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What to Do in a Blackout

When an outage hits, being informed is key. Here are some tips to help get you, your loved ones, and your stuff through the outage as smoothly as possible. More information is available in multiple languages at

1. Don't panic.

Keep your head. This will help you make better decisions overall. It may just be a short outage, and you'll be back in the warm embrace of 21st-century lighting before you know it.

2. Confirm the power is actually out.

It may just be a tripped breaker. Check your electrical panel. If any individual circuit is tripped, disconnect any devices that run on that circuit. They could be damaged when power comes back on. Also check to see if street lights are out, or talk to your neighbors, to see if the outage is more widespread than just your home.

3. If your phone has power and a signal, call your utility. 

You should be able to report the outage, and may be able to get information on possible causes. If there's a hurricane currently knocking down trees outside, there's a good chance that's the culprit. 

4. Unplug your appliances.

In the event the power comes back on suddenly, there may be a power surge. The last thing you want is damage to sensitive equipment, like TVs, computers, or other appliances, or a safety problem cropping up, like if an electric oven somehow turns itself on. You may want to leave one lamp plugged in and turned on so you know when the power comes back.

5. Keep your food and medicine cold.

Keep your freezer and refrigerator closed as much as possible. This will keep food as cold as it can be, and buy some extra time before any food or medicines spoil. If the power outage is highly localized, you may be able to buy some ice to keep food refrigerated in the fridge, freezer, or portable coolers. If it's widespread, you may have a hard time finding ice. If you have any doubts about whether your food or medicine is still good, throw it out. 

6. Grab a flashlight or two. 

They're safer than candles, and last much longer. If you have extra batteries, get them out now - right now, as you read this - so you don't have to fumble around in the dark if your flashlight batteries die. 

7. Keep your family members calm and comfortable. 

Figure out the best room(s) to stay in for the duration of the outage. In summer, the basement will be much more comfortable than the second floor. In winter, an interior room without many doors or windows will be best. Keep blankets, sleeping bags, or layers of clothes handy. Make sure to keep an extra close eye on the elderly, very young, and those with medical conditions. Make sure everyone knows what to do during the outage, as well as when the power comes back. Use your flashlights to play board games, read, tell stories, sing songs, or just talk. Keep morale up, if it's an extended outage. In the event of an extended outage in extremely hot or cold weather, call your local municipality - they may have information available about heating or cooling locations near you.

8. Prepare your generator, if you have it. 

Read your generator's manual, then read it again. NEVER operate a generator indoors! ALWAYS operate it outside, at least 20 feet away from any doors or windows. Generator exhaust contains carbon monoxide, which is a poisonous, colorless, odorless, tasteless gas.

NEVER connect your generator directly to your home's electrical system, unless you've already had a transfer switch installed by an electrician. A direct connection is called "backfeeding", and is both dangerous and illegal. The generator should only be connected to the transfer switch, or directly to whatever appliances you want to power by extension cords.

If you have any questions about your WEN generator, please contact us. We can be reached at 1-847-429-9263, M - F, 8 - 5 Central time.

For more information, read How to Prepare for a Blackout. If you expect an extended outage, secure a supply of fuel for the generator as soon as feasible.

9. Communication is key. 

Keep your phone charged. Only use it to get information and contact others. Now is not the time to try to beat your high score on Minesweeper. If you don't have phone service, coordinate with your neighbors to help each other and establish contact with local authorities. Battery-powered, solar-powered, or windup radios will be helpful. Some walkie-talkies may be able to receive emergency radio broadcasts. Keep an eye on the sky and take shelter if adverse weather threatens.

10. Prepare for the next blackout. 

After the lights come back on, stock up on non-perishable food, drinking water, and medicine. Have a first-aid kit. Have a physical plan written out, and review it with your family regularly. Test your generator and keep it in good working order. Have a battery-powered or windup radio. And check out some of our other helpful articles on getting ready for emergencies.

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