Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Short Term Emergency Tips for Power Outages

Hurricane Sandy Report:  I am very grateful that this storm passed through our area with as little damage as it did this week.  Here at the farm we were without power for 12 hours and half of those were at night so it was just a minor inconvenience rather than a major problem - no lugging buckets of water for the sump pump this time as we had rain but not enough to overwhelm the basement.

The outdoor damage was minimal - one tree lost in the donkey and sheep paddock to clean up and I should be able to manage it myself since the tree wasn't huge.  Repairs to the cedar rail fence should be simple and it looks like the electric fence is stretched but still functioning. 

This storm was a good test of the emergency preps.  I can never pass up a good deal on unscented candles but if we really want good lighting to read or work by kerosene lanterns are more efficient.  We use them in the winter just for fun so they are always on display in the living room.  Several of them are the cheap hardware store versions and one of those has a malfunctioning wick turner so I'll have to take it apart this week and see if I can fix it.  The one below is an upgrade from the ones I own but conveniently available from your local hardware store - and pretty too!  I've seen many of these at antique/junk shops and they can get expensive fast.  Be sure to check for cracks in the glass base when buying second hand.

It's always good to remind yourself that kerosene lamps are useful but with pets and children around to be extra cautious about placing them somewhere they can't get knocked over.  I put them in a glass bowl in the centre of the table when in use and put them away up high when not in use.  I would NOT recommend using coloured or scented kerosene - instant headache for me - buy non-scented or low odour lamp oil.

The best lantern one we have is a Dietz..  It wasn't expensive - under $20 - but it lights up a room!  Canadian Tire and Home Hardware sell the Worlds Famous brand that is similar but doesn't look as well constructed.
I also used the power failure as an opportunity to try a few new things when it came to heating up water.  I always have some cans of sterno on hand and I wanted to see how  efficient it was for boiling water.  I know it works well to keep food hot when it's already hot.  I have multiple other more efficient ways to boil water without electricity but I was looking for one that is easy to store and can be used in the house without concern for fumes.  I put the sterno into a large dry pot on the stove, covered the pot with a cookie rack and placed the kettle on top of that.  I will say - it works but it's very slow.  I moved the sterno closer to the bottom of the kettle and that did speed things up but it would still have taken 20 minutes to boil water for 4 large cups of tea.  On the plus side - it's easy to store and it's safer and simpler than some other methods.

Here are some things to do to prepare for a storm:

Put juice containers filled with water in the freezer and keep them there at all times.  This makes the freezer more efficient by keeping it full - remove bottles when you need room for food of course!  The jugs also serve to keep the freezer frozen when the power does go out, can be used to turn your refrigerator into a giant icebox if the power failure is prolonged and provide you with clean drinking water.  Covering the freezer with comforters or old blankets also helps to maintain the temperature.

Fill the kitchen sink with soapy water.  It's a simple way to wash your hands and you won't waste bottled water.

Have bottled water!  I have large 15L water jugs that I keep in the basement along with a few cases of water bottles and as many juice jugs as I can find filled with water and a few drops of bleach.

Have hand sanitizer available in the kitchen and bathrooms.

Consolidate your kitchen freezer with your large freezer if you have one - one less place to have to keep cold.  Don't open the fridge or freezer without a plan.  Put a sign on the fridge door that says - DO NOT OPEN - to remind yourself.

Mom will yell at you!!

Keep matches, flash lights, candles, batteries and lanterns in a specific spot so you don't have to go looking for them in the dark. Keep slippers beside your bed for the same reason.  Hang mini flash lights on the basement door and bathroom doorknobs.

Keep a good supply of simple to prepare foods.  Figure out the most efficient way to heat food and water.  Sterno?  Camp stove? BBQ? Fondue set? Kerosene stove!  Have a supply of fuel too.

If it's cold or the kids are a little nervous have a camp out in the living room.  Drag down sleeping bags and pillows and stay together.  A room that can be closed off from the rest of the house is a good idea because you can attempt to keep a smaller area warm.  If you have no way of heating the room you could pop up a small tent and sleep inside.  The tent will hold in your body heat and keep you warmer.

Wash the dishes and clean the house before the storm arrives - a clean house to begin with makes sense.

