Q: I am never prepared when the power goes out! What can I do to be ready if it happens again?

A: I believe it is never too late to get prepared. Recently we have experienced a heat wave that brought with it a flex alert, meaning the electricity grid is under stress and the community is asked not to use major appliances and to conserve power during the hottest parts of the day. This is an attempt to prevent the power sources from overloading and needing to be shut off temporarily.

A power outage in high heat can be very dangerous, especially for older adults and people with certain medical conditions. Without the ability to use air conditioning, fans, and your fridge, these power outages can lead to other health concerns and heat stroke.

Many people wait until they are experiencing a power outage to try and buy a generator or other emergency supplies, but often by that time they are sold out because of the high demand. It is better to prepare when there is not a current power emergency.

I recently purchased a portable solar powered generator for my home. This will not power my air conditioner or my whole house, but will provide an ongoing power source for a fan, a mini fridge, and smaller phones and electronics. It can be recharged during the day with the solar panel.

Think about what you need during a power outage. If you rely on power for medical equipment, such as oxygen or a CPAP machine, then you will need to have a generator that can manage these energy needs. There are some rebates available for qualifying generator purchases if you live in a designated area. You can learn more here https://www.sce.com/residential/rebates-savings/rebates

Previously, I only had small portable chargers that worked for my cell phone and tablet. These are very helpful and ensured I could still have communication and watch a downloaded movie or two in a power outage. Having a cell phone during a power outage is very helpful because you can still receive cell service and check emergency information, make calls and look up information, as needed.

Once you know high heat or storms are coming you can prepare by ensuring your phone and other devices are fully charged. Keep candles and flashlights on hand and have extra batteries. Flameless battery powered candles can be bought at a drugstore or the 99 Cents Store and are safer then candles to leave on as nightlights on while you are sleeping.

If you drink filtered water from the fridge you will need to have bottled water on hand because that mechanism will not be working. It is recommended to have one gallon of water per person for a 3-day supply in case of an emergency.

If the power goes out, you want to keep your refrigerator and freezer doors closed. Be sure to have a supply of non-perishable food in your home. The food in the fridge will stay good for about 4 hours if closed and a full freezer can stay cold for up to 48 hours. If you have medications or things you require from the fridge, you will want to take them out quickly and keep them in a chest with ice for use as needed. There is helpful information on how to prepare for a power outage here https://www.ready.gov/power-outages

If you are without air conditioning and need to go someone to stay cool, look up your city’s cooling centers. In Los Angeles County you can find them here https://ready.lacounty.gov/heat/ and in Ventura County look here https://www.vcemergency.com/

Power outages due to high heat, storms or fires will no doubt be something we have to deal with in California for years to come. It is never too late to get prepared. Think through your needs and make a list of supplies to maintain. The next time the power goes out you will not be caught off guard, and will be able to remain calm, safe and healthy.

Martha Shapiro can be reached at Senior Concerns at 805-497-0189 or by email at mshapiro@seniorconcerns.org.

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