What Happens When The Power Goes Out
Do you know what happens when the power goes out in the retail stores where you live? I decided to check out a few gas stations located within a mile or two of my home to see what they do when the power goes out. I wanted to ask two different facilities to get a feel for what they would do in a power outage. I’m updating this post from 2016.
First Gas Station
One clerk who looked to be about 25-30 years old, basically said to me “I don’t know what we would do if we lost power”.
He did say the gas pumps wouldn’t work, but he had no formal training as to what to do in this situation. I then asked if they had a backup generator, and he responded that no they didn’t. I then asked if people could still buy stuff inside the store without power since obviously, the cash registers wouldn’t work without electricity. He said, no. I was shocked, to say the least, that he had zero training for a power outage and how to respond.
Second Gas Station
Then I headed to another gas station and asked what is the protocol if their facility was to lose power. This gas station had a woman and a man standing there as clerks and they instantly blurted out what they were trained to do. “We lock the doors and no one is allowed inside the store until there is restoration of power.” The pumps won’t work, but the water outside can be used to drink, fill water containers or radiators. They went on to say that they couldn’t accept cash, debit cards, or credit cards for any food items inside the store and gas couldn’t be purchased.
This is exactly why I always recommend keeping our gas tanks at least 1/2 to 3/4 full. If we need to evacuate our homes, our cars must be serviced well and filled with gas. I don’t want to be caught off guard by an empty gas tank.
When The Power Goes Out In A Grocery Store
Okay, then I called my favorite grocery store there in Southern Utah to see what they are trained to do when the power goes out. I was told I need to talk to the store director. I asked when I could talk to him, he said, “Be here tomorrow at 9:00 a.m.” I drove the next morning to meet with the store director, he was awesome!! These are the things I asked him, along with his answers:
- What do you do if the power goes out? “We will keep the doors open until the backup generators go out.”
- So you do have generators? “Yes, they will work for about two hours, after that we will order a system that will be delivered by truck from Salt Lake City, Utah that will increase the power for an extended period of time. Until it arrives we will have to be closed.”
- How long can you keep the food cold? “The generators only keep the store lights on, the registers running, and the entry doors working. Coolers and freezers take too much power to be kept running by the generators.”
- Has the staff been trained on what to do immediately after any power outage? “They will move the cold dairy and meat products to a larger cooler refrigerator in the back of the store that will keep the food colder for a while. They will open that cooler door as little as possible to keep the cold inside to protect the food from going bad. If someone wants a ham, the staff will walk back and get them a ham, for instance, in the larger cooler.”
- Will you lock the doors? “They will not lock the doors until all power sources are exhausted.”
- Will solar power support your freezers or cold storage areas? “No, they will not.”
- Can you still sell things without electricity? “Yes, they have the ability to take debit and credit cards for up to 4,000 transactions.”
We Also Need to Have a Plan if the Power is Lost at Home
We hear about stores running out of food and other necessities very quickly once people realize they may be without necessary items for an extended period. Most of us don’t think about what happens to the items in the store that need to be kept cool/frozen or they begin to spoil. Even the perishable items in the produce department won’t last very long without periodic sprays and cooler temperatures.
When I think of having a power outage in the Southern Utah area where I used to live, I get very concerned. There are times in the summer months when the average daily temperature will be between 105 and 108 degrees during the day. Whether the store or your home is out of power, particularly in very hot and/or humid areas, food in your fridge or freezer isn’t going to last very long. Be sure to try and keep these appliances closed as long as possible. If you do have to open them, have a plan in mind regarding what will be removed so you don’t have the appliance doors open for an extended period.
Take some time this week to evaluate your personal situation as a family. What is your plan if the power goes out? Having water is critical so you don’t get overheated or dehydrated. Have as much water as possible stored on site so it is readily available. Have alternative ways to cook other than your electric or gas stoves.
What are some steps you can take to be best prepared for a power outage at home?
You never know when you might lose power. The outage causes could be a vehicle running into a power pole resulting in a downed power line. A strong storm can also cause power line issues. The local electric company can accidentally cut an underground line during road repairs or new neighborhood hookups. These situations not only can cause the loss of power but can create some hazardous situations, particularly if power lines are laying on the ground.
