Power Cut Essentials: What items do you need?

Thankfully, power outages covering large areas are rare in the UK but recent instances, such as the large power outage in August 2019 that left 1 million people without electricity can be dangerous for those affected.  With the ever increasing use of electricity in the country, in the future power cuts may not be so rare. Be prepared for a power cut with these supplies.

Power cut essential items

Here’s a list of the main items you will need in a power cut:

  1. A light source – battery operated torch with spare batteries.
  2. Emergency radio – wind-up radio.
  3. Backup power pack – portable power bank.
  4. Something to heat up water – camping stove.
  5. Tinned food or ready meals – ready to eat and dried foods.
  6. Prep for sanitation – hand sanitizers, wet wipes.
  7. Hand warmers.
  8. Stock up the first aid kit – bandages and disinfectant etc.
  9. Wrap yourself up in these items – sleeping bag
  10. Get a portable heater – with gas canisters.
  11. Use your car.
  12. Get a camping stove.
  13. A cooler box.
  14. Cash.
power cut

What to do in a power cut

A power cut is an interruption of electricity supply to an area.  It can be either planned, in which case you will be notified prior; or unplanned outages where causes such as severe winds, lightning and underground water can affect the supply.  Power cuts can be as short as a couple of seconds to some that last for days.

Power cut checker

In a genuine power cut, the energy distributors manage the electricity network and it is them you should contact, not your energy supplier.  Go on to the energy network website and find out who your local distributor is.  You just need to enter your postcode.  You can also call them on 105.

First check in your home

If the lights go out, first check if it’s only your home, or is it affecting everyone. Check whether the street lights are on or if a neighbour has power.  If it’s something at home, check the fuse box to see if any switches have been tripped.  Still no power? Call a qualified electrician to get it fixed.

What to do in a power cut?

As a summary: turn off all electrical appliances that should not be left unattended in preparation for when the power is restored. Keep a light on to let you know when the power is restored.

Check to see if your neighbours’ power is out as well. Your trip switch may have been activated if they have power. Wrap up warmly and close internal doors to keep the heat in. Report the power cut to your network operator by ringing 105.

If you want a home cover plan that also covers electrics, check out Hometree on our recommended page.

One thing to note, check with a couple of neighbours, as in the UK, the electricity network is built in such as way that different houses, even in the same street, can receive their power from different electricity cables.  So if there is a fault with one cable, not everyone’s power goes off.

Essential items you need in a power cut

Because we rely on electricity so much, it is always better to prepare beforehand so here we look at the essential items you need to have in a power cut.

1. A light source

To be able to find the way around your house without hurting yourself or breaking anything.  Most people’s instincts would be to go with candles or tea lights and this is perfectly workable.  Just make sure you also buy some candle stands for them as well as matches or lighters to go with them. 

But if you have kids, do you really want a dozen candles all around the house?  It would be better to focus on other sources of light such as flashlights which are safer.  Go for multi directional lights which can light up an entire room.  Also keep plenty of batteries to go with them.

Head torches are a great idea so you can move around the house and keep both hands free. Glow sticks could also be a part of your emergency lighting options, as having no flame, are safe to use in any emergency situation in any room.

2. Keep an emergency battery powered radio

If you are without power, having access to critical weather and news updates will be essential.  Also, as they are radios, they can provide morale boosting music to keep you going.  Look for emergency radios that have both replaceable batteries and also a rechargeable battery compartment which can be wound up with a crank.  Some also have solar panels on them to recharge.

3. Backup power pack

Keeping a high capacity portable power pack will come in very handy for charging mobile phones and the many electrical devices that use USB cables.  Make sure it stays almost full as some can take a few hours to reach full charge.

4. Something to heat up water

Mains water should be fine to drink in a power cut, but if you need hot water, which is always a good idea, you can use the gas hob to heat it up.  If you don’t have gas in the property, you should invest in a camping stove which is enough to boil water to sterilise it, or cook some soup or pasta.  Remember to buy extra gas canisters that go with it.  Also have a large capacity thermos flask to store hot water in.  A hot water bottle will come in handy too.

5. Have a stock of tinned food or ready meals

If you don’t have mains gas, you will need something that is quick and easy to cook with a camping stove, so keep your cupboard stocked up with tinned food.  Having a variety of foods will help give you the right nutrition mix.  Even better is to stock up with foods that don’t need to be cooked at all.

