There have been many instances where I have been sitting in my dorm room, and suddenly the power would cut out. Sometimes it was just for a few seconds, but I once was in the dark for 36 hours, and am currently writing this post during another power outage on my iPad. Here are my tips for dealing with a power outage on campus and in the dorms.
Learn how to report outages
My university recommends that students call the neighborhood desk in the event of a power outage in the dorms. I also learned how to report power outages to the power company itself, in case the neighborhood desk phone was down or busy. I recommend programming these numbers into your phone for easy access.
Don’t leave your room
Until you receive instructions from other staff members, you should stay inside your room, as the digital locks on doors may not work and it can be difficult to get back inside the room. Of course, if the fire alarm is going off, it’s better to evacuate than to just stay inside. Read my post about evacuating during a fire alarm with vision impairment and/or photosensitivity here.
Unplug power cords
If the power is out or expected to go out, unplug as many electronics as possible to protect them from power surges. Also remember to put the cords somewhere that isn’t the floor, or else you might trip over them in the dark. The only item that remained plugged in for my room was the microwave, because I couldn’t reach the cord.
Sign up for emergency alerts
Before anything happens, sign up for your campus emergency alert system to receive alerts updates about emergencies. This system also gives information about closings or delays, as well as safety instructions. I will be adding a post about campus emergency alerts soon.
Call to check if places have power before going there
Before leaving your dorm, check to make sure that your destination has power, or if they are expected to lose power. At one point, I had to travel to the DMV and while I called in advance to confirm they had power, I later learned they were expected to lose power about fifteen minutes after I called, and I ended up traveling there for no reason. I also call various friends to ask if they have electricity so I can determine if it is just me or not.
Have backup light sources
I keep glow sticks and battery powered light sources in my room so that I’m not stumbling in the dark too much. Avoid light sources that have a strobe/flashing light mode if you are photosensitive, so that you don’t accidentally flip to that setting.
Turn off overhead lights
Often times, the power comes back briefly only to go back out again, but not before flashing a bunch of times. I keep all of my lights switches in the off position, except for my closet light, so that way I can see if the power is back on or not.
Put devices on battery saving mode
When the power goes out, I immediately enable power saving mode and other battery saving measures for my phone and other battery powered devices. This ensures I can use them for as long as possible. I also take advantage of opportunities to charge my devices in buildings with generators and grocery stores.
If you must leave your room, go with someone
There can be many circumstances leading to a power outage, including construction, fallen power lines, and trees falling down. If you have to leave your room, go with a friend or campus security, as they can help you avoid obstacles and decrease the risk of injury. Read more about calling a security escort here.
Get food in advance
If I know there is a chance the power will go out, I go to the dining hall or grocery store in advance to get food I can easily store in my room. Sometimes, food may also be passed out in advance by housing. Read more about the ten food items I take from the dining hall in emergencies here.
Pack a bag in case of evacuation
During extended power outages or other emergencies, students may be required to evacuate dorms and go to another location. Have a bag ready to go and sitting by the door. Good items to pack include medication, spare change of clothes, chargers, and toiletries.
With these tips, you’ll look like a pro when the lights go out and be the calmest person in the dorm. I recommend that you print out this post and save it for when you need it, since you may not be able to access the internet in the dark.