5 Days with No Power – When the Ice Hits the Fan

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One of the longtime, faithful readers of Backdoor Survival was without power for five days during the recent ice storm in Aiken County, South Carolina.  Sandra and her husband are preppers and have been for quite some time.  That said, she ran into some bumps during her experience, one she calls “when the Ice Hits the Fan”.

Sandra has graciously shared her experience and the experience of her family – what worked, what did not work and what needs improvement – so that we all can learn for it.  There are surprises here so sit down, grab some coffee and take notes.  This is good stuff.

When the Ice Hits the Fan

The Ice Hits the Fan – February 2014

Although we’ve been prepping for many events for quite a while, you learn quickly you’re never completely prepared. The major ice storm and the grid down we dealt with a few weeks ago taught us many things, including what worked, what we weren’t 100% satisfied with, along with a few things that would have made this a little more comfortable.

The power company was able to repair the lines so that most grocery stores, restaurants and gas stations were operational very soon. Our power was out for 5 days.


You definitely need cash. Many gas stations and some other businesses were open but their systems which handle credit/debit cards were down. Cash was a necessity.


We had plenty of food and water storage. We are on city water which did continue working, although we had enough water stored to get by for the week, if it had come down to that. Beyond a week, we would have had to obtain more water.

Both of our children are on well water with pumps which require electricity. One had a generator and was able to get water from the well. The other did not have a generator but did fill both bathtubs with water before the power went out at their house. The bathtub water was strictly for flushing the toilets.

Both had enough cases of bottled water for drinking and cooking.


We have a propane grill, charcoal grill, and a Coleman 2 burner camp stove. With all the ice, it was easiest to use the camp stove on the back porch. I am purchasing one of these for future events. It is a small oven with a thermostat to use on a camp stove (folds flat for storage).

We did learn that we desperately need a covered area for cooking in inclimate weather. If it had continued sleeting/raining or more ice falling, we wouldn’t have had any way to cook or even boil water. This would be a problem in a Summer grid down situation if it were raining.


Our only alternate heating source is a kerosene heater. We had about 10 gallons of kerosene on hand but we did have to buy more. You cannot burn a kerosene heater without the danger of carbon monoxide. We ran the heater full blast for 30 minute intervals (used the alarm on the cell phone) then turned it off. During the night, we did the same thing – 30 minutes of kerosene heater running when we got cold – ALWAYS SETTING THE CELL PHONE ALARM to remind us to turn it off to prevent carbon monoxide from building up in the house.

We have an 840 sq. ft. house but we closed off 2 bedrooms. The average temp in the house was in the mid 60s.

The wick burned out on the kerosene heater and thankfully we had an extra. We had never changed the wick nor had our handyman son. He came over and changed the wick – a learning experience for him and his Dad.

The decision has been made to take up the carpet in the living room and replace it with laminate flooring and having a small wood burning stove installed. A wood burning stove would be less dangerous than the kerosene heater and would also provide a stove top for some cooking or boiling water.


Oil lamps, candles, flashlights, outdoor solar light, and headlamps were all used.

I had quite a few of these 3 LED key chain flashlights scattered through the house plus I carried one with me all the time.

We had a good assortment of flashlights: battery operated, hand crank, and shake it to recharge.

I am going to experiment with ‘flashing’ behind the oil lamps to reflect more light into the room. The edges will have to be bent over & duct tape applied to prevent slicing fingers and hands.


The battery operated radios we have were nothing but pure aggravation to me – too many bells and whistles, short wave, etc.

A couple of simple basic AM/FM radios are on the TO BUY list.

The hand crank radios were not used enough to give accurate reviews.

List of radio stations: Which ones have the best news & weather info.

Cell phone: You will either have to charge your cell phone in the car or you can order a hand crank charger from www.beprepared.com.  They have a hand crank flashlight/cell phone charger combo or a hand crank flashlight/radio combo.

Yes, it takes a while to charge a phone by cranking but do you really want to burn the gas you have in the car when more could be difficult to come by.


Crochet: If you crochet, you might want to invest in glow in the dark crochet hooks.

These crochet hooks have a built in light – downfall is they require 3 ‘button’ batteries. I tried to use one and it hurt my eyes in the oil lamp lit room. Joann’s, Hobby Lobby and other stores also carry these. I go by the mm size of the hook instead of the ‘letter’ on the hook.

Games: We have cards and board games but hubby won’t play either. I’m adding jigsaw puzzles to my list for entertainment.

Books: There were plenty of books to read but the lighting was too poor for reading.


Hubby boiled a little water and was able to take a small mirror to the back porch and shave. He was braver than I was when it came to taking a ‘make do’ shower. He boiled a large pot of water & placed the pot in one end of the tub. He then took a plastic cup and wet himself, soaped up then rinsed with the remaining water. I took the chicken way and used baby wipes which weren’t very effective for feeling clean.


Boredom was my biggest problem. If we had had better lighting, I would have been able to pass time crocheting or reading.

Tempers begin to get short or ‘snappy’ after a while. I noticed this even in people who rarely show their emotions or get ‘snappy’.

I would advise everyone to invest in more blankets (preferably wool), socks and flannel PJs or gowns. Our son was the only one to have proper rainwear and outdoor working clothes for the weather.


Covered area for cooking Summer or Winter, if we had any sort of precipitation falling, we could not have cooked or heated water outdoors at all.

Flashing for diffusing oil lamp & candle light I mentioned this above & will be experimenting with this.

Thermos A couple of good large thermoses to store coffee & hot water (for other hot drinks or making instant oatmeal, etc.) without having to fire up a heat source outdoors again – especially when you want just one more cup of coffee.

Large Coolers We definitely need a few large coolers. Many people broke off icicles and/or shoveled ice from the ground and other spots to fill their coolers in order to salvage food from the refrigerator. Fortunately, I had a few 2 liter soda bottles of water in the refrigerator freezer along with a 14 lb. ham so we used that as a refrigerator until it finally rose to an unsafe temp. (Side note: Our daughter’s electricity came on several days before ours, so the ham was taken to her house to be baked.)

NOTE: We have a nice indoor/outdoor thermometer. Hubby put the outdoor thermometer in the refrigerator freezer – made it easy to see the temp in the refrigerator freezer without opening the door.

Stainless Steel or Aluminum Cookware We have tons of cast iron skillets, griddles, grills, and Dutch ovens but my nice set of Teflon cookware left something to be desired for heating cans of soup or boiling water for instant coffee or apple cider and hot chocolate mix – it just did not taste right. A few stainless steel or aluminum pots will be added to our supplies. If you’re like us and really enjoy your coffee, you want it to taste good. That was a pleasure I really did miss. You may want to try boiling water for hot drinks on a grill or camp stove to see how it tastes to you.

Fondue Pot (for heating soup or water indoors) Since a fondue pot uses a candle, it would be one source for cooking without dangerous fumes in the house. I will be experimenting with this.

Another definite must have: Plenty of paper plates, Styrofoam bowls and plastic forks & spoons. The last thing you want to deal with in a grid down is a sink full of dirty dishes & silverware.


1. Our son had to put his generator in front of his house – where anyone could see and hear it. He piled wood pallets around it to help prevent easy sight of the generator and easy access to any would-be thief. He will be coming up with an out of view spot to hook up the generator & adding a muffler to help quiet the unit.

2. Scammers and con artists came to town with truckloads of $400 generators they were selling for $1,400 to $1,600. They were quickly run out of the county by local law enforcement – citing the creeps didn’t have a business license.

3. Although the ice storm had been forecast 3 to 4 days prior, many people were complacent and did nothing.

4. During the week of our “Ice Hit The Fan” event, we did not need to go to the store for anything. We had everything we needed to get through it, including RXs.

