Sunday, January 25, 2009

Lessons I Learned In The Dark (aka Surviving a Blackout) Part 1

This is part 1 of the series on surviving a long power outage that I have promised you. An ice storm is currently on our way and planned to hit our area by Monday afternoon. For all of my local readers, I apologize for not getting part one out to you earlier. This section focuses on preparing for the storm. Later, we will get into actually living through the blackout.

In January 2007, our city experienced a major ice storm. This left us without power for nine days. Our power originally went out on a Friday night but came back on Saturday morning. Everyone else we knew had lost power by Saturday morning so our house became headquarters for friends and family (and even a few new friends). Very early in the morning on Sunday morning, we heard a loud explosion and lost our power again. It was a transformer that blew and since most of the city was without power, we were at the bottom of the list. By the time they came to us, they were out of transformers and had to wait for the next shipment to come in. It was nine days from that explosion until we received power again. Luckily, most of the city had power back on by this point so we were able to get a hot shower and decent food after a few days. The following are a few lessons I learned on how to prepare and live through a long term power outage. Warning, some of these are quirky but it helped lighten the mood at the time.

Keep a stockpile of food & water: When a storm is coming, most people rush to the store to buy water and shelf stable food. By working on your stockpile year round, this will not be a problem. Peanut butter, Chex Mix, nuts, bottled water, fruit snacks, dried fruit, cereal, protein bars, etc are all great things to have on hand. Keep extra bread in your freezer and you will have fresh bread for days.

Stockpile supplies too: Luckily, my husband collects oil lanterns and we had an abundance of candles at that time too. People were waiting at Wal-Mart every day for the truck to pull up with oil, batteries, and lamp wicks. We had enough supplies but had to restock very soon after power came back on. We now keep an extra bottle of lamp oil and several extra wicks just in case. We also keep batteries that fit our radio too since the radio was our only source of news.

Have an emergency fund: This is not a time where you need to pinch pennies. It is all about survival at this point. By having a little padding in the bank, you can buy supplies as you need them and afford a meal or two out a day.

Gather supplies in one area: When news of a storm is approaching, begin forming a game plan as to how to keep everyone warm. Designate an area of the house where the family can gather once the blackout occurs. Body heat will help keep the area warmed if everyone is in the same room. In that area, fill it with warm blankets, extra clothing layers, a few bottles of water, a flashlight, a radio, etc. Items can be replenished from your stockpile as needed, but it helps to know everything is in one place and everyone knows where to go to.

Check on what your insurance covers: We had a minor flood in our basement due to our sump pump backing up. Insurance did not cover it because it is an extra rider. Luckily, it was minor damage and the cost to repair was minimal. The contents of our fridge were not covered too. We have a new insurance company now and our rider for the fridge contents is only about $15 a year. Trust me, this is much cheaper than replacing everything in your fridge.


Amy said...

I have been looking forward to these posts. I lost power for 32 hours in December and learned a lot. I like your tip of having bread in the freezer.

DiamondDaisy said...

As the salt truck just went through our neighborhood, i found your post. Brian and I dashed to the store this morning for the essentials food-wise, but I didn't even think about some of those other items. I am going to get what I can together right now and put it by the gas fireplace!! Thanks for the reminders of how not fun this was and how to make it better this time! Stay safe and PLEASE stay warm!! hugs, Jenn

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