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We have all seen them and hopefully we all have a few in our 72 hour and other kits; glow sticks. What are they really and why should we have them?
Chemicals are housed separately in a plastic tube fitted with an additional small glass vial inside. Both contain chemicals that when mixed create a temporary chemical glow. When the glow stick is bent and small vial is broken the chemicals combine. The chemicals are not harmful and make glow sticks perfect for both a child’s and adult use.
Once activated the glow cannot be shut off and will last from two to twelve hours depending on the glow sticks purchased.
Why do we want them?
- Glow sticks do not spark or create heat so they are safe to use where open flames or sparks would be dangerous such as after a natural disaster or terrorist attack when gas leaks may be present.
- The sticks are waterproof and thus can be used underwater.
- Glow sticks can be seen up to and even beyond a mile.
- The wind has no effect on a glow stick so it can’t be extinguished like a candle.
- Glow sticks are safe around children.
- Glow sticks can be stored in hot areas where flashlight batteries may explode. However, it is always better to store in a cool, dry place.
- They are inexpensive.
- Glow sticks have a long shelf life.
How can they be used?
- Mark a path. Place glow sticks along a path or hang in trees to mark a path. This is crucial when camping or evacuating outdoors and a path to a port-a-potty or outhouse needs to be marked for midnight trips
- Mark the edge of a hazard. During the day a hazard may be marked using a rope to cordon off an area. At night hang glow sticks on the rope to protect those walking around.
- Signal rescuers. Place glow sticks in an open area with universal signals recognized by all rescuers. See Meridian Magazine article: Basic Survival Skills: Signaling). Float glow sticks in water if an open area is not available. Glow sticks will sink so place them in an empty plastic water bottle before placing them in the water or tie to a rope that has been secured on the shore. This is also a great technique to mark an area for a nighttime swim.
- Follow the leader. For a few years we took a group to hike Half Dome at Yosemite National Park. We had to begin the hike while it was still dark. To keep track of everyone we attached a glow stick to backpacks.
- Fishing. Fish are attracted to light and glow sticks are waterproof. Place in water but be sure to attach a string to the hook on top of the glow stick or they will sink.
- Keep track of the kids. Hang them around the neck of children or hook them to backpacks when visiting an amusement park at night or in an evacuation center.
- When the lights go out. During a power outage use glow sticks in bathrooms and hallways as nightlights, saves batteries and calms children. During the aftermath of hurricane Katrina the power went out in church being used as an evacuation center fifty miles from New Orleans. Glow sticks were hung in hallways at night. Since the restrooms had no windows glow sticks were hung in them night and day.
- Protect the family from injury. Place a glow stick in every room in the house. Hang on the back of doors or place in drawers so you can easily grab one in case on a power outage, you don’t want to get injured feeling around for a light source in the dark.
- Place next to each bed in case of a nighttime emergency. In case of a fire or earthquake at night family members can activate their glow sticks and see to escape or be seen by rescuers.
- Light up your car when stranded or broken down. If you are stranded a glow stick will allow oncoming cars to see you without running down the car battery. It will also provide light for rescuers to see you.
- Make a lantern. Activate glow stick, cut open and pour into a glass container. Add water and seal. This intensifies the light and is great to use on a table to play games or read.
- Place stick in a bottle of water for a brighter light.
- Use them on the back of a bike for a nighttime ride.
- Place on the ground or hang on the car at the rear and side when changing a tire in the dark.
- Light up a tent when camping.
- Place on tent stakes and ropes so you don’t trip at night.
- Attach to dog collar to keep track of them at night.
- Keep kids safe on Halloween. A great way to rotate your stash.
- Send with someone going to seek help when stranded. Glow sticks can be seen at great distances and used as a signal at night. You can signal by attaching a chord to the glow stick and swinging it around over your head. The person going to find help can signal you and you can do the same with a second glow stick leading them back to your location.
- Attach to the end of an item you are transporting in the back of a truck when it extends beyond the truck bed.
- Direct traffic at an event or when you come upon a traffic accident.
- Use to “replace” a burned out tail light until you can get to a repair shop.
- Use as pool toys to retrieve during a nighttime swim. They will sink. Remember you will want to calm children, and yourself, during a crisis so plan for some fun activities during these stressful times.
- Create nighttime games. Cut open a glow stick after it has been activated. Pour a little of the liquid on a Frisbee for a game in the dark. An extended power outage after a weather disaster or failure of the power grid or power line down can quickly cause cabin fever so get outside and have some fun!
- Bubble fun. Pour a little of the activated liquid from a glow stick in to a bottle of bubbles, glow in the dark bubbles. This is fun if you are in an evacuation center because the kids can’t hurt anyone but can still have fun and entertain others as well.
- Light a path to your front door when having a party or for Halloween visitors. Since glow sticks are waterproof they can be placed in a water bottle or other container or hung on a string.
- Signal rescuers. We just saw thousands stranded in their home in the flooding in Texas. Rescuers were out in boats but when the power was out victims had difficulty signaling the rescuers. A glow stick being swung will be easily seen as an obvious call for help.
Like any other product there are various grades of glow sticks from low quality to the more expensive military grade. The lower quality sticks may have a reduced glow time and the plastic casing may be thinner. I have found the less expensive ones to be just fine and have never had one leak. But, compare as there is inexpensive and there is cheap.
Purchase sticks that are four inches long to use for pets and to hang around a child’s neck to keep track of them. Purchase six inch or larger glow sticks for all other uses.
Always purchase white or yellow glow sticks as they will give you the brightest light.
Check the description and purchase only sticks that will last eight hours or longer.
Store in a leak proof container, a plastic bag or box, just in case of a leak. Don’t worry if they leak, the chemicals are not dangerous. Again, I have never had one leak but it’s better to be safe and protect the rest of your kit or your storage area.
Place a copy of this information in your binder to help you remember all the ways you can take advantage of your stash.
Glow sticks are an important part of any emergency preparedness plan. Get a few. Better yet get many!
Don’t forget to check in at the Totally Ready facebook page each Monday for six simple tasks to complete that week. Contact Carolyn here or on facebook with questions and suggestions for future articles.
CarolynFebruary 8, 2018
Carol Ann, As Kathleen said the shelf life varies. I just used some for a power outage that were 10 years old. I recommend getting them online. If you email me I can tell you where I have gotten them.
Kathleen HoopesFebruary 7, 2018
I have purchased GlowSticks at the dollar store, their shelf life is less than a year. I have purchased more expensive ones at camping supply places, their shelf life is less than five years, quite often around 2 or 3. I've found that the older the glow stick, the less time they will give off light once they are activated. As with any preparedness item, I've found it's best to rotate them, which is never a problem- we simply get them out before a family game night and play Farkle in the Darkle with glow sticks! Grandkids love it!