Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
The fierce winter storm that left more than 4.5 million homes and businesses in Texas without power for days in February can teach all of us an important lesson – it could happen to us. Are you prepared for an extended electrical power outage?
1. Non-perishable Food
An unopened refrigerator can maintain its proper temperature for at least four hours, but what next? You’ll need to rely on your supply of non-perishable foods.
Here are some items to keep on hand in your pantry for emergencies.
- Trail mix
- Canned tuna and salmon
- Canned soup
- Dried fruit
- Shelf-stable cartons of milk or plant-based milk substitutes
- Canned fruit juice
Not every can has an easy-open lid. Don’t forget to have a manual can opener in your kitchen to open those cans safely.
Depending on the type of emergency, most municipal water supplies will keep flowing. However, as we saw in Texas, frozen and broken water lines can cause low water pressure and affect water quality. Also, if you have a well, your pump won’t work without electricity.
Prepare for a blackout by storing a two-week supply of water. The general rule of thumb is one gallon of water per person each day, but that does not include water for cooking, washing, or giving your animals a drink.
Another option is to buy water purification tablets or a water filtering system.
3. First Aid
The same conditions that cause a blackout can cause injuries. Stock up on first aid supplies and make sure you have an adequate supply of any prescription medicines your family takes. Here’s an emergency first aid kit from Surviveware.
In order to conserve your water supply, it’s a good idea to stock up on baby wipes, sanitizing wipes, and hand sanitizer to keep germs at bay during a blackout.
Make sure you have plenty of working flashlights and backup batteries for them. You’ll want enough for each member of your household to have one. You may want one for each room of your house as well.
In addition to flashlights, you’ll want a supply of unscented candles for room lighting. Make sure you don’t let them burn unattended.
If you have a fireplace or a woodstove, you can use it for cooking, and some gas stoves can be lit even if the power is out. However, you may want to buy a camping stove like this two-burner one so that you can cook outside.
You’ll need fuel to operate the stove as well. Another option is to invest in a large butane gas grill like this one.
Once again, a fireplace or a wood-burning stove will be a real lifesaver for warmth during a power outage. If you rely on electricity for heat, though, you’ll need to consider other options. Make sure that any heating device you choose is rated for indoor use.
9. Carbon Monoxide Detector
There were a few horror stories of Texans who succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning during the recent blackout. Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless, tasteless, and deadly gas. To protect your family from this silent killer, install a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector like this one.
10. Matches and a Lighter
Whether it’s for the logs in your fireplace or the candles on your table, you’ll need a supply of matches and a couple of lighters. This kit has emergency fire starters and waterproof matches in a metal tin.
11. Battery-operated Radio
You’ll be able to stay up with the weather and the news about the power outage with a battery-operated or hand-cranked radio. This one also features a lamp and a phone charger.
12. Sleeping Bags and Blankets
You may need to group together in one room to stay warm or cool, so it’s a good idea to have some clean and ready-to-use sleeping bags on hand. Extra blankets and foam pads for the floor also come in handy.
13. Phone Chargers
You’ll want to conserve your phone battery power as much a possible, but you can use your car to charge it when needed. However, you’ll need a car phone charger to do that. You also might want to consider a solar-powered phone charger like this one.
Gas stations may be closed during a blackout, so try to keep your vehicles’ tanks at least half full, and if you can, store a full gas can in a shed or outbuilding.
If your budget permits, you may want to look into the purchase of a generator. There are many sizes and styles to choose from, ranging from whole house backup generators to ones that run small appliances and electronics.
If you just want to keep a few things going, a portable generator may be the answer. These smaller machines usually operate on propane or gasoline and cost much less than larger standby generators. They are not safe to use in enclosed spaces, and you should run them away from windows as well.
Newer to the market are portable power stations. These generators are battery-powered and are safe to use indoors. Some have solar panels. This model is easy to carry and can power your phone and laptop during a blackout.
Bonus: Boredom Busters
Many of us are so reliant on electronics for our entertainment these days that we may suffer from boredom during a blackout even if our other needs are met. Keep a stash of puzzles, board games, and books on hand that are suitable for all ages in your family.
Our nation has an aging power grid, and extreme weather conditions are only making the threat of power outages worse. Here are some other tips from ready.gov to help you survive the next blackout.
- Do not use a gas oven or stove to heat your home.
- Unplug appliances and electronics to avoid damage from surges when power returns.
- When it comes to unrefrigerated food, “when in doubt, throw it out.”
- If the outage lasts for more than 24 hours, throw away any medication that requires refrigeration.