When the Lights Go Out

It’s been an interesting week here in Northern California. I’m writing this post in between power outages. We just went through 48 hours of no power and we’re waiting for the power to be shut down again.

The power company has shut down our power. Don’t get me started on the “why”… it’s not pretty. Suffice it to say that the power company has some work to do.

What I will focus on instead is what to do when the lights go out.

Actually, I’m going to start with what to do before the lights go out! Because as I have learned, an emergency situation can go a whole lot smoother if I am prepared!

What to do BEFORE a power outage:

  1. Light – Have battery powered sources of light on hand. We have four headlamps and three lanterns. We keep them with our camping supplies in the garage, so we know where to find them! Since we had warning of the outage, we were able to check the batteries (and clean out one corroded lantern, oops!) and put them in locations around the house where we would need them when we lost power. We also have a supply of spare batteries in our linen closet. Be careful using candles or other open flames for light! And never use gas powered lanterns indoors.
  2. Water – Have extra water stored. While the water may still work even when the power goes out, there is always the possibility of the water company not having enough power to clean the water or the waterline being compromised. We have a 55 gallon water barrel in the garage for extreme emergencies. But for this outage, I just filled several water pitchers up. Remember if you usually fill up from a water dispenser in your fridge, it won’t work when the power is out!
  3. Food – There are a few things to consider when planning your food needs:
    • Freezer – Food in the freezer will stay frozen for about 48 hours if you don’t open the door. Take a quick look before hand and see if there is anything you want to take out and eat rather than try to keep frozen. We also added water bottles full of water and even bread pans filled with water to make more ice before we lost power.
    • Refrigerator – Food in the refrigerator will only stay optimally cold for about 4 hours. Again, take a look and see what you need to consume rather than let spoil. If there are perishables that you want to keep cold and not eat right away, put them in an ice chest and continually add ice. Just know that it can be tricky to get enough ice in a power outage!
    • Cooking – Have a plan for how you will prepare anything that requires cooking. If you have a gas stove with an electric starter, you can still use the stove as long as you light the gas with a match. Please be sure you know how to do this safely before you try it! You can also cook on a camping stove (just be sure to cook outside!) or on a barbecue if you have one. Anything you can make on the stove top (as opposed to the oven) will probably be the easiest.
  4. Communication – Have a way to communicate out and get communications in. While traditional landline phones do not require electricity to work, there aren’t as many homes that still have these. If you (like us) have opted not to have a landline, you’ll need a way to charge your cell phones. We have a solar powered charger that does the job for us. We keep it in the window during the day and charge up our phones as needed. And we minimize our phone use! Another way to get information in to your family about what is going on is to have a good old fashioned radio! Battery powered or even a hand crank style will allow you to tune into emergency stations in your area.
  5. Temperature – Heating and cooling units will obviously not work when the power is out. Plan ahead for how you will deal with any temperature extremes. Yesterday is was 59 degrees in our house and we were bundling up! Extra blankets, please!
  6. Medical – If you have any medical needs that require electricity, then you hopefully already have a plan for what to do if you lose power. Back up generators and extra fuel may be required. Also keep enough medications on hand for those that take medicines. And have a first aid kit stocked and ready.
  7. Gasoline – Gas pumps will not work when the power is out. If you have any warning of an outage, be sure to fill your gas tank up.
  8. Cash – ATMs will also not work when the power is out. Shops, if they are even open, will not be able to use electronic registers and credit card terminals. If you don’t already have a stash of cash in your emergency kit (which I highly recommend) get the cash you might need before the outage begins.
  9. Entertainment – Hopefully you already have a pocketful of screen-free entertainment ideas! But in case you need a few: books, puzzles, board games, art projects, and if it’s day time, go outside and play!

Now you’re prepared!

Really, it makes such a difference to take the time and do a little preparation before an emergency occurs. I wasn’t looking forward to being without power, but knowing that I had done all I could to be ready helped me feel lighter.

And can I just say that while I’ve always been mindful of how lucky I am to have electricity, this experience has bumped up my gratitude level! Hooray for central heating, hot water, and computers to blog on!

Do you have any other ways to prepare for power outages?


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