Florida is known as the Sunshine State, but it is also infamous for hurricanes and, to a lesser extent, tornadoes, both of which can cause power outages. Most power outages are caused by damage from tree limbs or the trees themselves falling on electrical poles and lines. Other extreme weather events like severe thunderstorms and flooding, animal interference, or too many A/C units on the power grid at one time during a heat wave can cause the power to go out.
These outages can last from a few hours to several days, depending on the severity of the situation. Knowing what to do during power outages can make all the difference when it comes to staying safe, warm and well-fed.
Always Be Prepared – What to do BEFORE the Power Goes Out.
There are so many things that we rely on that require power, and alternative power generators that can power a whole house are quite expensive. Fortunately, there are plenty of other ways to be prepared. You should always have an Emergency Supply Kit on hand – for your family and your business – and let’s not forget your pets. Your family should have some type of communications plan too. We suggest sitting down with one another and writing down a concrete plan as to what to do, where to go and how to communicate should something occur.
If you know an outage is coming, you will be better prepared if you take the following actions:
- Fill as many containers as you can with clean water and place them in your fridge and freezer.
- Always have canned food that will not spoil or require cooking/refrigeration on hand.
- Make sure you have an appliance thermometer in both your freezer and refrigerator.
- Fill your bathtub up with water.
- Keep flashlights and batteries on hand; make sure they’re easy to find
- Turn off major appliances
- Make sure you put ice packs in the freezer
- Invest in a portable charger or power bank
Lighting is the first thing we think about when we hear the term power outage. No one likes to stumble around in the dark, especially if there’s a storm outside. Back in the day, most people relied on candles and matches, but the last thing you need to do during a hurricane or some other extreme weather condition is to start a fire. Therefore, it is always a good idea to have at least one of the following things for each family member:
- LED (battery-powered) Lanterns
You could also use your cell phone for light, but you may want to save your battery in case you need it for emergency communication. If you have a portable charger or power bank, then you can use your cell phone without worrying. It’s important to put these items in a safe, easy-to-reach place and to have back-up batteries as well. A few helpful tricks are to attach glow in the dark stickers or straps onto your back-up light source. You could also strap a headlamp onto a jug filled with water – the light will reflect off the water and will brighten up the room.
If you must use a candle or a fuel-lit lamp, then never leave anything unattended, especially if you have pets or small children. Obviously, you will need to have lighters or matches on hand. It’s important that your candle holders can’t be easily knocked over – putting sand in the bottom of a tin food can is a good trick. Leave one light on so you know as soon as the power comes back on.
Floridians don’t have to worry too much about staying warm during power outages, because on average, Florida has one of the mildest winters compared to most other states. Occasionally strong cold fronts will move southward down the peninsula with freezing (or close to freezing) temperatures in various areas of central Florida every couple of years – and only on a few, rare nights. However, Florida natives will have to worry about getting too warm.
Hot air rises so it’s a good idea to get to the lowest level of your home during a heat wave or a power outage. It goes without saying to wear lightweight (even light-colored) clothes. Keep hydrated – drink water even if you are not thirsty. You would be surprised how quickly you can become dehydrated just from sweating profusely. If you have pets, make sure their water bowls are getting refilled.
It is helpful if you have ice packs always on hand in your freezer. You can use these during an outage to keep your food from spoiling in a cooler. If you don’t have a wood stove or a grill (don’t take the outdoor grill indoors as it is not safe), perhaps you can take turns sharing food with your neighbors (if the power outage goes on for several days). You can find some meal ideas here.
According to the US Department of Agriculture, a refrigerator without power will keep food safe for approximately 4 hours and a full freezer will keep food frozen for approximately 2 days (or 1 day for a half-full freezer) but ONLY if the door stays closed. After the power has been turned back on, throw away meat, fish, poultry, eggs or other food items that have not been refrigerated (or have been above 40°F for over 2 hours). Remember, the best rule of thumb is – when in doubt, throw it out! Eat the food that you know is safe to eat – most canned food will keep from spoiling for ages. Check out this website: www.FoodSafety.gov for more information about what food is safe to eat after a power outage.
The average person can go anywhere from 8 to 21 days without food; however, most people cannot survive more than 3 days without water. We talked about the dangers of dehydration, but we also must keep in mind that water purification systems may not be functioning properly during a power outage.
Not only do you require safe water for drinking, but you also need water for cooking, washing dishes and personal hygiene. This includes making ice, washing and preparing food, and preparing baby formulas. Your local health departments will have more information and recommendations about boiling or treating water for your specific area. Until you know for sure, use only bottled, boiled, or treated water. Boiling water is the best way to kill bacteria and dangerous parasites. Most harmful organisms that are contained within water will be exterminated after 1 minute of a rolling boil. When you fear a power outage is coming, it’s a good idea to fill your bathtub with water for personal hygiene as well as for flushing the toilet.
For those who require refrigerated medicines or medical devices that are powered by electricity, you should talk to your doctor about a power outage plan. For example, insulin requires refrigeration, so find out how long it can be stored at higher temperatures. Making sure you have an ice pack and reusable cold bags can be extremely helpful. You should also have a list of the medications that you take and what dosage you require. Keep this list somewhere where it can be seen in emergencies.
For people who require a life-support system, a battery-operated wheelchair or other power-dependent equipment, make sure your power company knows about the situation. They may be able to help. Having a back-up battery or another wheelchair that does not require electricity is a good idea.
Other Useful Tips
- Keep your gas tank half-full (gas stations require electricity)
- Do not park your car under trees.
- Save battery on your cell phone by dimming the brightness and turning off Wi-Fi. You can also switch it to low power mode.
- Disconnect all major appliances, as power surges can cause damage to electronics. Wait a few minutes after the storm before turning them back on.
- Camp stoves and grills should only be used outside and at least 20 ft away from windows.
Last but not least, check in on your neighbors – especially the elderly and those with special needs or limited access. Here at Garden Communities Florida, the safety of our residents is our number one concern. Every single one of our communities are built to meet government disaster standards. Not only that – they are built to withstand hurricanes.
If you and your family need any further information, or help coming up with a preparation plan….