Getting Prepared Week 24: Prepping for a Power Outage

Print Friendly

lanternPower outages come in all flavors.  Some outages are planned, some are the results of mother nature kicking up a storm, and some are the unexpected result of a natural or man-made crisis.  Whatever the reason, there are various measures you should take now to insure your comfort and safety when the power blows.

First the basics:

  • Flashlights
  • Batteries
  • Candles
  • Matches
  • Blankets

This is the short list.  Unless you have been living with your head in the sand, these items are already set aside so that they will be readily available when the lights blink off.  And for a three or four hour outage, you will be just fine with these items.

But what if the power is lost for a longer period of time – for whatever reason – how will you cook your food?  How will you keep warm?  How will you insure your safety in dark?  These are just a few of the issues you will face if there is an extended power outage.  Add infants, the elderly or the infirm to the mix and you have a big problem on your hands.

Today I would like to offer some very basic suggestions and ideas for preparing your household for an extended power outage.  My goal is to get those wheels cranking (in your brain, that is) and to provide you with a starter checklist of suggestions that can be implemented in stages as your needs and budget allow.

1.  Store foods that your family normally eats without warming, heating or cooking.  Suggestions?  Canned chicken or tuna (although given the recent events of Fukushima, I would be wary of new tuna purchases right now), cold cereals, peanut butter, crackers, canned fruits and veggies.  The list is endless but let me caution you:  if you gag at the thought of cold ravioli out of a can now, you will also gag if you have to eat it in an emergency, power out situation.  Don’t be silly – store foods that are meant to be eaten cold or at room temperature. And don’t forget the manual can opener.

2.  Acquire one or more alternate cooking sources such a fire pit, charcoal barbeque or camp stove.  We are lucky that we have a propane cook top in our kitchen that can easily be lit with a match.  In addition, we have a Patina Cast Iron Fire Pit that is set up for cooking, a couple of butane stoves, a gas grill, and a Volcano Stove on order.

3.  Have at least one lantern that will cast a wide beam that will fill a room with brightness when the sun goes down.  (We have both a Coleman propane lantern and a battery driven lantern.)

4.  Store fuel for your chosen energy device.  This could be wood for the fire pit, propane cylinders for the gas grill, or 100 pounds of charcoal.  It could also be a bank of batteries for your lantern.  The point is to store fuel – you are going to need it.  One more point:  educate yourself on the proper storage of fuel.  All of the food in the world will not help you one bit if you blow yourself to bits.

5.  Blankets are good but a nice toasty sleeping bag or down comforter is better.  And a heavy jacket, plus socks are good, too.  It is easy to strip down when the temperatures soar – not that that is the optimal way to keep cool – but when you are cold, you need to bundle up and stay warm.

6.  Invest in a generator.  We recently invested in a 10 kw whole house generator that will automatically power our home during the frequent outages on our island.  Think it won’t happen to you?  A few years back, the city of Seattle was dark for almost a week.  It can happen to anyone, any time.  (More on the saga of the generator in another post – what an ordeal.)

A portable generator can be purchased for as little as $500 or $600 and the sky is the limit after that.  We know people that have spent over $10,000 on a whole house generator (not us).  Just keep in mind that the installation by a qualified electrician is probably going to cost as much as the generator itself.  Your mileage may vary but in our case, budgeting and saving for a year was worth the cost.

7.  If you have the proper sun exposure, the budget and the space, consider solar power as a backup to your local power grid.  Many local utilities, states, and yes, even the federal government offer financial incentives and policies that promote renewable energy.  It is worth checking in to.

Okay.  So we have covered basic power needs.  But what are some of the other essentials that you will want to have on hand during a power outage?

How about the following:

  • Battery operated or Hand Crank Radio.  Remember, without power, there may be no way to use your computers plus your DSL or cable service is likely to be kaput at well.
  • Solar Battery Charger .  Very handy for charging cell phones.
  • Amusements.  Books, games and playing cards.  My favorite?  A couple of decks of Canasta cards .
  • The Spirit of Adventure.  Okay, I had to throw that in.  Let’s face it, a positive attitude plus your emergency preps will help you soldier through an extended power outage.

I hope these ideas will start you on the road to thinking about a power outage and how you can prepare to keep yourself warm, light, and well during a power outage.  And once you are prepared, I suggest you pop up a big pot of popcorn and get yourself a copy of the movie “The Trigger Effect ”.  I saw this film when it first came out and still find it chilling.  Here a synopsis:

“Do yourself a favor and buy some canned goods, a flashlight, and a radio before you watch this film. Unfairly dismissed by the critics and missed by the public, this pre-Y2K suspense film is a chilling, sobering experience that will turn any practical person into a paranoid, apocalyptic loon. When the power goes out in the big city and society starts to break down, husband and wife Matthew and Annie find out that not even suburbia is safe.”

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!


Backdoor Survival Tip of the Day:  I am enamored with duct tape.  Give me some tie wraps, Elmer’s glue, WD-40 and tie wraps and I can fix almost anything.  It should come as no surprise to learn that I included duct tape in my Backdoor Survival kit over at  One of the ways I use duct tape is to temporarily patch leaks in plumbing hoses that always tend to leak and drip when Survival Husband is not around to fix the problem.  From tacking up plastic sheeting, to using it as a lint picker-upper, duct tape in an essential in my tool box, the car of my trunk and my emergency kit.

