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Katherine Moon
Katherine Isabella Moon
Meow, hello there, my name is Katherine, but you can call me Kat; because I basically am a cat. Anyways, I am a 26-year-old, lifestyle blogger, with an INFP-T personality type, from the United States. I love fashion, the color pink, cats, dogs, and spending all my time on my computer. I'm often seen wearing cat ears headbands.
The Kat Life
The Kat Life

how I'm choosing to live my best life

Friday, February 28, 2020

What To Do During A Blackout (Or Brownout)

Photo courtesy of Alesia Talkachova on Pexels

As a girl who loves her tech, the Wi-Fi going down can throw me for a bit of a loop, and cause me to panic for a moment. But after saying a few choice words, I am generally able to entertain myself without using the internet. However, when the power goes out, it's an entirely different story. Not only is there no Wi-Fi, but there is pretty much no anything, and you're quite literally in the dark. Granted, during the daytime you can use natural daylight, and at night you can use candles and battery-operated lights. But still. Every time the power goes out, it's a potent reminder of how much I appreciate something as simple as being able to turn on the lights. Let alone watch TV, browse the internet, or charge my phone.

That being said, our power has gone out twice in the last month. Well, actually, I should say it's gone out one and a half times; we'll discuss that in a minute. Anyway, even though neither outage lasted for more than a couple of hours, it still got me thinking, what can I do when the power goes out? What should I do when the power goes out?

What is a brownout or half-power outage?

Storytime: My First Brownout Experience

It was about 7:30 PM, and my mom was preparing breakfast food for a late dinner. My mom seemed a bit frustrated that the eggs were sticking to our nonstick pan, even with oil, which seemed a little odd to me, as I rarely have issues with eggs sticking to that same pan. Even without oil or butter, I seldom have to pry my eggs free from that frying pan. My mom also said that everything seemed to be cooking slower than usual. But let's be real, everything seems to cook slower when you're hungry, so I didn't think much of it. But then I noticed that the LED lightbulbs in the kitchen were flickering. Usually, this is a sign that they're about to burn out, but these were relatively new bulbs. So what the hell? LED lightbulbs aren't exactly the cheapest option. They should last longer than a few months. Especially when they aren't on all the time. 

But then I went back to my room for something, and the LED bulb that I had just replaced less than two months ago was also flickering. Then it went out. The LED lights in the kitchen also went out. What were the odds that the lightbulbs in two separate rooms burnt out at the same time? Pretty slim, but okay. But then from there, we quickly realized that something very odd was happening.

Photo courtesy of Content Pixie on Pexels

As my mom was turning off the stove, she noticed that the oven clock was messing up. Most of the digital clocks in the house were acting up. When we opened the refrigerator to put the eggs and milk back, the lights in the fridge were very dim. The TV and satellite were still working, but we lost Wi-Fi. All of this at the same exact time. What in the world was going on? Of course, my anxiety immediately thought up the scariest worst-case scenario that something dangerous was happening. Although I can't say that it was a totally irrational thought, electricity is nothing to mess around with. But as soon as I looked outside, I realized that it wasn't just us.

Most of the streetlights were out, and the newer ones that had LED bulbs were flickering. So were some of our neighbors' porch lights. Many of our neighbors' windows were also dark, and it was still a bit early for all of them to have gone to bed. This was when my mom said that we were experiencing a brownout, which lasted for over an hour until the power completely went out for a few minutes before fully coming back on. And as soon as the power was back on and I had Wi-Fi back, I just had to look into what had just happened. I know what a blackout is; I'm sure that we all do. But what exactly is a brownout? Is it dangerous? What should I do during a brownout?

A brownout is a drop in electrical voltage, which can last for a few minutes, or even a few hours; and may be intentional or unintentional. Intententional brownouts are generally used to reduce load on the power grid during an emergency to prevent a full blackout. 

To put it into simple terms, you could call a brownout a half power-outage, whereas a blackout is a full power-outage. Now, to answer the question of whether or not a brownout is dangerous, the reduced and inconsistent voltage could be harmful to your electronics and appliances, so it's best to turn off and unplug sensitive devices during a brownout. But generally speaking, it doesn't pose a direct threat to humans or to your home. But on the note of unplugging electronics and appliances, it's also not a bad idea to turn off or unplug anything that you don't need to be using and reduce your power consumption as much as possible to help shorten the duration of the brownout. Brownouts are often used by power companies when there is a high demand on the power grid to prevent full blackouts. But it also isn't a horrible idea to be prepared for the power to completely go out during a brownout, as there is no guarantee the power won't go out all the way. It's also not a terrible idea to be prepared for a potential power-outage at all times. That way, you're always as ready as you can be.

