So far, we have been talking about being prepared for an emergency food-wise. I’d like to continue that thought today and segue into heating and lighting. In previous posts on freezing foods,[September 2012 Archives], I mentioned that I have been pre-cooking most of the foods I place in the freezer. It makes for easier, quicker meals and it is very convenient for unexpected guests, including my sons and grandkids, who each have specific tastes in food. It is handy for when I am unwell or we get unexpectedly busy. But the best reason is that if my power goes out, the food will not spoil as quickly, we would not have to either heat up an already hot house to much to cook it thoroughly, or waste fuel reserves when it is cold, and we could easily share it if problem went on long enough.
Cooking food in a power outage is a major problem, unless you have a natural gas or propane stove and you have no electric circuitry in your stove. Even so, you have to consider safely thawing your foods to prevent bacterial growth and any clean-up, which may be difficult if your water supply is compromised. People who have fireplaces in their houses or apartments could conceivably cook in them, or if they have places with patios or balconies, they could cook on a grill or hibachi. But please be careful.
Here are some drawbacks:
#1. It may be hard to maintain cleanliness
#2 . You must ALWAYS keep doors and windows shut to keep the smoke and carbon monoxide from entering your living area; this will be hard because in the heat, you may need the airflow or in the cold, because, well, you’ll be cold
#3 You must NEVER burn charcoal inside. You can not see or smell it, but carbon monoxide is a killer and any open flame produces it .Charcoal is the worst offender, but one night my husband closed our fireplace before the compressed logs we had been using were completely burned out; they were just smoldering embers. One of my sons woke me up about 2 AM and I thought I was getting stomach virus because I was nauseated. I passed out in front of my husband, (who had been upset to have been awakened)…and I never felt it coming. Afterward, he passed out in front of me,(and he never felt that coming). I had enough presence of mind to realize that we had carbon monoxide in the house. I brought him to, then crawled to the windows, flung them open and breathed. I went to our sons’ room, (where the CO had not entered), and woke them again. I opened their windows. My husband made his way downstairs to open every door and window…and the chimney flue. I did not know then that we should have called the fire department, who would have not only administered oxygen to us, (as we felt bad for two days; the boys were untouched), but they also would have ventilated our house with their huge fans. We had a really close call. Had the boy not gotten me up, we’d have died in our sleep.
You also must be certain that your fireplace flue is not only opened, but that snow or fallen branches have not blocked the chimney and the upward draft is unimpeded.
We do have a nice, large kerosene heater that we pull in from storage every year by November and usually haul back unused in May. It sits in the corner of my dinning room,(unlit, of course), with a tablecloth thrown over it because it isn’t pretty, but it is beautiful when the power is out in Winter for days at a time. We put it in the middle of the room when it is in use, and we NEVER leave it going without someone in the room. We also have a carbon monoxide detector on the wall; it is the only use for it, as we have an all-electric home. My son has the same type of heater. During a long, massive power outage several winters ago,( due to a huge ice storm), my son called and said that they were doing well and that his wife had mastered cooking over the heater. I called her the next day and asked her how she did it. She stopped dead on the phone for a long pause. “Wait a minute; I have to relish this. YOU are asking ME for cooking advice!” She told everyone she knew, (and I think she still tells new people she meets).
But the heaters are not necessary. Have ready-to-eat foods, preferably in easy-open containers, single serving sized for anything perishable, and have zipper-lock bags for boxed crackers, cereal, etc. (See previous Emergency Preparedness posts.)
I had oil lamps, but I feel that they are not worth the danger. In emergency situations, the last thing you want is an extra emergency like fire or injury. Emergency personnel may be tied-up rescuing others or unable to reach you because of bad, blocked , broken or flooded roads. Water lines may also be cut off or frozen and pumping stations may be down.
I have flashlights and keep extra batteries in a box under my bed. Buy good batteries, (alkaline), on sale if necessary and keep them in a cool spot. I also have a flashlight that you shake to create the current to run it. I have found flashlights that are run by hand-crank; they have radios in them and even a charger for a cell phone. I have given them as gifts. They are not expensive and can be found at major discount stores. But beware; in a major outage cell phone towers could lose function and cordless phones do not work without electricity. I keep one direct landline phone in my house.
Back to lighting, I like to have candles around so I can see. Tripping over the cats, (who don’t understand that we can’t see them as well as they can see us), and breaking an ankle is not an option. However, I have NO OPEN FLAMES; a candle can go over at any time, a piece of lit wick can break off or a draft can blow a flame into something flammable. Here are examples of what I use:
Most of these are part of my décor, so they are easy to find. I have more candles handy in a convenient box. I usually buy them on clearance.(I found bags of 100 apple-spice tea lights at my grocery store for 50¢ a couple of months ago). I also have wooden matches which I keep in a tin or aluminum box. This keeps them from becoming damp and useless, and if they are ‘strike anywhere’ matches, it keeps them safe from accidentally striking and causing a fire. (Mice have been known to start fires by gnawing them.) Keep these in one, handy place and always in the same place. If I move things after they have been in one spot, I am hard-pressed to remember where the new place is. You don’t want to be hunting for them in the dark with a flashlight between your teeth.
As you can see some of these candle holders have chimneys; I put most of them there. They can be picked up cheaply at discount stores or not-new shops. I frequent charity thrift shops. I feel good giving them the money and reusing items, but I have been known to stop off to donate bags of what I have decluttered from the house only to walk out with more than I came in with.
The brass lantern was Mother’s Day gift from one of my sons some years ago. You can reuse large candle glassware,(large devotional candle-type), by standing tapers or thin pillar candles in them. Any not-too-thin glass can double as a tea or votive candle holder; I have used brandy snifters. Remember to keep candles on thick, preferably ceramic, surfaces, like a plate, or on Formica or granite/marble table-tops; the heat of the burned-to-the-bottom candle in a thin-bottomed, (usually glass), container can start a fire on wooden tables or any type of table covering. Please keep any burning candle away from edges and where no one will try to reach over them. Even if no fire starts, tipped-over, hot wax can cause deep burns.
We have several of ‘boom-box’ radio-CD players in our house. One is dedicated as our emergency radio. We usually keep it plugged in but we have fresh batteries that are in a box in a drawer right under it, not to be used or borrowed for any other use, no matter how fussy a kid might be when a toy wears its batteries out, (hence the box of batteries under my bed!)
Remember, even if you are alone and you may think that you need only a candle or two, or a little bit of food, think: what if you had a guest and an emergency developed?
Next, as promised, we’ll find places to store our extra supplies.
Do you have any ideas that I might have failed to mention? Any Questions?