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What to Do When Your Power Goes Out

By January 21, 2021January 22nd, 2021Insurance

Mosaic Insurance Alliance has tips on what to do during windstorms & power outages

Many things can cause the power to go out—wind, lightening, snow, failed equipment like poor wiring, etc. A typical initial cause of power outages is wind, and Washington can get very windy in the winter.

Wind can knock down trees, break powerlines, blow transformers, damage cell towers, knock out traffic lights, damage houses, and more. Most people have experienced an outage that has lasted at least an entire day. But, unless we are or were in a place it happens often, we can easily forget the do’s and don’ts, how slow time can tick by, and how much we really depend on electricity this day in age. We can feel a little lost and second guess ourselves—i.e. Am I able to flush the toilet?

Earlier this month, a windstorm during late night/early morning hours caused Snohomish County, King County, and nearby counties to lose power for several hours. Some areas lost power for over 48 hours. Winds got up to 50-70 mph in some areas, according to KOMO News, causing more than 500,000 people without power. Numerous transformers blew, countless branches broke and scattered all over the place, many trees fell in roadways, tons of traffic lights were out, and some people got hurt. There was even a fatality.

While huge windstorms of this severity do not happen very frequently in this part of Washington, storm information is good to review here and there to help you be prepared when it happens unexpectedly. Also, perhaps you recently moved to a side of Washington, like Ellensburg, (or another state/country) that gets windy very often and residents experience outages on a regular basis.

Mosaic Insurance is a firm believer in the benefits of knowledge and reminders, so we gathered some items for you to prepare for next time the power goes out—how to report a power outage, what to do if you see a fallen tree or powerline, safe driving tips, what to avoid, tips for your business, and more.

Blog-Power Outtage Tips_Mosaic Insurance Alliance

How Do You Report That Your Power Is Out?

The faster you report a power outage, the better chances your area will get noticed by repair crews faster. And the faster you get noticed, the more likely you can get the damages fixed and power restored sooner.

Luckily, cellphones do not usually lose service in power outages. In some instances, there might be a cell tower down near you (like what happened in many places with the recent storm). Being near windows can help you get a better signal. If there is no luck in getting a signal in the location you are in, you can try to get service by driving to another location if it is safe to do so. (P.S. Using your phone while driving is not safe and drive during storms is not advised!)

Once your phone is ready to go, your can report the outage on an outage map. Just simply search your city and state with phrases like “outage map report,” and then go to a city/PUD website and fill out a short report form or call a number.

For example, if you live in Everett, Snohomish, or the Seattle area, the below links are examples of where you can report your power outage:

What insurance can protect you from damages brought on by wind?

Call us for a quick chat if you would like to get advice on what coverage can protect you in your particular situation at home, on the road, or at your business. As a rule of thumb, though, insurance that can help protect you from wind damages and power outage damages include:

Business Insurance

Personal Insurance

Mosaic can help you get all the above insurance policies and more. Call and speak to your own independent agent today for a personalized chat on what coverage will help protect you.

What Should Businesses Do When They Have No Power?

Below are some items that are good for companies to do before, during, and after a power outage.

Before:

  • Have the proper insurance to protect your business—your products (especially perishables), your clients, your employees, etc. Some example coverages you might want to investigate include the ones listed above under the section “What insurance can help protect you from damages brought on by wind?”
  • Make sure that you have multiple first-aid kits stocked and ready.
  • Have a battery powered radio to monitor the news.
  • Consider getting backup power. Generators, battery banks, and solar panels are handy when the power goes out. You can focus on the dire areas (e.g. refrigerators) and keep them running so that you have less loss and can remain open. As Hartford notes, having these items can also be beneficial in other ways, such as helping ease you back into getting power restored so that equipment does not get damaged.
  • Constelltion NewEnergy, Inc. advises that you have an action plan to-do list in case a power outage happens. They have an example list on their website here.
  • Have flashlights ready to use in multiple locations. Dotdash recommends flashlights at every checkout desk, in each office, and in the stockroom.
  • Have a backup phoneline that does not require power to operate (cellphone or walkie-talkie).

During:

  • Do a safety check. If a power outage happens while your employees are on the clock, make sure that all your employees, clients, and other people on your property are ok. Good places to look:
    • Bathrooms
    • Common rooms/areas
    • Elevators (If you hear someone trapped in the elevator, call 9-1-1 immediately.)
    • Stairwells
  • Engage your generator(s) or other means of backup power if you have something.
  • Send your employees home if operation cannot happen. Usually, companies wait an hour or two to see if power will be restored. If your business cannot function at all, having employees secure the building and leave is generally something most owners decide to do.
  • Block off any areas that customers should not go during a power outage. For example, if you have a store with a refrigerator, you might want to section that off so that customers cannot open them or purchase items from them if it is not legal and safe to do so. Or, if you have a location in your building that is not safe in the dark, like a certain floor or room.
  • Have your team log their hours on a piece of paper.

