Power Failure

Power failures can be caused by any number of events such as storms, damaged utility line, earthquake, damaged transformer, etc. Power failures can occur at any time and something as simple as a mylar balloon shorting out a transformer can trigger an outage. According to the January 2018 newsletter from the Snohomish PUD the causes of power failures are trees or limbs (34%), equipment failure or fuse (27%), animals (18%), unknown causes (12%), motor vehicle (5%), lightning (3%), and underground digging (1%). Keep these items ready in case the power failures:

  • One or more lanterns ready and have extra fuel/batteries
  • One or more flashlights ready and have extra batteries
  • Several long-burning candles

Before the power fails be sure to check your lights and batteries to make sure that they are in working order. Here are some steps that you can take when the power fails:

  • Use your lights on the lowest power setting for your situation to maximum battery life
  • Keep refrigerators and freezers closed as much as possible to retain the cold
  • Put a coin on a frozen cup of water or ice cube tray (more on this later)
  • Get warm blankets, clothing, or sleeping bags ready

If you do not have a generator then you just have to wait until power is restored. Try to make the best of the situation and enjoy the lantern light and candle light.

Freezer Testing

When the power goes out your refrigerator and freezer will retain the cold for a fair bit of time. Keep the door closed as much as possible. Cold escapes with each opening of the door. If the power is out for a long period of time then your food may unfreeze and spoil. There is a simple way to verify how well your freezer retained the cold. When the power fails place a small coin on a cup of frozen water or on the ice in an ice cube tray. After the power is restored check the coin.

  • If the coin is on top of the ice then your freezer did not allow food to thaw.
  • If the coin is part way frozen in the ice then there was thawing and your food may or may not be spoiled.
  • If the coin in on the bottom of the ice then the ice (and the food) thawed and refroze after the power was restored. In this last case you will probably have to discard the food in the refrigerator and/or freezer.
  • The coin is in water but the food is still cold. In this case the food defrosted (either fully or partially). If the food is cold then it should be safe to eat but you should NOT refreeze it. Use the cold food as you would any other defrosted food.