No one likes an interruption of power. Besides the incredible inconvenience of having to reset all of the digital clocks in your house, making it through the night without electricity to power your lights and devices can be challenging—and possibly dangerous. When warnings of a blackout or brownout rear their ugly head, what should you expect? Are there differences between a blackout and a brownout? Will you still have power in a brownout? Let’s take a look at the differences between a blackout and a brownout and talk about how to prepare for either event.
What is A Blackout?
A blackout is when there is a complete loss of power unexpectedly. They can last for an undetermined length of time. Blackouts are not intentional and are usually caused by an external occurrence, such as inclement weather events or some kind of massive equipment failure. If you have ever lost power only to find out later a vehicle knocked down a power pole, you have experienced a blackout.
Common causes of blackouts include:
- A tree or tree branches fall and damage power lines.
- Underground power lines are cut or damaged.
- The grid is pushed too hard, causing an outage of power.
- Lightning strikes.
Although these are common causes of blackouts, blackouts in themselves are not very common, thank goodness!
What is A Brownout?
When it comes to a brownout, differs from a blackout as it’s a partial outage, not a complete power interruption. Many times, brownouts are used by utility companies to mitigate a complete blackout. Energy providers can gauge power usage, and if it looks like the power grid demand is going to be pushed to its limits, they will strategically reduce power use across parts or the entire grid to avoid system damage and a complete loss of power. This means you will still have power but it could be decreased by about 10% to 25%.
The brownout experience – what to look for:
- Possible flickering or dimming of lighting.
- Some appliances with minimum voltage requirements may shut down, giving the appearance of a blackout.
- Some electrical equipment will work as normal since their power needs are being met even with the reduction of power.
- Light bulbs may give off a brownish hue.
How to Prepare for A Blackout or Brownout
According to the Consumer Energy Center, here are some safety guidelines to follow in the event of a blackout or brownout.
- Avoid calling 911 unless you witness a downed power line or if you have an actual emergency. Thousands could be affected by the power outage so, unless you are in immediate danger, leave the lines open for actual emergencies.
- In the event of downed power lines, call your utility company first. They will send an emergency crew to handle the issue. And make sure that no persons or animals approach the downed lines as they still might be alive with the potential for electrocution.
- If you need to drive your car, keep in mind that traffic lights may not be working.
- If you are in your car and a power line has fallen on or is very close to your vehicle, do not exit your vehicle until told to do so by the first responder or emergency workers.
Preparation is Key When It Comes to Power Loss
Although blackouts and brownouts are typically rare, that doesn’t mean you should not be prepared for such an event. Here are some standard tips to keep you safe and secure.
- Keep emergency numbers posted nearby, including your utility company, or have them already preprogrammed in your phone.
- Have more than a few flashlights at the ready. Battery-powered ones are fine, but you can also invest in a plug-in flashlight that’s always ready to go.
- Make sure your flashlights are in a variety of easily-accessible locations.
- Purchase a variety of flashlight styles, such as standard battery-powered ones, LED bulb flashlights to save on battery use, and as mentioned earlier, a plug-in flashlight.
- Keep extra batteries of the proper size so you can replace them if your flashlights start dying or are dead.
- Have candles and matches or a lighter ready to go as a backup.
- Add a battery-powered or hand crank radio to listen for emergency updates.
- Store extra bags of ice and freezer packs in the freezer so you can keep food from spoiling.
- Always keep a first-aid kit at hand as fumbling around in the darkness of a power outage can be dangerous.
- Add a generator to your supply of emergency equipment.
A Backup Generator Means Access to Electricity
One of the best tips above is to invest in a generator to provide power in the event of a blackout or brownout. Having a backup generator will give you access to power during either of these power emergencies. With the right generator, you will be able to keep power running to your fridge thereby keeping your food from going bad, continue to charge your devices such as cell phones, and also have an unlimited power supply for lighting and other electrical equipment. You can opt for a gas-powered generator, but they can not be run indoors because of the exhaust fumes they emit. A solar generator can provide power indoors without running electrical cords from outside to inside. Plus, a solar generator can be recharged using the sun’s power, which will come in handy if the power outage extends for several days.
Blackouts or Brownouts: Both Mean A Disruption of Your Life
Losing power is an inconvenience nobody wants to deal with, but in today’s climate, it’s bound to happen sooner or later. By following the above advice, your time being stuck in a power outage can be made less of a burden on you and your family. Having a backup generator will lend itself to an even more smooth transition to and from a blackout or brownout. In either case, staying safe is priority number one. The above information should do just that: Help keep you and your family safe in the event of a loss of power.