When you’re home relaxing or getting things done, the last thing you want is a power outage. Here are a few tips on how to prevent an outage in your apartment, how to prepare in case of an outage, and what to do during an outage.
How to prepare for an outage
A power outage can disrupt your life and your routine, but with a little prep, you can stay comfortable.
Chances are, you have multiple devices that rely on your WiFi — your computer, tablet, or mobile phones. Luckily, with the right tech gear, you could keep them going even in an outage. One tool that can help your WiFi stay connected is a battery backup system known as an uninterruptible power supply (UPS), which you can find at most electronics stores, so you can stay connected and keep all your devices going. Have a power bank charged and ready for mobile devices.
Of course, you’ll want a radio, flashlight and plenty of batteries so you can stay tuned to the latest local updates and get around your apartment. Keep them in a place that’s easy to find and access. You might also want to think about other things you’ll need to get through several days without power, assuming you’ll have to stay put. Your emergency preparedness kit should include non-perishable food (don’t forget the manual can opener), emergency cash and a couple gallons of fresh water. You might also want to have a battery-powered fan on hand.
How to find the cause of the outage
Everyone has that story about their first apartment, where you couldn’t run a toaster and microwave at the same time or the power cuts out. When a circuit is overloaded with too much power flowing in, it will “trip” — that is, it switches off to cut off the power supply and prevent overheating.
So if you’re in a situation where you have more devices than outlets, use a power strip that comes with a circuit breaker.
When things go dark, the first thing to do is rule out a tripped circuit. Unplug the appliances and other devices and head to your electric supply panel, which is usually behind a metal door mounted on the wall, often in a closet, bedroom or laundry closet. Flip the switch, and if power is restored, you’re good to go. If you’re not sure and want help, call your landlord or the building’s maintenance supervisor.
What to do during an outage
Once you’ve ruled out a tripped circuit, and it’s clear you’re experiencing an outage, report it to your local transmission and distribution utility (TDU). This is the utility in your community that maintains the power lines and makes sure electricity is transmitted to your apartment building and elsewhere in the area. These are the phone numbers of the TDUs in Texas
AEP Texas Central: 1-866-223-8508
AEP Texas North: 1-866-223-8508
Centerpoint Energy: 1-800-332-7143
Sharyland Utilities: 1-956-668-9551
If you’re not sure which TDU serves you, you can log in to your account at First Choice Power and look under the graph in the YOUR USAGE section on the back of your bill. It’s helpful to have your TDU’s number saved in your mobile phone’s contacts, in case the outage disrupts your phone or laptop’s access to the web.
Walk around and unplug your electronics, appliances and devices. When power is restored, this can protect these electronics from a power surge as well as keep the demand from your devices from overloading the circuits. But keep a lamp switched on so you’ll know right away when power is restored.
Don’t open your refrigerator or freezer unless it’s necessary, because, of course, there will be no way to chill the room-temperature air that was let in. If possible, save up your trips and close the door quickly. If the outage lasts more than four hours, some items, especially meat and poultry, will have to be discarded. Use these guidelines from FoodSafety.gov.
If you have another means to cook food, like a gas grill or a camp stove, be sure and do all your cooking outside. If your outage was caused by a storm, keep pets and children indoors until you’re sure things are safe. Never take chances with downed power lines and storm debris!
If the outage happens during the day, the last thing you want to do is stay in your apartment with no A/C. Take this opportunity to go to the movies, treat yourself to a coffee, or hang out anywhere with air conditioning. If you have homework or other work to do, you can usually find free WiFi at a local library or coffee shop. If you can, stay the night at a friend’s house if the outage lasts through the night.
If you have to stay put during an outage, keep cool by closing the curtains on your south and west-facing windows and open your front door as little as possible to keep extra heat from coming in while you wait.
No one likes power outages. But if you’re prepared, you can get through the ordeal safely and comfortably.