After:

  • Go back to your original setup. Disengage any backup power source that is no longer needed. Reengage your appliances, cash registers, etc. Do a systems check to ensure everything is working properly.
  • Take inventory on what was damaged/lost. Make note of the item, what happened to it, and how much it cost.
  • Update your electronic system with employee hours.
  • Have a meeting with your staff. Give them an update on what occurred and what the action plan is to get things up and going again smoothly. Perhaps you might also want to discuss future preparation and training for possible future outages.
  • Let the public know that you are up and operating fully. Post on your social media, send a newsletter, update your Google account, make a sign outside your business, etc. so that people know you are back in business.
  • As soon as you can, speak to your insurance agency about any damages, injuries, or losses that occurred. Depending on the situation, you might need to contact your insurance company before power is restored.

What Do You Do if a Powerline Falls?

All kinds of things can happen to powerlines. For example, branches and other objects can land on them, they can break off or short out, and entire poles can fall. The Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) has many helpful tips on dealing with powerlines. If you are unsure about what to do, you can give them a call at 800-743-5000.

What should you do if a powerline falls on your property?

  • Stay away from it.
    • Do not touch it with your body or an item you are holding.
    • Do not drive over it.
    • Make sure pets stay away from it.
  • Call 9-1-1 immediately.
  • There are some lines that might fall on your property that are not powerlines. For example, your phone line or internet line can be a huge cable that is attached to your roof. It is best to treat it as a live cable and call a professional to determine what it is and how to fix it if you are unsure. For a downed cable/internet line, you can call your cable or internet service provider for an inspection and repair.

What should you do if you see a fallen powerline on a road?

  • Do not drive near it or over it.
  • Report the fallen powerline to 9-1-1.
  • If your car does come in contact with a powerline, it is recommended by professionals like Seattle.gov and PG&E that you… 
    • Do not get out of the car.
    • Call 9-1-1 immediately.
    • Wait until a professional says you can get out of your car (firefighter, police officer, energy workers, etc.).
    • Warn others to stay away.
    • In case it is not safe to stay in the car—like a fire starts—PG&E recommends that you…
      • Remove loose clothing.
      • Keep hands at your sides and jump out of the vehicle—do not touch the car when you hit the ground.
      • After you land, do not pick up your feet—instead slide on your feet away from the area.

What Do You Do if You See a Fallen Tree?

What do you do if a tree falls on your property?

What do you do if a tree falls in your yard?

  • Trees can be tricky. Typically, a homeowner is responsible for what falls in their yard.
  • If you are renting a home and a tree from your yard or a neighbor’s yard falls on the land that you are renting, you will want to contact your landlord and renter insurance company immediately.
  • If you own the property where a tree has fallen, you will want to contact your home insurance company immediately.
  • If a tree from your yard falls on your neighbor’s property, contact your insurance company (and your landlord if you rent).
  • If the property is not safe, evacuate to a safe area right away and call 9-1-1.

What do you do if a tree falls on your house?

  • If a tree falls on your home while you are inside, evacuate immediately and seek safe shelter elsewhere. Additionally, call 9-1-1 as soon as you can.
  • Do not go back onto the property or into the house/car until responders say it is safe.
  • As with when a tree falls in your yard, if you are renting, contact your landlord and renters insurance company; and if you are the homeowner, contact your homeowners insurance company.

What do you do if a tree falls on your car?

  • Evacuate immediately if you are inside the vehicle when it happens.
  • Call 9-1-1 as soon as it happens, or when you discover it.
  • Do not go into your car until responders say that it is safe to do so.
  • Notify your car insurance company right away.
  • If it happened on your property, notify your home/renters insurance company as well.
  • If it happened on someone else’s property, notify them immediately.

When you talk to police and your insurance companies, some things that are important to mention are:

  • When it happened.
  • Where it happened.
  • Who was involved.
  • The weather conditions.
  • Actions before and after the event.
  • If any injuries occurred.
  • Things that you feel are important to the event.

What do you do if you see a fallen tree on a road?

  • Notify 9-1-1 so they can get crews there to remove it.
  • Do not drive over it.
  • Safely turn around and find an alternate route.
  • Keep an eye out for fallen power lines near the tree.

What Are Some Safe Driving Tips When the Power is Out?

