Are you ready for a major power outage?

Have you considered how your life would freeze to a standstill if a general outage cut electric power for more than two or three days? As every summer dawns, it's a question more and more people ask, because demand for electric power is growing inexorably, and summertime is when the grid always gets strained to the max. Many experts say all it will take is one unusually bad heat wave and a single computer glitch. The last major outage happened in the summer of 2003, and it affected over 55 million people.

Our lives depend on electricity more than just about anything else, but there are few things we take so for granted. (You couldn't read this post without it.) Environmentalists have effectively put a stop to all new construction of traditional power stations, and a growing portion of new construction is for clean energy sources. Clean energy may sound sexy, but it's still unreliable: Wind turbines generate electricity only when the wind blows, which might not be when you need it. Likewise, solar energy generation fluctuates with weather conditions. All it takes is one confluence of circumstances to shut down your power.

That's a mess. Once your cell phone's battery runs down, how will you recharge it? Think you can run down to the local Starbucks to get some coffee (your coffeemaker is dead, remember) and recharge your laptop, cell phone, tablet, iPod, toothbrush and shaver? Think again. All your neighbors will have descended on that little coffee shop en masse because they'll be without power too.

Here's a list of but a few things that go away in the event of a general power outage:

  • Lights (obviously)
  • Heat and cooling — even gas heating requires electricity to pump the air
  • Baths and showers — no heat means cold washing (assuming you can get running water)
  • Medical support systems
  • Food storage — refrigerators and freezers
  • Food preparation — microwaves, stoves and ovens (even gas ovens use electricity)
  • Food availability — stores need electricity too
  • Entertainment — television and radio (not to mention video games)
  • Communication — cell towers and Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS) exchanges require electricity
  • Gas for your automobile — gas pumps run on electricity

The majority of power outages come in times of temperature stress, i.e., winter or summer, when heating or cooling are drains on the system. They impact you in many ways, some of which are hard to foresee. For instance, opening your garage door suddenly becomes a project requiring effort and planning.

It's true that the big things like water pumping stations and telephone exchanges often have redundant backup power generators, but those sometimes get overloaded when panic strikes and everyone becomes desperate to make calls and fill old milk containers with drinking water.

That's the bad news. The good news is there is a lot you can do to prepare yourself and do when a massive outage strikes unexpectedly.

Preparation

Food: Have at least a week's worth of dry food rations stored away, especially high-energy foods, like peanut butter, jelly, crackers, granola bars, and trail mix. Also include some comfort/stress foods: cookies, hard candy, sweetened cereals, lollipops, instant (or pre-ground) coffee, tea bags, and a supply of things like salt, pepper, sugar, etc. Keep a good supply of paper or plastic plates and silverware, as well as a roll or two of paper towels. Oh, and don't forget a manual can opener.

Water: Store at least 1 gallon of bottled water per day per person, plus more for pets, and powdered foods. When power goes out, water purification systems may not be functioning fully, so don't rely on tap water until the crisis has passed.

Gas: Make it a habit never to let your vehicles' gas tanks get below half. When a general power outage strikes, gas pumps die because they run on electricity.

Cash: Keep at least a couple hundred dollars in hard cash handy. Everyone selling you something will not have power for cash registers, scanners, and that type of thing. You'll be dead in the water if all you have is plastic.

Grill: If you have a patio grill, get a stovetop kettle if you don't have one. That will allow you to boil water outside. Never use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal ­burning devices inside a home, garage, basement, crawlspace or any partially enclosed area. We usually keep a spare full propane tank (although, to be honest, its main purpose is to keep the party going if the previous one runs out while the burgers are on the grill).

Cooler: Get a cheap, large-capacity cooler to store the food caught in the freezer and refrigerator. It's a good idea to keep a few two-liter bottles filled with water in your freezer — they will keep food cold in a cooler for a long time.

Light: Get a flashlight, candles and lighter (or matches). And be sure to add a supply of batteries. A good option is keeping a half-dozen cheap solar garden stake lights lying around. They'll charge every day and have enough light to last most of the night. At about $2 per, that's a cheap, reliable light source.

