I am prepared for most disasters I can think up and lived through some small disaster of my own, like going a week without water. I know the last thing I want to do before any type of storm warning is go shopping! I don’t always succeed but I want to stay home and get the house ready for possible problems that might happen during any seasonal storm. I’m always doing some sort of prep because disasters don’t always announce themselves ahead of time. This post is about what to do when I get a heads up of an incoming storm.
Clean everything and get those chores done! I don’t think I’m unique in having daily cleaning chores like doing the dishes or weekly chores like cleaning the bathroom or doing the laundry. You may have a larger household so some jobs need done more often but keeping a home somewhat clean needs doing on a regular basis. Cleaning a home is much easier when you have access to hot water and appliances like washer/dryers, dishwashers and vacuum cleaners. I tend to move up my cleaning schedule to get as many jobs that require energy or hot water done as quickly as possible. I tend to start with the laundry even adding towels, bed sheets to make up a load of laundry to wash and dry. Knowing you have clean clothes and other items that will last a few days without worrying about doing laundry when the power is out is worth the effort. Vacuum your carpets/rugs while you have power. Sweeping, mopping and dusting don’t require electrical power but you don’t want to try and sweep a rug clean in a no power situation. Do your dishes be it handwashing or using a dishwasher. You will have the maximum amount of dinner ware available before the storm hits your area. You can still use paper plates, cups and utensil but you won’t have a bunch of dirty plates sitting in your sink or dishwasher while you wait for power to come back on.
Test all your non-electrical powered lighting. Grabbing a flashlight that has dead batteries can be very aggravating when the power is out. Check your stockpile of matches, bic lighters, candles and if you use lanterns or oil lamps make sure the lamps have fuel and the wicks are trimmed and in working order. Take an inventory of the fuel for lamps, matches/lighters and batteries so you know how much you have on hand. While you may not want to shop, if those supplies are low you could make a shopping trip for these items early in the storm warning. If you can’t get these items add these item to your list of things to get in the future.
Charge up everything that needs charging via electrical power. While I like my little solar panel as a backup, it is usually faster to charge electronic items via your home’s electrical outlets. Don’t forget charging up those battery packs or if you have them rechargeable AA,C or d batteries if you have them on hand. Every thing you charge up now will give you more time to use those items without worry if the power goes out. Don’t forget setting up an emergency radio that gives weather reports and if it shortwave you might pick up some local conditions/news reports.
Laundry: I recommend having at least 2 weeks worth of undies, socks and other undergarment you need on hand. Clean clothes are not only warmer but help prevent potential health and odor issues wearing dirty clothes. Your washing machine does not require a lot of power as most appliance go. Many generators can power a washing machine. Washing Machine require a lot of water so if water is an issue hand washing might be your only option in a long term disaster. In the Army I used a reinforced plastic bag, some detergent and a gallon of water to clean some clothes.The results were less than optimal. It is difficult to rinse and squeeze the excess water out of hand washed clothes. I think an Industrial strength Mop bucket with it’s squeeze to drain water is a solution but I can’t afford the cost right now. I have an electric dryer and it is my biggest electrical energy hogs. I can’t even run the dryer via my generators because they can not handle the 240 volts power required for the dryer. I have drying racks but I was surprised about how much physical energy I used with dry clothing on racks compared to using a dryer over a couple of weeks I had my clothes dryer died and I could not replace it. I found that mental and cumulative stress of doing without that appliance very significant. I’m sure the stress would get much worse when dealing with disaster.
Generators: Check out your fuel situation and make sure all of your extension cords are in good shape. Test the generator and see if will start and run safely. Make sure you have oil on hand as most generators have an emergency shut off if the oil level gets low. Plan on using the generator for 2-3 hours at a time a couple times per day just enough to keep the food cold/frozen in the fridge and do some jobs that need electricity. If you run a generator 24/7 you will run out of fuel plus the noise of the generator may attract unwanted attention. Depending on the output of your generator you might be able to recharge all of your gadgets or even watch a movie while the generator powers your fridge/freezer.
Staying warm: I’m a huge fan of the Mr. Buddy heaters. I tested them in cold winters before I had my wood stove and those heater work great especially if you use a fan to move the heat. You can buy an adapter to hook a Mr. Buddy heater to a regular propane tank rather than just a 1 pound tank for about $15.00. Do not run any heater 24/7 in the cold because you will run out of fuel. Warm the house up then pile on the blankets at night. Start the heater up in the morning to about 50-65 degrees F. and put on a sweater to keep warm. It’s not about being comfortable it’s about not having freezing pipes or getting hypothermia. So you might be a little uncomfortable. If you have a decorative fire place, have the chimney cleaned at least every other year and build up a small stack of fire wood. The firewood will burn better the longer it has time to season and you can always use the wood for a little firepit/bonfire in summer and fall.
