When the power goes out…….have a black out kit

When the power goes out…….have a black out kit

 

Power outages can be caused by a wide variety of sources including general utility problems, winter storms, lightening strikes, wind storms as well as grid overload.  There are numerous other causes but for the purpose of this article the fact remains the same…….the power is out.

Depending upon your geographic location, housing type, environment, and overall health – power outages can range from a minor inconvenience to a serious threat. Summer heat can be serious threat to the elderly without air conditioning and frigid winters are a threat to everyone absent of heat.

 

Growing up in the northern states ofNew EnglandI had my fair share of winter power outages as a child. In my youth power outages were adventurous and often exciting. The power would flicker, go out and my parents would get a flashlight, a few candles and build a roaring fire in the fire place. To an 8 year little boy – this was awesome and I knew everything would be fine.

Nowadays as an adult I no longer view the loss of power as “fun”. In 1989 I saw the effect that Hurricane Hugo had as it knocked out power in theCharlotte,NCarea. Some residential areas were without power for up to 3 weeks. Water pumps did not run. Gas stations could not pump fuel. Food in refrigerators and freezers that were not consumed  went bad. It was a miserable experience and people were not prepared. Seriously – it was ridiculous how unprepared most people were.

In 2011 severe weather traveled throughout the southeasternUnited Statesand I was caught right in the middle of it. Hail up to the size of softballs fell from the sky and caused severe damage to homes and vehicles. In my area power was lost to many thousands of households for several days. This type of storm and corresponding power failures created not just tremendous property damage – but life disruption as well.

In October of 2011 an early snowstorm traveled up the East Coast of theUnited Statesand caused over 2 million people to loose power.

how to bug in

Power failures happen all the time – some bad, some not so. Taking a few logical steps like putting together a “Black Out Kit” can make dealing with most any power failure a bit easier and safer too deal with.

Putting together a Black Out Kit often can be done with items that are already found in most households. The goal is to have a single location to find supplies to react in response to a power failure.

Example: Blackout Kit #1

 

 

 

Put together in a large tote – supply list:

 

Qty: 1              Flashlight, large (wide beam spotlight)

Qty: 1              LED Maglite, D cell

Qty: 2              Lanterns, battery operated

Qty: 3              Flashlights, LED – small

Qty: 5              Lightsticks

Qty: 2              Candles, pillar

Qty: 2              Candles, jar – large

Qty: 24            Tealights

Qty: 1              Can opener

Qty: 2              Propane canisters

Qty: 1              750 watt inverter

Qty: 1              AM/FM radio, battery operated

Qty: 1              DVD player, portable

Qty: 2              Butane lighters

Qty: 4              Matches, box

******Extra batteries for all

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Example: Blackout Kit #2

 

 

 

Put together in a small tote – supply list:

 

Qty: 2              Lanterns, battery operated

Qty: 3              Flashlights, LED – small

Qty: 5              Lightsticks

Qty: 2              Candles, pillar

Qty: 2              Candles, jar – large

Qty: 24            Tealights

Qty: 1              Can opener

Qty: 1              AM/FM radio, battery operated

Qty: 2              Butane lighters

Qty: 4              Matches, box

******Extra batteries for all

 

 

 

 

Let’s review the contents of these kits:

 

Flashlights – Flashlights are the basic building block to a black out kit and are invaluable when it comes to existing in a grid down situation. The quality and brightness of flashlights are getting better all the time while the cost continues to drop. Many flashlights today utilize LED bulbs which are extremely durable, super bright, and use very little power. When you find yourself in the dark – you need bright lights that will last as long as possible. I highly recommend LED lights.

 

Battery Operated Lanterns – Very much like flashlights described above – lanterns provide light over a wider area. For illuminating a large area battery operated lanterns work exceedingly well. Oil lamps can also work well however there is a much greater risk of fire using them compared to battery operated. LED lanterns are more expensive however they provide much more light and sip power out of batteries.

 

Lightsticks – These chemically activated lightstick provide dim light with no heat and using no energy for several hours. If unfamiliar – these liquid-filled plastic tubes are bent and shaken to activate. Available in different colors – these are very popular with kids which could help alleviate worries and concerns with them. Lightsticks are very inexpensive however they do have an expiration date so check the package.

