Lights out: Preparing for extended power outages

Consider extended power outages when<br />creating a disaster preparedness plan.
Consider extended power outages when
creating a disaster preparedness plan.

Most of us can, reluctantly, endure the occasional brief power outage from a summer thunderstorm.

But an extended power outage can be a challenge to our dependence on modern appliances and electronic devices, and disaster plans should take power loss into account. Lengthy power outages can result from many sources, and your disaster plans may change with the seasons:

  • weight of snow or ice downing lines in the winter
  • branches falling on wires during spring or summer storms
  • utility-driven blackouts or brownouts at any time of year

The Federal Emergency Management Agency describes steps to take before, during and after power outages, including conservation measures for areas subject to widespread utility brownouts or blackouts. Reminder: To prevent damage to electrical appliances as a result of power surges when power is restored, unplug any non-essential electrical appliances.

Special needs

Your family’s medical needs should top your emergency plan:

  • Prescriptions  ̶  Most refrigerated medicines will be fine for a few hours in the refrigerator, according to the Ready.gov website (before tab). After a longer outage, medications may lose their effectiveness. The Food and Drug Administration provides advice on medication safety following power outages.
  • Powered medical equipment  ̶  You may need a backup battery system for essential medical devices. The Food and Drug Administration offers tips for creating a personal emergency file for people who rely on electrically powered medical devices. Some communities have registration programs that place priority on restoring power to homes where medical equipment is in use. Check with your local authorities.

Refrigeration and food safety

Generators

  • The American Red Cross offers tips on purchasing, installing and safely using emergency generators. Take all necessary precautions to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning; don’t use a generator indoors, including in a basement or garage.
  • Keep in mind that in widespread catastrophes, gas stations may not have electricity to pump gas, so you may need to keep a supply of fuel for your generator on hand, requiring additional safe storage precautions.
  • Some whole-house generators use natural gas supplied from underground piping, which may be more dependable, except in earthquake zones.

Communications

  • Have a battery-powered emergency radio and extra batteries available.
  • Unless a widespread disruption takes out cell towers, your cell phone may continue to work in an emergency as long as you have batteries.
    • Stock extra phone batteries for emergencies, and keep a car charger on hand.
    • Hand-crank radios and phone chargers are also available for purchase.
    • Wired phones may also continue to work for phone sets that do not require batteries. You might consider keeping an older phone on hand to plug in during emergencies.

 


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104 Responses to “Lights out: Preparing for extended power outages”

  1. OII Member Spotlight: Top Weather Preparation Tips from March : Ohio Insurance Institute – Oii

    […] For more tips see the post, “Lights out: Preparing for extended power outages” here.  […]

    Reply
    • dave

      I live off the grid, wouldn’t bother me at all.

      Reply
    • VIC SPURIO II

      I WENT THROUGH 4 DAYS WITHOUT ELECTRICITY IN 2008. I HAVE WELL WATER WHICH HAS AN ELECTRICAL PUMP, A GAS FURNACE WITH AN ELECTRICAL IGNITER, AND A SUMP PUMP THAT RUNS ALOT EVEN WHEN IT’S NOT RAINING. YOU ADD TO THAT EVERYTHING ELSE THAT EVERY HOME HAS THAT RUNS ON ELECTRICITY ,THAT IS A HUGE PROBLEM.I HAD A PORTABLE 5,000 WATT GENERATOR THAT HELPED ME AT THE PRICE OF RUNNING IT FOR 20 MINUTES EVERY 4 HOURS FOR 4 DAYS. THAT DID NOT LEAVE TOO MUCH TIME FOR SLEEP, THANK GOD I WAS ON VACATION. I BOUGHT A 13 KILOWATT GE WHOLE HOUSE GENERATOR. WHEN THE POWER GOES OFF FOR 60 SECONDS, MY GENERATOR KICKS ON & RUNS EVERYTHING IN THE HOUSE UNTIL POWER IS RESTORED. THAT WAS THE BEST $6,000 I EVER SPENT !!!!! THESE DAY YOU MUST BE PREPARED !!!!

      Reply
  2. Mary Smith

    Been there, done that. It’s not fun, neither is it comfortable, but it is doable if you take the time to prepare a long time before.

