18 January 2008

Being prepared for a power outage

From May:

We just had a power outage the other day and we learned some lessons.

1. When you lose power you also lose heat.

2. Mocking the public service announcements telling you to have a "go bag" ready with enough clothes, diapers, medicines, etc to keep the family going for a couple of days is not polite and just plain bad karma.

3. Having flashlights is good, flashlights with batteries is better, but putting the flashlights with batteries some place easily accessible is best (hint: not the basement). Bonus points for having a flashlight for every member of the family.

4. One great reason to have an answering machine (other than the phone company will not charge you $6 a month in perpetuity for it) is that after you abandon ship you can call home to see if your power has come back on.

5. Before you throw your phone book away, program the electric company's name into your cell phone.

The good news is that the kids had a wonderful time.

Also good to have candles and matches stockpiled. I'd love to hear everyone's "in case of a power outage" ideas!

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Funny, the only reason we keep a phone book and land-line around is for when the power goes out. At least that is the only time I use it.

We have several of those cheap no-battery flashlights that work when you shake them for a few seconds to give to the kids. Our house came with a wood burning fireplace, so we always make sure we have wood and fire starters to warm at least part of the house in winter. Our sump pump has a backup system that's powered by a deep well marine battery, so we at least don't have to worry too much about the basement flooding if the power goes out during the regular heavy rains here in Kentucky. Also, keep a plan together in case your family is separated and can't get back to your home in case of a disaster such as tornado or earthquake. All of the older kids know to get in contact with the Red Cross if they can't get home, and the adults know several locations where we will meet if we can't find each other.

I will add: have one plain old fashioned phone that requires no electricity, just plugs into a jack. during that awful east coast blackout in 2004 (?) we learned that cordless phones don't work and cell phones eventually lose their charge.

also: radio with fresh batteries and backup ones. (both for info and entertainment)

Remember to turn off lights and things like that after the power is out. Leaving things on when the power starts up can cause a strain on the powergrid.

After the 2003 blackout in Toronto (in summer, thank goodness) there were numerous stories of people having fires because they were using the stove and forgot to turn the element off when the power went out. So make sure appliances are off too!

We have a handy wind-up flashlight so we don't have to worry about batteries.

We have one of those "emergency" radios with a crank that also has a flash light on it. If no batteries, about a minute of cranking provides 30 minutes to an hour of power (depending on if you are using radio and light or just one or the other). Of course, it would be useful to know where it is...

We had "go bags" stored under our beds growing up. Every person had an old backpack with a change of clothes (extra underwear and socks), a flashlight, waterproof matches or flint and steel (we all learned how to start fires while camping), storeable food (we had army MREs), and a bottle of water. In case of emergency we were to grab our backpack as we fled the house and meet in the middle of our culdesac. We emptied and updated our bags about once a year.

I'm so glad we never had to use them!

We also had a few kerosene lanterns on the bookshelf that we could light easily when the power went out.

We have a ventless gas heater on the wall in the basement that keeps our house about 62 degrees even in the middle of a michigan winter (as we discovered during a power outage that lasted through Christmas eve), and a gas stove and water heater, which means hot showers and hot meals. Also, my husband collects flashlights and battery lanterns so they are *everywhere* in our house. We've learned to grab a large cooler and throw everything in it that we need as soon as we run the generator the first time, so we don't worry about warming the fridge and freezer feeding two perpetually hungry kids. That way we only have to run the generator in two hour blocks to freeze the freezers and run the sump. Even with no power, we operate pretty normally (we've had enough practice, where we live).

We just went through a full week power outage.

Toys with lights are much more fun in the dark.

The kids (3 and 5) preferred lantern style lights to regular flash lights. Lanterns made it easier to play board games, color, and read books.

Dry ice will keep a chest freezer frozen for an extended period. We used about 40 pounds of dry ice (20 pounds each on days 3 and 6)to prevent over $400 in frozen food from melting.

Stock up on water, batteries (D-Cells in particular) and camp stove fuel BEFORE a major winter storm. These disappear quickly from store shelves and bad weather may make restocking difficult. We ran out of camp stove fuel after day 5 and there was not a drop to be found in 75 miles.

And don't forget to stick to a normal routine like taking prescription medications (ie. birth control). There seems to be a small baby boom at the local hospitals about 9 months after a major power outage.

freezedried ice cream goes a long way to making everyone happier during emergencies!

Make use of your glassware! A candle placed inside a pint glass diffuses more light (like a lantern).

***Remember to tell your babysitter where the flashlights are! Better yet, keep one next to the phone, so everyone always knows where it is. We came home to a dark house, but thankfully, our babysitter had the amazing idea to use the laptop to look around to find the flashlight. She even called the power company for us!

There's an emergency light in the baby's room that is plugged in like a night like to be charged but only goes on if the power goes out. At work, we have flashlights like this plugged in throughout the office.

For our wedding someone gave us an oil hurricane lamp with extra wicks and oil. (you can get them at walmart for really cheap) I thought it was a little funny at first, but after our first power outage I was sold! It actually gives off enough light to light up a whole room and it burns forever. If it burns down too low it just burns out, and unlike a candle you can't burn yourself or anything around the candle. No batteries to worry about dying. Just make sure to take normal safety precautions with young children.

For our wedding someone gave us an oil hurricane lamp with extra wicks and oil. (you can get them at walmart for really cheap) I thought it was a little funny at first, but after our first power outage I was sold! It actually gives off enough light to light up a whole room and it burns forever. If it burns down too low it just burns out, and unlike a candle you can't burn yourself or anything around the candle. No batteries to worry about dying. Just make sure to take normal safety precautions with young children.

After disappointing govenrment response to Katrina I decided to make sure we were prepared in case of power outage, earthquake, or flood. We have a lantern on each floor of the house with extra batteries stored with it and wind-up flashlight/radios in everyone's nightstand. Each family member has a duffle in the garage with 2 days supply of food, clothing, water, meds, toiletry kit, first aid, and something to entertain us (toys, crossword/sudoku books). Since our son is only 1 year old I update his as appropriate every 3 months. I update the food and meds in ours every six months. Clothing is packaged in vacuum sealed bags to keep dry and save space. We have an additional emergency kit in the family car with more water, blankets, first aid, and food.
Food suggestion ideas:
Progresso soup with pop-top lids (good source of protein and veggies)
Canned Dole pineapple with poop-top lid(good source of vitamin C)
Granola bars
Fruit leather (like Fruit-a-Boo)
Sweets--to help with the stress
Juice boxes

Glow Sticks! We stash several sizes in our hurricane kit because they're cheap, they don't need batteries, they don't get hot and they turn a blackout into a party. Rotate your stock periodically so you aren't stuck with "duds" during crunch time.

We have camping headlamps adjacent to the beds. The white LED lights are very bright, can be positioned to light a couple feet ahead of you, and last a long time on a single AAA battery. Having a headlamp makes it easier to maneuver in the dark -- have you ever tried to change a diaper while holding a flashlight? Much easier to have 2 hands free.

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