Are you prepared in event of a Power Outage?

Power outages are relatively common and can occur at anytime; whether it’s caused by natural disaster or a planned outage during extreme weather conditions. Outages can pose serious problems, particularly for those using medical devices/equipment or temperature-controlled medications such as insulin.

Tips for Medical Devices

If you rely on electric or battery-dependent medical devices, such as breathing machines, power wheelchairs, home oxygen or dialysis, or if you use medication that must be refrigerated, it is very important to plan ahead for an extended power outage. Things you can do to prepare:

  • Talk to your doctor about a power outage plan, including getting backup batteries for durable medical equipment.
  • Teach neighbors or relatives how to use your backup systems and operate your equipment.
  • Review and update the American with Disabilities Act's Emergency Power Planning Checklist for electricity and battery dependent assistive technology and medical devices.

Insulin Safety Tips

In a power outage when refrigerated insulin isn’t available:

  • Try to keep your insulin as cool as possible, but make sure not to freeze it. Insulin that has been frozen can break down and will be less effective.
  • Keep your insulin away from direct heat and out of direct sunlight, which also make it less effective.
  • For up to 4 weeks, you can use insulin in opened or unopened vials that have been stored at room temperature (between 59°F and 86°F).
  • Realistically, you may have to use insulin that has been stored above 86°F. If so, monitor your blood sugar regularly. If you’re living in an emergency shelter, let someone in charge know if your blood sugar is too high or low, so they can get help if needed. Contact your doctor as soon as the emergency is over.

Food Safety Tips

During an outage, safe food temperatures can be maintained for several hours inside a refrigerator or freezer if the doors are not opened. It's a good idea to keep a thermometer inside, so you know the temperature. Follow these basic tips for keeping food safe:

  • Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature. The refrigerator can keep food cold for about 4 hours if it is unopened. A full freezer will keep the temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) if the door remains closed.
    • If you plan to eat refrigerated or frozen meat, poultry, fish, or eggs while they are still at safe temperatures, it is important that each item is thoroughly cooked to a safe minimum internal temperature to ensure that any foodborne bacteria that may be present are destroyed. However, if at any point the food was above 40º F for 2 hours or more (or 1 hour if temperatures are above 90 º F) — discard it.
    • If you're not sure how long perishable food has been too warm, throw it away. When in doubt, throw it out!
  • After power is restored, think about how long the outage lasted and be sure to check food temperatures inside your refrigerator and freezer to determine if the food is still safe.
  • Follow USDA Food Safety Guide for more info on specific perishable food during power outages.

Water Safety Tips

Power outages can also cause a loss of pressure in water systems. This can cause the water to become contaminated with bacteria.  If you are experiencing water outages or low pressure, don’t use the water for any non-essential use. Follow these general guidelines for safe water during a power outage:

  • If the water looks cloudy or dirty, do not drink it. When the power comes back on, flush the hot and cold water lines, until the water is cleaned.
  • Use bottled, boiled, or treated water for drinking, cooking, and personal hygiene.
  • Minimizing your use of non-essential water can also reduce the potential for the water system to lose pressure or run out of water.
  • If you are concerned about the water quality, have it tested for bacteria.
Note: Treating water with chlorine tablets, iodine tablets, or liquid bleach will not kill parasitic organisms.

Health Emergencies

Call 911 if you have a life-threatening emergency during a power outage.

  • If you do not have a life-threatening emergency call the non-emergency number for your area, do NOT call 911.
  • A charged cell phone can dial 911, even without a service plan.
  • During a power outage, land lines will have service. However, phone lines in many homes now go through the modem, using Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP). Homeowners should check with their phone service provider for information about their phone service during a power outage.

Additional Power Outage Tips

  • Is this a Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS)? If so, read specific PSPS information.
  • Keep flashlights, batteries, and other emergency supplies handy in case of power outages.
  • Check the fuse box to see if there is a blown fuse or a tripped circuit breaker.
  • If you determine that a fuse or circuit breaker needs to be replaced, turn off all large appliances or unplug them before replacing a fuse or a breaker to avoid damage to the electrical system.
  • Check your neighborhood to see if others are without power
  • Call to report the power outage. Call only once to keep the line open for other customers
  • Only use portable generators when it is safe, appropriate and realistic for where you live . Unsafe generator use, such as running one inside the home, can cause carbon monoxide poisoning.


  • Have a personal and family plan in place for every member of your household (including pets).
  • Plan for any medical needs like medications that need to be refrigerated or devices that require power.
  • Create/Restock your emergency supply kit (Go Bag).
  • Identify charging methods (such as your car) for cell phones, radios, lights etc.
  • Learn how to manually open your garage door.
  • Fill up vehicles with fuel.
  • If you own a backup generator, ensure it safely ready to operate.
  • Learn about food safety in a power outage.
  • Plan to have cash on hand.

How to Prepare

Visit the links below for more information and ideas about how prepare for a power outage and to build a home emergency kit. Any emergency kit should include a three-day supply of non-perishable (no refrigeration) food, medications and drinkable water – one gallon of water per person per day.


Information adapted from Sonoma, Napa, and Contra Costa Counties as well as and CDC.

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