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Be prepared for a power outage

by Lisa Bennett

Power cuts happen for many reasons. Sometimes power companies are doing maintenance work on the network and need to cut the power off to properties for a while, sometimes it’s due to stormy weather and at other times you might not know why the power outage has happened.

Power cuts can last for a few minutes through to hours or even days so it’s important that residents know in advance the things they can do to prepare for such eventualities:-

  • Put together an emergency pack and store it in an easy to access place at home. It should contain wind-up or battery-operated torches (one for each member of the family), spare batteries, wind-up or battery-operated radio, matches / lighter, candles (take extra care with any naked flames), tinned and dried food, tin opener, spoons / forks, warm blanket, first aid kit, cash.
  • Many modern cordless landline phones won’t work without electricity – have at least one which doesn’t run off the mains supply (an analogue phone or a mobile). Make you’re your mobile phone is charged (note – mobile phone networks may be affected).
  • Know your medical needs – talk to your medical provider about a power outage plan for medical devices powered by electricity and refrigerated medicines (eg how long can medicines be stored at room temperature?).
  • Make a list of key contacts – hard copy as well as in your phone (as your phone may not be charged or your network may be affected). You can keep this in your emergency pack.
  • Have enough non-perishable food and water. Keep freezers and refrigerators closed. The refrigerator will keep food cold for about four hours. A full freezer will keep the temperature for about 48 hours.
  • Portable heaters act as a good alternative to heating systems which often don’t work during a power cut. However, keep them away from flammable materials, don’t block an escape route and never leave children alone with them.
  • Many service stations can’t pump fuel during a power failure so it’s a good idea to keep your vehicle’s fuel tank at least half-full. Also, be sure you know how to use the manual option on electric garage doors and gates.

In the event of a power cut:

  • Check your fuse box / consumer unit to see if one of the fuses or contact breakers has tripped.
  • Check to see if your neighbour’s lights or power are off as well, and if it’s night-time, see if street lighting has gone out.
  • Switch off all electrical appliances that shouldn’t be left unattended, ready for when the power comes back on.
  • Leave a light switched on so you will see when the power outage has been resolved.
  • Street lighting/traffic signals may also be off so take care outside.
  • Call 105 (this is a free number) to report the issue and you’ll be put you through to your local electricity network operator who can give you further information and advice.
  • If possible, follow the incident on the network operator’s website.
  • Find your pre-packed emergency kit.
  • In the event that phone lines / mobile masts have also been affected, BBC Radio 1 to 4 will be broadcasting messages on VHF and Long Wave which can be accessed through your car or battery / wind-up radios.
  • Remember to check-in on your elderly or vulnerable neighbours and share any updates you receive.
  • When power is restored turn your appliances back on one at a time.


Do you, or someone you know, need extra support during a power cut?

A power cut can be extremely inconvenient, but for some residents, it’s much worse. They could be reliant on medical equipment or need information sharing in alternative formats due to having a hearing or sight impairment. Electricity distributors have a Priority Services Register so it can provide additional support to customers who need it the most. You can find your provider on this postcode finder and register that you need additional support.