Trash: Something many people forget is a supply of trash bags and moist towelettes for sanitation needs. If the power outage affects the water supply, you may not have the use of your toilets.

Medication: Ask your pharmacist to keep you a month ahead on your prescriptions for this emergency. If someone in your home is dependent on electric-powered, life-sustaining equipment, remember to include backup power in your evacuation plan. If you are on electrically operated life support systems or special equipment for heart or kidney problems, be sure to notify your utility now, in advance of any outages. They will put you on a list and make sure your power needs are provided for first. Oh, and don't forget the first-aid kit.

People: Set up an agreement with people about two to three hundred miles away that you can go and stay with. It's infinitely less stressful to simply get in your car and drive somewhere else where there's still power so you can wait out the crisis. It will be difficult to call around when the power is out, so it's best to set up two or three families with whom you have an arrangement where if anyone has a major crisis, they know they're welcome somewhere else for the duration of the emergency.

Documents: It's wise to get copies of things like deeds, wills, titles, medication lists, insurance policies, birth certificates, etc. Keep them in the same place as your emergency cash. People who provide aid may require some form of identification, and if the insurance company comes to help, it speeds things up if you have a copy of your policy right there. It's not a bad idea to keep your computer backups on a portable hard drive and leave it with the emergency supplies.

Chargers: In the event that you go and stay with someone, it's nice to have a basic set of chargers for your phones, computers and other gadgets together in one place, so you can just grab them and go. Also add a long extension cord with multiple outlets to plug all of those chargers in at the same time. We have a power inverter. Plug it into your car and you have 110V to power just about anything, including a coffee maker. (This of course makes it even more important to not be too low on gas.) 🙂

POTS phone: Keep a non-cordless, old-school telephone around. The plain old telephone service is usually the last to go out. It allows you make phone calls, but it also allows the authorities to get hold of you with reverse 911 calls. Tape the following phone numbers to the bottom of your land-line telephone or inside a telephone book:

  • Fire department
  • Telephone companies
  • Utility companies
  • Police department

Shutoffs: Find out where each utility shut off is — electricity, water and gas. Know how to turn each off. Have the proper tools to do so, and know where they are located. If you have an automatic garage door, check the instructions or with the manufacturer to learn how to open the door manually (without power). Most automatic garage door openers have a red or yellow knob hanging from a string which disengages the garage door from the track of the opener.

And, finally, don't forget to include a few board games. You'll have a lot of time with little else to do, so you may as well turn the crisis into a fun, bonding experience.

When the Outage Strikes

First thing is go to a grocery store right away to buy anything you need. Be armed with cash, because their registers and scanners won't work. They won't have lights, and they probably will want to sell perishable produce as quickly as possible. Be prepared for crowds, and also be prepared to let others have something too — don't hog everything for yourself.

If you have a plan in place to go and stay with people who are out of the outage area, pack and go. Expect roads to be congested and traffic lights not to work. Be sure to unplug or shut off everything, because when the power comes back on, there may be surges which can cause damage. Turning off all breakers is usually a quick and easy way to do this.

If you're staying, unplug/turn off everything, but leave a single light turned on, so you can see when power is restored.

To maintain the refrigerated and frozen foods, keep fridge and freezer openings to a minimum.

Practice living without connected utilities. Do it periodically. You will discover what your real needs are and you'll learn how to meet them in an emergency.

In winter, allow a small stream of water to run from faucets in order to prevent water pipes from freezing. The American Red Cross advises this action and says, “Running water through the pipe — even at a trickle — helps prevent pipes from freezing.” In frigid weather, if your power is likely to be out for more than a few days, you may want to call your plumber and ask about draining your home's water pipes so they don't freeze and burst.

An extended power outage, be it from overloading or terrorist action, will be a major emergency, and will cause damage in many ways. However, with some basic and inexpensive preparation, you can keep that damage to a minimum.

What else can you think of to prepare for a power outage? Feel free to add them in the comment section below.

