When the Lights Go Out

power outagePower outages can be frustrating and dangerous, especially during cold Montana winters. The cause of power outages can vary, but the most common cause is damage to electric transmission lines, substations, or other parts of the distribution system. Fortunately, you can prepare your home and family for these events to mitigate any potential danger and make sure your family is safe.


Build an Emergency Supply Kit
Power outages can last a long time. It is important to build an emergency supply kit for your family. Here are some just some suggestions of items to include in the kit:
- Water
- Food: nonperishable, easy to prepare items
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- Battery powered or hand crank radio
- Stocked first aid kit
- Medications and required medical items
- Multi-purpose tool
- Sanitation and personal hygiene items
- Copies of personal documents: insurance documents, deed/lease to home, medication list, etc.
- Family and emergency contact information
- Extra cash


Food Safety
Keep refrigerator and freezer doors close as much as possible and use perishable food from the refrigerator first. An unopened refrigerator will keep food cold for approximately four (4) hours. Use food from the freezer next. A full, unopened freezer will keep temperature for approximately 48 hours while a half full freezer will keep temperature for approximately 24 hours. Last, use your nonperishable foods after you have used all food from the refrigerator and freezer.

Electrical Equipment during a Blackout
It is smart to turn off and unplug all unnecessary electrical equipment and turn off or disconnect appliances like stoves or other equipment that you were using when the power went out. When power comes back on, surges can damage equipment. Leave one light on so that you know when power has returned. For information on how to use generators safely, click here.

Carbon Monoxide
Carbon monoxide poisoning is one of the primary hazards when using alternate sources for electricity. Never use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gas, propane, natural gas or charcoal burning devices in an enclosed area. If a unit is used outside, place it away from doors, windows, and vents. It is also advisable to install carbon monoxide alarms in central locations on every level of your home and outside sleeping areas.


When the Power Comes Back On
Do not touch any electrical power lines and keep your family and pets away from them. Report downed power lines to the appropriate officials in your area.

Throw Out Unsafe Food
Throw away any food that has been exposed to temperatures 40 degrees or higher for more than two hours, has an unusual color, odor, or texture. When in doubt, throw it out! Some foods may smell or look fine, but have grown bacteria that can cause food borne illnesses.

More Information

This information has been adapted from the American Red Cross. For more disaster and emergency information from the American Red Cross, click here.


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