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How to Survive a Lengthy Power Outage - What You Will Need

Updated on January 28, 2016

Would You Know How to Live With No Electricity, for More Than a Day?

Baby boomers are the first real generation to never know life without the comfort of electricity. It is something we take for granted. Flip the switch the light comes on. Open the fridge and it is cool. A click of the mouse puts the world at our fingertips; all the news you could want, and information on everything imaginable. Hop in the shower and let the hot water drum your aches away. Pop a box in the microwave and you have a meal. Toss your clothes in the washer and turn it on.

Now, imagine one day you are cruising the internet, chatting with your friend on Skype, and all the sudden your computer goes off. Your Skype is disconnected, your TV snaps off and the lights go out. Your world has gone dark, and quiet......except the frightened yells of your family members, suddenly also alone in the dark.

What do you do?

Do you have the items in your home to help you live with no electricity? Of course, no matter what you have, it will not be like your life is back to normal, but you can have a few things that will make your life without power a lot easier.

~photo courtesy of Flickr

Light

The First Thing You Need

The first thing you will need is light, unless it is daytime, but even then, you will need it eventually. There are several ways to create light without electricity, Let's look at the practicality of each.

1. Candles - Inexpensive and easy to use on the upside, Dangerous because of the open flame is a fire hazard, limited life, will not stay lit in wind or rain, on the downside.

2. Flashlights - Instant light, bright, portable, not a fire hazard on the upside. Will only work as long as you have batteries, a huge downside.

3. Oil Lamps or lanterns - Much less a fire hazard, portable, stays lit in wind, you can control how much light you want, they burn a long time on a small amount of oil, all pluses. Will only work as long as you have oil (though some will run on alcohol or other fuel) and the wicks also need to be replaced after a time, are the negatives.

My preference for long term use is oil lamps. A couple lamps and a gallon of oil is fairly inexpensive and will store almost forever.

Image Credit: Flickr

Oil Lamps, Lanterns and Candles - Light for Emergencies

All the items below got great reviews for the function they are intended. Any of these would be a great addition to your power outage preparations.

Small Flashlight - Very Bright - 300 Lumens

I have this flashlight and I highly recommend it. It's small and very bright.

Heat

Very Important If It Is Cold Outside

If you lose electricity in your home and you use gas heat, you will still lose your heat because new furnaces use an electronic ignition system. So no electric, no ignition, no heat. Depending on how cold it is outside you may be able to make it just bundling up with thermal undies, coats, hats and gloves. However, if it is extremely cold, you will need a heat source if you stay in your home after you lose power.

If you have a fireplace, you can use it for some heat, but be advised that fireplaces are not built for heating your home. You will have to stay very close to the fire in order to stay warm enough with no other source of heat.

There are indoor heaters that run off propane, that do an excellent job of heating a room in your house. Please do not try to use kerosene heaters inside your home. The fumes can overtake you and you may not wake up. Even with lots of ventilation, kerosene heaters should NOT be used indoors.

Image from Amazon.com for an item sold on this page

Non Electric Heaters - Indoor or Outdoor Use

Some of these heaters run on propane tanks, just like the ones that you use on a gas grill. Other run on specific cans of gas that you have to buy special to run them. Either way, make sure that you have some type of ventilation when using them, it is important!


Mr. Heater F215100 MH4B Little Buddy 3800-BTU Indoor Safe Propane Heater, Medium
Mr. Heater F215100 MH4B Little Buddy 3800-BTU Indoor Safe Propane Heater, Medium

Good for a 100 foot room. Fuel is a one pound propane cylinder. Auto safety shut off and low oxygen sensor.

 
Camco 57331 Olympian Wave-3 3000 BTU LP Gas Catalytic Heater
Camco 57331 Olympian Wave-3 3000 BTU LP Gas Catalytic Heater

Adjusts from 1600 to 3000 BTUs. Fuel is low pressure LP gas and has a safety shutoff valve.

 

Food

Very Important to Have Food

When you have lost power, the first food you need to eat are the items in the refrigerator. Don't wait, or try to save it. Eat it while you know it is still good. Drink milk and juice and eat up the lunch meat, cheese, yogurt, etc. Fresh fruit will last a little longer, but also needs to be eaten soon after refrigeration is lost.

After that, you need to evaluate the food in your freezer. If you have a lot of meat, you should cook as much of it as you can. If you don't have a charcoal grill, then you can build a campfire in your backyard and use rocks to prop up one of your oven racks to cook the meat on. You may need to gather firewood, if you don't have any. Cook and eat as much of the food in your freezer as you can. If you cannot eat it all, share some with your neighbors, it is better than letting it spoil.

Most people don't have more than a week or twos worth of food in their house at any given time, usually less. If you want to be prepared for an emergency, like losing power, you need to have more food stored, at least one to three months. The food that you have stored must be geared toward being used when you have nothing to cook on but a fire or grill. In other words, don't store microwave dinners and cake mixes. Canned vegetables are always good to store along with powdered milk and canned meat. You can store regular everyday food, but you need to remember to rotate it out with the food you use in normal times. Canned goods have a 2 to 4 year shelf life, so don't store it and forget about it.

