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FEMA Data Digest: Power Outage

November 2021

Use the FEMA Data Digest

To learn more about research at FEMA, please visit: https://www.ready.gov/preparedness-research.

Have questions about this data? Want to receive the Data Digest? Contact FEMA at FEMA-Prepare@fema.dhs.gov

Help us to build a culture of preparedness by using the FEMA Data Digest to inform your work!

FEMA publishes Data Digests to share important findings from the National Household Survey (NHS) about preparedness. Our goal is to provide you with relevant hazard-specific insights, graphics, data, and messaging that you can use to engage with your communities. Below, we’ve identified:

  • Data-Driven Key Messages for the preparedness community
  • Calls to Action for individuals and communities to take protective actions
  • Helpful Links to free preparedness publications, research, and tools

We invite you to use the information below, download the graphics, and incorporate these resources into your power outage-related publications, social media posts, or stakeholder outreach.

“Extreme weather events are the main cause of power outages and a constant hazard to the nation’s energy system. Due to climate change, future extreme events that can cause power outages are projected to be more frequent and last longer.”

(Source: U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit)


Background on the NHS Power Outage Oversample

FEMA created the Power Outage oversample for the NHS by combining data about 7 hazards that can cause outages. FEMA built the sample using the National Risk Index hazard scores for the top 10 counties in the contiguous United States for these 7 hazards. Respondents from the Power Outage oversample came from 52 counties and all of Puerto Rico.

 Map of hazards that can cause a power outage: riverine flooding, hurricane, ice storm, winter weather, tornado, strong wind, and wildfire.

* Puerto Rico is not shown above but is included in the NHS Power Outage sample.

Figure 1. Hazards that Can Cause a Power Outage (Graphic based on National Risk Index)


Key Message #1:

3 in 5 people in power outage-prone areas (61%) have not assembled or updated supplies they may need for an outage.

81% of people living in a power outage-prone area have been impacted by power outages.
80% of people living in a power outage-prone area believe a power outage could impact them.


Download and Share This Graphic

 Three preparedness facts obtained from the 2021 NHS about people living in power-outage prone areas.

Figure 2. Preparedness Facts About People Living In Power Outage-Prone Areas


Start the Conversation with Your Community

Have you experienced a power outage?

  • What do you wish you would have had during a power outage?
  • What items would you recommend others gather in advance?
  • What items would people in urban areas need?
  • What items would people in rural areas need?
  • What items do you already have on hand?
 A flashlight?;A blanket or sweater for cold weather;d items that you can eat without using electricity?;Extra batteries in your junk drawer?

Emergency supplies don’t need to be expensive or fancy! Think about what you have on hand already that you could use in an emergency.


Of the people living in power outage-prone areas who had supplies, the most common items included in their supply kits were:

Batteries – 35%; food – 30%; blankets – 27%; radio – 26%; generator – 16%; other (image of phone battery pack) – 2%

* Percentages will not add to 100% because respondents were able to select multiple answers

Figure 3. Common Items Included in Supply Kits


Download and Share This Graphic

In addition to gathering emergency supplies, consider:

Take inventory of things that use electricity; grab flashlight & extra batteries, install a carbon monoxide detector , keep electrionics charged.

Figure 4. Suggested Actions to Take in Addition to Gathering Emergency Supplies


Engage With Your Community

Ask members of your community:

  • What are some items you already have that you could use in an emergency?
  • Are there unique situations your community might prepare for?

Remind them to:

  • Make a plan for how to find these household items quickly in an emergency.
  • Consider their personal situation.

The following questions were asked of NHS survey respondents. Their responses informed Key Message #1:

  • What have you done to prepare for a power outage in the last year?
  • Respondents who reported assembling or updating supplies in the last year were asked: “What items do you have in your supply kit to prepare for power outages?” (Respondents could select more than one response.)
  • Have you or your family ever experienced the impacts of a power outage?
  • A power outage is when the electrical power goes out unexpectedly. Thinking about the area you live in; how likely would it be for a power outage to impact you?

Key Message #2:

.

62% of people living in a power outage-prone area reported that they did not have an emergency plan.

 People graph showing 38% of people who have an emergency plan versus the 62% of people who don’t have an emergency plan.

Figure 5. Percentages of Individuals Who Have and Don’t Have an Emergency Plan


Help Your Community to Prepare

Share the family emergency communication plan card with your community!

