Empower Yourself by Preparing for a Power Outage: A Prepper’s Guide

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Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) announced that up to 800,000 customers (and probably well over a million people) may be without electricity for up to 5 days today. Are you ready for a week-long power outage?

What can I do to prepare for a power outage? Advanced preparation can make all the difference in your ability to comfortably survive a power outage. In this article, we will share some of the steps that we take to get ready to thrive when the electricity fails.

Being a Prepper Pays Off

As a prepper, we are regularly evaluating our possible risks and taking reasonable steps to mitigate those risks. One of the most likely risks that we face is a power outage. While non-preppers panic and race with thousands of other unprepared individuals to battle for scarce resources, preppers are calm and see this as an opportunity to test their level of preparedness and perfect their emergency plans.

PG&E Gives 24-48 Hour Notice of Service Disconnection

The truth is the majority of power outages do not come with a convenient 24 to 48-hour courtesy warning window. We may have warning indicators, such as an impending storm, but it just makes sense to always be prepared to live without electricity. That way you can use any advanced warning you have to fine-tune your preps and avoid the insanity while others scramble for the basics.

Steps to Take When You are Given Advanced Notice of an Impending Power Outage

It is always a good idea to take a few minutes and evaluate your current state of readiness. These are some last-minute items that you may want to check as you wisely use the time before an event.

Check Your Preps

Double-check your supplies and tools. Is there anything that is missing or perhaps needs a quick update? Do you have plenty of toilet paper, fresh batteries, fuel, paper products, water bottles and other short term power outage specific items?

Update Your Family Emergency Plan

Take a few minutes to review your written family emergency plan. Is it still applicable to the current status of your family? Are all contact numbers up-to-date? Do you have all critical documents in place and ready if needed?

Gather your family together and review your family emergency plan. Make sure that everyone understands the impending crisis, the possible implications, and how you plan to successfully navigate your way through the challenge.

Be sure that you help to teach confidence and do not promote fear. It is important to be realistic in explaining possible dangers and challenges but always make an effort to help them understand that together you are ready to conquer these challenges.

Prepare to Keep Refrigerator and Freezer at Safe Temperatures During a Power Outage

One of the big concerns during a short-term power outage is how to protect the food in your refrigerator and freezer.

We have a significant amount of money invested in the foods that we have stored in our refrigerator and freezer. Begin using up perishable foods right away and don’t restock perishables. Once the power is off, avoid opening them as much as possible to keep food cold.

It is a good idea to place clean jugs of water in the bottom of your freezer in advance. Give them enough time to freeze solid. The ice in the jugs melts slowly and will help keep foods cool longer. Once the ice is melted you have a clean backup water supply.

It is possible to use a backup generator for short periods of time, as needed, to cool your refrigerator and freezer. Wireless digital refrigerator thermometers can help you accurately monitor the internal temperature. Check the current pricing for the one we use here. Eat perishable items before shelf-stable foods to reduce waste.

If the power outage lasts longer than your ability to keep the items cool, you may want to be prepared to bottle the contents and save what you can.

Frozen fruits can be easily turned into jams and syrups. Meats and vegetables can be pressure canned into bottles and become shelf-stable. You will need to have canning jars, new lids, canning tools (pressure canner, water bath canner, recipe book, etc.), and a heat source with fuel to accomplish this. We have a Camp Chef and a supply of propane stored for canning.

Wash Laundry and Do the Dishes

The best plan of action when you know that you may not be able to have power for a while is to take advantage of the precious power you do have before the outage. Make sure that all laundry is washed, dried, and put away. Clean the kitchen and run the dishwasher. A power outage is a good time to use paper plates and paper towels.

Vacuum and Mop Floors

Take a few minutes to vacuum the floor. I use a steamer to clean my tile floors. As long as I have a little advanced warning, I think it would be a good idea to take advantage of these wonderful electric devices.

Bake a Few Fun Snacks

It may be a good time to whip up a batch of cookies, muffins, or bake a couple of loaves of bread while you still have power. I would only bake items that are going to be okay without refrigeration for a few days.

It would be wise to take advantage of the power you do have to make some delicious snacks for your non-electric adventure.

Fill Available Containers with Clean Water

You may or may not have running water. Take the time to fill clean containers with water just to be safe. Wash out your bathtub and fill it with water, unless you have young children and this might present a drowning hazard.