If you prefer, you can buy freeze-dried meals, or military MRE's. They have a shelf life of over 10 years and will stay good for a very long time. The only downside is they are not cheap.

Image Credit: Flickr

Food For Storage - What You Store is Up to You

Cooking Without Electricty - Gas or Wood/Charcoal

You will need a way to cook and heat water, if your stove is out of commission. The best way to cook in this situation, is a grill, unless you have a wood stove, which most people do not. You cannot cook indoors with a gas or charcoal grill, so even if it's winter, you will have to cook outside. A propane burner or grill is the easiest to use, but you are at the mercy of how much propane you have, so unless you want to stack up a dozen bottles of propane, you may want to consider getting a charcoal grill.

A charcoal grill must be always be used outside, don't try to use it inside, even with ventilation or in a fireplace. If you don't have a charcoal grill, or have no charcoal, you can make a campfire with wood and cook over that. To make a campfire, dig a pit in your backyard and fill with large wood in the bottom with wadded up paper between them and smaller twigs on top. You will need some rocks, bricks, retaining blocks or concrete blocks to stack on each side of the fire to hold an oven or grill rack that you can put your pots or pans on for cooking. If you prefer, you can buy a rack on legs, or tripod with pot to hang over your campfire for cooking.


Bathroom Facilities

If You Lose Running Water

If you lose running water, then your toilets will no longer work, nor will your showers. Taking care of the toilet situation is critical, as human waste can promote disease, as well as draw insects, and generally smell terrible. You can continue to use your toilet if you have water to manually fill your tank, each time you use it. I would not recommend this unless you have a plentiful source of outside water such as a stream, spring or well.

The toilet situation can be remedied fairly easily by buying a Luggable Loo, or other portable toilet system. I also recommend having cat litter on hand to soak up the liquid waste and to help with the odor. If you get stuck in a situation where you have no portable toilet, you can use a 5 gallon bucket and garbage bags as a toilet.

It is generally not a good idea to bury unbagged waste in the ground as it may contaminate your water supply. Bag your waste and then bury it.

Image from Amazon.com

for an item sold on this page

Emergency Toilets - For Use If you Don't Have Water

This portable potty has a contoured seat for comfort and a toilet paper holder. Comes with one Eco-Fresh packet, don't forget to buy more! Inner bucket comes out for waste disposal. Dimensions 14.7L by 14.7W by 15.4H inches. Weighs: 5 pounds

Laundry

Everyone Feels Better in Clean Clothes

No electricity means no washing machine. Washing clothes by hand is not a fun job, but it is important if you want to keep up some type of normalcy to your days without power. No one is going to feel good in dirty, stinky clothes. Do yourself a favor, and don't wait until everything in the house is dirty. If you do that, then looking at that mountain of unwashed clothes will seem like an insurmountable task. I suggest that you start regular washing after about four days, that way you don't have too many to wash at a time.

How you wash your clothes will depend upon your circumstance, but you will need at least two tubfuls of water, to properly wash and rinse, so make sure you have access to that much water before you start. Whether or not you want to heat the first tubful of water is up to you. It does make the detergent dissolve better and make it easier to get the clothes clean, but it is time consuming and will require fuel for the heat.

Once your tub is filled with water, dump in about half as much detergent as you usually use and stir vigorously. Add clothing, making sure not to put in too much, making sure all pieces are thoroughly wet. Take a plunger (yep a toilet plunger, I suggest you use a brand new one, or thoroughly sterilize the one you use in your toilet) From a standing position, press down on the plunger repeatedly on all pieces of clothing until they are clean. Drain the water from the tub and rinse out the soap. Remove the clothes. Refill with clean water and pick up the clothing one piece at a time and rinse in the clean water. Lightly wring out and hang up to dry. Make a clothes line with rope, if you don't already have one.

As an alternative, you can use a washboard to clean your clothes, if you have one, but I feel that it causes undue wear and tear on the fabric, I prefer the plunger method. Either way will get your clothes clean.

Image Credit: Flickr

Security and Protection

This is Necessary!

When the lights go out, some people panic and go a little (or a lot) crazy. It's like they know the police will be busy, so they think they can do whatever they want, like break into your house, steal your food or hurt you, even kidnap you or kill you, and move into your nice home. You need to be able to defend your home and your family.

If you have a gun, make sure everyone in the family knows how to use it. I am not going to get into the pros and cons of owning a gun, that is your own choice. My best advice is to make sure everyone knows how to use it, or you may end up just arming the enemy. Even with a gun, I would suggest that you have a few large kitchen knives hidden around the house, just in case. Make sure everyone knows exactly where they are.

