How to stay safe during rolling blackouts


Zach Gilbert

To help Nebraskans facing rolling blackouts, we’ve created a checklist of concerns one must consider prior to these power outages. Photo courtesy of iStock.

After utilities in Omaha, Lincoln, Columbus, Grand Island, and other Nebraska communities instituted controlled power outages for several hours on Tuesday, February 16 and Wednesday, February 17, many Nebraskans experienced “rolling blackouts” for the first time ever, and many people were unfortunately unprepared for the demands of such a situation.

While no more rolling blackouts are planned for the near future, it’s important to know how to safely make it through these same events if they were to ever occur again soon for any reason. Even though these outages only tend to last 30 to 60 minutes, it’s best to be primed for any problems that may arise. As such, we’ve compiled a list of considerations you must make when braving a blackout.

Avoiding Heat Loss

To begin, you should place rolled up towels at the base of all exterior doors when riding out a rolling blackout. Doing so will keep cold air from seeping into your house. In addition, keeping all curtains closed can reduce heat loss, and containing all activity (and all family members) in one main room in the house can help retain heat as well.

Staying Warm

If you have a gas or wood fireplace, feel free to fire it up during a rolling blackout to keep your house heated throughout this time. Portable, indoor-safe heaters are also highly recommended, as long as they do not require any electricity, of course.

Eating and drinking whilst in a blackout will help keep your body warm, too, but avoid opening your fridge or freezer to keep your food cold. Assemble certain non-refrigerated snacks and beverages ahead of time.

Additionally, the CDC advises stocking up on extra blankets, sleeping bags and winter coats ahead of a rolling blackout – while making sure to keep blankets and other flammable materials away from heaters.

Assemble the Essentials

As mentioned above, it’s unlikely that a rolling blackout would last longer than 30 to 60 minutes, but regardless, officials recommend that you keep an “emergency kit” of essentials on hand at all times. The following items should be included:

  • Extra food and water
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Battery-powered radio
  • A basic first-aid kit

Charge Electronic Devices Ahead of Time

You most likely won’t be able to access the Internet during a rolling blackout, so it’s even more important that your phone is fully charged prior to the outage so that you can remain in contact with friends, family, and authorities in case of emergency.

Furthermore, if you needed to utilize your laptop for work or school purposes in the midst of a blackout, you could use your phone as a “hotspot” to still connect to websites through your cellular data connection.

 Further Questions

Our list of considerations isn’t comprehensive by any means, but it’s a place to start when wondering how to stay safe during a rolling blackout. For further questions, feel free to contact OPPD at 1-800-554-6773 (554-OPPD).