Last week Oklahoma had one of the worse power outage events in history. We were personally without power for about 72 hours. What made this storm worse was that it was unexpected. Ice storms just don’t occur in October in Oklahoma. Many people were caught off-guard and unprepared.
Fortunately, we already had survival items on hand and had a fairly good idea where they were. When I use the word “survival” I know that there is a very high likelihood that we would have survived without these items. However, life remained comfortable with them and we were able to help others who were not as prepared.
Reasons To Be Prepared
Depending on where you live you will have different scenarios that you will need to be prepared for. Regardless of the normal weather in your area, everyone should be prepared to stay in their home for 1-2 weeks in case of any of the following disasters.
- Ice Storm
- Snow Storm
- Wild Fire
- Terrorist Attack
Most people have enough basic supplies to last a week without leaving the house. However, losing power can cause food to spoil, extreme heat or cold conditions, loss of water supply, and loss of communication. These are the reasons that you need to be prepared before disaster strikes.
10 Items You Need To Have On Hand
- Extension Cords
- Portable Charger Power Bank
- Non-Electric Light Source
- Electric Light Source
- Power Strip
- Cooking Source
- Non-Perishable Food
For the sake of this post, I am going to assume that your power loss is during cold months because that is the time of year that prompted this list. However, power outages during hot months can be just as devastating, and possibly more dangerous. I may add a post in the future covering a list of survival items needed during hot months at a later time.
1. A Standby or Portable Generator
A generator is a fuel burning engine that generates electricity. A standby generator is a permanent unit that is installed outside of your home that can be configured to automatically turn on when the power goes off. Most standby generators are fueled by propane or natural gas. These units are more expensive than portable generators but they provide a seamless supply of electricity during a power outage.
Portable generators can be carried or wheeled into place depending on their size. They run on gasoline or diesel fuel which makes them most useful for short term power outages. When using a portable generator you have the option of running it using the direct or whole house method.
Portable Generator – Direct Method
This method requires the least amount of planning ahead. You will need the generator, gas, and extension cords. We got through our recent power outage using a Honda Black Max 7,000 / 8,750 Watt Electric Start Gas Generator. We purchased it several years ago from Sams Club and this is the second time that it has gotten us through a storm. The generator was able to power 2 refrigerator/freezers, a chest freezer, our tv, and a power strip that we used for several smaller items. Coffee was made in the morning, phones and a spotlight flashlight was charged throughout the day, and a space heater was used when necessary.
Portable Generator – Whole House Method
This is the method that my in-laws use and it is the one that I recommend of the two portable generator methods. The drawback is that it requires a licensed electrician to wire a plug into your home’s electrical system. However, once you have taken this step you will have the ability to use electricity in your home as you normally would.
With either portable generator method you will want to run it for several hours at a time but then turn it off for several hours so that you aren’t burning through gas. Your generator should never be run inside of your house or in a closed garage. I also recommend having carbon monoxide detectors in the room closest to the generator so that you keep yourself and your family safe.
2. Gasoline To Power Your Generator
If you have chosen to go with a portable generator you will need plenty of gas to power it. The amount of gas needed will depend on how much you have plugged into it. Ours has a 6 gallon fuel tank and will run 10 hours at 50% capacity. Check your generator users manual for specifications.
If you want to prepare for 1 week of a power outage you will likely need between 30-60 gallons of gas depending on how long you run it and how much you are powering. We didn’t use anywhere close to that amount in 72 hours.
I recommend having at least 2 or 3 five-gallon gas cans on hand and fill them up as soon as there is a report of bad weather. Gasoline can’t be stored for long periods of time so don’t store more than you can use within 6 months.
3. 100 Foot Extension Cords
You will only need these if you are using the direct portable generator method. However, extension cords come in handy during times other than power outages. Now that the power is back on we have two 100′ extension cords running to the chicken coop to keep them warm with a heat lamp. Two weeks ago when the weather was in the 80’s I used both extension cords hooked to a handheld sprayer to stain my fence. My point is, you need at least one 100′ extension cord.
4. Portable Charger Power Bank
If you are like me, your cell phone is your only communication source. We haven’t had a land-line for at least 10 years. Even if you have a land-line, chances are that it won’t be working during a power outage so you will need to rely on your cell phone to communicate.
While your generator is running you will want to charge your power bank so that it is available when your generator is off. Not all power bank chargers are created equal so don’t buy a cheap one. The cute ones that you see at Walmart probably won’t work for more than a few months and you want to have a reliable power source during a power outage.
We have 2 of the EasyAcc chargers and they have never failed us.
5. Non-Electric Light Source
Many of the items that are on this list require backup electricity from a generator. If you find yourself in a power outage before you can get a generator you will need a battery-powered light source or candles. Candles can be dangerous so I only recommend them as a last resort. We have 100-hour emergency candles that we did use several times during this last power outage but they were not our primary source of light.
Our battery powered Coleman Lantern was our go-to light source when we needed hands free light that would fill a room. We have the Coleman CPX 6 Classic XL LED Lantern, 700 lumens. However, I would recommend getting the Coleman CPX 6 Rugged XL LED Lantern, 700 Lumens because it can be used outdoors and has a longer running time.
6. Electric Light Source
Another one of those items that are great during a power outage but are also useful in every day situations is a good spotlight flashlight. I use this flashlight when I have to get eggs when we get home after dark. It it so bright that it reaches far beyond our backyard and lights up an entire room. The specifications say that it will run for 7 hours on low and 1 hour on high. We didn’t use it for long periods of time during the power outage. Our flashlight was primarily used to move around the house from room to room.
