Electricity Outages - Lifehacks

We know the majority of our everyday activities are powered by electricity, so when the power goes off, it can add a level of chaos to your day. So, we have a few suggestions to help you get on with your day, even if the power is off.

Our top tips for coping in a power outage

Essentials

If the power goes off unexpectedly, you may find yourself caught short on a few essentials – communications, keeping warm, and keeping fed.

Keeping warm

If you don’t have a wood fire, we recommend having a gas heater that uses a BBQ bottle for heating when the power is out.  Just be sure to keep your home ventilated, and turn the gas off when you go to bed at night.  Extra clothing and blankets are also a good way to keep warm.

Preparing meals

A BBQ is a simple way to prepare hot meals.  Eat your fresh food first, then frozen, and finally your pantry foods. Keep the doors closed on your refrigerator and freezer to keep the cold in as long as possible. Civil Defence recommends keeping a range of tinned foods handy, in case power is off for extended periods.

If you have a gas hob, this will still work but you will need matches to ignite it.

Keeping informed

In a Civil Defence emergency, radio stations are the best source of information, which is why it is important to have a battery-operated radio in your home, with spare batteries.  If you don’t have one, you can listen to your car radio, but be aware that extending use may drain the battery.

Keeping in touch

If the power goes out, it’s worth checking with your neighbour to see if they have power. It’s also a good way to make sure they are OK, because in a major disaster, they may need your help.

Modern land lines will usually not work during a power cut.  An ‘old fashioned’ line-powered corded phone (using a copper line) will still work, so keeping one for emergencies is a good plan.  However, if you’re solely on fibre for your phone and internet, these phones won’t work.

Spare battery packs for mobiles will allow you to top up your phone battery, or you could charge it using the cigarette lighter in your car. Just make sure you have the right connector.

If all your contacts are stored electronically, you may wish to keep a print out of essential contact numbers somewhere safe.

Lighting options

A torch with spare batteries is an essential emergency kit item in any home.  Other options may include gas-powered camping lanterns, or alternatively, a good old fashioned candle. But please be careful – candles and gas lights are a fire risk in your home, so keep them well clear of drapes and other soft furnishings or clothing. Place them in a secure location, clear of the reach of children.  Be sure to extinguish candles fully before going to bed, and make sure any gas sources are turned off completely at the source.

Medical equipment / chilled medications

If you are depending on medical equipment powered by electricity, make sure you let your retailer know. 

If you have medication that must be kept cool, you may want to invest in a small back-up generator which could power your fridge (or other electrical devices) for up to four hours. Alternatively, you could place it in a chiller bag and transfer it an unaffected friend or family member’s fridge.

Cash society

If there is a major event that takes out power in the city, eftpos terminals and ATM’s will not work.  You may want to have an ‘emergency cash fund’ stored somewhere secure for situations such as these. Or when you desperately need chocolate and you can’t find your wallet (just be sure to top it up again).



gas heater 2
Mornings

It’s always a busy time – and for some the process of getting ready for school and/or work is a finely tuned process, that can easily be thrown into disarray by a power outage. Here are a few suggestions to help you ride it out.

Eeek – the shower’s cold!

Can you grab a shower at work, at school, or at a friend’s place not affected by the power outage?  Baby wipes are also a great way to freshen up if you can’t have a hot wash.

I can’t do my hair!

Can you take your hair dryer or other grooming appliance to work with you?  Or maybe this is the day to go with that relaxed ‘beach’ look... or a great excuse to try out an ‘up’ do!

I can’t make my breakfast!

If you normally have toast, go continental with cereal and milk, or make a sandwich instead. If you have a gas hob or BBQ, you could cook eggs, or fry bread in a fry pan. Or, if funds allow, you could grab a hot coffee and a muffin on the way to work.

My shirt needs an iron!

Before you get ready for work in the morning, spray your wrinkled clothes lightly with a water bottle and let them hang to dry. Or you can lay your wrinkled item on a flat surface and put a damp cloth towel (or if that isn’t an option, a paper towel) on top of it. Press down and smooth out the creased area and leave to dry. This method can take as little as 15 minutes, if you don't mind your clothes being a tiny bit wet.  Failing that, hide the wrinkles under a nice sweater or jacket.  Your body warmth will soon help soften the creases.



hair dryer
Being productive in the day

Having no power can really make things grind to a halt – from doing chores to working, we all reply on electricity to get stuff done in the day.  Here are our some suggested ‘work arounds’ for coping without power during the day.

Alternative power supply

If you work from home, or want to ensure essential household appliances continue to run, you may wish to invest in a petrol or diesel generator.  These can cost from around $240 for a 900w two-stroke petrol generator, which will provide electricity for up to four hours.

