Power Outage: Life In the Dark Age

A power outage causes problems in any season, but winter challenges are unique. It’s cold. It may be snowing, icing or both. Be ready before the electric goes off. It’s up to you to be prepared. No one can do it for you, and no matter how many times you call the power company YOU are not their priority; all customers are. Restoration could take hours, even days.

Plan Ahead for A Non-electric Life

Coffee pot on a wood stove is the ultimate comfort food during a power outage!

A generator is the easy answer for maintaining heat, water, cooking, refrigeration, and light during an outage. If you have a generator, great — you probably don’t need to read beyond this point. No generator? Never fear. It’s still possible to maintain basic creature comforts without one.

Wood stove for cozy winter warmth.

Enjoy The Heat of the Night During A Power Outage

You will probably shelter in place during a winter storm. Fireplaces and wood stoves are ideal for keeping your people comfortable. A fireplace may not heat your whole house, but in extreme cases you can block off a room and bask in the warm glow. Our indoor wood stove is small but mighty, and we can use it for heat, light and most importantly, we can cook on it. A heavy cast iron skillet or stock pot does the trick.

If you don’t have a non-electric source of heat it’s time to buy one. Install a small wood or propane stove, or opt for a simpler, economical choice: a portable kerosene heater. These reliable options can be purchased online or at your local hardware store. They’re perfect in a pinch. And don’t forget:

  • Store extra kerosene for emergencies
  • Keep replacement wicks and an extra igniter
  • Maintain a fire extinguisher in your home

Candles, flashlights and lanterns provide needed light during a power outage.

Let There Be Light During A Power Outage

Most of us have a few candles in the house. Pillars, tapers, even votive candles illuminate dark and stormy nights. Keep emergency candles on hand, but be careful. Hot wax is easily spilled. Consider a more contained light source, like kerosene lanterns or oil lamps. Kerosene lamps will use the same fuel as your kerosene heater (nice!). Vintage oil lamps are easy to find at antique stores. You’ll need extra matches, too.

We all need more flashlights, right? Keep them in the kitchen, basement, bedrooms, your purse and vehicles. Make it easy on yourself and purchase a headlamp for hands-free illumination. While you’re at it, spare batteries are always a good idea!

  • When using candles, place them on plates or foil to contain melting wax
  • Put light sources on a wide window sill, near mirrors or other white surfaces to reflect light and create a larger glow.

In cold months, keep cold foods cold by storing them on a porch.

Food Safety In Mind At All Times

Being without electricity in winter has one advantage at least, and that’s free refrigeration. At present, we are on day two of a power outage. We could use a generator to power the refrigerator, but at the moment, our is providing electricity to pump water to cows and horses (I want a windmill!). The simple solution is to store food on a shelf on the back porch. Temperatures are ideal (just above freezing), and the dogs can’t reach my favorite cheese!

Water storage for flushing during a power outage.

Most Important Tip for Expected Power Outage

This is it: a crucial piece of advice that you should never, ever forget. Whether you’re facing a hurricane, typhoon, earthquake, thunderstorm, blinding snow or sheets of ice. SAVE WATER BEFORE THE STORM HITS. Yes, you should always have extra drinking water on hand. But that’s not what I mean. That’s not what I mean at all. I’m talking about the pot. The throne. The porcelain pedestal used by every member of your family multiple times a day. It needs water to flush.

When you’re cold you can wrap yourself in a blanket. When you can’t cook supper you can make a fire in the back yard and roast something on a stick. But what do you do when you’re stuck in a house with four other people for several days and you can’t flush the toilet? *shudder* (Yes, you could build an outhouse, but aside from that.)

Pay attention to the weather forecast. Expecting a storm? Get out the 5-gallon buckets and fill ’em. Don’t have 5-gallon buckets? Go to a hardware store and buy a bunch. Condition yourself to think, “Bad weather coming. The power could go out. I must save water.”

Fill those buckets. Fill two or three buckets for every person in your house. Keep them on the porch, let them congregate in the kitchen. If you need them, you’ll have them, and if you don’t it won’t matter. What will matter is that during emergencies you will have a way to flush. You will pour water into your toilet, you will flush away the remains of the day, and you will rejoice. Trust me! When there’s no light, no TV, your cell phone is about to go dead and your kids are driving you crazy, the No. 1 thing you will be thankful for (aside from health and general safety), is the fact that toilet flushing is still an option.

Cast iron pans for cooking any place, any time.

Cooking In A Power Outage

There are many ways, means and how-to’s for cooking pioneer-style. My greatest tip is to have at least one cast iron skillet. It can be used in just about every situation except on a glass-top range, and never wash it with soap and water. I also recommend you keep a percolating coffee pot in your pantry. You could settle for instant or — gasp! — no coffee during an outage, but the ability to have a cup ‘o Joe will certainly raise your spirits. You should own a camp stove or a portable grill — some way to prepare food that doesn’t involve building a fire.

Lastly, keep a solar self-powered emergency radio/charging station in your house (and possibly in your car). You can keep it fully charged via USB/AC/DC, solar panel, or hand crank and then when you need it, use it to recharge cell phones and USB devices.

Those, ladies and gentlemen, are my best tips for withstanding the inconveniences of a power outage. These items are also good to have for any short-term emergency. Have your stockpile ready — a few cans of food, dry goods, peanut butter, crackers — anything that will help you stay warm, well-fed and comfortable when the lights go down.

Good luck and happy stockpiling!





Go exploring! You may enjoy these previous posts.

1 Comment

  • comment-avatar
    LoisAnn February 17, 2016 (10:16 pm)

    My hubby always fills the bathtubs before a storm for toilet flushing.