Download or order copies today!


The following question was asked of NHS survey respondents. Their responses informed Key Message #2:

  • What have you done to prepare for a power outage in the last year?

Key Message #3

82% of people living in a power outage-prone area have not tested how they’ll use their family communication plan if they were to lose power.


Download and Share This Graphic

 If you're in a power outage-prone area, create an emergency plan that includes what to do if you lose power.

Figure 6. Have an Emergency Plan for a Power Outage

Call Individuals to Action

Create your family emergency communication plan today!

Planning today can bring you peace of mind during a disaster. Don’t forget to include your extended family, too!

Download a fillable card in English, Spanish, Korean, Vietnamese, and Traditional and Simplified Chinese from Ready.gov or order a free copy from FEMA’s Warehouse.


The most common ways people planned to maintain communication during a power outage (as reported by people who lived in areas prone to power outages) were:

List of the most commonly reported ways people planned to maintain communication during a power outage.
Percentage Common Ways to maintain communication during an outage
66% >Conserve cell phone battery
40% >Use a backup battery pack
37% >Use a backup generator
37% >Use a vehicle as a power source
30% >Tlk with Nieghbors
23% >Power items manually

* Percentages will not add to 100% because respondents were able to select multiple answers

Figure 7. Commonly Reported Ways People Plan to Maintain Communication During a Power Outage


Call Your Community to Action

Ask members of your community:

  • Do you know how to safely use a generator or your vehicle as a power source?

Why you should ask:

  • 74% of people who are in a power outage-prone area reported that they were aware of risks associated with carbon monoxide poisoning from the misuse of generators.

Help Your Community to Prepare

What considerations would you need to make during a power outage? Learn more about how to safely use a generator during a power outage on FEMA’s Protective Actions Research site.



Don’t fuel a generator when it is running.   Don’t use it in a wet area.

Always use it outside the home   Use heavy-duty extension cords to connect appliances

Figure 8. Safety Tips for Using a Generator


The following questions were asked of NHS survey respondents. Their responses informed Key Message #3:

  • What have you done to prepare for a power outage in the last year? (Respondents could choose multiple answers.)
  • What is your plan for communication (getting updates) when the power is out?
  • Are you aware of any risks associated with carbon monoxide from the misuse of generators?

Key Message #4

In power outage-prone areas, 25% of individuals who had medical devices that required power or had medications that required refrigeration didn’t know how to operate those devices or safeguard their medications during a power outage.


Call Individuals to Action

Take an inventory of your medical devices and medications. Take note of what would need power or require refrigeration.


Download and Share This Graphic

Have a plan! Power outages could be life-threatening if you use devices that need power or medications that require refrigeration

Figure 9. Plan How to Manage Medicines that Require Refrigeration and Medical Equipment that Requires Electricity in Case of a Power Outage

Call Individuals to Action

Learn how to safely store your medications and operate your medical devices in the event of a power outage!

Plan ahead:
  • Take an inventory now of the items you need that rely on electricity.
  • Talk to your medical provider about a power outage plan for medical devices powered by electricity and refrigerated medicines. Find out how long medication can be stored at higher temperatures and get specific guidance for any medications that are critical for life.
  • Plan for batteries and other alternatives to meet your needs when the power goes out.

Start the Conversation With Your Community

Ask your community members:

  • What are ways that you can help your neighbors plan for a power outage?
  • In the event of a power outage, how can you support people in your family who rely on medications or medical devices? How about your neighbors or others in your community?

The following question was asked of NHS survey respondents. Their responses informed Key Message #4:

  • If you have medical devices that require power or medications that require refrigeration, do you know how to operate those devices or safeguard the medications in the event of a power outage?

National Household Survey (NHS) Information

2021 NHS Key Findings

Since 2013, FEMA has measured preparedness attitudes and behaviors annually in the nationally representative National Household Survey.  59% have pursued 3 or more of 12 basic preparedness actions; 44% have saved for a rainy day.

* Data obtained from the 2021 NHS

NHS Data Tables

Preparedness Actions

Table 1: 12 Preparedness Actions

Question

Response

Power Outage-Prone Area
2021














What have you done to prepare for a power outage in the last year?

(Respondents could select all that apply.)

