Term: Outage


A power outage is a complete loss of electric power in a particular area serviced by a segment of the electric grid. The time of loss can vary from a split second to an indeterminate amount of time.

Cause of Electric Outages

The vast majority of electric outages occur due to the power lines becoming damaged. The process of bringing electricity from the generation site to the end-user has many components. The wires are the least protected and therefore most vulnerable part of the process. Underground wires fare better than above-ground wires which are exposed to weather and other threats. 

Errors at the distribution sites also are responsible for outages but they have generators to help them overcome any issues. It is rare for power plants to contribute to power outages since they rely on advanced backup systems to support them in times of trouble.

Types of Outages

Brownouts are when the voltage running through the wires suddenly drops causing symptoms such as dimming lights. The power is not interrupted completely.

Blackouts are outages where all of the electric power is lost and all lights and electric-dependent appliances and equipment are unable to operate.

Effects of An Outage

When an outage occurs it affects multiple areas of life. Communication efforts are disrupted as are water supply and transportation. A power outage may promote the closing of retail businesses, banks, food markets, and more. A major concern is food spoilage since food cannot remain safe to eat if left at higher than required temperatures. Another unfortunate and unsafe effect is medical equipment, used by patients, will no longer function putting the patients at risk.

Safety Tips

During an outage, or in preparation for an outage, there are several steps one can take. First, keep plenty of charged batteries or other alternative sources of power available. Purchase a power bank or portable, external phone chargers to keep you up and running during an outage.

Also, purchase flashlights for every room in your home and add extra so every family member in the home has their own. Keeping both the refrigerator and freezer doors closed is essential in preserving your food. A closed refrigerator door will keep food safe for up to 4 hours and a freezer will keep food frozen if the door remains closed for up to 48 hours.

When the power returns following an outage, it sometimes surges. This surge of power can damage appliances so unplug them or turn them off during a power outage to protect them. 

A generator is a necessity if life-saving medical equipment is being used in the home. The stress from the fear of losing electricity can be draining to patients and their families.

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