Fill Up Your Gas Tanks

The prepper rule is to never let the gas tanks in your vehicles drop below half. The moment you suspect a future power outage, top off the tanks in your vehicles to ensure you have adequate fuel supplies. The longer you wait, the more likely it will be that you will be waiting in lines, perhaps long lines before the outage. Most gas stations will not have the energy to pump gasoline from their tanks when the power is down.

Charge Everything

Charge every device that you own. Charge cell phones, radios, speakers, laptops, tablets, gaming devices, battery banks, etc. Now is the time to top off all devices with a fresh charge. Make sure that you have plenty of fresh batteries for devices that are not rechargeable.

Water Tender Plants

Depending on the time of year, you may want to take time to water some of your tender plants before the power outage. There are no guarantees whether or not you will have running water. Some of your plants may not survive without a good drink before the power is shut off.

Manual Operation of Garage Door and Gates

Remind everyone in the family how to operate the garage door without electricity. This may seem like a no-brainer but your kids may not know. We don’t want anyone to end up getting trapped inside the garage or unable to use a vehicle because they can’t get it out of the garage.

Consider Taking a Spontaneous Vacation

There are definitely risks associated with leaving your home unattended during a power outage. However, sometimes it may just be best to take your chances and go stay with friends or family in an area that is unaffected by the power outage.

Think about this. No work due to power outage. No school due to power outage. Limited opportunities at home due to the power outage. It sounds to me like a great time for a spontaneous vacation.

If you have a loved one that is dependent upon medical equipment, and you do not have a backup power supply, you may need to relocate to an area with power. Some individuals are fragile and are unable to survive the challenges that a power outage may bring.

Plan Non-Electric Forms of Entertainment

Electronic devices dominate our entertainment. Do you know how to have fun without the internet? Family members can get pretty cranky when their favorite form of mental stimulation is not available.

Consider taking a quick trip to your local library to pick up some exciting reading material. Board games, card games, dice games, puzzles, and coloring books are all old-fashioned ways to enjoy a life without electricity. Don’t underestimate the peace of sitting on the porch to just watch the sunrise or sunset. Slowing down is a healthy thing.

Check on Neighbors

Do you have friends, family, or neighbors who may not fare so well during a power outage? Make sure that you check on them to determine what needs they may have. Reach out and be willing to help others. Together we can change a power outage that could have ended in disaster into a grand adventure. Look out for each other.

Learn more about the importance of taking care of each other at Community – Your Best Chance for Survival.

Routine Advanced Prepping for Power Outage

Preppers are a wise breed of people. We take steps to be prepared in advance for risks we may face. We use the opportunity to carefully plan and purchase supplies while they are inexpensive and available. As you prepare for a power outage, we recommend that you work on each of these areas.

Backup Power

A backup generator and/or battery bank will certainly make a power outage a bit more convenient. Fuel for a generator should be safely stored and rotated. Practice with your generator before a power outage so that you understand how to safely operate it during a stressful situation.

Never use a generator in your home, garage, or anywhere that might allow carbon monoxide to enter your home. Be sure that you have a battery-powered carbon monoxide detector with a digital readout in your living area.

Cash on Hand

It is wise to keep a stash of small bills on hand at all times. The amount you keep is determined by your personal budget and anticipated needs. Be sure to keep the cash in a safe or other secured location. In many situations, the lack of power may result in the inability to conduct electronic transactions.

We also recommend that you have a couple of credit cards with plenty of available balance on them. When you can use credit cards, they are a valuable tool with purchasing power. You need them to be able to stay in a hotel.

On one trip, we neglected to tell our financial institution that we were traveling out of state and discovered that they shut down our card because they considered our use a suspicious activity. We learned from this. This could have been disastrous if we didn’t have another card and backup cash with us.

Water Storage

Every good prepper is going to have at least 2 gallons of water per person per day for at least 2 weeks. We recommend that you store as much clean drinking water as you reasonably can.

Water storage is best when it is diversified into portable containers such as water bottles as well as larger containers that will store more water in a small space. Water is an incredibly valuable resource and you just can’t have too much water stored.

Learn how to store water for emergency preparedness here.

Emergency Sanitation

Stock up on toilet paper. We highly recommend always having a one year supply of toilet paper on hand. In many disasters, you hear frustrating comments about running out of toilet paper. You just might be a hero, or a very rich man, if you have enough toilet paper to share.

