Prepare for a Power Outage

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This post is by Bernie Carr,

As I write this post, 1.6 million people are still without electricity in the Northeast, due to an unseasonable winter storm.  A fierce snowstorm, usually expected much later in the winter, hit right before Halloween.  Many people were caught unprepared, resulting in traffic snarls, numerous accidents, fights breaking out and overcrowded emergency shelters.

With the strange weather patterns that have been occurring in the country in recent months, it is a good idea to prepare for the unexpected.  It’s hard to predict what can happen, but one thing that usually happens during extreme weather is a power outage.

Here are a few things we can all do to prepare:

1.  Have enough water and food for everyone in the family for at least a week to two weeks.  Stock up on baby formula or baby food for the little ones.  Keep extra pet food as for your furry friends as well.  Don’t neglect comfort foods such as chocolate, chips and other snacks that can help as morale boosters.  Having these supplies on hand will avoid you having to go to the store before, during or after the storm when everyone else who didn’t prepare will be rushing out.

2.  Stock up on toilet paper, paper plates, cups and other utensils.  You will also need extra trash bags and other personal sanitation items.

2.  Keep gas tanks at least half full.  The news reports showed long gas lines in the storm stricken areas.  If have the room and you are able to store gasoline, then keep a few gallons set aside in a “no spill” gasoline storage container that has been certified and tested for safe gasoline storage; use a fuel stabilizer such as Sta-bil.   Apartment dwellers may not have this option due to small, designated parking areas and lease restrictions, so you’d best keep your car’s fuel tank over the half way mark.

3.  Check your First Aid kit, making sure nothing has expired or gotten depleted and keep extra refills of prescriptions.

4.  Stock up on extra batteries, flashlights, lamps and backup light sources.

5.  You will need a battery operated or hand crank radio to keep up with news and weather reports.

6.  Have a backup method of cooking.

7.  If you are able to, consider a generator.

8.  If you live in a cold area, have backup heating methods such as firewood for your fireplace or wood burning stove, heating oil etc.     Note:  If using alternate fuels, make sure the area is well ventilated and have a carbon monoxide detectors (with fresh batteries) in your home.

9.   Check on your supply of extra blankets, comforters and cold weather clothing.

10.  With no TV, computers or video games, you will need some form of entertainment such as board games, books etc.   You and your family can also watch movies in a portable DVD player.   This may sound frivolous at first, but keeping kids busy and calm will avoid frayed nerves in an already stressful situation.

11.  Make sure you cell phone is charged at all times, or if you have a land line, have a non- electrical phone at home.

12.  As for other emergencies, keep extra cash on hand.

I hope the residents in the Northeast who were struck by the unexpected storms get their power back soon.  And I hope more people get prepared for the next power outage that is sure to come.

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  1. I don’t think the DVD player is frivolus at the house. After reading, playing board games, playing other activities, a movie to sit in front of may be just what everyone needs. I think I’ll check the charge on that and my extra laptop. No harm in keeping them charged.

  2. Any suggestions for some kind of space heater for those of us without fireplaces? Our home is heated with a natural gas furnace, and while the gas lines, being underground, are not disrupted by storms, the ignition for said furnace is electronic, so if the power goes out, so does the heat…

    We have several small camping stoves, suitable for outdoor use for heating water/soup/etc, but other than simply really bundling up, (or leaving to stay somewhere else), I am at a loss for what to do to keep warm if we lose power this winter.

    1. Try an indoor safe Mr Buddy propane heater.I’ve had one for years and it works well and has some good safety features.

    2. Hi Alison, The Mr Buddy propane heater seems to be popular in this regard; however the area must be well ventilated- see this link. Might also consider oil heaters such as this DeLonghi Might have to check a few other opinion sites/user reviews for comparison. Good luck!

      1. We might look into the propane heater, our house is drafty enough that making sure of enough ventilation would not be too very difficult, and the earlier tip about the hand-warmers sounds promising, (wouldn’t keep the house warm, but in pockets and such, would help keep us warm, and could be easily renewed with boiling in camp stoves)

        The oil filled space heaters are excellent (we have several, and use them to heat one room rather than the whole house), but they are electric; if the power goes out they don’t work.