More about...Planning

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Beth
Beth
6 years ago

As someone who experienced the 2003 power outage, I thought this post had some good advice but was a little alarmist. People mainly just stayed home, played games and read books and got creative with their menus. Admittedly, the cold water sponge baths weren’t fun, but a power outage isn’t a crisis when you’re prepared. One thing that isn’t on this list is a hand crank or solar powered radio. Very useful in an emergency. It was how we knew the power outage wasn’t just local, it was affecting millions of people. Some of these tips won’t work for people… Read more »

Allyson
Allyson
6 years ago
Reply to  Beth

I have a friend who has a coworker who called in several days in a row when there was no power because she couldn’t open her garage door. I am floored about that. Basically you are telling your boss “I am not able to come in to work today because I am stupid and incompetent.”

Jane
Jane
6 years ago
Reply to  Allyson

If the boss was smart he would have told her how
to get the door open. I never knew about it til
the power went out and my husband showed me what
to do.

Tyler Karaszewski
Tyler Karaszewski
6 years ago
Reply to  Beth

Seriously. I didn’t experience that one, but did after the Loma Prieta earthquake for three days. We were fine. Everyone was fine. Nobody was dying of thirst because there was no water. The article makes completely alarmist claims like, “When a general power outage strikes, gas pumps die because they run on electricity.” That may be true, but in all of the natural disasters I’ve ever heard of happening in the US, there’s never been a case where I can think of widespread fuel unavailability due strictly to power loss. Maybe some individual gas stations were not working, but it… Read more »

Mike in NH
Mike in NH
6 years ago

Hmmm. I’m trying to figure out whether this post saddens me or scares me. Maybe it is that I live in New England or that I love to camp and hike (real definitions, camping is not sitting in an RV watching movies and hiking is not going for a walk in a park around trees) but is a manual can opener really a piece of emergency equipment?! The day I spend $40 on an electric can opener that will be broken in a couple years is the day I turn in my GRS card. I enjoyed the post William, so… Read more »

Rail
Rail
6 years ago
Reply to  Mike in NH

Mike is right on in his assessment of the mindset in the good ol’ USA. Its scares me that as a whole most people don’t think about what would happen if SOMETHING happens. I’m not a Prepper and don’t have 10 years worth of dried beans in the cellar but just being a good Boy Scout and always remembering our motto of “Be prepared” is something I think we have more or less lost in this country. I think this subject fits into the mindset of most GRSers out there of having ourselves taken care of and not being caught… Read more »

FI Pilgrim
FI Pilgrim
6 years ago

I’m 100% ready for the zombie apocalypse, but I don’t think I could handle a loss of power like that. It sounds scary!

Tina in NJ
Tina in NJ
6 years ago

We were without power for a week after Sandy struck. (The falling trees took down the power lines.) We cooked what we could from the freezer. If you have a gas stovetop, you can light the burners with a match. The town set up charging and warming stations and my son charged his phone in my car. The local supermarket had a generator and actually took plastic. Things came back gradually and we survived. We even managed to gat a generator halfway through the week.

JoeMal
JoeMal
6 years ago

New/clean energy sources are only unreliable because of this country’s half baked approach to them.

Look at Germany, while admittedly suffered a knee-jerk reaction to nuclear power disasters, made huge strides in clean energy. I understand the difference in scale rolling out a plan for Germany vs. a plan for United States, but it shows that creating enough clean energy is more than possible.

Marcella
Marcella
6 years ago
Reply to  JoeMal

^^This! The first two paragraphs of this article are terrible; inaccurate, non-factual, these sound like some sort of right-wing energy conspiracy theory. Just this week in the state of Queensland here in Australia the price of coal power fell below zero. Yes, that’s right, the cost of power was **negative** because there is so much solar power due to large uptake of homes installing solar panels on their roof and this meant that coal generators produced more power than there was demand for. The only thing now stopping these homes going completely off grid is the cost of storage batteries.… Read more »

Seth at Ectopistes
Seth at Ectopistes
6 years ago

Lot of good information.

What about a radio? This used to always be on lists.

I’d say if you have enough canned/dry food you probably can forgo jamming your fridge with multiple 2L bottles of water for years.

In regards to going to the store, I’m not sure they’ll even be open or able to ring up your purchase. But worth a shot I guess.

