Power Outage Safety
Learn how to prepare your home for a power outage and what to do when one occurs
Prepare in Advance
Create a support network. Identify people who can help you stay at home or evacuate during an extended power outage. Keep a paper copy of your contact list.
Stay connected and alert.
Sign up for and monitor alert systems and apps for text alerts. Have communication devices that work without home power, including a crank or battery radio, a non-cordless home phone, chargers/batteries for your cell phones and your computers.
Stock food and water.
Store non-perishable food and water supplies for at least two weeks. Plan to use coolers and ice to extend food refrigeration and keep a thermometer in the fridge, freezer or cooler to monitor the food temperature.
Know and plan for your personal and medical electrical needs.
Take an inventory of your electrical needs. Consider both back up and non-power alternatives for lighting, communication, medical devices and refrigerated medicine, cooking, garage doors, locks and elevators. Discuss a plan with your primary care or medical device providers for your medical needs.
Prepare a pet emergency kit for your companion animals.
Plan for heating or cooling your home.
Use methods such as sealing around windows to insulate your home. If the weather is very hot or very cold, plan to go to a location with air conditioning or with heat. Never use a generator, outdoor stoves or heaters indoors.
Install smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms.
Install smoke alarms with battery backup on every floor, inside and outside sleeping areas. Test monthly. Make sure that you have one carbon monoxide detector on each level of your home.
Plan for surge protection.
Make sure that you have current surge protectors for household electronics.
Plan how to decide to stay or go.
Plan how and when you will evacuate safely to maintain needs such as power-dependent medical devices. Keep your car gas tank at least half full.
Safety Tips for After a Power Outage
Keep away from power lines. Stay at least 35 feet away from fallen power lines and anything they are touching. Call 911 and let them know.
Avoid electrical shock in flood areas. Don’t go into flooded areas or use any electrical equipment or electronics that may have been submerged. Have a qualified electrical inspector check the electrical system.
When in doubt, throw it out. If food is 40 degrees F or warmer, especially dairy and meat, throw it out. Ask your provider about using refrigerated medicines.
Prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Keep generators, camp stoves and charcoal grills outdoors only in well-ventilated areas at least 20 feet away from windows.
Winter Storm Safety
Learn how to stay safe during a blizzard and how to prevent or thaw frozen pipes
Take immediate precautions if you hear these words on the news:
Winter Storm WARNING:
Life-threatening, severe winter conditions have begun or will begin within 24 hours.
Sustained winds or frequent gusts of 35 miles per hour or greater, plus considerable falling or blowing snow reducing visibility to less than a quarter mile, expected to prevail for three hours or longer.
Staying Safe During a Winter Storm or Blizzard
- Stay indoors and wear warm clothes. Layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing will keep you warmer than a bulky sweater. If you feel too warm, remove layers to avoid sweating; if you feel chilled, add layers.
- Listen to a local station on battery-powered radio or television or to NOAA Weather Radio for updated emergency information.
- Bring your companion animals inside before the storm begins. Move other animals to sheltered areas with a supply of non-frozen water. Most animal deaths in winter storms are caused by dehydration.
- Eat regularly. Food provides the body with energy for producing its own heat.
- Keep the body replenished with fluids to prevent dehydration. Drink liquids such as warm broth or juice. Avoid caffeine and alcohol. Caffeine, a stimulant, accelerates the symptoms of hypothermia. Alcohol, such as brandy, is a depressant and hastens the effects of cold on the body. Alcohol also slows circulation and can make you less aware of the effects of cold. Both caffeine and alcohol can cause dehydration.
- Conserve fuel. Winter storms can last for several days, placing great demand on electric, gas, and other fuel distribution systems (fuel oil, propane, etc.). Lower the thermostat to 65° F during the day and to 55° F at night. Close off unused rooms, and stuff towels or rags in cracks under the doors. Cover windows at night.
- Check on relatives, neighbors, and friends, particularly if they are elderly or if they live alone.
After a Winter Storm
- Continue listening to local news or a NOAA Weather Radio for updated information and instructions. Access to some parts of the community may be limited or roads may be blocked.
- Help people who require special assistance—infants, elderly people, those without transportation, large families who may need additional help in an emergency situation, people with disabilities, and caregivers.
- Avoid driving and other travel until conditions have improved.
- Avoid overexertion. Heart attacks from shoveling heavy snow are a leading cause of death during the winter.
- Check on your animals and ensure that their access to food and water is unimpeded by drifted snow, ice, or other obstacles.
- If you are using a portable generator, take precautions against carbon monoxide poisoning and fire.
Home Fire Safety
Learn how your family can prevent home fires, escape from a home fire in 2 minutes, and recover after a home fire.
Did you know that if a fire starts in your home you may have as little as two minutes to escape? During a fire, early warning from a working smoke alarm plus a fire escape plan that has been practiced regularly can save lives. Learn what else to do to keep your loved ones safe!
Top Tips for Fire Safety
- Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas.
- Test smoke alarms every month. If they’re not working, change the batteries.
- Talk with all family members about a fire escape plan and practice the plan twice a year.
- If a fire occurs in your home, GET OUT, STAY OUT and CALL FOR HELP. Never go back inside for anything or anyone.
If a Fire Starts
- Know how to safely operate a fire extinguisher
- Remember to GET OUT, STAY OUT and CALL 9-1-1 or your local emergency phone number.
- Yell “Fire!” several times and go outside right away. If you live in a building with elevators, use the stairs. Leave all your things where they are and save yourself.
- If closed doors or handles are warm or smoke blocks your primary escape route, use your second way out. Never open doors that are warm to the touch.
- If you must escape through smoke, get low and go under the smoke to your exit. Close doors behind you.
- If smoke, heat or flames block your exit routes, stay in the room with doors closed. Place a wet towel under the door and call the fire department or 9-1-1. Open a window and wave a brightly colored cloth or flashlight to signal for help.
- Once you are outside, go to your meeting place and then send one person to call the fire department. If you cannot get to your meeting place, follow your family emergency communication plan.
Need Help Now?
If you need help after a home fire or other disaster, the following resources are available 24/7:
Requesting Help: From finding an open shelter to recovering financially, the American Red Cross Disaster Relief and Recovery Services page provides a list of 24/7 resources and action steps to get families on the road to recovery quickly.
Suite of Emergency Apps: Available in English or Spanish for Android or Apple devices, these apps will alert users of severe weather while also connecting users to emergency shelters and resources, when necessary. Apps can be downloaded here.
Recovering Emotionally: For free 24/7 counseling or support, contact the Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990 or text “TalkWithUs’ to 66746 or find additional help here.
Reconnecting Families: Disasters can tear families apart when they need each other the most. The American Red Cross can help family members reconnect.
Individuals can also contact 1-800-RED-CROSS (1-800-733-2767) for any other assistance.
Submitted by Nancy Ven Etten