I usually consider myself prepared for most things. But instead of preparing for a power outage, I was distracted by the business of every day life.
I wasn’t prepared for the 80 mph winds that left us without electricity or running water for 67 hours last week.
Others I know had it much worse – some went without power for an entire week! The experience made me realize how ill-prepared I actually was for severe thunderstorms and a massive power outage.
I had bottled water, but it was really old, and there wasn’t enough to keep all of us hydrated for days of 90 degree weather.
I didn’t have all my gadgets charged and ready.
I had a weather alert radio without batteries in it.
Basic things like flashlights, batteries, bottled water, and our crank-powered radio were…. get this… upstairs. Not very useful when you’re sitting in a dark basement.
I had a couple of coolers, but not nearly enough room for the contents of my fridge.
We were low on propane for our gas grill.
We had depleted our supply of non-perishable, easy to prepare foods.
The first morning after the storm, several of our local radio stations were knocked off the air, and our cell phones were pretty much useless hockey pucks. We learned that the area had been hit quite hard – with nearly 12,000 people without power. So we hurried the 26 miles into town to buy bags of ice, a bigger cooler, an extra lantern, propane and other supplies.
I must admit, I didn’t pay much attention to prices or sales because the stock on the shelves was already disappearing. I quickly bought the items on my list… most of which I paid full price for… and hurried home before our ice melted.
The biggest challenge for us was not having running water. The second biggest challenge was coming up with meal ideas with what we had available to us.
The whole experience made me devise a list of things I’ll make sure we always have on hand for any future summer power outages we have.
Preparing for a Summer Power Outage: What You Need
A good weather alert radio. Make sure that your weather alert radio also has a battery backup feature. This can quickly alert you to severe weather and let you know when to take cover.
A crank-powered radio. A battery-operated radio is good… until the battery runs out. Get a crank-powered radio and then you won’t have to worry about that. Ours also has a built-in flashlight; some have a weather alert radio built in, too.
LED Lanterns and flashlights. Sure you can use candles, but with three kids and a dog in the house, I’m just not comfortable with open flames everywhere. I like the LED lanterns because the batteries and bulbs last forever and they provide decent light. Have a few flashlights so that if you need to go look for something in a dark closet, the rest of the family doesn’t have to sit in the dark. Consider getting the kids their own flashlights. With no night lights, it can be a little scary at night, and we found that giving them a flashlight helped. If you’ve got avid readers in the house, a book light is nice.
Batteries. Make sure you have enough batteries (and the right type) to power your various lanterns, flashlights, and radios.
A corded phone. Our cell phones didn’t work at all the first full day of the outage. Make sure to have a corded phone with a landline so that you can communicate with the outside world.
A grill and grill supplies. A gas grill is most convenient, but a charcoal grill would also work as long as you make sure you have charcoal on hand. After our latest experience, we plan to make sure we keep stocked up on propane for our grill. A propane camp stove is also a nice option because you can boil water for pasta, make pancakes and other items with it.
Non-perishable foods and menu ideas. Make sure to have canned meats, beans, and vegetables on hand. Snacks and juice boxes are also nice. I plan to devise a list of simple meals I can make using the grill and things in the pantry, so that dinners without electricity aren’t so stressful.
Several coolers. You’ll need large one for everything in the fridge and smaller ones to retrieve frequently used items like water or soda. Make sure you buy one that fits what you have and plenty of ice.
Cash. You’ll need money to buy ice and any other items you may need. Because so much of our region was hit by power outages, telecommunications were a challenge, and many stores wouldn’t accept debit or credit cards at that time. Make sure you have a bit of cash on hand, just in case.
Card games, books, puzzles, etc. We’re technology junkies around our house, so being without our screens was tough. Make sure you have plenty of things to entertain yourself and the kids during an extended outage.
If you are also without running water:
Bottled water. At least a gallon per person per day and make sure to have water for your pets, too.
Disinfecting wipes and paper towels. You’ll want these for cleaning up messy spills and wiping down counters.
Hand sanitizer. I have a stash of hand sanitizer I got for cheap with coupons. During the power outage, I kept a bottle in every bathroom and in the kitchen so that we would remember to disinfect even though we couldn’t wash hands.
Personal cleansing wipes. Anything from Wet Ones to flushable moist wipes to even baby wipes can be used to do a quick sponge-bath. Definitely not ideal, but better than nothing.
Disposable dinnerware. I’m really not a fan of paper plates and plastic forks… but when your power is out for days and you don’t have running water, paper plates, paper cups, and plastic cutlery are a real blessing.
Aluminum foil or foil bags. Since it’s pretty impossible to wash dishes without running water, we ended up cooking on the grill several times. You can make all kinds of things on the grill – especially when you create aluminum foil packets. The best part – very easy clean-up!
Of course, a generator is a really nice thing to have, but they are expensive, heavy, and use a lot of gas. You’ll have to weigh whether the risk of a power outage is worth the expense of the generator.
Winter power outages bring different worries – like frostbite and frozen pipes. Make sure to develop a plan for how to handle an extended winter power outage.
An extended power outage is a bit like a camping trip you haven’t planned for. At times it can be enjoyable, at other times exhausting. I hope that the next time the power goes out, we’ll be better prepared and able to enjoy our time “roughing it” a bit more.
Now it’s your turn: How are you preparing for a power outage?
About Christina Brown
Christina is a wife and mother dedicated to figuring out how to live a simpler, happier life on a budget.