Power outage safety
With extreme weather events causing power interruptions, here's what to do if you face an outage.
Alexander Pan avatar
Written by Alexander Pan
Updated over a week ago

Power outages are never convenient and can be caused by a number of reasons, ranging from common issues such as weather events (like storms or strong winds) to maintenance. Other causes can include animal interference, car accidents or digging near underground powerlines.

In the event of a power outage in your area, we've got tips on what to do, what you should have prepped ahead of time, and what to do about food during the outage. If you need some extra information or just someone to talk to, Sonder is here to provide all the support and help you need.

Before a power outage

There are a few things you can do to get yourself ready for a power outage event. The most important thing you can do to prepare for a blackout is to put together an emergency power outage kit, which we'll get into in the next section.

Make sure you also buy a thermometer for your fridge as often touch alone is not the best guide to whether food is still safe during and after a power outage

When a storm is on its way, ensure that:

  • Your mobile phone is fully charged (and ensure if you have a portable power bank that it is charged).

  • Make sure any loose items outside are properly secured.

  • If you can, park your car under cover and away from trees.

Your power outage kit

Make sure you have a torch, charged mobile phone and battery-operated radio that are all ready to have on hand for any potential power outages that happen. Have some candles ready just in case you need some extra light.

As for food, make sure that your pantry is well stocked with non-perishable food items, such as grains, long-life dairy, canned tuna, and peanut butter. Having a large supply of fresh water set aside - this could be one of those large value-packs of water bottles you can get from the supermarket - is also recommended.

Lastly, have a first aid kit ready and a list of emergency contacts on paper in an easy-to-find location just in case you need to reach emergency services urgently.

What to do during a power outage

If your power suddenly goes out, it's important to make note of the time when the power went off and if your home safety switch has been tripped or if it is a wider power outage.

Call your electricity supply provider to let them know that your power has gone out. You can often check details of the power outage (including if it is scheduled for maintenance) and its severity on their website or on their app as well.

Next, turn off and unplug all electrical appliances at the power point. This will help to prevent any appliance or equipment damage if there's a power surge following the outage. However, leave at least one switch or appliance on so you know when power is restored.

Look outside for any damage, such as downed powerlines. Be sure to stay at least eight metres away from any fallen lines and report them to your local electricity distributor:

Food safety during a power outage

One of the main worries during a power outage is how this will affect the food in your fridge and whether everything will be safe to eat or use afterwards. When a power outage does occur, make sure you keep your fridge and freezer doors shut as much as possible in order to maintain the cold temperatures inside. An unopened fridge can keep food cold for up to four hours while an unopened freezer can preserve food for up to two days if full (or about 24 hours if half full).

As for how you can tell if perishable food is safe during or after a power outage, follow the "2 hour/4 hour" rule:

  • If the power is out for less than two hours, it's okay to refrigerate or eat the food.

  • If the power is out for between two to four hours, it's okay to eat the food but don't refrigerate it.

  • If the power is out for longer than four hours, toss the food.

Make sure you make a note of when the power went out so you can determine whether your food is safe to eat or not after everything is back to normal.

Following a power outage

When the power is back, make sure you:

  • Check your refrigerated food items carefully. It's recommended that you check the internal temperature of food items using a food thermometer.

    • If it was at that temperature for less than two hours — refrigerate or use it immediately.

    • Longer than two hours but less than four hours — use immediately.

    • Four hours or longer — must be thrown out (this also applies if you can't be sure).

  • Chuck out any food - especially raw meat - if there are any signs of spoilage, such as foul odour, sticky or slimy texture, or unusual colouring.

  • Check frozen food items carefully. If the items are frozen and there are still icicles on the packaging, the food may have been refrozen and is possibly unsafe to eat.

  • Chuck out any frozen food items that have begun to thaw or have developed freezer burn.

It's better to be cautious when it comes to food after a power outage. If you're not sure, just throw it out - better to be safe than risk getting sick!

Related reading:

If you have any questions or need extra support, we're here to help you anytime, in any language. Simply start a chat with us via the home screen of the Sonder app.

All content is created and published for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice.

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