Let’s discuss some things to consider as you put your home emergency plan together:
You need the ability to stay in touch with the outside world so you get notifications from local news outlets and local officials about what’s happened and what the estimate might be regarding timeframes for crews to perform the needed repairs. Many utilities have a service where they send outage alerts by text message or there may be email alerts. Of course, most of your electronics won’t be working long if the power is out.
I have a hand crank weather radio so I can get the latest news without having to leave the house. We also have walkie-talkies so we can stay in touch with many local friends and neighbors. Cell phones should work unless the outage has brought the nearby cell towers’ service down.
You might want to consider some uninterruptable power supply (UPS) units in your home to keep those desktops, modems, switches, etc. up and running for a few hours if you lose power.
Some people plan on that handy BBQ or charcoal grill to perform cooking chores if the power goes out. They’re great to cook some things like meat, but not so well suited for boiling water, cooking bread, heating soup, and so much more. Consider buying a quality camping stove that uses propane or butane. I also have a Sun Oven that is awesome in locations that get a lot of sunshine each day. If you have room in your yard you can also put in a firepit where you can cook over an open fire.
Be sure to have matches, a lighter, and extra fuel no matter what device(s) you plan to use.
Have some lighting sources available.
Years ago candles were the mainstay to light up a room. I’ve got some in my emergency inventory, but I tend to worry about possible fires when they’re put to use. That’s why I have plenty of flashlights and extra batteries. I also have a bunch of solar-powered flashlights and lanterns. I store the solar units on my window sills so they’re being charged all the time and are ready to go. The energy efficiency of those solar units is amazing, and they are basically hassle-free.
Be sure to check the expiration dates on those extra batteries so you can get a new supply as needed.
Backup Power for Your Medical Devices
We have family members who need to use a CPAP device to sleep at night. There may be others in your family who need humidifiers or have other medical needs where electronic devices are necessary to get through the day since they are power-dependent. I really like and can recommend the backup power units from a company called Goal Zero. They come in a wide range of sizes and power capacities that can fit the bill for a particular purpose.
Consider what options you may have to keep certain medicines that require a cold environment properly protected. The Goal Zero units may be just the trick to run a small cooler or ice chest running.
You can get full house or smaller power generators. We have friends who love theirs since they automatically come on if the power goes out and they run until their full is depleted. The storage of the fuel can be an issue, so do your homework before making a purchase. If you can find a unit that runs on natural gas that may be your best solution.
Keeping Food Cool or Frozen is an Issue
Have a plan in place to move your fridge and freezer food to a larger and very efficient cooler. Yeti is a brand that makes great products you can rely on. Find out what it takes to have some dry ice available since it keeps food cold for a much longer period. You can keep your foods colder longer if you keep from opening the fridge and freezer only to take out food for immediate meal preparation.
Water Purification/Filtration is Critical
If you have an ample supply of water stored and ready to consume, more power to you. We have 160 and 250-gallon tanks with water that has been treated with a product called Water Preserver. It is great stuff that keeps your water safe to drink and cook with for up to five years. We also have some smaller water containers from Water Brick that prove to be very handy since they are lighter and can be stacked or stored on shelves or under your bed. We love our Water Bricks.
It’s also smart to have some filtering systems that can be used when the power is out. A gravity-fed system from Big Berkey works great, or check out the units from PortaWell since they use a battery-powered pump that can filter over 60 gallons per hour.
You’ll Need to Stay Warm
It seems that the power often goes out in cold weather and at night. Be sure to plan ahead and have extra quilts, blankets, sleeping bags, and warm clothing, just in case.