        1. alison, If your house is drafty enough then proper ventilation will not be a problem. I hope the propane heater works out.

  3. My kids are all grown up now, but one idea I thought kids would think was fun is to let them ‘play fort’ under the dining room table that is covered in quilts, blankets or tapestries. You could hang a small LED lantern from the center. They would be quite comfy with their sleeping bags and a mattress, watching the portable dvd player, playing cards, or reading. The novelty would keep them from griping about the cold house.

    Just today I bought reusable hand warmers from a local store. (It’s become a tradition for them, they even have their logo printed on them) I was showing them to a co-worker, you just press the little metal disc inside and the heating reaction begins. It’s warm for about half an hour. Later, when you have the opportunity, you boil it in water for 5 to 10 min. Then it is ready to store or use again.

    1. Diana, That fort idea is great–kids can have fun for hours in little spaces. I should look into hand warmers too, for when it gets cold here; my hands tend to get cold.

  4. Great info. It’s always great to be prepaired. Here in Abilene we have to worry about tornados and fire but not really snow! Thanks.

  5. any tips for refilling the meds in first aid kits? they always come in those nifty prepackaged envelopes so they fit inside but they expire too. And buying a bottle of tylenol to refill it with won’t fit. Can you put those in a ziplock & they keep or do they need an oxygen packet or something?

    1. SK8r, I have seen the little ibuprofen or acetaminophen packets at Sam’s and Costco’s a few times; they are bought in bulk though, so you would have to split it with a couple of friends or relatives. I also saw a smaller version on Amazon see, but again, split it with someone for a lower cost. Another option as you mentioned would be to refill using a bottle of tylenol, in little zip lock bags, with a homemade label showing the name and expiration date. An oxygen absorber wouldn’t hurt, as the Tylenol bottles have them too.

  6. Hello,

    We are stuck without power for last 5 day in Manchester, CT. I use CPAP machine which requires power supply so without power has been horifying. Also with 2 kids, it becomes more difficult when it gets cold. We stay in an apartment…. I called the Fire department and they said it is ok to have a generator as long as i can place it outside the apartment… We have a patio and we stay in ground floor and i just ordered the portable 1200 W Generator from Amazon (nothing available in local store). I spoke to apartment manager and they say they will not allow it. Although nothing has been mentioned about not using this on the lease agreement and also after getting OK from the fire department, i am not sure why they are not allowing it…

    Anyways… with 2 bedroom apartment, i cannot open the doors for ventilation in cold weather… What options can i have to atleast heat up at least on room… Any suggestions please.

    1. Hi Dinesh, I am sorry to hear you had lost power for 5 days–that is very difficult. One thing that has worked for us in the past (if you are trying to be prepared for the next winter storm) is to insulate windows with bubble wrap. See my previous post on Keeping Cold out of Drafty Apartment Also hang comforters or blankets on the walls of the room you are trying to heat to further insulate it. Many apartment building do no allow generators due to the noise and the fumes. You might consider looking at solar powered generators, however they are on the pricey side so you will have to make sure before ordering that the manager will allow it. They are noise and fume free. Google solar generators if you are interested in that. Last thing, check – candle heaters – you will need about 4 of these to heat a room. Not affiliated with them, just something for you to check out.

  7. We actually just had an outage this morning in Utah for about 3 hours. Nothing major, but enough to get the wheels turning.

    We have gas heat, but I do like the idea of having the indoor safe propane heater. It doesn’t have to produce a houseful of heat–you can always hunker in one bedroom to stack the “warm bodies to dead air space” ratio in your favor.

    Great Post!

    1. Hi Dan, Losing electricity is pretty stressful to me, even if only for a short time. You always wonder how long is this going to last and what a relief when it comes back. Now is the time to get that one room ready for the cold, before anything else happens.

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