Power outages are a periodic problem that we all need to deal with. Being prepared when it happens is the best way to make it easier to get through until the power comes back on. This is a guide about preparing for a power outage.
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During the winter months, storms can bring power outages, especially in the northern part of the US. Think about what you would need if the power went out for more than an hour or two. This not only can help you feel more comfortable but can save you money by keeping you out of the stores when people are panic buying their supplies.
Have some candles and/or oil lamps handy so you can light each room. Candles in glass containers are safest with little ones around. Make sure if you have oil lamps that you have a bottle or two of lamp oil with your supplies. Flashlights and camping lanterns are also great. Make sure you have extra batteries.
Your refrigerator will not work. Try not to open it to keep the food cool. Put two soda bottles filled with water or refreezable ice packs in the freezer space. You can then redistribute them, one for the freezer space, one for the refrigerator. It will help keep the food cool for longer. If you have a large freezer, keep extra soda bottles filled with water in it. When the power goes off it will keep frozen for longer.
If you have an electric stove or microwave, they will not work. Gas stoves may continue to work but you may have to light them by hand. Have matches ready and procedures for lighting your stove. Also have food available that you don't need to cook.
Many furnaces whether gas, oil, or electric have an electric starter and electric fan that blows the heat. None of these work in a power outage. Extra blankets are helpful. If you have a fireplace or wood stove, make sure you have a supply of wood or fire logs to last a few days.
Think ahead. Each household has different challenges when the power goes off. It is always good to have backup systems available. Try to plan for it so if it happens you will be ready.
By Susan Sanders-Kinzel
Our family recently survived a lengthy power outage after a major ice storm. We really did not find it that difficult to do, in part because we were prepared ahead of time. However, some of our neighbors who were not prepared ended up staying at a hotel for several nights, at the tune of $65 per night.
I am passing on some of the ways that we stayed warm for our week without power.
The most important factor is that we prepared. For 3 days the weather forecast warned us of a major ice storm heading our way. We decided then to prepare for the worse case, and it paid off.
We brought up firewood from the barn. We laid out wood in the fireplace and filled the inside firebox. We also filled the wood holders on the front porch with wood, and also stacked it beside the holder.
We stocked up on lamp oil, and brought out the lamps and candles stored in the basement.
We made sure we had plenty of batteries on hand.
We charged our rechargeable lights, lanterns and radios.
I filled several containers with water in the event the water company also lost power. If they did, we would lose water pressure, then lose our water completely.
We all took a shower as the ice storm started. May seem silly, but knowing it may be awhile before we could bathe again, we opted to start out smelling sweet! I also made sure the laundry was all caught up and the house was clean.
I made sure we were stocked up on animal feed. We put extra straw in the rabbit hutches and chicken coup in the event they lost their heat lamps.
We stocked up on foods that we could prepare over the fireplace. This included s'mores, hot dogs, popcorn, hot cereals, soups, and stews. I bought some extra milk and put it in the freezer, and also bought more powered milk.
I washed and re-seasoned the cast iron.
We brought in the hot dog and hamburger holders from the camper, as well as sleeping bags.
We backed our vehicles into the garages and barn. My husband plugged in the tractors and made sure they were fueled.
We brought up the board games from the basement, and restocked ourselves with books from the library.
I made sure our cell phones were well charged.
I bought on clearance a power strip to plug into my car's cigarette lighter. In turn, I could plug an item into it to recharge, such as a lantern or cell phone, or even my laptop.
Then we sat down to wait. The ice started falling around 10 in the morning. It was rather pretty as it coated the trees and fences. By evening, it was very slick to walk on. We still had power when we went to bed at 11 p.m. We did not turn down the thermostat before bed as normal. My rather wise husband said, we needed to keep as much heat in the house as possible, so instead we turned it up. At 3 a.m. I woke up to a chilling house. The inside temp was 65. It had been 70 when we went to bed. My nightlight was not on. The power was off. I woke up my husband and he immediately got a fire going in the fireplace.
We kept the fire going, and managed to keep the house at a steady temperature of 65 to 67 degrees. It is much easier to maintain the temperature than it is to warm up the house had we not gotten up to light the fire.
We let light in through the south windows, and blocked off the north ones with curtains, as their was a strong wind coming from the north.
For entertainment, we played games and read. I had my children take a warm bath each day, as we still had hot water as we have a gas hot water heater. This helped keep them warm and they thought it fun to have a bubble bath by candle light. Our children slept in their sleeping bags in the living room by the fireplace. My husband and I stayed in our room, which is just off the living room as we could still get some heat from the fire. In addition, we have a heated water bed, and by keeping the bed made, and sleeping on top of an extra comforter, it held its heat and kept us warm.