    Reply
    • Richard

      Agreed. Been there — done that too. Hurricane Hugo when it knocked out the power grid and much of the infrastructure in eastern South Carolina in 1989. We were without power for 28 days and we had limited police, fire and emergency medical transport for the same amount of time. Many roads were impassable and you could really see who was prepared — and who wasn’t. There is a lot of good advice from the article and from readers. Generators are great, but keep them around 4000-5000 watts and I would recommend an extended run model that uses less fuel and runs cooler than the older models. Keep a spare spark plug and generator oil as well as a safe and separate supply of generator fuel. An outdoor gas stove and about 4-5 bottles of LP gas to cook with, several gallons of water (we started out with about 40 gallons) and a plan to forage for more from the National Guard and the Red Cross as time progressed, lots of dried goods and canned goods, from beans, rice, pasta and coffee, to jar sauce and spices. We had a chest freezer filled with fresh caught shrimp, snapper, flounder, and venison. All of that had to be cooked, consumed or given away to people who were not as prepared. Fresh veggies and fruit was likewise consumed as soon as possible. Finally, it doesn’t hurt if one member of the family has a pickup truck, Jeep or SUV. If you live in hurricane country, you already know to keep your fuel tanks full from March to September. If you keep firearms, know where they are and keep them in a locked and secure place, or on you. Know the procedures during a time of marshal law before a disaster hits.

      Reply
  3. Deborah Williams

    Keeping water in the refrigerator and ice in the freezer also will help lower your utility bill, appliance will not have to cycle so much and stay out of it!!

    Reply
    • J Smith (@wizoz20186)

      I’ve run some experiments during long-term power outages (we have two refrigerator/freezer combos) and the difference really is dramatic between how long a full refrigerator/freezer stays cold and how long a near-empty one does. I didn’t think that it would make that much of a difference if neither was opened, but it’s dramatic.

      Reply
  4. mike

    how long after date on a can is it safe to use food, storing long term

    Reply
    • Cincinnati Insurance

      Mike – We would search for this information on a reliable website for food safety, such as a university extension service or the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

      Reply
    • Wayne

      in Vietnam in 1970 I rember the navy feeding us hotdogs in gallon cans dated 1948

      Reply
      • Sean

        Lol. In ranger school 1973 they fed us c-rats from ww2!

        Reply
        • mikdemps

          1971 the tincan DD-703 i was on we opened our life boats up and inspected them. I found a cartoon of Lucky Strike Green still have then and 1942 tin cans of water 12oz. cans and they where useless.

          Reply
        • Alisha

          The Army tried to do that to us in 2001. Even the people who came up with the idea could not handle the smell. Next idea was fried rattlesnake.

          Reply
      • Jaylog

        I’ll take the c-rats from WWII before any canned hotdogs that old!

        Reply
      • sprayman0

        Hahahaha! K rations from the Korean war with two cigarettes so old the paper was yellow!

        Reply
      • optouter

        When in the Army in the early 60s we were fed “C” rations once a week that dated from WWII. Nobody had any problem.

        Reply
    • annjo1

      As long as the can was intact before you opened it (no holes, dents, bulges, rust), the contents look and smell normal, and the food was commercially canned, it is almost certain to be SAFE. If it’s several years beyond it’s “sell-by” date, it may have lost some vitamins and flavor, but it will still contain the basics (fats, carbs, protein) needed to keep you alive. If it looked and smelled normal, I’d have no reservations about eating commercially canned food 10-15 years or more past its “sell-by” date.

      Home canned low-acid food (veggies, meats) is only safe if you know who canned it and how carefully they follow the rules of canning.

      Reply
    • Mike

      Hey Mike. Typically, canned foods like you purchase in the grocery stores can be kept and used for 2-3 yrs past the cans expiration date. A reliable way to tell if the contents are bad is if the top or bottom of the can is expanded or curved up. The ‘good’ food will still have a ‘not-so-fresh’ taste to it, but it will still be edible unless the can lid is ‘popped up’.

      Reply
    • Dan

      The food in the can is good for a long time..years….the dates are “best when used by” not expiration.
      When you see rust around the rim or you see the top popped up, throw it away it is dangerous.
      Until then it is perfectly safe.

      Reply
    • Clem

      We’ve used canned foods years after the date on the can. The dates on the cans are a bunch of crap that the FDA has foisted on food manufacturers.

      Reply
      • Mark Becker

        FYI, I work in grocery business and researched this for a customer. The FDA does not require dates on cans. Most of those dates are for rotational purposes. There are only certain things that require dates and that is in the perishable category such as eggs, cheese, milk, meat, etc. Frozen items are good for years and don’t require dates either.

        Reply
        • Marcus

          Mark- “The best used by” date is a marketing strategy. Dairy products dates are a safety guideline for the consumer. Those on canned and frozen foods are for marketing, encouraging the consumer to discard and replace items beyond the printed dae.

          Reply
    • optouter

      Mike. I have in the last month consumed half a dozen cans of food and another half a dozen boxes of food that were 2-3 years past their “best by date”. I detected no reduction in quality and I certainly was not harmed by doing so. If you ask the producer of the product they are directed by their attorneys to give you more conservative answer possible.

      Reply
    • ken wiley

      I date all my can goods when I buy them- I have a double door (front & back) large cabinet /new goes in the back and I draw from the front -I have used can good 5 years pass ” best by ” date -just check for blotted cans and trash them-by law can good must be 120% pass date safe to eat-

      Reply
  5. thelma a. t. btown

    is it safe to eat canned goods (green beans, carrots,peas, beans, etc. and/or water packed tuna during a long power outage??

