What To Do If The Power Goes Out

Apartment Preparations for Summer Time in New York City

Scorching summer heat has put a major strain on New York City’s power grid in recent days, causing a series of localized power outages, leaving some residents without power for more than 12 hours.  Without air conditioning, reliable plumbing and refrigeration, an apartment can quickly become an extremely hazardous environment during a heat wave.

Fortunately, there are simple steps you can take early in a power outage to improve your chances of a trouble-free wait, freeing first responders and city workers to provide assistance to those who need it most and restore utilities faster.

Please note that the most important things you can do to prepare for an emergency event take place well before the emergency event itself. Be sure to review our previous articles on senior-friendly go bags and the various planning tools available through NY Emergency management for vital preparedness advice!

  1. Secure water and stay hydrated

Most apartment buildings use an electric pump system to pull water to a rooftop holding container. When the power goes out, residents may only have access to the water currently in the rooftop container.

Fill several containers with tap water quickly.  It is typically best to budget one gallon of water per apartment resident per day and maintain at least three days’ supply.

If you have previously stocked your home with bottled water, this should be used for drinking, and your tap water should be reserved for bathing and manually flushing your toilet.  If you must drink this water, be sure to boil it first.

One easy way to store tap water is to simply fill your bathtub.  Just be mindful that many tub stoppers do not provide a watertight seal, so purchasing a more secure-fitting rubber stopper is advised.

  1. Lighting

Locate your flashlight and batteries quickly. Avoid using candles or other open sources of flame, as these present significant fire hazards and will increase the heat of your apartment.  Be sure to brush up on your fire safety tips now!

While most smartphones offer a flashlight feature, it is advised that you use a dedicated flashlight, ensuring you will always have a charged phone to use for emergency calls.

  1. Control the temperature

If it is daylight, close all your blinds as soon as you have proper lighting.  Blocking additional sunlight will help keep temperatures cool. 

If your apartment was at a comfortable temperature before the power went out, consider leaving your windows closed to trap cool air.  Once the unit becomes warmer, open your windows and try to maximize the breeze coming into your apartment.

Consider which rooms in your apartment tend to be hottest and try to block access to these rooms by closing doors or hanging curtains, making the area you need to keep cool smaller.

Battery-powered fans can make all the difference when waiting for the power to return.  Consider making a simple AC unit by placing a battery powered fan over a bowl of ice and water, cooling the air being blown by the fan.

Another easy way to lower the temperature of a room is by hanging wet towels throughout your apartment.  The moisture on the towels will cool the room as the water evaporates, providing energy-free cooling.

  1. Manage appliances

With immediate concerns managed, go through your apartment unplugging electrical appliances, leaving a single lamp or light plugged in to indicate when power returns.  By unplugging appliances, you help ensure the return of power does not create a second power surge, leading to a lengthier second outage.

Be mindful to avoid opening your refrigerator and freezer during the outage.  Refrigerators will reliably keep food cold for about two hours after losing power, while frozen food might remain at safe temperatures for about 24 hours, longer if the freezer was well packed with items.

Be sure to check the temperature of your perishable food after the electricity returns and discard anything that has spoiled.  

  1. Determine the scope of the outage

You will next want to determine the scope of the power outage.  Start by checking your circuit breaker. If any switches are flipped and show an orange indicator, the outage may be limited to your apartment unit. 

If your circuit breaker seems fine, the problem has likely impacted a larger area and will likely mean you and your neighbors will be out of power for a longer period of time.

  1. Stay connected

Whether you are well-prepared for the power outage and capable of helping neighbors or need assistance yourself, be sure to connect with your neighbors. By pooling resources and energy, you can make the power outage safer for everyone on your floor.

One good way to ensure you stay connected is to invest in a small solar-powered mobile phone charger and battery bank. While it is a bit pricey, the Waka Waka power bank is a well-reviewed, reliable source of power.

If you or one of your neighbors appears to be in serious danger, use your landline phone, mobile phone or a runner to contact 911 or your nearest police/fire department.

Power outages are an unfortunate but unavoidable challenge to New Yorkers, which is why SelectCare has devoted significant resources to the agency’s emergency preparedness and response procedures.

If you worry about yourself, a loved one or neighbor during peak power outage periods, now is the best time to call SelectCare and learn how we help New Yorkers live happier, healthier lives in their long-time homes.  To learn more, call SelectCare or request a free in-home care guide today!