Friday, July 5, 2013

The Countdown: 10 Things You Need to Know How to Do Before You Lose Electricity!

Since we are about to hit the active period during our hurricane season here in the US, I thought it would be beneficial to create a 'Top 10 List' of things you should know how to do without electricity. Most of these things will be extremely important if you had to go without electricity for a few weeks (or longer). However, many of them also apply to power outages of just a few days. So, every Friday for the next ten weeks I will highlight a necessary skill to keep your house running as 'normal' as possible. Once you learn about these 10 things, you should be able to keep your house running normally during any power outage from a few days to a few months or longer, if that becomes necessary.

I do want to mention, none of these things will include the use of a generator. While generators do work short term, IMHO, there is no way you can store enough gasoline to keep the generator running for a long term outage. My strategy is to use 18th and 19th century skills to keep my house running. I don't even own a generator. 

I created this 'Top 10 List' and the subject matter and countdown order are mine alone. You may not agree with my list. That is no problem! You are welcome to share your ideas in the comments section. We all learn when differing viewpoints are shared respectfully!

So, with that in mind, let' start the countdown!

 # 10: Think Safety First

Why do you think so many houses and barns burnt down in the 18th and 19th centuries? Why were fires so common? When candles and kerosene lamps are your primary method of lighting, fires will be common. In addition, during power outages in the winter months, who hasn't heard of a house or apartment building catching on fire because of kerosene heaters. These tools are very beneficial if you don't have any other way of lighting/heating your house, but they are also extremely dangerous!

So what is needed here is to put some safety rules around the use of these tools and make sure everyone in the house sticks to them. No exceptions!! Here are a few to get you started (in random order). You will need to complete your own list depending on the age and abilities of the people who live in your house.

  • When you need light, use flashlights or battery powered lanterns. Keep plenty of batteries (rechargeable ones would be best). Don't use candles or kerosene lamps if at all possible. 
  • Keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen and each bedroom. You can get small fire extinguishers for your home at the big box stores. They will last for years. I have had my current ones since 2009. I inspect them when I am cleaning the room they are located in. They really are very inexpensive when you think about all they could save you! We also keep one in the upstairs hallway and one by the fireplace. Can't afford to buy them all at once? Pick up one each time/or every other time you go to the store and soon you will have all you need! Don't forget to teach everyone in the house how to use them!
  • Put carbon monoxide detectors around your home. These are not as inexpensive as the fire extinguishers, but just as important! We have two, one by the fireplace and one in the master bedroom. I really want to purchase another one and put it in the upstairs hallway.

Fire extinguisher in the upstairs hallway.

If you can't avoid the use of candles or kerosene, then create safety rules specifically for them. Here are some examples of rules for open flames:
  • No running or walking with a burning candle or lamp.
  • If you need to carry something from another room, use a flashlight not a candle or lamp.
  • Place the candle/lamp where no one can knock it over. Don't place it on the table you are using. Don't place it on a table full of other stuff. Use another table (if possible) or put it up high where no one can reach it. If you knock over one of these lamps, you can quickly have an out of control fire.
  • Remove the matches from the area after you light the candle/lamp.
  • Place the candle or lamp on a safe, sturdy platform. Don't put it down on your good tablecloth! Don't put it down on a bunch of stacked books. (I have seen that one tried before!) Don't put it near anything flammable! 
  • Keep lighted candles out of the reach of children and animals. 
  • Extinguish candles before leaving the room, going to bed, or going out of the home. 
  • Never leave children unattended in a room where a portable heater or candles/lamps are in use.

Here are some links to help you get started on your own safety rules:

Some additional websites that may help:
How to Make a Power Outage Bearable
Fire Safety and Candles

Safety rules can apply to many different tools and many different situations that you may face during a power outage. I have only listed a few here. What about rules for using a chainsaw? How about an open flame fire to cook with in the backyard? What about debris clean up from a hurricane or tornado? 

Whether summer or winter, no one can keep your home safe during a power outage but you! The longer the power outage, the more people will become complacent with the use of tools. Make a list of safety rules and stick to them!

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