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Blackouts & Brownouts: Why Do They Matter To Me?

Missouri’s Electric Cooperatives work hard to ensure that you have access to reliable, affordable energy. Blackouts and brownouts can still occur, though, and they can have negative effects on your health, home, and business.

Read more: Blackouts & Brownouts: What’s the Difference?

Our Member-Owners rely on electrical power for commerce, computing, food and medicine refrigeration, and more. A power outage or brownout — especially if it’s prolonged — could be a major inconvenience or even pose as a danger for your family. Here are several examples of why blackouts and brownouts matter to you.

Blackouts and Brownouts Can Affect Electric Motors

Electric motors are designed to run at a specific voltage, and changes in voltage affect the way the motor runs. Electric motors can overheat and burn out, resulting in expensive repairs and lost production time.

What to do: If at all possible, electric motors should be turned off and unplugged during power surges and sags.

Blackouts and Brownouts Can Affect Computers and Computer Networks

Blackouts and brownouts can damage or disrupt computer systems and networks. Networks can be forced offline, cash registers can fail to function properly, and entire computer systems can go down. Individual machines can suffer hard drive failures, as well.

What to do: If at all possible, power down and then unplug (simply turning them off will not protect them) your computer and other valuable electronics during electrical storms, other severe weather, and brownout conditions. 

Blackouts and Brownouts Affects Refrigeration

Refrigeration is affected by power outages. If power is out or altered for an extended time, refrigerated foods will go bad, which means an increased potential for food-borne illness. Similarly, prescription medications like insulin that require refrigeration may have to be thrown out after a power outage. 

Blackouts and Brownouts Affect Your Home’s Water Supply

Sewage plants usually have emergency power generators, so most municipalities will be able to treat their wastewater during outages. Homes that use electric water pumps, however, may not be able to run toilets, sinks, or showers during power outages.

What to do: If you know an outage is coming, fill a bathtub with clean water. Keep a supply of bottled water on hand in case of emergency.

Blackouts and Brownouts Can Cause Extreme Weather Exposure

Power outages are most likely to occur during times of peak usage and severe weather. That means that the hottest summer days are one of the most likely times for our Member-Owners to experiences outages. Another time when you’re likely to experience an outage is during severe weather like thunderstorms and winter storms.

When power flickers or goes out completely during summer’s hottest days or winter’s coldest ones, you may be exposed to extreme heat or cold. Your Cooperatives work nonstop to get power back on during those times, but they can still be dangerous — especially for elderly or ill Member-Owners.

What to do: Seek shelter with friends, family, or community organizations that are able to provide heat in winter or air conditioning in summer. Keep doors and windows shut in winter to hold warm air in your house, and close blinds and shades in summer to keep the sunlight out and the temperatures down. Dress appropriately for the season, and especially in summer, drink plenty of water.

Blackouts and Brownouts Can Affect Emergency and Medical Care

Blackouts and brownouts can affect emergency and medical care in a variety of different ways. Most hospitals and other medical treatment facilities have backup generators for electric power during outages, so it’s uncommon for a hospital to be completely without power.

Medical centers are likely to see a higher influx of patients during outages though; especially during prolonged ones in seasons with extreme temperatures. Prolonged power outage can result in more temperature-related illness like heat stroke and hypothermia. Outages can also cause increased traffic accidents when stop lights and street lights stop working properly.

What to do: Be prepared for longer wait times and for hospitals and other treatments centers to have longer lines than usual. 

Unfortunately, blackouts and brownouts will happen from time to time, but Missouri’s Electric Cooperatives work hard to make sure that they are few and far between. We know that power is vital for your businesses, your farms, and your families in Missouri, so we make reliable, affordable access to electricity our top priority all year long.

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