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How to prepare for an unplanned power outage.

The image used in a newspaper article detailing this week’s power outages in Adelaide was a candle being lit. While candlelight has romantic appeal, it is a dangerous and inefficient response to an unplanned electricity blackout.

So, what precautions should you make to be best prepared for the time you are suddenly plunged into darkness?

Because it is more likely to be the case, we’ll assume it is dark outside, the evening meal is on the electric stove, you’ve just switched on the heating, and settled down with the family to watch the TV news.

The first requirement is to get some light on things – and today that is most likely to come from a mobile phone, either with a torch function, or the screen backlight will be sufficient. Next step is to have one person head to the easily accessible spot, that all family members have been drilled about, where there is some form of battery powered lighting (the sort campers use), and ideally a battery powered radio. Candles and matches are dangerous and relatively ineffective.

Once some reasonable battery powered lighting is available, it is important to ascertain whether the blackout is confined to just your home, or more widespread. So, check your safety switch to see if it has been tripped. If not, call a neighbour’s mobile phone to establish whether they have also lost power. In the event of a prolonged outage, and the family all decide to head off to bed, it is very important to carefully think about what electrical appliances were switched on at the time of the power loss, and to ensure they are switched off before you go to sleep. Check the stove, but don’t open the fridge or freezer in case the outage is more than 4 hours. Food spoilage starts to be an issue after 4 hours and keeping the door to fridge and freezer closed is the best way to keep frozen food from starting to thaw.

The other valuable precaution is to have the phone number for your power provider in your mobile phone so that you can check on the expected time for power restoration, plus the mobile numbers of several neighbours, particularly anyone elderly or disabled who may require some reassurance or assistance until power is restored.

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