TAKE NOTES: I kept a steno pad & pen near me at all times. I made notes of supplies we used that need to be replaced, how things worked (or didn’t) along with what we will buy or build to make another event more comfortable.


After all was said and done, we got through this weather event and grid down fairly comfortably. I would say boredom was the biggest complaint I heard from everyone in all age groups.

The Final Word

I am still digesting everything that Sandra has shared and most especially, am taking the “snippy tempers” message seriously.  Although practicing coping skills for dealing with a disaster is something that can be done in advance, living and dealing with those coping mechanisms in a real life event is an entirely different matter.

There are a couple of things on the “wish or better yet have to do list” that I took note of.  Pulling my old thermos bottles and my ancient fondue pots from storage are high in the list.  (The fondue pots are so old that they are harvest gold and avocado green in color.)  Fortunately, I already have a covered area for outdoor cooking.  The other thing is coffee.  I have a coffee press and lots of beans but don’t have a hand grinder.  Oops.  Everyone that knows me well knows that I am very cranky without coffee.

My heartfelt thanks to Sandra for taking the time for sharing here “ice hits the fan” experience.  You can bet that I will have more to say about this down the road as I read it again and again to make sure my preps are in order.

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!

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Bargain Bin:  Below are the items that Sandra has mentioned in her article plus a few of my own.  Please note that she did send me these links so while I may not have tried all of these products myself, I do trust her judgment.

Coleman Camp Oven:  This aluminized steel oven is designed to sit on a two- or three-burner camping stove.  The stove itself provides all the heat you need to bake and folds flat for easy storage. Abut $30.

Solar-powered LED Flashlight w/ Keychain:  This solar flashlight comes with three powerful LED lights and never needs batteries.  Not only that, at  on $1.43 with free shipping (at the time of this writing), it qualifies for almost free!

Emergency Hand Crank Flashlight with Mobile Phone Adapter:  This is an all-in-one hand crank flashlight and mobile phone charging adapter.  Modestly priced.

Wavelength Emergency Radio – Charger and FlashlighticonThis is an all-in-one hand crank flashlight and AM/FM Radio with a mobile phone charging adapter that charges most cell phones that have a car charger (including many smart phones).

Crochet Lite Hooks:  These crochet hooks have a built in light and come in all sizes.  I suppose you buy anything these days.  Who would have thought it?

Aquapod Emergency Drinking Water Storage:  The Aqua Pod Kit Deluxe Emergency Water Storage Kit model lets you store 65 gallons of water in your bathtub.  There is also the waterBOB Emergency Drinking Water Storage (100 Gallons).

First Alert CO400 Battery Powered Carbon Monoxide Alarm:  Make sure you have a carbon monoxide detector and plenty of spare 9V batteries.  I actually have two of these in my small home, one in the kitchen and one in the bedroom.  (Our home is heated with propane.)

FordEx Group 300lm Mini Cree Led Flashlight Torch Adjustable Focus Zoom Light Lamp:  Here we go with another flashlight.  At the time of this writing, this one is only $3.55 with free shipping.  It is super mini sized, bright and waterproof.  Plus, it uses a single, standard AA sized battery

Blocklite Ultra Bright 9V LED Flashlight: I now own six of these little gems. There is a similar flashlight called the Pak-Lite (which is more expensive) but it does not have a high-low switch like this one. Less than $10. These little flashlights just go and go, plus, they make good use of those re-purposed 9V alkaline batteries that you have recharged with your Maximal Power FC999 Universal Battery Charger.

No Rinse Cleansing & Deodorizing Bathing Wipes:  One wipe is more than enough for a complete “bath”.  These are a good backup when traditional showers are not available such as the week or weeks following a disaster.  I have a case of these – they are that good. See Product Review: No-Rinse Personal Hygiene Products.


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5 Days with No Power – When the Ice Hits the Fan — 91 Comments

    • Great article. I noticed something you may want to be cautious about. Aluminum cookware will put aluminum in your food. Thereby causing mental slowdown, etc. Our family uses only steel and iron ware.

  1. I was without power for 4 days in the above mentioned ice storm in Georgia. The ice fell while I was at work, and I charged my cell phone on my hour drive home in the car. The house was dark and cold when I arrived, after a harrowing trip up the driveway- stopping 5 times to move large branches from the drive, with more branches continually falling around me. I have an excellent Coleman lantern with four removal side panels- and it lights up a room enough to read by. I was thankful for my butane stove which provided hot food and hot coffee- the coffee made in an old camping percolator and stored in an ancient thermos. The thermos still managed to keep it hot 3 hours. Boredom is an issue. I read on my Kindle,and listened to books on tape on my cassette recorder (old and battery operated). My daughter lives 16 miles away, and on the second day I emptied my freezer and fridge and stored the contents at her house. I finally went to my youngest daughter’s house after the 2nd day, as I had to work that weekend, needed clean clothes and a bath and the dog was shivering. I had a Little Buddy propane heater that is safe for indoor use, but the house still dropped to 55 degrees. I will definitely be getting the “Big Buddy” heater this year. It took 6 days to get the driveway cleared, so I had to exit thru a field and my landlord’s yard. This was a learning experience- not fun but I was glad I had enough food, water, batteries, blankets, to come through it well. It truely pays off to have preps in place.

    • Solar yard lights are awesome for lighting(and some of them even charge their own AA battery in them). The 5 gallon water jugs with a hand push-pump is non-electric. Crank radios and games help with the boredom. For optional cooking methods, check out how to make a “rocket stove” out of 16 bricks or 5 cinder blocks to cook with sticks only (not logs). There is a myriad of information out there on survival and preparedness. Keeping a large supply of canned goods on hand for easy food preparation is a must. And did you know you can open a can by turning it upside down and quickly rubbing it across concrete until it starts leaking? YouTube is the best teacher of these things. And Crayola brand crayons make the best candles ever! Snip the tip and light the paper for the wick. Who would’ve thought it! 48 candles in a neat little box. A ton of great ideas out there.

  2. I also live in Aiken County, S.C. We lost power from Wednesday morning until Monday afternoon. I live in the country, and we are on a well. Between my 5kw generator, fireplace, and propane camp stove, my family was very comfortable. I have been a prepper for a number of years, and this was a good excercise to demonstrate some of my skills. Life during this time changed very little for us (other than being off work for a couple of days).

  3. Good Grief! Is that an actual photo of the ice storm? I have seen ice storms before, but nothing like this. How did people get around? If we get 1/2 inch of ice, it snaps power lines and tree limbs, and it is hard to travel on unsalted roads. My hats off to anyone that endured that storm.
    A very good learning experience. I see boredom as a big problem and I have thought of making it down to the local truck stop and buying a small 12 volt TV that could hook up to an auto battery. As I sleep with a C-PAP machine, I have the ability to keep a 12 volt battery charged with solar panels.

  4. Gaye! Cranky! No way! Could you use that crankiness to turn your coffee grinder? I have a “crank” on my wheat grinder, and a crank on my tator masher. Surly you could use that “crank” for some good purpose.

  5. VERY timely article!! I have that predicted for my area now!! Supposed to be rain (with below temps??!!) this afternoon mixed with snow before 9 tonight and the storm watch is from 6 pm Sat until 6 am Monday! Sleet, freezing rain and snow with the chance of power lines being down!!! Boredome does NOT get me, I am a solitary person so that is the least of my worries. I have the camp oven like she shows (ordered from Walmart) a 2 burner camp stove the little folding stove (also from Walmart or can get from wwwbeprepared.com with sterno have candles, oil lamps (including a lantern from Lehman’s that has a separate top & little pan for heating water) have bottled water and food. Also have large buddy heater but only 2 propane for it. Not looking forward to this storm but am as prepared as I can be.

