We’ve all been there – the rain is lashing at the windows, you can hear thunder in the distance, and suddenly the lights go out, leaving you sitting in the dark with no power. Depending on the cause, power outages can last anywhere between a few hours to several days, meaning it’s crucial to be prepared to manage without electricity for an extended period of time.
The most important part of your power outage preparation is making sure you have all the essential items you’ll need to get by. Here are some of the most important things you’ll need to keep handy for when the power goes out.
If the power goes out at night, then the first thing you’ll notice is the lights going out. Before you can do anything else, you’ll need to be able to see what you’re doing, so you should keep flashlights handy around the house to shed some light on your situation.
Always have at least one flashlight in a specific place so that you know exactly where to find one when the lights go out – you don’t want to search multiple rooms for one as stumbling around in the dark can be dangerous.
Static Light Sources
After you’ve found your flashlight, it’s handy to set up other light sources that you don’t need to carry. Candles are the most obvious choice, as you can light them and leave them on different surfaces around the room to provide hands-free light. If you’re worried about the fire risk, you can also use glowsticks.
Battery-powered lanterns are another option and can be especially useful if you can hang them from the ceiling to provide better light coverage for the whole room. Headlamps are also handy if you need to see a specific spot but need both your hands-free for the task at hand.
Power outages can sometimes also mean an interruption in your plumbing systems, leaving you without access to water. If your water supply is affected, fill up your bath (if you have one) or any empty bottles or sealable containers with whatever water is left in the system. Try and ration this out if you expect the power outage to last a long time.
Keeping a good stock of bottled water can also prepare you for power outages by ensuring you have a reliable supply of drinking water. If water contamination might be an issue, you should also grab some water purification tablets or a simple water purification system from a camping store.
Finally, keep a bucket handy. You’ll still need to use the toilet while the water is out, but you won’t be able to flush it normally. Instead, fill a bucket from the bathtub and pour it into the toilet to flush it.
Medication and First Aid Kit
If there’s bad weather on the way, the supply chain for the medication you rely on might be affected. Contact your supplier or insurer and see if you can get an advance on your prescription to stock up ahead of potential power outages to avoid being left without vital medicine
You should also keep a first aid kit handy for similar reasons – power outages can lead to a number of accidents that keep ambulance crews and hospitals extra busy, so you should be prepared to give first aid if accidents occur and paramedics can’t reach you quickly.
After a few hours without power, you’ll probably start to get hungry – but without electricity, you won’t be able to use your oven or microwave for cooking. Your refrigerator and freezer will be starting to warm up, and perishable food might begin to go bad as a result. Because of this, you should keep a good stock of non-perishable food that doesn’t need to be cooked.
If you want hot food, you can grab a camping stove or a fire-in-a-can product like Sterno to heat food over. This also lets you boil water, which is handy for sterilizing it or providing you with some extra warmth if you happen to have a hot water bottle stashed away somewhere.
If you’re using candles or camping stoves, you’ll need something to light them. Keep a few boxes of matches handy so that you don’t run out, and store them somewhere that they won’t get damp. If you can find long matches, these will be handier than short ones, as you’ll be able to light more things in one go to avoid using up your matches too fast.
If you want to make them last even longer, blow them out as soon as you’re done with them, and relight them using a candle the next time you need one. You could also use a cigarette lighter if you have one.
Safety first! If you’ve got a lot of candles going, there’s a risk you could knock one over and start a fire – so make sure you have a small fire extinguisher or a fire blanket at hand. As with ambulance crews, firefighters will be more busy responding to accidents in a power outage, so it’s best to be able to tackle small fires before they break out into a larger one.
Batteries and Battery Packs
If you’re using torches, lamps, and headlamps for long periods, you could start going through batteries very fast. Keep a good supply of various sizes and types, including button/coin cells (those little ones you get in watches) if any of your lights use these.
If you find you’re running out, raid your remote controls for plug-in devices like TVs or speakers to use those – it’s not like you’ll need them until the power comes back on anyway.
USB battery packs can also be very handy, as they’ll allow you to keep your cell phone and smaller devices charged up for longer. This means you’ll still have access to some electronic entertainment while the power is off. If you can get mobile data signal, you can huddle around a phone or tablet to watch a movie – but more importantly, you’ll be able to check in on friends and family and call for help if you need to.
With the TV out of action, no Wi-Fi, and a dwindling charge on your smartphone, you’ll need some way of keeping updated on the power situation. Enter a good old-fashioned transistor radio – you can tune into the news and get updates on when the power will be coming back or public safety announcements, plus you’ll be able to enjoy some music to pass the time.
Sleeping Bags & Spare Blankets
If the power goes out in the winter, it can get cold fast. Your regular winter bedding might not be enough to keep you warm, but a good sleeping bag is designed to maximize insulation so you can stay warm while you sleep. Extra blankets are also handy for keeping you nice and toasty.
Having a few sleeping bags and blankets spare can also be useful to give to other people. If you have an elderly neighbor or relative nearby, you can offer to give some to them to make sure they stay safe and warm; and if the worst happens and someone you know has to evacuate their home due to severe weather or flooding, you can offer them a warm place to sleep at your house.
Baby Wipes & Hand Sanitizer
If the power will be out for a long time and you need to conserve water, it’s best not to use too much for washing. To save water while keeping up good hygiene, use baby wipes and hand sanitizer to clean your hands and the rest of your body. It might not be as pleasant as a good hot shower, but it’s better than nothing.
No TV, Wi-Fi, and game consoles mean you’ll have to try some more old-fashioned ways to keep yourself occupied. Make sure you have plenty of books and magazines to read and a good stack of board games for a more pleasant pastime. Even a simple pack of cards can offer you hours of fun if you know a few different games.
If you have a guitar or other instruments on hand, you could even gather around for a candlelit jam session or singalong. Just make sure your resident musician knows more than one song – singing Wonderwall on a loop might get old fast!
A Big Box For Storage
You’ll have enough to deal with in a power outage without having to search your entire house looking for each thing you’ll need. To save time and effort, keep your power outage essentials in a waterproof plastic box and tuck it away somewhere that’s out of the way but easy to find when you need it.
By making sure you have all these essentials, you can make a power outage more bearable and wait for the electricity to come back on in relative comfort. When the lights come on, you’ll still be healthy, warm, and safe – and you can get right back to whatever TV show you happened to be watching before the power cut off.