7. Power Strip
Our generator came with a cord that hooked into a 240V 30Amp twist outlet and then split into 4 120V 20Amp outlets. This allowed enough outlets to plug in the refrigerators and also a power strip. The power strip was near the living room and kitchen. This location allowed access to plug in different electronics we needed throughout the day. Below is a list of what we were able to use because of the power strip.
- Cell phones
- Power Bank
- Rechargeable spotlight flashlight
- Coffee Maker
- Space Heater
8. Cooking Source
During this power outage we actually left our house to get fast food for many of our meals. The roads weren’t bad even though there was ice covering all of the trees and power lines. Our motivation, other than hunger, was boredom. We needed a change of scenery and we could warm up and charge our phones all at the same time.
I realize that this is not always going to be possible and that is why I recommend have a cooking source at home and ready to prepare food when you don’t have the ability to leave. Having several options on hand will give you the flexibility to adapt to every situation. Below are some great cooking sources to have on hand.
- Hot Plate
- Electric Kettle or Coffee Maker
- Countertop Microwave
- Propane Grill or Camping Stove
- Fire Pit
- Solar Oven
Having small appliances available will give you the ability to heat a variety of food using power from your generator. These can be appliances that you use every day like a toaster oven or air fryer, or they may be smaller versions of your major appliances.
For getting through temporary power outages I like to use smaller versions of my major appliances, like a hot plate. Let’s assume that your cold food has gone bad and you are left to eat non-perishable food. Quickly heat soup, pasta, canned food and the like on a hot plate.
Electric Kettle or Coffee Maker
The obvious reason for a coffee maker is for coffee, but a kettle or coffee maker can also be useful for heating food. I am a big believer in freeze-dried food because it rehydrates in minutes using hot water. Check out some of the food that I store using my Harvest Right Home Freeze Dryer. I highly recommend having a 72-hour emergency supply of food on hand for each member of your family.
Having a countertop microwave wasn’t something that we planned on needing but was a pleasant coincidence that we had one available. Our everyday microwave is built into the cabinet so it is not usable during a power outage. Our son had this microwave in his college dorm room last year that he left here when he moved into an apartment that already had a microwave. It was the second most used appliance behind the coffee maker during this recent power outage.
Propane Grill or Stove
If you don’t have a generator to provide electricity during a power outage you will want to consider using propane to heat your food. Many people already have an outdoor grill that uses propane or other sources of fuel. Make sure that you have 1 or 2 full tanks on hand at all times so that you are ready when you need it.
We also have a propane camping stove and extra propane canisters to use in emergency situations. The appeal of a camping stove is the portable size so that you have a way to heat your food if you have to leave your house.
This option is great if you are limited on storage inside your house and can also be one of the cheapest options. Your fire pit doesn’t have to be fancy. You can dig a hole and make a cooking surface out of things you have laying around. Or you can plan ahead and make something that you can enjoy in non-emergency situations but that can double as a cooking source.
One of the members of a Facebook Group I am a part of shared this picture during this recent power outage and it inspired me to draw up plans to build something soon.
I have to admit that we have had our solar oven for over 10 years but it has never been taken out of the box. However, I do feel good about the fact that it’s there if we need it. Using a solar oven seems more likely to be a long term power outage solution rather than in an emergency situation.
9. Non-Perishable Food
The first thing we thought about when the power went out was keeping our refrigerators and freezers running. My in-laws were concerned about their food staying cold so we loaded up their frozen food and brought it to our house. What happens if your food goes bad? So many of our friends and family had to throw out all of their perishable food.
Non-perishable food is the number one item that I recommend adding to your emergency preparedness plan. Think about what you like to eat so that you aren’t spending money on food that you won’t enjoy. Purchase food that can be prepared using your available cooking source. Have a combination of short-term and long-term food storage and make sure to stock up on all of the major food groups.
- Peanut Butter
- Granola/Protein Bars
- Powdered Milk
- Pasta & Pasta Sauce
- Canned Meat
- Canned Vegetables
Also, consider foods that don’t have to be refrigerated that will last a week or so, and buy those if you know that a storm is coming. Bread and fruit are great options that can be eaten without the need for a cooking source.
Freeze dry your favorite recipes, foods, snacks, and desserts at home. I have included some great information on the benefits and uses of freeze drying in a free download called How To Save Money Freeze Drying.
Always have bottled water on hand!!! You can live for 3 days without water and 3 weeks without food. Water needs to be your first priority.
Tap water can become contaminated during many emergency situations so make sure that you have enough water for at least a week but preferably more. If you know that a storm or natural disaster is coming, store as much water as you can. Our water comes from our well, which is powered by electricity. So when we lose power, we lose water. During this last power outage, we were able to wire directly into our well from our generator thanks to the direction from my dad who is a retired electrician.
If you have warning of a possible power outage you should fill your bathtub with water. Fill buckets and any other available containers with water. Even if this water isn’t drinkable, it will be available to flush toilets if needed, wash your hands and keep your body clean, and wash dishes or clothes.
If you run out of bottled water make sure you have some way of treating stored water before you drink it.
- Boil – Rolling boil for 1 minute. Let cool naturally.
- Water Filter/Purifier
MyPatriotSupply.com has a great selection of water filtration systems ranging from a personal drinking straw up to a 20,000-gallon capacity system.
Are You Prepared?
I hope that you find this information before you need it and that you have plenty of time to get prepared for a power outage. This list of 10 survival items to thrive in a power outage is mainly geared toward short term disruptions in power. I hope that you start here and then begin to focus on more long term preparation. The peace of mind that comes from knowing that you can survive at home while keeping yourself and your family safe and healthy is priceless.