Surviving Apartment Power Outages

in Health & Safety, Help Me Now! on by
Young woman struggles to survive a power outage in her apartment

Snowstorms, torrential rains, and heat waves may be terrible, but they all typically come with warnings. Power outages, on the other hand, can take you by total surprise, with causes ranging from damaged relay stations to downed electrical poles, high winds, and a slew of other circumstances no one could ever see coming.

As with any disaster, your best course of action here is to be prepared to deal with the circumstances in the safest, most efficient manner you can. Here are some tips for tackling the darkness head-on and brightening your blackout experience.

Food

If you happen to have a gas stove, you’ll already be in better shape than those with an electric one. But cooking in the dark is not only challenging, it can also be incredibly dangerous. For that reason alone, you’ll want to stock up on food that doesn’t need to be cooked like energy bars, canned fish and poultry, dried fruits, nuts, and even some stress-relieving snacks like cookies and chips.

In some cases, power outages can last for days on end, so you may also want to invest in a small camp stove. You can cook real food using regular pots and pans on these, and you’ll have something to take on your picnics and camping trips when everything’s blown over. For quick hot food, stock up on dehydrated products that turn into easily palatable meals just by adding water.

Water

Water is more essential to survival than food. While some power outages don’t affect water supplies, you should always be prepared in case they do. You can always stockpile bottled water purchased at retail stores, but you can avoid that cost by bottling your own water ahead of time. Use plastic milk, vinegar, or water bottles that have been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected with bleach, storing filled ones in a cool dry place free of direct light. Heavy-duty black lawn or trash bags will work well for this, as will a footlocker or other sturdy container that blocks light.

Light

Votive and pillar candles cast a nice glow right after a power outage, but after an hour or so, you’ll probably find you need real light to safely navigate your home and locate your emergency supplies. Keep a collection of flashlights handy with extra fresh batteries on hand (at least one flashlight for every person in your household). There are also a ton of affordable battery lamps out there, but even these should be kept in easy-to-access places with plenty of fresh back-up batteries on hand.

Rechargeable batteries are excellent during emergencies, but you have to remember to keep them charged and easy to find in the dark. If the weather is mild, consider building a fire in a kettle barbecue for natural light, warmth, and to create a soothing ambiance.

First Aid

Every home should have a first aid kit handy, but make sure yours has more than adhesive bandages, adhesive tape, and gauze in it. The kit should also include OTC painkillers, antibiotic ointment, antiseptic and alcohol wipes, hydrogen peroxide, elastic, splints, and a manual on how to treat traumatic injuries. Other essentials include soap, antibiotic ointment, tweezers, sharp scissors, safety pins, disposable instant cold packs, calamine lotion, a thermometer, plastic non-latex gloves, and a mouthpiece for giving CPR (available at your local Red Cross). This may seem like overkill for a power outage, but darkness can lead to all sorts of falls and injuries, and it’s always better to be prepared.

Communications

No matter what the source of the power outage is, you need to stay informed. Keep an extra cell phone on hand that’s always charged for emergencies. An older model without all the bells and whistles is fine as long as it is powerful enough to get a strong signal and receive emergency updates. You should also make sure that the phones of everyone in your household have the same emergency contacts saved, including that of your apartment manager/landlord, family physician, closest family members, and utility update hotlines. Knowing exactly what is going on gives everyone peace of mind and prepares them for what comes next.

Power Sources

Of course, the best back-up source during a power outage is a generator, but not everyone can afford or has the room to store one. Other options to power small appliances, including notebooks, laptops, and small televisions, include a 400 or 800-watt DC-to-AC power inverter, which in turn can be hooked up to a car battery or a deep cycle marine battery. A single 100-amp hour deep cycle marine battery can make a short-term power outage quite tolerable — and save your car battery, as the inverter may make it unusable after the power outage is over. And don’t overlook old-fashioned devices like battery-operated radios and boomboxes. In a real emergency, any source of information is comforting.

Power outages can last from a few minutes to several days or even a week. Being prepared makes the situation less stressful. Above all else, always resist the temptation to try and remedy the situation yourself. Electrical problems should always be solved by professionals.

7 Responses to “Surviving Apartment Power Outages”

  1. June 18, 2007 at 8:28 am, Guest said:

    You can also keep solar lights on hand for light during the night. You can get an inexpensive pack (4 for $14.95 at Walmart) that already come with batteries that charge in sunlight. I keep mine on the patio and then take them inside during the night. They light up a really big area and the light is white and clean so you can see clearly. Plus they last through the whole night (12-14 hours) and recharge in the daytime.

    Reply

  2. July 19, 2007 at 9:46 am, Guest said:

    Please remember that if the power is out in the apartment community, it is rarely, if ever, the fault of management/ownership. Try not to take it out on the people who work there! Also, after management office hours and before you call the emergency maintenance phone number, make sure that your neighbors have power before you call and insist maintenance travel to the property to check on your power AND make sure your payments to the utility company are current!

    Reply

  3. July 22, 2007 at 3:55 pm, Guest said:

    lol make sure we pay our bills? are you serious. where I live the owners allowed alot of the security lights to stay broke so they don’t have to pay the bill it is one thing when u lose power and another thing if the landlords dont care about a tentant security

    Reply

  4. September 02, 2007 at 9:36 pm, Guest said:

    Emergency Apartment Power
    Does anyone live in an apartment and worry about electricity for battery powered stuff during a long power outage? I’m thinking of critical medical equipment, computers, cell phones, TV’s, radios and stuff like that. Generators are not an option in an apartment because they are too dangerous (note carbon monoxide comments above) and battery backup usually only last for less than a day.
    Would anyone need to charge batteries during a long (3+ day) power outage— thinking hurricane or similar?
    If people think there is a need, I’ll share a new idea that I’ve got….
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Reply

    • November 11, 2019 at 10:17 am, kevin palma said:

      Hey I’m interested in your idea >

      Reply

  5. September 15, 2008 at 8:16 am, Guest said:

    Hurricanes are a different story 🙂 Houston area apartments have lost all power and won’t have power, hmmmmmm,for like 2 weeks. Try being in the Texas heat with no AC 🙂

    Reply

  6. October 11, 2019 at 5:00 pm, Lucy Carrillo said:

    Hello, most of our power went out yesterday at 2:30 p.m. except for one electrical outlet in the kitchen. I called Electric Company and they said the power outage was an apartment outage and for the manager to reset the breakers in the meter box. I sent two notes to the manager yesterday and one today and he has not fixed the problem yet. However he did mention it might be a fuse last night but we haven't heard from him at all and problem not resolved. Please let me know what to do. Thank you

    Reply

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