How to Prepare for and Stay Comfortable During a Power Outage [Short term and Long Term]

SurvivalWoman SurvivalWoman  |  Updated: December 16, 2020
How to Prepare for and Stay Comfortable During a Power Outage [Short term and Long Term]

Editor’s Note: This resource has been combined and updated!

With winter comes the wind, the snow, the ice and the extreme cold. And, more likely than not, winter will also bring the occasional power outage.

Have you asked yourself what you would do if the power went out for a day or two or for even a week? What would you do? Could you fend for yourself? Could you keep yourself warm in the winter and cool in the summer? What about food? Would your refrigerated and frozen items spoil? And yikes! What would you do about money if credit cards and ATMs no longer worked? Did I mention that in all likelihood you would not have internet access either?


Today I would like to provide 15 tips for getting through short-term power outages. These are the power outages that occur during winter storms or when a vehicle hits a power pole. (Longer term, apocalypse type outages are a subject for another time.) Now if you have a good memory, you will recall we discussed this subject back in July. That was summer. And now, with the cold months ahead of us, it would not hurt to have a refresher course.

We count on electricity for heat, food, medical, communication and financial needs. Our appliances and work-saving devices rely upon a source of electricity for operation and even many gas-powered appliances such as furnaces and hot water heaters need electricity to run. The worst thing about it is that when the power goes out, it is likely to be the result of some other emergency such as a hurricane, tornado, or winter storm. This means that the folks that are supposed to fix the problem may be spread wide and spread thin and it may be days before the lights are back on.

A power outage is not something that just might happen. I can pretty much guarantee that it will happen. The more you can do to prepare, the greater the likelihood that you will be comfortable and that will only suffer an inconvenience when the lights go out.

15 Tips to Start Prepping

1. Have flashlights ready in multiple, easily accessible locations around your home. Be sure to also have plenty of fresh, spare batteries. You need one really great flashlight but it is also nice to have a bunch of small, handheld LED handheld flashlights.

2. Have emergency candles plus matches available as well a candle lantern, oil lamp, or propane lantern. Be sure to include some longer, fireplace type matches or a butane wand for lighting fires in your fireplace or outdoors in a fire pit,

3. Have either a battery-operated radio, solar radio or hand crank radio so that you can stay in touch with the world. Make sure your radio is in working condition by testing it at least once a year.

4. Learn how to cook over an open fire, using charcoal or wood or even biomass.

5 Make sure you have a manual can opener for opening cans of food. If you are a coffee drinker, also have a French press available as well as pre-ground coffee,

6. Fill the empty space in your freezer with containers of water. Frozen water will displace air and keep food cold longer if the power goes out. Remember to leave space in containers for ice to expand. Empty milk cartons can be repurposed in this manner.

7. If you use a landline, have at least one phone with a handset cord in your home. Many cordless phones will not work in a power outage. Cell phone users should keep their cell phones charged and at the very least, pick up a cell phone car charger so you can charge the cell in your car if it runs down.

8. If you have an automatic garage door opener, learn how to use the manual release to open your garage door manually. Keep the instructions handy – perhaps taped to the inside of a closet door – so you don’t have to search for them when the time comes.

9. Keep your automobile’s fuel tank at least half full. Many gas stations will not be in operation during a power outage. And please – fill up your tank if a major storm is predicted.

10. Once the power goes out, unplug sensitive electrical equipment such as computers, printers, televisions, and audio equipment. When the power comes back on, there may be power spikes that can damage delicate electronics. I know, it has happened to me. Keeping these items plugged in to surge protector helps but it is still best to unplug these items from the wall completely.

11. Do not open refrigerators or freezers any more than necessary. An unopened refrigerator will keep food cold for approximately 4 hours, an unopened freezer will keep food frozen for approximately 24 hours and even longer if it is located in a cold garage. You will need to throw away any food items that become warmer than 41 degrees. No testing, no tasting. To the garbage it goes. Sorry, that is just the way it is.

12. Keep a supply of books, board games, playing cards and other items available to keep you entertained and amused during a power outage. A bit of chocolate and a bottle or two of wine or whiskey would also help in the amusement area.

13. Be wary of the possibility of carbon monoxide poisoning, which is caused from exposure to odorless fumes created by charcoal grills, camping stoves or generators that are operated inside a home or garage. Never, ever burn charcoal or use gasoline or propane-powered equipment inside your home. Don’t even do it in your garage or on your porch. Use such equipment only when you’re completely outdoors.

14. Notify your power company in advance if you use special healthcare equipment like oxygen generators or dialysis equipment that require power. Most power companies have the ability to note this in their records and will prioritize the response to your home.

15. If your budget allows, acquire a portable generator. Learn to safely use your generator and test it monthly. And don’t forget to store enough fuel to run the generator for up to a week. Alternately, you can look into solar generator options which are becoming increasingly reliable. Remember, your portable generator does not have to run full time. Your refrigerator will be just fine without power over night when it is not being opened and closed repeatedly.

Other Recommended Preps for Power Outages

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?

The following items will help you to sail through a power outage:

  • Solar battery charger Very handy for charging batteries to power flashlights and other battery powered devices.
  • Stock supplies for bundling up. Blankets are good, but a nice toasty sleeping bag or down comforter is better. A heavy jacket and socks are good, too. Plan to add layers for staying warm in a grid down scenario. Long johns, covered by clothing and topped with a jacket will serve you well. Don’t forget hats, scarves, and fingerless gloves, so that you can stay warm and still function.
  • Store foods that require very little in terms of warming or cooking. These foods should be items that your family normally eats. Suggestions? Canned meats, peanut butter, crackers, canned fruits and veggies granola bars, and cold cereals. If you are a coffee drinker, include some instant coffee as well.
  • Chemical light sticks. They are more versatile than you might expect. (Here are 10 reasons you need them in your emergency kit.)
  • 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.

How to Survive a Long-Term Power Outage Grid Failure

Okay, so the short-term power outage is now a long-term – grid down – failure. What now?

Day One: Cities are Hit the Hardest

  • Thousands are trapped in elevators
  • All electrical appliances are shut down and inoperative, including refrigerators, freezers, heating units, air conditioners
  • Water faucets run dry
  • Because there is no water, toilets no longer flush
  • ATM machines are inoperative
  • Banks and other businesses are shuttered
  • Emergency generators provide pockets of power and light but, for the most part, there is profound darkness everywhere
  • Battery-powered radios and cell phones still operate but there is no word as to the cause or scale of the power outage
  • Gas stations without generators cannot pump fuel

Day Two: Confusion Reigns

  • Drugstores and supermarkets have been stripped clean of all goods
  • Law enforcement personnel are overwhelmed by medical emergencies and scattered outbreaks of looting
  • Batteries on laptops and cell phones are dying
  • Radio updates offer conflicting descriptions of the outage and there is no credible news relative to the expected duration
  • Officials disagree as to whether residents should find shelter or evacuate (but to where?)
  • Bridges and tunnels are backed up for hours

Day Three: No Gas, No Water, and No Food

  • All gas stations have run out of fuel
  • Water is at a premium
  • FEMA has provided emergency generators to pump water and keep sewage systems operational, but supplies are limited
  • Millions of “Meals Ready to Eat” have been distributed.
  • Backup food and water supplies do not exist

End of Week One: You are On Your Own

  • Emergency rations have been depleted
  • Hundreds of the elderly and infirm have died
  • Hundreds of thousands of refugees have migrated to areas where there still is power
  • Unequipped to house or feed them, some states have instituted plans to keep the refugees out
  • Only the military can maintain a semblance of order and there are not enough troops to go around
  • Millions of people are, essentially, on their own

Week Two and Beyond: Board Up the Windows and Protect Yourself from Looters and Thugs

  • With no end in sight, hiding and defending your goods is a full time job and a number one priority
  • Law enforcement personnel are abandoning their post in order to secure their own families
  • Like-minded neighbors band together to do inventory of resources and exchange goods via barter
  • Neighbors canvass each other for skills that can be put to good use for the collective good
  • Stockpiled food is rationed to the minimum amount needed to maintain necessary caloric levels
  • Hunting, fishing and foraging for food begins and stored goods begin to dwindle
  • FEMA is nowhere to be found

Electronic Armageddon?

A while back NatGeo put out a documentary that deals with both a natural and a nuclear EMP.


A word about generators: Using a properly connected whole house generator of adequate size during a power outage will reduce or almost eliminate the impact a power outage has on your life. Before you buy such a generator, talk to an electrician about the size and type you need as well as the installation costs.

