Have you thought about how to prepare for a prolonged power outage? If you haven’t then that puts your family at risk and will cause anxiety if the lights go out for a few weeks. This is the third post in a serious about our power grid. The first post discussed concerns with our grid, the second talked about effects of a power outage and this post (one of two parts) will address how to prepare for a prolonged power outage.
Instead of just creating a list of supplies and equipment that you need, I will frame the content around the capability to perform everyday day tasks that still need to be done when the power is out for a prolonged period of time. I will list some things that you need but the article is meant to make you think through the tasks so that you can determine what you have and what you need to complete a task based on your own situation.
This article is concentrating on being prepared to “Bug In” at your home to survive a power outage. It is assuming that the government and utility companies will have power, water, sewage, financial and transportation services back up within a month or two. It also assumes that the government is still providing law enforcement to some degree.
Eating and Hydration
Food and water are at the top of the list for survival. The rule of threes says that you can survive 3 minutes without air, 3 days without water and 3 weeks without food. However, after a day without water and a couple of days without food, your capacity to function and take care of your family is going to start to diminish. So, how can you eat and stay hydrated for a month or more without outside help? It is not as hard as you think it might be but you will need to put some thought into it, spend some money and work on organization. The following are my suggestions to get started:
One Month of Pantry Food
This easiest, quickest and least expensive way to build up your food storage is with your day to day pantry food. Make a list of the meals that your family likes to eat and start buying extra ingredients every time you go to the grocery.
- Pay attention to expiration dates but a lot of the things you buy will last for months.
- Use coupons and pay attention to sales so you can buy extras and save money.
- Think about meals that are easy to make and don’t require fresh ingredients like spaghetti, beans and rice and soup.
- Stock up on canned vegetables, meats and fruits.
- Purchase larger quantities of items from places like Costco and Sam’s Club to save money.
- Keep an inventory of what you have and the expiration dates. This will help you to know when you need to rotate out food that is about to expire and use it in non-emergency times. I will also help you to not buy food that you don’t need.
Freeze-Dried and Dehydrated Foods
Although this type of food is more expensive than pantry food, the shelf life is much longer and helps to ensure you have a variety of food available for your family for a prolonged outage. It also enables you to have nutrients from fruit and meat that may not be available.
You can find plenty of dehydrated food at local box stores and on-line. It is a good way to supplement your pantry food and lets you add important nutrients and flavors to dishes such as rice and beans. The shelf-life of dehydrated food is much longer than canned food but not as long as freeze-dried.
Freeze-dried food in general has a longer shelf-life than dehydrated food and retains more of the vitamins and minerals. Freeze-dried also gives you the option of having complete meals in a package and containers of just meat, fruit or vegetables that can be used to add to the packaged meals and your panty food.
There are several good freeze-dried companies out there but for several reasons I prefer Legacy Food Storage. They have the best cost per pound and larger serving size than most of the major companies. Their food is all non-GMO and they even have gluten free options. Check out their website to see all of the options they have available. I have become a reseller for Legacy and can get you a better price than if you order it yourself. Please fill out the contact form on our website and ask for a quote for a particular product.
Having enough water presents one of the biggest obstacles in being prepared for a long-term power outage if the water utilities run out of fuel for their backup generators. This may not happen in the first couple of weeks but at some point it will and water will stop being filtered, purified and pumped to the water towers. The government says that at a minimum you need 1 gallon of water per day per person but that is not near enough when you need to cook, clean dishes, bathe and wash clothes. So, let’s bump that up to 3 gallons per person. So, for 4 people that would be 360 gallons for a month. That’s a lot and would still probably only mean a sponge bath every couple of days. So, some things to think about:
- Get a WaterBOB. It sits in your bathtub and holds 100 gallons for drinking and cooking.
- Remember that your water heater will have 30+ gallons that can be filtered and purified for drinking and cooking.
