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When disaster strikes, usually the first thing that happens is the power goes out. While earthquakes and hurricanes ravage nearby cities, your home might experience nothing more than a power outage. If that happens, count yourself lucky.
But what if the power stays out for a long time? Not just a day, but a week or two? Or longer? How well would you manage? Would you be sitting in silent darkness, shivering, eating beans from a can, and hoping looters don’t come to your neighborhood? Or would you be safe and comfortable like any other night?
This post assumes you’ve already stocked on at least a month’s worth of food and drinking water. But just having food and water isn’t enough. You also need to answer the following questions.
1. How Will I Find My Supplies? Most preppers have extra food in the kitchen, medical supplies in the bathroom, clothes and gear in the closets, etc. But if the power goes out at night, you don’t want to be stumbling around a dark house looking for the things you need. Instead, put together a small kit with essential items (flashlights, batteries, hand crank radio, first aid kit, lighters, cash, copies of important documents, and so forth) and put it in a place where it can easily be found in the dark.
2. How Will I Contact Loved Ones? Although most cell towers have backup batteries and generators, not all of them do. And if the one closest to you isn’t up and running, you’re going to have trouble making calls. Even if it is working, it could become jammed due to an unusually high number of people trying to get in touch with one another. A simple way around this problem is to get a land line and a traditional phone (more on that here). You could also get a satellite phone, but that’s just one of several options.
3. How Will I See When It’s Dark? Candles, oil lamps, and kerosene lamps are fine, but there’s a higher risk of fire with these, and kerosene in particular doesn’t smell very good. That’s why you’re probably better off getting solar and battery-powered lights. This lantern is inflatable, waterproof, and runs on solar power for up to 12 hours.
You could also get a lamp that runs on batteries.
4. How Will I Power My Devices? Let’s face it, most people will go crazy if their phones and tablets die and there is no background noise except the sound of other people breathing. Get a solar USB charger, a solar battery charger, and some rechargeable batteries so you can power a radio or portable DVD player.
5. How Will I Pass The Time? Devices are great, but you don’t want to spend the entire power outage staring at screens. That would be a waste of power, anyway. Instead, get some cards, puzzles, legos, board games, or anything else that you can do as a family to pass the time. The whole experience will be much more pleasant if you have fun things to do.
6. How Will I Preserve The Food In The Fridge? First of all, make sure your freezer is packed because the more there is in your freezer, the longer it will take it to thaw. Fill all the extra space with bottles of water and/or bags of ice. Then if the power is out for more than four hours, transfer the food in the fridge and some of the ice in the freezer to an ice chest.
7. How Will I Cook Food? It’s one thing to own a camp stove or a Dutch oven, but have you ever practiced using them? You want to make sure you know how to cook a decent meal using alternative cooking methods because if you ruin dinner during a power outage, you won’t be able to call Dominos. There are many different ways to cook without power, but keep in mind that if it’s too cold outside, your grill won’t be a good option. So be sure you also know how to cook indoors without power.
8. How Will I Make Coffee? If you’re a coffee addict, you’re better off going ahead and learning how to make coffee without using an electric coffee pot. That way when the power goes out, you won’t have to change your morning coffee routine. Some people use instant coffee (not a fan, myself), but I prefer a French Press. All you need is hot water.
9. How Will I Stay Warm (Or Cool)? If it’s really cold, wrapping yourself in blankets might not be enough. So make sure your home is fully prepared for winter and make sure you have several ways to generate heat. However, if it’s the middle of summer you could have the opposite problem. In that case, check out these ways to keep your home cool.
10. How Will I Gas Up? Unless your local gas station has backup generators, you won’t be able to gas up while the power is out. That’s why you should try to keep your gas tank at least half full at all times. Also store some extra gas and STA-BIL, just in case.
11. How Will I Wash My Clothes? If the power is out for more than a week (or if it goes out right before laundry day), then you’ll need another way to wash your clothes. This article explains how. It’s not nearly as complicated as most people imagine.
12. How Will I Stay Clean? You’ll still have water pressure until the water towers are empty. But before that happens, the water in your hot water heater will cool off. Unless you don’t mind cold showers, you should get a solar shower (you’ll need it once the water pressure is gone, anyway). Of course, there’s more to hygiene than taking showers. The longer the power is out, the greater the potential for disease to spread. Here are 10 suggestions for keeping clean and here are some supplies you should get.
13. How Will I Stay Safe? Since police are usually stretched to the limit during power outages, criminals often take advantage of the situation. So what if someone tries to burglarize your home? First, there are several things you can do to deter them. Hopefully they’ll decide your house is more trouble than it’s worth. In case they target your house anyway, make sure it’s difficult to break into. And in case they get in anyway, make sure you know how to defend yourself.
14. How Will I Handle Medical Emergencies? During ordinary power outages, the local hospital should have backup generators. However, in case the disaster is more serious or you can’t get there, make sure you know basic first aid skills. I recommend this book, but you should also take a class. And make sure you have a good first aid kit.
15. What Did I Forget? Even if you feel like you can answer all the questions above, it’s a good idea to review them periodically to make sure you didn’t forget anything (check out the article, 50 Survival Items You Forgot To Buy). Also ask yourself whether you have any special circumstances. For example, if someone in your family depends on life-saving equipment, you may need a generator. If someone is on prescription drugs, you’ll want to get extra drugs. If there’s a baby in the home, you might want to get more diapers and formula. Assess the needs of each and every family member and make sure everyone will be taken care of.