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8 Mistakes You Need To Avoid When Your Power Goes Out

By cogdogblog via Wikimedia Commons / Karlis Dambrans from flickr

Whether it be an intensive snowfall, terrible thunderstorm, or a tipped over power line, there's a surefire chance that you'll lose your electricity.

Since this inconvenience could last anywhere between a couple of minutes to a few days, it's crucial to know what you should and shouldn't do to protect yourself and your family should this situation arise.

Here are eight mistakes to avoid during a power outage.

1. Don't light a candle

When the power goes down, the most common thing to do is to light as many candles in your home as possible.

However, not only do they only provide a minimal light source, if you, your children, or pets accidentally knock one over, you'll be sure to start a fire.

"Candles are wonderful, but they tip over, and they can cause a fire," says Jim Judge, EMT-P, CEM, member of the American Red Cross Scientific Advisory.

If you insist on using a candle, make sure to have it securely placed in a lantern, or use battery-powered LED lights or flashlights as an alternative instead.

2. Don't leave cords plugged in

Although unplugging your appliances may not be on top of your list of things to do during a power outage, it's essential not to forget.

When your power eventually comes back after a blackout, there's a high chance that the spikes and surges that come will wreck all of your major equipment.

However, if you chose to keep your electronics plugged in, there are steps you can take to prevent them from ruin.

"It’s always smart to unplug them, but there are ways to prevent them from being damaged," Lounsbury says.

For instance, installing a surge protector in an electric panel, or plugging in any sensitive equipment into a surge-protected power strip will protect your wires from becoming fried.

But with all that said, keeping a small lamp plugged in is a good way to keep yourself notified when the power comes back on.

3. Don't let your pipes get too cold

If you don't keep an eye on your pipes during the winter season, there's a strong possibility that they can burst with water when they become frozen during a power outage.

If you don't have insulated pipes, there are still ways you can prevent this from occurring, such as wrapping the tubes with foam, old blankets, or towels. It's also recommended to always keep a small stream of water running to mitigate the risk of freezing.

4. Don't open the refrigerator

Even if you're starving, it's important to keep your refrigerator closed at all times. When you open its doors, you'll be letting the cold air out, which will cause your food to be enclosed in a higher temperature.

If you leave your fridge doors shut, your food can last for at least four hours without electricity. If you think your power will be out for an extended period of time, try wrapping it in a large blanket for some extra protection against the heat.

5. Don't use an untouched flashlight

While we previously recommended using a flashlight when the power goes out, don't try using one that hasn't been touched for a while.

Even though it might just seem like the batteries have simply died, there could be a much larger problem at hand.

"Over time, those batteries will leach acid that will get into the contacts," Judge explains.

Instead, he recommends switching to either rechargeable LED flashlights, or taking the batteries out when it's not in use.

6. Don't touch a downed wire

Although this might seem like a no brainer for most people, some may not consciously think of the consequences of touching a down wire from an electricity pole.

If you decide to go outside and see one on the ground, make sure to stay at least 30 feet away. If the ground is wet, be no closer than 60 feet from the fallen power line.

“Even if the lines are not sparking, they could be energized and extremely dangerous,” notes Pacific Power, a utility company from the Western part of the United States.

If you're in a car and see a down wire, make sure to stay in your vehicle unless there is a nearby fire. If there is, you need to jump out of your car, landing with both feet on the ground.

Be warned, if you touch the ground and the car at the same time, there is a risk you can be electrocuted.

7. Don't use up your cell phone's battery

When the power goes out, most people will turn to their cell phone for entertainment, even though it's necessary to save a good portion of its battery life.

Since you don't know how long the blackout will last, it's important that you don't waste your battery on inessential apps.

"Save your phone until you need it," says Ed Lounsbury, a licensed electrician with T. Webber Plumbing, Heating, Air & Electric. "If the power goes out for a few days you might need it for emergency services."

When a power outage occurs, put your phone on airplane mode, turn off any apps you're not using, and see if you have can grab the opportunity to charge it in your car.

8. Don't use your water all at once

Although your water isn't affected during a blackout, your hot water tank doesn't provide your home with an endless supply.

Since the majority of cities rely on electricity to pump your home's sewage to the treatment plant, if your water is used too much, it'll swiftly get backed up.

When you're in a blackout, it's recommended you don't shower and that you only flush the toilet when absolutely necessary.

[H/T: Bob Vila, Safe Bee, Reader's Digest]

Do you have any tips for when the power goes out? Let us know!

Maya has been working at Shared for 11 Months. She just begrudgingly spent $200 on a gym membership. Contact her at maya@shared.com