Blackout! How to Prepare for a Power Outage
Update, February 13 2014: A major winter storm brought heavy snow and ice accumulations across the Southeast, knocking out power for more than 700,000 people across 14 states. The National Weather service projects the harsh weather will begin its track up the Eastern Seaboard, hitting the Northeast on Thursday and Friday, and dump heavy snows and possible sleet and freezing rain on the region.
Plan for the possibility now, instead of scrambling for a flashlight when the lights go out. These are four categories to keep in mind when planning and preparing for a power outage emergency, whether it’s for an ice storm or any potential cause.
When the power goes out, some pretty important appliances stop working, and that includes your hot water heater. If the power is out for more than a few hours, you’ll need a way to heat water in order to sanitize dishes, eating utensils, and do laundry (along with purifying water, if necessary).
Have at least two ways to heat water and cook food that don’t rely on electric power. A solar oven can be a great choice on sunny days, while a fuel-efficient outdoor rocket stove, such as the Stove-Tec Rocket Stove, will get the job done in any type of weather.
Americans have likely lost billions of dollars’ worth of refrigerated and frozen food due to power failures over the past few decades. Once food has warmed to 40 degrees Fahrenheit or higher for two or more hours, it’s no longer safe to consume.
But if you fill empty beverage bottles with water and freeze them, you can prolong the cold temperatures in your fridge and freezer. When the power goes out, the bottles will help keep food cool longer; keep several in the freezer, and place several more in the fridge. A thermometer will let you know whether or not the food is in the safe-to-eat zone.
You should also store at least a week’s worth of food that doesn’t require refrigeration and is very simple to prepare. Jerky, dried and canned fruit, nuts, granola bars, peanut butter, fruit/applesauce cups, V-8 juice, and tuna packs all pack a nutritious punch without requiring any cooking. You’ll find a comprehensive list of handy no-cook foods here.
For food that needs to be cooked, fire up the grill or a stove alternative. Be sure to store enough fuel and/or wood, if necessary.
This category covers anything and everything that will insure your basic survival in the event of an extended power outage. It will take some time to assemble everything you need, so ask yourself the following:
- How will you stay warm in the winter without power? Blankets and even bubble wrap can be used to insulate windows. You should also have a plan for living in just one or two rooms during a long-term outage; this will minimize the area that has to be heated.
- How will you stay cool in the summer without air conditioning? (battery-powered fans are one option)
- How will you see in the dark? You’ll need several light sources, including flashlights, headlamps, and lanterns. Store extra batteries for anything that is battery-powered.
- How will you stay in touch with people and get necessary information? Invest in a good quality emergency radio that is battery powered. If it comes with a solar charger, that’s even better.
- Does a generator make sense in your circumstances? Or could it make you a target for thieves?
Other helpful items can be found on this survival basics checklist.
When the power goes out, it can really be a test to keep your wits about you because suddenly there is no TV, video games, or computer. Have a supply of board games, jigsaw puzzles, a deck of cards or two, and a few books that haven’t been read yet. A battery-powered dock for your iPod will bring hours of entertainment to the music lovers in your family. Have young kids? Stock up on a few sets of earplugs!
Power outages can take us by surprise, and they can be scary to both children and adults alike. Make preparations to keep your family protected in an emergency today to insure peace and readiness tomorrow!
Lisa Bedford, author of “Survival Mom: How to Prepare Your Family for Everyday Disasters and Worst Case Scenarios,” also blogs at www.thesurvivalmom.com. She believes there is power and peace in being prepared.
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