Assemble or update supplies

39%

Document and insure property

14%

Get involved in community

8%

Know evacuation routes

17%

Make a plan

38%

Make your home safer

22%

Plan with neighbors

12%

Practice emergency drills or habits

14%

Safeguard documents (for access without power)

19%

Save for a rainy day

23%

Sign up for alerts and warnings

27%

Test family communication plan (without power)

18%

None

17%

Table 2: Taking Multiple Preparedness Actions

Question

Response

Power Outage-Prone Area
2021

What have you done to prepare for a power outage in the last year?

Taking at least 1 of the 12 preparedness actions

83%

Taking at least 3 of the 12 preparedness actions

43%

*See Table 1 for the 12 Preparedness Actions which could have been taken

Preparedness Influencers

Table 3: Preparedness Influencers

Preparedness Influencers

Description of Preparedness Influencers

Power Outage-Prone Area

2021

Awareness

Have read, seen, or heard information in the past year about how to get better prepared for a power outage

45%

Hazard Experience

Have personal or familial experience with the impacts of a power outage

81%

High Preparedness Efficacy

Believe that preparing can help in a disaster AND are confident in their abilities to prepare

43%

Risk Perception

Perceived likelihood for a power outage to impact them

80%

The following questions were asked of NHS respondents:

  • Awareness Question: A power outage is when the electrical power goes out unexpectedly. In the past year, have you read, seen, or heard any information about how to get better prepared for a power outage?
  • Hazard Experience Question: Have you or your family ever experienced the impacts of a power outage?
  • High Preparedness Efficacy Questions: How much would taking steps to prepare help you get through a power outage in your area? And how confident are you that you can take steps to prepare for a power outage in your area?
  • Risk Perception Question: A power outage is when the electrical power goes out unexpectedly. Thinking about the area you live in; how likely would it be for a power outage to impact you?

Stages of Change

Table 4: Stages of Change

Stage

Description

Power Outage-Prone Area

2021

Precontemplation

I am NOT prepared, and I do not intend to prepare in the next year

11.7%

Contemplation

I am NOT prepared, but I intend to start preparing in the next year

14.4%

Preparation

I am NOT prepared, but I intend to get prepared in the next six months

25.2%

Action

I have been prepared for the last year

25.5%

Maintenance

I have been prepared for MORE than a year, and I continue preparing

23.2%

The following question was asked of NHS respondents:

  • Thinking about preparing yourself for a power outage, which of the following best represents your degree of preparedness?

Power Outage Specific Oversample Questions

Table 5: Power Outage-Specific Oversample Question

Question

Response

Power Outage-Prone Area

2021

What items do you have in your supply kit to prepare for power outages?

(Asked of those who reported having assembled or updated supplies in the last year. Respondents could select all that apply.)

Batteries

35%

Blankets

27%

Generator

16%

Non-Perishable Foods

30%

Radio

26%

Other

2%

Table 6: Power Outage-Specific Oversample Question

Question

Response

Power Outage-Prone Area

2021

Are you aware of any risks associated with carbon monoxide from the misuse of generators?

Yes

74%

Table 7: Power Outage-Specific Oversample Question

Question

Response

Power Outage-Prone Area

2021

If you have medical devices that require power or medications that require refrigeration, do you know how to operate those devices or safeguard the medications in the event of a power outage?

No

25%

Yes

34%

Not Applicable

41%

Table 8: Power Outage-Specific Oversample Question

Question

Response

Power Outage-Prone Area

2021

How long could you live in your home without power?

Less than 3 days

18%

3 days to 1 week

34%

More than 1 week

18%

More than 2 weeks

12%

More than 1 month

5%

More than 3 months

13%

Table 9: Power Outage-Specific Oversample Question

Question

Response

Power Outage-Prone Area

2021

What is your plan for heat or cooling without power?

(Respondents could select all that apply.)

Alternative Heating or Cooling Methods (Blankets, Clothing, Water)

65%

Find A Community Heating or Cooling Shelter

29%

Other Power Source (Generator)

34%

Visit Friends or Family Who Have Power

47%

None

5%

Table 10: Power Outage-Specific Oversample Question

Question

Response

Power Outage-Prone Area

2021

What is your plan for communication (getting updates) when the power is out?

(Respondents could select all that apply.)

Conserve Cell Phone Battery

66%

Home Backup Power (Generator)

37%

Individual Item Backup Power (Battery Pack)

40%

Manual Powered Items (Crank Radio)

23%

Personal Vehicle Power Sources

37%

Talk with Neighbors

30%

None

5%

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