Allyson
Allyson
6 years ago

The article never says to store multiple bottles of water in your fridge.

monsterzero
monsterzero
6 years ago
Reply to  Allyson

In the freezer. It’s mentioned under “Preparation – Cooler”.

William
William
6 years ago

Talk about irony: a fantastic lightning storm last night took out our local substation, and the utility couldn’t get it fixed as quickly as they had hoped.

Time to practice what I preached! 🙂

Mike
Mike
6 years ago
Reply to  William

Are you in the Denver area? We had a great storm Monday night! Enjoyed the article. Although I can’t store any snacks or comfort foods – they won’t last until the next great power outage 🙂 Guess I’ll be relying on canned tuna. I suppose it is kind of strange to think we as a society are so privileged (spoiled?) that we don’t even have to consider basic survival skills or what to do if we don’t have electricity to power TVs, computers, etc. I’m certainly guilty of it too, but I know some of my frugal/minimalist choices over the… Read more »

Brian @ Debt Discipline
Brian @ Debt Discipline
6 years ago

We had to go without power for about 10 days when Hurricane Sandy hit. Definitely an eye opener. The gas situation was the craziest part, long lines, a number of station not prepared without back up generators. From an individual stand point having a gas BBQ and cooler servers us well. It would have been totally different if it happened during winter. I will be adding a back up generator to my home one I’m debt free.

CandiRisk
CandiRisk
6 years ago

I might also suggest having some plain old bleach, very dilute solutions can help w/food sanitation/cleanup.

You know all those cool tips you find on the internet? Print out a hard copy and keep it somewhere safe.

We lost power here in PA during the Feb ice storms. In a place that’s all electric, I couldn’t even boil water (I have no outdoor grillin’ space), but when it was over I got a small butane powered table-top burner intended for use indoors. Hopefully this means that the power won’t ever go out again!

Beth
Beth
6 years ago
Reply to  CandiRisk

Oh! I hadn’t thought of a butane burner like that! We can’t have any outdoor cooking apparatus so I’ve been wondering what to get to cook or boil water. Thanks for the idea!

CandiRisk
CandiRisk
6 years ago

FWIW, the stores were NOT allowed to sell anything from a chill case, including MOST of the produce. You could get onions, potatoes, bananas, but nothing from the chill case, cheese case, etc, so do not count on that.

Brian, I find power-out in the winter a bit easier than in summer. You have a better chance of saving perishables, and you can sleep with a hat, or use a fireplace if you’re lucky enough to have one. No power in 95 degrees is the pits, all the way around.

Jane
Jane
6 years ago

This article was strange and rather misinformed. First off, most people who have solar power like I do are connected to the grid, so if there’s a shady day, it doesn’t affect our power at all. I imagine that is the same for wind turbines or whatever other alternate energy there is. There’s always good ole fossil fuels to back up these technologies. Also, there’s a reason why the last major power outage from a heat wave happened over a decade ago. It’s because the grids have been improved. If we didn’t have major power outages during the hellishly hot… Read more »

William @ Drop Dead Money
William @ Drop Dead Money
6 years ago

So… first thing I noticed was how hard it is to break habits. Going into the closet to get dressed, what’s the first thing I did? Turn on the light, of course. Oops! Should have known better than that. After getting dressed, went back in to get the inverter. Turned on the light for a second time. Like my aunt used to say: ugly you can’t help, but stupid! 🙂 Then, quite proud of myself for having an inverter, connected the mile-long extension cord, opened the garage door (using the rip chord) and started the car to get some emergency… Read more »

Betsy
Betsy
6 years ago

there was no mention of how to protect yourself, family and home from those people who were not prepared and feel that you should ‘share’ your food etc. the safety forces will undoubtedly be stretched thin in a prolonged power outage and or weather emergency. not saying you should sit outside with the rifle cradled in your arms but being aware of your surroundings would be to your advantage

Greg
Greg
6 years ago
Reply to  Betsy

Why wouldn’t you want to share with your neighbors if they weren’t prepared? Every now and then, mine play music too loudly, but if they came to me in a crisis, I’d rather help them out than shoot them.