Cooking without electricity or gas. I had no idea that Nat. gas well heads could freeze up. So if I had a gas cooktop or hot water tank in Texas I would have been scrambling to find a way to cook and have hot water. I have a wood stove but it isn’t a cooking stove. It will heat a lot water to about 165 degrees F. but not to the boiling point of 212 degrees F. I have a propane grill, Charcoal/wood BBQ grill a fire pit all out on my patio. While I love BBQing a Turkey in November I’d prefer having my coffee indoors where it is generally warmer in the house. Butane hot plates or propane camp stoves can make cooking without power easier if not easy. There is a possibility the camp stoves might out gas to a dangerous level if you run them for hours at a time but I just want to boil some water to make coffee in a French press coffee maker or make some ramen, bacon, eggs for breakfast for breakfast. If I want to make a big meal or slow cook something in a Dutch oven I’ll use one of my grills! It’s not just about having the grills or burner plates it is about having fuel on hand to use those grills or burners.
Bugging Out: Sometimes the safest thing to do is leave the disaster area. If you think you might have to bug out and leave your home during a disaster. Bag up all your food in the fridge or freezer food in heavy duty/construction grade garbage bags. If the power stays on while you are away from your home great, but if the power goes out and the food rots all you have to do for clean up is throw that rotted food away and your fridge/freezer won’t smell like rotten food. Turn off all your power, gas, drain your water lines and if possible turn off your water main. Not everyone lives in a stand alone home so turning off the Main lines of power is not possible for apartment dwellers. I’d recommend turning off your main Electrical breaker, but I’m not sure if that is correct in an intermittent power grid situation. Turn off all excess electrical loads like lights, clocks, computers, TVs etc. and unplug sensitive equipment as there might be power spikes as the electricity comes back online. Ask your local power company what they recommend during a power outage as they are highly motivated to get the power back online.
I literally bought wood before I had a wood stove. Okay it wasn’t the best wood but I bought wood before I had a wood stove. I bought Butane before I got this little burner. I did buy little camp stoves that ran on canned butane fuel but I wanted a standard size burner I could use indoors and with my regular kitchen pans. My finding that little butane stove for $8.00 was a bit of serendipity. But I had planned for getting that type of stove in the future even if I had to pay full price for a new one. I bought a Camp Chef propane Camp oven/stove for about $100.00 that has a real oven and a 2 burner cooktop. This stove and oven combo is about the same size as most RV’s oven/stove. Not big but capable of baking and cooking as long as I have propane. I have built up a lot of redundancy for cooking and heat with different types of fuel. I have not gone through a disaster that required a week or two without electricity so I have done my best to anticipate cooking and lighting needs in every season.
Dealing with a disaster if you are prepared is easier but that does not make it easy. I found many things I thought would be easy to deal with manually became much more difficult mentally on day 5-7 compared to day 1-2. There was no change in the effort required needed for the job. I just got worn out dealing with the stress of doing the jobs the hard way. Based on my own reaction in a minor disaster day1-2 things seem okay. I’m keeping up or even getting a little ahead and days 5-7 hit and I’m just feeling worn out doing the work. I never had to make it past that 10-14 days of finding a new rhythm dealing with my minor little disasters. It seems people get into thinking about a new normal after about 10-14 days. I’m not trying to mitigate how people tend to deal with disasters it seems most people tend to hit stages before they find a new routine that takes about 10-14 days. Don’t get cocky if things go well the first couple of days and don’t get depressed if everything seems like it is falling apart at day 5-7. It is just a normal human reaction in having your world change dramatically in a short amount of time.
Remember most things are easy in theory it is doing those things daily when things can get a bit more challenging. I read a story about a family that got stuck in a winter storm in the mountains of Utah. This guy had an Emergency kit for snow country but he did a thing of heating up rocks via a fire pit he built outside the car. Then he kept the car warm via the rocks radiating heat rather than a heater that used fuel or might emit dangerous fumes in an enclosed space. I know I would not have thought of using rocks for heat rather than use my little mini camp stove. I can heat water via my wood stove and I have stored water. Why don’t I have a few hot water bottles on hand for easing aches and pains, warming up a bed or for someone suffering chills? I bought a hot water bottle! At $7.25 per bottle they are a bargain so I’ll be adding a couple more to my health care bins.
Did you know you can buy oxygen meters and 95% oxygen bottles at Fred Meyers and Walgreens? I know the Oxygen bottles are only 95% O2 and not the medically approved level of 98% O2 level of therapeutic oxygen. The Covid seemed to hit the lungs and ruined peoples O2 levels. I’m not recommending you don’t go to a hospital if you have low blood oxygen readings or treat that at home but, how would you know if you have low O2 readings without an O2 sensor. If your O2 readings are low it might be a good idea to have the option to breathe in some 95% pure O2 rather than the normal 20% Oxygen level in the normal atmosphere.
This post is getting to long and many folks will go TLDR but I think I have covered many concerns in one post. If it is to long of post come back and read the paragraphs as needed.