What to do during a blackout or brownout

Be as prepared as possible beforehand!

Power-outages are often unpredictable and come without any sort of warning. Blackouts could be caused by many things; severe weather, a fallen utility pole, equipment failure, or numerous other causes. Brownouts could be caused by several things as well, but are often an intentional measure taken by power companies to prevent blackouts. Luckily, most outages only last a few minutes to a few hours, but sometimes they can last days or longer, depending on the cause. Whatever the case may be, here are a few things that you can do to be prepared for an unexpected power-outage at all times...

Preparing for power-outages or blackouts before they even happen

These are just a few ways to be prepared for power outages before they happen, and based on your family's needs, you may also want to take additional preparedness measures. If you or a family member is reliant on any type of a medical device, you'll want to have a plan on what to do or where to go if the power goes out. If blackouts are rather frequent in your area, you live in a more rural area (where it may take longer for power to be restored), and/or you can't or don't want to wait it out, it might not be a bad idea to invest in a generator. However, if you do use a generator, be sure to read and follow the safety instructions that come with your generator carefully, and only use it as intended. Generators should never be operated inside your home or garage, as they emit poisonous carbon monoxide gas, which can be fatal to humans and pets. They also are not meant to be connected directly to your home's main breaker panel, as it could send electricity back through the power lines and electrocute the workers that are working to restore the power. It also poses many other dangers to you and your home, so just don't do it. Remember, the idea is to stay as safe and as comfortable as you can be during a blackout.

Anyway, on the note of safety and comfort, as I said before, it's never a bad idea to prepare an emergency kit to be as ready as you can be for emergencies. What you should keep in your emergency kit may vary based on your family's needs, but here are a few ideas on what you could put in yours...

  • Unscented candles and matches and/or lighters
  • Fresh batteries (primarily AAs and AAAs)
  • Flashlights and battery-powered lanterns
  • A battery-operated radio to keep up with news updates
  • Portable chargers for phones
  • Portable cooking devices
  • A cooler to keep important perishable foods and medications cold
  • Enough non-perishable food to last for about 3-7 days
  • Enough clean water for 3-7 days; generally 1 gallon per person, per day (and don't forget about pets)
  • A first aid kit
  • Cooling pads for beds and for your pets to lay on, as well as wearable cooling gear, on hot days
  • Sleeping bags or extra blankets for colder nights
  • Portable heaters
  • Ways to keep yourself and your family entertained

Once again, there are only a few ideas. It's entirely up to you what to keep in your emergency kit, and what you feel you might need during an outage.

When the lights go out

It's almost inevitable that the power will go out (or brownout) at some point, and although it usually won't be out for very long, it's still not a bad idea to take a few steps to ensure that things go as smoothly as possible.

  • Unplug or switch off most appliances and devices

    GFCI Electrical Outlet
    Photo by Katherine Isabella Moon (myself)
    When the lights go out (or start flickering or dimming), start turning off and unplugging anything that doesn't need to come back on right away. Not only will this ease up the load on the system when the power comes back on (or help decrease the duration of a brownout), but it will also protect sensitive electronics. At the very least, I recommend unnplugging small appliances, chargers, computers, TVs, and other small things around the house that don't need to come back on right away. Even if you have your sensitive electronics plugged into a surge protector, it's not a bad idea to either unplug it or switch it off.
  • Have one light switched on

    Lamp on a table
    Photo courtesy of Burst on Pexels
    You don't have to unplug or switch off everything. Obviously, you want the refrigerator to come back on ASAP; and you don't have to go out of your way to unplug large appliances or anything you can't easily access. Not only that, but it's actually not a bad idea to switch one light on and keep it on, that way you will know when the power comes back on.
  • Avoid opening the fridge and freezer

    Opening the fridge
    Photo courtesy of Daria Shevstova on Pexels
    Unless you absolutely need something out of the fridge or freezer, avoid opening them as much as you possibly can. By avoiding opening the refrigerator, you're helping to keep the cold air in longer. Thus, keeping your food at a safe temperature safe longer. If you absolutely must go into the fridge, know what you're going in for beforehand. That way, you're not standing there, letting the cold air out, while you're trying to decide what you want.

