Safety Information for Short-Term
Power Outages or "Rolling
is a "Rolling Blackout?"
rolling blackout occurs when a power company turns off electricity to selected
areas to save power.
The areas are selected using sophisticated computer programs and models.
are typically for one hour, then the power is restored and another area is
airport control towers, police stations, and fire departments are often exempt
rolling blackouts. These blackouts usually occur during peak energy usage
between 4:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. on weekdays, but they can happen at any time of
may affect the same area more than once a day, and may exceed an hour’s
Do I Find Out if My Area Will Have a Rolling Blackout?
to local television, radio, and check the web site of your power company.
Usually, rolling blackouts
occur when power usage increases, especially during hot weather when
are using air conditioning to keep cool. Power companies try to give a warning
will turn off power to an area, but they can not always do
Safety Tips for a Blackout
Only use a flashlight for emergency lighting. Never use candles!
Turn off electrical equipment you were using when the power went
Avoid opening the refrigerator and freezer.
Do not run a generator inside a home or garage.
If you use a generator, connect the equipment you want to power directly to the
the generator. Do not connect a generator to a home’s electrical
Listen to local radio and television for updated
Can I Prepare Before a Blackout Happens?
essential supplies, including:
least one gallon of water
small supply of food.
Due to the extreme
risk of fire, do not use candles during a power outage.
you have space in your refrigerator or freezer, consider filling plastic
containers with water, leaving about an inch of space inside each one. (Remember, water expands as it freezes, so it is
important to leave room in the container for the expanded water). Place the containers in the refrigerator and
freezer. This chilled or frozen water will help keep food cold if the power goes out, by displacing air that can
warm up quickly with water or ice that keeps cold for several hours without additional
you use medication that requires refrigeration, most can be kept in a closed
refrigerator for several hours without a problem. If unsure, check with your physician or
you use a computer, keep files and operating systems backed up regularly.
Consider buying extra batteries and a power converter if you use a laptop computer. A power converter allows
most laptops volts or less) to be operated from the cigarette lighter of a vehicle. Also, turn off
all computers, monitors, printers, copiers, scanners and other devices when they’re not being used. That way, if
the power goes out, this equipment will have already been safely shut down. Get a high quality surge
protector for all of your computer equipment. If you use the computer a lot, such as for a home business, consider
purchasing and installing an uninterruptible power supply (UPS). Consult with your local computer
equipment dealer about available equipment and costs.
you have an electric garage door opener, find out where the manual release lever
is located and learn how to operate it. Sometimes garage doors can be heavy, so get help to lift it. If you
regularly use the garage as the primary means of entering your home upon return from work, be sure to keep a key
to your house with you, in case the garage door will not open.
you have a telephone instrument or system at home or at work that requires
electricity to work (such as a cordless phone or answering machine), plan for alternate communication, including having
a standard telephone handset, cellular telephone, radio, or pager. Remember, too, that some voice
mail systems and remote dial-up servers for computer networks may not operate when the power is out
where these systems are located. So even if have power, your access to remote technology may be interrupted if the
power that serves those areas is disrupted. Check with remote service providers to see if
they have backup power systems, and how long those systems will operate.
your car fuel tank at least half full because gas stations rely on electricity
to power their pumps.
energy conservation measures to keep the use of electricity as low as possible,
which can help power
company(ies) avoid imposing rolling blackouts.