  • If it is not safe to drive, avoid it. Also, avoid roads that are known to be more dangerous than others (like ones with hills and sharp turns).
  • Be extra cautious with speed and turns. Determine what driving actions are safest to do in your specific circumstance (going under the speed limit, pumping your brakes, avoiding certain roads and hills, etc.).
  • Follow the rules of the road.
  • Keep an eye out for branches, fallen trees, fallen powerlines, trashcans, and other items that might be in the road due to wind.
  • Use your headlights since other light sources will not be there (i.e. street lights and porch lights from nearby houses)
  • Use your turn signals and headlights.
  • Treat downed traffic lights like stop signs. It is surprising how many people will just blow right through a 2-way or 4-way stop without stopping and yielding until it is their turn. Keep your eyes open for cars not yielding to traffic.
  • Avoid driving over branches and large pieces of broken wood. Branches can get stuck under your car and cause damages and/or trap you. Also, sharp pieces of wood can puncture your tire.

What Are Some Other Things You Should Avoid if the Power is Out?

Try not to open the fridge and freezer. If you have to grab something, think of everything you want to grab and do it fast. Try to open them as little as possible.

  • The 4-hour rule: Typically speaking, it is said that fridges and freezers will stay cold for about 4 hours if they are not opened.
  • If your fridge gets above 40 degrees Fahrenheit for more than 2 hours, you might have to throw some items away. FoodSafety.gov has a nice guideline here.
  • If you know you have a lot of items that are easily perishable (dairy, meat, lunchmeat, casseroles, etc.) you might want to focus eating those first right when the power goes out so that they do not go to waste.
  • Also, if you have a generator, your fridge is a top thing to hook it up to.
    A fuller freezer keeps items good for longer, as noted by Reader’s Digest.

Flushing the toilet and running water.

  • Refrain from flushing the toilet or running the water when you are on a well. Well pumps take electricity, so if you are on a well, do not run the water or flush the toilet.
  • Most other plumbing does not require electricity initially, but you will want to use water sparingly. Once your water tank is empty, it will not refill without the electric pump pumping water back into it. Your water tank can run out of water quicker than you realize. Additionally, if you run the water too much by flushing or using the sink/bathtub, you could clog your sewer system, damage your pipes, and/or run out of water to drink.
  • Keep in mind that you can also pour water manually in the toilet tank if you really need to. If you know that a storm is coming, and power loss is likely, having some water for this purpose is not a bad idea. Remember that if you will also need water to drink, and you might want some to also wash your hands.
  • Consult with a professional on what you should and should not do for the system that you have.

Be cautious using medications that require refrigeration. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has important information to review.

Do not connect a generator to your home’s main panel or dryer outlet. It would be nice to have your entire home powered again, but a generator is not meant for the job. It can be dangerous for you, your property, and the electric workers fixing the power grid.

What Are Good Things to Have at Home for Power Outages?

  • Bottled water and other shelf-stable drinks
  • Non-perishable food that does not have to be cooked to be eaten, including:
    • Jerky
    • Granola bars
    • Fruit snacks
    • Crackers
    • Nuts
  • Charcoal/propane barbeque, backup charcoal and propane, and easy to cook items, like:
    • Hot dogs
    • Potatoes
    • Frozen burger patties
    • Veggies (have tinfoil on hand!)
    • Canned soup (hand-cranked can opener and metal pot)
    • NOTE: Do not grill inside the house or on a canopy covered porch. Please also be aware that many apartments do not allow barbeques.
  • Metal teakettle that you can heat on a charcoal BBQ or woodstove.
  • Shelf stable food that can be cooked with hot water from a kettle
    • Cup Noodle/Top Ramen
    • Macaroni and cheese
    • Dried bagged potatoes (mashed, scallop, etc.)
    • Dried instant meals like fiesta rice
  • Food that can be prepared and eaten without cooking. For example:
    • Sandwiches 
    • Fruit and veggies
    • Yogurt
  • More ideas on what you can eat can be found here.
  • Hand sanitizer and anti-bacterial wipes to help wash hands
  • Candles, matches, and lighters
    • NOTE: Do not leave lit candles unattended. Place candles in a safe place that is away from flammable items (like curtains) and where kids and animals are less likely to knock them over.
  • Oil lamps and lanterns
  • Battery-powered lamps/lanterns
  • Flashlights and batteries
  • Battery powered radio for news updates
  • Portable power bank charger (Note: Solar panel ones can be recharged without electricity!)
  • Extra blankets (especially big warm ones)
  • Disposable dishes. The last thing you want are dishes getting gross in the sink or running out of them. Stock up on paper/plastic plates, cups, silverware, and napkins.
  • Instant heat packs like HotHands hand warmers.
  • Ice and a cooler—to put some of your fridge perishables in
  • Generator
    • NOTE: The CDC says that generators should be used at least 20 feet from your home. Generators give off carbon monoxide—the silent killer. You want to make sure that your home is safe. Keep in mind that garages are not the place for generators since they are too enclosed (even with the door open) and tend to be close or attached to your home.
  • At least a few days worth of important items that you use regularly, such as:
    • Insulin and other medications
    • Baby wipes and diapers
    • Menstrual products and toilet paper
    • Pet food