Betsy
Betsy
6 years ago
Reply to  Greg

I wasn’t thinking about my ‘neighbors’, of course I would help them if necessary. More like those who think that if they don’t have anything and you do that it is all fair game. Perhaps I’ve watched too many movies with looting etc. but I don’t believe that it wouldn’t take too long for some people to succumb to uncivilized behavior.

Beth
Beth
6 years ago
Reply to  Betsy

This comment makes me kind of sad, actually. My experience has been that communities pull together when things like this happen. A longer-term disaster where circumstances are dire and people have nothing to lose is very different than the power going out for a week.

Although, if you live somewhere that isn’t safe to begin with then I can see it being less safe during a prolonged power outage.

Amy
Amy
6 years ago
Reply to  Betsy

I suppose looting could happen, but when NYC went dark in 2003, everyone just banded together and we made it through. Many people didn’t have the luxury of backyard grills or generators, or even extra space to store food. Of course, we had had the ultimate rehearsal for the blackout with 911 a few years before, so the blackout was a piece of cake, but really, it was about community seeing the larger pictures and banding together. I just don’t think looting is a huge concern.

imelda
imelda
6 years ago
Reply to  Betsy

That is a lot of unnecessary fear you are carrying around with you.

As others have mentioned, in times of disaster, people tend to help one another.

When Hurricane Katrina struck, the only people causing any real violence were the ‘security forces’ you’re so desperate for.

Betsy
Betsy
6 years ago
Reply to  imelda

never said I was desperate for the security forces to take care of everything, I am prepared to take care of myself and my family should the need arise, just everyone should be aware of their surroundings. I live in a city that has seen riots, looting, burning buildings etc. and the power wasn’t out!

Laura
Laura
6 years ago

All good advice, William. We live in New England too, and used to have power outages all the time (usually in the winter), so we’re fairly prepared. We have emergency cash; loads of extra batteries; flashlights and kerosene lanterns. What we don’t have is a stock of water or food, which I should probably work on. The hard part though, is that we’ve changed our eating so that we primarily eat protein, fresh fruit and veggies, so it’s hard to stock pile those!

Mike in NH
Mike in NH
6 years ago
Reply to  Laura

I feel your pain Laura. Kinda funny though that whether you eat Paleo, non-processed, or whatever you want to call it the only hunting and gathering I do in my hunter/gatherer diet is at the grocery store (and sometimes the farmers market)!

My freezer is always stocked with veggies, fruit, and proteins. The veggies and fruit will first be used as ice to keep perishables cold in the cooler and then my menu will be dictated in order of what thaws first!

Carla
Carla
6 years ago
Reply to  Mike in NH

I’m Paleo/Keto for health reasons but if you only need food for a few days, there are some options. Canned sardines, tuna, wild salmon, a jar of coconut oil, canned coconut milk, a jar of nut butter, etc will keep you going for a while and its good source of energy, which you will need.

Amy
Amy
6 years ago
Reply to  Laura

I’ve had similar thoughts about food. I grew up in New England and now live in Cali. I was talking to a native Californian about what his family stocked for earthquake preparedness and he mentioned granola bars: they keep extra on hand at all times. That’s great, but my husband I, too, eat very little canned or boxed food. We don’t have a car, so we buy smaller amounts of, well, everything. If anything were to happen, we’d be living on canned refried beans and crushed tomatoes. We just don’t have room to store a whole lot.

sarah @ little bus on the prairie
sarah @ little bus on the prairie
6 years ago

This post has some good points and it made me feel grateful that we’re currently off the grid other than for water. Our solar set-up cost around $1000 (one panel, charge controller, batteries, cables and conduit, inverter, etc) and powers almost everything we need for five people on a daily and nightly basis. The only thing we run a generator for is the washing machine and pretty much everything else runs off propane. There are definite benefits to living a simple lifestyle!