If you are using a petrol or diesel generator, you will need to ensure you have plenty of fuel ready to use.  Your generator should only be used in well-ventilated areas, and you will need to be careful with power cords as they may create a trip hazard.

Stay online

Unfortunately, your copper or fibre internet connection is likely to be affected during a power cut. However, cell towers have back-up generators, so your 3G or 4G connection should continue to work.  If you need to get online, you can either access the internet from your phone or tablet using your phone data, or use your phone to create a WiFi hot spot for your laptop or WiFi-only tablet.

You could also head out to an unaffected public area which offers WiFi such as a café or library.

Protect your electronics

If you need time to shut down sensitive electrical devices, an uninterruptable power supply (UPS) will kick in and provide a near instantaneous power supply to allow you to safely shut down your equipment.  A UPS can also protect equipment from voltage spikes or power quality changes.

Chores (or boredom busters!)

If you had a day lined up of vacuuming, washing, and doing the dishes, having no power will certainly put a hold on some of your plans. But with no TV and no internet, today could be a day to get a few of your ‘spring cleaning’ jobs done instead.  And it can also keep kids busy, having a family day around the house.

Off-grid chores

  • Wash the windows
  • Wash the car
  • Wipe down skirting boards
  • Sort out messy cupboards and draws
  • File that stack of bills and paper work
  • Walk the dog
  • Dust surfaces
  • De-cobweb the house using a broom
  • Gardening / mow the lawn (unless you use an electric mower)
Automatic garage doors

If you know there is going to be a power shut down, and you have an automatic garage door, you may want to park your car outside before the electricity goes off.  Alternatively, there should be a manual override that lets you open the door from the inside.

Charging electronic devices

If you have a device that can be powered through a USB cord, a Power Bank is a great asset to have.  Small power banks capable of a one-off smart phone battery top up start from $15, through to one powerful enough to jump start a car for around $200!

It’s a good idea to get into the habit of charging your phone while you sleep, to give you maximum battery during your waking hours.  To extend your phone life, turn off all Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and close any applications running in the background.



cellphone
Evenings
Preparing meals

A BBQ is a simple way to prepare hot meals.  Eat your fresh food first, then frozen, and finally your pantry foods. Keep the doors closed on your refrigerator and freezer to keep the cold in for as long as possible. Civil Defence recommends keeping a range of tinned foods handy, in case power is off for extended periods.

If you have a gas hob, this will still work but you will need matches to ignite it.

Keeping warm

If you don’t have a wood fire, we recommend having a gas heater that uses a BBQ bottle for heating when the power is out.  Just be sure to keep your home ventilated, and turn the gas off when you go to bed at night.  Extra clothing and blankets are also a good way to keep warm.

Let there be light!

A torch with spare batteries is an essential emergency kit item in any home.  Other options may include gas-powered camping lanterns, or alternatively, a good old fashioned candle. But please be careful – candles and gas lights are a fire risk in your home, so keep them well clear of drapes and other soft furnishings or clothing. Place them in a secure location, clear of the reach of children.  Be sure to extinguish candles fully before going to bed, and make sure any gas sources are turned off completely at the source.

Entertaining kids (big & little)

When the lights go out at night, your entertainment usually goes with it, particularly TV, tablets and computers.  Here are some ideas for keeping yourself (and any children) entertained during a power outage.  You will need a torch (with spare batteries) or candles for light, and a little imagination!

  • Make shadow puppets on the walls.
  • Play card games or board games.
  • Do some arts and craft – you can make hats with paper, colouring pencils and a stapler or sellotape.
  • Play ‘Spotlight’ –  it’s hide and seek meets tag, with a torch. One person counts to a number while everyone else hides. Using the torch, they then hunt out those in hiding.  If they ‘spot’ someone with the torch, they must yell out their name. The first person caught is the next person to do the hunting. You can either re-start the game after the first person is caught, or the other way to play the game is to continue to hunt everyone out, sending them to ‘jail’ once they are found, restarting once everyone is in jail.
  • Story telling – if it’s too dark to read a story together, take turns telling stories, or even act them out.
  • Play charades.
  • Make a fort, and pretend you’re camping.
  • If you have glow sticks, make shapes in the dark, like you would with sparklers at Guy Fawkes. 
  • Talk. Having no electronic distractions can be a great chance to catch up with each other, particularly your busy, social, teens!
  • Take the kids spot lighting, and see if you can find a possum (or the neighbour’s cat, if you are in town!).
  • Star gaze – if it’s a clear night, wrap up warm and lay under the stars. See what constellations you can find and name.
  • Write a letter to someone special – maybe a grandparent or a friend – they will get a lovely surprise when they get ‘old-fashioned’ mail!

torch