Think about what you want your generator to run. For the basics, a generator can be used to keep food cool, provide lights and electricity for stovetops, computers, telephon, s and television, and to power furnace blowers and pumps. Less important is power for washing machines, dishwashers, and ovens.

The best way to use a generator is to connect it to your home using a transfer switch installed by a licensed electrician. This will keep the power from overloading the wiring in your home. It will also keep the power from your generator from traveling back into the power lines, which could seriously injure or kill people working on power lines. Alternately, you can connect equipment directly to the outlets on the generator. If that is your method of choice, be sure that any extension cords are of the proper length and gauge to handle the power requirements of the connected equipment.

Just remember, Mark Twain said, “Climate is what we expect; weather is what we get.” A power outage is inevitable. There is really no excuse not be prepared.

Bargain Bin: Here are some useful items to have on hand when the power is out.

Ambient Weather Emergency Solar Hand Crank Radio: This is becoming a popular choice with Backdoor Survival readers. This unit is a Digital AM/FM NOAA Weather Alert Radio and a powerful 3 LED flashlight, with smart charger, all in one portable package.

Coleman Candle Lantern: When the lights go out, there is nothing like a Coleman. They last forever because spare parts are always available. A candle lantern will not give out the bright light of say, a propane or kerosene lantern. On the other hand, candles are likely to be available when other fuels are not.

Coleman Rugged Battery Powered Lantern: This sturdy Coleman has a runtime of up to 28 hours on the low setting and 18 hours on the high setting but does require D cell batteries. Personally, I have both a battery operated and propane lantern. Of course, by now you know that I like redundancy with my preps.

Dorcy LED Wireless Motion Sensor Flood Lite: I have two of these (so far) and feel that these lights are worth double the price.

AA and AAA Solar Battery Charger: Another popular item. This unit will charge up to 2 pairs of AA or 1 pair of AAA batteries via USB or solar power.

Chemical Lighting aka Light Sticks: These are inexpensive, portable and easy to use. These come in a number of colors so take your pick.

EcoZoom Versa Rocket Stove: Burning twigs and pinecones, this stove will cook a big pot of rice in under 20 minutes. The stove is solidly built and will burn charcoal as well. There is also a version that only burns biomass for slightly less money’.

Bicycle Canasta Games Playing Cards: Heck, you need something to keep yourself entertained!

100 Hour Plus Emergency Candle Clear Mist: My number one choice for emergency candles. This liquid paraffin candle will burn for over 100 hours. t is also odorless and smokeless, making it a great emergency light source that can be extinguished and re-lit as often as needed. Very safe to use.


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217 Responses to “How to Prepare for and Stay Comfortable During a Power Outage [Short term and Long Term]”

  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. Gaye:
    Great tips for short term power outages. I would like to mention that in case of longer term outages which may last for several weeks or more, that you should ensure – for security reasons – that your home does not look “lived in”, especially at night. There should be no lights on in the house, nor any cooking odors emitting to the outside, nor any sounds of radios or loud talking. Reason being, there WILL be hungry people looking for food, looting, etc. Some will have no scruples about taking your stuff from you by force. Play it safe and make your home as inconspicuous as possible. Do not flaunt your cosiness….

  7. I’m not sure how a radiant heater works, but if you have a Big Buddy Catalytic heater which uses propane, it burns the dangerous fumes produced by fire or gas. I used one for a week last year in my home with no undue affects. Make sure whatever type of heater you purchase for a confined space, like your home it is a Catalytic heater.

    The Big Buddy is the largest of the Buddy line and kept the heat constant in my home even though it was cooler in the more distant rooms. If you buy the 12′ hose and adapter you can hook it to you propane tank on you barbeque grill. Running full time it will last about 2.5 – 3 days. Fortunately we had purchased several tanks and they lasted the week.

    When you purchase the adapter, take it home and make sure it will screw on and work. They changed over the threads on propane tanks a few years ago, and if you get the wrong adapter you definitely don’t want to find out in an emergency.

    If you get any type of heater, practice hooking it up and turning it on to insure you know how to make it work when an emergency occurs. I started off using the little bottles of propane, which the Big Buddy will hold two, but they don’t last very long. There is an adjustment control on the Big Buddy that will let you control the heat. The lower it is turned on the longer it will last.

    Also, stock up on a supply of Strike Anywhere stick matches. If you buy the regular kind you find in most stores, they only work as long as the box stiker is in good condition. Also practice stiking a match, which sounds so simple, but you do not want to ruin a good match or think it will last longer than it does. You can find Strike Anywhere matches in most Farm Supply stores or non-chain hardware stores, and some Sporting Good Stores. It seems like most cities have banned Strike Anywhere matches for the kind you can only strike on a box.

    Also if you are new to having a fireplace, practice starting a fire without using newspaper and only kindling or small pieces of wood. A really easy way is to use cottonballs rubbed in vasoline or even cooking oil. Practice using them also, because they will burst into flame and might surprise you with how fast they burn and how hot they get. Buy a package of cottonballs, and after rubbing them with vasoline or cooking oil, store them in a plastic bottle, ie., pill bottles.

    • I see this suggestion a lot. If you are sheltering in place there is no need to pre-oil your cotton balls….Just own the cotton balls and Vaseline and prepare them as your need them, if you need them. In the mean time you can use the cotton balls for bunny tails on children’s costumes and the vaseline to soften the heels of your feet. Just be sure to replace what you use for normal use on a regular basis.
      Otherwise you are storing THREE things instead of two. And who has space for that?

  8. Hi Gaye,
    All good information. Does anyone have any thoughts for extended power outages in desert areas? I could use suggestions on how to keep cool when the air conditioning is out with the power. Thanks.

    • Hello Marti:
      I am an old (70yrs) desert rat from Mesa, Arizona. Back in the day when I was a kid, the ice man delivered a block of ice to our house using large tongs and a leather shoulder pad to carry it from his wagon to our “Ice Box”. My dad made the “Ice Box” out of 1-1/2″ thick pine, carved it with round corners and painted white to look like a refrigerator, since we couldn’t afford one at the time… I don’t think electric ones existed in 1947… But the Ice Man came every week. The block of ice was put in the top of the Ice Box in a tray with a drain through a tube to the bottom, where a dish pan was used to catch the melted water… The pan had to be dumped on a regular basis or the water ran over. The Ice block lasted at least a week… Suggestion: Several one gallon (or quart) sized Plastic milk cartons, with a one inch air space could be frozen and left in your freezer to have the same effect by placing them one at a time in the refrigerator space and would last at least a week. If you have a freezer in the cold garage, with (lets say 10 gallons of ice). that could last 2 weeks, with care.
      40 degrees is the limit, and a battery operated thermometer can be used with a remote sensor inserted in the refrigerator to monitor the temperature.. Made in china for about $5 bucks.

      Note: while you may be stuck in the cold for an extended time, be sure to have your photo album available to review as a detraction. And get out your old photos and make a scrap book, while you wait out the storm (emergency). Nothing like good memories to make the time go by.

      In the desert, before A/C, we had swamp coolers… before that were wet burlap bags or feed bags that may still be available at your farm stores (hay, tack, etc). Or get burlap from a cloth store, or army surplus… wet it down and hang over open windows… the evaporation from the air will cool the inside of the home – – just like it did before electricity… Also, a canvas water bag evaporates and cools the water… We use to hang it in front of the old cars on the crank, so the air would pass over it, and it had a distinctive taste that I still miss from the old days… Ohhh to have a canvas water bag.

      Google some of the old fashioned items, and see how the older generation coped with heat in the desert… You will be very satisfied… Hope this helps everyone from the desert… Apache Bob

    • These can be purchased from Canvas Specialty of Los Angeles: //

  9. 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.

  10. That chicken combo sale would be a great deal, but I can’t find it on their site. Maybe a long gone deal?

    Enjoy your writing, thanks.


  11. Generators are a good idea… as long as you have fuel! But what do you do when both electricity fail and your out of fuel for your generator?

    We got a Sun Oven. That’s a neat idea and it really works! All you need is a little sunshine and you’re good to go. It even works on cloudy days. Hot enough to cook beef stew and biscuits!

    • The SunOven is awesome, I’ve cooked a number of casseroles in mine on partly cloudy days here in MA. But for folks without the budget for it, there are a number of DIY solar ovens that just need a box, some aluminum foil and either some glass or other transparent covering. Things might not get as hot as a commercial product like the SunOven, but heating up canned foods and stews should be easy enough. I actually have enough stuff to make a few DIY units at home in case of a longer term disaster, since just one SunOven isn’t enough for a larger group.