Since we still had hot water at this point, we had lots of hot tea and hot cocoa to drink and help keep us warm. I did the dishes by hand after every meal with warm water to help keep me warm in the kitchen. I did it in dishpans, and saved the water. It went into containers in the garage and one of the bathrooms. We kept the water at a very slight trickle to help prevent the pipes from freezing.
We dressed in layers. Sweat pants are much warmer than jeans. We wore 2 pairs of socks and our long johns.
After our water went out, we used the saved soapy dishwater to flush the toilets with as needed. The saved rinse water became water for our rabbits, dog and chickens to drink.
We did not open the freezers or refrigerators except to remove and replace food. By day 3, our refrigerators were no longer at a safe temperature, so we removed food and placed it outside on the back porch, and some in the garage. Our freezers stayed below freezing, as they have more insulation. If need be, my husband would have gone to town to buy a couple blocks of dry ice for the freezers. However, he didn't need to this outage.
As I said earlier, our biggest factor in being able to ride out the power outage was preparation. Had we waited to gather our supplies after the power had gone out, we would have been doing a lot of fumbling around in the dark basement, and opening and closing the doors to the outside a lot. We would have been having to drive on dangerous roads to town for supplies and risking having an accident.
By April from NW Missouri
If you use those little solar lights outside, they can come in handy during a power outage at night. Bring them inside and you have light, then take them back out in the morning to recharge. They may be safer than candles and won't provide heat in the summer.
By Debby T. from Lee's Summit, Missouri
Power Outage Tip: Keep at least one battery operated clock in running condition. That way you'll still be on time for work and appointments if the power goes out.
By Marie from West Dundee, IL
This tip is for hurricane season. Use the solar lights that you have in your yard or garden for light at night if you are with out electricity after the storm.
By AUNTIFRANCES from Haines City, FL
I keep large flashlights in every room. The kind that take the great big batteries. When the lights go out, I turn one on in the room that I am in. I set it on its end so that it shines toward the ceiling. Since my ceiling is white, it reflects the light and lightens the whole room. It also helps to set it in front of a mirror. That way the light is doubled. I usually have enough light then to see into the next room I go into (bathroom or kitchen). I turn the light on in there until I leave to go back to the previous room that I was in before.
By Nightsong from Hay Capitol of the World!
These tips are in addition to the American Red Cross tips for dealing with storms and power outages.
By BMCCUE from Litchfield, NH
We just had an hour long power outage (unexpected as it is 9 pm on a cold winter night). I learned three things tonight that I want to share (common sense but we all know that is not the way it works, LOL)
Have a good night.
I live in northern Alabama, and after 150 some tornadoes recently touched down, I was without all utilities for 5 days. By the time my husband and I got out to buy some candles, batteries, and extra flashlights, everything was gone.
At night, I brought in our Solar Lights that we use in the front yard, placed them in drinking glasses, and had more than enough light to walk around without falling down and getting hurt. They glowed all night, and in the morning I popped them back outside, the sun recharged them, and they were once again ready to be used that night. It really made a HUGE difference!
I shared my idea with all my neighbors, and it really did make a difference for all of them as well.
The attached picture of what the lights looked like in the drinking glass, and I also laid another one down so you could see what the solar part looked like.
I also put pots out in the sun and filled them up with water, by late afternoon the water was warm enough to wash my hair with. I then discovered that the old gallon plastic Gatorade jugs I keep in the refrigerator for cold water for our dogs worked really well, if not better, because the caps kept the jug closed and no outside air came in touch with it. That water stayed warmer longer. It was really cool to see all my neighbors placing pots, empty milk gallons, and any other containers they had with water out in the front of their houses.
By CaroleeRose from Madison, AL
Whenever we have a power outage, instead of candles, I use battery powered lights. You can buy battery powered lanterns, flashlights of course, and battery powered push lights. I have a push light for every room in the house. I keep 6 battery powered lanterns, and I don't even know how many flashlights I have. Plus I have one of those 2 million candlewatt lanterns, too. I use that for reading.
I put one push light in each room right next to the door. That way, upon entering a room, all we have to do is tap the light and we have just enough light to maneuver in the room.
For normal battery use around the house, we use rechargeable batteries, but for the lanterns, push lights, and 2 million CW lantern, we use non-rechargeable. I keep 3 sets of batteries for each, and replace them once a year. This way I always know we have good batteries for power outages.
I keep all these lights in one specific cabinet all together along with all the batteries. One flashlight is kept with these, and the others are all kept in a more handy place.
I also have a battery powered DVD player, and a small battery powered TV. Also a battery powered radio. These are all kept with 3 sets of batteries in a specific cabinet of the entertainment center.
