Superstorms like Sandy have heralded in widespread understanding of the long-term impact severe weather can have. Blackouts, food shortages and communications failure have long been associated with hurricanes, blizzards and thunderstorms. Weather-related power outages can range in severity, blanketing massive geographic areas or a few city blocks. They can also last from mere minutes to several weeks, causing minor inconveniences in some cases and catastrophic system breakdowns in others. At times like these, food, water and backup power become the most coveted and valuable commodities imaginable. Planning ahead to determine your family’s whereabouts during an extended power outage can help to maintain a sense of normalcy, even if the world seems to have upended. Do you know where your family will be best off during a long-term blackout?

Power Up at Home – If you live in a private house, installing an at-home generator will keep you powered up, eliminating the need to leave home unless an evacuation is officially called for. Back-up electricity allows you to maintain refrigeration and a safe food supply, light and communication, as well as heat and hot water. If you live in an apartment building such as a co-op or condominium, a commercial generator can be a good solution, providing back-up power for the entire building. Other apartment dwellers, such as renters, can typically keep the electricity humming on their own via portable generator power, or can consider discussing a full-building solution that benefits everyone with their landlord. Back-up generators turn on and off automatically and seamlessly, allowing for comfort in the event of a long-term blackout. Maintaining power with a back-up generator also provides a faster return to comforting routines after the storm has passed, allowing children to go to school clean and well fed, and adults to maintain their work life and salary.

Show Compassion But Set Limits – If you have back-up power and no one else in your area does, your home can quickly deteriorate into a long-term way-station for others. Determine ahead of time who you are comfortable having stay with you in the event of a power outage and work out a plan with them that includes procurement and distribution of supplies such as water, blankets and food. Extended family and good friends may be obvious choices but also keep an eye out for individuals who may really need help, such as elderly neighbors with no nearby family.

Determine Where Power Will Be Available – If you don’t have back-up power, find out which local businesses, municipal buildings and other facilities, such as designated shelters, have a generator and what their long-term policies are for people without electricity before, during and after storm situations. Choose two potential locations, one nearby and one which is farther away, in case your entire immediate area is required to evacuate. Determine an evacuation plan with two routes for each location, and include a thought-out communication plan so you can connect with loved ones.

Corey Whelan is a freelance writer in New York. Her work can be found at