Editor’s Note: The video in this story shows KXAN Live’s top headlines for Sept. 7, 2023
AUSTIN (KXAN) — On Wednesday, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) issued a Level 2 emergency energy alert due to “high demand, lower wind generation, and the declining solar generation during sunset” leading to reduced operating reserves on the grid.
While no rolling outages occurred, ERCOT continues to request energy conservation efforts Thursday evening. But in the event that low grid operating reserves re-emerge, it’s important to know what to have on hand in the event of possible outages.
What to pack in your emergency power outage kit
Keeping everything in one centralized location is critical to ensuring easy and quick access in the event of an outage.
Among the most essential items is plenty of excess water on hand. The general rule of thumb is to pack one gallon of water per person per day that you anticipate an emergency might last.
You’ll also want to keep a first aid kit on hand to help treat minor injuries quickly, safely and efficiently. The American Red Cross encourages you to pack the following items in your kit when packing for a family of four:
- 2 absorbent compress dressings
- 25-count adhesive bandages
- 1 adhesive cloth tape
- 5 antibiotic ointment packets
- 5 antiseptic wipe packets
- 2 packets of aspirin
- 1 emergency blanket
- 1 breathing barrier (one-way valve)
- 1 instant cold compress
- 2 pairs of nonlatex gloves
- 2 hydrocortisone ointment packets
- Gauze roll bandage
- 1 roller bandage
- 5 sterile gauze pads
- 1 oral thermometer
- 2 triangular bandages
- 1 set of tweezers
You’ll also want to tailor your first aid kit to include any prescription medications or other essential medical items you or your family members might need.
Portable charger blocks are a great way to ensure you can keep your phone charged and available for any emergency phone calls or other needs. Just make sure you charge the portable charger before an emergency situation occurs.
You’ll also want to keep extra batteries on hand to help power things like battery-operated fans, flashlights, radios or other essentials. Alongside a flashlight, rechargeable headlights are a hands-free way to maintain light in your environment and to help prevent possible injuries from navigating your home or space in the dark.
A manual can opener is a good tool to keep in your kitchen in the event of a power outage, so you can dip into any rationed, non-perishable food items you have in stock. It’s important to have pantry items like canned meats and fish, beans, crackers, peanut butter and other non-perishable essentials that don’t require cooking before consuming.
An emergency radio is another essential item to have in your kit, especially in the event of a blackout. Radio options include battery-operated, solar-powered and hand-cranked radios that can be used at any moment sans electricity or internet access.
From a comfort standpoint, having a deck of cards or some board games on hand is a great way to pass the time during an outage, especially if you have children you’re trying to entertain.
Where to go in Austin if you lose power
The City of Austin’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management helps operate cooling centers during extreme heat conditions. Those are held at several city-operated library branches and recreation centers.
KXAN has reached out to HSEM to see what sort of protections are in place to help protect these city facilities in the event of rolling blackouts and brownouts. We will update this story once a response has been received.
What’s the difference between a blackout and a brownout?
The main difference between these two types of power outages comes down to the causes and their resulting intensities, according to charging manufacturer Anker.
A brownout is described by Anker as “a temporary drop in voltage in an electrical power supply.” These typically last for only a few seconds or minutes and might look like lights suddenly dimming or appliances slowing down or shutting off.
Anker said brownouts typically happen when “there’s an imbalance between the demand and supply of electricity causing the power grid to be overloaded.” When there’s high, frequent electricity use concurrently, such as everyone running their air conditioning on a hot day, brownouts can occur.
Blackouts are defined as a complete loss of electrical power and a total shutdown of all lights and appliances. Blackouts typically last longer than brownouts and can run for hours or even days depending on the severity, Anker added.
Blackouts typically occur when there’s been a “disruption in the power grid due to severe weather, high demand for electricity, or equipment failure,” per Anker. Blackouts are usually large-scale disruptions while brownouts are more localized electricity demand spikes.