6. Prep for sanitation

 Stock up on hand sanitizers so you don’t need to wash your hands with cold water all the time (the boiler also needs electricity to work).  Baby wet wipes are good for wiping your face and after you have been to the toilet. 

7. Hand warmers or pocket warmers

If you lose power in the middle of winter, your house will get cold really quickly.  So keep individual hand warmers for every member of your household which can provide heat for up to 24 hours.

8. Stock up the first aid kit

Check your first aid kit and make sure it has all the main items such as dressings, disinfectant, gauze, bandages, ointments and items to use in an emergency. There are many hazards in the dark and having this kit will be an essential item.

9. Wrap yourself up in these items

Wool blankets and sleeping bags are some of the many ways you can keep warm when you are not moving about. When sleeping at night, you are not moving about and the temperatures are at their lowest.

10. Get a portable heater

propane heater that can be carried around and safe for indoor use with safety features is essential in a winter power outage. They can use small canisters but some even come with an extended conversion hose to connect to a bigger tank, if you wish to purchase it. 

11. Use your car

A car can be a life saver in an emergency situation to provide heat and power up certain devices. Make sure to keep the fuel tank at least a quarter full in the winter months, don’t let it go below this level. In an emergency, it can take you to a nearby area which hasn’t been affected by a power cut and maybe find a hotel to check into for the night.

12. A camping stove

In the event of a power cut, a camping stove can be a useful tool to have on hand. Not only can it be used to cook food, but it can also be used to heat up water for coffee or tea, or even for taking a hot shower. With a camping stove, you can still cook and enjoy a hot meal, even if the power is out.

13. A cooler box

Use a cooler box to keep items fresh for longer and the frozen items won’t perish so quickly. This will save you having to throw food and drinks away due to power cut, saving you money, and importantly, keeping you hydrated. A portable cooler box will also keep your medication safe and cool.

14. Cash

Make sure to keep some cash available for emergency situations like a power cut, where power lines cash machines will be out of order. Cash will help you buy food and drinks, any other emergency items needed, pay for transportation if you don’t have a car and help pay for a hotel room.

How to report a power cut

There are a couple of different ways to report a power cut. Don’t assume your electricity network operator is already aware that your property has no incoming power. You can phone them on the general number 105 and they will give you the correct number.

Other ways to report a power cut is on the company’s website, or you can Tweet them. You should also be able to text them. It is a good idea to find and keep emergency numbers handy beforehand, maybe near the electricity meter.

Priority services during a power cut

For people who rely on medical equipment powered by mains electricity, it is important to contact your electricity distributor and also your energy supplier beforehand to ask to be put onto their priority services register.  There is usually an online form you can fill in to let them know.

priority services for vulnerable energy customers

Also, talk to your doctor about a back up plan in case of a prolonged power cut.  Medical equipment running on mains electricity should also have a battery back-up.  If not, speak to the manufacturer about solutions to this in the event of a power outage.

Preparing for a power cut

  • keep emergency telephone numbers nearby like on the electricity meter.
  • keep phones well charged beforehand.
  • Have a corded plug-in phone as a spare as cordless phones won’t work
  • Remember to switch off or unplug electrical appliances. During power cuts there can be electrical surges in the network which can damage appliances.  Just keep one light switch on in the house to let you know when the power comes back.
  • Try not to open the fridge and freezer doors too often. This will help keep the food fresher for longer.

What compensation do you get for a power cut?

You may be able to get compensation for both planned and unplanned power cuts but this depends on what caused the power cut and how long it lasted.

You can get between £30 and £70 depending on what caused the power cut, how much notice you were given and how long it takes for the power cut to be fixed. Citizen’s Advice has more information on this. Click here to go to their website.

Power cut advice for businesses

Do you know what items you will need when a power cut hits your small business?

Your business might have a power cut due to severe weather, a fault on the network, or theft and damage caused by third parties. To ensure your business is prepared, you can use a back up power supply (UPS) that provides emergency back-up. You can also rent or buy a generator to help you carry out your daily business.

Make sure to save or backup your work regularly on your computer or laptop, and keep laptops charged. Try to purchase electronic equipment that has memory stores to recover data.

Items you will need when a power cut hits your small business

*The information in this article should be used for general guidance only and not as financial or health advice.  Full details are on the link in the footer to our disclaimer page.  Always discuss your requirements with a competent and suitably qualified professional before undertaking any work.