ERCOT may start rolling blackouts in Texas. Here’s how to prepare.

ERCOT may start rolling blackouts in Texas. Here's how to prepare.



As of 6:45 p.m. Thursday, ERCOT is in the yellow zone, meaning no emergency conditions have been ordered. If the grid does issue emergency conditions, there are three levels before a rolling blackout might occur.

At level one of the emergency conditions, conservation is requested. At level two, ERCOT advised creating a plan in case rolling blackouts occur, which would only happen at level three. At level three, ERCOT’s website advises that “health and safety should be made a priority by using city or county instructions and resources.”

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If a rolling blackout is ordered Thursday night, it would be the fifth rolling outage in ERCOT history. The most recent occurred during the February Freeze in 2021, and before that on Groundhog’s Day in 2011.

What are rolling blackouts?

Rolling blackouts happen because the power grid needs to conserve energy when the predicted demand is greater than the supply. They work to preserve the entire utility system, because demand overcoming supply can be dangerous for the grid, according to ERCOT.

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According to ERCOT’s website, “rotating outages primarily affect residential neighborhoods and small businesses and are typically limited to 10 to 45 minutes before being rotated to another location. Each transmission company is responsible for determining how they will shed their portion of the load on the system.”

How to prepare?

In a summer rolling blackout, a plan may look different than in winter, when the main priority is staying warm. In summer, the main priority is staying cool, amid extreme heat conditions.

It’s recommended to unplug all devices if a rolling blackout is ordered. When power returns, devices could be harmed by a power surge in the lines.

Non-electric sources of light are also important, like battery-operated flashlights with fresh batteries and candles with matches to light them. Having solar-powered lanterns charged in advance could also be helpful.

Popular Mechanics offers additional tips for surviving summer blackouts.

Next, it is important to be stocked up on essentials, preferably food that is non-perishable, meaning it does not need refrigeration. Also buy food that doesn’t need to be cooked – many homes and apartments have electric stoves, which will not operate during a blackout. Dry goods, canned goods, pre-prepared non-perishables, water and juice are good things to have on-hand.

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It’s recommended not to open the refrigerator or freezer during a blackout, so the food inside remains cool until the power returns. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, items can last four hours in a refrigerator without power, and 48 hours in a full freezer or 24 hours in a half-full freezer. Find more food safety tips at the CDC website.

Finally, it’s important to create a plan of evacuation that can provide cool temperatures, food and water if needed, and, if possible, monitor social media, email and texts for alerts from ERCOT and local utility providers about the state of the power grid.


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