Be Prepared for Power Outages in New England, Be Prepared for Weather Related Emergencies in New England, Cooking on a Wood Burning Stove, Living Off the Grid, Power Failure in New England, Stay Warm When the Power Fails, Temporarily, The Difference Between an Emergency and an Inconvenience, Using Kerosene Lamps
With Special Thanks to my son Liam, without whom this post, and subsequent others would not be possible. Thank you for being so technically savvy and getting me over yet another computer hurdle ! Dream New England Lives On !!!
October 2011 Snowstorm, About 2 Feet of Heavy Wet Snow. Surprise !
It is October now and the last two years we have experienced ‘freak’ heavy snowfalls in October, causing untold mischief and mayhem throughout New England. This and the annoyance of having the major electrical light source in our kitchen broken for the past couple of weeks, just as the available daylight has shortened considerably, has me thinking about the convenience of electricity in a very conscious way, as opposed to passively.
As a culture we are so dependent upon the availability of power at our fingertips 24/7. We flip a switch and we expect light, we push a button and anticipate heat, or cool air, or entertainment…
What happens when the power fails? Most homes today are not equipped to function without electricity, running water and internet. Funny how a hundred years ago, most homes had neither or the first two and none of the third. It didn’t take long for us to take it all for granted.
Sooner or later though, if you live in this part of the country anyway, you may have to do without the things you rely on most but think about least. With a little planning, the inconvenience of a power failure can be greatly reduced.
Practicing for power outages can be educational and even fun. Plan ahead and live like a pioneer for a day or weekend and it can make you appreciate the precious resources we tend to take for granted on a daily basis. Be prepared and it can make all the difference.
Not everyone has an alternative heat source, which can be a deal breaker here in the northeast in the winter. It’s great if you do. We are fortunate to have a wood burning stove which doubles as an alternate cooking appliance as well. Think about your options ahead of time. It’s a lot easier than wishing you had. Who wants to be in that long line at the grocery store when a major nor’easter is predicted and the first flakes are already falling? Or digging through the garage for camping supplies in the dark. Oh, and don’t forget batteries, and what else?Wall Mounted, Swing-Out Kerosene Lantern
It’s a good idea to be very familiar with your back-up plan, no matter what it is, Flight or Fight. When you are cold and hungry, in the dark, it is easy to make mistakes or panic and have an accident. If you ‘practice’ occasionally, the chances of positive results the first time will be much more likely. You will be more confident, whether lighting the camp stove or hooking up the generator, or even collecting the essentials while waiting to evacuate to an emergency shelter.
Keep flashlights (with good batteries) in handy places. See if you can really find them in the dark. Keep candles and matches where they can be accessed easily. Kerosene lamps are convenient but have a small learning curve. If you have them, use them every so often just to stay mindful, and keep a supply of fuel safely stored so you have it when you need it. Is your grill in a place that would be safe to use it in a power failure, if it isn’t and it can’t be moved to a safe area, don’t use it. How many people still have battery operated radios these days?
Food storage can be tricky. We freeze a lot of things from our garden but if the power fails, that can be a problem because we do not have a generator. I keep several gallons of water in the freezer. The idea behind that is to maintain the cold in there longer, if the power fails, or at least to use them in the refrigerator or a few coolers to keep food safe for a few days. When it thaws, it’s drinking water, which is very important. If temperatures are cold, pipes may freeze, if flooding occurs, normal water supplies could be contaminated. It’s critical to remain well hydrated. I try to keep a supply of home and store-bought canned goods on hand, in case we are unable to get out, to purchase food for a while. You just have to remember that canned food can freeze so if temperatures fall dramatically indoors, move food to an area that will be safe from freezing.
If you have a generator, know how to use it. Have it checked by an electrician when it’s not an emergency. Use it in a well ventilated place and keep fuel stored safely.
Many dried foods, pasta, rice and beans for example, keep for long periods of time but require a lot of water to cook. Keep a supply of water with your emergency food stash so even if water freezes in pipes, you can get by for a while. Things like canned beans and brown bread make a nice meal and only need heating up. Rotate your back up foods regularly, buy fresh supplies and eat up the ones on hand. That way you will always have a good supply available. Dried milk, canned corn and a few potatoes make a nice corn chowder. And don’t forget the comfort foods. If you are held up for a time, in a stressful situation, make the most of it with plenty of cocoa, canned nuts, soothing teas etc.
In New England, power outages usually occur for two reasons. The first being in relation to summer lightning storms, when heat is not such an issue, but flooding is. Flooding causes structural problems and washes out roads. Or, we lose power in the winter when heavy snows come in combination with high winds, bringing down power lines and closing roads. It’s a good idea to have a plan for each of these. When snow comes before leaves are off the trees, damage is especially prevalent.
I think it’s better to be prepared than caught unaware. Maybe I take it a bit further than most but it makes me feel more secure to be prepared. I stock up on basics like soap, toilet paper and drinking water all year-long. My thoughts being; I don’t want to be caught without these items and who wants to push a grocery cart through a slushy parking lot in a snowstorm with these items, when they don’t have to. They don’t go to waste as they are things we use anyway…
If we hear of, or sense, a big storm on the way, we fill the bathtub and any convenient pails with water. This is handy for flushing toilets and washing up as needed, when there’s no running water. If the storm passes and we didn’t use the water, we just use it up to flush the toilet and fill the kettle on the wood burning stove afterwards. I get kidded about my water jug collection. I don’t like to drink water stored in plastic if I have a choice, so I save gallon glass jugs to use for filling with water when we have a bit of warning.
If we suspect a storm on the way we bring in extra wood and put a cooler where it’s convenient. I throw in any laundry that needs washing and charge up the cell phone. If it looks like we are in for several days of bad weather, I plan meals to use up the food that will spoil fastest in the refrigerator, first. May as well enjoy it when we can! If it’s winter and the wind is wild, I close the insulated drapes to keep the precious heat we have, inside our drafty old house.
I grew up in Northern Vermont, where in winter we often went without power as often as we had it. It got to be kind of fun as a kid, an adventure, to ‘rough it’ around the wood burning stove. It made us think about a time when living this way was a standard way of life for people, not that long ago.
So, doing a few things in advance could really change a ‘no power’ experience for you. Keep first aid kits stocked and convenient, keep extra blankets where you can find them and remember where you stored the board games. If you like to camp, perhaps try it sometime in the living room. Spread the sleeping bags around the wood burning stove or fireplace. Make S’Mores and cocoa. Create a list of things you’d need if this were serious, and collect or obtain those things soon after.
Staying home during a power failure, may not always be advisable, possible or prudent. If this is the case, and you have an option, by all means, go to a safer place. But sometimes, the best laid plans go awry. Or, the situation may not be extreme enough to warrant leaving. If you are prepared, it might even be an interesting challenge to wait out the weather at home.
Being prepared can make the difference between a stressful or even dangerous situation and an inconvenience. Just stay safe and think like a pioneer!