Sunday, October 28, 2012

10 ways to prepare for power outages.

We have definitely had some experience with power outage where we live. There are a lot of trees, lots of wind. Its a recipe for outages. 

While getting ready for the next big possibility of being without power for several days, I was looking for a list I had made previously of things to have on hand and ways to prepare. I couldn't find. it. :( 
I decided having a post about it would keep it in a spot I could find AND it might help anyone else out there who too is preparing at some point in time. 

Hurricane Sandy is the instigator this time around, but we were very familiar with Isabel. 
We thought we were prepared, but it turned out nothing can prepare you for trees falling on your house :)
(except maybe to not have trees near your house.)
The ones that fell didn't look at all like they were thinking about falling. 
We're a bit more ready now. 

A few years back we bought a generator. While it's not the nifty "in your basement ready to take over when the power shuts off" type, its a generator, nonetheless. 
So here is my list of plans/preparations based on my circumstances. You can adjust however you need to. 
I live in the woods, on a well, with septic, and a sump pump in my basement. 

1. FUEL- For generator, for outdoor grill, for dutch ovens. We have a several 5 gallon containers for gas, two propane tanks, and always keep several large (read Sam's club) size charcoal bricket bags ready. We also have a charcoal grill, so if we run out of propane, we can fall back on the other grill. 

2. WATER- My husband can hook the generator up to the well, but its nice to have a back up just in case. We fill our large bathtub with water to use for bathing (sponge "bath's" in the shower) for filling toilet tanks to flush them, and for anything else not food related. 
We also have water stored, and when a storm is coming, we fill up three other large 5 gallon jugs with drinking and cooking water. Our well water is NOT we fill up drinking water through our reverse osmosis machine while we still have water running. 

3. FOOD- Not usually an issue or a huge need to adjust what its the house already for us, but I do try to plan some things that I know will be easy to make for several days. We hook up our refrigerators to the generator, so perishable items are not a problem. I do plan on making a trip to the store well before the chaos starts. Since I already have a large food supply in my home (usually 3 months worth), I pick up more milk, fruit and veggies, etc. The stores get ransacked a few days before the storm!

4. COOKING- Our stove and oven are electric, which is why we use our grills. However, because we have a generator, I can still use my electric hot plates if I need to, and even a crock pot or the microwave. 
We also have an AMAZING camp stove. Which I'm sure will get a lot of use this time around if we lose power. Any excuse my husband gets to use his nifty stove, he does. The griddle is big enough to cook my three year old on. Don't worry, we never get that desperate. 
We make sure to have oil, etc on hand for cooking. 

5. LIGHT & NEWS- We use candles in the main areas, flashlight for when we are moving from room to room AND solar lights from outside that we bring in and put in vases or inverted on the counter or table. Solar lights also are great for the bathroom. And the kids use them for night lights. (we also use them when we are camping. No batteries needed) I prefer the style with switches on them. 
Have a battery or hand crank radio ready to keep up on your local conditions and news about your situation is also good planning.

6. NECESSITIES- Toilet paper, paper towels (won't be doing laundry), Clorox wipes, paper plates- etc, diapers (if you need them) medication. Anything you need daily, make sure you have a weeks worth at least. Think about not being able to use a dishwasher or washing machine- what do you need? Make life easy on yourself.
Do you have pets? Don't forget them too.

7. INSURANCE- Not only do you need insurance for your home (always), when its stormy its nice to have the info handy for your insurance company *JUST* in case you need it. Being one of the first ones to report a loss is a good thing. I also have a few contractors numbers handy because we learned with Isabel, they booked up quick!

8. EMERGENCY CONTACTS- Have the numbers of people you need to reach printed out somewhere. If you can't get on the internet, if your phone doesn't work so the address book isn't accessible, whatever the reason...You need to be able to have a way to reach people without depending on the stored number on your phones. . If I can't use my cell phone for some reason, and need to use the land line, I have to switch to an "old school" regular land line phone since our phone is cordless. I could plug it in with the generator, but we try to limit what gets put on it. You should also have handy your power company's number and local authorities just in case. Not everything is a 911 call. 

9. MENTAL PREPARATION- Make sure you have a family meeting. Let all family members know what is  probably going to happen, and that they are going to still be safe. Have them help you get ready, it makes it less scary for them if they see the process of preparation. Discuss what your plans are for food, water, etc. Have comfort items handy and possibly discuss new sleeping arrangements if needed. Kids get scared when the power is out at night, even if they normally sleep in the dark. 

10. PHYSICAL PREPARATION- Get all the laundry, cleaning, and other household things done that will make life easier for you. Having clean clothes, clean dishes, a vacuumed floor, etc makes being without power a bit more easy. 
Keep in mind the time of year. If it's cold outside, be sure to have blankets, sleeping bags etc handy in case you are without heat. 
Prepare fun activities to do that don't use power, and even some fun things to do in the dark. If the power is out in the fall or winter, you could very well be in the dark for several hours before bedtime. Light sticks, and other glow activities are fun in the dark. Play flash light tag, set up some board games. 
If you have a portable DVD player, have it charged up for at least ONE movie, or on your computer perhaps. You can even make popcorn ahead of time and plan on a movie night. 
Have some sweet treats prepared-- chocolate is a must :)
DO NOT plan on feeding your children lots of foods they otherwise wouldn't eat. Like MRE's. No toddler is going to devour those if they aren't used to eating them already. 
Have a place planned outside your area to stay in case you will be without power for a longer period of time than you've planned for. 
The biggest thing that we do, is think through how three-seven days without power might affect us, and try to plan the best we can to have everything we NEED. Need means HAVE to have to survive on our own.
When that list is done, you just get busy preparing in those areas.
Attitude goes a long way, and if the adults in the house are panicking, or are upset about the situation, it trickles down. Think of your power being out as an unplanned camping trip, or staying in some exotic location that lives a bit more primitive. Living without things that make life so fast paced could be just the break you've needed :)

When the Power goes out:
Don't panic. Unplug electronics so they don't get hit with a surge when it comes back on. We do this DESPITE having a whole house surge protector. It often goes off and on repeatably before going out for a longer time.
Call your utility company to make sure they know you don't have power. Some areas don't get reported for a long time because everyone assumes someone else did it. There may also be a recording that lets you know when you can expect it to come back on (but don't hold your breath-- that changes often)

Keep in contact with your loved ones. Letting those who don't live near you especially know that you are okay will put them at ease. The media blows things way out of proportion. For all they know, you could be under the depths of the sea, even though you live at 3000 feet. 

Listen to local news stations to keep updated on the weather and other issues in your area. 
Keep in contact with local family and friends in case they need help. 

A little preparation goes a long way. :)