Carla
Carla
6 years ago

The longest I’ve ever lived without power was during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake so besides an earthquake emergency kit in California, I’ve never really though about it. I’ve thought about it less since moving up to Portland a few years ago. The west coast is not rife with weather related natural disasters so its easy to not think about it. Ever since our infamous E. coli scare back in May, I’ve keep bottled water here at home. My husband never lets the car get below 1/2 tank, we have emergency cash, I have an extra epinephrine pen, and I… Read more »

Trini
Trini
6 years ago
Reply to  Carla

Folks in the NW can still benefit from some emergency prep. Cascadia (major earthquake event) is potentially on the horizon (either it’ll happen any day, or in 400 years. It’s one of those kind of things) and of course all of Portland shuts down if an inch of snow falls.

Carla
Carla
6 years ago
Reply to  Trini

LOL – All of Portland shuts down when we have 1″ of snow because there is no one/nothing to plow the roads with.

Art
Art
6 years ago

Your list omitted toilet paper. It is the little things one forgets.
Stayed put during the NH Ice storm of a few years ago. Miserable experience, especially the nights. Will not be so unready the next time.

Greg
Greg
6 years ago

It is clear that you don’t live in a city. I would need to rent a storage unit to keep all this junk. I’d rather live simply than buy thousands of dollars worth of contingencies for everything that could possibly happen.

Tina
Tina
6 years ago

It is funny that every time I watch Walking Dead, I start thinking about if we are prepared for a power emergency. This article has made me start thinking too that I need to start planning better. Alot of the list given, we already follow. Milk jugs with water frozen in bottom of freezer, stocked can goods and paper products, extra propane, batteries and radio and battery powered alarm clock along with candles and matches and documents in same place. We keep gas 1/2 full and have little on reserve in shed. We need to improve some other places like… Read more »

Jared
Jared
6 years ago

One thing you forgot – aquariums. Aquatic animals need some sort of oxygen exchange to replenish the oxygen in the water and depending on the time of year need heat and/or cooling to stay alive. A battery-powered air pump can help with the oxygen exchange while a battery-powered fan blowing across the surface of the water can help keep things cool. I haven’t found a good solution for emergency heating but most freshwater and marine fish will tolerate temps down to the lower 70s for short periods of time. Don’t wait until the outage to try to buy these items.… Read more »

Tara
Tara
6 years ago

A friend who was in the Christchurch NZ earthquake said she was without water or power for about 2 weeks, and discovered dry food was pretty much useless, so better to stock up on canned food. We are in a condo with only electric power, so we bought a generator that will run on gasoline, propane or natural gas.

AZ Joe
AZ Joe
6 years ago

I would be careful of using candles for emergency lighting. They cause fires – no/low water availability = problems! There are tons of LED flashlights out there – try Harbor Freight if one is close. They can run 20 to 30+ hours on 2 or 3 AAA or AA batteries. Be safe.

Grayson @ Debt Roundup
Grayson @ Debt Roundup
6 years ago

I keep my camping equipment close, which can hold me over for some time. It has our very small gas grill, cooking utensils and more. I also have quite a few flashlights.

Sherry
Sherry
6 years ago

I was without power for nearly two weeks after a hurricane hit my community. It was muggy without A.C. but I bathed with water I had run in the bathtubs when I knew the storm was coming; used a part of the 20 gallons of water in glass jugs I had saved in the (finished – dry) basement; used food up in order: fresh, then frozen, then canned and aseptically packaged. Part of what I had stored in the deep freeze was backup bags of pet foods double-bagged, so they were fine. Evenings were time to read by the light… Read more »

cherie
cherie
6 years ago

Interesting though I agree somewhat alarmist We were powerless for 10 days after Sandy – many people had it much worse. I will say there was no gas to be had – problems at every level – that was a hard thing and I have since never let my tank get below half [and I have a hybrid now too – so I can get farther 🙂 ] We had hot water and I hadn’t expected to have it – gas water heater – who knew No heat, left fridge/freezer closed My gas stovetop worked fine though – maybe a… Read more »

