When Your Lights Go Out
Here are some condensed material from FEMA on how to prepare for an electrical outage.
Here’s the link if you want it:
Important Phone Numbers – put these into your cell phone ahead of time. Phone numbers listed are for St. Louis MO.
• Electric company phone number/Website: Ameren MO – 800.552.7583.
• Natural gas company phone number/Web site: 314-342-0800
• Water company phone number/Website 866.430.0820
• Plumbing company phone number/Web site:
• Oil/gas heat service phone number/Web site:
• Telephone company phone number/Web site:
If you use medical equipment that requires electricity to operate, register with your power company and health care provider to learn about alternatives.
Assess Your Neighborhood
• If there is a utility outage, who may need extra support because of their functional or medical needs?
• Does anyone in the neighborhood have special skills who can help others?
Locate and label utility shutoff (see diagram at the end of this handout).
Post instructions next to fuse box or circuit breaker.
Are there enough flashlights on hand (at least one for each person in the house)? Are the
batteries working? (Tip: Store batteries in the refrigerator for longer life.)
Do not use candles. They are a fire hazard.
Keep on hand ready-to-eat meals that don’t require cooking or cooling.
Freeze water in plastic water bottles or old milk containers, leaving about an inch at the top for frozen water to expand. When placed in a refrigerator and freezer, they will keep food cold for several hours.
Know where to get dry ice to keep food cold as necessary.
Are there cordless phones that need electricity to run? If so, what can be used as a
backup? (Standard telephone with cord, cell phone, etc.)
Find a new or used battery-operated radio to get updates on information, shelters, etc.
Is there an alternate heating source? Make sure it is properly vented and in good working
order. Make sure all chimneys are clean and all flues are operational. Do you have enough
wood, pellets, or heating fuel?
If heating system involves an electronic ignition or fan, know who to call for service/restarting
If there is an electric garage door opener, where is the manual release? Post instructions
on how to use it and practice!
When possible, keep car gas tanks at least half full. Gas stations need electricity to power
When the power goes out . . .
• Are all the pots and pans off the stove? Are the stove range and oven turned off?
• If you have a space heater, make sure it’s at least 3 feet away from furniture or other
flammable objects. Keep it unplugged when not in use.
• In cold weather, maximize heat coming from the sun. Open shades, curtains, or louvers so
that sun may heat the glass. Close them when the sun is no longer shining directly to hold
in the heat. In hot weather, minimize heat by closing shades, curtains, and louvers.
Natural Gas Outages
Locate and label gas shutoff valve(s). There may be more than one (see diagram at the end
of this handout).
Post shutoff instructions near the meter and make sure a nonsparking wrench is stored
If your gas meter is located inside your home, you should only shut off gas flow when
instructed to by local authorities.
Also see “Electricity Outages” above for more tips.
Locate and label main water cutoff. Make sure any special tools needed are stored nearby.
(Tip: The main water cutoff is usually on the outside wall of the house where the water
meter is. With a well, the cutoff is usually on the well pump.)
Have 3 days ( I’d recommend having at least a weeks worth of water) of drinking water stored (1 gallon of water per person per day).
If pipes may freeze . . .
• Wrap insulation, tape, newspapers, or rags around them.
• Store water in buckets or bathtubs to flush toilets.
• Leave water trickling out of the faucets.
If pipes do freeze . . .
• Remove any insulation or newspaper and wrap them in rags.
• Completely open all the faucets. If you can still heat water, pour hot water over the pipes,
starting with where they are most cold. If you have electricity, try using a blow dryer.
If pipes burst . . .
• Know where circuit breakers and fuses are and how to shut off the power. See “Electricity
• Never enter a flooded basement or walk through standing water to shut off electrical supply
because water conducts electricity.
Have on hand a backup way to communicate (cell phone, computer via cable connection,
Shutting Off Electricity
Unscrew individual fuses or switch off smaller breakers first, then pull the main switch or
breaker. When restoring power, turn on main switch or breaker, then screw in smaller fuses or
turn on smaller breakers, one at a time.
Circuit Breaker Box With Shutoff
Step 1: Shut off individual breakers.
Step 2: Shut off main breaker.
Fuse Box With Shutoff
Step 1: Pull out individual fuses.
Step 2: Pull out main fuse.