Information for People With Disabilities
you use a battery-operated wheelchair, life-support system, or other
power-dependent equipment, call your power company before rolling blackouts happen. Many utility companies keep a list and
map of the locations of power-dependent customers in case of an emergency. Ask them what alternatives
are available in your area. Contact the customer service department of your local utility company(ies)
to learn if this service is available in your community.
you use a motorized wheelchair or scooter, have an extra battery. A car battery
also can be used with a wheelchair but will not last as long as a wheelchair’s deep-cycle battery. If available,
store a lightweight manual wheelchair for backup.
you are Blind or have a visual disability, store a talking or Braille clock or
large-print timepiece with extra batteries.
you are Deaf or have a hearing loss, consider getting a small portable
battery-operated television set. Emergency broadcasts may give information in American Sign Language (ASL) or open
you are considering obtaining a generator, get advice from a licensed
professional, such as an electrician. Make sure the generator is listed with Underwriter’s Laboratories or a similar
organization. Some municipalities, Air Quality Districts, or states have "air quality permit" requirements. A licensed
electrician will be able to give you more information on these matters. Always plan to keep the generator outdoors —
operate it inside, including the basement or garage. Do not hook up a generator directly to your home’s
wiring. The safest thing to do is to connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the
generator. Connecting a cord from the generator to a point on the permanent wiring system and back feeding power to your home is an
unsafe method to supply a building during a power outage.
more information about using generators safely, see the "Generator" fact sheet
Do I Do During A Blackout?
off or disconnect any appliances, equipment (like air conditioners) or
electronics you were using when the power went out. When power comes back on, it may come back with momentary
"surges" or "spikes" that can damage equipment such as computers and motors in appliances like the air
conditioner, refrigerator, washer, or furnace.
one light turned on so you’ll know when your power
the doors of your refrigerator and freezer closed to keep your food as fresh as
possible. If you must eat food that was refrigerated or frozen, check it carefully for signs of spoilage.
See the Red Cross brochure called, "Help The Power Is Out" on the web at:
the phone for emergencies only. Listening to a portable radio can provide the
latest information. Do not call 9-1-1 for information — only call to report a life-threatening
unnecessary travel, especially by car. Traffic signals will stop working during
an outage, creating traffic congestion.
that equipment such as automated teller machines (ATMs) and elevators may not
work during a power outage.
it is hot outside, take steps to remain cool. Move to the lowest level of your
home, as cool air falls. Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing. Drink plenty of water, even if you do not feel thirsty.
If the heat is intense and the power may be off for a long time, consider going to a movie theater,
shopping mall, or "cooling shelter" that may be opened in your community. Listen to local radio or television for
see the tips on the web site at: http://www.redcross.org/services/disaster/keepsafe/readyheat.html
to provide plenty of fresh, cool water for your pets.
it is cold outside, put on layers of warm clothing. Never burn charcoal for
heating or cooking indoors.
use your oven as a source of heat. If the power may be out for a prolonged
period, plan to go to another location (relative, friend, or public facility) that has heat to keep
conserve power to help avoid a blackout, the power industry
heating season, set the furnace thermostat at 68 degrees or lower. In cooling
season, set the thermostat at 78 degrees or higher. Consider installing a programmable thermostat that you can
set to have the furnace or air conditioning run only when you are at home. Most power is used by heating
and cooling, so adjusting the temperatures on your thermostat is the biggest energy conservation measure you
off lights and computers when not in use. This is especially true about computer
monitors - avoid using a "screen saver" and just simply turn the monitor off when you won’t be using
the computer for a while.
the computer off completely each evening. It is no longer true that computer
equipment is damaged from turning it off and on.
windows when the heating or cooling system is on.
windows and doors to keep air from leaking, and replace old windows with new,
or replace furnace and air-conditioner filters regularly.
buying new appliances be sure to purchase energy-efficient
the water heater with an insulation jacket, available at most building supplies
you have to wash clothes, wash only full loads and clean the dryer’s lint trap
after each use.
using a dishwasher, wash full loads and use the "light" cycle. If possible, use
the "rinse only" cycle and turn off the "high temperature" rinse option. When the regular wash cycle is
done, just open the dishwasher door to allow the dishes to air dry.
incandescent light bulbs with energy-efficient compact fluorescent
one large light bulb rather than several smaller ones.
you would like more information about rolling blackouts and how to deal with
them, contact the power company that serves your area.