I used to think that power outages were a myth. Or else they were that thing that happened when my mother came into my room at night and turned out the lights just as I was getting to the most exciting part of a book.
And then we moved to the boonies.
Far from being myths or urban legends, power outages here are a normal part of life. And I’m not just talking about paltry 20 minute or two hour blackouts. I’m talking about week-long it’s-30-degrees-inside-the-house with no-water-no-heating-no-anything blackouts.
Needless to say, I’ve gotten very good at surviving power outages with minimal frostbite and food spoilage. Here is what I’ve learned:
1. Keep an emergency flashlight (with batteries), candles, and matches in an easily accessible place. Glow sticks are fun, too.
I recommend at least one emergency flashlight for each person in your house. These are not every day normal flashlights (e.g. do NOT use these flashlights for reading under the covers at night), or else your batteries will die just when you need them.
Glow sticks are a great device, and the thinner they are, the better. You can place glow sticks around doorknobs and by obstacles…plus they just look cool.
Be careful when deciding where to place your candles. Without power, you may not have water, and accidental fires can spread quickly. Make sure you know where your fire extinguisher is and can find it in the dark.
2. Employ preemptive freezer strategy
If you have a decent-sized freezer (i.e. not a little box on top of your refrigerator), keep a gallon of water in it. This frozen block of ice will help keep your food cold when your power goes out, and can be defrosted for emergency water if you need it.
If you think your power might go out (e.g. you’re in the middle of a blizzard), take a large black trash bag and tape it to your top freezer shelf, and let it hang down. This helps provide extra insulation and keeps your food colder longer. Do the same for your refrigerator.
3. Clean up the floor
Use the scant daylight or a few minutes of flashlight power to clean up the floor — pick up any orphan toys or backpacks, and make sure the main walkways are clear. You don’t want to be tripping over things in the dark.
4. Use toilet tactics (very important if you’re without power for awhile!)
If you have a pool, you might want to lug a few bucketfuls of water into the house to fill up the back of your toilet on occasion — that way you can flush.
Also, if you are in a 2+ story house, try to use the downstairs bathroom. Gravity will cause the water in the pipes to slowly trickle downwards, giving you 1-2 flushes before your water supply is exhausted.
Get a paper bag and throw away your toilet paper in it. That way you don’t have to flush as often.
Use Purell to sanitize your hands
5. Flannel blankets are warm!
I don’t mean flannel sheets that you put on you’re bed. I’m talking about actual flannel blankets. These things may seem thin but they are major insulators. I found that if I fold one in half and climb inside like a sleeping bag, and place a blanket or two on top, I’m almost too warm within two minutes, no matter if my fingers were turning blue before I got in. The folding in half is very important, though. If you just pull them over you like you do most blankets, you forfeit a lot of their insulating power.
6. Dress warmly
If it’s cold outside, it will soon be cold inside. Wear a sweater or jacket, gloves, a hat, and a scarf. If you’re trying to sleep, lie on your stomach (you lose more heat out of your chest than your back).
*SPECIAL TIP* Take an old pair of socks and cut off the cuffs. Put the cuffs on your wrists (under your gloves if you’re wearing any). It may sound strange, but it does wonders for holding in your heat!
7. Eat your perishables first
If you have milk, meat, or other dairy products, use them. Try not to hold your refrigerator/freezer open too long — envision what you want, where it is, get it and go!
A bunsen burner or propane stove can really prove useful for cooking your food.
8. Turn everything off.
Try and remember what was on when the power went out, and go around turning off power strips and switches, and unplugging electronics. This will avoid a power surge when the power comes back on.
9. Make sure important devices have battery backups.
Important devices include smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors (especially important if you’re using candles or any sort of gas-powered item). Less important devices might include your laptop computer and radio.
10. Have fun
Use this opportunity to do those things you tend not to do when there’s power. Play in-the-dark games like Murder at Midnight, or tell each other scary stories. Build a small fire and roast marshmallows (if you do this outside, you might need to check your city’s fire regulations first).
Good luck with your next outage!