It’s the emergency situation no one wants to think about: A long-term power outage lasting two or more weeks.
The thought of losing lights, refrigeration, heat, washing machines, and hot water understandably leaves some people paralyzed with fear. If you’ve never lived without these resources, then their long-term absence is not just inconvenient, it’s potentially dangerous. Modern conveniences are wonderful; but when they fail, it’s worse than never having them in the first place.
Long-Term Power Outage: Be Prepared for the Worst
But living without modern amenities – and living comfortably – is more easily achieved than you might think. To find out how to handle a long-term power outage, it’s best to turn to those who spend their lives without electricity, including the Amish and those living off-grid.
The secret is to realize what you would suffer most going without – such as heat, lights, bathing, washing clothes, refrigeration, cooking, etc. – and figure out what’s needed to provide those things without electricity. Fortunately, there are modern, efficient options available to supply these needs.
Consider what tools provide the most bang for the buck for supplying basic needs. A wood cookstove, for example, not only heats the house, but it cooks and bakes food and provides hot water for laundry, dishes, and bathing. A non-electric clothes washer and a couple of drying racks can make one of the most time-consuming chores far quicker and easier. That’s a lot of benefits and sustainability from just a couple of items!
There are other things to consider. During a prolonged power outage, emergency personnel are busy helping those in need. The best thing to do is stay off the roads and out of their way. But that doesn’t mean you should stay home and ignore everyone else. It’s also a time to reach out to those around you who might need an extra hand or perhaps shelter: the elderly, the disabled, and families with young children. These are people who would suffer the most without assistance.
How to Prepare for a Long-Term Power Outage
Power lines can go down for several reasons: storms, natural disasters, wildlife, and human error just to name a few. Sometimes power is restored quickly, but sometimes it can take days or even weeks.
If you already live off-grid, then you are golden! However, those of us who are still on the grid are at risk of losing access to the things that we need to survive comfortably if we were to lose power for more than a day. It is vital to prepare ahead of time before a storm or other natural disaster knocks the grid down.
There are six main categories to think about when preparing for an extended power outage:
- Clean Water
- Food Supply
- Light source
- Heat source
- Connection to other people
- Health & home.
Long-Term Power Outage Prep #1: Clean Water Supply
When the power is out, water pumps don’t operate so you will have very limited water coming from your pipes. It is a good idea to stock up on clean water by storing it in large food-grade containers or simply purchasing a couple of cases of bottled water.
Keeping a water bottle with a built-in filter or a water filtration straw can also help if you have a water source on your property, but don’t have any bottled water saved.
Long-Term Power Outage Prep #2: Food Supply
Food that is kept in the refrigerator or freezer is at risk of spoiling during a power outage. There are a few things that you can do to prepare to keep your food from going bad.
1.Buy a generator. A generator will provide power to your appliances even when the electricity is down in your area. This is pricey, but if you store a lot of food in freezers it is well worth the investment. Portable generators can cause carbon monoxide poisoning if used indoors. Be sure to keep the generator outside and have a carbon monoxide detector in your home.
2. Keep fridge and freezer closed. Try not to open the doors unless necessary. Food can last about 4 hours in the fridge without power and 48 hours in the freezer if the doors aren’t opened.
3. Stock up on Non-Perishable foods. Canned and dried goods don’t require electricity and you don’t need to open the fridge or freezer to access it. When you are preserving your harvests, consider canning, dehydrating, or freeze-drying instead of freezing. You can also purchase extra canned and dried foods from the grocery store to build a supply.
How to Prepare Food in a Power Outage
You have an emergency food supply, but how will you prepare it without electricity?
The easiest thing to do is to consume foods that can be eaten without cooking such as sandwiches, canned beans, fruit, etc. If you need to cook during a long-term power outage you can use a cast-iron skillet or Dutch oven over an open fire. Wood and propane stoves are great to have for emergency cooking as well.
Also, be sure to have a manual can opener for store-bought canned goods. Your electric can opener won’t be of any use when the power is out.
Long-Term Power Outage Prep #3: Light Source
Supplemental light is important to keep in with your emergency supplies because when the power goes, so does the light source. Sure, we all have cell phones with flashlights, but that will only get you so far when you don’t have electricity to charge the phone.
Battery-powered flashlights, candles, headlamps, oil lamps, and propane lamps are all good supplies to have on hand. You may also want to keep extra batteries for flashlights and headlamps just in case.
Long-Term Power Outage Prep #4: Heat Source
Power outages during the wintertime can be extra difficult because you have to find a way to keep yourself and your family warm.
- If you have a wood cookstove, fire it up to create extra heat.
- A propane heater is a great option as well. However, you will want to have backup propane on hand in case the power is out for an extended time.
- A generator can be used to power electric heaters, but be sure to only run the generator outside because it can cause a build-up of carbon monoxide.
- Use hot hands to warm hands & feet.
- Gather blankets and wear layers of clothing to preserve heat.
- Block drafts to reduce the amount of cold air coming in. Roll up towels and push them against the base of exterior doors, keep curtains closed, and wrap windows in plastic film.
- If possible, stay in one room with doors to the other rooms closed. This will help to keep the heat centralized.
Long-Term Power Outage Prep #5: Connection
When the power is out for a long time, you may find the need to connect with other people. Not necessarily for the social aspect, but for sharing information and goods.
- If you have a corded landline phone, then it is a good idea to keep important phone numbers written out so you can contact neighbors and loved ones when needed.
- Visit your neighbors to see if they need help or if you can work together to get your families through the power outage.
- Keep a battery-operated radio so you can stay up-to-date on emergency news and storm warnings.
- Use a portable power bank to keep your cell phone charged for as long as possible. These power banks can be charged and stored with your emergency supplies. Then they will be available to transfer power to your cell phone when you need it.
Long-Term Power Outage Prep #6: Health & Home
It is important to prepare your home for potential power outages to keep things running and to make sure your family stays healthy and clean. Use these tips to get through a long-term power outage fairly easily.
Carbon Monoxide Detector
The use of a generator and other fuel-burning appliances can cause a carbon monoxide buildup within your home. Keep your generator outside and be sure that you have a working battery-powered carbon monoxide detector.
When the power goes out, unplug all of your appliances. This can help to avoid power surges when the electricity is turned back on.
You may not need to do laundry unless the power is out for weeks or more, but in the event that the outage lasts that long, it is a good idea to keep a manual clothes washer and a drying rack.
First Aid Kit
Keep a simple first-aid kit with bandages, alcohol swabs, gauze, herbal salves, and anything else that you may need for minor injuries when you are stuck at home with no power.
Backup Home Power
If you can purchase a home generator system, do that! A home backup generator can power your fridge, freezer, internet, washing machine, heaters or fans, and other electrical appliances.