    Reply
  6. Momala

    Thelma ~
    As long as the cans are within their expiration date, it is safe to eat the contents. Just a reminder – this is why you always have a manual can opener around the house!

    Reply
    • john

      Or rub can top on concrete for emergencys. Tops are only lightly soldered in place

      Reply
  7. Linda

    I lived twelve years without electricity, running water, or indoor plumbing. But if you haven’t experienced that lifestyle, I would advise investing in a Camp Chef stove

    http://www.outdoorcooking.com/expedition-2x-double-burner-stove.html?gdftrk=gdfV25448_a_7c1850_a_7c7563_a_7cYK60LWC12&gclid=CPqu4eWU_b0CFcyTfgodKKUABg

    (in addition to your gas barbeque), as well as storing water, and canning jars and sealers. Study up on how to can food, so that you can preserve the food as it thaws out in the freezer.

    Reply
    • Maria Bruno

      I did it for two years (yeah Peace Corps!) You did it for 12? RESPECT.

      Reply
      • Chris Olson

        My wife and I have lived off-grid for 14 years in northern Wisconsin. We have solar panels, wind turbine and two generators so we are not without power. And we have satellite TV and internet. But we don’t depend on the utility because there is no utility where we live.

        Reply
    • JOHN

      How did u store water for how long what kind of water container did u use? Thank you!

      Reply
    • Deb

      How do you access the Internet without electricity?

      Reply
      • Grumpster

        Deb…you really don’t read do you. Go back and read again…did he ever say he did not have electricity?

        Reply
  8. Retha Tallent

    Be aware that ATM’s aren’t functional during power outages. Keep some cash on-hand for purchase of ice, batteries, gasoline, etc. Although this might sound silly, buy a whistle and keep it on you. Should the worst happen and you are buried under rubble a whistle will help rescue personnel find you.

    Reply
    • Jim M

      Also be aware that stores without power can’t sell you goods that you need. So you will have to travel out of your outage area (keep spare gas on hand) in order to purchase emergency supplies.

      Reply
    • Grumpster

      ATM’s without power….a great resource in and of themselves.

      Reply
  9. Hank nNovak

    Canned food, most people do not have a MANUAL can opener!

    I have a small supply of John Wayne openers in our house left over from Vietnam just in case.

    Reply
    • Jojo

      They were called P38s

      Reply
      • MARY

        That’s right JoJo. My husband was in Army in 1968-1970 and that’s what they used: P38s and that’s what they called them. Why on earth anyone would call them John Wayne openers is beyond me. You know Wayne NEVER fought in any war except in movies! He used his “married with dependents” exemption over and over. Not like Jimmy Stewart or Henry Fonda or real heroes!

        Reply
        • gomer

          yes but wayne played a much needed role for propaganda on the homefront. don’t trash a national treasure.

          Reply
          • Jonathan Miller

            Obviously the other poster was not a fan. Wayne provided a more valuable service than he ever could by physically fighting…

        • RealPatriot

          In the Marine Corps we called them “John Waynes”. I never heard them called P38s until I spoke to an Army vet about them. Semper Fi.

          Reply
          • William West

            I was in the Corps ’64 ’til ’69–never heard of a P38 until many years later either. We just called them can openers (How novel)! More Semper Fi !!

    • John

      Most people don’t have a MANUAL can opener??? I have 3 homes and don’t have a single electric can opener. ‘John Wayne’ opener was a P-38 when I was in the US Army. Every can of C Rations had a P-38. I have dozens at home.

      Reply
      • Keith

        In the Marine Corps, we called the small can openers “John Waynes” – why I do not know. I never heard P-38 until I spoke to an Army vet about them. Semper Fi!

        Reply
    • norfolkgarden

      True.

      it’s kinda funny. we never could decide which of several electric can openers we really liked, so they all went back to the store. we have several nice manual can openers that I’m happier using, even though I’m left handed. Just habit i guess.

      If you only have an electric can opener, you can still use it with a “PATIENCE” method. Pop open the can in the beginning like normal, then rotate the can a quarter inch and pop it open again. keep doing this until the lid is fully perforated (about 4 to 5 minutes PER CAN).
      It’ is very important to HAVE PATIENCE and DON’T CUT YOURSELF BEING IMPATIENT !!! The Emergency Room where you would normally go to get stitches is really busy right now!
      This method is still much safer than the idiot in “American Blackout” who tried to use a kitchen knife and slashed his hand open.

      Good movie, recommend watching it to everyone. Very eye opening if you haven’t really thought about it before. I’m used to 2-4 days max of no power. And having the area outside of where we live still being normal. This movie was pretty scary, even with the “happy” ending.

