Jul262010

31 Comments

7 Lessons Learned from a 2-Hour Power Outage

This list was submitted by Sue in Alabama.  Thanks, Sue!

I was busily getting ready to fix breakfast a couple days ago when the power went out.  The bread was in the toaster ready to go, and the eggs were cracked and seasoned, ready to be scrambled. Additionally I had a 12 pound turkey in the roaster, ready to be popped into the oven once the breakfast dishes were washed.  Fortunately, I had percolated the coffee and poured my first cup.  Brilliant!  At that moment the power went out,  and I was overwhelmed by dead silence.

image by pointnshoot

I felt the acid burn begin to upset my stomach.  Having  been educated on the  potential devastations of an EMP, my heart sank.  Was this it?  Immediately I regretted not preparing more.  After checking with the power company, my oldest son announced that power would be restored  in about two hours. A wave of relief swept over me.  Two hours.  No problem.  However, it got me thinking, and these are the lessons I learned.

1.  Keep Maalox and/or Rolaids on hand at all times.  Initial stress produced out-of-this-world heartburn.

2.  Appreciate the power of ready-to-eat foods in your storage.  Those thirty boxes of cereal will come in handy one day.

3. Sharp kitchen knives are essential because you never know when you will have to cut up a 12 pound turkey into manageable pieces to put into the solar cooker.  If the power had not returned, the neighbors would have been blessed with turkey sandwiches.

4.  Have an alternative to your washing machine.  Two baskets of clothes waited patiently to be washed.  I envisioned piling them into a wheelbarrow and heading down to the creek.  My little washboard seemed woefully inadequate but my 25 bottles of laundry detergent gave me hope.  Maybe, as a society, we are too hung up on personal hygiene.

5.  Have diversionary activities available.  No power=no computer, no radio, no TV, and on and on.  I wished I had gone to the library and picked up a few books.  Would I ever be able to get to the library again? Would I have to walk the eight miles to town?  Remember, stock up on Rolaids.

6.  Water storage is essential.  We were fortunate a while back, during a 7 day outage that we never lost our water, but I cannot rely on past experience.  I gave my Big Berkey a hug and a kiss.

7.  Know your neighbors. We are all seniors out here with a few young un’s thrown in. Check on one another and offer help when needed.  With age comes wisdom, resourcefulness and skills obtained from a lifetime of hard work and hard times.  We are in this together.

My adventure was short lived but certainly thought provoking.  Lessons learned are transformed into knowledge  and the ability to survive. We can share our experiences and all become stronger as we prepare for the worst but pray it will not come.



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I'm the original Survival Mom, and have been helping moms worry less and enjoy their homes and families more for 5 years. Come join me on my journey to becoming more prepared to handle everyday emergencies and worst case scenarios.

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(31) Readers Comments

  1. My list entry was actually all about ways to entertain yourself. Travel versions of board games strike me as a good addition to anyone's home. They're generally popular board games that don't require anything more complicated than some dice and pieces to move around the board. And I'm going to go look for a nice knife sharpener this afternoon – it was already on my to-do list. :-)

  2. My sons were visiting my parents one evening when their power went out. It was pitch black and my mom had that instance of "what do I do now???" They couldn't see their hands in front of their faces. My oldest son (12 y/o) pulled out his cell phone and turned it on. It provided enough light to get move around and get to the flashlights. His grandparents were very impressed with this calm demeanor and resourcefulness…so was I!

    • I was in just a situation as a child. (without the cell phone, nearly 50 yrs ago.) At Gramma and Grampa's house and the lights went out. We sat surprised for a moment, then before the anxiety could begin, Grampa's voice came through the darkness… "Way up in the hills there was an old crumbling castle…." That was the best ghost story I ever heard in my life. Long before the story was done Gramma had lit the old kerosene lamp. We didn't want the lights back on.

      • I have to admit feeling a bit of excitement with the power goes off! Strange, I know. Maybe it's the rush of adrenalin to make sure we're all okay, have the supplies we need, etc. As you know, I'm quite the disaster junkie. :o)

        • Where can we get a big amount of toiet paper cheap?

          • Look online for business and restaurant supply stores. You can find huge packages of inexpensive TP.

          • I’m prejudiced towards SCOTT brand TP because it just seems to last longer. It’s nice to have soft tissues but gimme a brand that doesn’t run out quickly and SCOTT brand 1000 sheets fits that bill (even though they are now “shorter” rolls they still have the 1000 sheets. Right now (Oct 1 2012) you can order 16 rolls of this brand on AMAZON with a prime account for $12.32 and they deliver it to my door step within 2 days. Also 20 rolls for $14 and change.Shipping is free with a Prime account. I’ve saved tons on shipping fees (at least $600 worth just these past 12 months (but not all on toilet paper LOL!)

