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How to Prepare for a Long-term Power Outage

How to Prepare for a Long-term Power Outage

Why should you plan for a power outage? Because it’s sooner than you think!

Imagine a life without power. I wonder if you can. No lights to illuminate your house, roads, hospitals, offices, basically everywhere. No electricity to power satellites and charge your prized technology gizmos100” 8K Ultra HD TV, 8-camera smartphone, triple-screen laptop, and whatnot. Therefore, goodbye Netflix, goodbye Minecraft, goodbye internet (perhaps even goodbye life for many people). 

You see… power, electricity for that matter, is the bloodline of our modern society. Today, it’s almost impossible to get things done without flipping a switch, pushing a button, or touching a screen and let technology work its magic. We are hardwired to the modern power grid. 

It’s nothing short of a miracle that we’ve progressed as far as we have since the industrial era. We’ve built machines. We’ve conquered space. We’ve made life easier (so it seems). But the fact remains nothing lasts forever, even good times. 

“Hard times create strong men. Strong men create good times. Good times create weak men. And weak men create hard times.

G. Michael Hopf

Read that again.

Why you should not rely on the grid

If one thing’s for certain, it’s that the modern grid (pipelines, hydroelectric dams, power plants, power lines) is not perfect nor bulletproof it’s fragile. As a matter of fact, it requires frequent revamping and maintenance otherwise, it will break down just like that.

According to the US Department of Energy, the leading cause of power outages in the US is weather-related (up to 70%). And climate change is making weather-related disasters more frequent and more devastating. We’re talking about higher category hurricanes, unforgiving blizzards, scorching heat waves and wildfires, and more dire scenarios. Due to this, more and longer power outages are to be expected.

And that’s not all, unfortunately. Unless you’ve been living under a rock recently, you know just how dangerous the world has become (not trying to be pessimistic, just realistic). Political conflicts inciting terrorist attacks. Cyberwar and hacking. Solar flares and cosmic threats. Rolling blackouts to meet skyrocketing power demand. Geez, we can go on all day.

Are you getting the picture?

Not only is the power grid fragile, but also constantly exposed to a litany of threats.  

 

major blackouts in the 21st century

Time to not repeat the same mistakes

Now, I don’t know about you but I don’t wanna make the same mistakes people did in the past not preparing for the worst-case scenario. Lest we forget, here are some of the major blackouts in the 21st century proving just how unreliable the grid was and still is:

Northeast Blackout of 2003

An overloaded power line in Northern Ohio brushed against trees causing it to shut down. Such a minor incident spiraled into a major catastrophe that affected 50 million people in 8 states including Southeast Canada for 2 days with $6 billion in damages. Crazy!

Southwest Blackout of 2011

The largest power failure in California’s history (so far). The cause? A mistake by a technician. The effect? 12 hours of blackout that affected 2.7 million residences. 

Derecho Blackout of 2012

The June 2012 Mid-Atlantic and Midwest derecho (long-lived, fast-moving severe thunderstorms) shut the lights of 4.2 million people across 11 states for 10 days. 

Texas Blackout of 2021

In February 2021, Houston (so-called, “Energy Capital of the World”) suffered one of the worst blackouts in America leaving more than 4.5 million people cold without power for roughly 3 days. One of the primary reasons was power equipment not winterized (in-depth research reports that there were warning signs a week before the cold even set in).

Incoming Blackouts of who knows when

It’s no longer a question of “if” but “when”! Should you wait until it’s too late?

We should now know better. Instead of fully relying on the power grid for electricity, get your hands on the other (and better) sources of energy to power your lifestyle. Time to adapt and make a change you’ll be thankful later. 

Because the thing is, if you can generate your own renewable energy, you’ll never have to eat cold dishes with your family in the darkness anymore. Plus, you can say goodbye to outrageously overpriced electric bills. Sounds good, right? 

 

How to Prepare for a Long-term Power Outage

What to do before darkness takes center stage

️ Put together an emergency/survival kit and keep it close at hand. This should contain your first aid kit, DIY tools, and other essential items (more on this one later).

️ Stockpile non-perishable food and water enough for every member of the family.

️ Write down emergency numbers (local hospital, police and fire dept., electricians) and family member’s contact info in case of separation. 

️ To make the previous tip viable, always keep your phone, power bank, and other gadgets fully charged. 

️ Always maintain your car fuel at 80% at least.

️ Keep cash on hand of at least $1,000 or whatever your expenditure in a month or so is. Expect ATMs and banks to be out of service during a power outage.

️ Stay up to date with local news and weather forecasts.

Power outage must-have items

Flashlights

    Light is your number one security. And although your phone has a flashlight, the brightness is lacking. Also, you don’t wanna be using up its remaining power and left with nothing for critical communication. 

    Get your hands on both a handheld flashlight and headlamp. A handheld flashlight provides illumination from any angle while a headlamp allows a hands-free operation.

    Candles and lanterns

      What scent makes you feel good, energized, or relaxed? Whatever it is, why not keep some scented candles to help you get through the dark times? 

      Lighters and matches

        What good are sacks of candles and shacks of firewood if you can’t start a fire?

        Portable gas stoves with gas tanks or fuel cans

          Making fire is cool but not with all that smoke on your face. So, take advantage of gas stoves, and let’s not make life harder than it already is, shall we?

          Heaters

            Most power outages happen during the wintertime because power lines and equipment tend to freeze. And just like what happened in Texas recently, people (mostly the unprepared) were left dark and cold. 

