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What should I do when power goes out?

Recently we’ve had a bit of stormy weather and some power outages around the Harbor. And the experts say that weather patterns could be changing and our future may include a period of more severe weather events – and that means more outages.

Around here we are grateful for not only relatively inexpensive power, but also a reliable energy system compared to the rest of the world.

We’ve talked a lot recently about what to do to prepare for a power outage, and last week we gave some specific reminders about safely using generators. However, we thought it would also be helpful to add some tips how to live your life as safely and comfortably as possible when the power is out. (You may even want to print out a copy of this to put in the box of emergency supplies along with your flashlights, matches, and extra water.)

Here are some tips from the Grays Harbor PUD – our local experts – on what to do when the power goes out.


  • If your power is out, check to see if other houses in your neighborhood are dark too. If it’s just your house, first check your service panel or breaker box for tripped breakers or blown fuses before calling the PUD.

  • If the power is out in your area, use your landline phone (if possible) and call the Grays Harbor PUD Outage Reporting Hotline at (360) 537-3721 or 1-888-541-5923. (If you don’t have a landline or it isn’t working, you can use a cell phone.)

  • Leave a front outdoor light switched on as well as a light inside your home, so both you and the PUD crews can quickly ascertain when your electricity has been restored.

  • If you’re able, turn down your thermostat and turn off your water heater circuit breaker. By doing so, you will help reduce the demand for electricity when power is restored. If the demand is too great all at once, the power system will overload and cause the power to go off again.

  • Turn off and unplug all sensitive electrical equipment such as computers, television sets, stereos and microwaves. It’s possible there will be a change in voltage for a moment when the power comes back on and that surge could harm your equipment. (It’s also a good idea to use a surge suppressor to protect your electronic equipment. Major appliances that are two large for a surge suppressor (typically microwaves, refrigerators, washing machines, dryers and ranges) should be unplugged or powered off at the breaker panel.

  • Once the power to your house is back on, wait at least 20 minutes before turning equipment on – there can be a fluctuation in voltage when electricity is restored.

  • During a power outage, keep freezer and refrigerator doors closed as much as possible so the cold air stays inside. Food will stay frozen in a full freezer for about two days and about one day in a half-full freezer – depending on what kind of food you have inside – meat will stay frozen longer than bread, for instance.

  • If your water pump is powered by electricity – as many are in the county – an outage quickly limits your water use. So, when the winds start howling, store as much as possible in closed or covered containers. You may also want to fill a bathtub with water to be used to flush toilets if needed.

  • Remember – never burn charcoal briquettes or operate BBQs of any kind indoors – even in your fireplace. You run a high risk of carbon monoxide poisoning – which is often lethal – if you burn these things indoors.

  • Remember – never operate a generator indoors – or in a place where the fumes could seep inside. Doing so is also a huge carbon monoxide risk.

  • Remember – use extreme caution when using candles. Keep them on sturdy surfaces and never leave a candle burning unattended.

  • Remember – when you see PUD crews working, keep your distance for safety’s sake.


  • Always assume all downed power lines are energized, even if they aren’t sparking, and stay far away!

  • If you see a downed line, call the Grays Harbor PUD at (360) 532-4220, immediately or 911. If you happened to be out of the area when you encounter a downed line, call 911.

  • If a power line falls across your vehicle while you are inside of it, Do Not Get Out! Instead, wait for help to arrive.

  • In the rare case that you must leave your car because of some other imminent danger – threatening fire, for instance – do not step out of the car. If your body is touching the car and the ground at the same time, you will be severely shocked. Instead with your feet together, jump clear, landing with your feet together. Then shuffle away, keeping both feet together and on the ground.


  • Having working flashlights and battery-operated lanterns that can illuminate an entire room without the smell or danger of candles is a valuable investment.

  • Some tarps or plastic sheets that can help funnel leaking water into a bucket, protect floors or cover over a broken window are also a versatile item for your emergency supplies.

  • In your car’s trunk, keep a few emergency items in a backpack that would be easy to carry and could also be used when you are home during a storm.

  • Don’t forget to include some source of protein – canned tuna or chicken and peanut butter or nuts, are good choices. Remember to include a can opener if needed.

  • A blanket, weather radio, Band aids, extra blankets, bottled water and other items are also good to include.

  • Look for various suggestions for your emergency kit(s) online and make it a priority to get yours fortified or replenished.

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