          • I thought I was the only Amazon Prime customer who was bleeding Amazon dry with all the free shipping! I haven’t ordered TP from them, so thanks for the info.

  3. Great post, Sue! Of all the times for it to happen; couldn't it have waited until after breakfast? I have fairly frequent power outages and I've done several things to make them less stressful. I have small LED flashlights scattered around the house (by the couch, in my purse, by the bed) so when it happens I won't feel so helpless. I once scrambled my egg via Sterno. And of course I have firewood. Summer outages are the worst because I'm in love with my air conditioner.

  4. Yes, get books, books, and more books. Modern Americans are used to a very high level of mental input. Most get franticly bored without it. A good number of those books should be good stories, either fiction or real life to be read aloud by one person while others do mentally boring hand tasks, like mending. When the car horns, the overhead air traffic, the multiple TVs per household, the motorized or electronic doo-dads that we don't even notice anymore go silent, we'll crave mental input to salve our starved nervous systems. Books can re-train us to sweet silence.

    • Have you been reading about the study that found that the internet actually is making us dumber? I know that my own attention span isn't what it used to be. I think it's because I'll have half a dozen or more open windows on my computer, and I flit from one to the other, never really focusing hard on anything. On a side note, my penmanship isn't as nice as it used to be, either, and I think it's because I'm on the keyboard so much more.

  5. My friends and family claim my techno illiteracy is laziness. I don't Want to learn computers, so claim I can't. That last part is likely true enough. I cherish my slower pace and ability to be entertained by simpler things. Two days ago I spent three hours pitting fresh cherries with no TV or radio on, and was happy as a clam. And those cherries canned up fine without a computer.

  6. Enjoyed the article! I laughed at #4, thinking of my situation. I can't keep up with clothes with an HE washer. I think my alternative would be to tell my boys they'd just have to keep on what they had on until they outgrew it. They wouldn't care anyway, in fact … they'd probably be relieved.

    My grandmother did use large tubs and washboards on a farm when she was in her 30s & 40s. And it was a lot of laundry, carefully stretched out on bushes and clothes lines to dry. It can be done, but it is HARD work. I never heard her long for those days to return. She was plenty glad to have electricity.

    • Oh, one favor … please don't use laundry detergent in the creeks. Not sure what the Berkey specs are on filtering that out, but generally not good for those downstream.

      • Good point- do some research on soapberries. You can buy them online, but since I’ve had my eyes peeled, I’ve found over a half-dozen trees that I plan on harvesting next spring.

    • Someone recommended this and it's on the list of things to think about getting. We need a generator first, but at lest we could have clean socks and underwear, if nothing else. :-) http://www.amazon.com/Unknown-Wonder-Washer/dp/B0

      • oh VERY cool! I suppose I could at least target boys underwear! Thanks for the link! Awesome.

  7. We have a Wonder Wash. It REALLY works! Hot water, a LITTLE soap, screw the lid, and spin. The hot water creates a vacuum and cleans the clothes much more efficiently. The base IS a little "rickety" but my handyman husband will build me a new one if this base breaks.

    We spent 10 days in Colorado Rockies last Aug. Each evening we spent 45 min. washing 3 loads for 2 adults and 2 boys (8 & 11 y/o). Everything was line dried. We fit jeans, shirts, shorts, and underwear in every load, and I'm NOT a thin, petite girl!

    • OK, I want one!!! I had resigned myself to doing laundry with an old wheat bucket and a plunger. LOL This system sounds much more humane!

  8. 6 gallon pail and a plunger, and you can have a rudimentary washing machine. Lotsa work….. better be in shape before the need for it. Do you exercise? Do you eat well? You'll wish you had.

    A good test you had there. Out of the blue! These are some of the best experiences we can have, as it refines our thoughts and encourages fine tuning of our plans and skills. It also puts the spotlight on a VERY important question…

    "Are you doing this for real, or just playing "survivalist"? Seriously… are you playing games? Really?
    I look at a power outage as a more serious test of YOU than your preps. You can test preps anytime…. just shuts everything down and see what you can do!! But a test like that doesn't test your own mental hardiness… not at all. It's when you are the victim of circumstance that you get to see how well you are prepared to adapt, adjust and overcome.

    Oh… I might get one of those Wonder Washers…. LOL… I just saw the post above my entry window here… But, ya gotta be ready to heat yer water, or sorry, no vacuum ma'am!!

    • We got the Rocket Stove that burns wood or charcoal, so we can heat our water too. :-)

      • My mom bought my husband a Rocket Stove for his birthday. (I think you're REAL preppers when you give survivalist gifts!)

