Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Short Term Emergency Tips for Power Outages

Hurricane Sandy Report:  I am very grateful that this storm passed through our area with as little damage as it did this week.  Here at the farm we were without power for 12 hours and half of those were at night so it was just a minor inconvenience rather than a major problem - no lugging buckets of water for the sump pump this time as we had rain but not enough to overwhelm the basement.

The outdoor damage was minimal - one tree lost in the donkey and sheep paddock to clean up and I should be able to manage it myself since the tree wasn't huge.  Repairs to the cedar rail fence should be simple and it looks like the electric fence is stretched but still functioning. 

This storm was a good test of the emergency preps.  I can never pass up a good deal on unscented candles but if we really want good lighting to read or work by kerosene lanterns are more efficient.  We use them in the winter just for fun so they are always on display in the living room.  Several of them are the cheap hardware store versions and one of those has a malfunctioning wick turner so I'll have to take it apart this week and see if I can fix it.  The one below is an upgrade from the ones I own but conveniently available from your local hardware store - and pretty too!  I've seen many of these at antique/junk shops and they can get expensive fast.  Be sure to check for cracks in the glass base when buying second hand.

It's always good to remind yourself that kerosene lamps are useful but with pets and children around to be extra cautious about placing them somewhere they can't get knocked over.  I put them in a glass bowl in the centre of the table when in use and put them away up high when not in use.  I would NOT recommend using coloured or scented kerosene - instant headache for me - buy non-scented or low odour lamp oil.

The best lantern one we have is a Dietz..  It wasn't expensive - under $20 - but it lights up a room!  Canadian Tire and Home Hardware sell the Worlds Famous brand that is similar but doesn't look as well constructed.
I also used the power failure as an opportunity to try a few new things when it came to heating up water.  I always have some cans of sterno on hand and I wanted to see how  efficient it was for boiling water.  I know it works well to keep food hot when it's already hot.  I have multiple other more efficient ways to boil water without electricity but I was looking for one that is easy to store and can be used in the house without concern for fumes.  I put the sterno into a large dry pot on the stove, covered the pot with a cookie rack and placed the kettle on top of that.  I will say - it works but it's very slow.  I moved the sterno closer to the bottom of the kettle and that did speed things up but it would still have taken 20 minutes to boil water for 4 large cups of tea.  On the plus side - it's easy to store and it's safer and simpler than some other methods.

Here are some things to do to prepare for a storm:

Put juice containers filled with water in the freezer and keep them there at all times.  This makes the freezer more efficient by keeping it full - remove bottles when you need room for food of course!  The jugs also serve to keep the freezer frozen when the power does go out, can be used to turn your refrigerator into a giant icebox if the power failure is prolonged and provide you with clean drinking water.  Covering the freezer with comforters or old blankets also helps to maintain the temperature.

Fill the kitchen sink with soapy water.  It's a simple way to wash your hands and you won't waste bottled water.

Have bottled water!  I have large 15L water jugs that I keep in the basement along with a few cases of water bottles and as many juice jugs as I can find filled with water and a few drops of bleach.

Have hand sanitizer available in the kitchen and bathrooms.

Consolidate your kitchen freezer with your large freezer if you have one - one less place to have to keep cold.  Don't open the fridge or freezer without a plan.  Put a sign on the fridge door that says - DO NOT OPEN - to remind yourself.

Mom will yell at you!!

Keep matches, flash lights, candles, batteries and lanterns in a specific spot so you don't have to go looking for them in the dark. Keep slippers beside your bed for the same reason.  Hang mini flash lights on the basement door and bathroom doorknobs.

Keep a good supply of simple to prepare foods.  Figure out the most efficient way to heat food and water.  Sterno?  Camp stove? BBQ? Fondue set? Kerosene stove!  Have a supply of fuel too.

If it's cold or the kids are a little nervous have a camp out in the living room.  Drag down sleeping bags and pillows and stay together.  A room that can be closed off from the rest of the house is a good idea because you can attempt to keep a smaller area warm.  If you have no way of heating the room you could pop up a small tent and sleep inside.  The tent will hold in your body heat and keep you warmer.

Wash the dishes and clean the house before the storm arrives - a clean house to begin with makes sense.

Bake some muffins or pull together some easy to eat snacks before the storm hits.  Start a soup or stew you can keep warm with the sterno or use your crock pot and wrap it in towels after the power goes out and put in in the cold oven to keep it warm.

Boil  water and fill a large thermos so you don't have to heat the water all over again for another cup of tea! You can do that before the storm or after boiling water on your stove of choice - something you don't want to repeat too many times!

Keep your cell phones charged.  Get a charger for the car and don't forget you can charge them in a charged up laptop as well.  

Have at least one phone in the house that is a regular plug in - not a cordless - so you will still be able to use it if the power is off.

Play some games.  Pull out a puzzle.  Spend time with your loved ones and enjoy life without electricity for awhile while hoping and praying the power comes back on soon.  Be safe and PREPARED!

Any additions to my list?  Share your thoughts!


  1. Great post Anita, thanks for all the tips.

  2. Now you said things that make practical sense, we were fortunate and did not lose power or have any wind damage. Liked all your ideas from freezer bottles to clean house. thanx

  3. Those are great tips and without knowing too much about preparedness, I think we did incorporate some of those ideas. We kept what flashlights, batteries, candles and matches we had in one spot. Then kept a large candle or lantern in bathroom. We always keep bottled water for drinking and froze a lot of them. As temp in fridge went down we moved frozen bottles from freezer to fridge. We age stuff that would go bad or thaw. My son and I pigged out on the ice cream that was left. I was able to cook on the gas stove and shared the leftovers with neighbors since we couldn't save it. They were grateful and none too prepared with food, I might add. I was ready to use the barbecue but didn't really have much on hand to grill. At night we took our queen sized mattress into the living room and propped it on top of our couches and ottoman. We covered a couple of windows with extra blankets and would ocassionally boil water on gas stove to keep warm. We kept our son's potty in living room overnight and he slept with us. My husband wired up a large tractor headlight to the car battery and would charge it a couple of times and would last a few hours. The rest of the time used battery operated lantern or lightbulb. We also charged our phones in the car when necessary and had battery/crank powered radio. I did miss the internet and tv, though. We texted our family when necessary. We also moved a furniture piece I use in the bathroom and placed it in front of our bedroom window the first night. Did I mention that we live in a mobile home? During hurricane Sandy, we were blessed to be spared any damage except our tall pine tree in the front. We are planning on being more prepared for anything else that may come by stocking up on non perishables, water, candles, batteries, more lanterns and I'm searching for a non-electric heater. I'm wary of using propane or kerosene with my son in such a small space though. Good luck to us all in the future, come what may! BTW I am a US citizen, but my country of origin is Cuba and we still have family there. I hear there are lots of Cubans in Canada. Would like to visit.

  4. Best advice from credible source...has been there and done that!! Great! Thanks for all the common sense approach to prepping without spending any money.

  5. newprepper - thanks so much for sharing your story!!! I' so glad you are safe and sound and I can see that this will only further jump start your preparations for the future! hugs!!