Clara
Clara
6 years ago
Reply to  cherie

We were also out for 10 days after Sandy. I live in a rental and it isn’t really insulated. So it was too cold to stay here, although I tried. I had food on hand, lanterns, and a propane stove, and a full gas tank. However, it got old fast. I took refuge finally at a good neighbors. They had a small woodstove, gas stove that we could light with matches, hot water from the gas water heater, and another neighbor hooked them up with a small generator to keep the refrigerator going. I provided lanterns and put my kids… Read more »

Toni
Toni
6 years ago

Keep in mind that a lot of these things can be used at other times, not just during a power outage. I keep about three 2-liter bottles of water frozen in my deep freeze at all times. I’ve heard that freezers run more efficiently when they’re full, and I always have something to throw in my cooler if I’m going on a trip, camping, or just to a potluck where the fridge is guaranteed to be jam-packed. I keep hiking backpacks for each member of the family with a change of clothes, light shoes, food, cash, and copies of important… Read more »

Jane
Jane
6 years ago

I purchased a home depot bucket and bought a emergency toilet seat (emergency essensials?)that fits on top of bucket. Keep some sawdust to keep smell down. It has a lid. Also bought 2 walkie talkies so we can keep in touch in case the cell phones fail. To be able to know what is going on is important. Mine is a 35 mile radius. There is something called a bob? and it is plastic that fits inside your bathtub and you will with fill with clean water and it molds to bathtub shape. Holds lots of water if you know… Read more »

James Salmons
James Salmons
6 years ago

This is a valuable post, more so than most people realize. I am not into the extreme alarmist that plague reasonable discussion of critical problems, but the rather frightening truth is that our national grid in America is not prepared for a serious event. For example, a sun flash the size of one that occurred just over 100 years ago is possible again and could knock out our current grid. So could a very small atomic bomb exploded high in the air flown in from our unprotected southern border. The government has projected that either one of these could result… Read more »

Carla
Carla
6 years ago
Reply to  James Salmons

The government has projected that either one of these could result in the death of perhaps 80% of our population in a year or two.

Come again?

James
James
6 years ago
Reply to  Carla

Yes, this was in the news several months ago when someone attacked a power location (in Washington state or Oregon I believe), taking out all but one or two of around 20 transformers in about 20 minutes with high power rifles. They were able to restore power in just a few days but a really wide event would require new transformers that are not available. The death projection came from looking at fact that even getting water requires power for many people not to mention fresh food or pumping gas, etc. The incredible thing to me is that protecting these… Read more »

Carla
Carla
6 years ago
Reply to  James

James, do you have credible sources for this? I did some preliminary “Google research” but I only found conspiracy theory websites. Not saying they’re not correct, but I need info from a wider range.

James Salmons
James Salmons
6 years ago
Reply to  James

First a small correction: the event I mentioned was in California (not Washington or Oregon).

Here is an article about the shooting out of the transformers found in the Los Angeles Times:

http://articles.latimes.com/2014/feb/06/business/la-fi-grid-terror-20140207

Here is an article about the potential for a solar flare to knock out the grid you will find in the USA newspaper:

http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2013/06/26/solar-flare-electrical-threat-column/2461313/

Carla
Carla
6 years ago
Reply to  James

Thanks for the links, James!

Kathleen
Kathleen
6 years ago

This is a good post and timely information. There are more power outages than ever before. I can honestly say, a power outage will never affect us, but I have family and friends who I urge to prepare all the time.

Our area was hit by a tornado in 2000 that took down over 300 trees on our property alone. Six trees on our house. People in the area were without power, some for 3 weeks or more. We were prepared since we generate our own electricity.

When you think it won’t happen to you, is when it does.

Mick
Mick
6 years ago

I don’t think this article is alarmist. Although I certainly wouldn’t lose sleep over this concern.
But wars and terrorism attacks are changing. I don’t know hardly anything about how our grids are managed and protected but is it possible they would be vulnerable to cyber attacks?

Scott
Scott
6 years ago

Home phones: Most cordless phones will not work during an outage, so having an old-fashioned corded phone available will allow you to make calls. If you have fiber optic (non-copper) lines, your old-fashion phone will work as long as battery backup is available.

