Snow days can be hard enough on parents, but if that snow day, storm, or other weather event also brings a power outage, like so many of us have experienced this past year? It’s an even trickier situation. So in an effort to keep my home running as smoothly as possible, especially with kids in the house, I’ve put together more than 30 tips to help you make sure you’re prepared for a power outage — before and after it happens.

So check out these tried and true strategies to keep your family safe, warm, fed, and hopefully even entertained when the power goes out. And here’s to hoping it’s restored quickly!

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Related: What’s safe to eat after a power outage? We’ve got the rundown, and some recipes to help you salvage what you can.

Power outage preparation and safety | Photo: Worthy of Elegance via Unsplash
Photo: Worthy of Elegance via Unsplash

How to prepare for a power outage:

1. Check flashlights and stock up on batteries.

Make sure flashlights are functional, full of fresh batteries, and placed strategically around the house. Because no one wants to rummage through a junk drawer or the back of a cluttered closet in the pitch dark.

2. Have a stash of unscented candles and battery-operated lanterns. 

Battery operated flameless tea lights: Important to have around in case of a power outage

Be sure to keep matches or a lighter nearby. (You can even tape a book to the bottom of the candle if that helps.) Battery-operated or flameless tea lights like these from Crate & Barrel are also great to have spaced around the house; but know that not all of them radiate a lot of light.

3. Be sure to have fire extinguishers and carbon monoxide detectors in your home.

Power outages can increase the risk of carbon monoxide in homes, due to the use of gas-powered generators, propane heaters, and lanterns.

4. Fill your freezer with gallon jugs or sealed plastic bags of water. 

The extra ice in your freezer will help your food stay colder longer. If gallon jugs won’t fit, try filling up gallon-size Ziploc bags almost to the top — you’ll need to have some room for the water to expand as it freezes.

5. Charge all devices, power packs and rechargeable batteries.

Jackery Giant: One of the best portable chargers to have on hand in a power outage

Portable chargers are a must for us always, but especially during a power outage. Keep yours all charged to give you an extra boost — and don’t let the kids use them up playing Candy Crush! We’re big fans of the Jackery Giant portable charger for phones and tablets.

For backup power for a PC laptop, check out the Crave Powerpack; and for Apple devices and Macbooks, we hear great things about the Poweradd Pilot Pro 2 which is really affordable at Amazon.

6. Make sure you own surge protectors, not just power strips

A good surge protector can save your data — and a lot of heartache — if the power suddenly goes out. This one from Belkin is under $19 and a great investment.

7. Check medication supplies and make sure all essential prescriptions are filled.

8. Have a tent ready for set-up, and/or sleeping bags.

These can help you stay warm indoors if you lose heat. Just make  sure you keep them somewhere that’s easy to access, and if a power outage seems likely, assemble tents before the storm hits.

9. Consider an indoor propane heater

…But only if you can use it safely. If you live in an apartment, check your building’s regulations. If you live in a house, make sure you have a good carbon monoxide detector before using the heater — and make sure those batteries are charged! Then, be sure you have a safely-stored stash of propane, of course.

10. Be sure your car has a full tank of gas.

If there’s a power outage, you’re not going to be able to fill up until you’re out of town somewhere.

11. Have an ample stash of firewood.

Power outage preparation and safety | Photo: Andre Govia via Unsplash
Photo: Andre Govia via Unsplash

12. Start a fire before you need it…and keep it going.

If you have a fireplace or wood burning stove, put it to good use! And of course you know this — but those fake logs don’t provide heat.

13. Turn up the heat while you still have it!

Don’t worry about heating bills right now — crank it up! The warmer your home is to begin with, the longer it will take to cool down. (And hopefully you’re well-insulated, right?) You’ll also create more thermal mass by warming spaces normally unused in your home, so don’t forget finished basements, offices or dens.

14. Stock up on disposable hand/foot warmer packs

15. Have mittens, gloves, hats, and other outerwear easily accessible.

Related: The parents’ ultimate guide to snow day sanity with 34 genius snow day activities. 

16. Purchase non-perishable foods and have a (non-electric!) can-opener available.

As much as everyone goes running for eggs and milk during a storm, pantry-stable foods are a must. Also, be sure to check out this guide to what’s safe to eat after a power outage when your power comes back on.

17. Estimate a gallon/day of bottled water per person.

Not just for drinking, but handwashing and toothbrushing. If you have a baby at home who requires a lot of bottle washing, have extras, just to be sure.

18.. Fill the bathtub with water and have a bucket of water ready to fill toilets and enable flushing.

19.  Make a trip to the ATM for cash,

Local businesses may lose their ability to accept credit cards, and while neighborhood stores may offer you some credit, it can’t hurt to have cash on hand.

20. Consider buying glow sticks, bracelets, or necklaces for kids .

You can find them at your local dollar store or buy glow stick bulk sets from Oriental Trading.

Not Parent Approved: Like Cards Against Humanity for kids, now with fun expansion packs! | Cool Mom Picks
Not Parent Approved: A favorite family game

21. Get out a stash of games, crafts, puzzles and activities to entertain the kids.

If you run out of ideas, take a look at our ideas for fun snow day activities for kids, and this list of our favorite card games for family game night.

22. Make a pot of coffee or hot chocolate and keep it in a thermal carafe.

23. Know how to operate your garage door manually.

24. Consider increasing your cell phone data plan temporarily, to avoid overage charges this month.

You’re going to use a lot of data if your WiFi goes out for any significant amount of time…and multiply that by number of devices in the house.

25. Know how to use your phone as a VPN

Using your phone or tablet carrier signal as a VPN (virtual private network) will give you the ability to access the internet from your laptop, even without WiFi. It’s easy on an iPhone; or here’s how to do it with an Android device.

26. Write down any important phone numbers and passwords you might need in an emergency.

We are so reliant on our smartphones as our address books — be sure to have a hard copy of numbers, passwords, or other info that you only have stored electronically. (This is a good tip for life, by the way.)

27. Keep your porch light on 

This is a helpful visible sign for workers in the neighborhood who may be canvassing the neighborhood for outages, and are attempting to restore power.

28. See if you can sign up for outage alerts from your power provider

Con Edison in New York, for example, has a text alert system for power outages which can be a great help should you need to check your home’s status (say, you’re away from home), monitor your neighborhood, and get alerts for what’s happening in your neighborhood.

If power DOES go out:

1. Unplug all appliances and devices that are at risk of damage during a power surge.

2. Close all doors inside the house, close vents for forced hot air to retain the heat you have.

3. Avoid opening and closing exterior doors.

4. Place your phones in low power mode.

5. Do not open the refrigerator and freezer if you can help it.

6. If you do have food that you need to use, remember an outdoor gas grill is a great option. Just don’t bring it inside!

7. Check on elderly neighbors or those who may need assistance.

8. Make sure to report your outage to your local power company so they can map the outage and make repairs sooner. 

9. Look into filing claim forms to be reimbursed for spoiled food or medication.

Your power company should have these available online, but many have to be done soon after the outage, like within 30 days. You may also be covered by your homeowner insurance or renters insurance for food spoilage or electronic damages, but only if the amount of damage exceeds your deductible.

10. Be patient!  Emergency workers will be doing their best.

In fact, thank them if the opportunity presents itself. Maybe some of that carafe of coffee you made?

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