What to do in a power cut

A senior man investigates his fuse box at home - by the light of a single flashlight only - in a power cut during the energy crisis.

If you experience a power cut in your area, here’s what you can do to make things easier for you and your household. 

The UK weather is unpredictable, so if your area was to suddenly be hit by a storm, chances are that you’re unprepared for a power cut. 

There are a few steps you can take to make sure that you are ready f your home is without electricity. 

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Look around: do your neighbours have electricity?

This might sound obvious, but always make sure it’s not just your power that’s gone out. 

Are any street lights on? Can you see your neighbours’ Christmas decorations? If not, it’s probably a power outage. 

This also rules out the possibility of any faults in your own wiring or electrical supply. 

If that’s not the case, the answer to your worries could also be as simple as a trip switch going off in your fuse box. So double-check that as well.

Contact your local Distribution Network Operator

Next steps, you might want to have a word with your local Distribution Network Operator, or the DNO. They are the ones responsible for maintaining the wires in your area. Here’s how you can find out who your DNO is.

Depending on where you live, this could be any company. Luckily for you, they have all clubbed together and have one single phone number you can call. This will put you through to the right company for your area. 

Just call 105, from most landlines or mobile phones to report the power cut. You can also call this number if you see any damaged overhead wires. 

Energy Networks Association Power Cut

Remember not to call your electricity supplier as they will just direct you to the 105 number or another number for your local DNO.

You can also check your DNO’s social media pages for recent activity or updates on any power outage in your area.

Alternatively, your DNO may have sent a letter telling you about a scheduled power cut. If you can’t find the mail, check for any letters that were addressed to “the occupier” or “owner”. 

Here’s how to contact your DNO in emergencies:

Location Distributor Emergency contact
North West England Electricity North West 0800 195 4141
North East and Yorkshire Northern Powergrid 0800 375 675
North East England Northern Powergrid 0800 668 877
North Wales SP Energy Networks 0800 001 5400
North Scotland SSE Power Distribution 0800 300 999
Eastern England UK Power Networks 0800 316 3105
East Midlands Western Power Distribution / National Grid 0800 6783 105
Merseyside, Cheshire and North Shropshire SP Energy Networks 0800 001 5400
London UK Power Networks 0800 316 3105
Southern England SSE Power Distribution 0800 072 7282
South West England Western Power Distribution / National Grid 0800 6783 105
South East England UK Power Networks 0800 316 3105
South Wales Western Power Distribution / National Grid 0800 092 9290
Central and Southern Scotland SP Energy Networks 0800 092 9290

How to stay safe

Though a temporary power outage is unlikely to cause any harm, you should always be prepared for the worst. Also, it’s worth preparing in advance so that you don’t panic when it happens. 

Here’s what you can do to keep you and your household safe.

What to do with food supplies

According to UK Power Networks, your food can last in the fridge for 4-6 hours and 15-24 hours in the freezer. This is if you can avoid opening both of them to retain the cold temperatures. 

Another thing you can do is place a blanket over the fridge to keep its contents cooler for longer. If you see that your food has defrosted, you should throw it away as it’s unsafe to eat thawed and refrozen items. 

Alternatively, store food items such as biscuits, pot noodles or sandwiches that don’t need electricity or refrigeration. If you have a gas hob, you can use a lighter or matchstick to cook yourself a hot meal. 

What to do with electronic devices

A senior man investigates his fuse box at home - by the light of a single flashlight only - in a power cut during the energy crisis.

If there is a power cut, turn off all electronic devices and gadgets at the plug or simply unplug them. This includes anything that shouldn’t be left unsupervised, such as an electric hob, oven or iron. 

Otherwise, when your power comes back, it could result in overloading. 

It’s useful to have a torch with batteries to spare lying around. This will make it easier for you to move around the house when it goes dark early. Plus, you can avoid tripping on any electronics or household items. 

Keep this in an easily accessible area where any household member can find it during emergencies. 

Learn more energy-saving tips for your power-hungry electrical appliances with our handy guide. 

Should I light up candles?

It’s better to use your mobile phone flash or a torch. However, if you must use candles, be careful as they can result in fire hazards. 

Keep them away from any flammable substances such as furniture, carpets, curtains or books. Plus, make sure that they are out of reach of children and pets.

How do I save my mobile phone battery?

If you’re worried about draining your mobile phone battery during a power cut, here are a few energy-saving tips you can follow. 

  1. Keep your screen brightness low: This lets you conserve battery without affecting how your phone works. 
  2. Put on Low Power Mode or Battery Saver: If you have an iPhone, go to Settings -> Battery -> Low Power Mode. For Android users, swipe down and select Battery Saver, or turn it on via Settings. 
  3. Close unused apps: If you’re not going to use any apps, don’t keep them running in the background or they will drain your phone battery. 
  4. Turn off Location settings: Leaving location on can use extra power, so turn that off. For iPhones, go to Settings -> Privacy -> Location Services. In Androids, go to Settings -> Location. 
  5. Switch off Wi-Fi when not in use: Otherwise, your phone will keep connecting to something, ultimately using up your battery.  
  6. Turn off notifications: If you don’t use certain apps, stop notifications for them. You can disable this in your Settings, including any Push Notifications. 
  7. Replace old batteries: This is a great way to lengthen your phone battery life if you’re using an older phone and don’t want to switch.

What are my rights in a power cut?

If your gas or electricity goes out because of a power cut, it’s important to understand where you stand. 

Can you claim compensation? How serious is the disruption to your household? Were you given any warnings?

Find out everything you need to know in our ‘Your rights if you have a power cut’ guide. 

If you're vulnerable, sign up for the Priority Services Register

Check if you qualify to sign up to the free Priority Services Register (PSR). If you’re on the PSR you’ll get extra support during unexpected household interruptions such as power cuts.

Everyone in England, Wales and Scotland is free to register for free PSR services. All you need is to be eligible for one of the following: 

  • Use medical equipment reliant on electricity or water
  • Live with children under five
  • Are blind or partially sighted
  • Are deaf or hard of hearing
  • Have a chronic illness
  • Have anxiety, depression or any mental health condition
  • Have a disability
  • Are of pensionable age
  • Loss or impairment of smell
  • Need documents translated into another format or language
  • Temporarily need extra support.

You can speak to your energy supplier to discuss any further needs or support.

Find out what support is available if you need help with energy bills.