Usually caused by severe weather or natural disasters, an extended power outage puts you, your family, and your possessions at risk. Understanding how to prepare for a blackout allows you to ride out a power outage safely and comfortably.
You do not want to be the guy who causes a neighborhood blackout, so make prevention part of your regular yard chores. Keep trees pruned and branches well away from power lines. Not only does this lower your risk of being at ground zero for a neighborhood power outage, you’re also protecting your property from storm and wind damage.
A stock of general emergency supplies is always prudent, and work just as well for a blackout as any other disaster. To get through a blackout safely, you’ll need:
- Flashlights or camping lights
- Extra batteries
- Diapers, formula, and baby supplies (if applicable)
- Extra cash
- A battery operated or crank-driven radio
- Alternative sources for heat and cooking
- Easily prepared emergency food.
- First aid kit.
While you prepare for blackout conditions, you might be tempted to buy candles. Candles are certainly useful during power outages, but have the potential to start fires. Blackout conditions push emergency response teams to their limits, so firefighter may not be able to get to you in time. Only use candles if you absolutely must do so.
On a related note, do not use BBQs, kerosene lamps, or portable stoves in the house. Using such items indoors can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning, and as we just noted, emergency responders will be busy.
Your car should never have less than half a tank of gas, and a blackout is an excellent example of why. Gas pumps are run electronically, so during an extended power outage you’ll have to ration your gas. If you have time to prepare for a blackout, fill the tank.
You should avoid traveling during a blackout anyway, for reasons other than gas rationing. All traffic lights will be dead. In severe situations, there may be looting, but even if everything’s calm staying off the streets is the safest option. Stay home, listen to the radio for updates, and enjoy each other’s company.
When the power first goes off, you may need to pop outside to check the extent of the blackout. If so, drop by any elderly or disabled neighbors to make sure they’re okay and haven’t fallen or otherwise injured themselves due to the power outage. If they live alone, maybe invite them over to wait out the blackout with you.
If you notice a downed power line in your area, phone the electric company to report it. Stay off the phone as much as possible, and only call 911 in case of emergencies. Do the electric technicians a favor and turn off all your lights except for one outside and one inside the house. This helps alert them—and you—when power is restored.
Protecting Your Stuff
A blackout means no power to your fridge or freezer, raising the possibility food will spoil. A full freezer can remain cold for up to 48 hours, while a half-full one will last about 24 hours. If you have warning of a potential blackout, freeze containers of water and put them in the refrigerator and freezer, and only open them when necessary to keep them cold for as long as possible.
Even if you have surge protectors, unplug all electronics and appliances. When power is restored surges are not uncommon, and surge protectors can fail. Regularly backing up computer files helps prevent data loss caused by blackouts.
What about Generators?
Installing a UL-approved backup generator will keep your lights on during a blackout, although that may suddenly make you very popular with the neighbors!
Qualified electricians should install generators. Have the electrician show you how to hook up, start, and maintain the generator, and keep the instruction manual with your blackout supplies. Periodically reviewing the hook up and start up procedures will prepare you to do so if or when a blackout occurs.
How to Build a Shelter in the Wilderness
02/24/2016 – Wise Food Storage
Knowing how to build a shelter in the wilderness can save your life. it’s an important skill for any camper, hunter, hiker, or other outdoors enthusiast to have. Understanding how to build a shelter can also prove useful in an emergency—if severe weather or an earthquake levels your home, you may need to construct temporary shelter until help arrives. Here’s three ways to ward off the elements when you have no other choice.
The lean-to has been used as a shelter for so long there’s a very good chance it kept at least one of your ancestors safe at some point. Simple and easy to construct, you can make a sturdy lean-to in about an hour from a wide variety of branches and vegetation.
Pick a location where the wind blows against the back of the lean-to, and tie a long branch or pole between two trees. Lean large branches at an angle along the back of the lean-to, and then heap grass, leaves, evergreen branches, and other vegetation on top. If you have a tarp, secure it over the vegetation for extra protection against the wind.
Lean-tos have the advantage they can be built quickly. They’re poorly insulated, however, as they only have one wall, and if the wind changes direction, have rain, snow, and cold wind can blow directly into the shelter.
Debris huts are, if anything, more primitive than lean-tos, but have the advantage of better insulation. Pile up a large mound of debris and vegetation from the forest floor, and dig in to make a pocket of space you can crawl into. If you have a sleeping bag, pile the debris on top of it and crawl into the bag.
Once inside use more of the forest debris to partially block the “door” and reduce air circulation. If the space isn’t cramped, dirty, and uncomfortable, you’ve built too big an air pocket—you need a small space to trap your body heat.
How to Build a Quinzhee
Snow makes a great insulator and can be used to build a variety of shelters. An igloo is probably not possible—you need the right type of snow and building experience. You can, however, find shelter in a quinzhee.
A quinzhee is a hollowed-out shell of packed snow. To begin, pile snow from the surrounding area into a seven or eight-foot mound, mixing snow from the top and the bottom of snow drifts to encourage the mound to harden.
Let the mound harden, or sinter, for about an hour and a half. To hollow it out make one to two-foot measuring sticks and poke them the through the mound. Dig a small entrance pointing downhill, smoothing out the walls and ceiling as you go. Hollow out the mound until you reach the base of your measuring sticks. To reduce the risk of a cave-in, hollow from the top to the bottom.
When you’re down to the last foot of snow, dig a narrow trench from the entrance to the back of the quinzhee, all the way to the ground. This allows cold air to flow outside, and you can shape the remaining snow into rough beds. Make a small, fist-sized ventilation hole at the top of the dome.
Building a quinzhee is best done with other people on hand in case of a cave-in. The semi-igloo is much safer than building a snow cave in a large drift, which is more likely to collapse or suffocate you because of poor ventilation.