        Anyway, he started it up and put my 6 quart pressure cooker on it with plain water. It took about 30 minutes, but he managed to get it up to pressure. I feel better knowing that we can cook our stored pinto, navy, white, and black beans and rice, in a fraction of the time, using these products and small limbs from our yard. (Of course, for faster cook times, you have to pre-soak the beans.)

        • Last Christmas my daughter gave me a hand crank flashlight and solar lights. ( solar lights can come in handy in a power outage.)

  9. The power went out while I was at work and I immediately checked my cell phone. It was powered, but if it hadn't been, then I would have checked everything else, including my car. Then I would've begun arrangements to start hoofing it home. The inner child in me says I don't wanna, but the adult keeps prepping.

    • One of my least favorite quotes is, "A grown-up does what has to be done, whether she feels like it or not." I hate it because there are so many times I just don't wanna do it, as you so eloquently put it! But SOMEONE has to be the grown-up, huh?

  10. I love the idea of storms where the power goes out and we just have to hunker down and live. But now my 2 teens attend school more than 45 miles from home, (we live in a very rural area) and I worry about them getting home. I have packed my daughter's car with bobs for both kids and have talked about surviving until we all meet somewhere. But I won't be able to enjoy the power outage until they are both home from school, if it happens while they are gone. I do like to know we are prepared. My next item to purchase is the WonderWash. I have my account all set up at Amazon, just waiting for a few more dollars. We heat our home with a wood stove and can use it to cook using our cast iron and a dutch oven. We also have the largest BBQ that Weber makes and a couple of propane Coleman stoves. Thanks for all the prepping tips and reminders.

  11. I just looked up the Wonder Wash on Amazon and it said ‘plug it in’! Going to get a big bucket and new plunger, I guess.

    • LOL Plug it in?? That’s a hoot! It’s hand operated. The person who wrote the ad copy probably had no idea what the product was about.

  12. This winter, a wind storm knocked out power in my town for 4 days. I grew up in an area where power loss was common. A bit egotistical at first, I told my family that I was an expert at dealing with this and was completely prepared. First, I put my children to work cleaning up the neighborhood. (Nothing cures boredom like manual labor.) Lesson #1 An electric chainsaw is useless when the tree blocking your driveway also took out a power line. Lesson #2 Store camp stoves where they can be easily accessed. Venturing down into the back of a deep dark pantry with a flashlight to dig through camping equipment is not fun. Lesson #3 After a camp-out or survival drill, don’t just TELL your teenager to make sure the equipment is put away properly. Visually CHECK to make sure he obeyed. After dinner we got ready for a cold night and were very grateful for 0 degree sleeping bags. (Refer back to lesson 3) We also needed blankets to keep dogs warm. Lesson #4 Washing blankets in preparation for a storm requires you to remember to put them into the dryer. On the third day temperatures dropped. Lesson #5 pitching a tent inside the house is a great way to keep warm. A 1 day outage can be fun “like camping”. 2 days is good practice for a disaster. 3 days will test how much you love your family. 4 days is depressing and harder than I ever anticipated. I’m very thankful that I was raised to be prepared. As bad as it was, things could have been much worse.

  13. Being from TX and having gone through two hurricanes (before I got smart and moved back to my hometown in North TX), a few hours of no power doesn’t phase me…it’s the week’s of no power that get me! LOL

    Sue said “4. Have an alternative to your washing machine. Two baskets of clothes waited patiently to be washed. I envisioned piling them into a wheelbarrow and heading down to the creek. My little washboard seemed woefully inadequate but my 25 bottles of laundry detergent gave me hope. Maybe, as a society, we are too hung up on personal hygiene.”

    The best alternative to a washing machine is a commercial sized mop bucket with a wringer. While you have to wash small loads, trust me, it beats a rub board, any day. The wringer will get more water out of the clothing, than you could manually wring out of them, so it will also dry (on a clothesline, of course) faster.

  14. We had a 10 hour power outage and it motivated me to do a few things – 1) buy a mini bbq grill for my balcony (I live in a condo). 2) never let my gas tank get below half full (the next county over had power but our entire county was powerless and a lot of people left their cars by the side of the road when they ran out of gas during rush hour traffic. 3) make a list not of things that could go wrong (causes) – but things that we see are wrong (symptoms) so instead of – “a truck wipes out a transformer for my hometown this is what we will do…” My list is more symptomatic – if I don’t have electricity…. pull flashlights, candles, matches, etc. If my gas stove doesn’t work… If I don’t have water then … Instead of focusing on why something is happening (cause while it is nice to know, it’s not going to help me sometimes). Mayor Giuliani mentioned this in an interview re: 9/11 – he said they didn’t have a plan for planes hitting the buildings – but they had plans for how to get traffic out of specific areas (regardless of why the traffic needed to leave that area), etc.

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