Last week, the weather forecast called for a massive ice storm in my area, beginning on Monday, Martin Luther King Day. By Friday, the start date got bumped up to Sunday, late afternoon. Predictions called for a 1/2 inch of ice or more, and warnings that the city might go without power because of it were issued. The mayor even got the city trucks out putting brine on the streets 72 hours ahead of the storm while issuing a warning of her own.
I have a prepping attitude that I've carried with me--since my youngest years--while growing up with my dad. My dad always believed in being well-prepared for any event, and, to this day, I stay or go overly-prepared for nearly everything. I believe that being over-prepared beats being under-prepared any day. So, Saturday then, I decided we better get ourselves prepared for a few days of being iced-in with no power.
I thought I'd share with you the most basic of items one should (keep) stock(ed), if not at all times, at least a day or two ahead of any potential emergency situation.
First, and foremost, water. Having a water supply for drinking and cooking is essential. A person can live without food for three weeks, maximum, but can only live about three days without water. I bought two cases of bottled water for drinking, and two jugs of water for cooking. I also have a three gallon jug of tap water in my refrigerator that I filled up beforehand, as well as the water bottles we all own.
We are outdoor people who love to go camping. I have this basic, two-burner camp stove as part of my camping equipment. We do most of our cooking over an open fire when we camp, but having a little stove like this is super-handy. This is especially true for camp coffee, which is much quicker and easier to do with this as opposed to a fire pit. I also bought this to have for an emergency at home. If you have no power, how do you cook food? This little stove uses propane to cook, and works well. Just make sure you have assembled it ahead of time.
I made sure, then, to purchase a couple of one pound propane tanks for the camp stove. These can be purchased for around $5 a tank, and will last quite some time. I can make around 10 meals or so per tank--but can be more--depending on how much fuel I use per meal.
I don't typically keep too many canned goods around, but when you're preparing for an emergency, having a canned goods supply on hand is essential. You need food that will not spoil easily--also referred to as non-perishables.
Keeping in that vein, boxed and dried goods are also non-perishables, and good to have on hand. This time of the year, it's just as cold outside as it is inside my refrigerator, so, in our case, we have a cooler right outside our back door (in our mud room) where we can put perishables, such as milk, eggs, cheese, butter, etc., in case we lose power. You can keep a cooler outside as well, no problem, just make sure it's protected from animals. We have a deep freezer in our garage as well, so we won't open that at all, while we would make sure to open our refrigerator only as necessary. Tip: Do not stock up on refrigerator items! If your power goes out, so does your fridge, and if the weather is warm, forget storing cold items outside.
Another basic item to have around are light sources. I have a total of five flashlights, two head lamps, and two portable lanterns. All of them run on batteries, so make sure you have plenty of extra batteries as well. While I have a nice supply of them now, I purchased another large pack to get us by. If you use rechargeable batteries, make sure all of them are fully charged and ready to go. Check that your flashlights and lanterns are in good working order beforehand, then purchase new, or replace, batteries as needed.
Candles are another good light source to have on hand. I always have three big candles around, as well as some small ones, so I bought new ones and gathered up the rest. Not only are candles a good light source, but they also put off some heat as well. With that, make sure you have plenty of matches around. See those two large boxes of wooden matches in my picture? Matches are a necessity, not only for lighting candles, but for lighting fires (which are good for food prep and heat). My camp stove requires matches (or a lighter) to start, so bear that in mind. I also have a couple of lighters around. There's never too much of a fire starter.
Other items that are basic necessities for an emergency are:
*Warm clothes. Dressing in layers during a power outage in cold weather is always a good idea.
*Blankets, lots of blankets. Blankets can be used to cover up windows and doorways, and, of course, to bundle up in.
Some items that are somewhere between necessary and not necessary:
*A non-electric battery charging brick. We have these for our smartphones, and they are great for times when you don't have power but want to have phone service. Make sure you charge them up first.
*A battery-operated radio. These are also great for keeping in touch with what's going on in the rest of the world, but as long as your phones are charged--and a charging brick is at your disposal--you can use it to check your local news and weather. I would suggest turning it off, or on airplane mode, as much as possible to conserve battery power.
Some additional items to be considered, but are not as necessary are:
*A portable heat source. Propane-powered portable heaters are a great item to have should the power go out during the cold months.
*Candy and snack items can be a nice treat during rough times, and provide a good energy source.
*Games and other forms of entertainment. Being unable to leave the house can be very boring, so having something to do is nice.
Make sure you have some disposable dishware on hand as well (paper plates, paper bowls, plastic or paper cups, disposable silverware, and paper towels). If you don't have a water source, how are you going to wash dishes? Speaking of dishes, make sure you wash all your dishes beforehand, clean your house, and wash all your dirty clothes. This not only ensures you won't have to figure out how to clean things with no water or power, but also that you have everything you need at the ready.
The last thing I'd like to address is heat. Having no power, especially for a longer stretch of time, means no heat source (unless you have a wood-burning stove). Designate an area of your home to be the common area in an emergency, then close it off from the rest of the house. Seal up the cracks under doors with towels (save your blankets), and line the walls as best you can with cushions and pillows. Dress warmly in layers, and huddle up together under blankets. Candles will raise the temperature of your sealed-off room slightly as well.
I've seen some little candle heaters that can be made with some clay pots, washers, and a large screw. It takes heat from candles and distributes it efficiently. I've never made one myself but will strive to do so one day soon. Here are some instructions for making one. It seems like a cheap, compact, and easy way to get warm. Let me know if you decide to make one, or, if you have made one, how well it works.
There you have it, the basic necessities to get through a few days in case of an emergency. If you are expecting the storm of the century or a much more serious emergency, I would definitely buy larger supplies of all of these items. In this case, I would also invest in a portable heater or two, and quite possibly a generator, if you want to invest the money.
As for us--while we did get some ice, nasty roads, and plenty of people who had no power--we were never without power or water as our storm didn't end up being much. Does that mean I regret preparing well? No, never. Best case scenario is always that the worst never happens, and I have items that I will use at some point anyway. Preparing well for an emergency, whether it materializes or not, is never a bad idea.