- Fill a second bathtub with water that can be used to flush the toilet before the water stops flowing out of the tap.
- Filters, Filters, Filters – Not sure if you can have enough. I suggest that you have a large table top filter like a Berkey and multiple personal filters like the Sawyer Mini.
- Think about places near you where you can collect water to brink back to your home to filter and purify. You should have a few 5 to 7 gallon water containers that you can set on a 2 wheeler for easy transport.
- There are several options for water storage in your home. Walmart usually has 5 or 7 gallon containers but Amazon has some good options as well. Check these out:
- Legacy Foods also has 5-gallon boxes with Mylar bags inside that stack easily on top of each other. They retail for $24 each. They also have 5-gallon plastic stackable containers for $29.99. Check out their website and let me know if you interested. I can give you a quote for a better deal.
- Have a few cases of water bottles handy.
- You should also consider rain barrels as an option. A short rain can fill up several 55-gallon drums in just a few minutes. This water will need to be filtered and purified before drinking and cooking with it.
Unless you have a large propane tank on your property and a gas stove, you are going to need an alternative cooking method and plenty of fuel for an extended period of time. Alternative methods include:
- An outdoor grill
- Camping stove
- Diethylene Glycol fuel stove
- Outdoor Fire Pit
To me the best method is a camping stove. It is portable, can have multiple burners and is more efficient that your outdoor grill with its larger surface area. Both of those options should be used outdoors though. I’m just learning about other heat sources like Diethylene Glycol that can be used indoors but it seems they do not produce as much heat as other fuel sources so it will take longer to boil water and heat food. If you have experience with Diethylene Glycol please let us know what you think in the comments.
Another thing to think about is cleaning your pots, pans and dishes after a meal. You will use fuel to heat up water and will need a large pan to heat enough for the dishes. Make sure you have a couple of smaller plastic containers that can be used to wash and rinse dishes in. It would also be a good idea to stock up on paper plates, cups and utensils to cut down on the water needed to clean up.
Lighting Your Way
You would be surprised that even in hurricane prone areas, people do not stock up on flashlights and batteries. I cannot stress enough how important it is to have plenty of lighting capability and multiple methods to light your home. You don’t want to be fumbling around in the dark at night dealing with tasks like cooking and cleaning. My suggestions are:
- One flashlight and one backup for each member of your family. Get the newer LED flashlights. They are brighter, use less energy, and are smaller.
- Everyone should have a headlamp flashlight and a backup to do everyday tasks at night. The headlamps are much better than a handheld for tasks where both hands are needed.
- Have plenty of spare batteries for each flashlight and then buy more spares.
- Have a couple of oil lamps that are meant to stay in rooms where people will congregate like the kitchen and living room. They don’t put out a ton of light but are great to leave on in your main living areas to supplement flashlights and candles.
- Candles are a cheap way to supplement light in all of the rooms but you need to be careful when children are involved. Have a couple in each room ready to use when you need them.
- With candles and oil lanterns you need plenty of matches and lighters but you should also have 2 or 3 fire extinguishers close by.
In this post I have touched on about half of the capabilities you need to think about to survive a prolonged power outage. If it happens then the things discussed here will become obvious really quick if you have not prepared. Please spend some time thinking about the capabilities you need for your family to survive and thrive when the power goes out. You will be a hero if it happens and are prepared.
In Part B, we will talk about sanitation, communication, alternative energy, first aid, shelter and other capabilities to consider in a prolonged power outage. If you haven’t already, please sign up for our newsletter so you can be notified when it is published. By signing up you will get a free PDF titled “Overview of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Planning”. It’s a good primer to get you thinking about preparedness. The newsletter signup is on the right side of any page on our website, www.cribsteward.com.
We also have an Estate Preparedness Forms Package that contains 26 editable PDFs and spreadsheets and resources that help you document your estate and manage your inventory of disaster equipment and supplies. It’s only $26.75 and is a bargain for the value provided. Click HERE for more information.