GAINESVILLE, Fla. — It’s easy to take things like electricity, Wi-Fi and cell service for granted — until a hurricane blows through and knocks out these modern conveniences, sometimes for days at a time.
This was the case last year when Hurricane Irma left more than 6.5 million Floridians without power, according to the National Weather Service.
But there are things you can do now to get yourself technologically prepared for an outage, according to a University of Florida expert. Step one: know your priorities when it comes to power use.
“For most people experiencing power loss, the core priorities are likely having a sufficient supply of daily medications and the capacity to cook and keep food cold. Information and communications technologies and emergency lighting are probably second only to food preservation and preparation,” said Hal Knowles, associate change agent in the Program for Resource Efficient Communities, part of UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
As you prepare for hurricane season and the possibility of a power outage, have a plan and build or restock your emergency preparedness kit:
- Back-up generator
If the power grid goes down, a back-up generator can ensure that you can power various appliances and devices in your home.
There are two types of generators on the market, Knowles said: internal combustion and solar. Internal combustion generators use fuel such as gasoline or diesel to generate electricity. Solar generators convert sunlight into electricity that’s stored in a battery for later use.
If you’re using an internal combustion generator, know how to use it safely. Using a generator inside or in a partially enclosed space can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning, which is why you should only use them outside, more than 20 feet away from doors, windows and vents, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
- Food and cooking supplies
Refrigerated or frozen food won’t stay preserved if your power is out for multiple days. So, have a portable cooler and ice on hand for temporary food storage, Knowles said. Also, consider have a heating device, such as an outdoor grill, to cook perishables after the power is out. It’s recommended that you have at least three days of non-perishable food and drinking water for all sheltered building occupants, according to Ready.gov.
When internet and cellular services are down, two-way radios, such as walkie-talkies, and short-wave “ham” radios can keep you connected to family and neighbors, Knowles said. Many two-way radios will also let you tune in to the NOAA All Hazards Weather broadcasts, which will keep you updated on emergency advisories.
- Portable lighting
When the power is out, battery-powered flashlights, headlamps and lanterns will help you navigate your home in the dark, Knowles said.
Since you may not know when the power will come back on, it’s a good idea to have extra batteries for devices such as radios and flashlights. For devices charged via USB ports, portable power banks can help, so long as you charge them up before an outage, Knowles said.
- Surge protection
When the power does come back on, power surges can damage some electronics. Surge protectors, or just unplugging all non-essential electrical devices, can help protect these items, Knowles said.
For more information, visit disaster.ifas.ufl.edu.
The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS works to bring science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents. Visit the UF/IFAS web site at ifas.ufl.edu and follow us on social media at @UF_IFAS.