Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Blackout Box

It sure is Spring in Colorado. It snowed again and of course the lights started to flicker. They didn't go out this time, praise be, but they will likely go out again sometime soon.

Does the power go out often where you live? Do you have things handy to deal with that?

Flashlights are obvious, they give plenty of light and are not a fire hazard. I like LED based flashlights, since LEDs use only 10% of the energy of an incandescent or Krypton bulb the batteries will last way longer. A regular D-cell flashlight will last a few hours before the batteries die, an LED flashlight can last a hundred hours or more. You can get replacement LED bulbs for many regular flashlights.

How big is the blackout? Why did it happen? What is going on? A battery powered radio is an important tool in getting that information. Information is empowerment for survival. A simple AM/FM radio is all you need to start with. Your car has one, but you'll want to run the engine for a few minutes out of every hour to top off the battery.
As an upgrade a radio that can receive weather alerts can be handy, especially if you live in an area prone to tornado and other weather events.
To cover really bad incidents a shortwave or world band radio will allow you to tune into stations from around the world.

A little entertainment can go a long way to wile away the time until the power comes back. Some games, and books would be helpful. Coloring books and crayons or colored pencils would be good for kids.

If the blackout lasts more then a day you have to worry about food in the refrigerator and freezer spoiling. Always keeping a few extra jugs of water, juice or soda will keep things cooler longer. A few partially filled bottles of water in the freezer will stretch things out for the freezer. Many homeowner's and renter's insurance policies cover spoiled food so check with your insurance company for procedures.

If  the blackout lasts more then a few hours and the weather is really cold or really hot you may have to worry about being able to stay warm or cool. If you live in the American South or SouthWest, have a generator and have someone that is sensitive to extreme heat like babies and the elderly, consider getting a small window air conditioner and setting up a cool room to help them survive.

A generator is great for as long as it has fuel. Make sure it is outside and no the garage with the door open does not count. Even if it is outside make sure that the exhaust is pointed away from the house. Most walls are not airtight so carbon monoxide can migrate through the wall the exhaust is facing, penetrate the house and kill you.