November 11, 2011

Getting Prepared

I have always been the person who is prepared. At work I went on a site visit and the weather changed and a coworker asked "You don't happen to have extra socks in your car?" And I said "Sure I do." In my car I also have water, granola bars, two blankets, rope, a couple flashlights, a pocket knife - you get the idea. I really do believe in plan for the worst, hope for the best.

Winter has reached many parts of the country already, while the Pacific Northwest is still basking in lovely autumn. But I know it will change soon with wind and rain and then ice storms. At our house we can expect many short-lived power outages and at least one longer down period during the next few months.

Growing up in Spokane, WA, and living in the country from the age of 15 on, I got use to power outages. One winter we went for 3 days with no power. My parents were well prepared - generator, batteries, camp stoves with white gas, lots of water. So other than not showering for 3 days and still having to attend high school (that is like a death sentence for a 15 year old girl), the novelty of a power outage was pretty cool.

I still like it as an adult - playing cards by candlelight instead of watching TV and going to bed early. Now I feel the stress my parents did to make sure we are prepared for winter. I've done some internet research and there are great sites for emergency preparedness - but what I'm talking about is a few days without power not nuclear war. Then I came across a Family Circle article that hit it. Here is their list of what they suggest you need:

1. one gallon of water per person per day - we got that plus a stream on the property if push-came-to-shove
2. a 3-day supply of non-perishable food - I have enough canned foods to last us for about 3 months, so we're good
3. a manual can opener - I assumed everyone has a manual can opener, but maybe not
4. battery operated radio and flashlights and lots of extra batteries - check
5. first aide kit including prescription medicine - thankfully no one in my family is on any prescriptions, but it makes sense to have a minimum 1 week supply at all times
6. garbage bags, moist towlettes - check
7. cell phone car charger - we still have a land line that works without power, sometimes low tech is better
8. extra wood for the fireplace - we heat with a pelletstove, but those take electricity to run the auger. Fortunately, we have a generator that we can run the stoves, fridge and freezers off of. Makes me think I should check our gasoline supply.
9. a grill or camp stove, provided you have enough propane on hand - check
10. spare cash - I hadn't thought of that. If the store doesn't have power then my card is going to work

This is a great list. But there are some other things that from my experience you are going to want to have if you are snowed in for a few days. Top of my list are things to do. Books, board games, cards, puzzles. It can get very boring in the winter, when the weather is awful, and there is no power. You really start to understand what cabin fever is. Even my emergency kit at work includes a book. Also, on my list is food for pets. We try not to run really low on food for the animals - they'll want to eat too. Finally, lots of non-fragrant candles. I'm guessing the reason why Family Circle didn't mention candles was for safety. But it gets dark early in the winter and you are going to burn through a lot of batteries in 3 days if you run them for 4-5 hours a night. I suggest you use basic, not fancy, no fragrances, cheap candles. Just make sure you keep them out of reach of small kids and always blow every one out before you go to sleep.

As I type this I hear rain starting to hit the sky lights. Just a soft drizzle, no worries about major storms just yet. But when those storms do hit, we'll be ready. Bring it on!

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