When The Lights Go Out
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When the Lights Go Out

What you need when the lights go out.

You know the scenario. Here you are, happily typing away writing another useless article, the wife's computer making all sorts of racket as she plays away at her favorite games. The kids are laughing and watching their favorite Disney movie, when suddenly the lights go out and everything shuts down. No TV, no computers, nothing. You stumble around in the dark searching for the nearest flashlight as the kids scream and the wife starts nagging and griping that she was almost at the next level of her game, as you trip over a chair. So now what ?

When preparing for an power outage it is very important that you think ahead. Power outages do not only happen in the middle of the night. So what if the power outage lasts more than just a few hours, then what ?

Power outages are a normal occurrence in the rural area that we live in, so luckily we are somewhat prepared for it. We keep all of our emergency supplies in a small closet in the family room, and everyone knows how to get to them. When a power outage occurs we all have flashlights and listen to our emergency radio for information about the power outage. Whether it be caused by a windstorm or other weather conditions, we are ready for it.

How are we going to eat ?

One of the first things you will want to consider is how are you going to feed your family if the power outage lasts more than a few hours. Keeping a small Coleman camp stove around with portable propane tanks is one way to be prepared. Remember when using a camp stove to use it in a well ventilated area. If you can use it outdoors, that is even better. The fumes from the burning stove creates carbon monoxide that can be lethal.

Keeping lots of canned food around that you can cook easily is also a good idea. Be sure to remember that your electric can opener is not going to work either, so you will need a way to open the cans.

In adverse weather it also a good idea to boil your water. Rain storms have a way of flooding the water supplies out here, contaminating the water making it undrinkable. If you can't boil water then be sure to have at least 5 gallons per person on hand.

How will you stay warm ?

We are fortunate that we have wood heat available to us, so staying warm is not a big deal when the power goes out. If you do not use wood heat but have a wood stove, you should always keep at least a weeks worth of wood around in a dry location. If you do not have wood heat and no other source to warm up the house, then keeping all the doors shut and having everyone stay in one room will help. The more people you have the better. Placing blankets or plastic over the windows will stop any heat loss helping to keep you warmer.

DAD I'm bored !!

OK, so your warm, and you have a hot meal in your belly, but the kids are bored to tears. You have done all your chores for the day and now their is nothing to do but sit around and stare at each other. So now what ?

Keeping a small arsenal of rechargeable devices is always a good idea. I have several hand crank emergency radios that cover the AM/FM and shortwave bands. I can keep the batteries charged up with the built in solar panel, and can also use them for recharging phones and other small devices. They also include all 10 NOAA weather channels, so I can keep up to date on weather conditions. For the kids we have a small portable rechargeable DVD player for power outages to keep them entertained. Another good idea is to have cards and games around.

Personal hygiene.

After a few days without power, things are going to start getting a bit rancid. When the kids won't come near you or give you a hug, that is a good indicator that you may stink. So how do you take care of that ?

Boiling water on the camp stove and taking a sponge bath is a great way to make sure that the others in the house do not find you offensive. Being able to shave and keep yourself clean is not only healthier, but will help keep you in a better frame of mind. What kid wants a smelly old bear sitting around yelling at them all day long. Don't forget that your electric razor probably is not going to work, and even a rechargeable razor won't do a thorough job after a few days without power.

Be prepared.

Being an amateur radio operator, I am always looking for new ways to power my radio equipment during a power outage. I currently have a small gas generator on hand to run radio gear. In an emergency a ham radio can become very important for communications with the outside world. If you are part of the ARES (Amateur Radio Emergency Services) group, it is even more important that you have a way to use your radio gear in an emergency. You may find yourself passing emergency traffic back and forth on a regular basis.

Just a few years ago a serious of mudslides closed off one of the coastal towns in our area, and with no power and cell phones the town had no way to communicate with the outside world. The town was just out of reach for VHF/UHF communications, and the hilltop repeaters for radio communications were completely shut off. They were cut off for supplies and medical help as well. By using ham radio communications set up at the local hospital they were able to get help and supplies sent in by ship. By monitoring the communications I was able to get updates on weather conditions and what was happening in our area, so that I could be prepared as well.

Keeping your family safe.

So, when a power outage occurs, what are the basic needs to keep you and your family safe ? The basics are food, heat and clean drinking water. In an extended blackout, safety can sometimes be an issue. If things go bad and people are hungry, you can become a target fairly quickly. Do not under estimate what a person may do when they are hungry.

So how do you protect yourself. Keeping a small firearm locked away somewhere is always a good idea. Make sure that everyone in the household knows where it is, how to properly use it and know that it is not a toy. Anyone over the age of 12 should also know about gun safety. Teaching the kids how to properly use a firearm is very important.

Know where everyone is at all times. If someone needs to leave for any reason, be sure to know where they are going. Write down where they went and what time they are expected back. Being aware of where everyone is may sound a bit paranoid, but it is important to know.

Alternative forms of power.

One of the interesting ways to provide power for electrical devices during a power outage are solar panels. Not only is this safer for you and your family, but once you are set up it is a completely free. The biggest obstacle seems to be the initial costs in setting up solar panels. If you only want to run a few devices like laptop computers and a few lights, the a small portable solar power generator may be the way to go. No dangerous gas to deal with and gas shortages like we saw during hurricane Sandy.

Bottom line.

Whether you are preparing for just a few hours or the zombie apocalypse it is very very important that you prepare now. With record weather conditions and winter coming up fast, now is the time to be prepared. Their is no reason why you should be caught off guard for any extreme weather conditions.

Street Talk


Very useful!!!

  about 7 years ago

Indeed, there's no other way than to be prepared. Times like this are really challenging because you will never know what will happen next. It might take much longer than we thought. Im interested in installing solar panels at home, the best alternative solution. Good pointers and interesting article!

  about 7 years ago

Very valuable, informative article...

  about 7 years ago

LOL I have been through this scenario so many times I grimace just thinking about it.. I often wonder how well some people get by with no knowledge of basic survival skills. I really enjoyed reading your article. Perhaps if people 'without a clue' read it they will have a wake up call.

  about 9 years ago
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