A couple of weekends ago our neighborhood decided to do a little test run to help everyone better assess their level of preparedness. Since there have been several instances in our nation in which people have had to go without electricity for weeks at a time, the assignment was to go without power for a full 24 hours with the exception of our refrigerators. (Bunch of sissies. *grin*)
The challenge began at 5:00 p.m. on a Sunday evening and went through 5:00 p.m. the following Monday evening. Of course everyone got to still go on with their work and school lives on Monday, so on the surface this was actually a very simple challenge. But boy, howdy did we all learn a few things.
The most common feedback comment I noticed was actually relevant to how bored the kids were. Kids of all ages were whining and complaining about the cruel treatment they had to endure. The nerve of their parents to not allow DVDs, texting, Facebook, or Wii when there was perfectly good electricity to be had.
Unfortunately, where there’s boredom, there’s mischief. We had a couple of folks knock and run at our home that first night, with the culprits giggling as they ran. Other homeowners were surprised and even a bit frightened with people driving cars up into their backyards and flashing their high beams into the home. I’ve always talked about making sure that you take into consideration the comforts of life in your preparedness efforts, but remember that part of those comforts have to include activities that the younger members of your family can enjoy. Believe me, it’s no easy feat to go from high-tech entertainment then put on the breaks suddenly and switch to the more natural activities such as board games. (By the way, apparently Apples to Apples won hands down as the best game to play by candlelight. *grin*) So in order to prepare for a real power outage it’s important to actually take time to gear down with your family now and just enjoy some of the more simple forms of entertainment. The nice thing is that several families reported having quality time with their kids once they accepted the exercise—you know, with real conversations and eye contact! How would it be, eh?
Several of the families also learned that their lights weren’t anywhere near as bright as they felt they needed. Keep in mind that not only are candles the most dangerous form of lighting, they also provide the least prominent form of lighting. The open flames of candles are also quite tempting to little ones who’ve never had the opportunity to experience them. A lot of folks like to read and that activity is more likely to increase in the event of a prolonged power outage. So be sure to test your light source as a reading source. I actually felt like I needed two lanterns in order to read without straining my eyes. Reflectors and lanterns are definitely a must have tool! In fact, I found myself kind of grumpy that my husband organized this whole thing and yet when it came time for lighting he just pulled out a bunch of candles. I went on strike when it came time to clean up the dinner dishes because I simply didn’t have enough light. (Needless to say he managed to find the battery operated lanterns when it came down to that. Hee hee)
A lot of participants mentioned that they didn’t have enough wicks, easy access to the kerosene or other oil and they didn’t have a sufficient supply of D batteries. (By the way, did you know that you can purchase hundreds of feet of wick all at one time? You can find it on e-bay or just check out www.wickstore.com) One family specifically reported that their rechargeable batteries didn’t hold a charge anywhere near as long as the other batteries did. These little things will make a big difference when life gets challenging. I know that my grumpiness went away quickly once I had sufficient lighting. Some folks found that their spouse had no idea where the necessary supplies were stored. As such I suggest that it’s a valuable exercise to send family members on a treasure hunt some night and to go so far as to practice finding items in the dark. One of the other ideas shared was to have a glow stick attached to the cupboard and storage doors so that when there’s a power outage, not finding the flashlight right away doesn’t cause unnecessary stress.
You might not be aware of this, but you can actually kill a few birds with one stone when you use kerosene lanterns. The light of a kerosene lantern puts out the same amount of light as a 60 watt bulb, and they also put out a great deal of heat, especially out the top. You can purchase cooking grids to go on top of your kerosene lamps and then put a good quality pan on top of that to boil water, make soup, or even to get a pressure cooker to full pressure. Now if you want to go really Boy Scout, you can simply turn a tomato guard upside down, bend down the tines so that it holds a pan level, and now you’re cookin’—literally. Obviously, with this kind of heat output from your kerosene lamp, you can also count on it to put out some great heat for your environmental control.
