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Ready DC
Ready DC

Power Outage

In the District, power outages are typically caused by a natural hazard or accidental failure of power supply equipment. In rare cases, outages are caused by an increased demand on the power supply. Outages typically last a few hours but have been known to last for several days in the case of widespread damage to infrastructure resulting from catastrophic storms. 



Use the following tips to prepare your home, family, and pets before a power outage:

  • Stay Informed through local radio, television or official social media accounts. Sign up for AlertDC to receive updates wherever you are.
  • Make a Family Emergency Plan. Your family members may not all be in one place when a power outage happens.  It is important to know how you will contact one another and how and where you will meet.  
  • Make sure you have alternative charging methods for your phone or any device requiring power. For more information visit: Get Tech Ready. 
  • If you rely on battery-operated or power dependent medical devices, develop a back-up plan. Keep extra batteries and a spare charger for hearing aids, cochlear implants, power wheelchairs, and any other battery-operated medical or assistive technology devices. Visit planning for people with access and functional needs for more information. 
  • Locate the manual release lever for your electric garage door and know how to operate it. 
  • If there are bad storms and an increased chance for a power outage, purchase ice or freeze water-filled plastic containers to keep food cold for a short period of time. 


Use the following tips to prepare your home, family and pets during a power outage:

  • Use flashlights for emergency lighting (note candles can cause fires).
  • Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed. An unopened refrigerator will keep food cold for about four hours. A full freezer will keep the temperature for about 48 hours.
  • Turn off or disconnect appliances and other equipment to avoid a momentary power “surge” that can damage computers and other devices.
  • Use generators away from your home - never run a generator inside a home or garage or connected to your home's electrical system.

If it is hot outside:

  • Move to the lowest level of your home.
  • Move to the lowest level of your home. 
  • Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing. 
  • Drink plenty of water, even if you do not feel thirsty. 
  • Consider going to a movie theater, shopping mall or cooling center. 
  • Visit ReadyDC’s extreme heat page for additional safety tips

In cold weather:

  • Put on extra layers of clothing.
  • Put on extra layers of clothing. 
  • Never burn charcoal for heating or cooking indoors. 
  • Never use your oven as a source of heat. 
  • If the power is out for a prolonged period, move to the home of a relative or friend or a public facility/warming s that has power. 
  • Visit ReadyDC’s extreme cold page for additional safety tips. 



Use the following tips to help your home, family and pets recover from a power outage:

  • Stay Informed through local radio, television or official social media accounts. Sign up for AlertDC to receive updates wherever you are.
  • If you cannot return home and need shelter, follow the official information given to you by the District Government to find the nearest available shelter in your area. 
  • Communicate with family members and friends. 
  • If you have a cell phone, call, text, email or use social media. 
  • If you have access to a computer, use an online registry such as the Red Cross website, “Safe and Well”.  
  • If you do not have a cell phone, use social media apps on personal gaming or tablet devices. 
  • If you do not have access to technology, go to your pre-designated meeting place for you to reconnect with family members or consider relaying information through friends, family or even your workplace. 
  • Check on your neighbors. Help people who may require special assistance, such as infants, children, the elderly or people with disabilities or access and functional needs. 
  • Throw away any food exposed to temperatures 40° F (4° C) for two hours or more or that has an unusual odor, color or texture. When in doubt, throw it out! 
  • Refreeze food if it has been in a freezer colder than 40° F and has ice crystals on it. 
  • Contact your doctor if you’re concerned about medications having spoiled. 
  • Restock your emergency kit with fresh batteries, canned foods and other supplies following a power outage. For a list of items to consider, visit ReadyDC’s emergency kit section. 

Additional Resources