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    The Beginner’s Guide to Blackouts

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    The Beginner's Guide to Blackouts

    An electrical blackout occurs when power is no longer being delivered to a certain area. They can be caused by bad weather, natural disasters, infrastructure failure, and a host of other reasons. 

    Blackouts are devastating to our way of life because without power, everything grinds to a halt. With talk of an “energy crisis” on the horizon, there may be areas that begin to experience blackouts on a more regular basis. 

    If you haven’t thought about how you would handle life without power, now would be a good time to start preparing and putting together an emergency blackout plan. Let’s start with some supplies you'll need for a blackout, followed by a brief overview of the actions you'll want to take. 

    Lastly, there will be an itemized checklist you can use to organize your emergency blackout plan. 

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    Blackout Supplies  

    Putting together a blackout plan may seem like a daunting task, but if you are already into preparedness then you should have a good head start. 

    Shelter

    When it comes to your home, one of the biggest problems a blackout presents is temperature regulation. Modern homes are built to rely on heating and cooling systems to maintain comfort.

    If you live in an area that experiences temperature extremes, it is pertinent to develop an alternate heating and cooling plan that will work for your shelter. Wood or pellet stoves work well to provide heat and battery-powered fans will help circulate air throughout the structure. 

    The other main concern in a home is the absence of light. This may not seem like a big issue during the day, but if it is an overcast day or the sun starts to set, it is going to get dark inside very quickly. 

    Candles and fuel lanterns provide a decent amount of light, but they can be messy and do come with some safety concerns. Battery-powered or solar-powered flashlights and lanterns are a great choice because they are reusable, provide a lot of light, and are safe to use.

    Related Article: 11 Ways to Light Your Home When the Power Goes Out

    Water 

    Without power, water treatment plants may have difficulty producing clean water as well as pumping it where it needs to go.

    If you have a private well on your property, there is a good chance it depends on an electrical pump. Look into a hand pump, solar-powered pump, or backup generator to retrieve well water.

    You should plan on a minimum of one gallon of drinking water per person per day. An additional two to three gallons per person per day will be needed for cooking, general cleaning, and hygiene.

    Other than having the main storage containers for water, it will be a necessity to have smaller containers to collect and transport water. These can be in the form of water bottles, some of which should be metal so that they can be used for boiling, and collapsible bladders because they are incredibly compact when they are empty. 

    Storing water is a great way to make sure you have water for everyone in your family during a blackout, but there is an additional step that needs to be taken. Water filters and methods to purify water also need to be available. Filters and purification methods will ensure that you will have access to clean water should the blackout last longer than expected or if your water storage becomes compromised. 

    Related Article: 15 Ways to Purify Water in a Survival Scenario

    Food 

    Nowadays, many people cook their food indoors in a microwave or on top of an electric stove. During a blackout, those options will not be available. Refrigerators and freezers will quickly begin to warm up without constant power, and most of the food in them will likely be spoiled within two days. 

    Develop a cooking method that works best for your situation. Some examples include a fire pit, biomass stove, wood stove, solar stove, BBQ grill, and other outdoor stoves that use fuel canisters. Along with the above cooking methods, you will also need cookware and utensils that are appropriate for them.

    By the end of day three, there is a good chance everything in the refrigerator and freezer will be spoiled. If a blackout lasts longer than three days, you will need a supply of non-perishable foods such as dried beans, rice, flour, canned goods, MREs, and dehydrated/freeze-dried food

    Related Article: The Beginner's Guide to Emergency Food Storage

    Sanitation

    To help with sanitation in the kitchen, invest in a supply of disposable bowls, plates, and flatware. This will also help to save water because there will be fewer dishes to clean.

    Using hand sanitizer will also reduce water usage, and a simple composting toilet can be set up and used to deal with human waste. 

    You will want to have a healthy supply of durable trash bags as they are incredibly versatile. Other than collecting trash, they can be used as water proofing material, water collectors, human waste containers, and a means of sealing away dirty, smelly clothes, just to name a few.  

    Related: How to Build a Sanitation Kit

    Power Supply 

    One of the best ways to whether a blackout is to install an alternate power source that either supplies partial power or full power to the home. 

    Examples like a large generator and solar panels can provide power when the power lines do not. Smaller power requirements can be fulfilled by using portable generators or portable solar panels

    Portable solar panels are great for charging small devices because they are compact and lightweight. Some gear such as flashlights and emergency radios can be swapped out for crank-style models that use a simple crank mechanism to supply power for a short period.  

    You will also want a healthy supply of batteries for keeping devices, flashlights, radios, etc. all working. The overall amount of batteries you need can be cut down by choosing rechargeable batteries over traditional ones. However you will need to make sure that the charging dock is compatible with an alternate power source, like solar panels for example. 

    Related Article: 7 Ways to Generate Power After a Disaster

    Security

    Blackouts are often accompanied by an uptick in criminal behavior. Without a backup power supply, personal security systems and outdoor lights will not be working. 

    It will be important to keep all points of entry to your home locked and secured. It would also be wise to decide on a means for protecting yourself and your family, whatever form that may take.