    Do note that this won't keep your food safe indefinitely, so if you suspect the blackout is going to last longer than a few hours, get an ice chest for anything you don't want to spoil. According to the USDA, food can last for up to 4 hours in the fridge during a blackout. Food in the freezer will stay safe for up to 48 hours in a full freezer and 24 hours in a half-full freezer when the power goes out. For more information regarding food safety during blackouts, you can refer to this article from to use a reference on what to do with everything in your fridge or freezer. Also, please don't ever taste anything to determine whether or not it's gone bad. Not only will it likely taste terrible if it's spoiled, but it can also make you very sick.
  • Call the power company to notify them

    Making a call
    Photo courtesy of Lisa Fotios on Pexels
    If the power goes out for any longer than an hour, give your power company a call to make sure that they know what's going on. Power companies won't always know that there is a problem unless affected customers call in. Especially for outages that cover small areas. Don't just assume that someone else already called in, because honestly, the more people that call in, the better, as it helps power companies better locate where the problem might be.
  • Minimize the use of your phone

    iPhone on backup charger
    Photo courtesy of Canva Photos Team
    I understand; you're bored, you just want to pass some time, and you have a handheld computer right in your pocket. You just want to play some games or scroll through Instagram while you wait for the power to come back on. Trust me, I know. But you should really be trying to preserve your phone's battery as much as you can if you don't know how long the power is going to be out, even if you have a portable charger for backup. Not only is your phone your lifeline in the event of an emergency, but you can also use it to keep up with news updates in your area. So don't waste away your battery watching TikTok videos (or whatever you like to do on your phone); use your phone's battery power wisely. At least for now. When the power comes back on, watch all the TikTok videos you want.
  • Stay calm and keep others calm

    Mother hugging child
    Photo courtesy of Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels
    Although most of us may find power-outages to be more aggravating than scary, they may be frightening to some people, particularly young children. Or at the very least, they'll make a lot of people feel a bit anxious or restless. I'll admit that sometimes my mind races when the lights suddenly go out. At least for a brief moment. I watch way too many horror movies and apocalyptic shows, haha. But I know that it's not actually the apocalypse. Anyway, that being said, just do your best to stay calm when the power goes out, and to keep anyone who may be super anxious or frightened calm. Assure children that they are safe and keep them entertained. Older children, teens, and adults may also benefit from humor, but be careful what you say around younger children who may not understand that you're just joking yet. You don't want to unintentionally frighten them.

Additional tips

Fill your cup with light
Photo courtesy of fotografierende on Unsplash

Be wary of the possibility of downed power lines outdoors - One possible cause of a blackout is a downed power line, and I don't think that I need to elaborate on how dangerous a downed power line is. So you'll want to take a little extra caution if you go outside, or if you need to drive anywhere, especially after a severe storm. Assume that all downed power lines are live, even if they aren't sparking, humming, or moving; don't go anywhere near them. Don't touch them or anything touching them, and keep children and pets away from them. Call 9-1-1 (or whatever the emergency number may be in your region) to report downed power lines, and leave any sort of rescue mission to first responders.

Try to use flashlights and battery-operated lights instead of candles - Candles are pretty, and candlelight can be relaxing. But they are definitely not the safest option for lighting your home at night, especially around young children and pets. Try to stick with battery-powered lighting if you can. Not only do battery-powered lights often give off more light, but they are much safer, and you won't need to babysit them. 

Don't install batteries into flashlights and other devices until you need them - Although it might be more convenient to already have the batteries in these devices, they can leak and corrode if they don't get used often. Not only could this render the device useless, but it could also potentially be hazardous. It's better to keep a fresh pack of batteries right next to your flashlights, lanterns, and radios so you'll have easy access to them when you need them, and you won't have to worry about the batteries being bad or corroded.

