What should you do when the power goes out?

Saimi Bergmann

If your power goes out, turn off the lights.

It may sound silly, but turning off lights and unplugging appliances and electronics can prevent circuit overload when the power comes back on. Unplugging also prevents power surge damage to computers, televisions, microwave ovens and other sensitive equipment.

Icy, windy winter storms can cause power outages -- sometimes for a couple of hours, sometimes much longer.

You can’t prevent outages, but you can minimize the financial repercussions by being prepared and acting wisely when it happens.

Do not try to heat your house by opening the door to your gas stove, or moving a propane grill inside. Both are fire hazards.

If you have a generator, keep it away from the house.

Barb Slator of Canton, disaster specialist for the Red Cross, recommends residents get a battery-powered or hand-cranked radio so they can stay connected during an outage. You can also use a cellphone that has Internet capabilities to access local news websites to get news bulletins or find out where shelters have been opened.

“Be safe, be smart, be ready and stay informed,” Slator said.

If weather is threatening, prepare for staying at home without electricity or for evacuating. Put together an emergency kit. Get your prescriptions refilled when they get low so you don’t run out during the emergency.

Avoid an expensive loss of food by leaving doors to fridge and freezer closed as much as possible during an outage. A full freezer will keep things frozen for up to 48 hours, and a half full freezer will stay frozen for up to 24 hours.

“If you know there’s a possibility of storms, fill Ziplock baggies full of water and freeze them and pack your freezer full of the bagged ice,” Slator recommended. “That will keep it cold longer. And you can move some frozen bags into your fridge to keep it cooler longer.”

Before a power outage happens, winterize your home to extend the time your home will stay warm. It is relatively inexpensive to caulk, insulate and cover windows with plastic if you don’t have storm windows.

If you leave your home during an outage, prevent pipes from freezing by turning off the main water supply and emptying pipes by turning on taps and letting the water run out.

If your area is prone to outages, check your homeowner insurance policy to find out if your coverage is adequate.

For more information, go to or call 1-800-686-1526.