Please Have Ready:
- Flashlights and Batteries
- Butane Stove with Fuel
Let’s all plan ahead and be ready for the unexpected, including the loss of power. Let me know what you think needs to be added to my list of suggestions for things to consider if you power goes out.Thanks again for being prepared for the unexpected. May God bless this world, Linda
Copyright Images: No Power Depositphotos_16977403_S
18 thoughts on “What Happens When The Power Goes Out”
I evacuated during the San Diego 2003 fires and it is true that if power is out the gas stations cannot pump gas. At our local gas stations with stores, items were sold for cash only. We were able to get gas about 40 miles east of us at an Indian Casino and of course it was quite crowded. Most of the businesses in town closed as power wasn’t restored for almost a week. The day of the fire we were scheduled to leave on vacation so our cab-over camper was on the truck and fully stocked along with our horse trailer and it’s water storage. Our vacation plans changed but if we hadn’t prepared for the trip we would not have been prepared to evacuate. It was divine intervention. Always keeping an eye on the gas tank and re-filling when it reaches the half point is great advice. It is a crazy world out there when the power goes out.
Hi Ellen, you were truly blessed to have the cab-over camper fully stocked and that you could get gas 40 miles east of you. Your comments gave me chills because this can happen to all of us. I’m so glad your family was safe and prepared. Blessings, Linda
On August 22 2016 I lost my beloved summer home to the Henry creek fire in Idaho falls Idaho. We were not prepared to lose our home. We had followed the fire during the night and thought we would be okay. During a nap we were awakened by a relative saying the winds had shifted and we had to get out now. In a stupor of thought ,we left , leaving our belongings . Our lives were spared but I regret what I didn’t take out with me. So unexpected! I wish we could have do overs. I will now concentrate on preparedness. Keep up the good work!
Lois, oh my goodness, I am so sorry you lost your beloved summer home. I wish we could have do-overs as well! Thankfully your lives were spared in that fire. We never know when a disaster will come our way. God bless you and your family! Linda
I agree with what you sid. Just a side note, I was in a grocery store some years ago and the power went out while I was in an area that had no windows in it. It got very dark and people began to panic. The power came on in just a few seconds, but I learned something that day. Always carry a small flashlight . I have done that and have been in the same situation again, but this time I was prepared and was able to help myself and others to feel safe until the power was restored. It can be a small flashlight, just one that sends out a good beam.
Hi Cheryl, this is a great comment! It reminds all of us we need a small flashlight with us at all times. I Love this! Linda
in regard to communications – phones in particular – prepper important to have one of the very basic plug-in landline phones – if you still have a landline – but a modern wireless handset model for a phone – good chance you’re out of service – the basics would still work – capable of working off the very low voltage the phone company supplies ….
if you no longer have landline service and gone to cell service only – if the phone wiring is still intact to your home’s phone jacks – good chance you could still receive a GOV reverse 911 emergency phone message – for the certainty of receiving those calls locate an active service phone around the neighborhood ….
the older phone companies that established the US landline system – have been working since 1945 with the GOV to create a nuke disaster survivable communications system – the GOV have their own separate back channel system >>>> don’t count out the landline phone system in your prepper communications plan …..
Hi Illini, you are so right. Nowadays you can register you cell phone with your local county to receive Amber Alerts and Emergency Alerts. Instructions: Google your city and state followed by Reverse 911. For instance, I would put, Salt Lake County Utah Reverse 911. Then follow the instructions. Keep in mind if you move you will need to change your location for alerts. Linda
Just to expand on that. Only copper based landlines will work like that since they are powered at the local telco switching station (which do have backup generators.)
But a lot of “landlines” these days are VoIP (voice over IP – aka Internet) or fiber optic. Either one of those type of lines need power in your home and all along the cable connections to the ISP or telco office. So those lines are much less reliable during a power outage.
And the local telcos are switching off copper connections in a lot of places because fiber is cheaper to maintain, so check what type of line you have now while the power is on so you can know what is likely to happen after the lights go out….
I have a VoIP line with Comcast, and I know it’ll go out after anywhere from 15 to 90 minutes even though I have a standby generator. Main reason I keep it is in case of medical emergency, since it is tied to our physical address as soon as we dial 911 the dispatcher knows where we are even if we can’t speak clearly. YMMV.
