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  • Majority of Puerto Rico Without Power Following Electrical Plant Fire

    puerto-rico-blackout-via-nbc - Puerto Rico Most of the island was without power - image via NBC

    On Wednesday, September 21, a huge fire at a southern Puerto Rico power plant caused a blackout in 1.5 million homes and businesses.

    "The entire island is without power," Angel Crespo, director of Puerto Rico's fire department, told the Associated Press.

    As of Thursday afternoon, more than a million were still without power, including my mother-in-law, Ruth Lezcano.

    She told her son Jimmy that her main concerns were lack of water and uncomfortable heat and humidity.

    The blackout knocked out pumps at water plants, leaving her and many others without water.

    Fortunately, she had water storage. She keeps five five-gallon buckets (like the “Homer” buckets from Home Depot) full of water in case of hurricanes. She’s been using a bucket for each activity that uses water, like washing dishes, bathing, and flushing the toilet.

    “She hasn’t been able to do laundry for a bit, other than light stuff she can wash in the sink,” her son said.

    The blackout left islanders uncomfortably hot. The temperature on Wednesday and Thursday in the suburb of San Juan where she lives was 87 degrees, according to Weather.com. At night, it fell to 77 degrees.

    The power loss created more problems than just temperature discomfort.

    During the blackout, Jimmy was worried because he couldn’t contact his mother via her cell phone.

    “She probably had it turned off to save power,” he said.

    We sell small generators and other emergency power equipment that are excellent during this type of emergency.

    Ready.gov recommends keeping cell phones charged and having an alternate power source. Also, have an emergency contact outside the immediate area that all family members can use to pass information about their safety.

    buying-ice-via-fox-news - Puerto Rico Locals had to buy ice to keep their food at a safe temperature - image via Fox News

    Lezcano, who is diabetic, also had to worry about her insulin. Insulin manufacturers recommend storing it in the refrigerator. Insulin supplies in use may be kept at room temperature (between 56°F and 80°F). High temperatures could cause her insulin supply to go bad.

    Ready.gov recommends that people with special medical needs make backup power plans and contact their power company before an outage so it can prioritize getting power to their home.

    Although one Twitter user jokingly compared the blackout to “The Purge,” a movie in which crime is legalized for 12 hours and emergency services are suspended, Lezcano said there didn’t seem to be any more crime than usual. She was concerned about running low on supplies: traffic was snarled, and lines were long at supermarkets and gas stations, according to USA Today.

    Police officers directed traffic at major intersections all day Thursday. Four were hit by cars.  One person was hospitalized after being trapped in an elevator overnight, according to USA Today. Another was killed by carbon monoxide poisoning from a leaking generator. Broken generators also caused 15 fires around the island. All the fires were extinguished, and no one was injured in the blazes.

    Lezcano was hoping the power would return Friday. In the meantime, she sat outside and people-watched, her son Jimmy said.

    “She was bored because she couldn’t have her Netflix,” he joked.


    February - Power Banner - Puerto Rico

  • QB Sneak is Easier in the Dark: Lessons from the 2013 Super Bowl Power Outage

    Super Bowl 50 is coming up Sunday. So it’s a good a time as any to remember the 2013 Super Bowl, when a power outage left half the Superdome dark.

    Before the lights went out, the Super Bowl was humming along. The second-half kickoff had just produced the longest play in Super Bowl history when the Baltimore Ravens’ Jacoby Jones returned the kick 108 yards. Baltimore was leading the San Francisco 49ers 28-6 and the 49ers had the ball when, suddenly, half the stadium went dark. CBS, which was broadcasting the game, lost power to its main booth and some of its cameras, and had to broadcast from its secondary area.

    "Everything shut down," Carl Trinchero, a 49ers fan from Napa, Calif., who was in the Superdome, told the Associated Press. "No credit cards, vending machines shut down, everything shut down."

    Power goes out in the third quarter of Super Bowl XLVII  between the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Raven on Sunday, Feb. 3, 2013, at the Superdome in New Orleans. (Jim Gensheimer/Bay Area News Group) Fortunately, the Super Bowl only went half-dark - Image via Mercury News

    Later investigation showed that a recently-installed electrical relay device designed to prevent a power outage actually triggered one. It wasn’t set to handle the amount of power needed at the Superdome, so signaled a surge when there wasn’t one and tripped, just like a circuit breaker in a home. It took 22 minutes to turn the power back on and 34 minutes before the game began again.

    However, because several safeguards were in place, what could have been a tragedy became more of a joke. Facebook even got a new community: “I survived the Super Bowl 47 power outage.”

    First, backup power immediately kicked in. The outage only affected half the building and auxiliary power kept the field from going completely dark.

    "People like me looked at that and were like, 'That's awesome that it only went half-dark,'" Juliette Kayyem, a board member of the International Centre for Sport Security (ICSS), told Vice.com.

    In a power outage at home, light can be your best friend to prevent panic. Make sure you’ve got easily accessible backup lighting.

    Even with backup power, many systems didn’t work. Concourses were lit only by small emergency lights. One elevator got stuck with people inside, and firefighters had to rescue them. Credit card machines shut down.