  6. I live in rural Oklahoma. Ice storms occur way too often here and are part of the price we have to pay, along with tornados, for being able to live in a truly free state that is conservative, bible thumping and gun loving. We operated a small cattle operation until I got too old to mess with it, and the worse part was breaking ice & feeding during the storms. One of the worst ones we ever had we were without electricity for 23 days because even the major power lines broke or were on the ground, I’m talking about those big steel ones. We heated, cooked & slept in front of the fire place. Our four children were all still home & ranged in age from 14 to 5 as I recall. At one point, we had used up all of our firewood & took the four wheeled tractor to the woods to cut more. Basically, we made it into an adventure that is still talked about to this day. We did learn a lot of lessons from that storm and subsequent ones. For us, prepping is a way of life because of it. Back then, I had just left the army special forces and moved the family back from North Carolina, so it was a bit of a cultural shock for the kids anyway, mostly the older two (boys) hated the isolation, the two younger ones (girls) were not so concerned. Originally, our house was supposed to be total electric, not any more! Not being able to use the well during those times was the most inconvenient. I had it dawn on me one day that I could use my welder as a generator. With that we can pump water, keep the refrigerator & freezers going & even watch tv. But I have still taken it further by storing up canned goods & essentials for the long term. One thing I learned from this article is the fact I don’t have a hand grinder for my coffee. That will be remedied, and real soon! Something I might suggest is to get a meat smoker. If necessary, you can smoke everything to keep it from spoiling during a grid down situation if you need to. About thermoses, look for the old Aladdin by Stanley that were actually made in Nashville. These new China made ones are crap & won’t keep anything hotter that warm for more than a few hours. We used to have them in SF to make shape charges, so I pilfered several back in the day & still have them. Shame on me!

      • What? No C rations they are available at most gun shows and several outdoor magazines we keep 4 cases in the cattle feed storage shed. If my old memory is still working Snow and Ice once melted become potable water. My term of service involved Jungle so did not have to worry about freezing heat stroke was the problem not to mention a whole bunch of POed little brown men.

  7. Really good info and certainly useful for any situation. We are 3 months from our Hurricane Season which is June thru Nov. Taking into consideration what was pointed out in this article we will be making adjustments to our preps.
    To increase light from an oil lamp, candle, etc put on a mirror and place one behind, really increases the light. Also consider outdoor solar lights – the kind on a spike base that goes in the ground. I’ve bought a couple at Dollar Tree to try out. They work even with minimal daylight, doesn’t have to be sun, and plan on buying a dozen more. I have them in a flower pot outside but for in the house will put them in a canning jar, about 4 to a jar. Again, with a mirror behind the light will be sufficient to read with or crochet/knit/sew.

  8. I have a couple of camping percolators for the very reason Sandra mentioned. Can’t be without my coffee! One is used strictly for heating water. When push comes to shove I can drink instant. I still haven’t mastered “percolated” coffee.
    She also mentions the Coleman camp oven. I have one. If you want to get the temperature “just right”, you need a heat source that smoothly varies the flame. I tested it on my kitchen stove and the valve doesn’t move smoothly. I ended up getting “stepped” increases in temperature. But it does heat it up quickly, probably because of the small volume. The biggest challenge with it, for me, is finding a large enough support grate. The bottom is still flexible when assembled so sitting on a propane single burner camp stove isn’t an option.
    Great post with results of being prepared justified!

  9. Perculator with a filter in the top keeps the grounds out, hate to say it but nissan makes the best thermos imo keeps coffee hot 8+ hrs in 10 degree weather. Make sure it is the vacum style. Great info that only comes with trial and error, glad everything worked out and hope to put their experience to work to help make a more comfortable time for my family and myself when the ihtf. Living here in alaska i’m sure it will happen eventually.:)

  10. We had never had the chance to use our prepping skills in real life but we plan on doing drills twice a year. One in a different season. I have one piece of advise for the writer. Most of the things that are on her wish this are a lot of common things a camper would already have. I am a camper and a hunter. And we do it all hard core. No motor homes or air beds. So camping in your home for 5 days is a breeze. So my advise is start camping. You will get some quality family time in and some quality skills you never had.

    • I agree, Katrina. We camp out three or four times a year and it is both fun and great practice. It forces us to get the gear, to become familiar with it, and keep it in working condition.

      We also use camping as an opportunity to test new foods we are considering stocking up on, like foil packets of Mountain House freeze dried foods. We then add #10 cans of the ones we prefer to our preps.

      We also find that camping sometimes forces us into figuring out expedient repairs or work arounds, which is also good in a real problem time. We know from experience that we can deal with issues which come up, and that reduces stress.

  11. sandra, thank you for your excellent article. i have two suggestions: 1. if you get headlamps with at least a dozen led’s on them, you should have no problem reading or crocheting with them; at least it’s plenty of light for me, and i need a bright light, and; 2. the “no rinse” brand of body wash and wipes are fantastic, much better than baby wipes. more than once i have used no-rinse products in the hospital–i’m a “hot mama”, and my sweat is pretty strong, so you can imagine what i’m like in an overheated hospital! but after a sponge bath with one of those products i was fresh as a daisy! they’re a bit pricey, but absolutely worth it (except for the shampoo, which in my opinion just gunks up the hair). by the way, a man i knew in childhood lost his sight when he was quite old, and learned to crochet by touch; he spent the last few years of his life making himself useful by crocheting afghans for local nursing homes and people in the community. of course, he couldn’t see what color yarn he was using, but for an afghan that works!

    • I too love the No-Rinse bath wipes and have a case of them 🙂

      But honestly, until you made this comment I thought I was the only person on the planet that would rather have dirty hair then using the no-rinse shampoo. It gunked up my hair as well but I know of others than love it. It must have something to do with the texture of our hair – mine is thick, course and kinky. (I straighten it with a flat iron daily – I am still a girly girl at heart.)

      • well, you just proved your theory wrong, because my hair is thin, very fine and very straight! i used to try to do something with it, but finally gave up, and now just put it in ponytail. that’s about as girly as i get, except for liking pink, lol.

        • Try vinegar & water ( 25% – 75%) for a rinse to get the gunk out. The vinegar smell wears off and it leaves your hair nice & shiny. I use it regularly to remove the gunk that regular shampoo leaves in my hair. Hope this helps.

  12. I always hear about those crank chargers for your phone. When we were without power after Sandy, I tried using one and what a PITA! The first thing I bought after getting back electricity was USB chargers that take AA batteries. Load 4 batteries, plug in your phone, kindle, light, fan, etc and turn it on. It will charge my iPhone 5 which is very temperamental about its electric source. I have since gotten a lithium battery pack which will charge my iphone and it has saved my phone from going dead when out for the day away from a power source.

    • Hi Dawn. Those chargers are great. We tried two of the Rayovac 7-Hour Power Back Up chargers on our last camping trip for phones, iPads, and Kindles, and they were wonderful. They do chew up AA batteries, so you need to stock enough, but if the options are batteries or no electronic communication/reading, it seems like an easy choice.

      You do NOT need to use these as chargers. Just plug in and start using your device. The battery pack acts a a supplemental power supply without needing to charge your device’s battery first. We now keep them in our vehicles as that is the likeliest place we would be in an emergency, other than at home. If we were home, the vehicle would be too.

