Have you thought about how to prepare for a prolonged power outage? If (likely when) the lights go out for a prolonged period and you have not prepared, your family will have a hard time coping with a world without electricity.
This is the second post on this subject that covers the rest of the main categories that you need to have the capability for. If you haven’t read Part A, please read before this one.
As of the writing of this article, California has restored power to 98% of the people and businesses (800,000+) that were affected by the preemptive power shutoff by PG&E. In checking with the website PowerOutage.US today, there are almost 60,000 people without power across 5 states. It seems to be getting more common. This post continues the topic of preparing for a power outage by discussing capabilities you need verses a long check-list.
Sanitation and Personal Care
Good sanitation practices are very important to help prevent the spread of disease and to keep pests away. Keeping your body and living area clean and sanitary is important for health reasons but will also make you feel better during a time when things are stressful and uncertain. Some things to think about:
- Human Waste – At some point you will need an alternative method to dispose of human waste. There are toilet seats that sit on top of a 5-gallon bucket that you line with heavy duty garbage bags. Add some cat litter after each use to absorb liquid and smells. Check out Amazon for a lot of options.
- Sanitizing Surfaces and Cookware – Make sure you have bleach that you can mix with water in a spray bottle to keep surfaces sanitized. Check out this article from the CDC called Cleaning and Sanitizing with Bleach after an Emergency for more information. Check the amount of dish soap you have. You will be using more if the electricity is out and you can’t use your dishwasher.
- Personal Care – Ensure you have plenty of extra body wash, soap, shampoo, toothbrush and toothpaste, floss etc. so that you can continue to take care of yourself and your family for several weeks. Don’t forget about feminine hygiene products. You likely have quite a bit of this stuff but take an inventory of what you have to see if some things are needed for a prolonged disaster recovery.
Shelter – Staying Warm and Dry
The two main aspects of this category are the integrity of your home and having extra clothes and blankets to keep you warm and dry.
- Shelter Maintenance – It would be good to have tools and materials to repair you home to keep the cold and water out of your home. Extra shingles and tarps to deal with roof issues, plywood and nails to cover windows or holes, and plastic and duct tape to cover windows and doors that are letting too much cold in.
- Personal Warmth – Clothing and blankets can also be considered as shelter and can make a huge difference in your long-term survival. Make sure you have enough clothes for layers, extra jackets/rain gear to keep each person warm and dry. Sleeping bags, blankets and sock hats can get you through cold nights if you don’t have good heating capability.
- Alternative Heating – Most homes use electricity to heat their homes. Even if you use gas to heat with, you need electricity to power the fans that move the air. If you don’t have a wood stove you should look into a Kerosene Heater. They are fairly inexpensive and fuel efficient.
First Aid and Medical
First Aid is where a lot of people fall short in their preparedness. Most people may have a good supply of bandages for minor cuts and scrapes but not for more serious wounds. I’m not sure if you can have too much in the way of wound dressing and bandages. You can go through a ton of supplies in a short period of time with a laceration or burn. I would highly suggest the book The Ultimate Survival Medicine Guide: Emergency Preparedness for ANY Disaster by Joseph Alton MD and Amy Alton ARNP. You cannot have a better reference guide on medical care in a disaster situation. They have a great YouTube channel, DrBones NurseAmy, and an online store called Doom and Bloom that has top of the line medical equipment and supplies.
A lot of people think portable generators are a great thing to have after a disaster but they are only as good as the amount of fuel that you have. At some point fuel will be hard to come by so it really should not be a long-term strategy. It would be nice to have a large solar installation where you can live off grid but that could be out of your reach financially. Another option is a smaller, portable solar generator that can recharge batteries for flashlights, radios and power a small refrigerator. This won’t keep the air conditioning or central heat going but will make a huge difference.
It will become very hard to find gas for your vehicle, propane for your stoves and kerosene for your heater in a prolonged power outage. Think about buying a few 5-gallon gas cans for refueling your car in an event like this. Document when you filled them up and every few weeks use the oldest fuel to fill your gas tank and then refill it.
Safety and Security
You seriously need to consider how you will protect your family and your supplies and equipment in a prolonged power outage. You may be OK for a couple of weeks but as time goes by even the most docile people will start committing crimes to feed their family. With police coverage spread thin, the existing criminals will have an easier time taking advantage of people. If you spend time preparing with food, water, cooking capability etc., don’t leave yourself vulnerable to the criminal element. You don’t need a small armory but something is better than nothing.
You should also take stock of doors and windows that may be easily compromised and have the materials to harden them if necessary. Solar powered lights with motion detectors installed on your house is a simple deterrent for most criminals.
At a minimum you need to be able to receive local news and weather information to keep yourself informed of government relief efforts and where crime and civil unrest are flaring up. There are a ton of options on Amazon for NOAA Weather Radios that can be powered via an internal rechargeable battery, regular batteries and an attached hand crank that charges the internal battery. Some of these devices also have USB ports that can charge your phone. I would recommend getting 2 of these so that you have a backup. They are relatively inexpensive.
You may also want to learn about the options for two-way radio communication to stay in touch with family over short distances or for neighborhood safety with your community. There is a ton of info on the web for this topic.
When the power goes out for an extended period of time it will be hard to purchase anything with out cash. Merchants will not be able to take your debit/credit cards and I doubt that they would even take a personal check unless they know you and the banks are still open on a regular basis. Have plenty of cash in smaller bills stashed away in your home and vehicles so that if you can purchase needed items you have the ability to pay for it. How much? Tough question that depends on how well you are stocked up on food and other supplies. I would suggest several hundred dollars as a starting point if you can. If not, put away what you can. It would be a good practice to put away some cash every time you get paid so you can start building the amount over time.
In this and the first post on How to Prepare for a Prolonged Power Outage, I have covered the main categories of the capabilities that you need for you family to survive and thrive. There are many more things to consider but this has been a good primer to get you thinking about the capabilities that you need to work on. I hoped you learned a couple of things and are thinking about getting more prepared for what is becoming a very possible catastrophe. Thanks for taking the time to read this and I hope you ask some questions in the comments and add more knowledge to the discussion for those that are new to preparedness.
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Have a blessed day!
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