You’re going about business as usual, when you suddenly find yourself in the dark. The hum of the fridge and other electronic noise is silenced. As you fumble for your flashlight, you’re probably wondering how long you’ll be deprived of the modern conveniences you normally enjoy. Are there enough batteries? Will the food in the freezer spoil? How will I keep warm and power essential devices?

Depending on weather, duration, and other factors, a power outage can range from an annoyance to a serious situation. Yet, while a power outage usually comes as a surprise, that doesn’t mean a person can’t be prepared. There are definitely ways to help ensure that you stay toasty and able to navigate your home…even when the grid takes a hiatus.

When the lights go out, having easy alternative light sources at hand will illuminate your next steps. Having a stock of candles, flashlights or even headlamps – plus matches and extra batteries – at the ready is invaluable. Don’t wait until you need them. Stock up right away, and keep these supplies somewhere easy to reach in an emergency.

Power Outage MVP: The Fireplace

A fireplace is always an asset for its functionality and the atmosphere it creates. But when the power goes out, the benefits of your fireplace shine all the more brightly. Why?

original infographic of fireplace's role in a power outage
  • Heat. When the power dips, your fireplace steps up. Particularly in the winter months, a power outage can lead to serious concerns about warmth – and if the outage is prolonged, safety can be compromised. Having a heating system that isn’t dependent on electricity provides both comfort and peace of mind.
  • Light. A roaring fire in the fireplace is a beautiful source of light, as well as warmth. While the portable beam of a flashlight is helpful when moving from room to room, a fireplace casts a soft glow that steadily illuminates the room you’ve made home base during the outage.
  • Cooking. Simple meals can be cooked over a fireplace in a pinch. Think campfire! Just be sure to have the right tools and carefully supervise children and pets – and open your fridge and freezer minimally while the power is out to preserve the quality of your cold-stored foods.
  • Atmosphere. Okay, atmosphere isn’t a primary concern during a power outage…but when you know you have a way to keep warm and light, you can think about enduring the outage as comfortably as possible. Fireplaces are wonderful for providing a comforting, relaxing, and inviting atmosphere.

Using Your Fireplace During a Power Outage

Much of using your fireplace safely during a power outage happens before the outage occurs.

First, be sure your fire is kept properly fueled. A wood-burning fireplace should be sustained only by well seasoned firewood. If the power’s out, you may be tempted to improvise and use wood that’s been treated or painted. Don’t do it! These can release harmful chemicals when burned, compromising your safety – especially when you’re hunkering down and trying to hold heat in one room. To avoid this situation, keep a good, reliable supply of seasoned firewood at the ready.

Before lighting a fire, clear the area surrounding the fireplace of anything combustible. There should always be three feet of clearance around your fireplace, whether there’s a power outage or not. If the room is very dark, use your flashlight to examine the hearth area for anything that needs to be moved before igniting the fire.

Another fireplace “must” is a clear chimney. Before beginning to use it every burning season, your chimney should be swept to ensure that it’s clear of debris and combustible build up of creosote or soot. A blocked chimney can lead to dangerous situations like carbon monoxide build-up or a chimney fire – definitely not issues you want to add to an outage! Be diligent about having your fireplace inspected annually and maintained by a qualified technician for optimal safety and functionality, and your fireplace will always be ready when you need it.

Be sure to test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors routinely, and replace each unit’s batteries according to manufacturer instructions.

Finally, monitor your fire. When the fire is going, someone should always be in the room to tend it. Using glass fireplace doors or a fireplace screen is a good practice for keeping the fire well contained, along with any sparks and embers that could otherwise pop out.

How Else Can I Be Ready?

In addition to keeping your fireplace ready, it’s also wise to have a stock of non-perishable food and bottled water ready for emergencies, as well as a first aid kit and stash of blankets. Often, outages result from high winds or storms. When inclement weather threatens, be attentive to updates from your local weather service and utility companies. Charge up your devices so you have plenty of battery for communication during any outage that may occur – and resist the temptation to spend it Candy Crush while you wait out the storm.

A little preparation can save a lot of anxiety when things get difficult. If you’re fortunate enough to have a fireplace or stove in your home, let us help you keep it clean and in excellent condition so you can enjoy it in any season, outage or not!