      On the generator front, solar panels can be quite useful as a fallback. I have a standby generator piped into natural gas from the utility company, but that can get disrupted, so it’s good to have other options. You can go full size with inverters and battery banks, or keep it simple and get a solar battery charger for AA batteries so small battery powered devices will still work during an extended outage, at least as long as you have enough sunny days. I got the C.Crane units for my AA batteries, but I also got a SunJack so I can charge up the included battery packs which can then charge my Kindle and/or iPhone.

  12. I have made and hacked or modified several flashlights. Here are just two of them. I modified a lantern type (6 volt “lantern battery) with 3 leds that had a run time of 65 hours. I added a resistor which was an improvent to the original design because the original flashlight was over driving the leds with too much current. The end result is a 360 hour flashlight for 5 dollars.


    I also made a few super capacitor flashlights. This one has a run time of about 6 hours and according to the specs for the capacitor, It can be charged and discharged 500,000 times.

    Here are my two micro-solar setups:


    I have back up components and flashlights in my faraday cage because I am getting prepped for this:



  13. I have had a 10kw natural gas powered generator (generac) for 10 years. my only complaint is that the housing is finished in powder coat rather than real paint, and it is rusting out.

    We have had several outages here in NJ, some for several days. Rather than run the generator continuously, which might annoy the neighbors and/or attract thieves, I have bought inverters and deep cycle batteries that I use to run the refrigerator and heat system (natural gas hot water) over night. One size 24 battery can last all night.
    The refrigerator merely plugs into an extension cord that is readily accessible, and then to the wall outlet behind the fridge. I just unplug it and connect it to the inverter.
    On the heating system, I replaced the emergency power shutoff switch with a double pole, double throw center off switch, and connected a power cord to the one throw and the power input to the other throw, the center contacts going to the boiler power connections.
    Now I can plug the cord into the inverter and throw the switch, and run the circulator pump and zone valves, etc. off the inverter.

    Additionally I have bought a 4000W portable generator, which is housed in an unused van, as an additional source to charge the batteries. The van masks the sound pretty well and provides a secure lockable place for the gen. and spare gas cans

    • If you get in van after running generator the carbon monoxide will probably kill you. Sounds like ideal way to make CO. Closed space with engine running.

  14. you can always bring in at night all those “solar lights” from your yard-they will light up a dark house easily..

  15. ” and a bottle or two of wine or whiskey would also help in the amusement area.” As you have said, “practice makes perfect”, and I try to keep experienced in this survival tool.

  16. If you aren’t going to be using battery powered equipment like radios, lanterns, etc., it helps to take the batteries out until they are needed. Otherwise the batteries will eventually corrode and make a mess inside the device. It may be possible to clean it out or the device may be ruined.

    • If you purchase a flashlight already with batteries in it, there is (usually) a small piece of plastic stopping the flow of current somewhere inside. You have to take it out to use the flashlight.

      The same idea can be used for flashlights you don’t plan on using for awhile. Just cut a small piece of plastic or cardboard and place it between the battery and connection. That way the battery won’t go bad and corrode and make a mess (at least until after it’s expiration date.) Tip: Make sure to try to turn on the device with the piece inserted first to make sure it actually is stopping the flow of current.

      You just have to remember to take it out before you use it!

      Another plus side of this is that you already have the batteries you need, where you need them.

  17. It rarely gets to freezing here, and when it does, the cold blast is usually gone within a couple of days. But I know I am in a fool’s paradise to count on that. Besides the small equipment we have to cook and heat water out on the deck, I am thinking that chemical hand/foot/body warmers will be handy to have on a cold, dark night.

  18. I nice sized solar generator solves many many problems. No fuel issues, no fumes, silent power. check out for some sensible priced models. I was out 17 days last year. My brand new 15kwatt whole house generator was defective and went kaput after 3 hours. Once you go solar you never look back.


    Disclaimer: I now sell solar generators. You should look around, ask lots of questions and compare before such a large.

  19. There is one problem with generators, NOISE they can be heard for miles around by the wrong people. This is not from the exhaust but engine noise. If possible run indoors with good ventilation and outside exhaust pipe extension or as I have done 4 powerful fans from rear plate of server cabinet which fits over fireplace duct tape to seal with generator exhaust directly in front and powering it, in well ventilated room. You should not be able to smell fumes or fuel when running if air flow is correct. A battery powered carbon dioxide alarm in room is a good idea . never refuel while running and have foam,co2 or dry powder fire extinguisher between generator and escape route. I have inverters and large battery bank which charges from mains or generator to give 3-4 hours power before having to start to charge which is silent.

    • Ron, your post reminded me of an article I read in Mother Earth News years ago. A man had built a cabin, off grid, and used an old 6 cylinder ford engine hooked up to multiple 12 volts automobile generators. It sat outside with the radiator hose ran to a large (500 gal ?) tank in his basement. When he ran the engine to charge a large battery bank, it would heat the water in the tank. This supplied hot water for his wife to use on laundry day and hot water to shower with. His house was wired with 12 volt lights, and a 12 volt refrigerator. They make 12 volt TV’s so you could enjoy “doomsday bunkers”, so what more could you want or need. I think the water tank supplied some of the heat for his house. I don’t remember how often he had to run his engine, but I remember it wasn’t often. His electrical use was minimal. Of course he had no air conditioning. And of course, that was before $3.50 a gallon gasoline. I suppose you could install a propane carburetor on the engine and get a 500 gallon propane tank. That should keep you in electricity for quite awhile. I think this man was way ahead of the times.

      I had a neighbor that ran the exhaust from his generator into about a 15 gallon water can, and there was very little exhaust noise.

    • I was talking about 2.2kv portable generator with about 100cc engine air cooled like motorbike engine the mechanical noise from it is very high, not exhaust noise.
      I like mans system though,but I am in built up area.

  20. Having been through a MASSIVE ice storm here in the Ozarks a few years ago (some areas without power for over 2 wks): If you go to camping stores you can find 12v light sockets and 12v light bulbs. These can be hooked yo a charged battery. We save our “defunct” batteries that will no longer start a car but still hold enough charge to run a few light bulbs. 🙂
    Have plenty of paper plates and plasticware for eating. You’re not going to want to constantly heat water for dishwashing. Hand sanitizer for the same reasons.
    We have a ventless propane heater we hook up when our electricity goes out. We keep several 30lb prpane bottles fulll at all times. It’s really hard to cook outdoors on a grill when the weatheris freezing…it takes longer to get to temp and cools quickly once it does…unless you can find a sheltered area. We live in the country and a 3 sided horse shed (loafing shed) works well, so long as the wind isn’t coming in the wrong direction. 🙂
    We also have a small generator that can power one major appliance at a time…most likely the fridge and alternately the freezer.
    We have a few extra car batteries we can charge to use indoors for lighting or charging a laptop. Let’s not forget power inverters that you can hook up to car batteries and power other devices or appliances. Hooked to the charged batteries or hooked to a vehicle you’ve parked close to the house.
    The biggest problem during OUR ice storm was branches (or whole trees) breaking or falling over onto power lines (and fences) so remember to keep your trees trimmed so they will NOT be a problem for you or your neighbors. Also to keep your animals on your property. I would NOT want to be chasing my horses down the road in -30 weather!!!

  21. we have 2 mr.buddy heaters, one small, the other
    is the largest they make. we have several little green
    bottles, and hubby refills them from a portable propane tank,
    which he refills from the big main tank. we have several small
    and large generators, last year we bought a propane 110/220 generator that
    will charge batteries, and run the well pump. we have propane refers, and
    deepfreeze. we just bought 6 more batteries, and are working on a better solar
    panel system. Hopefully next year we can get a bigger propane tank. I have
    stressed the need for a 2 year supply. In my cleaning adventures over the last
    2 months, I have been finding all kinds of goodies that I stashed and forgot about.
    Being that we live in a tiny house, I’ve have to stash things wherever I could find a
    place. though we live in colder climes, and on an isolated island, we have lots of readily available sea food, and venison. I have been collecting natural remedy items, vitamins, and am getting ready
    to order a field surgical kit, and a guide book. I have a friend who has been a paramedic for nearly 30 years, so I will be picking his brain next month when he comes for a visit. a tip I ran across in my cleaning is making your own cold pack using 2 parts water to 1 part rubbing alcohol. Place in ziplock bag and freeze. I would recommend double bagging with zipper in bottom of outer bag.

    1. iF you have a hotwater heater there is generally a valve at the bottom you can drain the water heater. This water is drinkable.

    2. if you use chemicals in the water tank to your toilet this water is not drinkable in most cases.

    3. If you are out of water in your toilet, put a plastic trash bag in the toilet and do your thing in the plastic bag, everyone, in the house, and then change daily. Otherwise you will only be able to fill up the toilet until it is overflowing and then what are you going to do.

