How to Prepare for a Long Term Power Outage | Lessons Learned During Our 30 Hour Power Outage

by Marcy on September 17, 2008 · 0 comments

Well I am back after a crazy couple of days, and sadly my brain hasn’t quite caught up with the return of my power and cable. It has been hectic to say the least, but not as bad as it could have been. I was out of town with my daughter visiting family this weekend, and as we drove back, we ran right into the remnants of hurricane Ike.

Hurricane “remnants” typically don’t mean much in Ohio. We might get some extra rain and wind, but normally nothing unusual. This weekend was quite different, however. We had about 6 hours of constant wind (up to 75 MPH at times) with lots of clouds, but no rain. It was bizarre. Most of the state has been affected, and clean up is ongoing. It is amazing how much havoc long term power outages can cause (schools, food banks etc… are all affected too). Here is an article describing the source of some of my frustration on Sunday and Monday. If I don’t step foot in another store for the next week I will be a happy camper.

All things said, we are extremely fortunate. Our house was not damaged and we didn’t lose any trees. We are safe, and so are our friends and family. Even though we lost power we still had hot water. And after 30 hours without power, our electric is back on. Our prayers go out to those who fared much worse than us, and for those who lost family members as a result of this storm.

I had a meltdown or two yesterday, but am feeling much better now. And I thought since I could have prevented pretty much all of the frustration we experienced from this storm had I been better prepared, that I would share a few lessons that I learned this weekend when it comes to preparing for a storm or natural disaster. Because you just never know…

Lesson #1: If you are a stockpiler like me and like to stuff your freezers full, it would be wise to insure your investment with the purchase of a generator. You can find used or new generators on Craiglist, Ebay, and probably at garage sales. They are also sold at home improvement stores and online. They typically range in price from $300-$1200 and will save you a lot of heartache if your power is out for more than 24 hours. After a couple of hours of calling around, our neighbor found a store that had a few left. We were able to buy one (sight unseen) for $425 (thank god for our emergency fund!!). Ideally we should have researched our options and bought one before we actually needed it. But we were desperate (we had just purchased over $300 worth of beef two months ago), so we took what we could get. Note: if you are like me, you might think…”I’ll just buy ice if the power goes out”. Unfortunately, you and thousands of other people will have the same idea, and ice will be in short supply. Not to mention it won’t keep things frozen for long…just cold. Trust me, consider getting a generator if you don’t already have one.

Lesson #2: It would be wise to have a stash of C and D batteries on hand for flashlights and radios – even if you don’t buy them on sale. I have gotten so caught up in chasing sales/deals lately that I let our battery stash run low (and out in some cases – C & D’s!). We live near a large city, and I never dreamt that our local stores would run out of things so quickly. But they did, and it was irritating. I will never let myself run out again while waiting for a sale. Actually what I will likely do is to purchase a few packs specifically for an emergency “kit”…not to be used unless the power is out.

Lesson #3: Having an extra canister of gasoline on hand is not a bad idea. In our case, we were able to use it in the generator. But it would be nice to have on hand in the event that gas supplies became low at local gas stations (which is happening in some parts of the state). Not to mention gas prices have gone up at least $0.50/gal since Ike hit Texas.

Lesson #4: It is amazing what you can cook on a gas grill in a pinch. I am so thankful we have our grill and that the tank was full. We grilled meat and cooked veggies in foil packets. We also put our stainless steel cooking pans on the grill to boil water, and could have cooked in them just like we do on the stove (at least I am assuming). Cooking at home if possible is the best option when power outages are widespread. Trust me…we learned our lesson when we tried to eat out Sunday night and had to go to 4 places before finally giving up and finding a drive through that was open. Some places were without power, and the places that had power either had obnoxious lines or were out of food. Not worth it.

Lesson #5: This might be a dumb one…but if you put candles in front of mirrors (such as on a mantle) more light will be reflected into the room. While candles worked out fine for us, I’m considering checking out battery operated lanterns to add to our “storm stash”. This would definitely be a more frivolous purchase though (not a necessity for us by any means).

Lesson #6: If you want to have phone service, it would be wise to have a car charger for your cell phone. Fortunately DH and I both have one, and we definitely relied on them while the power was out.

Lesson #7: The Red Cross has a great list of items to have on hand in case of an emergency. It would be wise to read this before an actual emergency (rather than in hindsight as I am doing now), and to take action.

So there you have it…a few lessons learned from my household this weekend. I’m sure for those who live in coastal or storm prone areas, these are very common sense tips. Heck, they could be common sense tips to all of you! :-)

So how about you? Do you have any storm survival tips you’d like to share?

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