    Have you thought about what else you might lose during a power outage?

    out-of-service-atm - Super Bowl Image via Real World Survivor

    If you live in a high-rise building, for example, water most likely is pumped to your floor. Lose power, and the pumps won’t work. Also, do you keep emergency cash in small bills? In a power outage, you won’t be able to access an ATM, and your credit card won’t work.

    Communication proved vital to keeping people calm. The public address announcer immediately came on and encouraged fans to stay in their seats. Social media went crazy: AT&T reported that in the Superdome, cell data use was almost doubled from the same time the year before. In fact, the NFL’s security chief said fans were calm because of their preoccupation with their electronic devices.

    Do you have a way to receive communication during a power outage? Do you have a way to charge your phones? Be aware that during a disaster, cell phone service will likely be jammed, so try to use text messaging to communicate.

    Although authorities haven’t found any credible security threats to Super Bowl 50, they are concerned about a recent spate of attacks on fiber optic cables.  Since July 2014, vandals in northern California have cut at least 16 fiber optic lines, which carry Internet, TV, and phone information. Tens of thousands of people have been affected, but so have banks, stores, and anyone else that uses broadband services to communicate information. Hypothetically speaking, it would be bad enough if a person can’t access their (expensive) e-ticket to get into the event; it’d be worse if, say, a hospital can’t access a person’s medical records.

    So this weekend, be prepared. Be safe. Have fun. And go Broncos.

    - Melissa


    February - Power Banner - Super Bowl

  • The Power’s Out…Now What? 5 Steps to a Better Blackout

    Your town is landlocked, so there’s no threat of hurricanes. Tornadoes tend to avoid your state, and earthquakes just don’t happen. So what’s to worry about?

    Blackout ManhattanChances are you use electricity in your home. No matter where you live, there is always a threat that your power will go out. In fact, the United States experiences “more blackouts than any other developed nation,” according to International Business Times. They went on to say that the number of power losses along the U.S. grid have escalated 285% since 1984. And, with the demand for power still growing, those numbers will just get higher.

    So hopefully you’re preparing for the inevitable blackout. But once it does come, what then?


    1. Light It Up

    Power Outage with Candles BlackoutFirst of all, know where your backup lights are (flashlights, emergency candles, etc.), and keep them in an easy-to-reach place. This way, you’ll be able to find everything else you need quickly – without having to stumble through the dark. When using candles, it is important to exercise caution, as they have the potential to start fires. While a larger fire will provide more light, it will also cost you a lot more in damages. Pros and cons, I guess.


    1. Power to the People

    Now that you have light, the next step is to give yourself power. You can’t always have a super-generator on hand to keep your entire home up and running for the duration of the blackout (although that would be nice), but you can prepare with power packs, batteries, and chargers that will keep your electronic devices working despite the lack of electricity. This way, your phone will always have a charge, just in case you need to make an emergency call – or play an emergency game of Angry Birds. That being said, try and keep the games and movies to a minimum so as to not run down your power sources before you need them for actual emergency purposes (not that Angry Birds isn’t an emergency, but…you know what I mean).

    20121026-_MG_2503_ccs blackout Generators like this Goal Zero Yeti are safe to use indoors because they don't run off gas. It can also be hooked up to solar panels!

    A note about generators: Most generators should never be used inside, no matter how safe you think it is. You may be able to find some indoor-safe generators, but unless stated as such (and certified), don’t risk it. Carbon monoxide is deadly and you may not even realize you’re being poisoned by it. The same goes for grills, camp stoves, and other gas-powered cookers and heaters. Basically, if it’s portable, chances are it’s not safe to use indoors (this includes the garage and carports. There is danger even if there is ventilation). There are, however, generators you can have charged well in advance that will last you many hours. Because these run off stored electricity, they are safe to use inside.


    1. Stay Safe

    If it’s cold outside, keep to a higher level if possible, as warm air rises. Wrap yourself up in blankets and layer up your clothing to keep in that body heat. Alternately, if it’s really hot outside and your power goes out, make your way to the basement or other cool area. Wear light, loose clothing as well. Regulating your body temperature is vital during a blackout.

    If it is dark, don’t try and venture around your home without a light. Falling down stairs or knocking your head on an open cupboard can make things a lot worse. Likewise, if the power's out, the streets will most likely be dark as well, so it might be best to just avoid going out into the blackness of night.


    1. Keep Your Food Safe

    According to Ready.gov, food in your refrigerator should stay cold for about 4 hours, so long as you keep the door shut. A freezer full of frozen food will maintain its temperature for up to 48 hours.


    1. Know When to Call it Quits

    Sometimes, the best thing to do is admit defeat. If the blackout is going to last longer than you’re prepared for, you might need to check in to a hotel or stay with a family member nearby. Doing so is not showing weakness – it’s showing wisdom. If you’re having troubles preparing food, staying warm or keeping cool, finding another location to spend the night or next few days would be a wise move indeed.


     What are some other important steps to take during a power outage? Let us know in the comments below!


    February - Power Banner Blackout

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