Dealing with a two week power failure in relative comfort

photo of emergency food boxes

Each year natural disasters shut down gas, electric, and water services to millions of homes. More than ever, people’s lives are being disrupted by storms, earthquakes, and fires. But few are ready to weather a week or two without utilities.

A weird accident many years ago helped the Patterson family prepare for future outages. On a pleasant summer afternoon a worker’s cutting torch accidentally ignited a huge Styrofoam dome covering our town’s sewage treatment plant. Black toxic smoke welled up from raging flames and spread over the homes and businesses of thousands of people. Disaster sirens wailed as the police department ordered everyone to leave town quickly.

With smoke thickening around our home we tossed camping gear, food, and a jug of water in the trunk, put the kids in the back seat and headed for clean air. An hour later we pitched the tent in the yard of a friend who lived miles away. The next morning with the fire out, the air cleared and authorities let citizens come home.

Fortunately our disaster impacted a small area for a short time. It happened during warm weather and didn’t harm homes, roads, or utility infrastructure. That’s unusual. Increasingly common are monstrous winter and summer storms, wildfires, and even earthquakes that destroy buildings and knock out utilities for days or weeks.

While predicting where and when a disaster will strike is impossible, certainly millions of people will experience one in coming months and have their lives disrupted. Prudent people will have prepared for a disaster by assembling a kit of items that can be used in the home when utilities go down or quickly tossed in the car if evacuation is ordered.

Enduring a week or two without utilities isn’t fun, but having the basic items in permanent storage keeps life relatively comfortable. The Patterson family keeps enough of the following basics ready to ride out a two-week power disruption:

  • Food. Dehydrated meals that keep almost forever, weigh little and are quite tasty.
  • Water. 20 gallons in plastic containers plus water purification tablets and a water filter.
  • Communications. Solar cell phone charger, a tiny radio with extra batteries and a written list of relatives and important contacts.
  • Camp stove, matches, flashlights, paper towels, bleach and warm packs.
  • Medications and toiletries
  • Camping equipment

We store all items, except sleeping bags and a tent, in bins where they can be quickly reached.

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