While power failures can happen at any time of the year, the most dangerous time for one is when it’s cold and snowy outside. What is an inconvenience in the summer could easily kill in the winter.
Freezing temperatures and roads that can be difficult for repair vehicles to travel on add up to longer times to fix the issue and more time for you without power, and most importantly, heat. By preparing for a power failure now you can stay safe when the power goes out.
Power Failure Causes
Before getting into the checklist, let’s look at some of the most likely causes of a power failure. While, yes, there are nefarious causes for a massive power failure like terrorist attacks, nature is far better at wreaking havoc than man could ever be.
The threat of a solar flare knocking out power transmission is all too real, and it is possibly the most dangerous and hardest to recover from. The burst of electromagnetic energy entering our atmosphere could overload our power system, knocking it out for weeks, possibly months. This has happened on a small scale in the past and could easily happen again in the future with very little to no warning.
For most of us, however, the cause of a power failure will most likely be weather. In cold months, lines can be downed by ice and snow-covered trees as well as automobile accidents and simply by extreme cold. In the warmer months, overload and high heat can easily cause massive brown and blackouts.
Whatever the cause, a power failure is definitely something to worry about, and next we’ll look at how to prep for one.
When talking about prepping for a power failure, we’re not so much talking about an hour- or day-long failure, but the more systemic failures that can last a week or more. Think of an ice storm paired with a blizzard that brings down lines across your town. This could leave you without power for a week or longer as power is restored. For long-term failures like these, your prepper skills have to be called into action.
Water – First and foremost, water is the key to your survival. Sure, water doesn’t use power to come into your house, but it does need power to be pumped and, more importantly, the sewage definitely needs to be pumped. If generators run out of fuel, the water supply could easily be tainted with sewage, making your tap water too dangerous to use. Plan for 1 gallon per person per day, and of course don’t forget to include any pets you have in your water prepping, too.
Food – Just like any other prep, you need to plan for enough food to keep you fueled and moving. While water is more important than food, you will still definitely need to plan for how you’ll eat when the grocery store shelves are barren and there aren’t any deliveries coming.
Remember, even your gas stove may fall prey to the power failure, so make sure that you have a camp stove or other cooking method. Even a propane grill outside is an excellent option. To make life easier, you can prep foods that don’t require cooking, but it’s pretty easy to get sick of cold canned beans, so plan for some off-grid cooking too.
Heat – If a power failure happens during the winter months, keeping warm is a real necessity. Adding some extra layers may keep you warm for a few hours, but it’s not a viable solution for a week or more. Don’t underestimate the cold; it can kill you just as easily as lack of water, if not quicker.
Having a kerosene heater or propane heater is a great way to keep warm, but you must use them in properly ventilated areas to avoid CO poisoning. Of course if you have a fireplace, you’re good to go — just keep a supply of wood ready at all times. If you live in a part of the country that gets very cold winters, it might be a good idea to install a propane fireplace, as they’re actually fairly inexpensive and can keep you warm without power.
Sanitation – Cleanliness is one of the most overlooked survival necessities, yet lack of it is one of the biggest killers. Think about how you’ll clean utensils and other cooking implements. With limited water, getting a stomach bug can not only hurt you, but your supplies as well. It may not be glamorous, but think about how you’ll use the toilet. If water still flows and you have a septic tank, then you’re safe. If there’s no water flow, you can dump some water into the toilet and it will still flush.
Use hand sanitizer when handling food and dishes, and use anti-bacterial wipes on any surface that touches food, plates, utensils, etc. Keeping clean means you’ll have the best chance at staving off illness.
Light – Flashlights are all nice and fine, but when you’re talking about weeks of not having power, you’ll not only need some extra batteries, but you’ll also need better light sources. There are the battery-powered style of lights and lanterns, and then there are the fuel-based versions. Long-burning candles, kerosene lamps, and camp lanterns are all excellent fuel-based forms of lighting. Pair these with flashlights and solar-powered lighting and you’ll be able to see during the outage.
Of course you need to prep for the standard stuff like first aid, self-defense, and home security. These are all excellent “bug-in” methods of prepping, and as you probably won’t be skipping town just because of a power failure, it’s an excellent course of action.
Whatever the cause, a power failure can be a true survival situation, and by prepping for one now, you increase your chances of coming out of one unscathed.