 

Candles – It goes without saying but I have to say it – SAFETY FIRST. Burning candles obviously exposes the environment to open flame and it only takes a moment to ignite the wrong thing and the power outage now becomes much more serious. With that said – candles can be used safely to provide soft light to illuminate areas for a long period of time. Jar candles are my personal favorite.

 

Can Opener – Most any household contains enough food to last a family 3-4 days. Commonly much of that food is in cans. Should the power fail electric can openers will no longer work. Having a manual can opener will allow access to those valuable canned goods. A simple and inexpensive tool that will be very valuable should the grid go down.

 

Propane Canisters – Cooking certainly becomes more difficult without electricity. As an avid camper – I have a portable camp stove that runs on small propane canisters. These inexpensive camp stoves can be used outside to cook very similar to a conventional stove top. Having a couple of propane canisters in your Black Out Kit to fuel a camp stove will be very comforting should you find yourself trying to figure out how to cook soup with no electricity.

 

750 Watt Power Inverter – An Inverter is a fantastic device which converts DC power (battery) to AC power (household). Having an inverter provides the ability to operate a variety of devices such as box fans, electric lights, small power tools, and other electronic devices such as radios and computers. A couple years ago a power outage happened in the middle of summer and it was HOT. I hooked up my inverter to one of my vehicles and was able to run a box fan, DVD player and small TV for several hours. I had to start the vehicle to recharge the battery several times but dealing with the heat and boredom was much improved.

 

Battery Operated AM/FM Radio – Being able to get news during a black out could be very critical depending on the nature of the situation. Having a small battery powered AM/FM radio with spare batteries will provide access to news updates as well as entertainment listening to music. In addition to the common AM/FM bands – some radio’s can receive special weather bands which provide weather forecasts and emergency information 24 hours a day.

 

Portable DVD Player – Certainly not a necessity – a portable DVD player can help entertain the kids in a difficult situation or take the edge off of a stressful one for yourself. Most models can be plugged in a vehicle cigarette lighter adapter for recharging and can play an entire movie when fully charged.

 

Butane Lighters and Matches – Why a butane lighter? For fire of course. Lighting up a candle or starting a camp stove is difficult rubbing two sticks together. Matches – which are super cheap – serve the same purpose and are just another option.

 

Extra Batteries – It is very important to store extra batteries for each battery-powered device. Difficult to listen to your local AM news station without batteries in that radio. Put away several spares and always buy high quality alkaline.

 

So – there are a couple examples to consider when putting together your own Black Out Kit. Consider your own situation and build it as big or as small as you wish.

 

A few other things to consider:

 

  • DO NOT open refrigerators and freezers unless absolutely necessary. Every time they are opened valuable cold air escapes.
  • Have food available that simple meals can be made from. A few examples are soup, pasta and spaghetti sauce, and of course everyone’s favorite peanut butter and jelly. Hot cocoa and coffee is also usually a welcome addition.
  • BatteryChargers – With so many devices capable of being charged via USB plugs – have a couple of USB adapters that can plug into the cigarette lighter or 12V power outlet in your vehicle. Being able to charge up a tablet PC, cell phone, or  book reader would be nice to be able to do with the grid down.
  • Fire Extinguisher – Have a fire extinguisher available. You never know what may happen – and lighting matches and using candles certainly increases the risk of fire.
  • Generators are certainly a welcome addition to supplies when the power fails. Even small generators often can power a refrigerator along with a few other things at the same time. Before purchasing read up on what your power requirements are and make sure you have plenty of fuel stored away.
  • Helping neighbors – It is very likely that your neighbors will be less prepared than yourself. Be the hero and put back a few extra flashlights and batteries to help your neighbor.
  • Heat in the Winter – Portable propane heaters using the same canisters that a camp stove uses are fantastic for heating small areas. Kerosene heaters as well can work well. Either one require fuel be stored away for use later.

 

It is not a question of When the power will go out – but for how long and how bad the situation will be. Regardless, the better you prepare now the easier it will be to deal with later on.

