Friday, June 10, 2011

5 Things to Have on Hand When the Electricity Goes Out

During the past few weeks there have been some rather severe storms - complete with thunder, lightening, hail, and tornadoes.  Most recently, the high heat (over 100 degrees) knocked out power to over 8,000 homes in the metro area. 

Most people have flashlights and candles, and perhaps a battery-operated radio on hand.  These are all great items to have when the power goes out unexpectedly.  In addition, there are five good things to have ready when the electricity goes out:

1. Food that can be prepared without electricity.

I created three bins that contain food for three days in the event that the electricity goes off and the refrigerator, stove, and oven cannot be used.  Some of the food requires no preparation (e.g., crackers, fruit) while others need the camp stove to make.

Three days' worth of food that doesn't
take electricity to make.

It's a good idea to purchase perishable food in containers small enough that your family can consume the food in one sitting since refrigeration would not be available (unless, of course, your power goes out during the middle of winter in Minnesota where temperatures do get below freezing).

If you haven't had a use for the food after six months, take a look at the expiration dates and eat the food before the expiration date passes.  Make sure to replenish the food so that the bins are ready to use in case of an emergency.

2. Water for All Family Members, Pets, and Livestock

Last month, when the electricity went off due to a person driving into the electric pole at the end of the road and cutting off power to all the homes along the road, we were without power for over ten hours.  At that time, we had no extra water on hand - just the Britta water pitcher that was half full.  Needless to say, those ten hours were a bit challenging.

A small start towards the amount of water needed
during an electricity outage.

It's recommended that you have 1 gallon of water per person per day (2 quarts for drinking and 2 for food preparation/sanitation).  Since we also have pets and horses, it's important to have water for them as well. 

Remember to put water in containers that are easy to carry. One gallon of water weighs 8 pounds. A 5-gallon container weighs 40 pounds.

3. A Temporary Toilet or Water for an Existing Toilet

If you have a lot of extra water on hand, you can simply use the toilets in your home by pouring a bucket of water directly into the toilet bowl and flushing. The contents will swirl away. You need to manually fill the tank if you want more water in the toilet bowl.

If your water is in short supply, it's best to use what you have in gallon containers for personal consumption and cooking.  So, then you have a couple of options:  you can either use a 5-gallon bucket with a toilet seat on top or get a portable toilet that's designed for camping use. 

Portable toilet with bags (upper left and center).
Solar shower (upper right).

4. Solar Shower

In the picture above, there's a picture of a solar shower.  This is an easy-to-find item at this time of the year since they're sold with the camping supplies.  Solar showers can be used in the summer when the sun heats the black bag holding the water. 

If the power unexpectedly stops in the winter, use a large storage bin and fill 2 containers with water: one hot and one cold. Put the hot one in first and then add the cold until it is a comfortable temperature. Take a bath in the warmest part of the house. Go from the cleanest person to the dirtiest. Have soap, washcloths, towels, and clean clothes nearby.

If you have a use for solar shower besides when the power goes out, check out this DIY outdoor shower from Off the Urban Grid.

Outdoor Shower.

5. Camp Stove and Fuel

If the power is out for a prolonged period of time, most likely you'll need to cook a meal.  Having a camp stove and fuel on hand is a way to make food that would give you energy that you'll need...especially if you're doing hard work (e.g., clean up after a major storm or tornado). 

Coleman camp stove that uses either
liquid fuel or unleaded gasoline.

It's a good idea to get comfortable with using the stove prior to needing to use it.  If you have children, having an outdoor dinner or camping in the backyard not only is fun, but it can help prepare your family when the power does go off.

The camp stove pictured above is the one that I have.  What I like about it is that it can use either liquid fuel or unleaded gasoline (most camp stove use liquid fuel only).  At this point, unleaded gasoline is less expensive than liquid fuel, so that is a less expensive way to cook.  Also, in the event of an emergency and if no liquid fuel is readily available, simply going to the gas station and filling up a container of gasoline is easy to do.


Fairy Tale Mama said...

Great ideas! I'm still working away (albeit VERY SLOWLY) on our emergency preparedness. The flashlights I bought for our 72 hour kits are already dead since the kids used them to have a pretend campout inside the cupboards in our family room. Guess I better get some new batteries. :-)

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Abbi said...

Good ideas!
We love to camp so that has really helped us to be fairly prepared for emergencys without even trying. I am also careful to keep plenty of food on hand and have quite a bit that can be eaten without electricity. We have a couple campstoves to use when camping but at home (and sometimes when camping too) we love to cook over the firepit. THat is something we practice up on fairly often.

I do really need to work on having more water set aside. I started thinking about that a while back and I filled one gallon jug and set it aside but that wouldn't take care of our family of 6 for very long. I would love to have a manual pump as well as an electic pump on our well!

Amy @ Homestead Revival said...

First, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, your bin idea for storing meals that need zero electricity. I'm on that and going to do it this week if at all possible.

Second, camping in the Tecate dessert (yes, I really did that in 100+ degree weather and survivied 4 or 5 days), I used a solar water bag for a shower and it was NOT fun. I realize exactly how spoiled I am and what my priorities are after food!

Finally, the coleman stove is great. I need to get propane for our camp stove this week and you reminded me. I wanted to mention that my mom used her camp stove year 'round to fry fish on the back porch so it wouldn't smell up the house.

Linda said...

I love the idea of bins for the food but it didn't work for me, mainly because I failed to check dates and what was in my bin expired. I also found that with the camp stove, and a BBQ pit, we didn't really have to have food that was no cook. My next goal is a small solar generator, so that I can have power. Thanks for sharing your information, and I will add the idea of a solar shower to my preparations.

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