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Ready? It’s time to get serious about preparing for emergencies by creating a preparedness binder with tips for prepping ahead of time and information to keep you safe during and after a crisis. Over the next several months we will be compiling articles to guide you through food storage, food preparations and preservation, preparing for a weather disaster as it approaches, surviving during a power outage, dealing with the aftermath of a disaster, recognizing health emergencies, helping children prepare for and cope with disasters and much more.
Since power outages almost always accompany a weather related disaster, the nation’s power grid is in terrible shape, and terrorism associated with an attack on the power grid or an attack by an EMP are of great concern to government agencies tasked with protecting us, we will begin with information concerning survival during a winter power outage.
Please read through the following article and purchase any items you may be lacking. Gather supplies you already own into one area. After reading, make a copy of this article and place it in your preparedness binder. I have underlined the steps that should be taken as soon as the power fails in winter so they will be easy to follow when the need arises and stress is high.
I encourage you to seek out other information for your binder and as you read helpful articles please share them with me. I will share them with our readers after reviewing them. BUT please be careful. There is so much bad advice on the Internet, which is why we are creating our own resource guide.
When the power fails in winter:
- Stay indoors as much as possible. If you need to leave the house, open and close the door quickly, and close the door behind you, not propped open while you carry something in or out.
- Close interior doors to rooms you will not use during the outage.
- A radio: You should already have one in your 72-hour kit. You will want to keep informed, so having a radio is an absolute must. A hand crank/solar powered radio is a good choice, as it requires no batteries. Although it will probably operate on batteries, too. These are available with a built in flashlight, which is also handy. After winding the crank for 30 seconds, the radio will play and the flashlight stay lit for a surprisingly long time. If you choose a battery-powered radio make sure you have batteries stored long term with the radio, but not in it. Also, be sure your radio has both AM and FM bands, since emergency broadcasts are limited and may be on either band for your area. Be aware that a solar powered radio must be charged in the sun before it is needed the first time so always charge your radio by placing it in a sunny window as soon as you purchase.
- Flashlights: You should have several on hand, and again I recommend a solar/crank or battery-operated flashlight. I do not recommend the flashlights that you shake. They have a very low beam of light and have to be shaken every 2-3 minutes to maintain power. Having experimented with several brands and having been dissatisfied with all of them, I have not seen one I recommend. Others have told me the same. Headlamps are wonderful as you can work, cook, change the baby, collect firewood or any other chore, hands free.A couple of last thoughts about flashlights: Except for flashlights in regular service, I suggest storing batteries separate from your flashlight. I recently had a battery explode in a flashlight completely destroying it. It literally did a melt down. Usually, however, battery failure leads to leaked acid that destroys the flashlight or radio, rendering it useless when you need it. For everyday safety, store a flashlight next to every bed in the house in case of a nighttime emergency. Place flashlights or glow sticks on door knobs where they will be easily accessible.
- Glow Stick: Raid your 72-hour kit for glow sticks. They are so much safer than candles. You simply snap and shake the stick and it glows for hours. Always purchase the white or yellow varieties for the brightest light. Glow sticks come in several sizes and will glow for 30 minutes to 12 hours. Be sure to check when purchasing that you have the 12-hour variety. Hang glow sticks in restrooms and hallways as night-lights providing light all night long without running down batteries. Glow sticks can be hung around the neck of a child to quickly see them in a crowd or to check on them in the middle of the night.
- Candles: These should be available for use during a power outage but should never be used after a natural disaster. Gas leaks occur frequently after destructive disasters and many, many homes and lives have been lost in fires caused by gas explosions from lighting a candle. Candles sold in glass jars or bottles, such as religious candles, are by far the safest to use in appropriate situations.
- Battery Clock: During an emergency, time seems to crawl by. Move your clock to a common area where everyone can check the time. Every home should have at least one clock that is battery operated.
