Monday, August 31, 2015

Your Lights Are Out- Emergency preparedness

One second you are happily making a seasoned tofu stir fry for lunch, bopping along to the tunes from the radio, hearing the responsive beats from your neighbor's electric guitar, hoping the predicted storm won't interrupt the fun of a Saturday.

The next, the sounds of silence blanket the neighborhood.
Power is out, the winds are up and it sounds like a BIG branch is down.

What to do next?

We had this happen on Saturday, complete with the big tree down.
Made me realize that many people weren't ready, including me. 
Over 225, 000 people were without power from this storm.
Luckily, my power came back on in 16 hours but I have friends and family with it still out 30 hours later.

So here we go, more emergency preparedness help.

First,  turn off every electric item that you had on.  
For me that included the stove, fan, radio, and lights in several rooms.
When the power comes back on, you don't want to get surprised by weird noises. Our neighbors were frightened when their electric doorbell rang every few seconds when the power came back on at 4am.

Next up Water:
Since I have city water, pumped to my home without delay, I washed all the dishes in my sink. Who wants to deal with dirty dishes and no hot water?  I knew the hot water take would hold the heat for a bit of time, but not for hours. 

If you are like many of my friends who have to deal with water pumps for their wells, seriously consider a backup generator.
This solar one is expensive but can be used safely indoors, fueled by the sun. 

Goal Zero Yeti 400 Solar Generator Kit w/Nomad 20 Solar Panel

Otherwise, have a secondary way to flush toilets and have enough (3 gallons per person per day) drinking water stored for use. 

One of my friends uses rain barrel water for flushing, another grabs buckets of water from her hot tub.  


You get one time to grab food for immediate use, then DON'T open freezer or fridge till you have dry ice to add.
If you know a storm is coming, go ahead and buy the dry ice in advance, it is truly cheap insurance. My local Fred Meyer carries it.

Make sure to not open by placing duct tape to prevent unthinking opening, especially by children.
According to the FDA:
  • The refrigerator will keep food cold for about 4 hours if it is unopened.
  • full freezer will keep the temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) if the door remains closed.
So to prevent having to throw out everything, don't open the fridge.

Have a shelf stable pantry meal or 3 ready to go so you don't starve, but don't open the fridge to get ingredients.

After 4 hours, feel free to go in and grab more.  Take an instant read thermometer to check that nothing has a temperature higher than 40 that will be eaten cold.  If it has gotten warmer, then it must be heated to 165 degrees before serving.

I don't bother to clean out the fridge then, wait till the power comes back on. 

food safety infographic post power outage

Find the camp stove to be able to make dinner eventually.  Look for the propane canister. None to be found. Begin the shopping list for the needs. 


Then I gathered up all my candles in jars, oil lamps, matches and flashlights for use when darkness fell.   Oops, no lamp oil for the lamps and few matches. I could have gone with just candles, but only had about a dozen. Add to the shopping list.

NEVER use open flame candles in rooms without active people.  They are fine on your table with people around but dangerous in rooms by themselves or in rooms with sleepers. These are the candles that can start fires. Ever since a young man was killed in my town by a candle, I've been triply sure that any candles are in containers. 

My shelf stable meals-include granola and boxed almond milk, 
Canned tuna, bread and condiments,  peanut butter and apples, 
Nut mixes, tinned dolmas, boxed soup that tastes great cold too. 


Now, where are the kids and hubs? Cell phone is working but not getting service.

Grab the needs list and drive to nearby superstore,  to find that the power is out there as well.  No dry ice now, no filling that needs list.
storm damage, this branch just missed

Avoiding many downed branches, drive to where one child is working to find the Farmer's market is shutting down early due to the 40 mph winds. I help close up the food booth and bring all the gear to the commissary.   Insist that her motorcycle riding workmate not ride home.  Go back to my house with him to store the bike.  Give ride home.

If you are riding a motorcycle in a high wind situation, PLEASE let someone else drive you home. 

Lemongrass Pork Bowl from The Rickshaw Bellingham
Circle back to the other child's workplace to find that she has power and no worries.  Order a spicy lemongrass bowl for hot lunch.  

Get to Hardware Sales-our local all purpose old fashioned hardware store, to fill the Needs list- Lucky for me, they have power.

Grab lamp oil, matches, propane canisters and a new lighting kit.

This one has a carry-able oil lamp, lamp oil, matches, an LED flashlight and batteries.  I really appreciated grabbing this one when my daughter wanted to walk to a neighbor's house after dark, holding an oil lamp, just for the historical accuracy fun of it. 

Now I had light, fuel for cooking, water from the faucet and food.
All in all we were fine.
We have puzzles and games and books for entertainment.  A cup of tea from the stove, cookies and pretzels for treats.
We were fine. 

Several friends have to deal with branches falling on fences, water problems, lack of food and miserable rain on their wedding dsy. None of that put much of a crimp on their happiness.

What would you need to be safe for 2-3 days if you had no power? 

Do you have that at home?

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