What to do before, during and after a power outage
You’re in the middle of a storm and the telly suddenly turns off, the fridge stops humming and the lights go out.
There’s a good chance your next thought is going to be: “What am I meant to do again?”
With the energy market operator warning that 1.3 million households are at risk of losing power this summer, we’ve put together a list of tips and tricks so next time you’re in a blackout, you’re prepared.
These are the some of the things you can do right now to get yourself ready:
- Put together an emergency kit — ABC Emergency has a full list of what it should contain, but as a start, you should have a radio (battery-powered, wind-up or solar-powered), a waterproof torch and a first aid kit
- Get a supply of non-perishable food and water — Queensland Urban Utilities says even city residents need three days’ worth of water stored, which is probably more than you think (it equates to 10 litres of water per person)
- Buy a thermometer for your fridge — touch alone isn’t going to be the best guide to whether your food is still safe during or after a blackout
- Put together a list of the phone numbers and websites you might need — for instance, the SES and your electricity provider
- Charge your mobile so it’s full (but if you’ve got a charged power bank, you’ll be sorted should your phone run out of juice mid-storm)
- Make sure anything you’ve got outside is properly secured
- If you can, park your car under cover
If your power suddenly goes out, tick these items off your checklist:
- Note the time that the power went off
- Find out if your home safety switch has been tripped or if it’s a wider power outage
- Turn off electrical devices and appliances, especially anything involving heating (for instance, you don’t want your oven or iron coming back on if you’re not home when the power returns)
- Unplug your computer and TV, or any other electrical equipment, to avoid damage if there’s a power surge
- Be aware of the danger of fallen power lines if you go outside
- Keep across the news and emergency updates (on the radio or your mobile)
- Check on your neighbours or anyone else you know who might need help
- Keep a single light turned on (so you know when the power has returned)
You should also avoid getting food poisoning by following these tips from CSIRO senior food microbiologist Cathy Moir:
- Minimise opening and closing your fridge and freezer
- Be especially cautious of foods with “use by” dates (things like deli meats and dairy products like soft cheeses) — they might be more susceptible to the growth of food-poisoning bacteria
- Keep in mind that jams and sauces (they’ll usually have a “best before” rather than “use by” date) survive warmer temperatures for longer, as will many fruits and vegetables
When the power returns, it’s time to take stock of your fridge and freezer.
Ms Moir recommends following the two-hour/four-hour rule for any potentially hazardous food that has been at temperatures between 5 degrees Celsius and 60C:
- If it was at that temperature for less than two hours — refrigerate or use immediately
- Longer than two hours but less than four hours — use immediately
- Four hours or longer — must be thrown out (and that also applies if you can’t be sure)
As for frozen food, Ms Moir says it can stay frozen in the freezer for even up to a couple of days.
And she says you may be surprised to learn that if food has thawed but is still cold (less than 5C), it is safe to refreeze — although there may be a loss of quality due to the moisture lost through thawing.