- Note: Our comments are personal observations. We have not been paid by any company to review their products.
Wildfires in California. Hurricanes along the coast. Blizzards and tornadoes everywhere. In this era of climate change every household should prepare for long stretches without electrical power or even the possibility of evacuating at short notice. And the recent earthquake in Alaska reminds us of the importance of being prepared especially in cold months when food, water, and shelter are critical.
Fortunately, many families have assembled emergency kits that include a mix of essential items useful when the lights go out. For detail see the Winding Pathways article on important items to stock in the kit. Emergency kits can be quickly grabbed if evacuation is needed and the contents help make life more comfortable should there be no need to leave but the house has no electricity.
Two items often are forgotten but become critically important during a widespread emergency. Be sure to keep these on hand:
When the power goes out credit and debit cards probably won’t work. Cash always works. Keeping a couple of hundred dollars in small bills makes buying necessary items during a power outage possible. It’s a good idea to hide money somewhere in the emergency preparedness kit.
When Hurricane Sandy left millions of people without electrical power for weeks a critical problem was the inability to charge cell phones and other electronic devices. The cell network was operating since companies have backup generators. But most people’s phone batteries discharged, and they had no ready way to recharge them. Fortunately, there are several options for charging. Here are two that work well:
Solar chargers help keep people connected when the power goes out.
Solar chargers: Small inexpensive solar powered devices charge phones when placed in the sun. These are sold in camping and electronic stores. They will work on cloudy days, although charging will be slower than when the sun shines.
Battery chargers: For many years we’ve used Milwaukee brand drills and saws for projects around the house. The company recently sent us an ideal product to solve two problems posed by power failures. It is a light powered by the same lithium-ion batteries that run power tools. The light has a port enabling connection with cell phones. It charges them up quickly. We always keep four batteries fully charged, and each battery will run the light for many hours and recharge a phone several times. The light is surprisingly bright, and we’ll bring it on future camping trips instead of our old gasoline lantern. This device fills two emergency needs-light and charging.
The lantern throws excellent light after dark.
When buying cordless power tools and other accessories it’s a good idea to purchase ones that can both run the tools and charge a phone.
There is a third item that’s also often forgotten. That’s drinking water. We keep in storage 25 gallons of clean water in five-gallon containers. Should that run out we have two backpacker style filters that remove bacteria and viruses from water. If we need even more water, we keep a few tiny jars of water purification pills in our emergency bin. Water filters and purification tablets are sold in camping stores and are usually marketed to backpackers. These enable purifying water from nearby ponds and streams.
Hopefully, the power won’t ever go out, but the reality is that storms are increasing. Along with them comes higher odds that the power will go out. It’s best to be ready.
Winding Pathways subscribes to the American Meteorological Society’s newsletters and updates. Here is a link to their latest suggestions to prepare and weather winter!
“5 Cold-Weather Hacks for Winter Driving.”
Blizzards, ice storms, and powerful winds will strike this winter. It’s impossible to predict just where they’ll hit, but anyone might need to endure cold nights without electricity until utility workers restore power.
Don’t be caught in the cold.
People can survive a few cold days in relative comfort by piling on layers of clothes or snuggling under thick quilts at night. But, even the most well insulated house will gradually cool as soon as a power outage shuts down the furnace. Eventually pipes will freeze, causing enormous damage as water squirts on carpet, furniture, books and electronics. In fact everywhere!
Will your heating system work without electricity? Find out before a blizzard leaves your family in the cold.
If your heating system depends on electricity, now is a good time to install back up heat.
Two ways determine whether the furnace will work. The best is to call your local heating company and ask. Or, turn off the circuit breaker that feeds power to the furnace and give it a try. It probably won’t work. So, get to work protecting your home, furnishings and family.
Winding Pathways encourages homeowners to eliminate the risk of freezing pipes by taking precautions before cold weather arrives. Probably the best strategy is to invest in insulation and to replace old windows that leak cold air. A well-insulated home cools more slowly than a poorly insulated one. But having a backup heat source that doesn’t require electricity is important even in thickly insulated homes.
Electric wires are stretched between poles above ground where they are vulnerable to storms. In contrast natural gas lines are buried in the ground and are immune to storms but vulnerable to earthquakes. The chance of losing electricity is higher than losing gas.
Most modern gas and oil furnaces need electricity to work. It powers blowers that distribute warm air through ducts or circulates hot water to radiators. When a storm knocks out power the furnace shuts down.
Winding Pathways is in frigid Iowa where it can be 25 below zero with high wind for a week or more. A traditional furnace heats our home but won’t work without electricity so we’ve done two things that will keep us, and our pipes, warm.
