Blackout! How to Prepare for a Power Outage
You may want to plan for the possibility of a power outage now, instead of scrambling for a flashlight when the lights go out. Here are four categories to keep in mind when preparing for a power outage, no matter the cause.
When the power goes out, some important appliances stop working, and that may include 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 help sanitize dishes and utensils.
You may want to consider having at least two ways to heat water and cook food that don’t rely on electric power. A solar oven can be a simple choice on sunny days, while a fuel-efficient outdoor stove or outdoor wood-burning appliance can help get the job done in any type of weather.
It’s important to make sure you plan ahead before a power outage strikes for preserving your food. Once frozen or refrigerated food has warmed to 40 degrees Fahrenheit or higher for two or more hours, it’s no longer safe to consume, says Ready.gov. You may be able to prolong the cold temperatures in your refrigerator and freezer, though. Simply fill some empty bottles with water and keep them in the freezer, says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. When the power goes out, the bottles may help keep food cool longer. Keep several of the frozen bottles in the freezer and put the others in the refrigerator. A food thermometer will let you know whether or not the food is in the safe-to-eat zone.
It may also be a good idea to have several non-perishable food items on hand in case of a power outage. Consider storing at least a week’s worth of food that doesn’t require refrigeration and is simple to prepare or store. Jerky, dried and canned fruit, nuts, granola bars, peanut butter, fruit and applesauce cups, juice boxes and tuna packs can all pack a nutritious punch without requiring any cooking. You can find a comprehensive list of handy no-cook foods here.
Depending on the length of the power outage, you may need to figure out a way to cook without power. You may be able to fire up the grill or a stove alternative. Be sure to store enough fuel or wood, if necessary. Also, make sure to use any grill or stove alternative outside.
In the event of an extended power outage, you’ll need to consider your basic survival needs. It can take some time to assemble what you’ll need, so consider the following:
- How will you stay warm in the winter without power? Blankets and even plastic 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 may help minimize the area that has to be heated.
- How will you stay cool in the summer without air conditioning? Battery-powered fans may be one option.
- How will you see in the dark? You’ll need several light sources, including flashlights, headlamps and lanterns. Purchase and store extra batteries for anything that is battery powered.
- How will you stay in touch with people and get necessary information? Invest in an emergency radio that is battery or solar powered or has a crank charger. In some cases, emergency radios may also have a place to charge your smartphone, too.
- Does a generator make sense in your circumstances? What type of generator would be right for your needs?
Other helpful items can be found on this survival basics checklist.
When the power goes out, it may 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 new or favorite books. A battery-powered dock for your smartphone may bring hours of entertainment to the music lovers in your family. Have young kids? Consider having some games or crafts set aside to help keep children occupied.
Power outages can take us by surprise, and they can be scary to both children and adults alike. Preparing ahead of time may help keep your family protected in an emergency and ready for a few days together at home.
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.
Originally published on August 29, 2012.