What happens when the power goes out? This is something most people don’t think about because we have such a reliable power grid in the U.S. At the same time, with all of its efficiencies, there have been times when blackouts and brownouts have occurred. We already know the grid cannot sustain a natural disaster like Hurricane Katrina. It doesn’t do well under other threats either, like floods and earthquakes.
Believe it or not, most survivalists aren’t preparing for the zombie apocalypse. They’re preparing for real, known dangers. Are you?
1. Make A List of Essentials
Write a list of the items you need to keep running if you are off the grid. Make a list of the items that you could live without for one day, or two or even three, etc. No showers are fine for a day or two, but after a while, people will want to be clean! Do you need to use a refrigerator, or could you make it with a cooler? Do you need to use a water heater or would you be able to heat up water on a grill or gas stove? Think hard that you do not have the power to run these appliances; what is your choice and how you will manage it. The ways you find, write it down.
2. Get A First Aid Kit
In a disaster situation, like a blizzard, flood, fire, earthquake, or alien invasion (just checking to make sure you’re still reading), one of the first things you will want to have is a first-aid kit. Even if you’re not hurt, someone else, including a neighbor, might be. First-aid kits should contain all of the basics, including medical bandages, gauze, stretchable Ace bandages, scissors, some kind of antibiotic ointment, and possibly an oral antibiotic if you can get your hands on such a thing.
You should also have supplies to make a tourniquet, rubbing alcohol, and a bottle of clean, distilled water.
3. Get Food and Water
You’ll want a “never-ending” source of clean water, ideally. That may or may not be possible, but there are a few ways to get close to that ideal. First, stock up on gallon jugs of water. Plan on about one gallon per day, per person – more for pets.
You will also want something that can make clean water out of non-potable water (there may be a lot of that if the water utility fails). Companies like Seychelle and Berkey make powerful filters that can make non-potable water drinkable.
You can also invest in something like the Life Straw, which is a special filter straw that lets you drink directly from any water source – it filters out 99.9+ percent of contaminants in the water, including viruses and bacteria. These water filters aren’t the kind of thing you go to your local grocery store and buy. They must be ordered from a dealer who specializes in this type of filter.
You’ll also want food. Plan on stocking up on non-perishables. You don’t have to eat MREs or canned food, however. You can buy organic dried food with a long storage shelf-life. These are basically “survival kit foods,” which are specially designed to be not only nutritious but tasty as well.
A special dehydration process removes water from the food at a low temperature, preserving the texture and taste of the food. When you rehydrate it, it’s very difficult to tell the difference between the regular fresh stuff and the dehydrated meals.
4. You Need Alternative Cooking or Heating Methods
You can install a non-electric standby stove or heater. Choose heating units that are not dependent on an electric motor, electric fan, or some other electric device to function. Also, use the right type of chimney flue specified for it to adequately vent the stove or heater. Never connect two heating units to the same chimney flue at the same time.
For cooking, get yourself a gas grill or small turkey fryer or patio cooker. You will be able to boil or cook almost anything on the burner. A wood stove is also an efficient heater, and you can cook on the top. Another option is to invest in a solar oven. Solar ovens harness the rays of the sun to cook food just like a Crock-Pot, and they can be a great addition to your family’s preparedness plan. A portable kerosene heater is another option to heat up the places.
If you have a wood-burning fireplace, clean the chimney every fall to eliminate creosote build-up, which could ignite and cause a chimney fire. If the standby heating unit will use the normal house oil or gas supply, have it connected with shut-off valves by a certified tradesperson.
5. Buy A Backup Generator
Without power, you literally cannot power anything – iPhones, T.V.s, radios, lights, dishwashers, stoves, phones, hot water tanks – none of these things work without electricity. A backup generator will help give you the power you need while the power is out.
You should also consider investing in a portable backup battery and generator. A generator of this kind gives you the flexibility to move and take your power with you if you need to. So, even if you have a permanent generator that runs on gasoline, be aware that these kinds of generators are pretty limiting. When the fuel runs out, so does your power. Portable generators never run out of power, and so they can be used almost indefinitely.
6. You Need Light
When it’s going to get dark, you need light. Your Phone flashlight won’t hold out for long. Some better lighting options include:
- LED or solar-powered lanterns
Make sure you have a stash of small LED flashlights and a headlamp or two hanging around. Headlamps are great for cooking in the dark, fixing things at night. Store long-burning candles, which are helpful but do not leave candles unattended. Place candles in sturdy containers and put them out before going to sleep. Solar stake lights are helpful for outside, but they can also be used to light indoors. You can find lights powered with solar chargers on some websites, and they are helpful for lighting dark spots in the house.
7. Keep Your Gas Tank Full and Always Buy Extra Gasoline
Get in the habit of keeping the gas tank in your vehicle at least half-full. Why? Because it’s hard on the pump to continually run it dry. But also, gas stations will be flooded with people during an emergency. You will find it very difficult to get the gasoline you need when you need it. Also, consider filling up extra gas containers and keeping them hidden in a place only you know about.
8. Stock Up On Medications
Medications are important in an emergency situation. Don’t assume that a pharmacy will remain open if disaster strikes. You will need to be prepared beforehand. Work with your doctor and pharmacist to make sure you have at least a month’s worth of medications on-hand. If you’re questioned about it, tell them you want to be prepared just in case you run out or you can’t get to the pharmacy on time or there’s an emergency – you need your meds.
9. Sort Out Sanitation
Now, what about Sanitation? Well, in a short power outage, you can follow the old adage, “if it’s yellow, let it mellow; if it’s brown, flush it down.” But if you have a longer time to wait, then you will need to consider a couple of alternatives.
City sewer systems depend on electricity to function. While most have backup generators, those generators are dependent on fuel, which, in a long-term outage, might run out within a few days. This is why you need to have a plan in place to address your family’s sanitation needs. If you have your own septic system, you can simply use extra water and flush that way. If you don’t, consider investing in a camping toilet or bucket system. If you live in a place where you can compost, consider digging a hole and placing the refuse there. And encourage boys to pee outside if at all possible!
10. Set Up A Long-Distance People Plan
Make plans with people in advance – you should have a contact that lives at least 300 miles away, possibly farther. You should communicate with this person and set up a plan for evacuation. It’s a lot easier to just get in your vehicle and drive out to your “safe spot” rather than try to plan during an emergency.