“Electricity is really just organized lightning.” George Carlin
Virginia consistently ranks in the top 10 states with the highest number of reported power outages each year, according to BlackoutTracker.com. In 2018, this affected over 5.3 million households, with a total duration of 52,000 hours. An average of 7500 homes was affected by each outage, and this doesn’t take into account individual home outages that may be caused by a fallen tree, a small animal touching a transformer, or a damaged powerline from the street.
Power outages can be expensive. Here is just some of the havoc they can cause:
Gas and generator costs
Lost wages from time off work
Burst or frozen pipes
Alternative shelter (hotel) costs
Fire from candles left unattended
Robbery where alarm systems are not battery-backed-up
Blown electrical appliances from power surges
Medical expenses from lack of air conditioning or heat
Flooding if a sump pump isn’t able to run
A whole house generator can help alleviate many of these potential issues, or even simply a generator that will keep your refrigerator and a few lights running is helpful. But what else can you do to mitigate loss in a blackout?
Shock It To You
More than 30,000 non-fatal shock accidents happen each year in U.S. homes. These happen because electricity always seeks a path to the ground. Electrical contact injuries happen when people get in the way of the electricity’s path.
One of the first things homeowners do when the power goes out is to check to see if a neighbor’s house is also dark. Sometimes this can mean going outside for a better look. If you see a downed wire, steer clear. Even if you think the downed line is for your cable, do not go near it. Call your power company and report the downed line immediately.
If you see the power is on at your neighbors, your next instinct is to go check the fuse box. Be sure your hands are not wet and that you have no metal jewelry on your hands or wrists. Metal is a conductor that can draw a live current towards it. Good rubber-soled shoes aren’t a bad idea either.
Assuming all is well at the fuse box and you have reported your outage to your power company, you are done. Now, wait patiently for the power company to do its thing. Don’t try to make any repairs yourself, unless you are a certified, licensed, well-educated, world-renowned electrician. A few hours without power isn’t worth your life.
Dad Joke: What is another name for an electrical appliance? A: Shock Absorber
When the power company has gotten its act together and reconnected the power to your home, it goes through a natural surge condition. This “tidal wave” of electricity can destroy electronic devices and appliances that have been left “on.”
So when the power goes out, either unplug or turn off anything plugged in. Computers, phones, lamps, fans, air conditioners, televisions, kitchen appliances, you name it. If it was running when the power went out, unplug it if it isn’t connected to a surge protector.
Surge protectors are no longer simply power strips. They come in a variety of options, like outlets that plug into your wall socket and include USB ports. It is smart to use these for all of your electronic devices and appliances as you may not be home when an outage occurs and cannot unplug them. Also, power surges can occur when there is no blackout. If lightning hits a line that runs to your house, that will destroy most unprotected devices.