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Oh, Hell! The Power Just Went Out, or How to Survive a Power Outage.

Updated on January 10, 2020
Don Bobbitt profile image

Don is a Writer and a Storyteller. He has published over 9 books on varied subjects along with many articles and commentary on his blogs.

One lit candle equals 1-BTU of heat

Light, the Old-Fashioned way!
Light, the Old-Fashioned way! | Source

Power Outage for Real People

I say Real People in the title here, because, the ones who take the time and purchase all of those special items that a person needs when their power MIGHT go out are not Real People.

In fact, I suspect that they're probably the Kids or Grandchildren of the people who built Bomb Shelters in their Backyards in the 50's. You Know; JUST IN CASE?

Real People are procrastinators,

That's right, they are the ones who decide to do something AFTER the power goes out. Okay, real people have it on their list of things to do, of course, but as to being proactive?

During our last power outage, they did have good intentions to spend an afternoon and purchase all of those things that you need when your power is gone, but in reality the vast majority of us will still not prepared for a power outage.

They don't have fresh batteries for their Emergency Radio. I mean, really, they probably don't even have an Emergency Radio.

They most likely do have a cell phone that hopefully still has service and a decent charge on it. But,often, if you have no power, that cellular tower on the next hill probably doesn't have power either after its site batteries are drained.

And, how many people do you know, especially those living in cities, that have an Emergency Generator for their home. And of those few that do, how many have had it installed and wired properly, much less serviced recently so that it even works when they flip the switch?

The reality is, sad to say, that most people are just like you. They had good intentions to be prepared, but, when those lights went out, they don't even know if there is any food in the Fridge, much less anything fresh and still edible.

So, what are you going to do?

Right at the moment, you are probably just Pissed! Pissed because you were half the way through your favorite sitcom and now you are stumbling across your dark Den, trying to remember where that old flashlight of yours might be.

Emergency Radio and Charger

Emergency Hand Crank Radio with LED Flashlight for Emergency, AM/FM NOAA Portable Weather Radio with 2000mAh Power Bank Phone Charger, USB Charged & Solar Power for Camping, Emergency
Emergency Hand Crank Radio with LED Flashlight for Emergency, AM/FM NOAA Portable Weather Radio with 2000mAh Power Bank Phone Charger, USB Charged & Solar Power for Camping, Emergency
I have owned this particular radio for several years now, and it has really held up well. I can crank it for two minutes and then play FM music for over a half an hour ad medium volume. And, In case of an emergency it's ready for me to use.

What do you do NOW?

OK, let's assume that you actually have a flashlight, and find it.

Then, let's assume that the batteries are actually good. And, you were able to get back to your Den without destroying any of your furniture.

I forgot to mention that during your search for the flashlight, you were carrying on a conversation, shouted, of course, with your wife who happened to be upstairs with the Kids who are, themselves, now petrified and crying.

Why are they crying? Because, like pets, they can sense that you are upset, so logically they should be upset too.

Anyway, the conversation between you and your wife quickly covers a number of subjects, all of which seem to be reflecting different levels of blame at you for the whole situation as well as your lack of preparedness. Here are a few of the things probably said between you and your spouse;

Wife yells; What Happened?

Husband, as he rubs his shin from running into a table, thinks; The Power is out Stupid, can't you tell by the fact that nothing in the house is working?

Husband says; Dear, I think we have lost Power!

Wife yells: What are you going to do about it? The Kids are afraid!

Husband thinks; Oh, let's see, I know, I'll just stick my finger into a receptacle and using my powerful brain, I will personally generate power for our house. I will turn myself into Electro-Man!

Husband says; Well Dear, I am looking for my Cell phone and i will call the Power company and check on the problem.

Wife says; Well, hurry up, I have to bring the Kids down and feed them shortly/

Husband thinks; Damn, I don't have any Cell service, what now?

Husband says; Dear, let me come up and help you with the kids, it looks like my Cell doesn't have any service.

Wife says; Check our radio! They may have some information on a local channel!

Husband thinks; Yes, we do have a radio. It's on our patio. And, it hasn't had any batteries in it for years, since you took them out for Junior's new remote controlled toy.

Husband says; Sweetie, we took those batteries out for Juniors toy, do you know where that is?