    4. If you have beef in the freezer, and there is no power, take out the beef and as it thaws, cut it up into thin strips and hang it to dry. This is a basic way to jerky meat.

    5. If you have a grill, take your pork and chicken and grill it as it thaws.

    6. If the power is out in your refrigerator, take out everything and put it in a cooler. If it is winter, set it out in the garage to keep it cool if you are in a cold weather area. If not, take out the ice in your refrigerator, put it in a plastic bag, tie it off, and stick it in the cooler with your food.

    7. If winter, and you have a Big Buddy catalytic propane heater you can use it in your house without being asphyxiated. This will keep your pipes from freezing, and if you close off rooms will keep everyone warm to a certain extent.

    8. If you have a couple of five gallon water containers, you can buy at a sporting goods store, you should be able to last three or more days without additional help.

  23. We lived for about 8 months in northern Canada without electricity when the wife and I first got married. The one thing you miss, above all, is refrigeration. Second is running water. We had an old fashioned well you pumped with the wooden handle. Everything else is minor. Kerosene lanterns for light, wood stove for heat, propane stove for cooking and a regular old fashioned outhouse for the bathroom.

    Sometimes I actually miss the early years. When the sun set it was bed time. It was so quiet in the house, due to the absolute absence of appliances, you could actually hear snow flakes falling at night.

    Now we have a back up gas generator, newer and fancier wood stove ect. ect. and enough food to last a couple of months before we have to start butchering livestock.

  24. 1. Have some deep cycle batteries and an inverter…. use it with an electric blanket and you can stay warm for a long time (even below freezing) and you can even charge the batteries with an alternator and bicycle that you can peddle.. or normal automobile as long as you have fuel.

    2. Have water!!!!!! A $50 water bed will hold 500 gallons which will save you from poor sanitation from toilets and dirty dishes. Have drinking water! You have to add bleach to a water bed to preven algy.

    3. Have 12v light bulbs (about $3 each) TURN OFF YOUR MAIN BREAKER …and you replace regular bulbs and use jumper cables and a battery and run your lights through normal switches and electrical system. Probably should unplug appliancesnces and electronics… buy you don’t want them plugged in when power is coming back online… surges will damage them.

    4. Work with your neighbors… you can share a generator for a few hours to preserve frozen food.

    5. Have canned food, cereal and other food that does not need cooking.
    misquito repellent…. if it’s hot and you have to open windows .. they may have a feast.

    7. Remember … it power is off for a long time a chain will develope like this…
    No fuel… even if some tanks are full, pumps won’t work…. transportation will break down rapidly. People will become hungry and desperate. Security will then become your NUMBER ONE most serious problem.

    8. Lay low and hide your stash in more than one place. If looters come and see you are alive they will know you have food. You don’t have to give it all away. Remember they will inspect your garbage and know what you have to eat.

    9. Know what will happen from people who survived Bosnia and other SHTF situations… read here:

    • Trash is a topic rarely spoken about in articles about prepping. Even a week’s worth of trash is going to be stinky in a short term, urban situation. That your trash is going to give away your resources to the desperate in a long term situation is something serious preppers need to be thinking about and planning for.
      Calls for some planning. Repackage your long term bulk foods into glass jars or empty 2 liter bottles, which can be re-purposed in a long term situation and not go in the trash. Vacuum seal other products: cut out the directions from packaging, dump contents into sealing pouch with the directions, dispose of evidence of good food NOW while maintaining the product for future use. Now your garage is only a clear piece of plastic.
      Get a biomass stove (Solo or other brand) to heat water with, cut evidence of food into small pieces and burn it to heat your next meal. Or save it to start fire in wood stove in the winter.
      Squish metal cans as flat as they can get before putting them anywhere they may be detected.
      Own a good shovel so you can bury anything you can’t burn. (Me, I’m gonna burn everything that WILL burn as the fog is lifting so the smoke isn’t as detectable…this includes plastics and foam…but I do try to NOT buy packaging that isn’t biodegradable. My plan is to burn small amounts regularly so the flame is small and it goes out quickly) Country folk can use that shovel to bury it in the compost pile.
      I have successfully made “fire bricks” from junk mail that are a great aide in getting fire started in a hurry. Another way to use discarded paper products to eliminate the evidence and re-purpose cereal boxes and can labels. (Directions online)
      But you need a plan for trash for the long term. If not for detection, for disease control.

  25. 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).

    • 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.

  26. 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.

    • As for burning the Crayons: they will have a strong odor to them. So if you are trying not to bring people to you, I would not use them.

  27. 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.

  28. 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.

  29. 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 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.

  30. 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.

  31. 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.

  32. 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!

  33. 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.:)

  34. 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.

  35. 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.

  36. 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.

  37. 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?

  38. 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.


  39. 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.

    • And rightly so.

      A reasonable markup for the extra labor/transportation cost is just that, reasonable. To mark up products double and triple in the face of a huge disaster is criminal and not in keeping with the teachings of ANY of the major (and most of the minor ) religions.

  40. 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.

  41. (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. 😉

  42. 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.

  43. 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.

  44. 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?

  45. 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.

  46. 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.

  47. 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.

  48. 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.

    • Hi Hank, we have a couple of the Rayovac Sportsman LED 240 lumen lanterns too, and are very happy with them. Good little lanterns.

  49. 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.

  50. 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…

  51. 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.

  52. Heres an easy emergency lamp that i made. you can extend the wick a little and it will heat a small pot of water fairly quick.


  53. 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.

  54. 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.

  55. 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.

  56. 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.

  57. 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.

  58. 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.

  59. 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?

  60. 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.

  61. 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. 🙂

  62. 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!

  63. 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,

  64. 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)


    • I forgot to mention that if you’re rich you can get one of these:

  65. 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!

  66. 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.

  67. 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).

  68. 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.

  69. 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 you have heat light and cooking covered.

  70. 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.

  71. I bought a 20kW whole house generator so we didn’t have to do a specific load sub-panel – it can power the entire house so that simplified the wiring situation. Cost a bit more, but it was worth the peace of mind. And the fuel doesn’t worry me for a normal situation because we’re on natural gas piped into the house. In a longer term grid down event then natural gas won’t flow and I fall back to alternative cooking methods and individually powered items with small solar panels to charge their batteries.
    Speaking of solar, if you install solar and plan on using it during a power outage, please talk to the installer early in the process. Most grid-tied solar systems can’t work during a grid outage. You need to have a system designed to use a battery bank, or some of the newer inverters have an emergency power outlet that can be used during a grid outage.
    I heard a good prepping saying that I repeat early and often, “two is one and one is none.” Backup equipment, plans, etc and flexibility are key to riding out any disaster. Layered prepping is key. Let’s pick on lighting for me. First line of fallback from utility power is the generator, then I have choices of kerosene lamps, candles, flashlights and battery powered lanterns. I also just got a UVPaqlite as an experiment and while it doesn’t glow very brightly, if we’re in a world without electricity it’s a decent light for use after dark, assuming you have some sunlight to charge it.

  72. I enjoy your articles and always find something “to chew on” in my concerns about future disaster preparedness scenarios.

    You recommended CYBERSTORM (the book) and I read the one-star reviews on Amazon…many, many people thought it was awful, poorly written, no character development, etc., etc. I always check single-star reviews. If there are LOTS of them, then I stay away from those titles.

    So, instead, I thought I’d recommend One Second After and the two books by A. American (Going Home and Staying Home). Those were at least credible stories with good character development, good storyline, (some) good prepping “tools” to have, etc.

    One last thing, I notice you always seem to recommend disposable plates as part of your preps. While I do use disposables when camping on our property (I use our fire pit to burn trash). A well with backup hand pump is best, but if there is a stream in your BOL, a bottle of liquid dishwashing detergent will last a LONG time. I should mention that we’ve been camping on our property for over thirty years and many years before that when growing up. If you don’t have a usable water supply, you’re already screwed. If you have “doubtful” water, invest in a Berkey (or make one using 5-gallon buckets (see online for instructions) and be SURE to purchase extra filters (they’re $50 apiece and you’ll need at least 2 spares). Note: for seasonal streams, you’ll need to invest in storage tankage and perhaps solar or 12 volt battery pumps (Harbor Freight has cheap [i.e., won’t last too long] portable pumps).

    Make a water source (and filtration, chlorination, and TANKAGE) your number one priority after getting shelter at your BOL. Otherwise, you die…just like the rest.

