Ever been home when the power goes out and all the sudden you can’t find any candles or flashlights and mutter to yourself that you wished you were better prepared? Unfortunately it has happened to me more times than I would like to admit.
Whether you live in the city, suburbs or the country, we will all experience power outages at some point, disrupting our daily routines when we least expect it. Power outages most commonly result from major thunderstorms or natural disasters such as tornados, hurricanes or even a derecho. In some regions, black-outs can be imposed by municipalities when energy sources are scarce. No matter what the cause, they can be frustrating and troublesome. Depending on the circumstances, outages can range from a few hours to a few weeks anytime of the year.
A few years back, my husband and I built our home in a very small town that has more woods and wildlife than people. The peace and quiet is wonderful until the power goes out. Living in what many would consider a country environment, we do not have resources such as street lights, or city water and city sewer. We rely solely on a well and septic system which poses its own challenges during power outages. Due to our location and community size, we are also not high on the priority list when it comes to power restoration. So when major storms are in the region, we prepare and anticipate that we could be without power for days. Below are some preparation steps that I have used to minimize the loss and reduce the stress while waiting for the power to return.
1. First a foremost, Water. Water is required for survival. It is recommended that you have a minimum of 1 gallon of water available per person, per day. I would suggest having 3 to 5 days’ worth on hand. If you have pets, make sure you have additional water supply for them as well. For those who use a well, set aside additional water for cooking, flushing toilets and washing up. Prior to the storms arrival, fill a bathtub or buckets.
2. Light. There are several ways to go about providing light during an outage. Always have at least one or two flashlights with extra batteries per person in the household. In recent years we have purchased rechargeable and LED flashlights. They come in real handy as they are plugged into our outlets and if the power goes out, the flashlights automatically light up and are ready to go. Other lighting options that we use consist of candles (battery operated and emergency), oil lamps, glow sticks and outdoor solar lights.
3. Food and ability to cook. Ideally you should have at least 3 days of non-perishable food that does not need refrigeration and special prep. Examples consist of fruit, pretzels, nuts, Jerky, chips, S’more’s (using marshmallow fluff), crackers, peanut butter, etc. Make sure you buy food that you and your family will eat, as this would not be the time to try new things. If you have a grill or a fire pit, your options for meals expands. Just make sure you have plenty of propane or charcoal on hand. To keep food cold, place bags of ice or freeze water in plastic bottles and place them next to food in the refrigerator/freezer. Have an ice maker on the front of your refrigerator, if so, bag that ice before it melts and place them in the refrigerator/freezer or in a cooler.
4. Sanitation. This step will vary depending on circumstances. If you have a well that is powered by electric, then there are no toilets, showers or washing of hands without water. As noted above, fill buckets or a bathtub with water to be able to function while the power is out. From past experience without power for days in July in 100 plus degrees and humidity, there is no worse feeling than the need to get clean and cooled off. In addition to water, I suggest having moist baby wipes, hand sanitizer, garbage bags, bag ties and some cat litter on hand.
5. Communications. Ideally having a battery powered crank or solar radio will allow you to keep abreast of your local and regional communications. Radios with NOAA weather and emergency alerts or a world band receiver are recommended. Cell service, may be limited or non-existent. Having one non-cordless phone at your home can help as they usually work even when the power is out. And lastly, and one that will be of most concern for many is to ensure you a means to charge electronic devices. There are many options, including solar, available.
6. Heat/Cool. If power goes out in the winter, the biggest challenge will be to keep warm. After 24 hours of no power, move into one room and place a towel or blanket rolled up at the bottom of the door to conserve heat. Dress your entire body in layers of clothing and have spare blankets handy. In the heat of summer, keeping cool is the challenge. Keep window curtains/shades down to prevent the sun heating up the rooms. One item we have invested in is a battery charged fan. It is not air condition by any means, but it is something that provides a cool breeze.
7. Activities. For the first hour or two without power, especially if you have children, can be a fun adventure. For many, anything beyond that can quickly become excoriating. Having activities available to entertain, such as games, books, or focus on crafts or other hobbies will help time go by.
In addition to the key preparation steps noted above, below are a few other items you may want to look into or have on hand:
– If you have a garage with an automatic door opener, do you know where the manual release is and how to operate it? Take the time familiarize how to manually open your garage door.
– Put your power company phone and contact information in your cell and/or on your refrigerator. Notify them when the power is out.
– If you have pets, have an sufficient pet food supplies on hand to last for 3 to 5 days/
– Ensure your car has a full tank of gas in car. This way you may be able to charge some electronics during extended outages and also allow you to get out of the summer heat when needed.
– Batteries in various sizes
– Lighter(s)/waterproof matches
– Cast iron skillet or Dutch oven
– Manual can opener
– Paper products (paper plates, plastic ware, paper towels)
– Aluminum foil
– First Aid Kit
– Sewing kit
– Battery charger with solar vehicle adapter for batteries and cell phones.
Please keep in mind that you should modify the above suggestions based on your particular circumstances. The peace of mind that comes from being prepared for power outages before it happens cannot be measure. If you have other items or tips you have found helpful, please let us know!