How To Prepare For A Blackout
Probably the most frequently occurring emergency in your home is an area-wide power outage, often for hours, occasionally for days. Not surprising given an outdated and nearly overwhelmed power grid. We are far more dependent on electricity in the home than most of us realize. Just count the number of electrical outlets in your house or apartment and see how many are occupied with plug-ins.
Here are some ways you can prepare:
Flashlights – Have at least one per person. If battery operated, replace batteries every year; if rechargeable batteries, either keep them recharging 24/7 or do so every week or so. Better yet, use self-powered flashlights (solar, pull-string or hand-crank, shake). Best place to keep a flashlight is next to the bed.
Automatic Systems – There are a variety of automatic lighting systems that have rechargeable batteries. They remain plugged into an electrical outlet, and automatically come on when power goes out. These range from individual flashlights to dual spotlights. Best places to install them: hallway(s), kitchen, basement, garage or carport.
Lanterns – In the ‘old days’, kerosene and/or oil lamps were common…but so were house fires caused by fallen ones. Today, thanks to new technologies, there are a variety of self-powered rechargeable LED lanterns…dynamo (hand crank), solar, sometimes both.
Generator – In the suburbs and rural areas, it is not uncommon to own a backup generator…gas, diesel, propane. Sizes vary from auxiliary to big enough to power everything in the house. Pretty difficult for urban dwellers, though, especially those living in apartments. But...
‘Mini-Generator’ – You might know them as jumpstarters, but many of the new ones now have built in DC to AC inverters with two or more outlets. Fully charged, one of these will provide temporary house current for appliances, power tools, computer, tv, etc.
Inverters – Power inverters convert DC (e.g. from a car battery) to AC (120v house current) and are available in a range from 100 watts to as high as 10,000 watts (surge).
Most kitchen stoves run on either electricity or natural gas. In emergencies, very often neither will function.
Outdoor (and some indoor) grills – There are a variety of grills, hibachis, and portable stoves available that can be used with propane, kerosene, charcoal, or wood for fuel. A few can be used indoors, all can be used outdoors or on apartment balconies.
Solar (Sun) Oven – One of the more innovative ways to cook and bake in an emergency (or in any energy-conserving situation) is to use the sun’s energy. No fuss, no muss, all you need is a solar oven with several hours’ exposure to the sun, and you can duplicate just about anything you might otherwise prepare on or in your kitchen stove. These have been used in many of the world’s most recent catastrophes, such as the earthquake in Haiti.
Food – If the power goes out, so does the refrigerator. Cook whatever is in there first, because if the blackout is a long one refrigerated food will spoil. Go for the freezer food next, same reason. The smart idea for any emergency is to stock up on canned and dehydrated foods, at least 72 hours’ worth and preferably much longer.
Water – Few of us are very aware of the amount of water we use per person per day for drinking, cooking, washing. Water is one of those things we usually take for granted...until there is none. Figure a minimum of one gallon per person per day, and that’s a bare minimum. More is better. So, it’s a good idea to have some water stored, at least enough for basic necessities. Store water in sealed 1-gallon or 5-gallon containers, even in the Coast Guard approved sealed pouches with a 5-year shelf life. There are also 55-gallon tub storage bladders and 65-gallon heavy duty storage bladders.
Finally, there is the toilet. For many, a power outage also cuts off water. And without water, a toilet has one flush. For those in this situation, there are a variety of solutions...from single use disposable (environmentally safe) liquid and solid waste pouches to multiple use portable chemical toilets.
All emergencies are unplanned, but most can be prepared for in advance. In the event of a power outage, especially one that lasts more than a few hours, think about what you normally take for granted during an average day and night...light, heat, food, water, toilet. Now think about having to do without them.
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