    As for dishes, don’t take your dishes from home for camping/bugging out. We buy cheap china at second-hand stores for camping (it doesn’t have to match)…you can get nice plates that will last a lifetime for fifty cents apiece (check the label on the back…should be bone china). I also bought over 100 pieces of silverware (stainless steel, unmatched) for $2 at a second hand store. Garage sales are also places to get a “second set” of silverware on-the-cheap. The same goes for cook pots and pans (make sure you get lids for all cookware, and AVOID non-stick and aluminum ware–for health reasons).

    I also recommend garage sales for good, used, refillable, propane cylinders (check the expiration date stamped on the top carrying handle). If it is nearing its expiry date, exchange it at Home Depot, Wal-Mart, etc. The company that does the refilling also does the testing and replaces old/defective valves. Then refill your replacements at your favorite discount service station. On rare occasions, you can also find 5-gallon plastic gas cans…I snap these up because I use them for my garden tractor as well as my generator.

    No need to purchase a rocket stove. You can use a 1-gallon paint can, a 1-quart paint can, one 14.5- or 15-oz can for the fuel inlet and a pair of larger tomato or peaches cans for the chimney. I used a hammer and a nail to punch holes in a circle that I’d drawn on the two paint cans and “cut out” the circle using a heavy-duty knife blade. About six inches below the surface in the creek bed I found a supply of clay that I used as insulation between the inner 1-quart can and the outer 1-gallon can. SInce I had all these (used) materials on hand it didn’t cost me a cent and only took a little over an hour to construct it. My only “safety” recommendation would be to wear gloves when handling the knife and to make sure the 1-quart paint can has had all the paint removed…you don’t want to be inhaling burnt latex paint.

  73. What I forgot to mention regarding my dislike of disposable plates: Even if you bag plates and leftovers to prevent stench, you’ll soon have a mountain of trash that will: 1) tell the world “where” you are, and 2) trash WILL attract vermin AND larger animals such as raccoons, bears, opossum, etc. If at all possible, burn all paper trash (including can labels and scorch those food cans/containers to eliminate food odors. This is probably illegal, but in a life-or-death bug-out scenario, I’d consider burning all that plastic and mylar packaging as well (only do it QUICKLY and at NIGHT so you don’t give away your BOL with clouds of black smoke AND be sure you don’t inhale those toxic fumes.

    • I like that “old guy”. I had never thought of the black smoke giving away your location. We have a campfire in the back yard every time the grand kids come over, and I am always reminding them NOT to put the plastic plates in the fire. I hate the black smoke and the stench.

    • This blog post really got me to thinking about getting a rocket stove (or two). I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of getting one before, probably because there’s so many other things on my list of things to get or to build.

      I like the idea of building your own stove. Thanks for the input. On the other hand, there’s this to consider:

      You didn’t mention how much clay it took to build your stove. For someone who does not have their very own stream-bed to get clay from they might have to buy some. A quick check at a craft store or Walmart, the lowest priced 5 lb. brick of pottery clay is about 9 bucks. Would that type of clay work or would you have to use Blackjack Low Fire Clay at 11 bucks a brick? Would 5 pounds even be enough? And how thick should it be? Is there anything you can do to prevent it from breaking up or cracking as it ages or from use?

      If you had to buy a cheap pair of tin snips, add another 9 bucks. Sure, you might be able to find a pair for one Dollar at a garage sale, but if you go just for the purpose of getting tin snips, what about the cost of gasoline to get there and your opportunity costs?

      If I went through all that trouble to build a stove I’d want to put a coat of Specialty High Heat paint on it to make it last a little longer and maybe come close to what I could buy, so, add 4 bucks for a can of paint.

      If I wanted a door on the stove, the cheapest form of a hinge I can think of is to use wire, so, toss another 4 bucks in.

      Total on the low side is 24 bucks for a homemade stove, unless I bought the tin cans, so, a one gallon can is about 8 bucks at Walmart, a one quart is about 4 bucks, I should get both, right? Making it a grand total of 36 bucks and I didn’t even include the cost of a hammer and nails.

      You say you built yours for free, but then I got to thinking, you didn’t include the purchase price of your land, nor the taxes you pay on it, into your calculations. The homemade stove wasn’t, “free”.

      I read that the larger rocket stoves come with cast iron tops to rest a pan on. I’m not going to add up the cost of forging my own iron and I imagine there’s a product out there somewhere I could scavenge from to make something work, but at what cost and how much time, and how well would it work, compared to what I could buy?

      There’s pros and cons to everything. Just thinking out loud, here. For an iron free 64 Dollar difference I think I would rather buy one. But then, that’s 64 bucks I could spend on something else. Decisions, decisions.

      Anyway, today I found what my boundary is for what I would be prepared for. Knowing and having boundaries is important, imho. Unless I move to South America I’m Not going to prepare for this;


      The eerie artwork at the top reminded me of homesteaders and was a reminder to me to not be overly self-confident.

    • Helot, great thoughts!

      You don’t need to buy clay. I always think: what is available? In my area there is subsoil (dry clay) about two feet down. I got it my soil from the streambed because I was hoping to find a source of water and got into the clay and couldn’t dig much further. For that matter, ordinary dirt would work too. The only reason for clay/dirt/subsoil in the first place is to act as an insulator. You could use any non-flammable material on hand. If you’re a gardener, you may have perlite, if you have a sandbox in the backyard, use some sand.

      I also tried to describe the “no tool” method. REALLY! It only took me about twenty minutes longer using a hammer and a nail to outline the holes over using a pair of tin snips. I always try to use what is available. In a SHTF scenario, you may NOT have any tools except for rocks (pounding like a hammer), sharp stones or sharp sticks (your nail), and definitely use what is available for the metal stove parts…i.e., Use a discarded 5-gal bucket…even a plastic one in a pinch because the soil/clay/dirt surrounding the inner fire chamber will prevent the transfer of all that heat to the outside container.

      Another example: I wouldn’t shrink from using a quart paper milk carton for my inner fire chamber IF I used a gloppy clay material for insulation. YES, the quart paper carton WILL burn, but if you start the fire small and “cure” the clay, it will gradually harden and leave a “clay” fire chamber in its place.

      Always try to think outside the box. Never buy materials if there is something in the recycle container that would work just fine.

      Other containers to think about: 2-lb coffee cans, metal flashing (not galvanized) that can be rolled into shape and held by crimping the ends or held with a couple of screws or pop rivets.

      Start thinking about what is available rather than what to buy. You want only basic tools (knife, fire starter, cordage, bow saw blade, etc.) otherwise you’ll either be overloaded with tools in your bug-out bag and won’t be able to run/escape when your life MOST depends on it. Think s-u-r-v-i-v-a-l, not convenience. Build your skill set, not your kit. Exercise your mind (brainstorm for “what-ifs” and “what do I with what I have on hand” rather than “what specialty tool must I add”.

      Not to quibble, but if I were to walk half a block away and camp in a ravine, I’d not have to pay taxes, etc. I could still find the necessary materials from neighboring trash cans and the side of the road. I could still find something to use as a tool. Granted, I’d want at least a pocket knife and a BIC lighter for starters, but I don’t need a chainsaw to find sticks, twigs, etc. Like I said, we have to exercise our minds if we are to survive a WORST-CASE scenario.

      Thanks for your comments!

    • HI, I have bricks in my garden I think I can use to build a simple rocket stove. What I could use is someone around the house!

  74. Hi Gaye, I love reading your post, I don’t know if you have addressed my question before in your blog, but I would like to know what one would do if they live in an apt or house with no fireplace for heat. Do you have any suggestions for a way to keep warm in a situation such as this? I have heard kerosene heaters are not a good for indoor heating.
    A generator would be hard to get up to a 2nd floor patio and are noisy. Any other suggestions?

    • Dear Jean,

      I strongly suggest you read the Propane For Preppers, The Five Part Series link above. Especially part five.

      Imho, the best start is a warm pair of snowpants. I have a second oversized pair I was going to get rid of but I thought: I can wear it over my snowpants and be doubly warm while sitting idle inside and still be able to move around.

  75. Can anyone recommend a good hand crank / solar-and-crank radio? I’ve had pretty poor luck with the ones I’ve purchased thus far.

  76. I wonder what exactly you mean by, ‘pretty poor luck with the ones I’ve purchased thus far’? And, which ones?

    Myself, I would like to get one that picks up HAM. I’ve been watching for a battery powered one even, but not sure which is good. I have a tiny 5″x3″ Grundig mini400 that kind-of gets stations in, mostly at night, and in Chinese or Spanish or religious broadcasts. I’m in a bad location though and do not use any kind of extra antenna. It’s definitely lightweight though.