  13. Lighting seems to be a problem in their situation.I would suggest the 2000 hr. flashlight. They are so cheap they could have 4 or 5 of them and I think that they would have had enough light for about anything.Sandra you should check into them via Gaye’s website. I’m going to get the printed version as I couldn’t print the electronic version. There are only 2 of us but we are going to have 2 of them as soon as I get the book. Thanks for sharing your adventure.

    • Last summer we camped in our camping trailer at our new property w/0 electric or running water for a month. I invested in 3 of the $10 solar yard lights at Walmart. Soaks up the sun during the day, provides light at night. Also have smaller ($1) sidewalk lights for small rooms like a bathroom or storage room. Save the candles for when there’s not enough sun for the solar lights! Also, you can get the solar lights that actually recharge an AA battery within the solar light. Battery power for other things. For water, we use the 5 gallon water jugs and a hand-pump dispenser. No electric or battery needed.

      • We’ve invested in a couple different brands of solar lights and were disappointed in the amount of light given off… we could barely see to get downstairs. Could you recommend a high quality, bright light?

  14. You can safely use propane camp stoves or kerosene heaters inside IF you’re smart enough to open a window for ventilation. Yes, you will loose some heat but you aren’t running stuff inside without ventilation. Lack of ventilation is what kills people.

    A great resource for kerosene info is Miles Stairs who also sells wicks for lamps and heaters. He also give his opinions on various makes and models of heaters for both normal and emergency use.

    I keep several days worth of fuel for both my kerosene heater and my Big Buddy LP heater. During normal times they’re for use in my garage but they’re also back-up heat for in my house. I’m in Minnesota so cold weather isn’t a maybe, it’s a given.

    I simply expect to put my Coleman propane camp stove on my electric range if I ever have to use it indoors. My kitchen window is several feet away which should give more than enough air flow.

    Another great resource for powering your house during an emergency is Steve Harris’s podcasts from The Survival Podcast. With an 800w inverter people managed to run their critical loads for days during Sandy’s aftermath.


  15. Ya. She did seem a bit overly concerned about the dangers from a kerosene heater. Those things are great!

    One thing I learned from this article, if things are bad for a really long time, people who want to help by offering things in demand at a higher price than normal will be unnecessarily demonized and prevent from doing so. Even by those with the best of intentions, including your neighbors?

    In Defense of Price Gouging

    “their greed means less suffering” …


    • Oh, you mean like these A__Ho____ going around buying up all the 22LR ammo available & trying to sell it for twice what they paid for it? Or: “well, it’s just business…” What are you a F______ banker, you POS!

      • Well, yes, actually. Those people do provide a service for those willing to pay the price.

        The only problem is if they misrepresent their product as something better than it is.

        In the early days of the Iraq occupation there was a terrible shortage of gasoline for the local market precisely because the military in it’s infinite wisdom established price controls. The result was that you could get gasoline at pre-invasion prices if you were willing to sit in line for 24 hours. That means drivers had to value their time at Zero in order to get gas “cheaply”.

        The alternative was to go to the illegal black market, pay the Gougers the real market rate for bringing tankers of gasoline into a war zone, and getting gas without a long line.

        No one in their right mind is going to take the time, trouble, and risk of bringing a truckload of $400 generators into a disaster area, probably from a long way away, and sell them for $400. They fronted their money for inventory, they fronted their vehicle, and they fronted their own time. If they are prohibited from making the venture worthwhile, they aren’t going to bring you or anyone else a generator during the emergency.

        And you have the option of deciding that you, who did not buy a generator before the emergency, would rather not pay $1200 for a generator which sells in good times for $400. Others will decide to pay the current market price, which is not $400.

        Personal non-emergency example: I was camping in New England and went to a flea market where I saw a vendor using a folding chair. I wanted one, so asked where to get one, and what it would cost. She told me she got it 50 miles away for $15. I had the options of looking around locally and maybe not finding one, or making a 100 mile round trip, spending time finding the store, and buying a chair for $15. Instead I offered her $30 for her chair. She was happy with making a profit, I was happy not spending a lot of time and a lot of gas. Win/win.

        Buying important things in good times, and putting them aside for bad times is exactly what prepping is all about. If you don’t prepare, you need to realize that important stuff may be available only at higher than normal prices.

        Otherwise you have the option of driving a few hundred miles and buying a $400 generator for $400. Your option.

        • Penrod,
          Some years ago my older sister and I had a bait shop here. One day a couple of men came in and one looked at the price we were charging for a case of beer. He started yelling that he could get it a lot cheaper in town. My sister told him “fine, go to town and get it”. His buddy pointed out to him that it would cost a lot more to drive the 70 mile round trip to the nearest town and they would loose most of the day fishing. The man paid the price we were asking. So, I almost never complain about the price of an item. Either I will pay what is asked or I will look elsewhere, knowing it may take much longer to get whatever I’m wanting for a lower price.

          • Exactly, Jim. Convenience has a price. If you are willing to forego convenience, you can have a lower price. We saw the same thing in national parks last summer: the further we got from a population center, the higher the prices in the parks, because the sales volume goes down and the cost of inventory rises, but the sellers still have to make enough to live. People who can’t abide by that like price controls….which eliminate availability for everyone.

          • I was a full time employee and part time grad student in Atlanta when Hugo hit Charleston, SC. I owned an old Ford station wagon that I thought about driving to Home Depot and filling with supplies and driving down to Charleston to sell. I’d have to miss class and a day of work but the highly inflated price for plywood, duct tape, and plastic would have compensated me. Then they hastily enacted anti-price gouging laws with threats of enforcement. So I stayed in class, informing my Economics professor of my decision after he defended the laws that very day, saying “normal rules of Economics don’t apply in emergencies.” He became unglued.

          • Hi Mark. Too bad the prof wasn’t better at his profession. He should have known that high local prices attract supply. If the Charleston prices for plywood, duct tape, and plastic sheet were suddenly 3 or 5 times prices elsewhere, a rational person would divert their resources to that area because they can maximize profits. That gets the goods where they are most needed. Maximizing profit serves the whole community by making scarce goods available where they are most needed.

            Instead we teach that people should rush huge quantities of goods in, expending unusual resources to do so, out of the goodness of their hearts, and that people who try to maximize personal gain are not merely bad people, but criminals.

  16. While without electricity in Oklahoma for 6 days I found that I was glad to have gotten a 45 watt solar system setup. This kept my cell phone charged as well as my android (which has the kindle app on it). And that still didn’t require full time use of the solar array. I could have also ran the CFL lights that came with it. I also had a 3.5 kkw generator that I used twice a day to keep the refrigerator and freezer cold enough that I lost no food. Still took about $40 in gasoline, but saved in the long run. I now have a 5 gallon water despenser that has both hot and cold spiggots. It is a 110 volt system, so I could run it on my generator while running the freezer and refrigerator. Or use it for room temp drinking water if no power is available. I keep two full 5 gallon bottles ready, in addition to the one on the dispenser. Should last me about 2 weeks.

  17. (1) “The Amazing 2000-Hour Flashlight” is available on Amazon (both Kindle and paperback). It shows how to add a 30-cent resistor to a $5 flashlight and create a light that runs 2000 hours on one battery.
    (2) Use aluminum foil as a reflector around candles and kerosene lamps. Cheap, available, safe. Tape it to the wall or mount it on cardboard. Put it under the lamp to shine upwards as well as behind the lamp. Put it on the ceiling to prevent black soot marks that may build up with extended running of oil lamps and candles.
    (3) Bathing without a tub. (How I was brought up, FWIW.) Take a basin of water to a private room. Place it on the floor beside the bed or in front of a chair. Soap up a washcloth and wash your face first. Rinse out the cloth and wipe the soap off your face. Repeat the process for arms, legs, torso. Do armpits, groin, and feet last. The rinse water gradually becomes soapy but this was the traditional, weekly, Saturday-night bath before church on Sunday morning. At least we had soap. Hallelujah!

