First thing first, have a few torches around that are easy to get to and try and have them all use the same batteries. This way you only have to stock up on one type and they are interchangeable.
When the lights go out it’s a good idea to first determine whether you are faced with a blackout or whether you have an issue with a lighting circuit in your house. To figure this out you can check:
- your switchboard – if something has switched off at the switchboard, try turning it back on. If it trips again straight away, this usually means you do have power, but something is wrong. Do not keep trying to turn the switch back on as you could make matters worse. You will need to call an electrician.
- if you still have power to some parts of your house – if you do then you can be pretty sure the problem is specific to your property or if you have a three phase installation that only one phase of power is out.
- your neighbours homes (don’t forget to actually physically check on any neighbours that are elderly or might need extra help if the blackout is throughout your area).
Blackouts in a lighting storm highlight the importance of having an up to date switchboard with surge protection. Circuit breakers and Residual Current Devices (RCD) protect your power system when there are faulty conditions and so prevent fires or electrocution, and surge protectors can save your electronic equipment if there is a lightning strike down the line. An up to date switchboard also makes finding faults in an emergency that little bit easier.
Handy general advice
- Don’t open your fridge or freezer – if you’ve ever needed an excuse for a takeaway night, this is it. Once you open your fridge or freezer cold air starts to escape and if the power doesn’t come on quickly you’ve decreased the amount of time that your food will stay cool and safe. As a rule of thumb:
- A full freezer will last up to 48 hours, a half-full freezer will last up to 24 hours
- Refrigerator time will vary although the amount of food you have will affect how long it lasts. More food – longer time.
- Remember your phone will eventually go flat. You can use your car for a power source to charge small items. But if this is not an option save your battery for emergency use only and resist the urge to ride out the blackout with a binge Netflix session.
- You won’t have Wi-Fi. Don’t worry, it will be back. This isn’t the apocalypse.
- Be patient. If a blackout is affecting a lot of homes it will be hard to contact emergency services, the electric company and electricians. In Canberra ACTEW usually responds to blackouts very quickly.
- Turn off your sensitive electrical appliances and unplug them. This will reduce the initial demand when the power is restored, but also prevents surges and fried electronics should a lighting strike occur and you do not have the proper surge protection in your board.
- Leave at least one light on. This will alert you went the power returns.
As a final hint, and a task that you can undertake now to get ready for storm season, a common cause for lights going out during a storm is outside lighting becoming flooded because of blocked gutters. The gutter fills up and floods back into the eaves. This is preventable by having your gutters cleaned regularly.