      Reply
  10. Kimberly Pyles (@kimberlypyles)

    I have been through this after Sandy 10 days of absolute chaos.

    Reply
    • Barb

      In Florida we go through this somewhere in the state every year …. There is absolutly no excuse to find yourself unprepared for a hurricane.

      Reply
    • Alisha

      I have the extended outage problem a lot. You just keep stalked with simple stuff. Grab stuff you do not have to cook, cook food ahead of time, eat food out of refrigerator before it goes bad and barbecue anything out of the freezer. I lock a certain amount of snacky foods up just in case because we have the outage problem very often. I keep extra gallon jugs of water for the toilet or mini baths. Usually 2 gallons per person is a good idea. It is also a good idea to find out how much local hotels cost and keep at least a few nights fee set aside. Enduring negative temperatures, if you are not used to them, are not worth the risk. I also tend to make sure laptops, mini dvds, mp3 players and phone are charged up. We usually huddle up in one room and put a movie in to fall asleep to on nights the laptops are still charged. It is also an idea to cover up windows and doors when it is cold out. We also section off one part of the house to use and start up the kerosene heater. Not the best, but at least you are warm.

      Reply
  11. Jon

    Most canned foods don’t expire for a long time. The date on them is usually a “sell by” date, and is meaningless for your home storage. I recommend you stock up, but have a rotation system so the oldest gets used first. Then you never have to worry about it. A gas BBQ for outdoor cooking might be okay, but after a storm, a charcoal one is probably better, because you can also burn wood in it. There’ll probably be plenty of wood unless you live in the desert. Water is always an issue, but if you have a small purifier ($100 investment) you can haul water from almost anywhere. Have an escape plan. I wonder at the reactions of folks who stay put when a major storm comes in off the ocean (you had warning) and then want the government to rescue them. If a storm is coming in, get in your car, drive 150 miles inland, wait it out, then go home if it wasn’t destroyed. For those of us in Tornado Alley, I like that whistle idea. Have a safe basement corner. Keep a pry bar and hatchet there for digging out, whistle as needed. Can’t outrun the tornado like you can a hurricane.

    Reply
  12. R Henrey

    With a severe threat of incoming bad weather and potential power outages lower your refrigerator freezer to the lowest setting possible. Get it as cold as you can; add bottled water in plastic if your freezer is not full. More mass you have the longer time to unthaw. Hopefully power restored before it thaws out. Lightly loaded freezers thaw out faster.

    Reply
    • Alisha

      One other option is to unload your frig of perishables, if you know someone who has electricity. I do that one to my mother quite often.

      Reply
  13. John

    In 2005 we were hit by two hurricanes at our home in FL. The first one took out the power for 13 days a week after restoration the second hit and we lost power for another 8 days we cranked up our genset and just kept on truckin. We always have a several week supply of food and also have several cases of MREs just in case. A little planning and while inconvenient, these situations are not all that difficult to deal with. Its the folks who think the government should take care of them that are most at risk during a disaster. Be prepared to live for a week or more without any help and you willbe fine

    Reply
  14. bill collier

    in your gallon of plastic milk jugs when tha milk is is gone fill up a bount 2/3 eds of hot water out of tha tap, shake thuraly, let set 4 abount 5 mins,,,,, than repeat tha same sugesston twice, than fill up tha jug abount 3/4 of hot water from tha tap, and let set there , ,,,, for abount a few mins,,,, than fill up tha jug with cold water out of tha tap.,,,, to take a very quick shower,, take a very small elecertic drill and drill small holes in tha ex formation in tha plastic water cap, use just enouh to take tha stinky off of you,, tha hot water will kill any BACTERIA in side tha plastic jugs,, store all of tha jugs in tha same order,,with tha water I have 26 jugs of wATER jugsSTORED,, put then up high so tha rats and mince cant knaw thrugh them I am 78 yr old former usmc, and still gung-ho as hell ,,, fastdraw55@yahoo.com,,,,

    Reply
    • john

      There is a legal difference between a “water filter”
      and a “water purifier”..the purifier removes ALL contaminents! The filter leaves a lot of bad things after you pour water through it! We buy a product called “Zero Water” the filters can be purchased at Walmart, Target, Bed Bath and Beyond. The initial cost is high; due to the acquiring of the water pitcher. After that, screw on filters are used. The company also gives you a small meter to measure water quality..we have no connection with Zero Water of any kind; except we buy their US made products!

      Reply
  15. Sam

    We had a 5-day power outage last summer. The worst part was a neighbor whose emergency generator was so loud that no one in the neighborhood could sleep at night, even with the windows closed. Other neighbors had generators, but they weren’t as loud and most people shut them off for at least 5-6 hours during the night. It was hot and sticky, but they were thoughtful enough to give everyone some peace during the middle of the night. If you run a generator, think about your neighbors. Walk up and down the surrounding blocks to get a sense of just how intrusive your generator is. Unless you’re powering critical medical equipment, shut it down at night!!!