For heat, I have a large round kerosene heater. I always keep foods on hand that need no heating or cooking,
I don't use any flame type candles because I have pets and don't want to chance them getting too close or knocking them over. Even without the pets, it's real easy for people to accidentally knock one over too.
Also, next to each chair, bed, and in the kitchen, I keep a small pen light. This way I have it handy to grab and it gives out just enough light so I don't trip over furniture or animals on the way to the lantern cabinet. Speaking of which, on the lantern cabinet I attached a glow-in-the-dark decal to the front of the cabinet. This way I can see it in the dark.
With all these things though, I never have to worry if the lights go out.
By Cricketnc from Parkton, NC
Buy a couple of "headlamps". They are small flashlights attached to an elastic band to wear around your forehead - think miner's lamps. I bought mine at Home Depot. I don't remember exactly how much they cost, but I'm sure it was less than $10 for a pack of 3.
These leave your hands free and allow you to focus the light, for example, on a book that you're reading. It's very awkward to use a flashlight for this and a lantern or candle doesn't give you the light where you really need it. It would also come in handy for things like crocheting, working a crossword puzzle, etc.
Another bonus is that you can get up and move around the house without having to pick up a flashlight or lantern to see your way.
Before you have a power outage or a Tornado Warning, buy several disposable lights at the dollar store. It's easiest to find them in the Fall, right before Halloween. They are great for kids (and adults) because they easily clip on to a book or to your coat or shirt. You can even clip them on to your headboard. If each child has their own disposable light, there's less of chance they'll be afraid, and they can take them to the bathroom with them. And at only one dollar each, it's cheaper than buying new batteries!
Another idea for power outages: I buy those touch lights. You know the ones you stick on the wall. They are battery operated, and you press them to get a soft glow. Often they are used for night lights or inside closets.
I find if you place them around the house in each room (up high away from from little hands, who love to play with them). Then if the power goes out you just press them as you enter each room or hallway. It's safer then carrying around a lit flame or trying to find and/or share the only flashlight. I have found them for as cheap as 88 cents at Walmart (on sale) and always see them in different shapes and styles at dollar stores.
By Crazy Amy from Rochester, NY
There are occasions when we have power outages and we use oil lamps and candles for lighting. I use T-lights (which burn 3-4 hours) in clear or frosted glass mugs I pick up at the local save-a-lot or dollar store for 'portable' lighting. They can be carried down a dark hallway or room to room with little worry they'll be blown out, leaving you standing in the dark.
By Kelly from Monongah, West Virginia
Next time you are at the dollar store, pick up some of those Glo-Bracelets that light up when you crack them. Keep them tucked away to use the next time there is a night time thunderstorm. Just crack a bracelet open, (causing it to light up) and hang it on your little one's door knob. This way, if the electricity goes out during the night, your child will still be able to find their way to their door and then will be able to use the Glo-Bracelet as a little flashlight. My 9 year old daughter thought of this idea on a stormy night!
By Michele from East Bethel, MN
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Here are questions related to Preparing for a Power Outage.
We had a power outage last night for about an hour. Lit a bunch of candles for light, had flashlights, batteries and car battery chargers with lights. I told DH to turn off the battery powered items and just keep the candles on as we had no way of knowing how long the outage would last (power company phone number was busy). So far, so good.
Then 2 things happened: I took a candle with a lamp shade (this was, I discovered, just for looks) and that seemed to contain too much light within its shade, so that I tripped over something in the dark and almost toppled the candle on to the carpeting. Fortunately, I righted the candle in the nick of time and did not set the house on fire. Very scary. Threw this shade in the garbage. Never want to use it again!
The second, was when DH opened the door to go outside, almost all the candles blew out. Had we been in pitch darkness, this would have presented a problem. So, my question is what kind of a candle holder can a person use to walk around the house for path lighting and what kinds of shades or shaded holders will keep a candle from blowing out with a tiny breeze?
Holly from Richardson, TX
By Nan Corpe01/13/2010
Candles are a major cause of house fires. You can't take your eyes off them, especially if you have pets or children. It's much better to get battery operated items. For night lights I use the battery operated timer candles that go on for 8 hours at the same time every evening. I use them in the bathrooms and one in the living area. That way if there's a power outage in the night, we always have light enough to get to the other battery operated lanterns, etc.
When the lights goes out in your home do you prefer using candles or flashlights? Is it safe to leave batteries in a flashlight for a long time?
By Sheilah Link07/19/2012
I keep a L.L. Bean crank flashlight by the bed. Candles and oil lamps I use as stationary lights - not ones to carry around. We plan to invest in a generator later this summer. This is an option you might consider if power outages are frequent and/or long lasting.