    I saw a WWII era giant hulk of a HAM radio receiver for sale on Craigslist awhile back and briefly thought about getting it. I’m under the impression that tubes are a bit EMP resistant, but who knows.

  77. Helot: By “pretty poor luck” I mean that neither the crank nor the solar charging worked well (although the crank would work better than the solar). And I always made sure that the radio was capable of receiving shortwave. 🙂

  78. What 10k generator can power your whole house?

    And don’t all backup gens allow for testing at any time frequency you choose?

    • We have a Generac natural gas 10kw it powers everything in the house (1500 sq ft ranch w/basement). When it was installed they turned everything on, furnace all the lights air conditioner, etc at the same time. the generator started and ran but you could tell with the furnace AND AC, washer, dryer, etc on it was a bit labored. We wouldn’t be doing that in an emergency or shtf situation but it was nice to know the generator could handle things. Ours self starts every Sunday at a specific time to run the engine, get the oil circulating making sure it will run. Our installer told us unless we ran it continuously 365, to have it checked out every 3-4 years for maintenance, oil change. In the four years we’ve had it, it’s performed admirably and we’re going to have the first maintenance check shortly

    • We also have a Generac 10KW that is connected to 2 separate power boxes (one is in detached garage) and a master switch inside the house. Ours runs on propane.

  79. While I have a generator to run basics like the refrigerator, TV, Satellite, and a few lights I don’t power the whole house. I have LED stickup lights in the bathrooms and bedrooms. They don’ provide enough light to read by or anything but plenty to move around the room,dress go to the bathroom ect. The plus side is they are always there and light up with one touch. You replace the battery’s once a year and forget them till needed.

  80. greetings, gaye. i read all your posts & appreciate all the common sense info. i would like to add, regarding black-outs, the necessity of shutting off/down all un-necessary appliances, (lights, tv’s, electronics,the dryer, washing machine, etc) as soon as the grid goes down. how many times have we seen the lights flicker when the juice returns? all of these small ‘laterals’ add up and can defeat the efforts to restore power. for you preppers: include as many bandanas/kerchiefs in your kits as practible. last but not least a solid leather strap around your waist connected w/a solid metal buckle. no junk/laminates.

  81. I love the United States, so this is NOT trashing you guys.
    I’m from Dominican Republic, in the Caribbean, born and raised and still living here, and let me tell you, I feel sorry for you when natural disasters happen over there or just a simple power outage.
    The other day we (me and my husband) had an outage in our neighborhood due to a storm and the power was out for like two days or so and our inverter ran out of juice. My husband (american and used to A/C) didn’t know what to do with himself when it was time to go to sleep and there wasn’t even a fan on (we have two of those running simultaneously with the A/C). It was actually a cool night because it was still raining from the storm and all the windows were open so we could get some nice breeze but he was still suffering and wanted to go to a Motel to “sleep properly”. I wasn’t bother by it as much as him ’cause I grew up with 12 hours a day of NO POWER thanks to our amazing government. As long as I have running water, I’m good!!!
    I tell you this basically to corroborate Gaye’s proposition of no power for a whole weekend to know where you stand in terms of endurance and to adjust from there, to know what you and your family will need when that kind of disaster happens. No, of course is not a walk in the park (I think now-a-days a walk in the park is more dangerous anyway!!), but if you don’t panic or get desperate and you have the essential for survival you will get through it like us people in third world countries do.
    And even thou I live in a island that the big bad guys of this Earth probably don’t even know about, I am a prepper and we have our own bad guys, a stupid government and suffer LOADS of Mother Nature’s temper tantrums, so we know a thing or two about surviving and prepping for when SHTF.

  82. Last month in suburbia we had seven black outs in seven days, ranging from just long enough to trip all the switches to a few hours.

    One hit just before making breakfast, and far and away the easiest thing to use was a Coleman propane camp stove with one of the little green bottles. We keep a couple of the #20 canisters, mostly for camping but also for longer term emergencies like hurricanes, and a dozen or so of the small ones. This particular small one had been partially used a year or more ago, and still had plenty in it. Worked fine.

    Our house has excellent natural cross ventilation so we just set it up on the regular stove and cooked away. (Don’t do this in a poorly ventilated room as they make carbon monoxide, which is not a long term survival enhancer-type gas.) We ground coffee beans with a stone mortar and pestle- the bigger the pestle, the easier the grinding as the weight does the work- and used our normal French press.

    We didn’t have a problem with washing up, but if we did, we keep paper plates and bowls for emergencies. Unlike the plastic ones, there is no reason not to burn them.

    “most people already have the most basic power outage survival items on hand: Flashlights Batteries…”

    I’m not so sure about that anymore. Years ago I gave five-D-cell Maglights to several people for Christmas, and the following years followed up with fresh batteries. The third year I was told to STOP IT as they did not replace the old batteries and had no intention of doing so, even though they were free from me. I tried using one a couple years after that, and sure enough, deader than a hatchet handle. Some very smart, very well educated people just refuse to learn. I, of course, am the wierdo. So it goes.

  83. “Some very smart, very well educated people just refuse to learn. I, of course, am the wierdo. So it goes.”

    Ain’t – That – The understatement of the day/week/month/decade!

  84. Good article, but I think you are a bit optimistic that FEMA will begin distributing MRE’s by day 3. They are, after all, one of the most incompetent of all federal bureaucracies. Importantly, FEMA will have the same problem obtaining fuel that everyone else will have. No fuel = no delivery of whatever emergency supplies they have. Within the first few hours there will be widespread rioting and looting. I don’t visualize a FEMA driver with the courage to enter the flaming sector of any city without military back-up.

    Unless you have your own well with wind power, solar or a back-up generator, there will be no water for drinking, cooking or flushing toilets within 12 hours – probably even less than that in cities.

    If you are a city dweller, don’t look for any welcoming committees along your evacuation route. You should, instead, expect to find road blocks and armed barricades in front of communities that are trying to protect their own.

    • You are correct. Wasn’t it FEMA that couldn’t get supplies to the victims after Hurricane Sandy? I believe it was citizen volunteers who actually got people some water and such.

    • FEMA used to be much better, but that was before DHS swallowed them up and basically gutted them, although when Bush’s campaign director (who had no emergency management experience) was made the FEMA director he started the trimming process before 9/11. After 9/11 and with the creation of DHS in 2003 the gutting of FEMA accelerated because we had to protect everyone from those nasty terrorists, despite the relative risks of terrorism. Only 3066 Americans have been killed by terrorists between 9/11/01 and 12/31/2014, while during that same period over 16,000 Americans were murdered every year from 2001 to 2014, and over 8000 people died due to extreme weather (most because of Katrina and Sandy, but a fairly steady number in the other years from 333 to 567, with exceptions in 2011 of 1,096 and 1,451 in 2005!) Sorry for the mini-rant, the obsession with terrorism without regard to actual risk drives me a bit crazy.
      Back to the point, FEMA will probably get distributing MREs to a handful of cities within 3 days, but there aren’t enough to go around. In Lights Out by Ted Koppel he throws around the number 25 Million MREs for New York City, which means basically 3 MREs per person in the city then that’s it…so nobody should count on the government coming to feed their family during any widespread grid down event.

    • You can bet that FEMA has been tasked with a part in the COG/COOP plans for the Government. The upper levels of the Government WILL take care of themselves (shelter, water, food, security, etc.)since they are SOOO important to the U.S., even if it is at the expense of us peons.

  85. It would be interesting to know what preps nuclear sites have made for this. While we get our candles and solar panels in order, the clock will be ticking until nuclear meltdown. While they have generators, they will at some point run out of stored fuel to run the generators. Fuel will not be able to be pumped or delivered to them. I don’t know if that will be Week 1 or 2.

    • Fair point. This is a major worry. Who is it that’s going to tell you . . . or where will you go to find out . . . that they’ve run out of fuel and a meltdown is imminent? Here’s a great link from CNN, incidentally. Enter your zip code and it shows you, with a map, just how close you live to a nuclear plant. //

    • It’s not so much the cores melting down that we need to worry about, it’s the cooling ponds. Without pumps to add fresh water to the ponds the used fuel rods will boil the ponds dry and then we risk a fire with radioactive particles in the smoke. The cores can be made safe fairly quickly after the grid goes down, but the cooling ponds need fresh water for months at a minimum and maybe a year or more depending on when the last spent fuel rods were moved into the ponds. Ideally if we had a national nuclear waste storage facility, then the cooling ponds would be unnecessary as spent fuel would be sent off to a location that can’t catch fire and mess up the local environment for decades or centuries….
      Of course until then it’s a good idea to have a civil defense meter and some dosimeters so you can at least tell when there is radiation around! I keep mine in a faraday cage in case the grid goes down due to EMP rather than hacking or solar CME.