 

 

 

 

 

 


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16 Comments

  1. Great post 🙂 Very useful ideas for everyone.

    I also recommend a piece of “household decor” to help. Get a couple cheap mirrors, about 18×18 inches at a megamart, etc. When needed, put them on shelves above eye-level, and place the lantern/candle in front of the mirror for increased illumination.

    If you look at many 18th Century wall-lamps, you will find similar mirrors/reflectors behind the flame source to maximize the amount of light produced by candles and oil lamps. In a pinch, aluminum foil works too, just not as well.

  2. Why not leave the propane stove in the black out kit? You have fuel and no way to use it without scrounging through some other kit to find the stove. It would seem to me to be more efficient if you either kept the fuel with the camping kit near the black out kit or buy another camp stove so you have it with your black out kit.

    As Rourke knows, I am a big fan of Pak Lites. They use the rectangular 9V batteries. If you have smoke detectors you have a ready made supply of batteries. Also, these batteries are the least likely to be “off the shelves” when the horde of unprepared folks cleans out the Wal-Mart.

  3. I like that Idea….. I use the polished aluminum reflectors on those homedepot work lites. Place one over a simple candle holder and it will bounce a huge amount of light onto the ceiling. Possibly ‘huge’ is somewhat overstated…… lets say… much more than is normal for a simple candle.

  4. The inverter can also be used to power your refrigerator too if directly connected to the car battery while idling. It should be just big enough to do so as long as the max output is around 1200 watts, I believe.

  5. A tip on fire extinguishers, I keep a 5 lb CO2 in my kitchen. If you have to use it, there is no mess to clean up. Also, there is a cheap(er) way to refill it rather than going to a fire safety place.

    Buy 5-6 lbs of dry ice. Unscrew the nozzle from the main tank. Wrap the dry ice in a towel and smash it into pieces small enough to fit down the neck. Place the tank on a scale and zero it. Fill with dry ice till you match the rated weight (5 lbs in my case). Clean the nozzle threads and apply new Teflon tape. Screw the nozzle back in.
    The dry ice will sublimate and return to a gas under pressure.

  6. I don’t have a roblem with creating a blackout kit, but if you have a bugout bag what better time to test it. If the bugout bag won’t get you through a power outage in the comfort of your home how will it work away from home?

  7. Funny you should mention Hugo…..I was living in Rock Hill when Hugo came through. It was nasty…..real bad.

  8. I read that a good source of emergency lighting that requires no fuel are solar lights. I have about 20 solar lights in my yard to decoratively illuminate my front yard at night, and they come on automatically when it gets dark. If you put 1 or 2 of these lights in a dark room, they give off enough light to read by, and then recharge themselves the next day outside.

    TexasScout mentioned the CO2 extinguisher leaves less clean-up if used on flammable liquid or electrical fires (Class B or C), but if you use it on a trash fire (Class A) it will simply blow the burning embers all over the place. A CO2 is the extinguisher of choice for kitchen fires, but an “ABC” extinguisher is good on all types of fires (except flammable metals (Class D) like magnesium), but it does leave a powdery residue that needs to be cleaned up afterwards.

  9. Rourke,EXCELLENT post and the photos are great !!!I liked your memories from New Eng. as mine were similar.
    I really am a fan of yours and hope to meet you and family someday !!We have our flashlights on every floor of our home and barn and firextinguishers also. Thanks for the idea of a black out kit. I will round up our stuff and put it
    in kits-super idea !!!
    Whats a Pak Lite? Where do you get them? Thanks. I remain the devoted prepper !! smile. Arlene
    PS Just read that NASA is putting up a satellite to measure radiation-hmm.Heard that Konsanto is marketing their genetically modified corn to Walmart Thank God Trader Joes,Whole Foods and General Mills has said no.Good idea to ask your grocery stores where theirs is coming from.

  10. Just a thought…you might want to add a cheap phone or an old rotary phone for your home phone use as many home phones today require plug in bases and need electricity to work. I know we all have cell phones and all that but maybe not everyone who may try to contact you has one. Anyway just a thought.

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