Most of the people living in modern times aren’t really prepared for a blackout and the chances of one happening are very low in most places of the world. But there are areas – even in first world countries – where blackouts are more likely, while there is always a chance for a blackout anywhere in the world.
These are some really strange times that we are experiencing nowadays and it’s always better to be prepared than sorry. Blackouts will usually be shorter term problems, but even so, you have to be prepared if you don’t want to be left out in the dark – literally.
We have all become accustomed to having power, running water, a smart phone and being able to get most things with ease these days. I don’t live in the country or in a big city, just a moderately sized suburb and I love it. That is, until I don’t have most of those items listed above. Which leads me to this ‘survival’ post and how to be prepared for a blackout.
Two weeks ago, we had a storm come through our town. Super fast and super powerful. It knocked out power in our whole town for over 48 hours and brought down so many trees that many roads were blocked.
This means that only our local supermarket and one grocery store had power. I was shocked that even McDonald’s was closed. All the street lights were out and no one knew to stop at the intersection. It was chaos in suburbia!
I never want any of you to be in this situation without having some things handy and ready to use. So here is my guide on how to survive a blackout.
Essential items to be prepared for a short or longer term blackout
Smart Phone – I don’t know about you, but I would be lost in normal circumstances without my iPhone. When the lights went out, I had my flashlight on the phone.
When my son needed to watch cartoons to keep calm during the storm, I had a personal hotspot set up. When I wanted to see the progress of the storm I had Weather Underground.
And when I needed a place to go when I realized we weren’t getting power anytime soon, I turned to Facebook. All on my phone, all within one hour. I don’t know how I would have survived without it… really. And the good news is that probably everyone will have on in handy.
Power Bank – I needed to use my smart phone for all of those things. And, just like in a bad joke, my phone was at 10%. No kidding. I told you I use my phone for everything!
And of course with the power out, how was I going to charge my phone? I was so thankful that years ago we got a battery charger. It has a flashlight on the end too! This becomes vital when you need to recharge your devices and gadgets ASAP.
When choosing a Powerbank, make sure to get one that has a high mAH capacity (10,000 at least). The higher the number, the more charges for your device. And make sure you have it charged at all times, otherwise it’s useless!
Alternative: You can also get a powerbank with a hand crank, which will be recharged manually as you spin the wheel. It needs tremendous amounts of spinning to get some energy in, but in life or death situations, where even 1% of battery life is important, this comes in handy.
I personally own a hand crank radio with an incorporated powerbank – an amazing product that can prove to be extremely useful in all sorts of situations.
Lanterns/Lights – I remember growing up having candles throughout the whole house during blackouts. Now, I have candles throughout the house but if I lit them all, my house would smell like you just walked into Yankee Candle.
So we use lanterns and lights instead and they are a great item to have available at all times, for all sorts of situations. For kids, you can even get a night light kind of thing – it won’t offer a ton of light, but a pleasant ambiental light that kids appreciate and makes them feel safe. Plus, lower light levels means less energy used.
When it comes to lanterns, buy LED light ones and have some batteries to replace if needed nearby.
Non perishable foods – in most cases, blackouts won’t last that long and you will still have the option to cook whatever food you have in the fridge/freezer. Actually, you should focus on eating or cooking that first because otherwise, if the blackout lasts a long time, the food that requires refrigeration will spoil.
If you anticipate that it will only last a few to several hours, don’t open your fridge or refrigerator! The temperature inside will be cold enough to keep your food safe for a few hours, but if you open the door and let heat inside, you can cause a lot of trouble.
And this is when having some non-perishable foods comes in handy. Granola bars, pouches for kids, nuts and seeds and various snacks in the bag are more than enough for shorter term blackout survival. So think about any type of food that doesn’t require cooking and have it nearby. Peanut butter. Jelly. Cans of food – all these are ideal and must have in your pantry at all times.
Water – For us, this wasn’t a huge deal. We have public sewer, a gas hot water heater and a Brita. But, if you don’t have any or all of these, you may want to have a couple gallons of water on hand just in case.
You would hate to be caught without water for your toilet tank or even worse, to be left without drinking water. Just keeping it real….
For survival/emergency purposes, store at least 1 gallon of water per person per day. This means that a family of three, for three days, would need 9 gallons of water.
Books / board games / toys – Time passes by slowly when you don’t have your regular entertainment available, so make sure that you always have a back-up plan with some board games, playing cards, toys and books.
Here are seasonal items you could need:
- Summer – Battery Operated Fan – Not having air circulation is a real bummer. Even if it’s ‘not that hot’.
- Winter – Extra blankets – All I have to say is I am so happy this storm wasn’t a blizzard.
- Winter – Candles for fire place – Most of the time I would say no to the fireplace since it usually sucks more heat out of the house. But I have found that if I put 5-6 candles in the fireplace, close the flue, and light them all up, it creates enough heat to keep the downstairs of our tiny house warm.
A Generator – this is not something that everybody can have on hand, but if you do, then life could carry on normally during a blackout. Having a power generator is always a good idea (as well as having fuel for it), but not really necessary unless you really want to be prepared for some of the more worst case scenario situations.
All I can say is that during the 48 hours we spent without electricity, I realized how important a generator really is…
How to survive longer term blackouts?
Blackouts are, by their nature, short-term and easier to survive that any other type of disaster or emergency. Most blackouts will last less than an hour, and then the majority of what’s left will only last several hours at most.
But in our case, 48 hours without electricity was pretty scary and taught us some important lessons. And the most important lesson that any prepper can learn is that you’re never 100% prepared, even for the most common emergencies.
So, if the blackout starts to last more than 24 hours, you need to change your approach a little bit and the first thing you should do is start consuming the perishable food that you have stored.
The food will start to spoil sooner rather than later so instead of having to throw it all away, it’s best to use it. So if you know for a fact that it will be more than 10 hours without electricity, open that fridge and consume as much food as you need as it will most likely spoil anyway.
Start planning with your family and partner – in case you don’t have a plan for such a situation – and assign tasks for each member of the family. Remember that once night comes, everything will be pitch black and more difficult to do anything. So take advantage of the sunshine and do all the activities that have to be done.
Consider setting up some basic defense (if that is needed – in most cases, it is not) and keep the family together. This is an exceptional situation that requires a different behavior. So it’s not a problem for the entire family to sleep in the same room, for example: it’s recommended, actually. A single room is easier to be heated and even ventilated (depending on the season) than the entire house.
Stay calm and create an inventory of the things you have, the ones you need and make sure that you have enough water (most important) and food. Now is a good time to connect with your neighbors and stick together: in such a situation, the more people working together, the better.
And this would be it! Blackouts are, as I already said, very easy to survive in most cases, but it still doesn’t hurt to be prepared: being caught by surprise by anything is really unpleasant and can result in rushed decisions which are never good.