On Thursday, July 27, 2017, the villages south of the Bonner Bridge on the Outer Banks of North Carolina lost electricity. A construction company building the new Bonner Bridge drove a steel casing into the Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative’s underground transmission cable causing a long-term power outage. About 9,000 permanent residents and businesses on Hatteras and Ocracoke Island are without power for an indeterminate amount of time. Thousands of tourists have had to evacuate the islands. Millions of dollars in tourism money have been lost.
If you don’t have vacation plans on these two islands, then how does this story affect you? Best case scenario, it won’t. If, however, some random event caused your area to lose electricity for days or weeks would you be prepared? Here are a few ideas to consider if you and your family were faced with a long-term power outage. I’m including some affiliate links for your convenience. If you choose to purchase through my links, you won’t pay more. I could, however, receive a small commission. I don’t ever recommend something I haven’t used, though.
Having a back-up power source could save your sanity and everything in your freezer in the event of a major electrical failure. At upwards of $600 for a unit that could run your lights, refrigerators, and freezers, this is the one big-ticket item I’m covering here. After weathering several big storms and power outages lasting one to two weeks, I can tell you honestly that the money we spent on our generator was worth every penny and then some. Just remember to follow all safety rules in your manuals and DON’T run this thing in the house. I’m also not an electrician, so you’ll need to consult someone with more experience than me to hook this up safely. That said, you might want to have some extension cords on hand.
If the budget had more wiggle-room, I’d consider a whole-house generator. For under $10,000 plus installation costs, you can own a propane-powered system that automatically starts when the lights go out. Life can get back to normal immediately if some random construction company cuts the power to your community. These will even power your central heat and air and allow you to wash and dry clothes while everyone else is sweating in week-old undies during a long-term power outage.
Gas or Propane Supply
If you have a stationary “whole house” generator, you probably have an agreement with a gas company to fill your tanks and keep you stocked up. If you have a portable generator in your shed, remember to keep a small gas tank filled. Replenish the tank often—gas is unstable and won’t last as long as propane. Again, safe gas storage is imperative-consult all owner’s manuals.
If you have some warning that a big storm is imminent, you can fill up with gas ahead of time. If you’re on a coastal island and your power gets cut by a steel casing at 4:30 in the morning, you could be out of luck. Gas pumps at the local convenience stores won’t work without electricity.
If you have a siphon pump, you can siphon gas out of your vehicles to keep your generator running in the event that a car hits a transmission pole and knocks your power out during the Super Bowl. True story.
Remember, folks, do NOT siphon gas by mouth. No episode of Game of Thrones is worth the risk of drinking gasoline. Read all siphon pump manuals thoroughly so that you do this safely.
Keep a Full Gas Tank
If my husband reads this he’s going to laugh his butt off. My car is sitting just a whisker above the E right now. A better habit for me to adopt would be to top it off regularly in the event that a snake crawls into the local substation and fries the place. Another true story.
Camp Stove and spare fuel or grill
During one long-term power outage after a freak ice storm, I cooked pancakes for an entire neighborhood of kids on my Coleman stove. This Coleman grill is also a pretty sweet option. My parents, on the other hand, were cooking peas on top of a kerosene heater. They now have a whole-house generator.
Alternative Form of Heat
During hurricane season, a power outage generally means you sweat for two solid weeks while you cut and move trees and repair your damage. Unfortunately, I have first-hand experience here. Our generator wasn’t quite powerful enough to run AC.
That said, when a surprise blizzard hits in February, we’re prepared for an outage. We can all camp out in front of our gas fireplace. Our gas logs will heat enough of our living space to be fairly comfortable. I had a set of these babies in a smaller house that kept the whole place 70 degrees during one winter storm. No pipes froze, and the dog and I were comfy. Win!
Canned Goods and Can Opener
It’s not a huge budget buster to buy a few extra cans of corn or soup when you hit the stores each week. Just don’t forget the manual can opener. You want to be able to get into your chicken noodle soup in the event that a line of tornadoes tears up a bunch of transmission poles in February. I can’t make this stuff up.
Candles and oil lamps
I love to burn candles, so I use preparedness as an excuse to stock up on the ones that smell the best. I also keep a few oil lamps and oil on hand. During a power outage, I keep them out of reach so they aren’t as much of a fire hazard.
Flashlights and Batteries
My husband is a flashlight fanatic—he just loves a cool looking light. We have all sorts of L.E.D. lights all over the house. These are less of a fire hazard than candles, but you’ve got to keep batteries around. Refrigerating your extras will extend their lives a bit, I hear.
Keeping your tablets and phones charged makes a difficult situation much easier to swallow. Besides, communication is essential. This solar charger has a flashlight included, so it’s great for camping and outdoor activities when the lights are on!
Remember, I’m just a blogger–you’re responsible for the safety aspect of these suggestions. Make sure to read all owner’s manuals carefully. If you get caught in the middle of an unexpected long-term power outage, you should maintain at least a portion of your sanity if you’ve taken a few of the above steps. What other ways could you prepare for a blackout? Leave your ideas in the comments!
***I cannot be held liable for any accidents or damages that may occur should you carry out any of my above suggestions.