This post has been an idea on a sticky at my computer for some time now and may be a little late in coming but it is a topic that has been much on my mind lately. It has been 20 years since I have had a place in the country where I have needed to worry about power outages and while I still know the basics I have decided that just the basics are not good enough anymore.
I will probably write this post in two parts, because I can already tell as I write that it is going to be a long one, I want to start with a basic prep list for those that are new to the country and really it is one that will applicable even to those in the city that want to be ready for a loss of power in the winter. I would also like share our long term goals list for being prepared for a loss of power in the worst conditions.
As I thought about this issue, one of the things that really hit home for me, is how few people are really prepared for the possibility of wide spread outages, or being without power for more than a few hours. Keep in mind that I am not a prepper at least not yet, nor do I claim to have that knowledge, My only goal here was to point out to those that are not prepared how they can better prepare themselves for a storm in the winter.
It really does not matter who you are, or where you live, being prepared is always going to be a smart idea, don’t let yourself rely too much on the conveniences that our recent generations have taken for granted, be ready take care of yourself even if it is for a few days. FEMA Recommends being prepared for 3 days, in my mind that is only a beginning, there are plenty of stories of people being without heat and power for many more days than this.
The Four Basic things You will Need if the Power Goes Out
- 1) Heat
- 3) Food
- 4) Light
There are other things to be considered as well (which we will cover Later), but these things, especially the first 3 are essential and should be considered first.
Our ultimate goal on our homestead is to have two wood stoves( indoor and outdoor) and solar panels to take care of the heat issue, for now, until we can install these we have a generator that can power our oil furnace or space heaters and we have an odorless Propane heater( be careful with these, I still vent them even though they are not supposed to cause fumes.) We have a plan as to where we would sleep, (also where we keep our lanterns) and which room to use for living spaces. Preferably these should be rooms that can be shut off from the rest of the house, it makes heating more efficient.
Generators are expensive, we are fortunate enough to have been given one, however if you do have access to one, be sure to keep fuel on hand when you know there is going to be a storm. You can also put a fuel extender in it to keep it from going bad or put it in your vehicle when the storm has passed if you did not need it.
In conclusion you will want some sort of heat for your homestead, it could be days before your power is restored.
Water is going to be your next priority, for those in the country this means having a way to run your pump or having enough water on hand, not just for you but also for your livestock. Wells can be run off of a generator so if you think your water needs are going to be extensive then you may want to look into getting a generator.
If you live somewhere where your water is supplied to you then you have a different problem, there are going to be times that your water is not going to be safe to drink, such as when it floods. In cases such as these you may be able to boil drinking water, or just keep water on hand for that purpose. You should have a gallon a day for each person in your house, and don’t forget to add any animals you have!
Water storage is an issue as well but one we will talk about in our next blog post. Just know that you can also buy water purifier tablets for your water or find ways for long term storage.
This is probably one of the easiest things to deal with aside from light, but one that a lot of people don’t think about. Unless you have a propane stove you are not going to be able to cook. It is on our list of things to do to put in a propane stove but for now, we work on stocking up foods that are easy to heat or can be eaten cold. 3 days’ worth for each person is minimum, don’t forget that your refrigerator will not be usable so you need to make sure you have things such as shelf stable milk if you plan on cereal for instance and that all of your items are shelf stable. Also make sure you have a hand can opener with no electricity you won’t be able to open your cans without it.
You can use a camp stove to cook on, but you do have to watch for propane fumes, use it somewhere where the ventilation is good like on your back porch.
If you have a generator that can handle the load it can keep the refrigerator and freezer going, otherwise try not to open them, a refrigerator will last about a day without power if you do not open it where as a freeze will go a bit longer about 3 days. Of course it does matter what you have in there, dairy or leftovers will not last as long as fruits or vegetables.
Finally you will need some source of light; this is for safety reasons if for no other. We stock up on LED lights simply because they last longer than any other lights, are safer than candles and offer a bright enough light to make sure that you can see your way around and not get injured. Check the lights you buy to make sure that they have plenty of hours of light, and get ones that have replaceable batteries rather than rechargeable. If there is no power there is no way to recharge your battery. Of course you will want to stock up on batteries as well as make sure you have both lanterns and hand held lights.
Once you have covered the essentials, be sure to check your other stores as well, plenty of blankets is a necessity as well as ways to keep little ones entertained; board games are great for this. Warm clothes are a good idea as well and sleeping bags that can hold in body heat. If you know a storm is coming and that it could cause a loss of power make sure to have all of your stores in one place in the house to keep them easy to access.
A radio is also a good idea there are models that are made for emergencies and they can offer you valuable information you are going to need, hand cranked or battery powered are both available. A first aid kit is also a good thing to add to your emergency preps, in case the emergency is a natural disaster rather than just a power outage.
One thing that people rarely think about when preparing to storms or other emergencies is making sure they have enough pet food, baby supplies and medications on hand until they can get out resupplying. Also make sure that you have a good supply of rock salt if it is a snow storm, you may need it to make your walk ways and driveways safe.
Keep in mind that this post is directed at winter storms, if you are trying to prepare for disasters there is a more complete list here http://www.ready.gov/basic-disaster-supplies-kit.
Also Amazon has a good supply of emergency supplies that you can keep on hand for any time you are without power or want to make what is called a bug out kit.
An essential item for preparedness is a cellphone. The landlines will probably be down and a smartphone is going to have a short battery life. A cheap simple phone like a prepaid Tracfone will have a long battery life and let you stay in touch when all other means have failed.
Something else you can use is your barbeque for cooking, also any camping gear will also be useful.