    Reply
    • Jim M

      I hear you Sam. During a recent power outage in our area, many generators were so loud as to be an annoyance. for short term outages I can see powering up refrigerators for a few minutes at a time. Everything else you can do without. We use candles (carefully) and flashlights at night and run our laptops and internet off car battery jump boxes. These and a power inverter are very handy (and Quiet).

      Reply
    • ken wiley

      I have 3 generator 2 diesel and 1 gas-the small diesel is only a 5000 watt but is very quiet- it is a back only-the other diesel is in my motor home and has a pipe that vents above the roof good at camp grounds-my main gas gen 150,000 watts is in a building with sound proofing when running it goes thru a water muffler and vent up about 6 ft- also quiet-you get what you pay for-on a side note buy out side solar walk way lights and use them for short term inside lighting-

      Reply
  16. sandy

    My power was out 7 days this last winter (2014), 2 days longer than all my neighbors because the power lines were ripped right out of my house! I had my generator running around the clock because my furnace was just about to go out (bad baring) and if it shut down, it was really loud! So some time people can’t help but to leave them running all night. Keep this in mind if your neighbors LOUD generator is running all night!

    Reply
    • annjo1

      Sandy, if your generator is extremely loud and you know you might have to run it overnight, consider building an enclosure around it to reduce the noise. No matter how good your reason for leaving it on all night, you don’t have the right to inflict sleeplessness on your neighbors, who are probably under enough stress already.

      Reply
  17. ken wiley

    I have enough power to run to house and fuel for over a month since the gen is in a small building and the exsuse goes thru 2 muffler and is pointed toward the sky the system is very quiet- my gen runs my water system all so- all so have my motor home (diesel) so it too is a back up-I have a enough food for over 5 years and rotate my can goods’ I started this about 4 years ago and I had to use it twice. plan now, do start a system for your self-buy 2 cans of food store 1 and in a short time you will be prepared-

    Reply
  18. Barb Aque

    Fast way to find good guidance, u can check out the National Hurricane Center’s website for Hurricane preparedness plans on how to prepare for situations such as these. This is a good start for those who are unfamiliar with “emergency preparing.” :)

    Reply
  19. gary patterson

    ice may be so important! saves food items..provides comfort and maybe even medical help if you are bleeding.. melts to provide drinking water…so I purchased a small 5cf chest freezer that is stocked to the top ALWAYS full of blocks and cubes of ice. good emergency investment and I always have basically free party ice!

    Reply
  20. doktorthomas2

    A bunch of links is not professional journalism. Anyone who has heard of Google (better to use ixQuick it is more private), doesn’t need to waste time reading this article sans substance. ©2014

    Reply
  21. bro48

    Get some ear plugs annjo1

    Reply
  22. David Fitzgibbon

    If you are using a generator be sure you don’t backfeed the power line and injure someone working on the line. Turn off your main breaker, or install a throw switch to select either source.

    Reply
  23. cobaltbunny

    Along with water and food, don’t forget entertainment for the kiddos. Keep decks of cards and toys which do not require power. Small flashlights, the kind you wind to use, are even entertainment/nightlights. You also want a small battery or wind up radio. On the can opener topic I use Swingaway it is always in my utensil drawer ready to grab.

    Reply
  24. inkstigator

    Hello, McFly??? Why should I stock up on small containers of water that have to be rotated and replaced on a regular schedule? I have 40 gallons of fresh water sitting in my basement at all times. It’s in a glass-lined tank I like to call, “the water heater.” Next to it I keep a short hose and the tools I would need in an emergency to open the valve at the bottom of the tank. Since I drain and flush the water heater regularly like I’m supposed to, there’s very little sediment in there to deal with.

    Caution: If you drain an electric hot water heater, remember to turn off the power at the breaker box. Otherwise when the lights come back on the heating elements will dry-fire, and will burn out and have to be replaced.

    Reply
  25. Bob

    You don’t need a large generator since a small inexpensive 3500 watt unit with a 110/220 option will be all most people really need and will greatly stretch your available fuel. You will also need a couple heavy duty 50 foot extension cords(which can be plugged together for 100 feet with minimal voltage loss or used separately) and a couple wired indoor/outdoor thermometers. Place one thermometer in your refrigerator and the other in your chest freezer so that you can accurately measure the temperature without opening the door. I use the generator’s 220 volt option to run my well pump and switch back to 110 for everything else. You should only need to run the generator for 1 1/2 – 2 hours a day to keep the refrigerator and freezer cold. During this time you can also plug in two or three other low demand electrical devices including battery chargers. If absolutely needed, the small generator will power up to a 13,000btu air-conditioner or microwave oven but not at the same time. During a heat wave power outage we put a small 5000btu window air-conditioner in our closed bedroom with cool on high for a couple hours and then shut it down. It stayed quite comfortable till morning. In cold climates a small vent-less propane heater can provide needed warmth. You will also need a supply of fuel stabilized gas and a 20# tank of propane on hand. We also round out our supplies with a couple oil lamps (indoor and outdoor) with a few quarts of lamp oil. The stabilized gas can keep for up to two years and the lamp oil and propane indefinitely. At 1 1/2 hours a day you can use as little a five gallons of gas per week in the small generator. This whole emergency kit can be purchased for less than $1000 including the little 5000btu window air-conditioner and vent-less propane heater.

