Most power outages in the US are caused by storms. Usually outages are very localized and only last from a few hours to a day or two. However recent storms in the Washington DC area left tens of thousands without power for a couple of weeks. All this happened mid-summer during one of the biggest heat waves the country has seen in years. The outage covered such a large area that people had no services which require power and that also included water – that’s right; it takes electric pumps to put pressure in the water lines to pump the water to your faucet. Heat wave + no power for weeks + no water = disaster.
Usually when a storm causes power outages it is because tree branches have fallen on power lines shorting them out or breaking them. When this happens the trees have to be cleared away before repairs of the power lines can even begin. If support poles and power lines all need to be replaced this takes time and the power crews have to “walk” the entire length of the line to make sure there isn’t anything else that will short the line again before they turn the power back on. So what kind of supplies might you need in case of a temporary power outage?
The most imminent requirement for survival in any type of disaster situation large or small is water, especially in the summer months. Every prepper should have water stored at their home. FEMA suggests that everyone should have three days’ worth of food and water for every member of their household in case of a disaster. That is of course a great place to start but for most preppers, three days isn’t enough of a safety net. Keeping several cases of bottled water handy is always a smart thing to do. I personally have a 55 gallon food grade barrel full of water in addition to bottle water cases that I keep in the house in case the water gets shut off for a long period of time. I have never had to use it but it provides great comfort knowing it’s there. Also keep in mind that most houses have about 40-60 gallons of water in their water heater if you need to use it. There should be a valve at the bottom of it to hook up a water hose to drain the water out. In the summer months you need at least a gallon of water per day per person.. I’ll go into more detail on this topic in another article on water storage but just keep in mind that storms can happen any time of year and water should be your main concern for any disaster – even a power outage.
Obviously the biggest need after water is food. If the power outage is but a few hours this isn’t a big deal. But longer outages like the Washington DC outage can happen with little warning, not to mention a number of other disaster scenarios that could have you isolated in your home so it’s a good idea to have at least a month supply of food for every person in your home just in case. I feel this needs to be addressed because it is surprising how many people don’t actually keep much food in their homes. Next time you are at a friend’s home who is not a prepper, come up with a reason to look in their pantry and/or refrigerator – you may be surprised. I had to house sit/dog sit for a friend not long ago because he went out of town. He has a wife, three kids and a dog. When I opened his refrigerator and pantry I was shocked at what I saw… they probably have about three day’s worth of food at best. This is not because he is poor – he actually makes very good money and lives in a really nice house. But his family eats out a lot so they just don’t keep the fridge and pantries stocked. However it is my opinion that not keeping an emergency supply of food and water in the house is a bad idea, especially if you have kids.
Moving on of course the obvious thing we all need in a power outage is light. Keeping a nice collection of flashlights and lanterns in addition to a supply of extra batteries for all your devices is something you should consider. Also, don’t just keep one flashlight in the house stuck in some drawer that nobody knows which one it’s in. Have you ever tried to find a flashlight in the dark when you don’t know exactly where it is to begin with? Its like lookin for a needle in a haystack and adds to an already stressful situation. I recommend keeping a small flashlight in every room of the house and know where they are. That way if the power goes out at night and all of a sudden its pitch black, light is just a few feet away. Emergency lighting that kicks on automatically when the power goes out is by far the best solution and it’s not as expensive as you might think but it does require some electrical wiring work to be done.
So you have food, water and can actually see what you are doing… But there is something else most people don’t think about in their disaster prepping supplies and that is what the heck are you gonna do for several days or weeks if your power was out that long? It’s a great idea to have some type of non-electricity dependent entertainment in the house. This can include board and card games. These things are becoming rare in most homes which are now filled with only video games and dvds.
That being said, if you are like me and like your gadgets the best thing to do is purchase or build a small solar kit. I use the Goal Zero Yeti 1250 Solar Generator. I custom configured mine by replacing the 100AH battery with a 125AH battery and then chained a second 125AH battery to get a total of 250AH or in other words 3000 watt hours on a full charge. I also use a single 240 watt, 24 volt solar panel to keep it charged up all the time. We had a power outage this past fall for about 24 hours and this kept us powered up the whole time with a couple fans, 3 laptop computers, the internet router (yes the internet still worked even though power was out in the neighborhood) and a single lamp in the living room. While the rest of the neighborhood was int he dark, we were able to function in relatively normal conditions. I encourage everyone to buy or build a small solar system with a few batteries and a couple of solar panels. Its the difference between staying modern or going into caveman mode.
So whether you have a short term, localized power outage or a longer term outage from a big storm, being prepared can make the difference between it being a minor inconvenience or a major issue. And who knows, it could even be an opportunity to catch up on some of that quality “family time” you have been missing out on lately!