|As this year’s freaky winter weather goes into overtime, it could get ugly for those who expect their electricity to work. Unfortunately, like much of America’s basic infrastructure, many high-volume regional power grids are little better than working antiques, just waiting to fail big-time.
Decades of overzealous regulation, out-of-control regulation and other political issues have dis-incentivized power companies from modernizing their electrical grids.
Yes, Going for Weeks without Power
This Winter Is a REAL Danger
Every winter, bitter cold snaps, ice storms, and blizzards leave millions at risk of going days – sometimes weeks – without power or a back-up plan. We’d like to help you, as one of our cherished readers, take some simple steps now so you won’t be one of them.
Most people aren’t fully prepared to weather a winter power outage in their home for more than a few hours. Any winter outage that lasts more than a day forces evacuations to urban shelters (not safe), hotels (expensive), or unaffected family and friends’ houses (inconvenient).
You should also be prepared to shelter in place if there’s not any imminent danger to you and your family. It’s more convenient, more comfortable, and more cost effective.
Now is the time to prep your winter “stay bag.” That’s a kit you keep on hand that has everything you need to stay warm and healthy during a winter power outage.
Your “Shelter-in-Place” Plan
When preparing for a winter power outage, one of the first things most people think of is a generator. If you can afford a generator, that’s great. They can keep the lights and the heat on during an outage. They’re also noisy and attract a lot of attention.
If a generator is not your style or is not in your budget, you can still shelter in place, even during the coldest winter storms. You just have to take some steps now to prepare.
Your first concern during a winter storm is keeping warm. If you have a fireplace or wood stove, you can use those… just make sure you have plenty of wood on hand and that it’s stored somewhere where it will stay dry.
Another option is to purchase a low-cost propane heater that’s safe to use indoors. You can pick up an indoor propane heater for less than $100. (Make sure you get a heater that is rated for indoor use. Outdoor heaters are not safe to use inside.) An indoor propane heater will keep a room of your house warm and comfortable, and today’s models have built-in safety features (like an automatic shut-off system, should someone accidentally knock it over).
Precautions for Extended Power Outages:
From Simple to Complex
You do have to crack a window to provide proper ventilation, but other than that, these heaters are quiet, safe, effective, and affordable. Another option is to convert a fireplace to use propane gas logs. The logs plus the installation should cost you less than $1,000 in most areas – cheap insurance against being frozen out of your own home. Plus it’s a nice improvement you can enjoy throughout the heating season.
The other thing to do now is make sure everyone in the household has a full complement of warm clothing. When it comes to keeping warm, layers are the way to go. A breathable, insulating base layer topped by normal day wear is usually enough to keep you comfortable while indoors. You can add a fleece jacket or sweater for more warmth. Everyone should have a hat, a pair of mittens, and a pair of extra warm socks. Wool or synthetic fleece are good options for all of these.
Finally, make sure everyone in the house has a good quality sleeping bag and, if needed, a sleeping pad. Plan for a family sleepover in whatever room you’re heating.
Between a propane heater, proper clothing, and warm sleeping gear, everyone in your household will be able to stay warm and comfortable throughout the power outage. And do stock up on extra propane for your heater. Your shelter-in-place heating system will only last as long as your fuel holds out!
Having a Plan for Heat Is Just the Beginning
Keeping warm is the biggest worry. Once you have it handled, your next concern is light. A lot of people use candles, but let uswarn you against them.
Candles simply aren’t safe. Unattended candles present a high fire risk. You don’t want to shelter in place only to lose your home to a fire. Instead, choose LED flashlights and lanterns.
The LED bulbs use less power than traditional bulbs, which translates into longer battery life. Anyone who’s used a flashlight for more than a few hours knows the value of good battery life. Consider keeping a couple of headlamps on hand, too. They’re ideal for reading, a favorite form of entertainment when there are no TVs or computers to turn to. And, make sure you have spare batteries on hand.
Another option is solar-powered lanterns. You can pick up these lights at your local home improvement store. Leave them outside during the day, and then when it gets dark, bring them inside for a reliable, safe light source.
When you’re dealing with a power outage, few things are more comforting than a hot meal and a steaming mug of hot chocolate, soup, tea, or cider (or hot-buttered rum). But when the power is out, cooking can be an impossibility if you’re not prepared.
If you have a gas stove, you can use the burners during a power outage. Most gas stoves use an electric spark to strike the flame – no power, no electric spark. But, a match will do the trick.
If you have an electric stove, you can still prepare a hot meal if you keep a propane camp stove on hand. Just like your indoor propane heater, make sure you’ve got proper ventilation by opening a nearby window. A propane stove and a pot enables you to boil water, which you can use to make pasta, hot dogs, soup, rice, or oatmeal. Or, you can use the boiling water to prepare a freeze-dried camp meal.
Another great option is an outdoor gas grill, usually available at end-of-season discounts this time of year at any home center.
Finally, when the power’s out, it’s useful to stay connected. In emergencies, knowing what’s coming can save your life. Keep a battery-operated radio on hand. (This can double as a source of entertainment if you want to listen to a little music.) Even better, invest in a hand-crank radio. You can recharge these radios by turning a crank, which means you don’t have to worry about wearing down the batteries.
A second important item for staying connected is a telephone that works without electricity. (Just because the power is out, doesn’t mean the phone lines are down.) If you’re relying on a cordless house phone, you’ll be out of luck in a power outage. Keep a good old-fashioned, hard-wired telephone on hand. For your cell phone, be sure to have a car charger.
So there you have it – ten things you should get now so that you can stay home in comfort even during a prolonged outage. Just to recap…
- An indoor propane heater
- Warm clothes for the whole family
- Sleeping bags for the family
- Extra propane
- LED flashlights and lanterns or solar-powered lights.
- Extra batteries
- Matches or butane lighter
- A propane camp stove or outdoor grill
- A hand-crank radio
- A traditional, land-line telephone and/or cell phone car charger
Too often, people wait until a winter storm is bearing down on them to stock up on the items they’ll need. If you do that, there’s a high chance you’ll face a chaotic scene at your local stores and an even higher chance you’ll find those stores sold out of what you need.
Now is the time to prepare for winter power outages. Prepare your “stay bag” now, and you’ll be ready for anything later.