    • Daddy first, then mommy, and then the baby. They all used the same water. That is where they got the expression, “don’t throw the baby out with the wash water”.

        • Not such an urban legend. It was tradition in any families who had to draw water from a well. I know because I come from 3 family lines where this was done for many generations. In primitive areas, it’s still done this way.

          • Hmm. I was raised in a house with a wood cookstove, a dug well & hand pump, and a privy. There was no running water in the house. There was always a bucket of water in the kitchen that had been carried in from the well. And some years there was a drought and water was scarce. But nobody ever bathed in anybody else’s bath water. Ever. Ditto for kith and kin and grandparents on all sides.

      • I made my reflectors by recycling my chocolate chip bags (if you look, I know 2 brands which are mylar). I just opened them up, and glued them patchwork style to 3 sides of a cardboard box which I put behind my candles but also behind my terracotta heaters which I used candles to heat. No, you won’t notice what looking at a thermometer, it’s based on a differ law of physics —where the heat radiates to other warm bodies like the human and animal bodies. Been using this principle for 3 decades and didn’t even know it. lol
        The reflector cardboard is new as of this winter and are now part of my BOB preps. Easy and lightweight too, most certainly more mobile than pinning to a wall too. 😉

  18. i am honestly not being rude or mean but people need to learn how to tent camp!! go camping for a week, take what you think will be necessary and see how you make out.
    we moved to tn in 94, and i think it was the winter of 95 or 96 we had a major snow storm hit and ended up without power for 9 days. kids, i and a then boyfriendd made out just fine. we were experienced tent campers. when the power went out in came the lanterns, the camp stove and the kerosene heater! oh, and the winter boots. the heater and the winter boots had come with us when we moved out of upstate ny.
    i cooked on top of the kerosene heater and on my camp stove. lighting was no problem, we had 4 lanterns and a bunch of candles. aluminum foil works just fine to reflect light in the direction you need it. mirrors work great too to bounce light off of to make for a “bigger” light. we had books, cards, board games and had a blast reconnecting!
    the temper thing? not so much but we did have an extra kid with us. son’s friend was ‘stuck/snowed in’ with us. after 7 days the 3 kids did get to bickering with each other. i took the son’s buddy home as soon as his mom let us know that they had power back. so that did make my house quieter and more peaceful!!
    my kerosene heater finally died and i really want to get another one. tho i hate to broadcast or admit it? but when i do, i will be taking that stupid big wire cage that they put on them now, off!!!

    • Great idea. Tents can be used inside as well as out. Set one up in the living room during an extended cold weather power outage and you can sleep comfortably without heating the whole house.

    • I’m with you. An event like this is just an added time of doing something unexpected and fun. No time for disaster or bored feelings, this means time for doing things we just haven’t had time to do. No generator, no kerosene heater and I still did great for the 4 days we didn’t get out.

  19. I travel to Uganda a couple of times of year and don’t have power most of the time. LED headlamps with multiple settings and movable heads are great for just about everything, including reading and close work like crochet. I got a Kindle Paperwhite specifically for travel there. The battery can last 3-4 weeks if you keep it on Airplane mode, and it is backlit. It uses way less battery than an iPad or phone for reading.

    I used to use whole bean coffee, but I always had an unopened can of ground for emergencies, and a camp coffee pot/percolator that makes great coffee. We are in a new house and had just moved here when we had a big storm in late Jan. We had no supplemental heat, so my son and I collected a bunch of medium sized rocks from our pond, rinsed and dried them, and put them on the covered front porch. If we’d lost power, we could heat a few in the grill for about 45 min, bring them inside in a cast iron pot, and have heat for a few hours. We didn’t have to try it in either of the storms we had – we were iced in but didn’t lose power. But at least we had SOMETHING if we’d needed it. I haven’t figured out a solution to that problem – we don’t have room for a wood burning stove. I’m going to try to figure that out by next winter, though!

    • Jennings, Please be very careful about using any rock from a water source!!! They have been known to explode from the moisture trapped in the rock turning to steam as it heats.

      As far as a wood stove you can check out YouTube for ammo can stoves/heaters. They are fairly easy to build and store. The only drawback is a way to vent the exhaust. If you have slide up/down type windows and some plywood, should be an easy fix.

      • We had an ice storm here in NC several years ago and the power was out for 5days.
        We had a small buddy heater. Connected to 20lb gas grill tank. Set on 9000 BTU it heated three rooms including a bathroom for 21/2 days per tank running for 24hrs. We put the heater in the bathroom and my mother in law and handicapped daughter slept in adjacent bedrooms. No sx of CO poisoning. No odor of gas at all. Great system. Have CO detectors now but doubt problem. Have 3 little Buddy heaters and about 8 20lb tanks. Cooked on Coleman propane stove with another tank and a Coleman L found in camping section of Walmart. Can have propane heat, cooking, light all from one tank for several days.

  20. This was a marvelous article Sandra. I’m really glad you shared your experience. Made me stop and think about things. A few more prepping ideas came to mind in addition to what I mentioned above:
    (1) You seem very concerned about carbon monoxide. A carbon monoxide detector (BATTERY powered) would likely give you some peace of mind. They cost about $50. Things that smolder (cigarettes, charcoal, incense) give off tons of carbon monoxide. Things that burn with a flame (candles, kerosene lamps, Coleman lanterns) give off very little.
    (2) Oxygen depletion is a greater concern. A flame needs oxygen to burn. You need oxygen to breathe. The tighter you seal up the house to keep out cold drafts, the more you seal out the oxygen you need. No black-and-white solution here; you must find a balance.
    (3) When my wife and I remodeled the kitchen, we replaced the electric range with a gas range. We now have a tank of propane out back. In a blackout, the stove’s electronic sparker doesn’t work to light the burner but a match works just fine. No reason you can’t cook in your own kitchen on your regular stove.
    (4) As a child, when Mama tucked me in at night, she put a glass of water on the nightstand. In the morning it would be frozen. Our situation was not unique. The survival techniques of the day were to put the children in bed together for body heat. Use flannel sheets. Down-filled comforters. Long-johns. Wool socks. “And Mama in her kerchief and I in my cap had just settled down for a long winter’s nap.” Cold as our house was, we never slept with hats on. But, if need be, it can be done, just as it was in The Night Before Christmas. As kids, in the morning we would “get dressed under the covers.” Reach out an arm, gather up our clothes, and get dressed in bed, literally and totally under the covers. When we got out of bed we were fully dressed except for shoes.
    (5) You mention a woodstove. A Ker-O-Sun type space heater (catalytic converter) might be a better bet. No outside venting (chimney) needed. For the BTU’s produced, the fuel takes up a lot less storage space than firewood.
    (6) For 20 years after college I lived just southeast of Lake Ontario (Great Lakes). Lake-effect snow. Storms and blizzards you wouldn’t believe. To this day, in the car, in the winter, I carry a box in the trunk. It contains a tow chain, jumper cables, tire pump (that plugs into the cigarette lighter), windshield washer fluid, paper towels, dry gas, starting ether, and a bag of rock salt. The snow shovel with the collapsible handle and the ice scraper/snow brush are too big for the box and are carried separately. I cannot imagine leaving home in the winter without those things in the car (either to help myself or to help someone else). But I had a friend this winter drive down from Toronto. And this has been a brutal winter. He didn’t even have a pair of gloves with him. Say what?

  21. After reading through the comments, I’d like to make one post – trying to cover as much as possible, in no particular order.

