Prepare for a Power Outage
Prepare a ‘go-bag’.
- Have a supply of prescription drugs and health and hygiene supplies such as toiletries and a first-aid kit.
- Have a battery operated radio available with fresh batteries.
- Have a flashlight available with fresh batteries and an extra set of batteries.
- Buy foods that require no refrigeration and little or no preparation for cooking. Have a supply of food and water for a minimum of three days.
- Keep an appliance thermometer in your refrigerator and freezer in the event of a power outage.
- Listen to the radio for further instructions and updates from city officials.
During a Power Outage
If the power is out for less than two hours, the food in your refrigerator and freezer will be safe to consume. While the power is out, keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible.
If your power is out or was out for several hours or longer, the food in your refrigerator and/or freezer may not be safe to eat. Generally, food in a closed refrigerator will remain cold for 4 to 6 hours if it is unopened. If any perishable food (meat, poultry, fish, leftovers) in the refrigerator reached a temperature above 40 degrees Fahrenheit for two hours or more, dispose of it.
A full freezer will stay frozen for 2 days, a half full freezer will stay frozen for 1 day if the door remains closed. If the food in the freezer thawed and is no longer cold you should dispose of it.
Foods may be safely cooked and eaten or refrozen if they still contain ice crystals.
IF IN DOUBT, THROW IT OUT. Throw away any perishable food (such as meat, poultry, fish, dairy) that has been above 40F for 2 hours or more and/or has an unusual odor, color or texture. Note: You cannot rely on appearance or odor to tell if a food will make you sick.
Listen for public health announcements about the safety of NYC drinking water on the TV or radio. If local authorities inform you that the tap water is unsafe, use your emergency water supplies until instructed otherwise.
Heat illness occurs when the body cannot cool down. The most serious forms of heat illness are heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat stroke occurs when the body’s temperature rises quickly, and can rapidly lead to death. Keeping cool can be hard work for the body. This extra stress on the body can also worsen other health conditions such as heart and lung disease. Signs of heat illness include: hot, dry skin or cold, clammy skin, rapid pulse, dizziness, confusion, weakness, trouble breathing, nausea and/or unconsciousness.
People who are most likely to get sick from the heat are those:
Are aged 65 years or older
- Have chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, or obesity
- Have mental health conditions such as dementia or schizophrenia
- Take certain medications that affect the body’s cooling mechanisms — talk to your doctor for more information and advice
- Use drugs or drink heavily
- Are socially isolated, have limited mobility, or are unable to leave the house
To avoid heat illness:
Go to a cool place with air conditioning, like a friend’s house or a cooling center. To find a cooling center during a serious heat wave, call 311 or TTY: 212-504-4115 and ask “Where is the cooling center nearest to me?” Translation services are available.
Wear light, loose-fitting clothing.
Close window shades or curtains to keep the sun out of your home.
Take a cool shower or bath using tepid water, if possible. Sudden temperature changes may make you feel dizzy or sick.
Drink plenty of water, even if you are not thirsty. Avoid drinks with alcohol, caffeine, or lots of sugar.
If you feel dizzy, weak or overheated, go to a cool place immediately. Sit or lie down, drink water and wash your face with cool water. If you don’t feel better soon, get medical help quickly.
Work during cooler hours of the day when possible, or distribute the workload evenly throughout the day.
If you know someone at high risk, check on him or her at least once a day and help him or her get to a cool place if necessary.
Keep warm by closing off rooms you don’t need. If possible, go to a warm place with heat. Stay with family or friends if your home’s heat will not be restored very soon.
Hypothermia or low-body temperature can occur when your body loses heat faster than it can produce it. Hypothermia can happen gradually and without the person realizing how serious it is.
Symptoms of hypothermia include: uncontrollable shivering, weakness, sleepiness, confusion, and lack of coordination. In infants, signs of hypothermia may include: cold, bright red skin, or very low energy. A body temperature below 95°F (35°C) is a medical emergency and 911 should be called immediately.
If it gets colder, avoid hypothermia by wearing layers of dry clothes, a hat and blankets. Cover your head, hands and feet and consume hot food and drinks if available, but avoid alcohol.
Preventing Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
The people at greatest risk from prolonged exposure to the cold are the elderly, infants and those with chronic health problems. If you know someone at high risk check on him or her at least once a day and help them get to someplace warm.
For available locations, call 311.
Carbon monoxide is a deadly, odorless, colorless gas produced by burning fuel. It can kill you without warning.
To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, use generators, grills and similar items outdoors only
Never use generators, charcoal/gas grills, camp stoves or other gasoline or charcoal-burning devices indoors. Keep generators outdoors and away from windows, doors and air vents.
- Never run a car or truck inside a garage even if you leave the door open.
- Leave your home immediately and call 911 if your carbon monoxide detector alarms.
- Seek prompt medical attention if you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning and are feeling dizzy, light-headed or nauseated.
Yes. During a power outage, it is possible that wastewater pollution control plants may need to discharge waste into public waters. Storm water discharges also can pollute public waters. The NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene conducts beach surveillance and monitoring for all permitted city beaches. The Health Department will issue beach closing or advisories as needed. Listen for announcements on battery-powered radios or call 311.
How Will I Cope?
A power outage in NYC can be very stressful, especially if it is large scale event. It can disrupt your everyday life and make you and those around you feel less safe. You may experience fear and uncertainty. Learning about stress and strategies to manage it can help you cope.
Prepare Today, Cope Better Tomorrow - Stress during Disasters
provides basic information and practical advice on dealing with the stress and anxiety caused by disasters. It is available in seven languages.
If there is a power outage in the city and you feel overwhelmed and unable to cope, or if you are concerned about someone else, you can find help by calling 1-800 LIFENET. LIFENET is a free, confidential helpline for New York City residents, available 24/7, with trained staff ready to take your calls and offer advice: 1-800-LifeNet 1-800-543-3638 (English), 1-877-Ayudese 1-877-298-3373 (Spanish), 1-877-990-8585 (Chinese), 1-212-982-5284 (TTY).
Where can I get more information?
For more information about power outages, visit:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Office of Emergency Management, Ready New York
New York State Department of Health (NYS DOH)
U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)