Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Power Outage

Last night, the power went out. This was the first outage of the season and a good reminder to be prepared for a power outage as this is one of the most common types of "disasters" to affect people. Here's how to be prepared for a power outage in order of importance:
  1. Have flashlights and extra batteries. There should be a flashlight in each room or your house and a flashlight for each member of your household. When it comes to having NO power and NO light, sharing one flashlight among family members is virtually impossible--each person has certain tasks to do which require light so make sure each person has a flashlight. Since both the spouse and I know where the flashlights are, it was no problem to move around the family room, in the dark, to find the flashlight. Then we used the light from the flashlight to move throughout the house so that each of us could get own own flashlights (we keep our personal flashlights under each of our side of the bed). I don't much care for candles but will use them as a last resort since they are much more likely to cause a fire than a flashlight.
  2. Keep your house clean. Fortunately our home is always clean and orderly. In the pitch black (the power went off in the evening after the sun had gone down) you don't want to break your neck from tripping over things as you search for your flashlight.
  3. Have a phone. You will need either a charged cell phone or a land line phone which plugs into the phone jack (not the kind that requires power such as cordless phones that have a message recorder attached to it). In the event that you need to call the power company to alert them to the outage or you need to call 911 for help, phones of the cordless variety or the VoIP variety, will not work without power.
  4. Heat is nice to have. During a power outage, many people lose their source of heat (ie: electric heaters, forced air systems, etc). Depending on how cold it is outside is how critical having heat in your home will be. If possible, have dry wood for the fireplace or wood stove on hand for these occasions. If you don't have a way to burn wood for heat, pile everyone in the same room with a lot of blankets, and close the door to keep body heat in the room. For longer term outages during very cold weather, break out the portable kerosene heater if you have one. If you have no other source of heat, you may want to seek shelter in a hotel, with friends or family, or at a community shelter set up for this purpose.
  5. Got news? For longer term power outages, you will probably want a source of news and information. Since the outage occurred later in the evening last night, we just went to bed a bit earlier than usual. If this had been a day long or multi-day event, we would have wanted more information about the outage. For these instances, consider keeping a battery-powered or wind-up radio on hand. You can also get news if you can connect through the internet through your cell phone, and those new, portable, digital TVs look promising as well.
  6. Got entertainment? Ditto the above statement. If the power goes out in the evening, you can always just go to bed early and catch up on your sleep. If it is an all day or multi-day event, you may want to have some non-powered sources of entertainment on hand. It's amazing how much we have come to count on powered things for work/entertainment/information/connecting with others. When the power goes out, so does your TVs, VCRs, DVD players, computers, FaceBook page access, internet, home phone...basically the things that make up 95% of your social life/entertainment options. I like having a nice collection of books on hand for these occasions. We also keep board games and cards on hand to keep everyone entertained during such events. Note that going outside for a walk during the wind storm that knocked your power out is not a good way to entertain yourself. With trees and power lines falling, it is a good way to end up injured or worse!
  7. Food may be an issue. Depending on how long the power has been out, eventually food will become an issue. There really is no need to break out the grill/other portable cooking device for a day-long power outage. People survive daily on sandwiches so it shouldn't be a problem to whip up something quick and easy to eat. For multi-day power outages, you will want to devise a plan for your refrigerated and frozen food so it won't go bad. Longer term cooking can be accomplished (outside!!) on a gas grill or barbecue. On a side note, even though your water system will usually work during a power outage (unless you have a deep well with a motor), you always want to have bottled water on hand. This is even more important if you can't access your well water during a power outage.
  8. Gas appliances are nice to have. I've lived in all electric houses, and houses with gas appliances and during a power outage, gas rocks. Even if we don't have power, we have hot water and the ability to cook on a gas-powered stove.
  9. Do you need a generator? When my son moved to a very rural location, we gave him our generator. He has small kids to take care of and a much higher likelihood of losing power on a regular basis. Where we live, since it is relatively close to the city, we are never without power for more than a few days at the most so we haven't felt the need to replace the generator. Having a generator for power outages depends on each individual situation. If you have someone at home who is on a ventilator, for example, and they would die without electricity, having a generator should be at the top of this list. If you live where power is restored rather quickly when it goes out, you may want to invest your money for survival preps elsewhere. If you do choose to have a generator, be sure it is #1 hooked up correctly so you don't electrocute yourself or someone else, #2 vented correctly so you don't pass out or die from carbon monoxide fumes, and #3 have plenty of fuel on hand to keep the thing going.


  1. When the power went off, my wife had to train the cashiers at the store to use a CALCULATOR TO CHARGE FOR THE SALES TAX.

    I found this incredible that younger people dont know how to figure a percentage of tax.

    IN ANOTHER MATTER. You are being copied by another site . He's now running a poll after he copied another site on running what did you do to prepared this week.

    Boy he is making money on somebody elses ideas and he is not even writting daily. I guess he's got to search for other ideas to publish.

    I'm glad you dont take those steps, because I know you have integrity.

    Always your loyal reader

    Couch Potato.

  2. Excellent list of suggestions! We live in the desert, so one of my greatest fears is a long-term electrical outage in the summer. We'd have to invade our neighbor's pool, that's for sure!

  3. Survival Mom--Power outages around here generally mean problems with COLD weather, however I should have noted that power outages in other parts of the country can often mean HOT weather problems. I'll have to do a post about hot weather problems when the power goes out..
    CP--On your first comment, I have to say that on more than one occassion I have had to tell cashiers how much change to give me back when they punched the wrong amount into the computer. Even though it happens often, I am always surpised that people can't add and subtract--it isn't like they need to figure out a calculus problem to figure out change! On the second note, I'm not sure which site you are referring to but there plenty of people who always go for the money whether they are doing something enjoyable/productive/valuable to others or not. Fortunately those types are shed fairly quickly. I would do this blog and website whether I have one reader or thousands and whether I made lots of money off of this site or nothing at all simply because I enjoy sharing my experiences and knowledge with people in the hope that everyone can learn something that may save their life one day.

  4. No outages yet this year, but the old generator got a work out last year when a bad ice storm left us in the dark for 9 days - we are not used to that kind of stuff in kansas!

    Great article.