Kara
Kara
6 years ago

Great article, but the advice of ‘head to the store right away’ is a bit I don’t agree with. Have enough preparations ready to go that you don’t have to head into the fray. In the case of a true emergency, that can be downright dangerous as those unprepared get desperate if it is clear this is a long term situation. My two cents, for what’s it’s worth, having lived without power for 10 days after a major ice storm (though through sheer luck we got a generator on day 4 or 5)- have lots of quarters on hand for… Read more »

Jen Too
Jen Too
6 years ago

This article had a good premise, but the writer makes it sound like espresso machines, electronic gadgets, and Internet access are vital to life. They aren’t. They’re tools we’d do well to learn to live without.

Without a doubt there are dangers in situations with extreme heat or cold, but what’s essential in a power failure is safe shelter, food, and water — and the mindset that I’m responsible for taking care of myself until the grid comes back up again.

Side note: Environmentalists are to blame for power grid failure? Logic fail.

Susan
Susan
6 years ago

As another Sandy survivor (without power for 10 days), gas lines of 2 hours for the one station that had a generator, when they were able to get a delivery (which sold out that same day), this article has very good information. Our supermarkets were closed for 7 days, then had to throw everything that needs to be kept cold out and wait another 2 days for deliveries to resume. There was some minor looting on the south shore of Long Island – people change very quickly in the face of disaster. We have a generator – that helped.

Henry
Henry
6 years ago

This wasn’t a bad article if for nothing else it makes one think. But I did find it informative because it reminded me of things I have read or thought about. It makes a lot of sense to me to be prepared. And I mean that in a general sense. We prepare for things all of the time although we don’t always label those things as “preparation.” But many of us don’t prepare for some things, not because we are lazy or stupid but because we are complacent by virtue of living in a society with a high standard of… Read more »

Loretta
Loretta
6 years ago

I lose power often, and am mostly prepared, and agree with most of the comments. One thing I noticed when I lost my power, is that people can’t think of alternate uses for things they already have. For example, many of my neighbors thought I must have had a generator because I had lights, dim, but lights. They were actually solar garden lights. All of my neighbors have them, but none of them thought to use them inside. It kind of made me sad. My neighbor is a mechanic, of all people I expected him to be more prepared.

A Frugal Family's Journey
A Frugal Family's Journey
6 years ago

We are ready for a temporary power shortage but not for a major power shortage. But great article and tips for getting ready. With a few additions, I think we can be ready for one soon though. Thanks for the motivation and reminder…with two toddlers, it is very important that we are ready. 🙂

Green Girl Success
Green Girl Success
6 years ago

You mention to practice living without utilities periodically. I think that is excellent advice. It will help you stay happy, healthy and productive with less consumption overall. I suggest watching “No Impact Man” which is a documentary about this kind of experience.

Michael Robinson
Michael Robinson
6 years ago

I think you overstate the problem with renewables. They plan placements with long-term data on cloud coverage, wind, and other things that matter. These are big investments, so they don’t take any chances.

As other commenters mentioned, people with their own solar/wind still connect to the grid to cover power deficits.

The real problem with renewables is storage and transport, which only matters for people planning big solar/wind operations.

James Salmons
James Salmons
6 years ago

While solar and wind power can be problematic in some cases (for example, here in Minnesota we can go weeks in the winter without sunshine), in the improbable but not impossible event of a major collapse of the grid they could be a lifesaver.

With only limited power available freezers could be kept operational and gas could be pumped for generators as well as transportation for instance.

Mrs. GV
Mrs. GV
6 years ago

I wanted to add to the comment about keeping cash: Make that cash smaller bills. Otherwise if you bring out a $20 to buy a bottle of water, the seller might decide it’s going to cost you the whole $20 or they might not have change for it.

Michelle
Michelle
6 years ago

We had power outages for a week at a time back in 2004 with the three hurricanes that hit Florida in quick succession. Now, I make it a habit to eat out of the freezer before peak hurricane season so as to not lose as much food. Hospitals and gas stations will be the first, generally, to receive power, so that’s not a huge concern. Charge the cell phones in the car, keep an old fashioned phone for emergencies, etc. Oh, and do not open the windows! The humidity was awful. During the second go round, we left the windows… Read more »

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