When a power outage occurs unexpectedly, it is important to understand the impact it can cause – either business interruption to your organization or possible damage to your home and property. An extended power outage has the possibility of affecting not just your building but your community.

Because power outages, such as blackouts or brownouts, are mostly unpredictable, having an emergency preparedness plan means that you, employees, tenants and loved ones will be ready for any natural disaster. Gallagher provides the guidance to help minimize the inconvenience and potential damage to your business during power failure, as well as prepare you in safeguarding your home and property. 

Blackout vs. Brownout

The demand for electricity is always fluctuating, and electric/power companies must produce the right amount of power for areas at the right levels. But when demand is higher than what electric companies can produce, they may stagger the flow of electricity to certain areas causing a brownout. These intentional brownouts, lasting anywhere from a few minutes to several hours, continue until power levels are fully restored, reducing the flow of electricity to certain areas to help prevent a blackout. 

blackout is a large-scale energy service interruption that occurs as a result of severe weather or equipment failure at power plants. Smaller electricity interruptions, known as "power outages," are instances in which power is restored fairly quickly. Similar to brownouts, "rolling blackouts" are also timed instances in which electric companies spread these outages to ease the strain on an overtaxed electrical grid. Both blackouts and rolling blackouts are different from "planned outages," which are scheduled and announced in advance, often to allow for equipment maintenance.

Before a Blackout Occurs: Review your Policies and Coverages

If you live in an area prone to blackouts or brownouts, it is never too early to contact Gallagher and ensure you have the appropriate coverage, update your current property information, and review what is covered with your current policy.

Pre-Planning: Prepare your Business or Home before a Blackout

Awareness and preparation are key factors in minimizing risks during a blackout. By understanding your vulnerabilities and proper planning, you can reduce the effects to your business, home or personal property, and ensure the safety of your family and loved ones.

  • Ensure all sensitive electronic equipment is protected by a power strip surge protector. Also, charge and test battery systems and backup electrical generators semi-regularly.
  • Create an Emergency Kit. Maintain an emergency supply kit that will sustain you and your family for a 72-hour period. The American Red Cross has guidelines on how to build a survival kit.
  • Purchase a portable generator if you are in an area prone to blackouts. Portables can work as a backup generator when other options are unavailable.
  • Store clean water. Have a three-day supply of water in case clean water is not available.
  • Develop an Emergency Contact List. Develop a contact list and, if necessary, an evacuation location for all family members. Include contact procedures post-blackout.
  • Practice first aid skills and emergency response actions. Attend training classes and practice response skills so you know how to administer first aid to any injured parties before professional help arrives.
  • Schedule fuel deliveries. Know the fuel consumption rate of any critical equipment including company vehicles, backup generators, etc., and set up fuel deliveries to ensure you never run out.

What to Do During a Blackout

When a blackout or brownout occurs, you will not have much time to react. Safety, at this point, is the first point of order of business for your employees or loved ones. While blackouts can also occur during other natural disasters like hurricanes or winter storms, sometimes blackouts can occur unexpectedly for no reason without any indication of duration. By contacting your electric company first, they might be able to give an estimated time of your power outage. Depending on the amount of time the blackout will last, you can determine which plan of action you’d want to take.

Blackouts lasting a few hours or less

Determine the source and extent of your power outage – if it is an issue on your property or a widespread blackout. After contacting your local electric company to notify them of the outage, you may stay in your home or building if the blackout is less than a few hours. Gather flashlights and smartphones to follow the outage, and unplug major electrical equipment to avoid damage from power spikes when electrical service is restored. Try to avoid using candles in your home and do not use them inside office buildings. Never run a generator inside unless prior precautions have been taken. And be sure to leave one light on inside your business or property to know when the power turns back on.

Blackouts lasting several hours

For unplanned power outages lasting more than a few hours, you must prepare your business, employees, property and loved ones on next steps.

  1. Turn off and unplug all electrical equipment to avoid damage from power spikes.
  2. Contact your electric company and notify them of the outage.
  3. Follow the outage on social media channels or listen to your battery-powered radio, if available, for further information.
  4. Never run or connect your generator inside your building or property unless prior steps have been taken to ensure your safety.
  5. Leave refrigerators and freezers closed as much as possible. The USDA estimates it only takes four hours for meats, eggs and leftovers to go bad. If the outage will be longer than four hours, transfer perishable items to a cooler with ice to maintain a temperature of 40ºF or below.
  6. Limit unnecessary travel and drive with precaution – traffic signals will stop working.

Post-Blackout Recovery Guidelines

After power is restored and receiving the "all-clear" signal from your local agencies or emergency personnel, you can begin your post-blackout recovery measures. Be sure to review the emergency plan, and update as necessary. Also, replace and restock items on your Disaster Supply List including batteries for flashlights and handheld radios. You may also review your Business Interruption and Extra Expense Claims list on how to assess possible business interruption impacts, as well as potential claims coverage. Lastly, complete any mitigation items as directed by FEMA or your insurance carrier.

Filing an Insurance Claim after a Blackout

You could be eligible for a claim if food or perishable items are damaged due to a blackout. It is important that your claims handler receive this information as quickly as possible so they can begin the claims resolution process. Check with your Gallagher advisor with specific policy and claim questions.

Businesses can examine their property for damage to items like large metal structures or generators, and complete a Preliminary Damage Assessment Report with pictures and/or video of the damage, if necessary. Also make sure to maintain an up-to-date Policy and Claim Reporting Information Directory.

Blackout Planning and Claims Resources

Starting an Insurance Claim after a Blackout

In order to initiate an insurance claim, you will need to provide as much detail as possible to your claims handler. The following is recommended:

  • Photographs and/or video of any damage are extremely helpful. If necessary, businesses can also utilize the Interior and Exterior Asset Inventory.
  • A preliminary list of damages. For businesses, use the Preliminary Damage Assessment Report to document any issues to your property. 
  • Secure your location(s) to prevent further loss and begin to sort damaged items from the undamaged items.

Insurance Claims Process: What to Expect

Throughout the claims investigation process, you may have various coverage-related questions. Please reach out to Gallagher with specific policy and claim questions. During this high-volume claim reporting period, you should anticipate the following:

  • Initial contact may take some time. Some insurers may use adjusters under contract, so the adjuster’s contact information may appear different than expected.
  • Limited access to affected areas.
  • Competition for labor and materials will be high, which may impact the timeframe and costs associated with repair and remediation.
  • Working closely with your claims adjuster. If you have questions regarding the resolution process, Gallagher is here to assist and ensure you are in control of the claim progress.

Your insurance company’s website will contain important information about how to handle claims and manage losses. For your home and property, we have listed many insurance companies in the event you do not have the contact information readily available. Businesses may also use our Policy and Claim Reporting Information Directory.

Essential Resources for Blackout Preparedness

Bookmark these recommended informational sources to help prepare and recover from a power outage. These are national resources and are not associated with Gallagher.

U.S. Government Resources