With the recent tornado warnings near our home, I quickly went to work prepping for a power outage. This was an automatic response as it has been a way of life since my youth. About halfway through my normal prep, I began thinking about how many people I know who, for the most part, react differently than I do when a power outage threatens their daily routine. Yes, I may be strange, but for me, the possibility of an outage is a little exciting and strangely comforting; a forced break from the mundane business of everyday life to focus on the basics: water, food, shelter. Even my children, when they were young, were excited whenever we had a power outage. We played board games and drew pictures, and I used an old wood cookstove to cook all our meals and bake cookies and other goodies. I miss that old stove.
Sometimes the possibility of a power outage gives a warning – hurricane or tornado season or a bad thunderstorm approaching, just to name a few. However, there are random times when there is no warning at all, such as a car accident or tree falling on a power line, or what about a mud slide? A landslide can take out a huge section of power lines that may take weeks to clean up and reconnect.
Once, when I was little, my dad and I were walking through our back field to the woods to cut firewood. This was in the heart of winter with about three feet of snow on the ground. Out of the corner of our eyes we noticed a bright blue flash dance upon the snow-covered horizon. It was too far away to hear anything, but we stopped dead in our tracks to try and figure out what we had seen. The only homes within our view were ours and one neighbor. The lights that had been illuminating from within were no longer on. He turned around and headed back to our home to verify what he suspected. No power. He surmised that the blue flash had been a transformer explosion. His assumptions turned out to be accurate. This wasn’t a little one either, but a main transformer. For more than two weeks, in the dead of winter, under a thick blanket of snow, in a little trailer out in the country, we had no power. No power, no generator, no water pump. I learned a lot that winter, and it has stuck with me ever since.
In preparation for power outages, my dad built a room onto the back of our trailer so we could have a wood stove. When this disaster happened, we opened the spigots to help relieve any pressure off the pipes as they froze, in hopes of preventing them from bursting. The only water line that did bust was the one coming from the pumphouse. Where it came out was close to ground level. Another minor thing we did was to leave the door in between the trailer and room open with a blanket hanging in its place. This kept the warmth of the wood stove in the room where we were “camping out,” but made it more convenient to go through when carrying stuff. Meals were easy. Since this was before the time when manufacturers started putting in power outage detection shut-off valves in gas stoves, we still had a working cook stove. And with the abundance of snow outside, we had as much water as we needed. A pot was always left on the wood stove, to help with humidity and for melting snow.
Follow along in this mult-ipart article to see some things I normally do to prepare for mild to moderate power outages or disasters – and a few things to consider about them. Some disasters cannot be prepared for while others are so bad that almost no advanced planning will help. Those situations are a different can of worms and won’t be covered here.
Things to remember
1. There is a difference between needs (to sustain life), comforts (helps with morale for longer outages), and not necessary (self-explained). Each person’s situation can be different, so these three categories need to be decided individually.
2. The items under each of these categories should be considered before a disaster strikes. A lot of things can be easily done well in advance, ranging in price from free to thousands of dollars.
3. Everyone older than two years of age should have a job to do. Delegate age-appropriate tasks. Little kids can sense something is happening even when they are not told. Giving them a task to do can help focus their mind, put them more at ease, and give them a feeling of accomplishment in helping others. Let them know they are a part of the team and not a burden. This will also start preparing and training them to be able to care for themselves when you are no longer around.
4. Generators are great, but if fuel cannot be obtained for a long time, alternate plans should be considered in advance.
Don’t think that a generator is the “save all” during a disaster. If the generator is not damaged by the event causing the outage, the fuel can be stretched longer if it is only run off and on instead of constantly. Running a generator for about two hours twice per day will give freezers and refrigerators time to stay cold and allow the well water to run for refilling containers. Use this tool wisely, for needs only, in order to sustain it for a longer timeframe.