We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is a Blackout?

By G. Melanson
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
About Mechanics is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At About Mechanics, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Also known as a power outage or power failure, a blackout is a loss of electricity within a given area. A blackout can be caused by a short circuit, overloaded electricity mains, or damage caused to power lines by inclement weather, falling trees, and other environmental factors. The term blackout is typically reserved for severe power outages which blanket a large residential area, or “grid,” and last anywhere from an hour to a few weeks.

Power failures that last only momentarily before electricity is restored are referred to as dropouts, and typically caused by a power line fault. Power failures that cause lights to dim rather than go out are the result of a decrease in voltage, and referred to as brownouts. Brownouts can cause devices such as air conditioners and CRT televisions to struggle in an attempt to draw more current, potentially resulting in damage from overheating.

Backup systems for critical electrical devices that ensure public safety are implemented during blackouts. Equipment for hospitals and air traffic control systems use generators to automatically continue the power supply when electricity is lost. Although generators only produce power for a limited amount of time, they allow for critical workers to finish what they were working on at the time of the outage without interruption. There are also backup systems available to individuals for electrically-powered devices in their homes, which can be damaged by the sudden surges of electricity that can occur during blackouts. Computer systems, which are particularly vulnerable to hardware damage and data loss, can be protected by an uninterruptible power supply (UPS), such as a backup battery.

The restoration of power following an electrical blackout that has spanned an entire power grid can be challenging. Much like a car with a dead battery that requires a “boost” from another car, power stations require help from another station within the same power grid to re-start the system. If all other stations within the grid are without power, a blackstart must be initiated, which involves an intricate process of coordination between transmission utilities and power stations.

In 2007, President George W. Bush signed a policy with the Energy Independence and Security Act for the United States to upgrade its power grids to a smart grid, which can minimize the risk of blackouts as well as reduce CO2 emissions and energy consumption. On a national scale, power outages cost Americans in excess of $100 billion US Dollars (USD), according to the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI).

About Mechanics is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Related Articles

Discussion Comments

By andee — On Aug 18, 2011

I grew up in a small town and remember one winter when the whole town had a blackout for three days. We had a gas stove in our kitchen, and we would put a blanket up across the doorway into the kitchen so all the heat would stay in one room.

This is the only way we could get any heat to stay somewhat warm. When you are a kid, this is a little exciting for about 1 hour, then you realize how inconvenient it is.

The whole family would crowd in that one small room. We would play games to try and pass the time, but even that got old after awhile. We always had enough food to get by though.

You could almost hear the cheering across the whole town when they got the electricity turned back on.

By julies — On Aug 17, 2011

It seems like every winter we have a blackout for a few hours to a few days. We have had several ice storms in the last few years, and that causes our whole neighborhood to lose electricity.

While hospitals and many major companies have generators to ensure that things continue to run smoothly, it still creates havoc.

You really don't realize how much you depend on electricity until you have to go without it for a few hours or days. This is especially hard when it is below zero outside and there is no way to get warm.

Sometimes you have to rely on friends and family members who live close by that still have their electricity.

By comfyshoes — On Aug 16, 2011

@FernValley- My sisters were stuck in a blackout in New York City a few years ago. It was terrible because a lot of people were stranded because they had checked out of their hotels and then had nowhere to go because everything was at a standstill.

Luckily my oldest sister was able to have my other sister stay with her and she took a cab to her home, but a lot of people were not that lucky.

When the subways stop working in New York City it causes horrific transit problems all over the city. Even a blackout of a few hours is enough to do major damage.

By vogueknit17 — On Aug 15, 2011

@FernValley- I was still in school then, and some stores in town started selling "I survived the blackout" t shirts, even though it had not lasted that long at all in our area. I remember thinking that it seemed like every world event was turning into a joke, and that was even before most social media. I can't imagine how people would react now.

By FernValley — On Aug 15, 2011

I remember several years ago now when a large percentage of the US power grids blacked out for several hours, people panicked. Even though that event turned out to not be so bad, I guess it showed how vulnerable people are these days when we cannot get access to electricity and everything it supports in our lives.

About Mechanics, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

About Mechanics, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.