Wife responds; Oh, I gave that away to Goodwill last month.

Husband curses under his breath and says; Did you keep the batteries?

Wife responds; Now Dear, the what good would the toy be to the poor child that it was given to if it had no batteries? They are poor, so I left the batteries in, for them.

At this point, the Husband hits the wall with his fist, and yelps from the pain.

This kind of conversation continues for the next several hours as the couple tries to figure out what to do in order to survive the Power Outage.

One of two things happen with a Power Outage

So, let's say that you are lucky this time and after just a couple of hours, your power comes back on. You and your wife look at each other and get through the evening talking care of the kids.

And you swear to each other that you are going to go to the stores tomorrow and purchase all of those things that the experts recommend. Yes Siree! You are going to be prepared.

SURE You Will!

The other, and most likely thing thing that will happen is that it is a major power outage for a wide area, and that you will be out of power for one or more days.

When you, the average unprepared couple, finally realizes that you are in for a hard and extended time without power, you need to realize that there are things that you can do to ease the pain of the situation.

Here are some of those things that you can do.

Things to do when your Power goes Out, Hot or Cold Weather

These things that I am listing here are not so much solutions to not having power, but rather a list of survival measure that anyone can take.

Power Outage in COLD Weather:

If it is cold outside you can do the following things to minimize the heat loss from your home;

  • If you have a Fireplace, and are not going to burn a fire or fire log, then close the flue so that you will not lose heat through the chimney.
  • If you do have wood to burn in your fireplace, make sure that the Flue is openbefore you start a fire.
  • If you have a Gas Fire Log in your fireplace, make sure that you know how the electric controls and regulators function (check the owners manual, if you can find it). See if it can be operated manually, without electricity. Some models can, while others will not operate without the safety regulation circuitry.
  • Close all of your Curtains on your windows (this gives you an extra heat barrier between the window and the curtain)
  • Close all of your Doors to all rooms and gather the family in one room, along with all of your blankets and make cots for everyone to sleep together.
  • Have everyone put on one or more layer of warm clothing including several pairs of socks.

Power Outage in HOT Weather

If it is Hot outside, there are a number of things that you can do to reduce you and your families exposure to the heat

  • .If you have a Fiireplace, Close the Flue so that you can block any Cool air from escaping or outside hot air from entering.
  • Close all of your curtains on the Sunny side of your house and open the curtains and upper and lower halves of your windows on the shaded side of your house by a few inches. This will allow the flow of fresh and cooler air through-out your house, and the escape of the upper layer of Hot air in the room.
  • If you have a shaded outside patio, keep the family outside as much as possible during the daylight hours. It will be cooler sitting in a breeze rather than in a hot room.
  • Make everyone drink lots of fluids, specifically water. You and your family are probably used to sitting in air conditioned comfort during the hot summer season and are probably not aware of how fast a person can dehydrate.


Simple, Common Sense Solutions

Here are a few simple yet common sense things any homeowner can do to improve their situation when they are trapped by a power outage.

Water Solutions:

You are going to need water, and a lot of it! Here are some suggestions that might help you:

  • If you live in an area where everyone has their own well, then you are out of luck. That well has a pump and it uses electricity and that will be that, as far as your having plenty of water.
  • BUT, If you live in a city area and have public water, then you will probably still have water pressure to your house.unless of course the local water plant is without electricity also.
  • So, if you have water pressure, I recommend that you immediately store as much as possible. Your bathtub is your best storage device in your house, but please, please make sure that it is clean before you store water in your tub. I mean really clean! You don't want to drink or cook with water that tastes like bubble-bath, or whatever was last used to bathe in that tub.
  • You can go to the local supermarket and buy bottled water. get the 1-gallon or even the 2-1/2-gallon containers. Those little single bottles that you buy by the case are not only expensive (per gallon of water that you get) but they are an environmental No-No!
  • Remember that the typical person needs to consume at least 2-gallons of fluids a day as a minimum, so when you do get to the supermarket, get a large cart. But, honestly, if you procrastinate even a few hours, the probability of there being any bottled water left in the supermarket is very is one of the first things that people buy and hoard.
  • If you are out of water, and can't get any right away, hopefully you have some Soda or eve bottles or cans of Fruit or Vegetable Juices for the kids.
  • Regardless of the distance you have to travel, get water for your family.
  • Your Hot Water Tank. In an emergency, your Hot Water Tank is sitting there with a great hoard of water in it.
  • The first thing you do, if you have no power is to turn off the breaker to your Hot Water Tank. This is because, if it becomes empty, the heating element in the tank can burn out if it doesn't have the cooling of the water around it.
  • After the water in the tank cools off, carefully drain some of the water from the tank into a pan to use for flushing your toilet, preferable, or drinking, if you have to