Ways to Conserve Your Phone Battery:

  • Put it on power saving mode.
  • Put it in airplane mode. If you have no signal, your phone will be searching for signal and drain the battery, even in power saving mode. If this is the case, the best thing to do is put it on airplane mode and then disable it every couple of hours or so to check if you have a signal yet.
  • Turn down screen brightness.
  • Stay off it except for important things.
  • Have pre-charged portable power bank(s) so that you can charge it when it gets low.
  • Disengage auto updates for the time being so that your phone is not doing unimportant things in the background that you can catch up on later.
  • If your phone ends up dying or getting low, you might want to resort to charging it in your car. Remember not to charge your items too long without running your car or you might kill your car battery. Also, if it is safe to drive outside, you can charge your phone while you are out.

How Can You Entertain Your Kids When the Power is Out?

The power being out can get tedious, fast. If you are a parent, your nerves can be tested right away. Your own boredom can also spark in no time.

Ways to keep your kids busy:

  • Board games and cards
  • Trivia and charades
  • Flashlight tag, hide-and-seek, scavenger hunt, and musical chairs
  • Forts (boxes, blankets, chairs, tables, sheets, couch cushions, pillows, etc.)
  • Paper games (hangman, tic-tac-toe, riddles, math puzzles, coloring, etc.)
  • Books
  • “Camping” in the living room and telling stories
  • Beads and other crafts
  • Glowstick and puppet shows
  • Paper airplane contest
  • Makeover and braid hair
  • Silent game—whoever lasts the longest wins a prize! (**Sweet silence!** 😉)

Catch up on those backburner tasks/hobbies:

  • Write a grocery list and inventory list
  • Organize paperwork
  • Clean
  • Nap
  • Yoga
  • Crochet, knitting, and cross-stitching

Other Storm Tips and Power Outage Items to Be Aware About

  • Avoid going out in a storm and/or in the dark. Things can be inspected after the weather has cleared up and it is brighter outside. Unless it is safer outside (i.e. a tree fell on your house, your house is on fire, etc.), staying indoors is the best thing you can do until outside is declared safe outdoors.
  • Keep heavy/sharp items away from windows ad cars. Heavy things nearby the house and your vehicle can smash into things like doors and windows if the wind is just right. Sometimes you don’t need much force to have an item hit something and cause damage. 
  • Unplug and turnoff items. The last thing you want is to get power restored and have a power surge that breaks your electronics or starts a fire. When lights and other items are left in on mode and the power comes back, they will all turn on at once. Go around and turn items to their off position like switches for like lamps, ceiling lights, and fans. You might want to also unplug appliances and items that use a lot of power like coffee machines, space heaters, computers, and TVs. Also, if you know that a big storm is coming, unplugging those items before you lose power is a good idea.
  • Know what to do if someone has been electrocuted. The CDC has steps here.
  • If it is summertime…
    • Make sure you have plenty of water to drink so you do not dehydrate and get heat sickness.
    • Wrap your fridge in blankets to help hold the cold in.
  • If it is wintertime…
    • Make sure all your doors and windows to the outside are closed tight. If your seals are not tight, you might want to put towels in the cracks/gaps.
    • Reader’s Digest recommends that if you are on a water well, you might want to wrap your pipes in towels or blankets so that they do not freeze. They also say that if you have municipal water, trickling faucets can help prevent frozen pipes.

What Else Can You Catch Up On?

Collecting tips and information is our specialty! Similar recent tip blog posts that you might find useful include topics about rain, home and car safety kits, and insurance policies you should review during the winter.

We also have a Pinterest page that is constantly growing with new things for you to pin to your collection! We have car tips (i.e. How do you connect batteries to jump start, again?), home life hacks, business ideas, and more. Follow us here!

If there was something that you do/avoid when the power is out that not mentioned here, let us know. We would love to share your information with others like you. Contact our Marketing Manager, Meagan Baron, at 425-247-0208 or Meagan@mosaicia.com.

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