    I did not mention we are senior citizens and both have either health or mobility issues. Maneuvering on ice or not staying warm is a little more difficult for us.

    Yes, we were concerned about the kerosene heater, especially when we were sleeping. We do not have a carbon monoxide detector (which is now on the list) and that’s not exactly the way I intend to meet my Maker.

    Lighting was a bigger problem than expected. As I mentioned above, we are senior citizens, so our eyesight isn’t the greatest. I had thought about mirrors behind the oil lamps in the future, but flashing would have less chance of being broken – therefore, I will experiment with flashing.

    We have headlamps, which I could’ve used for reading or crocheting, but I thought it better to save all the batteries we could (although we have a good stockpile). We had no idea how long the power would be out.

    The outdoor solar lights were brought in each evening and set back out on the porch the next morning. You can put your re-chargeable AA batteries in solar lights and re-charge those for other gadgets.

    Bathing: I have taken many a bath in a wash tub or wash basin – even used an outhouse many a time. My grandparents’ well didn’t have a pump. As a child I would drop the bucket into the well and crank it up then take the water bucket in the house. We also had a metal tub of drinking water with a dipper that anybody and everybody drank from.

    Con Men: I have no use for anyone who would gouge people in time of need. Bartering in really bad times is another story, but pure thievery – no way. If you want to buy a ‘pig in a poke’ from a truck on the side of the road, go ahead. How do you know if it works, has a motor or some thug basically stole your money and sold you a heavy box?

    The person who mentioned having a C-PAP and solar panels: I hope you have safe means to clear ice from your solar panels. Some locals had their battery system run down because the ice kept the panels from working properly.

    The dimensions of the camp stove oven are just a little bigger (front to back) than our 2 burner stove. We plan to prop the front with bricks to balance the oven.

    Camping: Maybe in our younger days but we aren’t physically capable of outdoor camping now.

    The wipes and body wash Gaye linked to have been added to my list.

    And to the person who mentioned The Survival Podcast, I don’t listen to the podcasts anymore but am active on the TSP forum when you can get a word in edgewise with Cedar. lol

    I honestly believe the lighting issue bothered me so much because I’ve been crocheting chemo hats for kids in the hospital and felt like I was wasting time.

    Another thing I failed to mention. I listened to the radio quite a bit. People were calling in telling where power was back on (such as groceries, restaurants, gas stations). Several people called in and talked about the madness and bickering at grocery stores. I’m so thankful we didn’t have to make a grocery run at all.

    Thank You to all who commented and we will be looking into the items you referenced.

    • Sandra – thank you for the story. I too am a senior, but live by myself (other than my 3 dogs) so I can put up with a lot that I would be upset about if my wife were still alive. As for the solar cells, they are on the south side of the house and partially protected from the ice. Snow would probably be a problem. I do have three oil lamps as well as numerous candles, plus around a half dozen flashlights (two being solar powered). So I didn’t depend on the solar array for light, but could have. When I rebuilt this house thirty years ago I made sure there was a wood burning stove in it. There are plenty of trees around if I have to cut them for heat I will, or like I keep telling my younger sis, I can burn the furniture if it comes down to staying alive! And isn’t that what prepping is about? Staying alive and keeping loved ones alive and comfortable?

    • Sandra,

      We’re a bit further north, so we were buried in a foot of snow, but were also without power for five days. I found an LED lantern which was serviceable, and we could read, but it wasn’t great. Since the storm, I ordered this $50 double-wick kerosene lamp from Lehman’s:


      I tested it after it arrived by turning off all the lights in the living room and reading only by the light of that one lamp. It is brighter than you’d think, and my eyes were fine after several hours of reading.

      The Aladdin ‘mantle’ lamps are brighter and more efficent but I didn’t want to spend that much.

  22. Hi, Possible distant Cuz!
    I lost power for a day and a half in the same storm. Could have been a couple more days, but we got news coverage, and an hour later the linemen showed up to replace the damaged pole.
    I did the same evaluation of my preps afterward that you do in this article.
    Rather than a kerosene heater, I have a propane heater rated for indoor use. I burned through 2 pounds of Propane using it sparingly.
    As an indoor minimum cooking option I suggest Sterno. Small Sterno stoves can be had cheep on ebay. Yes it takes about 15 minutes to boil a couple cups of water, but it does work, and usually is safe for indoor use. In fact I found an old fondue pot and stand for a buck at the local good will store. I can put a small pot or pan on it to fry an egg, or to warm a can of soup, if outdoor cooking seems unpleasant.
    I have a wood burning fireplace that I haven’t used in ten years. After the lights came on, I went out and bought a few bundles of wood against future need. Some simple way to do some minimal cooking in the fireplace may be worth looking into for me.
    As for recharging my cell phone, I used a portable jump starter. After all, it’s just a portable DC battery. It should be good on a single charge just for recharging my cell phone for months.
    I figured out that an old rubber dusch bag with the spray type nozel can be filled with warm water, hung off of the shower head, and used as a makeshift shower. It ain’t much, but it kind of works.
    Another thing I did was to put a couple of long nails up at the corners above my front door, which is mettle, and is the chief source of cold air getting in. I used two tarp clamps to hang a quilt over the door. I made a big difference. If things hand gone on for more days, I would have done the same with the windows as well. I also was preparing to create a tent over my bed, by tying a pole to the headboard, and to the footboard, and running a rope between. Then, two comforters can he clamped together, and hung over the rope, creating a tent over the bed to keep warmth from escaping. Cloths pins can be used to close the ends somewhat.
    I sure hope that many read your article. I also noticed that most of my neighbors were unprepared for the outage. When the power went out, they scattered like roaches to local motels and relative’s houses. If the outage had been regional, or hemispheric they would have been in real trouble.
    Also, I don’t have a generator. I’ve had numerous opportunities to buy one for under $200. The problem is fuel. They eat you out of house and home, unless you have a diesel, or one that runs on natural gas.

    The one thing that I really need to work on, is that I did a lot of going back and forth gathering equipment, and supplies. I need to organize things so that they are more readily to hand if needed. This alone should lessen the stress of the situation.

  23. On yea,… You know one major new insight that I gleaned from the experience?
    You have the most supplies and other resources that you may ever have, at the very outset of the event. At that moment you are the strongest you may ever be. At that moment you have the most options you may every have. The more you wait and use down your resources, the less your options become, till you eventually are forced into making decisions when you are at your weakest.
    Better to make big decisions right at the outset.

  24. For a really good backup light, I would suggest the Rayovac Sportsman LED 240 lumen lantern. This one sells for about $27 on Amazon, and is bright enough to read by, cook by, or to use around the house, yard, or for camping. It uses 3 D cells, and will operate for 40 hours on the high setting, 90 hours on low. Rated 4.6 stars out of 5 on Amazon with over 1700 reviews. There are some others listed, the Supernova 300 lumen at about $30, and the Lighting Ever 300 lumen for $19, all of which are rated very good, with free shipping with Amazon Prime. Buy a package of alkaline D cells at Costco or Sam’s club which will store for 6 to 8 years, and you will have a great light capable of getting you through some weeks of power outages. Purchase some rechargeable D cells and a good 12 volt/ 120 volt charger or a 12 volt marine battery, and you can recharge for a number of times. A solar panel kit such as Harbor Freight’s 45 watt kit is also nice to have. If you go with the rechargeable D cells, be sure to get those with at least 8000 milliamp hours, not the Eveready variety of D cells which are useless.
    I have been using the Rayovac 240 lumen lantern for about 3 years, and love it enough that I purchased one for each of my adult children. Remove the batteries if you are not using it for an extended time period.
    Also, I would suggest that you convert your generator to operate on 3 fuels, gasoline, natural gas, and propane. Natural gas will usually not fail, unless there is a large disaster such as a major earthquake or severe flood, etc.

