Preparing for when the lights go out


By Jessica Rapp | Carson City Health and Human Services

This column appears in the Nevada Appeal Wednesday health pages. It addresses topics related to the health of our community.

A power outage is when the electrical power goes out suddenly. Winter weather, floods, earthquakes, windstorms, and man-made hazards such as vehicle accidents can cause these outages. Long-term power outages may impact the whole community and economy while putting our lives on hold. They can cause a disruption in communications, stores closing, food spoiling, and they may prevent the use of medical devices. Being prepared for when the power goes out is important for the safety of you and your family. Do you know what to do when the power goes out?

During a power outage:

  • Keep refrigerators and freezers closed. A refrigerator can keep food cold for about 4 hours and a full freezer can keep the temperature for about 2 days if left closed. If you need to, use coolers with ice to store food. Make sure to monitor temperatures with a thermometer designed for your refrigerator or freezer.
  • If you use a generator, camp stove, or charcoal grill, only use them outdoors and at least 20 feet away from any windows.
  • Do not use a gas stove or oven to heat your home.
  • Turn off or disconnect appliances, equipment, and electronics. Power may have quick “surges” or “spikes” that can cause damage when the power comes back on.
  • Have back-up plans for medicines that need a refrigerator or when using a medical device that requires power.
  • Check on your neighbors. Older adults and younger children are vulnerable to extreme temperatures. Make sure they have a heat source and emergency supplies.
  • If the cold is extreme and it is safe, go to a community location with power.

Take the following steps to prepare for a power outage:

  • Make a list of things you need that must have electricity. If these items can use batteries instead of electricity during a power outage, be sure to have the right batteries in your home.
  • Keep mobile phones and other electric equipment charged. Have a portable solar power charger or a backup battery charged for your phone during a power outage.
  • Have an emergency preparedness kit ready. Include flashlights with extra batteries, a three-day supply of food that will not go bad, blankets, and 3 gallons of water for each member of your household (including your pets) per day.
  • If using electric medical devices or taking refrigerated medicine, talk to your doctor about a power outage plan. Ask how long medication can be stored at a higher temperature and ask for help with how to protect your medicines that are important for life.
  • Place a thermometer in the refrigerator and freezer to monitor temperatures when the power returns. If the temperature goes above 40 degrees during the outage, throw the food out.
  • Sign up for local emergency alerts and weather alerts. If a storm is coming, prepare to lose power.

Carson City Health and Human Services urges everyone to take an active role to be prepared for a disaster or emergency. For more information on preparing for a power outage, visit For additional resources and information about Department programs and services, check out our website at or “Like” us on Facebook at, call us at (775) 887-2190, or visit us at 900 East Long Street in Carson City.