How To Survive Long Term Power Outages

Long Term Power Outages

No one likes the dark. Darkness is just one of those things that makes us feel unsettled and creeped out. Even if you’re not afraid of the principle of the thing, it’s easy to stub your toe or walk into something. This is one of the reasons why I hate power outages. And unfortunately, they’re super common. In the year 2015, power outages affected 13,262,473 Americans. That’s a lot, right?

But power outages have way bigger implications than just the fear of the dark. While most power outages are short-term, it can be days or weeks before it’s back on. Imagine a week without lights, air/heat, appliances, TV, even. Doesn’t sound fun, does it? There are also of plenty power outage safety implications.

Yes, typically, power outages are short term problems. Just a few hours without power normally won’t kill you. But what about long term ones? How common are they any way? Let me explain.

Why Do Long Term Power Outages Happen?

Source: Sustainable Power Systems Annual Report 2015

There are a bunch of different reasons, really. A lot of those reasons have to do with the weather. California, New York, Texas, Michigan, and Pennsylvania are the top 5 states in the U.S. for weather outages between 2008 and 2013.

Like I said, the weather is pretty influential, but there are more reasons. Let’s take a look.

1. Cold Weather Factors (Brrrr)

When snow and ice build up they weigh down on power lines, equipment, and trees. This weight causes the wires to break. Falling tree branches are especially good at taking out otherwise stable power lines.

Another winter problem that causes outages are high winds. Gusty blizzard days see a lot of power outages as the wind causes power lines to swing. This will cause a fault or short circuit or even break  lines and utility poles. The winter isn’t a good time for the electric grid. But there’s more…

2. Hot Weather Factors

Warmer weather also isn’t good for the grid. Lightning, rain, flooding, hurricanes, tornadoes, and more can really do a number on electric utility infrastructure. Lightning is definitely one of the number one weather culprits. While a lightning alert system keeps grid workers safe it doesn’t stop lightning-related outages.

Believe it or not, weather is actually the number one cause for longer outages according to a study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Stanford University. Is there any low-outage season for the grid?

3. Animals

Not if animals have anything to do with it.

It’s hard to believe animals cause power outages, I know. Turns out squirrels are the main culprit when it comes to animal-related outages here in the U.S. In 2015, Eaton tracked 179 animal-related power outages. Are these animals conspiring against us?

Here’s the science of it all. When an animal’s body comes in contact with a piece of energized equipment, it creates a short circuit. That means the path of electricity is diverted. Special equipment senses this change and stops the flow of electricity zapping your power (and the squirrel).

4. Tree Density


This reason is easy to understand. The more trees in an area, the more like strong winds or heavy ice will cause them to damage infrastructure.

What Do I Need To Survive?

It’s not like every long term power outages is life-threatening to everyone. However, they can be rough to get through. Think about it. If you live in Florida and a hurricane swipes out power in the middle of the summer, you’re going to be hot. On the other hand, if you live in the middle of Alaska and lose power, you’re going to be frozen. For a while. Not fun.

Having a electricity outage survival kit handy is the best way to up your power outage preparedness. Have you ever considered building a kit for your home or office? Probably not unless you’ve already experienced a long term outage. A recent Harris Poll found that two-thirds of people who had experienced a prolonged power outage were motivated by their time in the dark to better prepare for next time. Do you really want to wait until next time, though?

Here are the basics:

  • Flashlight
  • Batteries
  • Radio
  • First Aid Supplies
  • Cash
  • Portable Charges (already charged)
  • Freeze water during warm weather
  • Stock up on blankets during cold weather


Are you worried about being prepared for other emergencies? Check out our Emergency Preparedness Checklist and get ready.