  25. Thanks for this. While we had our own mid-winter power outage not too long ago, and were able to ‘test’ our preps, it’s nice to get feedback on someone else’s experience.

    The Thermos tip is brilliant. I never thought of that, but just took a note to remind myself to look for where I hid mine.

    I also never considered extra wicks for the kerosene heater.

  26. Are you sure you must have the motor running to charge your cell phone? During a five-day aftermath of a tornado when I had no power for 5 days, I could plug my charger in and charged my phone in the car. If you cannot, could it be something with the charger?

    • A friend gave us an inverter/charger for our vehicle which claimed that it would shut off when the vehicle battery got low. It didn’t shut off. Fortunately we had another vehicle with us and jumper cables.

      Now we were charging multiple electronics, not just one cell phone, and that certainly made a difference drawing down the battery, but I don’t think it had anything to do with the inverter not shutting off before killing the battery.

      Another reason to try out gear before a crisis…

  27. I live without electric. Your eyes can get used to low intensity lighting ( oil lamps, candles, etc. ), mine did. I can read, crochet, sew, and do whatever by oil lamp or candle light. Lower intensity lighting is also better for your natural night vision. Our ancestors had no electric, they survived just fine. You need to have a water source close by that is naturally renewable, like a well ( with a hand pump ), lake, year round creek, pond, river, spring, such like. Stored water will run out. Make sure you have a good filter system like a Berkey. If local regulations allow, instal a wood burner. SHTF, the furniture in abandoned homes can become your fuel. Always have a stock of good warm blankets! Generators are a great short term answer, but a long term expensive piece of junk. How much gas did you store for it? is it treated with Stabil? Have you practiced using your generator and ran it occasionally to make sure it works? In the event of an EMP, your generator could be fried along with everything else, especially if it is wired into your home. Do you have the knowledge and equipment to make your own alternate form of refrigeration such as a zeer? If you have a well and the only pump you have is an electric one, how will you draw out water when the grid is down and the generator breaks? Can you make your own water filter? Can you fix the generator? My cell phone is the least of my worries. I can live without the little digital parasite for a few days ( forever when SHTF strikes ). We need to stop thinking about life through grid powered thoughts and look to our ancestors. How did they live? Even if you don’t live as they did (and I somewhat do), at least have the knowledge and equipment to do so. It can save your life someday.

  28. Sandra thanks for sharing your experience. We too were affected by the storm.
    One thing to look into for lighting are “What a Light” I got a set of 2 from HSN. They are rechargeable LED lights we found them invaluable. They’ll last for several hours and will light up a room, as said they are rechargeable. We have a generator so we used them during the evening then plugged them in overnight to recharge.

  29. We survived the same storm and made out pretty good. We were lucky. We took. advantage of all the free ice and filled ziplocs which we shoved into every nook and cranny of the fridge and freezer to keep everything chilled to safe levels. The idea of using the indoor/outdoor thermometers is ingenious! Will definitely have to remember that one for next time.

  30. My power was out for 12 hours,so no biggie.Used coleman ice chest,added ice and snow from front yard,put longer lasting food in there.
    Stayed off the roads,til clear and safe.
    Was on Facebook,where people were complaining about the power out and losing hundreds of dollars worth of food and is the govt going to pay for it….I did reply ” no,you are responsible for your loss since you bought it”.Most people were venting because their kids were without their electric toys.One lady was need of help,her daughter is an invalid on a breathing machine,air bed,etc and their generator was running to the max.Their local power company had them on a priority list for repair but no response,so she contacted Governor Haley for help.

  31. When the going gets tough, the tough go fishing. even in an ice storm. Those of us that don’t have enough sense to get in out of the rain have good rain gear.

  32. We use kerosene heaters as a primary source of heat here in New Hampshire. We’re in an old 1858 farmhouse, and also have a pellet stove – which does not cover several rooms.
    It is perfectly safe to use kerosene all night. As long as you have an adequate flame – in other words, little or no odor – it emits very little carbon monoxide. As a matter of fact, our heaters are UL listed!
    Propane is NOT safe, however. Propane, even with a proper flame gives off copious CO. Only “vented” propane appliances should be used.
    Our kerosene heaters include 100 year-old versions from a company called “Perfection” as well as more modern Japanese heaters.

    • I’m an HVAC tech with 20+ years experience. Any modern heating appliance running properly will emit levels of CO below the allowable limit. The type of fuel is irrelevant. ALWAYS have a CO detector anyway. There comes a time in the life cycle of every appliance where it is no longer “running properly”. It’s preferable to have a CO detector alert you rather than sirens.

      Kerosene is a very complex fuel made of many compounds. The composition can also vary from batch to batch. The more complex the fuel, the harder it is to maintain a “clean burn”. Poor maintenance on a kerosene heater can make it produce copious amounts of CO and equally copious amounts of death. Properly maintained though, they are completely safe.
      Propane is mostly a single component. It’s very consistent from batch to batch. It’s extremely difficult to make a vent-free radiant propane appliance produce dangerous amounts of carbon monoxide. Asphyxiation due to low oxygen levels is the main risk.

      Nearly every jurisdiction prohibits the use of ANY vent-free device as a PRIMARY heat source by code. If it doesn’t have a chimney going outside, it’s “vent free”.

      Either way, CO detectors are very cheap insurance against disaster.

  33. Excellent column, and I’m making a list of items based upon it, but I do have to take exception to the denunciation of “scammers and con artists” with generators. The last thing a community needs is law enforcement thugs running off people selling products at agreed-upon prices. I assume these “con artists” did not force anyone to buy from them?

    I lived in Boston in 1979, during one of the gasoline crises. It was very hard to find a gas station that hadn’t run out. But one station always had gasoline for sale, for $1.57 per gallon. That doesn’t sound like much today, but back then there was OUTRAGE that the price was too high (cue the usual adjectives: “gouging”, “rip-off”, etc.), and the government, with much pomposity, shut the place down. After that, once again, there was often no place to get gas if you really needed it. Thanks SO much, government!

    Reducing the choices that people have to trade freely is not a proper function of government, IMHO. Nor is it in any way helpful; quite the opposite.

  34. A good article except for this one item:

    2. Scammers and con artists came to town with truckloads of $400 generators they were selling for $1,400 to $1,600. They were quickly run out of the county by local law enforcement – citing the creeps didn’t have a business license.

    Basically you are saying that you are fine with law enforcement deciding that your friends and neighbors didn’t need a generator, regardless of their needs or what it was worth to them.
    People coming to your area with generators are providing a service. If their service is priced higher than what people will pay, then they won’t be able to do business.
    If their service is in demand at an agreed upon price then needs are being met (i.e., people now have generators who otherwise wouldn’t have one) and it is those who would run them off and call them names that are the creeps.

    • “fine with law enforcement deciding that your friends and neighbors didn’t need a generator”

      Exactly, Elder.

      There are scammers and con artists who take advantage of disaster: they are the ones contracting to provide goods or services, then take the money and run without fulfilling their side of the bargain.

      The people who honorably provide scarce goods and services at above normal market prices are not scammers and con artists. They may look the same, but unlike the scammers, they fulfill their end.

      • Agreed. And it’s the job of the individual to discern the difference between scammers and legit profiteers, not the government. After all… isn’t government the biggest con artist of them all?

  35. Great article. We went through the same situation here is Missouri a few years ago, except most here were without power for 2-6 weeks!