    • Without fuel for the cooling pond pumps and water for the ponds, I’m pretty sure there will be some melting going on. If this happens, we won’t need our survival supplies for long.

    • It’s highly unlikely that you’ll get an immediately fatal dose unless you live next door and don’t take any precautions. According to the CDC a dose of 2000 rads is required for death to occur within 3 days. A dose of 120 rads is survivable, although some folks will succumb, but it takes weeks to a couple of months either way.
      If you have radiation meters and can put some shielding (dirt, or concrete are easiest, but anything with mass will help) between you and the radiation you’ll be in better shape. But the best thing you can do is to use a respirator when outdoors to make sure you don’t inhale any particles. Once you inhale them you’re getting the full dose and it can’t be washed away like surface contamination.
      And those of us over a certain age, getting small radiation amounts over a long period of time isn’t as big a deal since increased cancer risks aren’t as bad for someone 50+ years old as it is for someone 10-20 years old…

    • Just as happened at Hanford during the late 40s and early 50s, those nuclear plants will have no choice but to tap into the local river for cooling and releasing the low emissions resulting. The results of which are still tapping current generations of those living nearby.

  86. I think you are optimistic on a number of things. Not only will FEMA not get you food and water, but why do you think radio stations will work. How many do you think have backup generators to keep broadcasting information and if they do, for how long? I think all your emergency generator power will be directed to hospitals, police, and other emergency operations – as long as it lasts. Your cell phone might work, but you will be cut off except for emergency calls. Most likely cell towers will not work – no power. Where I live we had a short term power outage that also took out the towers, rural of course. If your laptop survives, don’t you think your local cable distributor or satellite dish will have been fried? “They” may have hardened some internet servers, but again those connections that survive will be taken over, rightly, for emergency connections only. And people are highly stupid. They will call emergency services because their ac won’t work, but can’t imagine opening a window in their house. I could go on and on, but I think you are highly optimistic.

    • Without diesel fuel, a generator is nothing more than a lump of inert metal. Refineries depend upon electricity for production. No power = no fuel. The strategic petroleum reserve does not have the capacity to pump oil to refineries that would meet the requirements of a national emergency. There are congressional studies that detail this situation. See especially the “Report of the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack.”

    • There will be radio stations transmitting. There are a number of them across the United States that are prepared for just this scenario. People need to get solar/hand crank radios and have them shielded for use after the event. EMP will not only take down the grid, but will also open every semiconductor junction that is not shielded completely. This means transistors and IC’s will be useless. EMP will also burn out coils in un-shielded motors, generators, and any other coil of wire in vehicles or any other item. It will take days to get any kind of outside emergency response started, let alone impact any populated area. This is why the estimates are that 90% of the population will die in the first year after an EMP. It will take years to get any semblance of the grid rebuilt, and there may be areas where it never will be rebuilt. (Think large cities that have been largely destroyed or made uninhabitable) EMP is possibly a “Worst Case Scenario” in that it will not immediately kill many such as a meteorite or volcanic eruption would, but it will kill instead by attrition. It is a credible threat from a number of sources, both natural and man made. I see lot’s of prepper articles on shielding communications and other electronic gear for use post event. This is all well and good if you either have a stockpile of batteries, a shielded generator, and copious amounts of fuel for this generator. Otherwise it is useless once the charge in the batteries dies the first time. The EMP scenario is one in which many adverse situations all occur at the same time. It is one that takes a lot of thought and study to prepare for. I too believe that the above is a very optimistic estimate of what will happen and when. I would expect immediate looting of stores and warehouses followed immediately by the collapse of rule of law due to the overwhelming amount of incidents occurring in a short span of time. Whatever happens, I truly wish all of you the best of luck.

    • You forget solar panels. I have a number of small solar panels stored in faraday cages along with other electronic gear, so post EMP I will still have power. Not as much as in these grid connected days, but more than enough to run a tablet for a few hours of day, some flashlights, an electric lantern, and some small radios. I’m not a HAM, so I don’t have to worry about allocating power for a transmitter, but for prepared folks it wouldn’t be that hard to have some solar panels ready to charge up batteries for transmitters as well.
      Or for folks with good wind resources, store spare electronics for your wind turbine in a faraday cage, and you’ll have another fuel free way to power your electronics.
      Don’t get locked into a limited set of options…flexibility is key to surviving whatever comes your way.

    • I do tend to overlook solar panels, you are absolutely correct. I am both a ham and broadcaster and shielded solar panels for those two uses would be beyond the capabilities of myself and those helping me. I do keep a shielded solar/hand crank radio in my BOB, so I do have some solar capabilities. For the normal person, easily shielded, and then deployed, solar panels would be very practical.

      I have noticed one thing about solar panels that I need to mention. I have seen many, many discussions regarding EMP where people assumed that since solar panels are not connected to the grid they would survive. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Solar panels are nothing more than semiconductor junctions, and those are what will fail in transistors and I.C.’s rendering un-shielded electronic devices useless. The controls that go with them would be similarly damaged.

      If you are prepping for EMP (and you should be) only shielded electronics will survive.

    • Unconnected electronics will be ok in a geomagnetic storm, but you’re right that a lot of folks conflate geomagnetic storms and EMP. So in a Carrington-level solar storm/geomagnetic storm the electrical grid will fry, but any disconnected electronics will be fine (assuming you can power it afterwards.)
      But in an EMP situation, any electronics not shielded will cook, not just stuff plugged into the grid (as you rightfully said in your post.) This is why I have so much gear packed into trash can faraday cages. I even put some of my everyday equipment in expedient cages when NK started saber rattling while our President was tweeting about the situation. My expedient solution? Wrap item in paper, then foil, then stack items in a paper lined aluminum chafing dish that is covered with heavy duty aluminum foil. Probably not as effective as using a galvanized trash can, but better than nothing…and my wife might kill me if I put a fifth trash can in the basement. 😛
      If you’re not handy electrically speaking, Goal Zero has some nice battery packs and a number of solar panels to choose from to recharge them. Pricey, but they are selling convenience and a reputation for excellence. Something to consider if you want to keep your ham gear running post-event. Or find a copy of HomePower magazine and browse through the ads – I’ve seen ads for basically a battery pack on a two wheeler with a solar panel or two attached. A nice portable power system, although I’m not sure how easy that would be to shield from an EMP event due to the size.

  87. 1) The phony baloney “law enforcement personnel” will be the first ones to “bail out” when the SHTF, and everyone knows it. All they do now is “stand down” anyway.

    2) If you’re into schadenfreude, within a week the progressive liberal Numbskulls and Company, will begin to be eaten, in earnest, by their pet hordes of miscreants, cretins and goblins.

  88. The article mentions neighbors discussing rationing of resources, but the preppers would be better off not mentioning what they have since the unprepared mob will force “democracy” upon them by demanding an equal share of their stash.
    If a prepper has 6 months food prior to the event, he will be reduced to 6 days once his hungry, greedy and unprepared neighbors find out.
    Tell your neighbors NOTHING!

  89. Mil pattern rifles & lots of ammo to feed them will be worth as much as food.
    The unarmed liberal types will be raped & murdered within a month.

  90. Life during such an event would essentially be like what living in Detroit is like today.(Well, maybe it wouldn’t be THAT bad….)

  91. The PLAGUE begins. Rotting carcasses in nursing homes MAY entice rats and then infectious diseases MAY spread like wildfire into the surrounding communities. Or, maybe not.

    Actually, the problem of disposing of the dead bodies (from any and all causes) will be overwhelming in the cities and WHO will feel safe doing this gruesome task? Consider, if you were in charge of the morgue, and you had no electricity to operate under…or if you were an embalmer and had no electricity for the pumps, or if you were an emergency responder and you had no electricity…how effective could you be?

    It’s bad enough if you live in the countryside and the power goes out for an extended period of time…you’ll have deaths from those relying on dialysis, or reliance upon refrigerated medications (insulin), and consider all that food stored in meat lockers and refrigerators will go bad in a hurry…think the flies are bad now? Just wait.

    If you’re in a city, consider bugging out IMMEDIATELY until the threat of disease and pandemic has diminished (probably 30-90 days). Sure, the city has lots of “cool” stuff you could use, but it will all be looted within days to a week and will become an extremely dangerous place to be (especially if you have a family to defend) within just a few days. A pretty realistic film “Blackout Britain” (currently available on U-Tube) is probably the most realistic indicator of the way things will roll once people realize the power isn’t coming back on any time soon.

