Oh what do you do when the power’s out…?

Power outage eyes in the dark

I’m not much of a singer, but I can handle a children’s song every now and again.  Just be grateful that it’s your imagination you are hearing instead of my voice.

You might remember this song from your childhood, it goes something like this:

You can listen to the tune HERE if you aren’t familiar with it.

“Oh what do you do in the summer time, when all the world is green. Do you fish in a stream or lazily dream, on the banks as the clouds go by?  Is that what you do, so do I?”

Anyway all of this popped to mind when I learned about the micro-burst winds and storms that we had in our area this afternoon.  About 17,000 Rocky Mountain Power customers lost power because of downed tree limbs and power lines.

SO here’s the new (not so improved) version..

“Oh What do you do when the powers out, and all the lines are down?  Do you sit in the dark or go to the park, to join all the neighbors in town.  If that’s what you’d do…I would frown.”

Horrible I know…but catchy don’t you think?  Are you just a bit impressed with my rhyming abilities? Ok, I’ll stop.

In any event, my question for you is, what DO you do when the power is out?  Here are some thoughts about what a person might do when the power goes out: (Choose your own adventure style 🙂

1.   Check with the neighbors to see if you are the only one;

  • If yes, did you forget to pay your bill,
  • If no, smile because others will be just as miserable without their AC too. Commiserate your plight together.

2.  Go to the place where you keep your flashlights, are they there?

  • If yes, pat yourself for thinking ahead to put a very secure lock on this often pilfered location
  • If no, bellow to your children or husband in not-so-soft tones and force a confession from the pilferer (and hope the batteries are not dead)

3.  Wander your house, hopefully with the light you just found, listening for the sounds of others that might be caught in the dark.

  • If you hear them, gather them as you go as you search for others
  • If you don’t hear them, they aren’t as afraid of the dark as you have been led to believe and they will ambush you as you search, Be Prepared for this.

4. Did the outage fall at meal time?

  • If yes, Hop in the car (being grateful that it’s gasoline powered) and head to the nearest fast food place and wait in line with the rest of the neighbors
  • If no, Phew, you lucked out.

How’d you do?  Did you make it through?  Did you pass my CYOA power outage test? (In case you were wondering, that doesn’t stand for “cover your own….” as you might be thinking, it stands for ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’).

If you are one of the 17,000 families affected by today’s power outages, you probably won’t be reading this now, but when you make it back, file the following real list away for future reference, for the rest of us, take note now and you’ll be ready for the next outage.

What to do BEFORE a power outage:

  • Get to know your neighbors, specifically find out if there are any special needs that they might have related to electricity.  Do you know people on oxygen concentrators or other medical equipment that requires power?  Or is there a single mom with several small children that might be in need of some help during an outage.
  • Put flashlights in several areas of your house, and also include extra batteries.  You might duct tape them to the inside of a drawer so you (or your pilferers) won’t be as tempted to use them in a light-saber duel in a darkened dusty room. (Are you visualizing here?) We are sometimes told to put a flashlight by our beds, but that isn’t enough, I’d suggest one in each room so you aren’t tripping through the non-flashlight-equipped rooms to get to the bedroom.  For this purpose, head to the dollar store and get their flashlights, don’t forget the extra batteries.
  • Teach children to NEVER touch or get near a downed power line.  Teach them to get away, keep others away and tell a grown-up
  • Teach your little ones to stay put when the lights go out if they are in the house because trying to get somewhere (like to mom) quickly in the dark is a great way to trip and fall and catch a corner with your noggin. Remind them that you’ll come and find them right away and that they are to wait for you to come.
  • Teach children where the emergency flashlights are in each room and not to touch them unless the power actually goes out.  No light-saber duels.
  • Find the manual release for your garage door opener if you have one.  Usually it’s that red thing hanging down above your car when you pull in. Just pull it to disengage the motor and then you can open the door manually.
  • If you have empty space in your freezer, fill it with 2-liter bottles filled with water.  Leave a couple inches for expansion when the water freezes.  These bottles will leave less space for warm air helping your food to stay frozen longer and will provide cold drinking water if needed. ( Lack of ice and cold water is a problem if the outage happens in the summertime.)
  • Keep your gas tank at least half full at all times, gas station pumps rely on power to function, Half full is the new empty!
  • Keep a cheap corded phone to plug in so you can make and receive calls.  Cordless phones don’t work without power.
  • Put a car cell phone charger in your Car Emergency Kit so you can charge your phone during an extended outage.

What to do DURING a power outage.

  • Grab the nearest flashlight
  • Gather your family
  • Turn off all light switches except for one light or lamp on each level.  That way you know when the power comes back on but you aren’t blinded awake if it comes back on during the night (ask me how I know this)
  • Wait as long as possible before opening the fridge or freezer.  You might even consider duct taping them closed because we often open them just out of habit.
  • Turn off and Unplug all electronics and appliances that you’d rather not replace if they happened to be damaged by a surge of electricity when power is restored.  Damage is unlikely in most cases but are you willing to risk it?
  • Check on your neighbors, especially elderly neighbors who might need help or even just companionship during the outage.
  • Break out the Uno Cards and enjoy some family time by lantern light. Include those neighbors if needed.
  • Enjoy the quiet without the buzzing of electronics that we have grown so accustomed too.

What to do AFTER a power outage.

  • Plug in appliances and turn electronics back on (if you must) one at a time.  You might enjoy the quiet so much that you just leave them off until you need them the next time.
  • See the BEFORE list above, because you are really just waiting for the next outage now.

I hope that you never have to endure a power outage, and I wish you (and me) many power-filled days ahead, but planning for one will make it that much easier when the time comes to deal with it.

What is the best thing you’ve learned when the power was out? Share it below.



  1. Pam says:

    If it is a general outage the fast food restaurants won’t be functioning either, will they? Then what do we do?
    Eat stuff that doesn’t need heating!
    Take all your leftovers out of the fridge and eat them cold before they spoil!
    Then, if it continues, break out the cooking stuff you have stored to prepare for such an event.
    But I suppose you will cover that soon, huh?

  2. kandi v says:

    As soon as we lost power with Sandy, the kids looked at us and said, “Can we have MREs for dinner?” Being prior military, my husband and I don’t love MREs, but can eat them when needed (we keep Tabasco sauce in the pantry just for this). It was a nice feeling knowing that the kids were excited about losing power, rather than scared and stressed. 🙂 We also bought nightlights that turn into flashlights if the power goes out so the kiddos still have light.

What do you think?