Photo courtesy of Claudio Schwarz on Unsplash

Borrow batteries from devices you won't be using during the outage - If you need more batteries, you can take some from things you won't be using during the power outage, such as remotes. I mean, you're probably not going to be watching much TV when the power is out, and you can always run to the store when the power is back on to grab new batteries for the remote. However, if you decide to "borrow" them from other devices, avoid mixing them with each other. Mixing older and newer batteries could cause them to not work as expected, or even leak or explode. 

Check on your neighbors during the outage, especially the elderly, the sick, or those with disabilities - While power-outages are just an annoying inconvenience for most of us, some people are more sensitive to them, such as the elderly or the sick. The elderly are often more sensitive to the heat or cold than most people might are. Those who are ill or disabled might be reliant on medical devices that can't function without power, and it could quickly become an uncomfortable or even life-threatening situation for them. I'm not saying that you need to go door to door to check on everyone in your neighborhood, but if you know someone could possibly use a helping hand (and you know you're safe), there's no harm in checking on them.

Check your emergency supplies annually - Although non-perishable foods and batteries generally have a long shelflife, they still have expiration dates, so check up on them at least once a year. Check expiration dates, and look for any signs that any of your food or batteries might be expired or damaged. It also isn't a bad idea to check up on everything else in your emergency stash for signs of wear and tear to see if anything needs to be replaced.

Staying entertained and/or productive

Let's be real, no matter how prepared you are for a power-outage, they still suck. As someone who does almost everything on my computer, it sucks enough when the internet cuts out. Let alone the power supply to my laptop. The battery will only last for so long. Same with my iPad's battery. And I know that I should be preserving my phone's battery, that I'll have it to keep up with news updates or to use if any emergency arises. So what do I do to keep myself occupied and save myself from boredom? How do I calm my mind, given the fact that power-outages sometimes make me a little anxious? Although power-outages don't happen very frequently where I live, and rarely last for more than an hour or two when they do happen, that doesn't mean I shouldn't have some go-to activities already in mind...

Fun things to do to stay entertained during a blackout or when you fully want to unplug

Seriously, there is no reason that you have to just sit and wait for the lights to come back on. Even though it may be a bit more of a challenge, there are still a few ways to have some fun without electricity. Once again, these are only a few ideas! Perhaps during the daytime, you could do some light cleaning. If you have children or pets, spend some extra quality time with them, I'm sure that they would really appreciate it. Especially as power-outages may cause them to feel a bit anxious or restless. If your local library has power, you could consider spending a little bit of time there. It's ultimately up to you what you choose to do to keep yourself occupied until the lights and the Wi-Fi come back on.

Sometimes I will jokingly ask what people did before the internet, but that one isn't too hard to figure out. As a millennial, I still remember when high-speed internet was a luxury, and most people had dial-up; if they had internet at all. But I've always had electricity. So have my parents, grandparents, and probably even my great-grandparents. Rarely do I ever put any thought into turning on my light when it gets dark. Until I can't. And it's certainly a reminder of how much I should appreciate something that seems so simple.

That being said, it's good to have a plan for when the lights go out. That way, you'll know what to do, and you'll always be ready. You don't want to be running to the store to pick up flashlights when the power goes out. Especially for a widespread outage, as the store will likely be packed, and they may quickly run out of emergency supplies. Either that, or their power might be out as well, and you may not be able to buy supplies there. You also don't want to be going out right after a bad storm when the roads might not be clear, or there might even be downed power lines on the road. I know I probably sound like your mom right now, but seriously it's better to be prepared.

What do you do when the power goes out? Are there any specific activities you like to do to keep yourself and your family entertained? Do you have an action plan for blackouts or brownouts? I'd love to hear about them!

What To Do During A Blackout Or Brownout
Thank you for reading, and I hope the rest of your day is wonderful!
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  1. I love the indoor camping idea! Kat, I've been loving all of the graphics you've been making! Also, the widget in the middle of the post was also pretty cool :D It's neat. And better than the classic scrolling down option to consume content. I can't wait for your Theme/Resource blog to be released :3

    Pinned everything!

    Mari x

    1. Indoor camping can be a lot of fun! I really enjoyed doing it was younger, and it can still be fun as an adult! I'm glad you've been loving the graphics, as well a the widget! I've been wanting to play around with different formats, and the widget worked well for this post. :) I can't wait to share the widgets I made on my resource blog.

      You are the best Mari!


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