Sewage Solutions:

This one is unpleasant, but everyone's body has to void itself of waste, and you need to prepare for it., so here are some suggestions to help you;

  • As I mentioned, if you have City water, then you probably have water pressure, even without power, so, your toilets will work for you. HOORAH!
  • But, if the Public Sewage systems go down, which they can at any time, then you may get some smelly surprises at your basement drains or even in your toilets, if things start to back up.
  • I suggest that you sit down with your family and explain that they can use the toilet, but to keep the usage at a minimum. This is because, each time someone flushes a toilet you need to make sure of several things; 1- the waste did leave the bowl, 2- the holding tank did refill with water for the next flush and 3- there are no nasty smells coming from your basement drains.
  • If you have your own well water, then you probably have your own sewage drain field. Hopefully, your drain field is lower than your basement or lowest drain pipes in your house.
  • If not, you may have a sewage pump that will pump your waste "uphill" to your drain field. If this is so, then that pump will probably be without power and not operate, or if it is a newer model, then it might have an emergency battery and automatic charger.
  • These systems can allow you 24 or more hours of sewage pumping on average, but you need to watch it carefully. These systems will be near a basement wall, and have a large automotive style battery attached. Check that it is working, properly.
  • If you have plenty of water (ie. a holding tank, a Hot Tub, an Outdoor pool, etc.) , but no water pressure , then you can carry water into the house and refill the toilet holding tank for each flush.
  • If you do this, I recommend that you place a brick or something solid about that size into the tank. With even the new smaller holding tanks, you can get away with reducing the water used per flush by this amount, and still get a full flush.
  • As a last resort, take the family to the closest fast food chain (that does have power), feed them all relatively cheaply, and make everyone use the toilet before you go back home.

Food Solutions:

Food is the next thing after Water that you need to take care of. Everyone needs to eat, and you did not buy those prepackaged meals, so here is what you need to do.

  • DO NOT OPEN YOUR FRIDGE. warn the kids and everyone else. The fridge, with that vertical full length door is the most inefficient device in your home. Cold air is heavier than Hot air,and when you open your fridge door, all of that cold air drops out of the fridge immediately. So, keep the door closed.
  • FOOD INVENTORY- Sit down with your spouse, and examine what you have in the house, 1- what's in the Fridge, 2- what's in the Freezer, and 3- what's in the pantry.
  • PRIORITIZE- The stuff in your Fridge is going to go bad first, so plan on eating it first. have a leftover dinner and consume the prepared foods in the Fridge. I suggest that you and your spouse line up, and open the Fridge, take everything out that you might eat, and immediately close the door back. This attention to speed might help keep the other foods in the fridge cooler a couple of more hours.
  • FREEZER FOODS- The Stuff in your Freezer come in 3 categories; 1-Frozen treats, 2-Frozen leftovers, and 3-Uncooked Frozen foods.
  • Leave the Frozen treats in there, they are not nutritious, and are acting like additional ice in your freezer, thus helping keep the other foods cold longer.
  • After the Fridge food, consume the Freezer leftovers.
  • EMERGENCY COOKOUT- f you have a grill for cooking barbecue, then when that uncooked food in your freezer is no longer frozen hard, it's time for a cookout. Cooked meats can survive for days while raw foods can go bad within hours. So, cook and consume all that you can, rather than let it go bad.
  • CANNED FOODS- Do an inventory of your canned foods, You will find that many canned foods are already precooked and just need a little heating before you eat them. Use that that Grill to heat your canned goods. And, try to be a little creative making a vegetable casserole or combine several kinds of soups for the family to share.
  • CEREALS- OK, dry cereals might not be at the top of the kids list of options for food, but if you have several boxes of different cereals, combine them and add a little sugar (or artificial sugar) mix it up and serve it like a snack. This will help reduce everyone's hunger.
  • BEVERAGES- Leave those bottles and cans of Soda, Beer, Water, Juices,etc. in your fridge as long as possible because they are already cold and they will help keep your other fridge foods colder longer. And, like everything else, when you take a bottle out, take out enough for everyone for the day. Keep that door closed as ,much as possible.
  • MILK- OK, once your Milk is gone,and everything in the fridge is gone or ruined, what do you do about Milk? There are three thing that I recommend. 1- If you can purchase fresh milk, and id you have a cooler full of ice, then get more milk. 2- If you don't have a cooler, then purchase some SOY MILK or ALMOND MILK at your supermarket. These are healthy alternatives to regular milk, and they can be kept at room temperature, even after opening for several weeks if necessary. 3- If you can't find regular milk, then you can resort to Powdered Milk. Mix it with water and the kids have something different.
  • POTATOES, ONIONS, GARLIC, etc.-Take these, slice them, chop them, whatever you prefer, and pop them into a pot with some spices and them onto your grill with a little water (or beer?) and boil it all down to a good stew.
  • GO OUT to EAT- As a last resort, gather the family into your car and take a trip to the closest town with power and stock up on what you will need for at least 48-hours. And, do it before everyone else in your town gets there and clears the shelves before you get there.