Bake some muffins or pull together some easy to eat snacks before the storm hits.  Start a soup or stew you can keep warm with the sterno or use your crock pot and wrap it in towels after the power goes out and put in in the cold oven to keep it warm.

Boil  water and fill a large thermos so you don't have to heat the water all over again for another cup of tea! You can do that before the storm or after boiling water on your stove of choice - something you don't want to repeat too many times!

Keep your cell phones charged.  Get a charger for the car and don't forget you can charge them in a charged up laptop as well.  

Have at least one phone in the house that is a regular plug in - not a cordless - so you will still be able to use it if the power is off.

Play some games.  Pull out a puzzle.  Spend time with your loved ones and enjoy life without electricity for awhile while hoping and praying the power comes back on soon.  Be safe and PREPARED!

Any additions to my list?  Share your thoughts!


  1. What a great post! Chock full of helpful information! I can see the areas where I fall short, so changes will be in order.

    I was thankful that the power didn't go out, here in our area of the Niagara region. Still, with the heavy rain and high winds I was battling multiple LEAKS in my kitchen ceiling. We have been putting off repairs (not a good idea), but it had never been as bad as during this storm. I had 11 containers on the go, catching drips! And with hubby away on business, too!

    Even though we didn't lose power, I had some easy snacks available, like trail mix and some homemade-and-healthy baked goodies. I had also made sure that I had plenty of pet food on hand.

    I'm glad to hear that you came through the storm unharmed, with minimal damage.

    1. Sorry to hear about your leaky kitchen - doesn't it always happen when you're stuck dealing with it alone :( Rats! Glad you are safe too! Can't wait to meet up sometime soon. Maybe we can plan to bump into each other at a Timmies some day when you're on your way to the property!!!

  2. One more item for your list Anita. Get the laundry done before a storm hits - if the power goes out for a day, a few days or more and your family runs out of clean socks and undies, crankiness will run rampant! And teach everyone beforehand how to have a bath/shower/wash hair out of a pail (standing in shower stall or bathtub) so that personal hygiene can still be taken care of. And if it is wood stove season, move wood closer to the house before the nasty weather arrives so that you spend less time in the rain/wind/snow/hail then needed (learned from personal experience - trudging through huge drifts of snow to get more wood when the pile next to the house ran out!). I guess that is more than one... Lol!
    I'm thinking that our family needs to have a mock power outage soon to go over 'house rules' and 'what ifs'. Luckily Bruce and the kids just do what I ask when it comes to prepping and thinking ahead - only a few rolled eyes. Thanks for the blog Anita. I really enjoy reading all about your adventures!

    1. Oh Michelle!!!! I was thinking about you the other day :) Thanks for adding your thoughts - good ideas!

  3. Other suggestions I have are:
    -fill the car up with gas
    -fill the bathtub up with water (for 'flushing' the toilet-just scoop a bucket full and dump in)
    -always have extra cash on hand because ATMs and even banks can't operate during a power outage and neither can debit/credit card payments at businesses
    -I have a little bilge pump (for boats) that runs on a car battery which I could use to empty the sump pit of water if necessary
    -I also have an emergency light (plugs into an electrical outlet) upstairs and downstairs, that comes on as soon as the power goes out but it only last a few hours
    -bring in your solar garden lights to light up the inside at night (put them outside to recharge in the daytime)
    -I bought a car charger (with 2 USB slots) for my cell phone from Giant Tiger for $4.99
    -Put your fully charged laptop on a 'Power Saver' mode so the battery lasts longer. Maybe long enough to watch a movie.....
    Well that's all I can think of at the moment! I also blogged about the hurricane recently.....
    I enjoyed reading your Tips, Anita!

  4. I read recently to have those cheap glow sticks for kids on hand - then you can snap and have them glow and mark things you need to see to walk around but maybe not carry your lantern (such as stick one above the door way and lay one on the back of the toilet - you can walk there and do what you need to do without carrying the lantern if needed).

    I love your idea about the hand sanitizer underneath the sinks! I had not thought of that one - great post, Anita - I need to refresh ours - I tend to just forget and get on with life without thinking about it too much! :). Blessings to your beautiful family! We still think fondly and often of our eve meal with the Canadian family!!!! Blessings to you!!!


Join the family - join the conversation - share your own adventures - I LOVE comments!