- Your Emergency Kitchen: You will want to plan for your cooking needs. This may include a barbecue grill, fire pit, camp stove, solar oven or your gas range. Each method will need additional preparation and caution. You will need charcoal, propane tanks, wood, aluminum foil, and special pots, pans and griddles. Remember to NEVER use a barbecue in the house either for heat or for cooking. In an extreme emergency such as a blizzard, when there is no other option for heating food and water, place a barbecue in the garage, OPEN the garage door and remove the car before starting the grill, keeping the door open the entire time.You will need to cook in your down coat but you will keep your family safe from toxic fumes. You cannot use a household pan on an open fire or grill but a griddle will act like a frying pan if you are using either of these methods to cook. Remember to eat the food in the freezer first. If your outage may be long cook everything. Once cooked, food will keep for a few days packed in snow or ice you chip from the yard. If your temperatures are below freezing place some small containers of water in the yard and wait for them to freeze. Once frozen place them in a cooler to keep food preserved.
- Think Hot: It is important to eat and drink hot foods.
- This is also the time to raid your 72-hour kit, and use your body warmers. If you have purchased “the good ones” they will help keep you warm for up to 20 hours. Remember a significant percentage of body heat is lost through the head, so wear a hat, even indoors. Warm socks and shoes (or insulated slippers) are also very important, as extremities are the second area of heat loss from the body. Consider using your body warmers in your footwear only if it is getting extremely cold and frostbite is a possibility. For cold hands, dry mittens that are tight at the wrist are better than gloves for keeping your hands warm.
- Dress in loose fitting layers. Trapped air between layers helps to insulate thus keeping you warm. As it gets dark, it will get colder. Layer your clothing to maintain as constant a body temperature as possible. If you don’t overdress early in the day you can avoid overheating and then being chilled as the temperatures fall. Protect your internal organs by keeping your core, chest area, warm.
- Generators: If you can afford to purchase a generator, do it now. They will be gone in about 10 minutes after a natural disaster warning or after the earth stops quaking. If you cannot afford a generator, consider purchasing one with a relative or neighbor. The key here is that someone will have to house it, and of course, that is where neighbors, family, and friends will come to in an emergency.
- Store fuel for your generator. To store gasoline for an emergency generator it’s important to follow simple safety rules. Fire codes typically restrict gas storage to no more than 25 gallons. Store the gas in approved containers of 5 gallons or less. Approved containers will include a label directly on the container confirming it meets specifications for portable containers for gasoline products. Never store gas in unapproved or glass containers. Fill the containers no more than 95 percent full to allow for expansion. Keep the container tightly capped.Store the container at least 50 ft. away from pilot lights and ignition sources such as water heaters, space heater, furnace or barbecue grill. If storing on concrete place a piece of wood under the container. Store out of reach of children. Store in a garage or shed and never in your home. Store out of direct sunlight.
When storing gasoline always add a fuel stabilizer. Stabilizers prevent compounds and microbial growth from forming and degrading the gasoline. A stabilizer will allow you to store the gasoline for a year before rotating it.
- Firewood: To produce heat effectively, wood must be seasoned. This means it has dried for at least a year after being cut. These stockpiles of wood will disappear quickly. Acquire a supply of firewood now. Hardwoods such as madrone, eucalyptus, almond, oak, etc. are the best for heating. Pines, firs, spruce, and redwoods are soft woods and will burn cooler and more quickly, providing fewer coals and less heat. Storing a little is soft wood makes a great fire starter. As soon as the power goes out move firewood close to the door or into a closed in porch to minimize the time spent outdoors.
- Batteries: Make sure you have extra batteries of various sizes for flashlights, radios, clocks, and tools. And, make sure you know where you have stored them. As soon as the power fails, gather batteries.
- Manual Can Opener: All the food in the world is no good if you can’t get into it. Find the can opener and place it with your cooking equipment.
- Detergent: Liquid laundry and dish detergent and a large tub or bucket for washing. Remember, good hygiene still counts in an emergency.
- Matches or Lighters: Long wooden matches are the best to store as they are easier to use and burn longer. Gather matches and place them with your cooking equipment and near the fireplace.