    A few suggestions on how to do things much more efficiently:

    Generators are about the least efficient source of power possible. Unless you are using 70% of the rated capacity, you are wasting huge amounts of fuel.
    Get a bunch of inverters from Harbor Freight or Amazon. Power these off batteries (even from your car, which just happens to have a charger and generator built in), but preferably deep cycle batteries. You can run SMALL loads this way for days using very little fuel. A 9 watt CFL light bulb can run for 200 Hours on a deep-cycle battery before needing a top-off. We have several, so we can charge some (outside!) while the others are in use. This will power all our essentials like lights and electronics with just a couple gallons of gas a day.

    With the aforementioned power setup, you can ditch the crank devices and charge lots of batteries. The life cycle of such “emergency” devices is substantially shorter than the life cycle of rechargeable batteries. Not to mention the cost of such specialty items are pricey. Small CFL bulbs put off a tremendous amount of light and can go a long way to softening the “snippy tempers”. Having our “Linus blanket” assortment of electronics still available, even more so.

    A vent-free propane stove will be a much safer and economical heat source. While not intended to be a primary heat source, they can do so in an emergency. While they produce almost no carbon monoxide, a CO detector is cheap insurance. They can consume a lot of the oxygen from the room, but all new models have safety devices to shut it down if oxygen in the room falls to unsafe levels.

    Big coolers are a must. We simply loaded our food into coolers and put them out on the porch. Coolers go both ways, they can keep food from freezing in low temps.

    Completely agree with Elder above. If you don’t want to buy a $400 generator for $1,000 or more, then don’t. But please don’t use the stormtroopers to prevent those who wish to from doing so. Here in Missouri, they enacted anti-gouging measures immediately. The result; massive shortages. People were buying much more than they needed at the artificially low prices which prevented many people from getting any at all. There were a few who defied the govt and raised their prices. They ended up being the saviors of the people. Much better to get kerosene at an inflated price than to watch your family freeze.

    • Our local oil supplier here in NC was asked to truck diesel fuel and gas to NY city area after Sandy.
      They didn’t reimburse them for the extra time to avoid the tunnels or bridges(Terrorists-could have had convoys). Couldn’t charge extra for the very needed fuel. After one or two trips they said forget it.
      Government doesn’t understand the profit motive because they take our money and print more so they don’t know people have to work for it. Let people get paid for helping out and help will come. We are a great country with great resources and helpful people. The government frequently screws it up.

  36. Awoke this morning to no power (Ice storm in Memphis).

    My first observations:

    1) Funny how I keep flipping those wall switches when entering a room…
    2) Bought a generator last month even though our “power never goes out.”
    3) Started the generator and got my furnace running – the house has gas heat but needs the electricity to run the blower motor.
    4) Had to hunt around for my coffee maker, then hunt down the filters but was able to have coffee this morning!
    5) Learned that you NEVER leave the coffee pot on the stove unattended when reheating the coffee. Got to scrub out the bottom of my coffee maker after burning the coffee.
    6)Was thankful Lowe’s was open to buy additional extension cords – should have done this in advance – but now we have the freezer, fridge, and modem working!
    7) Clerk at Lowe’s said they sold out of generators immediately this morning…
    8) Long way to go on my prepping but thankful to all who contribute ideas, lists, and experiences to help each other become more prepared. 🙂

  37. sorry, don’t have time to read all comments, hope i won’t make a duplication.

    as far as ‘tea light’ technology, try flowerpot heaters instead of that killer kerosene heater.. cheap. just google, slight variations in design and output.. good luck, thanks for the links on the herc oven, it gave me some ideas. that price is quite prohibitive, i’d like one that can work either on top a coleman stove, or can be powered by tea lights, or maybe even be used in a fireplace.

    sidebar on the covered outdoor cook space, even a large patio umbrella can suffice, or if not too windy, a cheap collapsing tent/marquee can be had for < $100. Of course in wind, you'd want tie downs or spike ins….

    again, good luck to y'all!

  38. As some one who has had to work outdoors in single digit temps, I can attest to wool. It works even when it gets wet. I especially value wool socks as it is hard to work in snow without getting your feet wet,

  39. 1) When running generators some folks don’t realize that you shouldn’t use the orange 16 gauge extension cords on their fridge and freezer because it could screw up the compressor. 14 gauge or higher is needed depending on how long your extension cord run is and how big of load the fridge and freezer has.

    2) For a portable shower, heat up some water and pour it into a NEW lawn and garden sprayer and stand in the bathtub or shower when you use it …. cost less than $10 at Amazon. (Hint –> don’t use the one you have already used for bugs or weeds)


  40. Thank You to all who have offered ideas & constructive criticism. My hopes are that others can learn at least one thing from our experience.

    We had other options if the power had been out longer – for instance our grown children have wood burning stoves, fireplaces, generators, wells, etc. You always have to have backups to your plans.

    A few of you may want to research: Murphy Village SC Irish Travelers

    • We were in Aiken County during this, near Saluda, but fortunately didn’t lose power. Apparently lots of folks on this site are in our general area. Sandra, I almost snorted my coffee from my nose when I read your above remark. If people research Murphy Village SC Irish Travelers, they’re liable to learn all kinds of interesting facts, LOL! Glad we all came through okay, thanks for the article!

  41. before I bought my generator I used Coleman lights : I had a 2 ft square mirror that sat behind the one on the mantelpiece that nearly doubled the light in the room.

  42. Those folding Coleman ovens sure seem like a good idea but please read my review on Amazon after testing one (they’re unsuitable unless you have a lot of fuel to burn).

  43. If you’re using a woodstove for heat in the winter, you can easily make coffee on it. Get an old-time enameled pot like you see on cowboy shows, fill the lid almost full of coffee grounds to measure, put them in the pot and fill with water to just under the spout at night before you go to bed. In the morning put the pot on the woodstove until you see steam starting to come from the spout, but don’t let it boil. Sprinkle a little cold water on top of the coffee to settle the few grounds that haven’t sank to the bottom and pour carefully to avoid disturbing the grounds on the bottom. You’ll be surprised at how smooth it is. I make coffee this way every morning that it’s cold enough to have a fire all night.

  44. My 2 cents about icestorms. We, in Northern NY had Icemas 2013. 4 days without power. On Kerosene heaters: You do not have to shut them off every 30 minutes. Run them the full tank. They only smell on startup and shutdown. Open a window 1″ and you will be fine. Look for the Perfection Kerosene heaters. The Fount can be removed and filled outside so you do not have to carry the heater outside or fill inside.
    On lighting: For heat and light you can’t beat a Perfection Firelight, 300 candlepower and 11,000 BTUs. Otherwise, a #2 or #3 burner in a kerosene lamp burning “Kleen Heat” #2 = 12 CP output and a #3 = 20 CP output.
    On Cooking: Propane is best in a cooktop with a Burnzomatic butane starter of if you are electric a kerosene stove works great and you don’t have to go outside to cook. There are modern ones but I use the vintage Perfection stoves or the Swartz modern reproductions (see Lehman’s website).
    Why am I big on Kerosene? It provides me heat, cooking and light if I run out of “Kleen Heat”. But you must store some ahead of time. I purchased a 55 gal. blue plastic drum that was used, added a barrel pump and slowly filled it 10 gal at a time each pay period. That with a few gal of “Kleen Heat” from Home Depot (that is only available in the winter) and at least one spare wick for each size lamp, heater and stove (most are available from http://www.milestair.com)and you have heat light and cooking covered.

  45. A Bike can be hooked up to generate electricity for powering a cell phone… and provides an activity.

    A plastic drop cloth and duck tape for an impromptu shelter from rain, snow or wind to protect flames.

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