A power outage is never fun. They’re inconvenient and potentially deadly if you don’t have precautions in place. Here are some things to keep in mind as you begin stocking your power outage emergency kit.
Recently we got to experience the thrill-adventure-misfortune-inconvenience of being without electric power for an extended period of time.
Everything flickered off at 11:25 p.m. on a cold, icy night, but we figured it’d be back on soon so we simply pulled up another blanket and went to sleep.
The next day – still no power. And word was that it would be at least another 24 hours before it would be back on.
So we went into caveman mode.
Your power outage emergency kit is essential
Fortunately, hubby has always believed in the Boy Scout motto of “Be Prepared” so we had supplies already on hand. Since he’s already lived through an earthquake and a tornado, he’s a huge advocate of having a power outage emergency kit already built.
Hubby fired up the BBQ grill and we put several big pots to heat water. With this we could make hot tea or instant coffee and also use it for dish washing.
Later that afternoon he made potato soup on the grill.
When it got dark we went to sleep with more blankets piled on and pulled on several layers of clothes.
We utilized the light from windows to read books or do what work we could that didn’t require internet or computers.
While it wasn’t the most pleasant experience we’ve ever been through, it certainly wasn’t the worst. That’s primarily due to the fact that Jungle Jim is a huge proponent of having emergency supplies on hand to get you through a power outage. Here’s the list of what we needed and used that kept us from freezing, starving, and stinking.
1. There are some basic supplies you’ll need when the power is out
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Cell phone charger – If the power is out for an extended period of time, a solar powered charger is ideal. You can set it in a sunny window during the day so that it’s ready to charge up the electronic devices you depend on.
Flashlights, headlamps, lanterns – We actually keep some flashlights on the side of our freezer. They’ve got a strong magnet and this way we always know where we can grab one in a hurry.
We’re also proponents of keeping smaller flashlights in most table, hutch, and night stand drawers. A couple in kitchen cabinet drawers is helpful too.
And while we sometimes make fun of each other, headlamps give you a hands-free way to see where you’re going or what you’re trying to work on. We call these our miner’s lights and we think they’re something every home needs.
Batteries – Be sure to keep an adequate stock for all of the items that you frequently use. A power outage is not the time to be caught short. A battery case is a great way to keep these in one convenient place so that you know what you’ve got (and what you need).
Glow sticks – These make great light sources for kids and you don’t have to worry about an open flame. It’s also a great way to keep them entertained while the power is out. You can also purchase glow sticks that are brighter and keep those in your safety kit.
2. You’ll need clothing & supplies to keep you warm
Most of these items can be picked up at your local big box store or purchased at a sporting goods store. The good thing is that they’re versatile and you’ll use them frequently during the colder months.
Hats and gloves
Fleece clothing you can layer
Vests to keep your core warm
Good warm socks
3. Keeping everyone fed and clean is essential
Camp dishes and cookware – We’ve had our enamel camp dishes and cookware forever. We keep them stored in a box specifically marked for emergencies (since we don’t camp much any more). Our set is basically like this…dishes for 4 people with a coffee pot, skillet, and dutch oven that can be used over a campfire on on a grill. These saved our life during the power outage.
Now, a word about cleaning up. Any time you’ve got an inkling that a storm is headed your way, it’s smart to start filling up every container you’ve got with water. You’ll need this to flush toilets, wash and rinse dishes, take spit baths, etc.
We used our camp dishes, heated just enough water to wash and rinse, and took hygiene VERY seriously!
Now before anyone screams at me about adding to landfills (because I hate that too), know that during a power outage may be the time when it really is worth it to have paper plates, cups, and plastic eating utensils on hand.
Ideally, you’d have enough water stocked up that you would be able to wash dishes. However, if you live in a small space (our daughter’s apartment comes to mind) then this may not be possible.
In those situations, it’s better to produce some trash that you can throw away than to risk getting sick because dishes weren’t properly washed and sanitized. This truly is a case of solving the most critical problem first.
Long lighters – These are great for starting the fire in your charcoal grill. You can also pick them up cheaply at most dollar stores. We keep a fair number on hand just for emergencies.
Charcoal BBQ grill – Our BBQ grill was absolutely a life saver! We used it to heat water for washing dishes (and bodies), for making tea and hot chocolate to drink. We cooked soup on it. And in a pinch, standing around it certainly provided some warmth. There are a variety of sizes to meet your needs and living situation. Even a portable grill is great in a pinch.
Thermal mugs – These are insulated to keep hot beverages hot as long as possible. We have several Bubba mugs and we love them. They keep hot drinks hot, and cold drinks cold!
Candles – Votive or tea lights. These can be dropped down into glass containers in order to prevent tipping. Tapers are NOT the most appropriate candles for use during an emergency as they may be prone to tipping. There’s also danger from the unprotected open flame. It’s much better to have a candle that is firmly rooted in something that keeps skin and flammable materials away.
4. Your pantry can be a lifesaver
The nice thing about each of these pantry items is that they can be emptied into your camp cookware and heated quickly. They can be doctored up with spices and if things are really dire, the canned foods can be eaten cold.
Canned meat, soup, chili, Vienna sausages (not my personal favorite but will keep you from starving in a pinch)
Instant flavored cereal – whether it’s the grownups or kids at your house, some tasty cereal will keep energy up and feel like a treat. Just be sure you’ve got cereal that tastes good when eaten dry and you can snack on it like candy.
Water bottles, drink packets – tea, coffee, chocolate, individual kool-aid packets. Kids (or others) may balk at the taste of plain old water. This is where those individual drink flavor packets are really handy. Just add to individual water bottles and the problem is solved. We store a bunch of these in a plastic Ziploc bag to save space.
Flavored instant oatmeal – just add warm/hot water heated over the grill
Beef jerky, individual packets of snack crackers, and nuts – these will give you something to munch on while providing energy
5. You’ll need ways to pass the time when the power is off
Obviously, this isn’t the time for scrolling electronics because you’re probably trying to conserve the charge. However, there are other ways to pass the time that are enjoyable.
As long as it’s daylight, take advantage of the sunlight (you’ll want the warmth anyway). Open up the curtains or blinds and spend some time reading books, playing board or card games, working a puzzle, or drawing or coloring.
Granted, we all love our electronic devices, but it IS possible to be entertained without them.
Hopefully, your emergency is short-lived
Dealing with a power outage is no fun. But some planning and anticipation ahead of time allows you to gather the supplies you’ll need to make it through with as little discomfort as possible.
What’s the worst situation you’ve had to deal with?