    Related Article: 11 Home Security Tips for Life After SHTF

    Medical 

    First and foremost, account for any medical needs that members of your group may have. For example, if a member is diabetic and they require insulin, then you will need to setup a backup method for keeping that medication cool. 

    Secondly, every home should have a first aid kit, and most do. Regular first aid kits are great for a skinned knee, papercuts, or a headache. During a blackout it may be difficult or even impossible to reach emergency services, so it is important to strengthen a kit by adding things like a tourniquet and other blood loss control items. 

    Related Article: The Complete List of Medical Supplies Every Prepper Should Own

    Blackout Itinerary 

    In the previous section, we discussed some of the supplies that would be helpful during a blackout. Inevitably, the question, “What should I do during a blackout?” pops up. To answer that, let’s take a look at one approach of handling day one of a blackout.

    1. When you wake up, you may notice the power is off in your room. As you make your way through the house, check other rooms and switches along the way to make sure the power loss wasn’t localized to your bedroom. If the whole house is without power, go to your breaker box to see if the main breaker was tripped. If the main wasn’t tripped, double-check that you paid your electrical bill on time… Just kidding.
    1. Now go outside to see if there is a reason for power not being delivered to your home, such as a power line that is down or a utility employee performing work. If you do not see an obvious cause, make the rounds and visit a few of your neighbors to see if they are also without power. This will also serve to gather information should there be a widespread blackout. 
    1. Once you get back inside, try making some phone calls or using the internet (mobile data) to gather more information. When you have established that there is a widespread blackout, it’s a fair bet that you will not have to go to work, so it is time to start getting your house in order. 
    1. To begin, let everyone in the home know what is going on and that you are enacting the family emergency plan. Tell everyone to keep the refrigerator and freezer closed and designate one person who is responsible for removing food from them. Keep refrigerators and freezers closed for as long as possible just in case the power comes back on.  
    1. To help regulate temperatures in the home, open or close windows and gather other materials such as fans, weather-appropriate clothing, cooling towels, fuel for a wood stove or fireplace, and blankets.
    1. Next, gather up some containers and start filling them up with extra water while there is still pressure in the pipes. Again, it may be necessary to designate one person who is in charge of dispensing water.
    1. After you have gotten extra water, bring out all alternative lighting sources (flashlights/lanterns/candles) and place them in a common area where everyone has access to them. 
    1. In the kitchen and bathroom, set out items that will be needed such as disposable gloves, disposable dishes, soaps, hand sanitizers, and a composting toilet if it is needed. 
    1. Take a walk around the home and secure as many entry points as possible, like any unnecessarily opened windows and doors. 
    1. Finally, continue to gather information using your emergency radio, landline phone, or any other method you have. The more information you have, the easier it will be to decide if you need to bug out.

    Mealtime should be done as a group. Not only will it make it more enjoyable, but it will offer an opportunity to make sure everyone is on the same page, and it will save on cooking fuel.

    If you do not know how long the blackout will last or if it is supposed to last for an extended amount of time, you may want to begin rationing certain items like food and water.

    Some people may think they should venture out and pick up a few last-minute items. This is a decision you will have to make for yourself, but generally speaking this should be avoided. Street lights and stop lights will not be working, and the scene at almost any store will likely be tense. 

    Lastly, at any point after establishing a blackout is in effect, it would not be a bad idea to get your personal protection tool and have it on your person at all times. 

    City Blackout Under Full Moon

    Emergency Blackout Plan Checklist 

    Below is a condensed version of some of the items mentioned in the article above as well as additional items that were not mentioned. This list shouldn’t be looked upon as the only items you need, but as a way to have some of the basics while personalizing the list to your family and situation. 

    Shelter 

    • Blankets
    • Weather-appropriate clothing
    • Cooling towels
    • Fans 
    • Fuel for woodstoves or pellet stoves 
    • Lighting 
    • Fire extinguishers (ideally one in every room)

    Water 

    Food 

    Sanitation 

    • Durable trash bags 
    • General cleaners i.e. bleach, dish soap, disinfectants  
    • Paper towels 
    • Composting toilet  

    Hygiene 

    Power Supply 

    Miscellaneous 

    • Plastic sheeting 
    • Duct tape 
    • Tools for shutting off utilities 
    • Assortment of hand tools (screwdrivers, pliers, hammer, wrench) 
    • Extra cash on hand 
    • Extra fuel for vehicles or generators
    • Assortment of board games, puzzles, books, and any other kind of entertainment item that does not require power. 

    Medical 

    Personal 

    • Include any personal items that you or any member of your group may require 

    Conclusion

    There is a lot to prepare for when a blackout happens because we use power for everything. When that power goes away, our lives and how we go about them will change more than you can imagine. Everything from staying warm to using your vehicle to getting a simple glass of water will be affected. 

    Experiencing a blackout will be different and difficult, but by putting together an emergency plan and preparing for it now, you will be able to get through it with some semblance of normalcy.

    Thanks for reading and stay prepared! Be sure to leave your thoughts or questions in the comment section below.  

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