Power out! Now what?
When the lights suddenly go out, or there’s a bang and your appliance stops working, there are a couple of things you should do, and one thing NOT to do! Here’s a quick review.
That is, for MOST people this should be a review. Please pass this along to people who may not know this info!
1. Is the outage widespread?
Take a look outside, or call a neighbor to see if the power is out everywhere or just in your home. If it’s a widespread outage, locate your emergency lamp or flashlight and sit tight. You can call your utility to report the outage, but remember, if your phone requires electricity, it may not work!
2. Is it your home only?
Think. What were you doing immediately before the lights went out? Were you
- Watching TV
- Running the dryer
- Making popcorn in the microwave?
Too many electrical devices can overload your home’s electrical circuit, particularly in an older home. As a safety measure, the circuit will be broken to prevent a fire. Your job is to reset the circuit. First, though, turn off something from the list of “on” appliances so you don’t simply overload the circuit again.
3. Find the electrical panel.
Where’s your electrical panel? It could be in a closet, on a wall (probably near the utilities hookup) or even outside on a post. It looks something like this – a metal case with a series of switches and some identifying labels on the door.
4. Find the “thrown switch.”
The panel has a dozen or so switches. Most of them will be facing the same way. When a switch is “thrown” or “tripped,” it pops out of position, breaking the circuit. You can usually pick out the thrown switch just by looking carefully. Or lightly “wiggle” switches to see if any are loose.
5. Turn the switch back on to reset the circuit.
Simply make sure the switch is all the way off, then switch it back on. (It may be stiff, and require a firm push.) Nine times out of ten you will have restored your electricity, and you’ll feel like a hero! (If this DOESN’T solve the problem, you need to contact an electrician.)
Oh, and the one thing NOT to do?
Don’t light a match or a candle! Until you know what’s really going on, an open flame could create even more of a hazard.
Make sure you have one or more working flashlights handy. In fact, you may want to permanently store one near the electrical panel so you’ll always be able to find it right away.
(At a meeting of our CERT team last week, everyone was astonished to think that there would be a single homeowner who didn’t know how to reset an electrical switch. I think they were probably over-confident about the skills of their neighbors. If you have family members or neighbors who might need this information, please pass it along. Can’t hurt, and could certainly be helpful!)
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