            Having heaters may that be a kerosene heater for the room or a water heater for the tub could be the difference between having a breath and freezing to death.

            Battery-powered or solar-powered radio

              If the radio station has backup power, then radio receivers would still work. Well, did you know that being alone in the dark for a prolonged period can mess with your head? And I bet you’re not a cave hermit, are you? 

              Seriously though. Listening to someone else’s voice even over the radio can make you feel not-so-alone. And at the same time, you’ll get updates while enjoying some FM music (feel free to dance along).

              Boredom killer

                You know what else can kill you during a power outage? One word… boredom. So, to stay sane during insane times, it’s great to have something to keep you occupied and kill time. Card games, board games, and books (humorous, preferably) will save the day (or month)!

                Reliable safe

                  As I always say, darkness attracts dark-minded people. And with you trying to conserve every bit of backup power, lights may be limited and security may be minimized. In which case, a safe could be your trump card for keeping evil hands off your valuables.

                  The beauty of safes is that they are often battery-powered. And in case the battery that powers the electronic lock dies, your combination code won’t be erased nor reset. That’s because electronic locks contain “non-volatile memory” which can store your codes for several years even without power. Cool, eh?

                  Alternative power sources

                  Extra batteries and fully charged power banks

                    Batteries are godsends. Since electronics are powered by batteries, it pays to stash packs of stacks away (didn’t mean to twist your tongue). And when you do, keep them in the original packaging and store them in a cool, dry place without coming into contact with any metal. 

                    The benefit of having a high-capacity power bank on the other hand is that it can charge not just your phone but also your radio, flashlights, toys (of kids and not kids), and basically all with a supported charging port.

                    Gasoline, kerosene, and other fuels

                    During a power outage, gas stations cease to operate since they need electricity to pump fuel (unless they have a generator which we’ll discuss next). Therefore, it’s wise to stash away gallons of fuel before darkness takes over. 

                    They will be used not only for your vehicle but also for alternative appliances like the gas stove, gas lamp, gas dryer, kerosene heater, and many more.

                    Power generators

                      Power generators have become the common go-to for many residents and business establishments in times of power outages. And getting the right one for you can be tricky. To help you out, here’s what you should be looking for:

                      Type of generator

                        For this, you have 2 main options backup and standby. 

                        Backup generator, aka portable generator, provides temporary backup power on an as-needed basis. What’s good about this type is that it’s inexpensive and portable/transferable. What’s not so good is that you have to manually set it up, power it up, and connect the wires.

                        Standby generator, on the other hand, detects power outages and provides power automatically. The advantage? Peace of mind knowing you’ll get a steady power supply even if utility lines fail. The con? It’s far more expensive but consider it as an investment for it can last you a decade or more.

                        Wattage

                          The power of the output of generators is measured in watts. Usually, 10,000 watts is enough power for an entire home. But to get an accurate estimate for your specific wattage needs, it’s best to consult your electrician first.

                          Energy source type

                            Most power generators are fueled by gasoline, propane, or diesel. Whichever fuel type you choose, make sure to stockpile prior if you want a more extended power supply. And above all, do NOT use fuel-powered generators in a confined space with poor ventilation to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning you don’t wanna die trying to survive, do you?

                            According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 400 Americans die yearly from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning. But thankfully, there are now battery-powered and solar-powered generators. Although these are more pricey, definitely worth it.

                            Solar power

                              Since the dawn of time, our majestic sun has never failed to rise and shine. So, why not harness power from such an everlasting source?

                              Thanks to scientific breakthroughs, having a renewable and inexhaustible source of energy is now more of a reality, rather than just fantasy. What’s more? It’s all at without the expense of our environment let’s do our part in mitigating climate change, my fellow earthling. 

                              Install solar panels on your rooftops or open fields. Opt for solar-powered devices and vehicles. By doing so, when the grid is dead and gone, you’ll still have around 5 billion more years of power before the sun burns out. With that, even your billionth descendant will thank you, for sure. Feels good, right?

                              Fire

                                The ability to start a fire and keep it burning is an old but gold life saving skill. Our great great great forefathers benefited from it way back when electricity was still beyond the realm of human understanding surely, so will we.

                                In any survival ordeal, fire is man’s best friend. It provides warmth and illumination, cooks your food, wards off predators, boosts morale (ever seen the movie, “Cast Away”?), and a bazillion more. And with matches, lighters, and blowtorches; starting a fire has never been easier. So, while you can, get yourself some fire-powered lanterns, candles, and kindling (woods, dried leaves, etc.). 

                                Just be careful not to mess around with fire otherwise, things will be ugly (literally… like a charred house). Additionally, the smoke can cause gas poisoning so make sure proper ventilation is observed.

                                May the power be with you

                                Power outage is inevitable, but suffering doesn’t have to be. Life goes on even in the absence of commercial electricity. 

                                Let’s learn from yesterday’s history and prepare for tomorrow’s mystery. 

                                We can’t just rely on others the government, operators, engineers, etc. to keep the grid up and running. No matter how expert they may be (they’re humans… not God, after all), and however advanced the technology could be, there are just too many variables (like the weather) beyond our control.

                                Now, the grid is a wonderful innovation, don’t get me wrong. But learning how to harness power without relying on the modern grid for survival is nothing short of genius. 

                                It pays to be self-sufficient. Just imagine… while others freezingly fumble their way through the darkness, you’ll be there by your bright lamp sipping that hot coffee freshly brewed from the espresso machine. How good would that be? 

                                 

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