There are other forms of protection that can be used alone, or in concert with guns, like pepper spray, stun guns and batons. My best advice to you is you take a self defense class and learn to use these item to their best advantage.

Have weapons hidden in every room, you never know where a confrontation will occur.

Defensive Weapons - Teach Everyone to Use Them

Communication - You Need to Keep Up With What is Going On!

It is important that you be able to keep up with what is going on in the outside world, and with no TV or computer or cell phone, you can start to feel very isolated, very quick. Make sure you have two things: a battery operated radio, and a hand crank radio.

A battery operated radio is easiest to use, but you are limited by how many batteries you have, so I always have a hand crank radio as a back up, just in case.


Kaito Voyage Radio Review Video - Cranks, Battery, Solar Powered and Computer and Phone Charger

Entertainment - This Is Much More Important Than You Think!!

With no power, you will not have school, or work. You will not have television or music. You will not have video games or the internet to surf. In short, all your current forms of entertainment will be gone. You need to find non electrical means of entertainment for your kids, and yourself, or you will go crazy, sitting around with nothing to do.

Never underestimate the power of books. Books are a great means of keeping the mind occupied for hours at a time, and if your family does not like to read, try reading aloud to them, this has a calming effect as well as being a great means for family members of all ages to come together and enjoy the same thing. While it is great to have a ton of books on iPad or Kindle, make sure you have a nice selection on old fashion paper, just in case.

The next couple sections I have tried to come up with various means to have fun with your family and to keep them entertained in this trying time. You may want to talk this over with your family to see what games and things they like best.

Family Games - Classics are Best

In a time of upheaval and uncertainty it is best to go with the familiar. Don't buy a bunch of games that sound cool, but no one has ever played before, it will only add to the stress when you try to figure out how to play. Soothe the situation with the familiar, classic games that everyone knows.

Dealing With A Long Power Outage is Not Easy

But A Little Preparation Can Make it Easier

The reason for preparation is so that you can get through a hard time, the best way possible. The task of preparation can seem daunting, but if you take it one step at a time, just buy one thing a week, or month, you can do it, even on a tight budget. Keeping life as normal a possible is the best way to deal with a situation like a lengthy power outage. It is less traumatic for your kids, and easier on you if you have food and a means to cook it, a way to use the bathroom, water to drink, a way to wash clothes, etc. It's less stressful for you if you know you have the means to better deal with an emergency situation for your family.

So what are you waiting for? Start preparing!

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Have you ever lived without power for more than three days?

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  • boutiqueshops profile image

    Sylvia 2 years ago from Corpus Christi, Texas

    Perfect topic for the upcoming Winter months. I understand this year we should expect a colder/wetter season. Yikes! Great information here that's useful for everyone.

  • Merrci profile image

    Merry Citarella 2 years ago from Oregon's Southern Coast

    Great suggestions here, and a very interesting read besides. I've been reading some fiction books about a major power outage and how widespread the effect would be--more than we realize. Many of these suggestions are excellent for other emergencies as well. Well done!

  • Fart Pickins profile image

    Fart Pickins 2 years ago

    Great information! It's just something everyone should be prepared with.

  • profile image

    MexicoTravel 3 years ago

    Your lens made me conscious of this potential situation... better be prepared. Thanks!

  • BLouw profile image

    Barbara Walton 4 years ago from France

    Forgot to mention the woodlands and our wood burning stove.

  • BLouw profile image

    Barbara Walton 4 years ago from France

    What a fabulous lens! I do worry about this sort of thing and am pleased that I live in a French farmhouse with enough land to grow crops, dig a latrine, construct an earth oven etc. It has a well so we won't go short on water. Keeping things cool in summer would be a great challenge though. I'd miss my fridge. We'd have to dig a cellar definitely. Great food for thought.

  • chanis lm profile image

    chanis lm 4 years ago

    Thanks for this very useful elns

  • webgirl256 profile image

    webgirl256 4 years ago

    wow thanks for the great lens, creative ideas for when the power goes off very interesting.

  • Ramkitten2000 profile image

    Deb Kingsbury 4 years ago from Flagstaff, Arizona

    Good ideas. With all of the more important things you listed, the first thing I thought of when I saw the title of your lens was ... games. :) I actually think it's fun when the power goes out (as long as it's not too cold ... and doesn't last TOO long), because it's a great "excuse" to get away from the computer and television, to light a few candles, and play cards or Scrabble.

  • profile image

    MaryMitchell 4 years ago

    This page is full of useful advice on what to do if your power might be off for any length of time. We all think it won't happen to us, but it's good to be prepared!

  • Alan Katz profile image

    Alan Katz 4 years ago from Florida

    Nice lens. Thanks for sharing.

  • gottaloveit2 profile image

    gottaloveit2 4 years ago

    I have a lot of battery operated candles around - they don't throw off much light but, in a pinch as a power outage, they work to light up every other step so I don't trip over a dog or 4. Great article.

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