    There MAY be martial law imposed in the cities, but don’t be too hopeful that things will improve. Once the National (or regional) Guard realizes that (just maybe) their own families may now be in some kind of danger, we might expect some desertions?. Don’t think so? Consider, “What would I do in their circumstances?” The novel (Going Home) by “A. American” sounded pretty realistic to me.

    If you’re going to stay put, get (trade or buy) some plywood, MDF, particle board, or whatever to board up your windows to withstand the assaults of the “unprepared” on your abode. That includes fasteners. Plan for how you’ll defend your place…i.e., a camouflaged spider hole in the front yard manned with guns 24/7, or collaboration with prepared neighbors, or whatever works for you and yours.

    Stock up now on PLENTY of ammo to protect your food stash.

    DO NOT VENTURE forth any more than absolutely necessary…or you’ll be shot for “looting” very quickly.

  92. A pdf of a good short report by Lloyd’s Insurance called “Solar Storm Risk To The North American Electric Grid” is available here:


    Lloyd’s suggests that the aftermath of a CME is unlikely to be the worst case scenario of “One Second After”s EMP attack, but it would be plenty bad. especially along the Eastern seaboard and parts of the Midwest. Interestingly, they predict geographically spotty outages (there is a map), lasting anywhere from a couple weeks to a couple years, depending on severity of the storm.

    At 18 pages long, I think it is an absolute MUST read.

    Another good one is the UK government’s “Space Weather Preparedness Strategy” report. Here: //

    Among other things, it suggests that the UK would better weather a CME than would the US because, being a much smaller country, their long distance transmission lines are much shorter than ours. That means they would collect less power, and less likely to burn out.

    There is also the US EMP commission report: //

    These are all important to read. They are also quite useful for demonstrating to doubters that EMP and CME are not products of the tinfoil thinking cap brigade: This is the real thing, and they are extremely dangerous.

    Lloyd’s point: A massive CME is 100% guaranteed to occur. 100%. The only question is when: Next year, 150 years from now? They don’t know, but they are clear that it is a 100% probability. One or more well-designed EMP devices might well be worse, but those are not guaranteed to happen. A CME is.

  93. If it’s this bad now, how bad will it be when there is a major power failure? There is a wealth of information at the top of the Backdoor Survival page. It wouldn’t hurt to look through it for a refresher.

    Dozens Shot Over Memorial Day Weekend As The Collapse Of Chicago Accelerates
    Chaos and violence threaten to spiral out of control in America’s third largest city, and nobody seems to have any idea how to solve the problem.

  94. Gaye I have a friend who lives about 25 miles from a nuclear plant, if there were an EMP or power outage for a number of weeks what should her family’s plan be? Thanks!

    • Long term? Get out of there. There is no survivability at that distance. Long term power outage they have about 3 days to get gone. EMP, so undetermined when power or even IF power will ever come back on, they need to move in the first 12 hours before the people around them figure out the power is never coming back on .
      The trick is telling the difference. And that is as easy as turning on your cell phone. If your cell phone powers on it’s a power outage. If your previously charged cell phone doesn’t work, it’s an EMP.
      Power outage, car still works. Load up and drive to a safe distance away until it has been determined that the Nuc plant is safe to live around. Take supplies, documents and pictures you can’t live without with you. It could be another Chernobyl and they may never be going back.
      EMP? Bikes and bike trailers. Pack like they are never going back because they aren’t. If they get to someplace safe and survive. There is a lot of information online about cacheing supplies along your retreat route so you don’t have to carry every single calorie needed to bike to your safe place from the first moment. But you have to have a plan and you have to implement it IMMEDIATELY or you (they) will not get out of the area before the threat of violence against them starts. If they are at all concerned about surviving they need to start prepping for retreat NOW. (the first thing to do might be to move 25 more miles from plant in question, thereby giving themselves more time to get out of dodge)

  95. Good article. I’ve been following the developments the state of Oregon has been making. It openly acknowledges now, a 72 hour kit just won’t do it in a major disaster. Looking at worse case events like the subduction fault off it’s coast, the state is encouraging it’s citizenry to at least have a 2 week supply and plan. It also speaks to relying on self or neighbors for those first few days because in most areas it will be search and recovery first; then searching for bodies. During all this time, minimal local services since it will take time for local authorities to reach people…hence 2 week supply. Mention of FEMA? Don’t plan on it.
    What I’m doing now is buying 40 gallon food grade, top opening barrels for storing. After looking at the amount of flooding which we’ve seen this past summer, while I can’t personally manage a 55 gal barrel, I can a 40 gallon.

    I understand wanting to be around ‘like-minded’ people, but I have to admit, I’d rather be around people who are capable of seeing more than what I have in common with them. For it is in the ability of each seeing and contributing their opinions which may save lives in the end. Having done interviews after disasters, this is something I’ve learned. It’s more about the event pulling people together more than how each thinks.

    With that in mind, we talk about sudden events or natural disasters—that’s the frog getting put into a boiling pot. What about if/when the frog is put in cold water and then the pot is put on the fire? At what point does the frog jump out? OR is it capable of knowing it’s danger? Here’s something to think about: // Sure would like to hear some ideas with this.

    • Remember the energy crisis of the mid-70s? What with the long lines for gas but even more important was what happened with the blackouts. Do a search about what happened in New York City and the rural areas. Then consider how reliant the modern world has become on technology. Thinking of driving? Unless you have a very old car, it won’t start due to that technology we all enjoy.
      Just an update. I’ve been rotating my supplies this spring and discovered a bucket which had been forgotten for awhile. Within this bucket I found my old copy (I originally paid $3.95 with a copyright of 1974) of The Mother Earth News Handbook of Homemade Power, The dedication reads: This book is dedicated to THE ENDURANCE OF THE PLANET, A GENTLER TECHNOLOGY AND THE SURVIVALISTS that Patrick Rivers writes about. (you’ll want to check this guy out too).

      This is another old Mother Earth News book. It’s handy to have around, interesting to study, and has some interesting methods for making do with what you’ve got! Some simple solutions to homemade power, some more complicated, but it educates you as to what options you might have. I have always believed one should know how to be as self-sufficient as possible, and educate yourself on how
      to do it, just in case it’s necessary. It’s a good source of information to keep in your self-sufficiency library.
      Since I like having backup, I’ll be paying for at least 2 more and I’m figuring at least $6 more for them too. 😉

    • oops forgot…..//

  96. Filling empty space in your freezer with containers of water is a good idea for power outages. Remembering to leave space in the containers for the ice to expand is a great way to make sure they stay in good condition. I would imagine that you could probably buy ice for emergencies, whether it’s to avoid running out of for if your power goes out.

  97. Excellent article. One thing the writers are failing to emphasize, we can loss up to 40% of our body heat through out heads. Being nearly bald, on especially cold nights, I will wear a watch cap to bed. Hell, I’ll wear it around the house, I’m not proud. They are not just for outside!

  98. Even if it’s not the end of the world as we know it, there’s always a blackout somewhere. And it’s soo comfortng to be prepared. Please check out “The Non-Electric Lighting Series” (by yours truly). Gaye Levy (the lady who runs this site, Backdoor Survival) wrote the Foreword to most of them.There are eight books in the series, all priced low in a “pay it forward” manner. Homemade candles, improvised lamps that run on cooking oil, pressure lanaterns, Coleman and Petromax, etc., etc. Amazon sells all the titles in both Kindle and paperback format. Check ’em out. In my opinion, KNOWLEDGE is your best prep for just about any crises.

  99. I have not read the whole thing, but i plan on it [and saving it]. In the beginning paragraphs, you mentioned that many gas-powered appliances require electricity. Personally, I think they need to re-think the whole idea. One of the main benefits of having gas was that it would not go out during a storm. They they made them dependent on electricity! STUPID MOVE!!

  100. Great tips here. Power outage in winter is such a horrible and terrifying experience for me. Big thanks for putting thus together. Reading other comments helps as well.

  101. Brilliant article! But I have a question about one particular consequence of a long term power outage.
    Nuclear Power Stations.
    They’d have back up generators to run the coolant pumps….but what’d happen when they run dry?
    Every Nuclear Power Station would go into meltdown….and there’d be Chernobyls all over the place….right???
    How would we all survive THAT?!?

  102. One of our favorite lights in an emergency is a $1 solar light that you can buy at WalMart or any other box store. Pull the little tab and punch in the ground. Then when one loses power, go outside and pull up the little solar light and stick in a mason jar. It will stay lit for 6-8 hours. Then take it back outside again to recharge. It has been a huge help and does not require batteries or fuel and it does not smell or cost much.

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