Tag Archives: ice storms

Emergency Preparedness III heating/lighting

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:Candles 002

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?

Emergency Preparedness

I know I have been negligent of this blog and those of my fellow bloggers.I am very sorry and have missed you,(you will be hearing from me). I had a few family ‘fires’ to put out, some health testing and our beloved dog, Mark, failed rapidly .We catered to him for a while but when he could no longer function, we put him to rest. He is missed.

One reason I have been away is caring for Mark in his last days.

One reason I have been away is caring for Mark in his last days.

Some of you may not know this, but I also post on blog shared with four other writers, “Four Foxes, One Hound”( http://fourfoxesonehound.wordpress.com/); four women, one man. I am the Friday Fox. We usually do theme weeks, we have open discussion and sometimes we have in guests to introduce readers to other writers.
“The Hound” sent an email to me a short time ago; he had questions on keeping food on-hand for emergencies and suggested that I make it a topic for this blog. With the severe weather-system season stepping in in most of the United States, now is a good time for that series, but any kind of problem can happen at any time, and people should be prepared.
I am not here to tell you to hoard food or become a survivalist, nor am I going to use scare tactics. But keep in mind that twenty years ago the Mississippi river flooded seven miles out of its banks and an ice storm that never affected my sister,( who lives near me), knocked mine out for four days and others in my area lost power for two weeks. Several years ago the remnants of a hurricane jumped over me and landed square on Louisville, Kentucky, knocking out some of their power for over a week; who would have known? You never know when something as simple as someone digging can disrupt your power source.
Any type of power-outage can be made a lot less stressful with a little planning, and that is what we will discuss.
What does this have to do with food and hosting? Well, it certainly has to do with food and you never know when an emergency, even a small one, can hit; it might just be when you have guests. And keeping extra supplies on-hand for either and emergency or for unexpected guests,(which should never constitute an emergency if you are prepared), is just common sense.

Here are the questions and answers that Jeff Salter and I exchanged:

Tonette,
I have several legitimate questions (& I want straightforward answers) … but it also occurred to me that this Q&A might make a good use of your food blog.
If you want to conduct it on your blog, that’s fine with me. Might get some helpful add’l input.

Questions about can goods shelf life

I’ve read / heard that standard, grocery-store canned goods (such as beans, peas, carrots, taters, corn, fruit, etc.) can last for MANY years … provided there are no bulges in the can. But I’d like to narrow that down since I’m setting aside some food for use during bad storms.
Absolutely avoid dented cans at all costs, as well as check for bulging regularly. When in doubt, throw it out! .Tomatoes/ tomato products have the shortest shelf-lives, with green beans a close second, along with canned milk products. Other beans do not have the shelf-lives that most other vegetables have. Creamed soups have shorter shelf-lives than broth-based. Still, ALL of the canned goods have several years; many far beyond their expiration dates, if they are not banged around. I keep mine in boxes in the back of shelves.

1. For a can with NO dates or codes: if I purchase it in Jan. 2013, how long is it predictably safe for consumption?

I would say at least the very minimum is two-three years for tomatoes and the short-lived ones. Other canned goods for five years or more, perhaps with some degradation of quality.[But not safety]

2. for a can with codes but no way to decipher the code: would the answer be the same as above?
Yes, but make sure you purchase them at stores that do big turn-over. Don’t pick them up from a country store, a ‘quick-stop’ or a generally non-food store,(such as a drug store), where they may have been sitting for a long time to start with.
[If you live in an area with slow-turn over in your local grocery store, consider making a trip to a larger city to stock up on staples].

3. For items marked with a date — what does the date mean? Does it mean it should be SOLD by that date? Eaten by that date? Or does the date have some other meaning?
It depends . Some actually say ‘Sell by:”; Some say “Best used by”, otherwise, it is a ‘use by’ date. It isn’t a magic number. There is lee-way there.

4. A few items indicate “Best when used by ____[date]___”. How many years after that date would they still be “good” (i.e., safe)?

No hard and fast rule, Jeff. Some products just don’t keep their full taste, texture and flavor as well as others. Eagle Brand turns dark, but is edible. Canned beets will be perfect for years afterward. Canned potatoes can get pretty soft after a number of years, but corn is usually fine. Tuna packets are a God-send, but nonfat dry milk goes stale, as do instant mashed potatoes.

5. What other tips do you have about storage & usage of typical grocery shelf canned goods?
If you have a dry basement or cellar, it is a good idea to put them there, but off the ground. Any place that is out of direct sunlight and dampness and kept from getting too hot or too cold.( never allow them to freeze). Don’t keep them where it isn’t usually climate-controlled, like a garage or barn.
Try not to move them around; the less they are bumped or shaken , the better , the longer the life. Try to keep them in boxes and mark them as to content and dates.(Which I had forgotten to do: dates).I am about to re-check my stash and see if I need to rotate, or use and replace with new stock.
That is the best and most realistic way to keep a supply of emergency foods; buy what you like and generally use and then you can go ahead and use it when it has been around for a while then replace it with newer ones.
The last time I tucked boxes away I made variety boxes, instead of all-one type of vegetable or food .For instance, I put different types of vegetables and fruits with canned milk and tuna, sardines &/or canned meat products. I also keep sugar and honey and some jellies, plus we keep peanut butter and canned and jarred nuts,(and we rotate that stock often). I also keep dried fruits on hand. If worse comes to worse ,(our reservoir pumping station went down once), we keep a couple of gallons of regular bleach, ( and rotate it, as it breaks down). You can purify water with it…so I keep lemonade mix and instant tea to make it palatable if we do need to drink it.
I do have some Deer Park water ‘pods’ on hand, as regular ‘milk-gallon’-type water containers do not last; they break down and leak; I have no idea why.
I don’t know if we come across as ‘survivalists’ or paranoid, but, you never know, right? I could be taken ill, as I have been and not been able to shop like I’d like or Joe might be out of work and we just might need to live off of these without an national or regional emergency. I have taken to cooking most of the food that I put in our freezer. That way, if we lose electricity, we could more easily eat or share the food and lose less, plus have less fear of not getting it cooked properly. Although we do have a generator which we used mostly to keep the freezer going when we lost power for several day with an ice storm s few years ago.

I also try to keep extra basic first aid and hygiene supplies ,(heavy on the hand sanitizer) as well as extra cleaning supplies and paper products, (i.e.: paper towels, toilet paper, paper plates and cups, plus plastic cutlery.

Was I clear? Do you have any more questions or did I skip something? Let me know.

Yes, the rest of you, too, please let me know if you have any questions. I will be expounding further on what types of foods and supplies are good and finding room to store them, which can be a challenge. (You have more storage in your place than you probably know.) I also want to go into practical safety features such as heating and lighting options.
I hope to hear from you, my Friends .