We hired a professional to install a woodstove downstairs. And all spring and summer we cut, cured and stacked a few cords of wood. We enjoy its cozy heat even when the power works. It reduces our natural gas bill and would keep the house warm without electricity. Woodstoves aren’t for everyone. They require work to cut and stack the wood and maintain the fire. Firewood takes lots of storage space and stoves bring dust and smoke into the house. For those who don’t want to deal with wood heat there’s a better option.
We also hired a company to install two natural gas heaters. One is a fireplace insert. The other is a simple gas heater at the other end of the house. Their blowers won’t work when the power goes off but unlike the furnace they continue to provide heat without the blower. They’ll keep our home relatively warm even without electricity. Similar heaters can be fueled by propane and would be a good choice for homeowners who don’t have a natural gas line nearby. Most heating supply companies sell gas heaters that work without electricity.
When the wind howls, ice pellets rattle against the windows and the thermometer plummets it’s comforting to know that a house has a heat source that will work without electricity.
Stocking stuffers that will see use year round.
As the rush for Holiday gifts gets into full swing, we sometimes wonder how to “fill” those stockings with meaningful, fun and inexpensive stuffers. Here are some of Winding Pathways favorite items to be prepared for long dark nights and to simply enjoy cozy winter evenings.
Tops for us are flashlights. I once overheard women talking about how when the power went off one summer night they could not find their way around their own home and didn’t know where their flashlights were. Wow!
While we are adept at and comfortable with finding our way around our home, yard and even motel rooms in the dark, we always have a flashlight with us to use as needed.
Our advice is: First, learn your home, especially in the dark. Good night vision is important. Second, have handy a variety of flashlights and sizes. In the bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, den, and basement. We have small ones at the bedside, backpacker headlamps that fit over stocking caps and large handheld spotlights in strategic places. Remember to check batteries and have extras where you can get them easily.
We are outside a lot, so we like to have plenty of hand warmers with us. Several brands are available and some last longer than others. Some are made to fit into boots and tuck on your back. Anyone who works outside will appreciate a bunch of these. For the winter football fans, you can’t beat the warmers. The paper and mail carriers in your life will surely give a nod of thanks for receiving some warmers. And, those hardy winter bicyclists in your family will love you for including warmers in the stocking.
Because some folks enjoy feeding birds, birdseed and feeders are always great gifts. Use caution and buy quality seed and feeders. You will waste money and attract scavengers if you buy cheap seed loaded with milo, the small reddish seeds in a mix. So, go to a farm store or specialty bird feeding store for higher quality seed and feeders.
A totally practical gift is a weather radio that can be plugged in, run by batteries, or even be powered by a crank. Just Google “weather radio” and choose the one that fits your needs best. With winter upon us, get one!
Of course, many of us like to simply snuggle down on “long winter nights” and read a book. Bookstores are alive with exciting and intriguing books for winter reading. One we have discovered and pored over is One Square Inch of Silence by Gordon Hempton and John Grossmann.
Fall is a perfect season to be outdoors. We look forward to the delicate lace of the first frost on our russet oak leaves.
When outside be sure to look up. You might catch sight of a raptor, perhaps even an eagle, way up high catching thermals and moving south ahead of the cold.
Birds migrate, reptiles hibernate, and plants go dormant but people carry on through winter. Fall is the best season to prepare for the blizzards and cold wind to come.
A good friend, Jean Perkins, who is a realtor and helped us find and buy Winding Pathways in 2010, has a list of tips on the Skogman Realty website about how to prepare for the cold season. We’re passing it on and encourage all our Winding Pathways visitors to prepare their home so it’s comfortable and safe in the cold months. Then, they can enjoy all types of weather and seasons.
Images in the nightly news from Houston during and after Hurricane Harvey are heartbreaking. It will take years for flooded communities and families to recover.
Harvey reminds us that disasters can happen anywhere at any time. Some are relatively predictable. For example, tornadoes and hurricanes are most likely to hit certain places during parts of the year.
Other disasters are impossible to predict. We remember that years ago a worker accidentally set a fire that burned an enormous quantity of Styrofoam insulation in the roof of a sewer building near our home. Clouds of toxic smoke billowed out, and the mayor ordered an immediate evacuation.
Fortunately, we were prepared. Within fifteen minutes we loaded our survival bin, sleeping bags, a tent, drinking water and our two young kids in the car. An hour later we were camped well away from the smoke.The next day the fire was out, the air clean, and we were home.
Everyone should make emergency plans and acquire emergency items in case of a disaster that shuts down local stores and utilities or forces an evacuation.
Click on the Preparedness Section of windingpathways.com for specific tips on how to survive disasters and a list of suggested items to stock in a disaster kit.