- Extra Blankets and Sleeping Bags: These will not only be useful at night for sleeping but also to keep warm during the daylight hours. Don’t forget the mylar blanket in your 72-hour kit. Use your resources to their best advantage. Zip two sleeping bags together and sleep two to a bag, if appropriate. The combined body heat will keep you warmer than sleeping alone. Contain your body heat as much as possible. Remember when as children you built forts under a kitchen table covered with a large blanket? This is a great way to contain heat. Drape the table with the survival blanket from your 72-hour kit, blankets, canvas tarps, or bedspreads and then place throw rugs or even a mattress under the table, crawl in, and snuggle under a blanket and you will be surprised how warm you will be. Two and three man tents set up in the living room can achieve the same result. Both of these “tents” are another great place to use your glow sticks.
- Speaking of tents, bring in your tent and set it up in the room of your home that you are using as the “warm” room in your home. Play games in the tent during the day and sleep in it at night. Two man tents and play tents that you may have for your children also work for containing heat. If you have a fireplace in a bedroom prepare to sleep in that room and if you want to sleep in your bed place your tent on the bed, now you have the comfort of the mattress and the warmth of the tent.
- If you have a well that supplies your water, it is extremely important that you have ample water stored. Even if you are on a water system you should be storing extra water. Water pipes can freeze, and if they do, turn off your water and do not attempt to unfreeze the pipes. Keep jugs of water stored for flushing toilets. You will also need water to prepare meals, have water for pets, and for cleaning. Most importantly, remember you will want to drink warm drinks so make sure you have water stored that can be used for hot cocoa and other hot drinks. Store wet wipes and liquid hand sanitizer for cleaning hands and conserving water. When the power fails, place jugs of water near your cooking supplies, near the fireplace (just in case), and in the bathrooms.
- Do not drink alcohol or eat salty foods. They dehydrate the body and your water supply will be limited.
- Store canned foods to use during a power outage. They contain water or syrup which can help hydrate and they can be eaten cold if necessary. Never eat dehydrated or freeze dried foods without reconstituting them as this will cause dehydration and can lead to serious health problems.
- Designate a room or two to be used as the rooms you will gather in during the day and sleep in at night. Close off unneeded rooms. Take personal items from bedrooms and close the doors. What little heat you generate from a fireplace you will want to retain in the rooms where you will live during the outage. The family should gather in one or two rooms and use only one restroom until power is restored.
- Close off hallways by hanging blankets or other fabrics across them. Remember the draperies between rooms in the 1800s and even into the 1940s? These were closed to seal off rooms. To seal off a hallway use your shower curtain rod hanging it as close to the ceiling as possible.
- Place rolled up towels and rags under and around doors and windows where weather stripping may not completely seal the area.
- As soon as the sun goes down cover windows in the rooms in which the family is gathered. Once again, the mylar blankets from your 72-hour kits work great for this. You can also use blankets, sheets, tarps, plastic sheeting and drapery for this purpose. Newspaper in layers is a great insulator, too. At night, wind chill will become a real factor in keeping your home warm. Do all you can to keep the wind outside by using weather strip and caulking where necessary.
- Games: Make sure games, books, and puzzles are easily accessible, and use them to help pass the time. When the sun goes down place a flashlight, battery-powered lantern, or glow stick in the middle of the floor and huddle around it like a campfire. Drink hot cocoa and tell family stories or appropriate spooky tales (like Ichabod Crane and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow). By appropriate, I mean go easy on the scary stuff with young children if you want a full night’s sleep.
With a little bit of preparation, a power outage can be a memorable adventure for your family, and not a big deal. Without planning, well, you might be on your rooftop trying to flag down a helicopter in your mukluks.
During a crisis we all forget some of what we have been taught. Your binder will provide the help you and your family will need to feel calm and confident.
Please private message me at: https://www.facebook.com/TotallyReady with your questions and ideas. I look forward to learning with you!