    Reply
    • Carol

      Hey, Bob!
      Thanks for all the great info! Never, on ANY prepping/disaster blog or article have I seen such a concise, fact filled important set of information as what you said in under 2000 words! I’ll use this to take to my next prep shopping run, especially about the generator. Already have most of the other stuff, gas, heater, air conditioner. But having this info all in one place is really great.
      Thanks again!
      My home was built, not well, in 1945, and has no insulation, so the heat/cool will need to be done pretty much all day (sorry, neighbors…but at least I’m rural, so neighbors are not 10 feet away, and those with barking dogs all night, well, payback’s a bitch!).

      Reply
      • Bob

        Thanks Carol. I have posted this several times over the years and yours was the first thank you I have gotten. For practice we used to take our camping trailer out to the farm and live off the grid quite often using only our little generator. We also got quite good at planning meals and stretching supplies including conserving water and taking the 1 1/2 gal. shower. The newer generators are much quieter and you will also want a good chain and lock to prevent theft. Better yet, bring it in when it isn’t running. At 100 lbs. on wheels this isn’t too difficult.

        Reply
        • Carol

          Again, thanks for great ideas! I have some mighty fine camping meals as well, and am familiar with the “sea shower” attitude. I plan to keep the generator in a locked pump house, so theft hopefully won’t be an issue. i also have an ‘etching’ tool, and scribe my Driver’s license number on all costly tools in case of theft for the LEO’s to ID as mine if found.
          Maybe a stupid question, but how do you use one indoors? I planned to get a small one just for my well pump, and another for the house for a few luxuries, but am not sure if it’s safe to run indoors for a few hours at a time. You mention 50’ extension cords: do you have to keep it outside and use the extension cords? Just wondering!
          Wish you were my neighbor so I’d have someone to go to for such great info and advice!

          Reply
          • Bob

            NEVER run the generator indoors even with the doors and windows open. Carbon monoxide has a very high affinity for your blood cells. Any carbon monoxide breathed will be absorbed into your blood stream even with fresh air mixed in. Also using a propane heater inside must only be done for short periods of time with a certified vent-less indoor heater for the same reason. The extension cords allow the generator to be safely outdoors and run the cords in through a door or window.. The two heavy duty 50 foot cords allow a lot of flexibility running power to appliances in the house. You can use both separately or link them together to extend its reach. Some well pumps are 110 volt and some are 220 volt. Since my well is 220 volts I also have a special 220 volt extension cord and plug just for it. This is also why I recommend the generator with the 220 volt option which does not cost extra. Most people won’t need it but many will. I suggest that you find someone with a little electrical know-how to help you plan your emergency setup and make sure it works ahead of when you need it. My setup is adequate for emergencies only and does not have much excess capacity for luxuries. It is also very portable. If you want to use your central air, a heat pump, or any electrical heating appliances, it will require a much larger and more expensive generator system which will also require much more fuel to run. This will require professional planning and special electrical equipment which will quickly get into the $8000-$12,000 range.

          • Carol

            By “luxuries” I actually meant that my oil furnace uses electricity to move the heat, so I would use the generator to keep my heat going… (OR a small space heater, a closed oil indoor one) guess I should have been more literal. Also, to use to keep the frig’ and freezer cooling as you suggested. …so really not luxuries at all. I was pretty much thinking that using a generator indoors was not good, but your reply clarified that for me.
            Although as I mentioned before, my home is NOTHING like sealed, with many floors/walls actually showing the outside ..gaps over 1” in measurement, windows that blow cold/hot air in, etc, and no insulation except a few places in the attic,but even so, I will not be using the generator inside. Most of my windows don’t open, due to having been painted so many times. I will need to figure a way to bring the cords in without having to keep the door open…..
            I think that I have three that open, and two of those are upstairs. I actually keep the upstairs closed off in the winter, but open to allow heat to rise in the summer…As you can tell I have several obstacles to overcome just in order to be able to use a generator, but your comments and suggestions are really helping me figure out the logistics of what my system will require.