Shutting Off Gas
The gas meter shutoff diagram indicates the shutoff valve location on the pipe that comes out of
the ground. To turn off the valve, use a nonsparking wrench to turn the valve clockwise onequarter turn. Remember that, in all cases, natural gas flow should only be turned on by a
Please note: Some gas meters have automatic shutoff valves that restrict the flow of gas during
an earthquake or other emergency. These are installed by a licensed plumber, downstream of
the utility point of delivery. If you are unsure whether your home has this shutoff device, contact
your gas service company. If this shutoff device is closed, only a qualified professional should
Gas Meter in the Home
If you smell gas or see the dials on your meter showing gas is flowing even though appliances
are turned off, you should evacuate the premises and call 911. Do not attempt to shut off the
gas from inside the building if gas may be in the air.
Gas Meter Outside the Home
You should turn off the meter from outside the building if you smell gas or you see dials on the
meter showing gas is flowing even though appliances are turned off. If there is a fire that you
cannot extinguish, call 911 and turn off the gas only if it is safe to do so.
Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed. Food should be okay for around 4 hours. Refer
to the chart below to know when to save food and when to throw it out.
FOOD IN REFRIGERATOR
Held above 40 °F for over 2 hours
MEAT, POULTRY, SEAFOOD: Any raw, leftover, or thawing.
Also includes soy meat substitutes, salads, lunch meats, pizza,
cans that have been opened, fish, or meat sauces.
CHEESE: Any soft cheeses, shredded cheeses, or low-fat
Hard cheeses such as cheddar, colby, swiss, parmesan,
provolone, romano, or hard cheeses grated in can or jar Safe
DAIRY: Milk, cream, sour cream, buttermilk, evaporated milk,
yogurt, eggnog, soy milk, opened baby formula Discard
Butter, margarine Safe
EGGS: All eggs and egg products, such as puddings Discard
CASSEROLES, SOUPS, STEWS Discard
FRUITS: Fresh fruits, cut Discard
Opened fruit juices or canned fruits, along with fresh fruits,
coconut, raisins, dried fruits, candied fruits, dates Safe
SAUCES, SPREADS, JAMS: Opened mayonnaise, tartar
Discard if above 50 °F
for over 8 hours
Other sauces, including soy, barbecue, taco. Also peanut butter,
jelly, relish, mustard, catsup, olives, pickles, and vinegar-based
Opened creamy-based dressings and opened spaghetti sauce Discard
BREAD, CAKES, COOKIES, PASTA, GRAINS, PASTRY:
Bread, rolls, cakes, muffins, quick breads, tortillas, waffles,
pancakes, bagels, fruit pies
All other rolls, dough, cooked pasta, rice, potatoes, pasta salads,
fresh pasta, cheesecake, cream-filled pastries or pie Discard
VEGETABLES: Fresh raw vegetables or mushrooms, herbs,
All other pre-cut, pre-washed, cooked vegetables, tofu, opened
vegetable juice, garlic in oil, potato salad Discard
FOOD IN FREEZER
Still contains ice crystals and feels as cold as if refrigerated
Thawed; held above 40 °F for over 2 hours
MEAT, POULTRY, SEAFOOD
Refreeze. However, seafood will have some texture and flavor loss.Discard
DAIRY: Milk and soft or semisoft cheeseRefreeze. May lose some texture. Discard
Eggs (out of shell) and egg products Refreeze Discard
Ice cream, frozen yogurt Discard Discard
Hard and shredded cheeses, casseroles with dairy products, cheesecakeRefreeze Refreeze
FRUITS: Juices, packaged fruitsRefreeze. However, home or commercially packaged fruits will have texture and flavor change.Refreeze. Discard if mold, yeasty smell, or sliminess develops.
VEGETABLES: Juices, packaged vegetables Refreeze. Vegetables may suffer texture and flavor loss.Discard after held above 40 °F for 6 hours
BREADS, PASTRIES: Breads, rolls, muffins, cakes (without custard fillings)Refreeze Refreeze
Cakes, pies, pastries with custard or cheese filling Refreeze Discard
Pie crusts, commercial and homemade bread dough Refreeze. Some quality loss may occur. Refreeze. Quality loss is considerable.
OTHER: Casseroles – pasta, rice based Refreeze Discard
Flour, cornmeal, nuts, waffles, pancakes, bagels Refreeze Refreeze
Frozen meals Refreeze Discard
For more information, see http://www.foodsafety.gov/keep/emergency/index.html