If you live in Chicago, you may have experienced a power failure or two this summer due to scorching heat waves and/or massive thunderstorms. And, if you are reading this right now, it most likely means you have successfully navigated through these blackouts—your electricity restored, computer back online and AC pumping. Which is great! But for next time, here are a few tips every Chicago homeowner can follow to ensure their property is protected during future electricity outages.
Candles are a nice, ambient way of lighting your home through any blackout. But be careful not to place lit candles too close to drapes, wooden cabinets, upholstered sofas or other pieces of potentially flammable furniture, lest they catch on fire. And never leave lit candles unattended or within reach of children (or pets’ wagging tails!). For this reason, it never hurts to stock up on battery-powered flashlights—just as much light with a lot less risk and worry involved.
Many Chicago homes with basements or garden levels have sump pumps. It is a good idea to install a battery-powered backup system that can take over in the case of an electrical outage. This is especially important when the outage is caused by a lightening strike or downed tree in a thunderstorm since that type of weather is generally accompanied by large amounts of rain—exactly when a sump pump is most needed so your home’s lower level does not get flooded.
Unplugging electrical appliances during a big storm is a smart idea as well. If your home or neighborhood electrical transformer is struck by lightening it could send an electrical surge through the power lines that fries your TV, computer, stereo and other electronics. The use of surge protectors will help in the case that you are not around to unplug everything during a storm. But if you are home, it’s good practice to unplug any high-voltage appliances.
Without power, hot water tanks can typically hold heat up to 24 hours. You never know how long a power outage is going to last, so hot water should be used sparingly. On the same note, refrigerators and freezers should be opened only when absolutely necessary. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, a closed refrigerator will keep food cold for about four hours, while a full freezer will maintain its temperature for approximately 48 hours. If the power remains out for an extended period of time, you might want to pick up some dry or block ice to keep your refrigerated food cold.
The most important precaution you can take to keep your home (and yourself) safe during a power outage is to prepare yourself ahead of time. Every Chicago homeowner should equip themselves with emergency kits containing flashlights, batteries, bottles of water and medical supplies. In the event of a blackout situation, or any emergency for that matter, this kit can come in handy and you will be glad you have it when needed. Canned foods and a hand-crank can opener are other helpful supplies to stock up on, as well as a land-based telephone capable of operating without electricity.
Whether on your property or in the street, never approach a downed electrical wire. Stay at least 10 feet away from it and even further if possible, especially in the rain because electricity travels through water. Report the downed line to the city as soon as possible.
A couple more helpful tips for weathering a Chicago power outage: make sure you know how to manually override electrical garage doors and home alarm systems. And if you’re stuck in extreme heat with no air conditioning or fans to cool your home due to a blackout, seek other shelter until the power comes back on.