From the Bargain Bin:  Amazon still has the Kingston 4GB flash drive for $7.95 (you need one for your survival docs) and the Lodge 12-Inch Pre-Seasoned Skillet is $18.97.  And finally, the price of the price of 20 Gallon size Mylar Bags & Oxygen Absorbers.  The price is now $16.99, down almost $5 from a month ago.

And finally, don’t forget to check out Emergency Essentials for your long term storage food items.  Check out the July specials, including 20% off on prepackaged meals.

Announcing our Newest Premium Sponsor:  I am thrilled to announce our newest sponsor, Directive 21.  Jeff, the Berkey Guy promises to take care of all of your water filtration needs with the fabulous line of Berkey Light Water Filters.  I hope you will check out the Directive 21 web site where you will find answers to all of your water filtration and purification needs.


Getting Prepared Week 24: Prepping for a Power Outage — 14 Comments

  1. Gaye, a very, very useful item I have for emergency heating is a MR HEATER brand propane gas heater. They come in various sizes and I recommend buying the optional filter and 12-foot high pressure hose in order to use the 20-gallon propane cylinder (the kind used on gas BBQ grills). The 12-foot hose allows one to locate the cylinder OUTSIDE on the patio. NEVER bring a propane cylinder inside, except for the 1-lb version. I rate the heater a 5 out of 5 as it provides excellent heat, especially if you get the one with the built-in battery operated fan. I have had occasion to use it several times as we are prone to ice storms here in the Missouri Ozarks. You can order from Amazon for the best price and 2-day delivery.

    • You want to make sure that you use adequate ventilation with a propane heater if it is used inside. They put off a fair amount of carbon monoxide so be careful and ventilate.

  2. I use oil lamps around the house and they really put off a lot of light. I tried candles and battery powered lanterns but they just don’t last for very long. Oil lamps have been around since the dawn of time and have worked and been widely used all over the world. Their oil is fairly cheap and burns clean and stores well. They also burn a very long time on very little fuel. I have like 5 of them around the house.

  3. Gaye: Great article especially for newby preppers looking for ideas on how to get ready for the coming chaos. I also have one of the Mr Heater propane powered heaters and love it! Aso, having gone through several bouts of power outages and also an ISP that for awhile last year could not be relied upon, I found a way to get on the Internet without the ISP….I bought a USB modem from ATT (Verizon also has them) that uses the cell phone towers to connect your computer to the web. Works great!! If you have solar panels, even when the lights go out you can still get on, of course provided the cell towers are still standing, but basically if you have cell phone access you can get on the web. If you have a Kindle from Amazon, you can do the same thing, but if you buy a Kindle get the one with web access capability. After all is said and done and all your preparations have been made to survive (whatever the calamity) EVERYONE should “test” their preparedness. How to do this? At the main electrical, water and gas switch or valve, turn them all OFF, then see just how prepared you really are to survive without basic utilities. The first time I did this I lasted a day and a half as I had not counted upon toilet facilities and did not have an adequate supply of water to flush with. There will be numerous things you will find you are not prepared for, depending upon the season. I think summer is the worst because your home can become like an oven depending upon your location. For winter weather you can be prepared for that with a good propane heater. Try turning off all your utilities for a true test to see just how ready you really are…..we are quickly running out of time for preparing.

      • The USB modem cost $65 about a year ago. I don’t know what it might cost now. You have to buy a monthly data plan. I bought the 350MB for $25 a month. It is worth it for me as I can connect to the web from anywhere. I stopped last week at a rest stop on I44 near Joplin and was on the Internet in seconds.

  4. Nice article, SurvivalWoman!

    We have a pot-belly stove on which to cook and heat our home in the winter months should the power go out. We also have a little coleman cook stove as well as a little MSR Pocket Rocket backpacking stove. It’s good to have multiple options just in case one fails for some reason.


    • I am also a big believer of redundancy. I think that is a carry-over from my boating days when you could be stuck in the middle of nowhere with gear that has malfunctioned. Talk about up a creek without a paddle.


  5. I have a 5KW diesel generator. To use it effectively, you have to have a transfer switch that cuts your place off from the grid, and sends the generator power to the main circuit breaker panel, and from there the power goes to your outlet. If you just have a generator, you can plug an extension cord into it and run that inside to a surge suppressor with multiple outlets, that will work but it’s awkward. You can also use an inverter if you have one for a solar panel set. I do have an inverter but don’t use it anymore since solar power proved ineffectual and too costly, the deep cycle battery banks were murder to maintain and the batteries had to be replaced every three years at great cost. I do keep kerosene lamps, candles, and flashlights for short term outages. I have a gas range in our oven that isn’t dependent on power at all so my wife can still cook. We have a wood burning kitchen stove to back that up. In the last few weeks we have had multiple power outages and they are a real pain. Too short to really do much about using the generator, but long enough to aggravate.

  6. Survival Women

    Nice article, I always enjoy your writing. I decided on propane as my primary fuel source a few years ago and as of now I have 500 gallons (20 – 100 pound bottles ). I choose propane because it will store forever with no degradation and I believe safer than gas/diesel etc.. You can also use propane for allmost anthing – cooking, power a genertor, heat, etc… I keep an eye on Craigs list and pick up all the 100 pound cylindes when I see them.

    FYI – the last ice storm we had I lost power for 7 days – not fun.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.