kits
For your kit, disaster preparedness experts recommend you store one gallon of water per person, per day. You’ll need a three-day supply for an evacuation or two-week supply for the home. For the bulk of your kit, fill up a duffel bag full of flashlights, spare batteries, a hand-crank radio, such as a NOAA Weather Radio from the Red Cross, first aid kits (for both you and your pets), medications, written emergency contact information, copies of personal documents (like birth certificates, home deeds, medication lists, etc.), a non-cordless phone (it’ll likely still work in a power outage), and an extra portable charger for your cell phone. As for your car, make sure the tank is full (and even bring an extra gas can) in case you need to evacuate.
Know where to store your backup generator
Portable generators are routinely in high demand in severe weather situations. They keep your lights on, your devices charged, and your appliances running, and many models even automatically turn on when the power goes out, ensuring you’re never left in the dark. While the benefits are great, they can be a safety concern. Jodi Marose, a spokeswoman for backup power generator company Generac Power Systems, cautions that they produce a toxic gas called carbon monoxide. The odorless gas is poisonous to people and pets, and exposure can cause difficulty breathing, seizures, coma, and death. So keep everyone safe and place the portable generator outdoors and away from windows and vents so the deadly fumes don’t sneak their way into your home. Marose adds the generator should also be in a dry area, protected from the elements.
Have an emergency game plan
We all know how hectic things can get in stormy weather, so develop an emergency communication plan on how to reach everyone before disaster hits, advises Andrew Torres, the CEO and founder of disaster preparedness company First My Family. You should also decide in advance which family member(s) will be responsible for your pets if there’s an emergency, and then pre-designate a meeting place in case you’re separated when the blackout hits.
At Brilliant Energy, we strive to provide the best service possible for our customers. Please report any power outages in your area to your local Transmission and Distribution Utility.
How do you prepare for a power outage? Tell us in the comments and on social media with #BrilliantPowerOutageTips.