So You’ve Lost Power – What Now?
If you’ve lived in Maine for at least one winter (or, even just for the past week), there’s a good chance you know what it’s like to lose power. It’s a total disruption in our lives. You wake up to see the oven clock blinking at 12:00. School is canceled and you have to keep the kids occupied, or maybe you usually work from home and now you have to find a coffee shop or library (that still has power of their own) to get things done. Sometimes, it’s just a simple annoyance like sleeping in because your alarm didn’t go off.
But beyond throwing off your whole routine, losing power can be dangerous. This week’s storm with near-hurricane force winds and the largest power outage in the history of Central Maine Power is a good reminder to prepare for the power outages that will likely come our way this winter. Here are our top tips for staying warm, safe, and entertained when the electricity goes out:
Stock Up on Water
If you have a well (and plenty of Mainers do), your well pump won’t be working without electricity. Stock up on drinking water with containers filled from the tap or bottles bought at the store. To keep your toilet flushing, fill your bathtub up before the storm and use that water to maintain a normal water level in your toilet. If you can, run the dishwasher and laundry machine beforehand to avoid the power going off during a cycle, which would leave you with stinky, wet, half-washed clothes or dishes.
If you don’t have an auxiliary heating source, your best bet for staying warm is to buy a generator before the storm. Portable models will work just fine and are the cheapest option, but there are pricier ones that turn on automatically if that’s what you prefer. Whatever generator you choose, just buy it ahead of time because they’ll be hard to find when a storm is near and everyone is out looking for one, too. If you have a wood stove or fireplace, bring in enough wood to your garage or home to keep it dry and ready to keep your place cozy. Safety note: If you use a generator, NEVER turn it on inside. Like any engine, generators produce poisonous carbon monoxide and should be left outside (or in a garage with the doors open) while running. This might seem like common knowledge, but you’d be surprised.
Keep Things Bright
Nighttime during a power outage can be an eerie experience with no lights on in your house or along the street. Keep candles with matches or lighters handy (which will also help take the chill out of the air), but blow them out before bedtime. Flashlights and battery-operated lanterns are great options, as well as a headlamp for a hands-free light source. Remember to buy extra batteries! And a note on electronics: unplug devices like TVs, appliances, and computers to protect them from a power surge when the power does eventually come back on.
Be Smart About Food
If you are out of power for days, the food in your fridge and freezer will spoil without a generator to keep the appliance running. One way to help your perishables last is to purchase bags of ice and place them inside to keep the food cool. When you do need to reach inside for snacks, close the door as soon as you can to keep the cool air inside – and resist going back in there until you really need to. If it’s been days with no electricity, don’t take chances – it’s probably best to throw the food out.
Losing power is a pain, but the break from the everyday can be a great opportunity to turn our eyes away from screens and spend quality time together. Stack up the board games and have a family tournament. Roast marshmallows in the fireplace. Or, check in on neighbors you haven’t seen in awhile and chat about the crazy weather together over some tea. When trees are blocking the way out of our street and our computers and TVs won’t turn on, there’s really nothing left to do but enjoy the unexpected change of pace.
Staying safe and having fun in a bad storm is only possible when you prepare. The winter season is upon us (whether we want to think about that or not), and the best time to prepare is now – before the holidays shoot to the top of our priority list. Stock up on necessities and have a plan for when the power goes out. It will make the inconvenience feel like a much-needed break from the hectic lives we lead.
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