Hi DMWalsh, oh this is awesome information. My biggest fear has always been a nationwide power grid outage. The US has three power grids and they are not protected from any sort of attack. Plus the fact that the equipment is so antiquated if would take years to repair IF they could repair it or many years to replace. We are living in a very fragile country right now. God bless those that need refrigeration for their medications plus I pray they can get those medications they need to stay alive. Linda
A lot of sound advice, especially right now. In case you haven’t found this hidden in the back pages of the news, or on the NOAA site, we (the entire planet) are headed into a period of extreme sunspot activity, the kind that only happens every 400 or more years, when the earth comes into direct alignment with one of the sun’s biggest sunspots. High level government officials have already been issued hardened communication devices, as there’s a good chance our power grid and communications networks will be significantly disrupted, possibly for extended lengths of time. You’d think the solar flares, etc. would increase solar gain and thus solar power for us, but it would actually have the opposite effect, blocking sunlight, possibly for days at a time, so I don’t plan to rely heavily on anything solar or electric. Candles, oil lanterns, even petroleum jelly “candles” need to be handy. The worst part is that there’s no way to give us any warning of when the flares shoot out. The big-wigs will maybe, if they’re lucky, get 30 minutes warning, which might give them time to land a plane at the nearest airport. The rest of us have to be totally prepared at all times. Like everyone here has said, if the power fails, all our daily amenities fail right along with it. Everything. Right now, today, I have to find a backup cooling option for my refrigerated meds, one that doesn’t require an electrical outlet! May God bless you all and keep you safe through this. The threat may last for 5 – 6 months, until we rotate our way out of this alignment. Mama Nature is proving that she is still the greatest threat out there. Prep up.
Hi Terry, oh this is is an awesome comment. I’m extremely worried about a power grid outage. The situation you are talking about is much worse. I have never heard of a period of extreme sunspot activity. There goes our solar ovens, lights, etc. Bring on the generators, and stock up on batteries as a start. Great information. I will do some more research, I love hearing about stuff like this. Thank you, Linda
I live in Connecticut & the part about heat really caught my eye. Since CT is part of New England, we get the extremes of all seasons and although we’re not really known for a lot of bad weather, we get hurricanes & blizzards. So if the opposite were to happen and the power went out in a blizzard, would it be possible to put your food in a cooler & take it outside to the snow to keep it cold? It seems feasible, but I’m not sure if it would really work.
Hi Nick, oh this is the best question ever!! One day I ordered some pick up from a store, I ordered frozen broccoli and some frozen fruit. Well, the bags were larger than I had expected, we started to laugh when we went to pick them up. I ordered 12 bags and they were HUGE, LOL! Well, we didn’t have enough room in our freezer for all of them. So I brought down one of my “5-day” coolers and placed the excess bags in the over-sized cooler. We had freezing temperatures and the yard had at least 18 inches of snow on the ground. I checked the cooler every few days to make sure the food was still frozen. The temperatures stayed below freezing but after two weeks, the frozen fruit bags started to leak. The food was still slightly frozen but it could not have gone another day in the cooler. I wish I had documented the temperatures but I didn’t. If I had added ice I believe I could have gotten another day or two. But after an emergency we may not have ice available. I hope this helps, I learned a lot from it. If I hadn’t snow around the cooler or freezing temps we would have lost some of the food. Linda
More great advice Linda! Thanks! All of your reiterations had us thinking then and remind us to rethink things again! Although Yetti products are good, they are extremley expensive. Products like Coleman, RTIC, Igloo, Pelican, Grizzly, Orca, Canyon to name a few are just as good quality and durability wise and are a lot less expensive.
Hi Bill-Bill, oh I would love a Yeti cooler, it would have to be clearance for me to buy! LOL! I think mine is an Igloo as I remember, I will have to check. It’s white and about 2-3 feet wide or so and 18 inches deep. I bought two just in case. If we had ice they would work great. Linda
In case of a power outage I am hoping that we will have a piece of land that we won’t need to worry about electricity. It is a log cabin Ghost Town that has not used in ages. I am told it is still in good condition but that will have to be checked out. I think I know someone who would be able to rehab the town and using cabins that can’t be refurbished to repair the cabins that can be refurbished. It will have all we need. I have a cookstove and coal oil lamps, candles (which I want to get more of both and I want to get some good lamps that use batteries.
Hi Jackie of the Ghost town full of log cabins would be nice especially if you had great neighbors. Linda