Preparing For and Surviving
Power Outage Causes: Power outages can occur at any time for a variety of reasons. It’s not just downed power lines. Rolling blackouts during peak usage or high winds are common in many places. The power grid is vulnerable to a computer virus attack. Electricity is vulnerable to electro-magnetic pulse (EMP) from either a nuclear explosion or a solar flare. Recently cold weather caused a massive power outage across Texas. We’ll cover what to do before, during, and after an outage.
It’s too late to prepare once the outage occurs. After every extended outage, most people list these following items as things they wished they had prepared beforehand.
Keep a flashlight within reach of your bed. Keep an inexpensive D-Battery light; a lithium rechargeable lighter/flashlight, and a single AAA light I keep in a sheath with my Leatherman Flashlight & Spare Batteries
A headlamp so you can use your hands. Battery powered and rechargeable.
Since I list rechargeable items, power becomes an issue, especially in an outage. I’ve become a fan of solar, which allows a renewable power source from nature.
I have an entire slideshare devoted to basic Solar Power. One impetus for me to get interested in this, besides the practicality, was to have a power source that we can use as a backup. In our previous house we had a whole house generator, which was nice. We don’t have that in the house we’re currently renting. Also, a generator powers off fuel, which will run out. I have solar panels now, a convertor and backup batteries. At the very least I can run my wife’s CPAP machine all night and recharge the batteries. I also have power for essential items. This power is renewable so for an extended blackout I can recharge. I can also recharge my batteries off my vehicles. In fact, I have a GoalZero 400 in my Jeep with an extra battery. And a 100 watt solar panel on top.
CRITICAL!!!!! If you have medical equipment, particularly life-saving equipment, that requires electricity, it is ESSENTIAL that you have a backup power source. The key is battery power. During a Texas power outage, people died because their oxygen machines, which ran on power, failed. There are other life-saving devices that require power. If you do not have the means to keep them working for at least several days, you must figure out how to do it. Whether it’s a generator, solar, wind, water— get some other power source!
CAVEAT!!!!! Carbon monoxide can kill. Be very, very careful when using a generator or even getting in your vehicle to run the engine. Do not run your vehicle in your garage. Make sure your generator is properly vented and outside. Don’t put your generator in your garage. I know a couple who died with a generator outside their mobile home, but the vent was near a window they kept open. They passed away in their sleep. Do not bring gas grills indoors to ‘warm up’. It will make you sick or kill you.
SOLAR POWER BASICS TO GET STARTED: The key components are Solar panels, Convertor, Batteries, and Cables. Most people focus on the panels, but the chokepoint, not just for solar, but for all renewable energy, is the power storage: the battery. For more, view the entire slideshow HERE
If an outage is widespread, your pumping station might lose power. Also, your heating and air conditioning are dependent on power. For an extended outage, you need enough water for at least three days. During the recent Texas outage, potable water becomes scarce because of burst pipes. Minimum is one gallon per person, per day. Double that for warm climates. 8 average 500ml water bottles is just over one gallon. A case of water (24 bottles) is the minimum three days supply per person. I recommend at least two cases per person.
A water filter can be a life-saver. Even the water from our tap can be contaminated. We always have a water filter on the tap for our drinking water.
Non-perishables for three days minimum. Food that doesn’t require refrigeration. Don’t have food that will make you thirsty. Plan for infants and special dietary requirements. Note expiration dates. Mountain Home meals have a 25 year expiration, and are supplied by the company that made our Long Range Patrol meals in Special Forces. It’s what we have on hand and in our grab-n-go bags. Also good for camping. Food
I have a variety of ration bars: ER Bar Grizzly Bear Emergency Food Rations DaTrex 3600 Below are some before going into a ziplock bag and into my Jeep.
A small, portable camping stove is key. Make sure you have plenty of fuel which comes in various sizes from small to larger and heavier.
Know what the emergency broadcast stations are. Have a hand crank/solar radio/flashlight combo.
I carry a SpotX 2 Way Satellite messenging system. I’ve gone many places where there is no cell phone coverage. While going to Hole in the Rock in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, my clutch began to burn out. 120 miles from the nearest civilization. Luckily I managed to sustain in third gear out of there but it made me consider the situation. There are places all over the country, including in the Smoky Mountains, with no cell coverage. I view this as a potentially life-saving investment. Also peace of mind as my family can get hold of me any time and I can update them on my progress. If the outage is widespread, cell phone towers might no longer work.
While we’re all going cellular or wireless, a plugged in landline still works during a power outage. Rotary optional.
First Aid Kit: There are plenty of prepared ones you can buy. Below is one I have in house and in grab-n-go bags. Make sure you have medications to last a week. Extra glasses, contacts, etc.
When power is out ATMs won’t work Store computer systems will have crashed. It will be a cash environment for a while. Until it’s a Zombie environment.
Do you know where the manual release on your garage door is and how to use it? Don’t run your car in a closed garage for heating, cooling, or to charge phones. Always keep your car at least half topped off. Gas stations rely on electricity to pump. In an extended outage, a shortage of gasoline is always a factor. Story at least a five gallon can of gas outside your house, in your garage. Power Outage
DURING a Power Outage
Shuffle away from downed lines, with your feet close together and in constant contact with the ground. When a live wire hits the ground, power goes in all directions. The voltage decreases with distance. Water is a powerful conductor of electricity, so stay away from wet spots. Never drive over a downed line. Even if it doesn’t have power, it can become entangled in your car. Downed Power Lines
Do you have a way to keep warm in cold weather or cool in hot weather without power? A fireplace? Do you use gas or propane for heating? Do you know how to manually start the pilot light if its an electric igniter? In either situation close all shades. Go lower for cool; a basement is best. Do not use gas grills inside. For heat, wear clothes in layers. Never use your oven as a source of heat.
Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed. An unopened freezer that is full will keep for almost 48 hours.
Turn off or disconnect appliances and electric equipment that could be damaged by a power surge when the power comes back on. Disconnect and turn off
A power outage that lasts more than a week can cause problems we need to consider. Think through all the things around your house and moving outward that require power. Do you rely on well water? Can you draw via hand pump? What about your septic system and pump? Cell phone service might well be down as the towers will be without power if the outage is widespread.
Generators are like car engines. The more power you draw from them, the faster they use fuel. Turn off all non-essential items drawing power. A portable generator must be vented. NEVER run one inside your house or your garage. Make sure the vent isn’t close to an intake in the house. Over half of the deaths in the last hurricane were from people running generators in their houses and near their houses that weren’t properly ventilated— be careful! Generators
I have a separate slideshow on solar power, but it’s something to consider. Even on a limited level, a few solar panels, convertor and a couple of batteries can run critical equipment such as CPAP machine and charge things like phones and laptops. There are also whole-house battery banks that charge off the grid and can also charge off panels. They are more expensive than a regular generator but they can work for much longer in an extended outage. Even with a large propane tank, eventually your generator will run out of fuel.
AFTER: Throw away frozen food that has thawed or that has an unusual texture, odor, or color. Check with your doctor if medications have spoiled. Restock your emergency supplies.
This information is drawn from a FREE slideshow on Slideshare that contains images and links to all equipment and gear mentioned. It is located HERE along with dozens of other free slideshows.
Good stuff, thanks Bob.