          • Bob

            If you use a generator to power your oil furnace or other hardwired electrical appliance, YOU MUST FIRST DISCONNECT THAT ITEM FROM THE GRID EITHER PHYSICALLY OR BY USING A SPECIAL SWITCH OVER BOX BEFORE CONNECTING THE GENERATOR. Otherwise your generator will feed back into the grid and possibly injure someone working on the power lines or it could damage your generator. A refrigerator or freezer is much simpler since you can just unplug it from the wall and plug it into your generator extension cord. This accomplishes the same thing as disconnecting from the grid.

          • Carol

            Good to know. I do believe that the well pump AND the furnace just have a simple plug that is like the freezer, but I’ll definitely check on that before I do anything. I knew about the ‘feedback’ into the power grid, and will be very careful about what I use the generator for…

        • ken wiley

          I stared out with a small gas gen 2500 watts and had it off at night on my back porch with a small chain and lock-at 3am- I herd and saw a guy cutting the chain to sell my unit-I went out the front door with a 22 rifle and shot him twice and then call the cops-he was 17 years old at the time and now has a bad shoulder -at court his mother call me all kind on names for shooting her “good” son-he went to jail and the judge fined her–

          Reply
  26. Robert g

    During out hurrican outages we run the generator 1 1/2 hours in th morning and about the same at 6 pm . Because the storms our usually during warm weather a double run is required. Put items for frequent use in an ice chest and never open the freezer or refer unless the generator is on line. Just my opinion. Stay safe

    Reply
  27. Geoff

    I swore I’d never need a generator until we lost power for 10 days with the basement sump filling every hour. The bucket brigade routine got old fast.
    Running the generator 24/7 to keep the sump dry also got old fast as there was one gas station open with power.
    I installed a water-powered sump that relies on the utility provided water pressure to suck water out of the sump. I kicks in if the electrically powered sump pump fails for any reason. Yes, it seems weird to pump city water to empty your sump but it’s reliable and failsafe. Even if I am not home and we get a combination of rain and loss of power I know the basement will stay dry.

    Reply
    • Carol

      Geoff: That sounds really interesting! I have never heard of such a thing…Questions: 1: Where do you get one of these water powered sump pumps, and 2: Does it only work with utility water, or do you think it could work with well water?
      I live in a rural location with a well. My property is also low-lying with a high water table, and I need a sump pump almost daily in winter when it rains…..Yikes! Never thought about it not working due to power outage! I guess because usually our power outages come when it is extremely cold and everything is either ice or snow…
      Wish we had basements here where I live! I could use the extra space!!!
      Glad you found something that works for your situation!

      Reply
  28. Kyle Harrison

    You should buy a berkey water filter. I have one. Cost me $256 and filters all bacteria and viruses.

    Reply
  29. David Fitzgibbon

    When using a generator be sure to throw off your main breaker, otherwise you will be feeding the whole neighborhood. I usually backfeed my dryer outlet. Don’t try using high demand devices like ovens. Keep a small camp stove for these emergencies.

    Reply
    • ken wiley

      I am electrician and have and use a REQ 4 sub panel-install 2 125 dp breaker phy tie the breaker to gather-one breaker to gen /one to house service from road- main lugs to house service main breaker-when switch to gen the out side power is turn off and vice versa

      Reply
  30. AMV

    Living in a Great Nation like America where we can have fuel,food, water at the turn of a key the real key to all survival is in the good times prepare for the bad and in the good times trust and honor Almighty God the best preparation for the hard times to come. All wisdom comes from the Father of lighs he alone knows the number of our days and allow us to live them out to the fullest,keep your bible just as close as your p-38 then you wil be able to feed body and soul and your mind will be refreashed for another day. God Bless may we all live in PEACE.

    Reply
  31. Wally Mayo

    I think a two prong approach works best. That is, I use ONE 100w solar panel with a deep cycle marine type battery + ONE 3500w generator. I use the panel battery with a Cobra 12v to 120v device for low power things like cell phone charger, home phone units, TV, satellite receiver, and FAN. Why run a 3500w generator when you only need 50 watts for a fan for sleeping overnight? The generator is used intermittantly to keep fridge up to cool enough, and for short term things like hair dryer, microwave (for breakfast), coffee maker, etc.

    Reply
  32. Dee bell

    I have not owned an electric can opener in twenty years. I admit, I eat very few things that come in a can. Manual is no big deal. Easier to store and clean. I freeze my filtered water in ice trays, bag the cubes and use them to fill up empty space in the freezers. I never have to buy ice for parties either. Makes a great emergency water supply.

    Reply
  33. Tommy

    I have lived without electricity for extended periods of time. Not all that bad. It`s just that most people take it for granted and wouldn’t know what to do without it. How would anybody check their Facebook or twitter?

    Reply
  34. Brian McCue

    Gallon jugs of water placed in your freezer provide 8 lb blocks of ice with handles. If you remove a little of the water you can reduce the chance of the jug splitting. If the outage is expected to last some time, pack everything into a cooler with the frozen gallon jugs of ice. The cooler will keep food cold longer than your fridge will. Also, consider placing the cooler in the basement or any spot out of the heat. Once the ice melts you can drink the water.

