Survival Plan 4 — Short Term Power Outage

Short term power outages are so common we don’t really think of them as emergency situations, and they hardly even qualify as “emergencies.” I suspect that most households have some sort of short term power outage plan already in place, but we’ll review some of the steps you should take in case you’ve overlooked any.

Where I live, the electrical grid isn’t a “grid.” It’s a single power line with no redundant supply, so every time a squirrel fries his acorns we lose power for at least a few seconds, and sometimes hours. The power blinks off an average of about once or twice a month.

Planning for short term power outage

  1. Flashlights. Keep flashlights in known locations (at least two). Be diligent about always putting them back where they belong, so you can feel your way through the dark and find them. Check them periodically to make sure the batteries have a charge, and keep a spare set with the flashlight. Tape the batteries lengthwise over the poles with electrical tape to keep them from discharging by contact with metallic objects, and tape them together to make them easier to find in the dark.
  2. If you work from home with a computer, purchase a backup power supply with surge protection. The idea is to have enough battery power to give you time to save your work and shut down the system. Make sure its power rating is sufficient to power all of the critical devices on your system. In addition to the CPU, this would include the monitors and external drives. If you’re on a wireless network and you’re working on internet files, you’ll need time save your work and logout, assuming the phone lines aren’t affected by the power outage, so be sure the modem and wireless network hub are both connected to a backup power unit. I use the APC 1500VA Battery Backup with LCD. There are many to choose from, so just get one suitable for your needs.
  3. It’s a good idea to have a battery powered emergency lighting system that comes on automatically when it detects a power failure. The EMERSON Home Security & Emergency Lighting System is a good, reasonably-priced system.
  4. Food will keep in the refrigerator and freezer for up to a few days, but if the power interruption extends beyond that you’ll need to salvage it. We’ll address this in a future article dealing with long term power outage.

Consider a short term power outage more of a glitch or inconvenience rather than an emergency. These few steps will make it go smoothly.

Contingencies: the battery pack in your computer’s power backup can only cycle through so many charges before it dies and needs replacing. Buy one with an indicator that measures the load on the system and tells you how many minutes of backup power it can supply, or at least indicates the remaining battery life. Aim for a minimum of five minutes to give you time to save work and shut down. When it falls below five minutes, replace the battery.



  • Mike

    Hi snoman, thanks for the good info you present here, I have learned quite a few things since I started reading your posts. I'd like to add a tip about how to add to the capacity of a computer backup power supply. If your supply has a 12 volt battery (some work off a 6 or 24 volt battery) you can substitute an RV style automotive battery for the internal one. Just be sure to place the automotive battery in a well ventilated space, they are not sealed like the backup batteries are. You really don't want to fill up your house with hydrogen gas……think of the Hindenburg……

  • SnoMan

    Thanks Mike! That's a good tip about ventilation — need that anyway in my office to keep things cool. I have about 12TB worth of external drives, and it can get pretty hot in here.


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