Emergency Food Supply

Mountain House Classic Bucket
Mountain House Classic Bucket
I don't have this product, but my brother did purchase this brand. He used them while hunting in the mountains and said that he was very happy with the foods he and his friends consumed.

Electric Solutions after a Power Outage

Here are som things that you can do to make your Power outage Survival a little easier:

  • RECHARGEABLE DEVICES- We live in a world surrounded by electronics, and many of these devices have batteries in them and are rechargeable. If you have no power, then check with your friends and see if you can bring your rechargeable devices to their house and hook them up there during the day, so you can use them in the evening.
  • PC and EMAIL- If you have wireless access that works, then great.
  • If not, then your PC is pretty much useless as a connection to the outside world. But, if you need to check email, find a coffee shop or mall, or whatever site you can that has free-access WIFI, and sync your PC once a day, and then you can manage your emails when back at home.
  • KIDS GAMES- If your Kids have electronic games, then by all means recharge these for them. it will greatly reduce the boredom complaints.
  • LIGHT- It really will be easier to get through a Power Outage if you have some kind of light at night. I hope you have a LANTERN, or at least a FLASHLIGHT! They are available powered by batteries, and by Propane.
  • And, if you are one of those people without any form of emergency lighting? Well,bite the bullet and get out there and search until you find what you need and buy one that will light up an average sized room.
  • In my mind, CANDLES are a last resort, but often this may be all that you have at home. If that is the case, then use them, but take care to keep them out of the reach of your children and away from flammables. It's surprising how many homes have fires from using candles, so take care, if you need to.
  • POWER GENERATOR- If you have one already, all wired up and working perfectly, then good for you. All that you have to do is manage your power load in your house and you are going to get through your Power Outage with minimum discomfort.
  • If you do not have a generator, then when the power goes out is the absolutely worst time to try to purchase one. The prices are going to be really high,and it's first-come, first serve, if you do buy one. And, you need to look out for the scalpers who have been waiting for just this moment to make their big money.
  • And, if you do buy one, you have to ask yourself, 1- do you have a clue how to hook one up to your house and operate it properly, 2- do you have the proper tools to hook one up, and then 3- do you have the competence and patience to operate one properly and safely.
  • The best time to purchase a power generator is when there are no outages, and you can shop around for competent companies who will install one in your home properly.
  • But, before you purchase one, do a quick cost-payback analysis to see if it is economically viable to have one of these things added to your home for possibly years before it is ever needed. Often,, unless you live in a very rural area, it is just not worth the investment.

Good Luck!

Honestly, I hope everyone reads this and remembers the most logical things that they can do for a Power outage. The one's that make sense, that is, and that fit their individual needs.

You could remember this article, and it could be sitting on your computers hard drive, and your PC battery could be dead, or you could be staring at a desktop without a battery?

Oh Well!

Preparing for a Power Outage

Preparing for a Power Outage

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


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