    If you’re going away for a bit and are concerned you may not be aware of a long term power outage, place 5 or 6 ice cubes on a small plate in your frrezer. If they are there when you get home you know that your fridge stayed cold. If they’re gone you probably should be suspect of the contents of your fridge.

    Reply
  35. Brian McCue

    Some additional tips:
    Have a cell phone charge that plugs into your car lighter outlet.
    Have a few LED flashlights/lanterns that use “D” cell batteries. LED flashlights/lanterns last longer and are much more durable. In addition, “D” cells last longer (more capacity). Use alkalines and keep at least one set of replacement batteries per flashlight/lantern in a place they can be found and reserve them only for that purpose. The same holds true for a radio. Purchase one that uses “D” cells – lasts longer and you’ve standarized your batteries. Running the radio on reduced volume also extends the battery life.
    Make sure you have battery powered/battery back up smoke detectors and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors as well.

    Reply
  36. Jeff Howards

    And nobody suggested an emergency backup generator? $300 for a small one, up to $1,000 to power an entire house. I have one I bought 12 years ago for $500 that I just used after the latest round of storms in Kansas. For an additional $500 I had a power transfer kit installed by an electrician. Now I just plug the generator into a 220V plug on the outside of the house, throw a few switches, and everything is powered again. Remember, your gas furnice won’t work in the winter without the electronics and blower motor powered.

    Reply
  37. scott

    John, u are full of it dude! NO ONE has enough gas “on hand” to keep a generator running for 21 days ! get real

    Reply
    • Bill

      This is probably true, unless you live on a farm and have fuel storage for your equipment. Diesel is probably the most efficient, but for those of us “city dwellers” gasoline is probably more plentiful. I have had a 5000/6250 watt generator for over 20 years, have made provisions to plug it into two different houses, and last year I converted it to run on natural gas as well as propane. Natural gas is generally considered to be the most clean and reliable, propane stores forever, and gasoline will last for a couple of years if treated properly. I rotate my gas storage into my cars on a regular basis, treat it with Sta-Bil in the mean time, and keep my generator tank dry until I actually put the gas in for an emergency if the other two fuels are not available. The 5000 watt generator will power everything that I “need” during an emergency (I trip the main house breaker first and then the panel breakers to the clothes dryer, HVAC compressor, and stove), and have never had a problem with keeping two refrigerators, one freezer, a gas fireplace w/blower and the furnace going, even while running a cord or two to the neighbors. I generally shut everything down when we go to bed or leave the house for an extended time. I keep my generator chained inside a small, locked garden shed, with good ventilation and an auxiliary muffler to the outside. I lined the shed walls and lid with HVAC duct liner sound control board. I read 62 db at 27 feet, so it’s pretty quiet. Even my neighbor says that he can’t hear it run in the winter time and his house is only about 25-30 feet away. My “Tri-Fuel” conversion kit came from http://www.uscarb.com and cost about $300, plus some gas pipe, fittings, and a flexible hose for the end which, with a quick coupler, I can switch between the natural gas valve and a 100# propane tank sitting outside in a matter of seconds, without tools. YouTube has many good suggestions. I took many good ideas from there and combined them into my final installation. Just look for “generator enclosures, generator tri-fuel, generator sound proofing, etc.

      Reply
  38. Joe

    Mike, if the can is not damaged (bulges), the food is safe indefinitely. The “expiration” dates are an indicator of quality, as foods will lose their color, flavor, texture, and nutritional value. But if you need to eat it, you can.

    In practice, safe water is more important. Know how to purify water with bleach (which does have an expiration date) or water safety tablets.

    Reply
  39. Joe

    How many years do expect your outage to last?

    Reply
  40. Keesha

    Retha, I don’t think it’s silly at all re: whistles. I have a couple bags of them in the drawer of our front entry table. It’s where our kids (middle schoolers) drop off their backpacks after school etc. I buy the whistles that come attached to a stretchy wristband. My kids take them whenever they walk or bike to a friend’s house, and we have given out whistles to kids all over the neighborhood, going over appropriate use of course.

    Reply
  41. Joe

    If it cycles less often, then it has to run longer on each cycle. This does not save electricity. Keeping out of it will. Physics 101.

    Reply
  42. John

    That’s not true.

    Reply
  43. Dan

    Why would anyone not prepare for a long term emergency? First build a safe room into your house or garage. I chose solar power instead of loud and dangerous gas generators. I have 4 240 watt panels and four storage batteries. I have a 5000 watt inverter. This allows me to run the most important appliances and some lights. At least a six month supply of non-perishable food ( remember you may have friends or relatives who are not as well prepared. I collect water from my roof and have 2 sources of purification including UV. A good first aid kit is vital.

    Reply

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