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Plan & Prepare

Power Outages: What to do During a Blackout

During a Blackout: The Basics

Medical, mobility, communication or other needs:

  • Call 911 if you are dependent on equipment that requires electricity and have an urgent need.
  • Monitor the amount of time the electricity is out to determine whether to move medications requiring refrigeration into an alternate temperature controlled container.
  • Individuals and caregivers can click here to learn more about access and functional needs planning.

All members of the public:

  • Call your utility to notify it of the outage and learn about area repair schedules.
  • Listen to your battery-powered radio or television in your emergency kit and monitor social media for updated information, and for any directions from public safety officials.
  • Avoid candles because of the extreme risk of fire. Use only battery powered lights, such as flashlights, for emergency lighting.
  • Keep your refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to avoid food spoilage.

Prevent carbon monoxide poisoning:

  • Never operate a generator indoors, in your basement or in your garage.
  • Never cook indoors with charcoal.
  • Gas oven are unsafe to heat your home.
  • Be sure you have proper ventilation if using afuel-burning space heater, fireplace, wood or coal stove.
    • Follow manufacturers’ instructions
    • Never substitute one type of fuel for another.
  • Use only safe sources of alternate heat such as a fireplace, a small well-vented wood or coal stove, or portable space heaters. Always follow manufacturers' instructions and never substitute one type of fuel for another
  • Avoid elevators.
  • Turn off or unplug lights and appliances to prevent a circuit overload when the power returns. Leave one light on to let you know when power has been restored.
  • Check on neighbors, especially the ill, those with electric-dependent medical needs and the elderly.

Cold weather:

  • Take care of your house:
    • Never use your oven as a source of heat!
    • Use only safe sources of alternate heat such as a fireplace, a small well-vented wood or coal stove, or portable space heaters. Always follow manufacturers' instructions and  neversubsutitute one type of fuel for another.
    • Close off unused rooms.
    • Turn on faucets slightly to prevent pipes from freezing. Running water will not freeze as quickly.
  • Take care of yourself and your family:
    • If power may be out for a long time, plan to go to another location that has heat to keep warm.
    • Dress in warm, light layers and wear a cap for warmth.
    • Eat well-balanced meals for energy.

Hot weather:

  • Watch for heat-related illnesses, especially in children who may not be able to verbalize how they feel.
  • Drink plenty of water, even if you do not feel thirsty.
  • Provide plenty of fresh, cool water for your pets.

Food Safety

Keeping Food Safe During an Emergency” from the United States Department of Agriculture provides detailed information about preparing your food supply for an emergency and deciding what to keep or throw away after a power outage.

Food safety tips:

  • Refrigerated foods:
    • Can keep for up to four hours during a blackout.
    • Discard any perishable refrigerated foods that have been above 40 degrees F for more than two hours.
  • Freezer items:
    • Food in full freezer will stay frozen for about two days with the door kept closed. Do not open the door unless you must.
    • Food will stay frozen about one day in a half-full freezer.
  • ”When it doubt, throw it out.” Discard any food with an unusual odor, color or texture

Generator Safety

Generator safety tips:

For comprehensive generator safety click here for detailed generator safety information from the New Jersey Division of Fire Safety

  • Consult with a licensed electrician before obtaining a generator.
  • Learn about air quality permit requirements that may exist in your area.
  • Always keep the generator outdoors, due to the extreme dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning.  Never operate it inside, in the basement or the garage.
  • Never connect a generator to a home's electrical system unless you have an approved power transfer switch installed by a qualified electrician!
  • Always connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator

(Much of the information on this page is adapted from information provided by the American Red Cross and the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes)

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New Jersey Office of Emergency Management
P. O. Box 7068
Trenton, NJ 08628


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