By the way, did you know that you can burn your oils that have gone rancid for sources of lighting? Yup. So don’t feel too bad about that nasty canola oil garbage. At least you can burn it for light.
Another set of tools that I believe is absolutely necessary for a lights out scenario is thick tarp sheeting and duct tape. You’ll be surprised at how much warmer you can make a room simply by hanging a thick tarp from the ceiling in front of doorways. You don’t have to seal all four sides to experience a noticeable difference in the warm temperatures.
Here’s another wake up call—er, I mean an alarm. There’s value to having one of those “old fashioned” ticking clocks that runs simply on being wound up. You can use it as an alarm for shift changes, getting up to do your newfound chores, and checking on the logs in the fire.
If there were an earthquake or other natural disaster, keep in mind that it will generate a great deal of breakage and disruption. All of the broken glass and other debris from your home is just waiting to cause a foot injury without proper protection. So make sure you’ve got your shoes or slippers handy.
We had a lot of people who were either pleasantly surprised with just how well insulated their home is OR they just put renovations as a greater priority once they realized that they may end up having to heat their home—expensively with all of the poor insulation areas around the doorways, walls, and windows. For those who didn’t have woodburning stoves, they had a great deal of concern with ventilation on their only heating source. One of the heat solutions I suggest is The Little Buddy. You can run it on compressed butane which doesn’t require the same type of ventilation that most of your other heat sources do. And obviously, if you’re going to heat with these alternative sources, then you’ve got to have a carbon monoxide detector—battery operated of course. Be sure to put it down low in your home since carbon monoxide drops.
For those of you who may not be ready just yet to start with this type of exercise, feel free to break it down into smaller bites such as just the lighting sources off, or just being able to cook on alternative, non-electrical sources, or even seeing if you can make it a week or two without purchasing ANY food or drink and only making do with what you’ve got on hand. I assure you that such exercises will be great experiences in terms of helping you become more aware where some of your vulnerabilities may be. It’s actually much easier mentally to prepare with exercises like this because instead of being thrown at you like a “gloom and doom” it’s simply a more matter of fact, non-emotional issue.
So, what did I learn through all of this? Well, I decided that I was 100% committed to my Humless generator. *grin* I have said this before and I’ll say it again; the number one fuel you want to conserve is your own physical energy. So, when it came to cooking dinner (naturally I forgot about the exercise and it began on the same night I was preparing a full Thanksgiving style spread) I was able to use the Humless to run my food processor, wheat grinder, and Bosch mixer; and I even discovered that I can do THREE loads of laundry in my front loading washer with one full charge. Now THAT’S saving some major physical energy. (Otherwise I’d have to do laundry with my plunger tool in the bath tub. And my back is definitely NOT looking forward to that exercise.) Since this exercise I did get a long strip of LED lights that I have lined underneath my cupboards so that I can hook up my little Humless Roadrunner to give me the light I need to properly prepare a meal in the dark. Yup, I love my Humless. Never thought I would love a generator, but considering that this is less expensive than the lead battery units which won’t even last more than 350 full charges/full drains, and it has multiple ways to power it up (including a hand crank, plugging it in, or solar panels—to name a few) and it has so many capacities, I’m sold. Oh yeah, and it’s quiet so I’m not painting a target on my back by having to use it. Ah….just gotta love true love, eh? *grin* (By the way, if you have even half an inkling of getting a Humless generator, I suggest you do it a.s.a.p. as they are increasing their wholesale pricing by $200 effective Dec. 1st but Five Star Preparedness has them available AND is guaranteeing to beat any advertised price on a Humless generator by $150. So you can’t lose.)
So, the question is, are you going to try a little exercise to discover where your black holes might be? Come on. You know you want to. Everybody’s doing it. I dare you. I double dog dare you. *grin* At the very least you can learn a couple of tidbits from everyone in my neighborhood who did the exercise and benefit.