Power outages happen - now what?

January 26, 2024

In an age where our lives are intricately woven with electrical conveniences, a power outage can bring your daily routine to a sudden halt. But the fact is, power outages happen and preparing for them is more than just a matter of comfort. By adopting these simple, proactive measures, you can ensure your household is ready to face unexpected, prolonged electric outages.  

Before an Outage: The Blueprint for Preparedness   

  • Lighting: Store a flashlight with extra batteries in an easily accessible location. Opt for flashlights over candles to minimize fire risks. 
  • Food: Stock up on shelf-stable, non-perishable food items. Ensure you have a manual can opener to access canned goods without power. 
  • Ice: Fill plastic containers with water and store them in your freezer. These can act as ice blocks to keep your food fresh during a power outage. 
  • Communication: Keep your mobile devices charged and consider investing in backup batteries or portable chargers. Write down important contact numbers so you're not solely dependent on digital contact lists. 
  • Electronics: Use surge protectors to protect sensitive electronics like TVs and computers.  
  • Cash and Fuel: Have a reserve of cash in small denominations and a full gas tank or charge for your vehicle, as ATMs and gas stations may be out of service during an outage. 
  • Generator Safety: If you own a generator, inform your utility provider and ensure it is installed in a well-ventilated outdoor area, away from all doors, windows, and vent openings. An improper setup can pose risks to your property and the safety of line workers. More generator safety tips here. 
  • Outage Alerts: Sign up for PG&E alerts at pge.com/outagealerts 
  • Medical Devices: If you use a medical device that requires electricity, sign up to receive advanced notice of public safety power outages here 
  • Stay Informed: Register for AlertSF to receive notifications about local emergencies in your neighborhood by texting your zip code to 888-777.  

During an Outage: Navigating the Darkness 


  • Community Support: Check on neighbors, especially those who may require additional assistance during the outage. 
  • Appliance Management: Turn off and unplug major appliances to prevent unexpected startups when power returns, which can overload circuits. 
  • Safe Heating: using your stove or oven to heat your home is a fire hazard and can cause a buildup of carbon monoxide. If using a space heater with lithium ion batteries (also known as solar generators), leave the heater on a low setting and do not leave it unattended. 
  • Food/Medicine Preservation: Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed. Use pre-frozen water containers to maintain low temperatures and preserve food or temperature sensitive medications. 
  • Security Measures: Contact your alarm company, as system functionalities may be compromised during an outage. 
  • Emergency Services: In cases of medical, police, or fire emergencies, dial 911 immediately.  
  • For other city services and information, call 311 or use the 311 mobile app. More information on when to call 911 and 311 at sf.gov/oktocall 

After an Outage: Restoring Normalcy 

Once power is restored, take the time to reset clocks, thermostats, and any programmed equipment to their proper settings. This ensures a seamless transition back to your daily routine. 

Power Outage Preparedness as a Stepping Stone 

While the steps above are tailored to electric outage preparedness, they inherently fortify your household's readiness for other emergencies, such as earthquakes. Both scenarios demand self-sufficiency, clear communication, and a proactive approach to safety and resource management. By preparing for a power outage, you're not just illuminating your home during dark times; you're also building a foundation of resilience.