Paper products such as paper plates, paper cups, paper towels, paper napkins, etc. are great to keep in stock for times when your water supply is limited. I prefer to store paper plates and cups that are burnable and can be used as a fuel source or fire starters if needed.

Be prepared for public utilities to fail. This includes not only preparing to live without running water but also to survive without a working sewer. Sanitation, in all its aspects, is critically important to our well-being.

Details to help you learn to prepare to take care of your emergency sanitation needs can be found here. Learn how to prepare for the unique sanitation needs of little ones here.

Shelf-Stable Food Supply

Your family food stores are one of the best investments you can have. Many people will prepare for a power outage by having a 2 week supply of shelf-stable easy-to-prepare foods on hand. That is a good start.

We encourage you to build a 90 day supply of foods that you eat every day as well as a long term survival food supply that will store for 25 to 30 years. This is hunger insurance and the premiums are invested in physical resources you get to keep.

Non-Electric Cooking Plan

Cooking without electricity can be a lot of fun. It is possible that a gas range may still work during a power outage. You will need to explore your personal situation to determine if this may be a possibility for you.

Cooking safely outside can include fun tools such as a barbeque, Dutch oven, fire pit, propane stove, Sun Oven and more. You can also safely cook indoors using alcohol, Safe Heat, and candles. Retained heat or thermal cooking can stretch your fuel supplies. There are many great ways to have a little fun while cooking your food.

Make safety a high priority. When cooking indoors, never burn Coleman fuel, charcoal, or other fuels that produce carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is odorless, colorless, tasteless, and deadly. Make sure you have working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. We prefer carbon monoxide detectors with a digital readout so you see if you have a problem developing.

Alternative Lighting

The ability to safely light your world can’t be emphasized enough. In our early years of prepping we used candles, just to discover that they are a significant fire hazard and not worth the risk for our family.

We like to use rechargeable solar lighting devices along with battery-powered lights. Consider task lighting, personal lights, and area lighting. Learn more about emergency lighting on our post Brilliant Ideas to Literally Light Your World During a Power Outage.

Non-Electric Heating or Cooling

Power outages significantly impact our climate-controlled environment. Extreme heat or cold are both dangerous enemies that we should mitigate. Consider your options and develop a plan to accomplish this.

Communications

We must be able to send information as well as receive information. Make sure that each member of your family clearly understands how to use each of the emergency communication devices that you own.

Purchase and maintain backup radios, cell phone chargers, battery banks, and any communication devices that may be important for your family. Keep a stock of fresh disposable batteries for all devices that require them.

Medical and First Aid

Some of our loved ones are fragile and need special care. It is important that you plan for backup power for medical equipment if someone you love is dependent upon it. Stock up on prescription and over-the-counter medications that make sense for your family.

Be prepared to relocate compromised individuals to a safer location that may be better able to meet their needs during a power outage. It is very difficult for many care facilities to provide effective care for residents during a power outage. If you have a loved one in such a facility, be sure that you are proactive in making sure that they are well cared for during the event.

Every family member should be trained in first aid and caring for the ill. Keep an abundant stock of first aid supplies on hand along with reference books.

Home Security

A power outage brings out the worst in some people and it brings out the best in others. Prepare your home to be secure when the power is out. Security lighting should not be dependent upon grid power being up and running. Physical barriers such as security doors are a great idea to put in place.

How long will your home security system work once the power is disconnected? What happens when the system goes down? Check out our post A Prepper’s Guide to Securing Your Home for some ideas to help you make your home a little bit more secure.

Self-Defense

Personal self-defense skills are always an important consideration. Make sure that each member of your family is trained to be able to defend themselves from danger. Safely keep and maintain your weapons of choice.

Prepping Turns a Disaster into an Adventure

More than a million people in California are scrambling to prepare for a power outage that may last for up to 5 days. I wonder how many of them are preppers and are just taking time to check their preps and enjoy life?

Preppers give themselves a huge advantage by having all of the skills and supplies they need long before the power goes out. They can avoid going out into a throng of panicked people to battle for scarce resources. Preppers are also a powerful force for good as they help and support their neighbors.

Thanks for being part of the solution!

Jonathan and Kylene Jones

Kylene

Kylene Jones is a blogger, content creator, published author, motivational speaker, homesteader, prepper, mother, and grandmother. She practices self-reliance, provident living, and emergency preparedness in her everyday life. She loves working with her husband, Jonathan, and is committed to helping our community be prepared to thrive during the challenges that lie in our future.