Preparing for Power Blackouts – Plan Ahead and You Can Weather Any Storm

by M.D. Creekmore on February 2, 2011 · 79 comments

According to cold has crippled 50 power plants, triggering blackouts for thousands across the Dallas-Fort area. Power outages are nothing new and thousands of homes are without power every year in the U.S. most for only a few hours, but some for days or even weeks – would you be prepared if the power stayed off for several days or even months?

Such extended power outages are a real possibility after a serious hurricane, winter storm or even the result of a terrorist attack affecting the power grid or an EMP strike. The U.S. runs on electricity, without a functional power grid the U.S. would come to a standstill. Without electrical power, gas pumps no longer work, scanners at the supermarket will fail, radio and television stations go off the air and computers fail to connect to the web.

Could you provide for your family?

Everyone should plan for and prepare for the possibility of being without power for an extended period of time, but where do you start. What do you need to put away so the next blackout won’t become a nightmare. Let’s take a look…

Have Safe Water

Every emergency kit should begin with a safe supply of drinking water. Granted, if you are on a municipal water supply your water may not be affected by a power outage, but you should still stock up. If backup power fails at water-treatment plants then that water may become unsafe for drinking or cooking and need to be boiled, or treated before use. Including water in your emergency kit is always a good idea no matter how secure you think your current method of supply.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends storing at least one gallon of water per day per person for emergency use. A normally active person needs at least one-half gallon of water daily just for drinking they state. You’ll also need to take into consideration age, physical condition, activity, diet, and climate to determine needed qualities. And don’t forget about your pets, they need water too.

I live off-the grid with most of my water provided from a nearby spring, but I still include stored water in my emergency kit. The easiest way to store drinking water is to simply buy bottled water from the supermarket shelf. But it is cheaper to store water from your own tap. I store most of my water in six-gallon water jugs bought in the sporting goods department at my local Wal-Mart for the purpose. But you can use cleaned 2 liter plastic bottles instead.

Some of the readers of The Survivalist Blog, have asked about using milk jugs for water storage, and I always recommend against it. While milk jugs can work short-term, they are prone to leakage and the plastic deteriorates quickly. Milk jugs are also more susceptible to bacterial growth because of milk proteins that are often left in the container even after cleaning. A much better solution is two liter plastic soda bottles.

If using two liter plastic soda bottles the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends sanitizing the bottles after cleaning with dishwashing soap and water, by adding a solution of 1 teaspoon of non-scented liquid household chlorine bleach to a quart of water. Swish the sanitizing solution in the bottle so that it touches all surfaces. After sanitizing the bottle, thoroughly rinse out the sanitizing solution with clean water.

Contrary to what you may have read elsewhere, there is no need to add liquid household chlorine bleach to tap water before storage as this water has already been treated by the water utility company. In this case all you need to do is fill the bottles to the top and tightly screw on the cap.

Emergency Food

Next you need food. This should include things your family already eats you just need to store extra for your emergency kit. Canned soups, meats, nuts, fruits and vegetables, peanut butter, dried fruits and vegetables and crackers for example will last at least a year if stored in unopened air tight containers.

Self-rising flour, corn meal, sugar, salt, rolled oats and other died goods should be stored in air tight, food safe containers made of plastic or glass to keep out pests and moister. One mistake a lot of people make is not using what they’ve stored. They buy up a bunch of foods for emergencies; they put it on the shelf and end up throwing it out when it passes the listed expiration date.

This can be avoided by implementing a simple food rotation program.

Date each container with a permanent marker or date stamp and use on a first-in first-out basis (FIFO). As each item is used in your normal everyday meals, replace that item with a new product of the same value, date and repeat. If you follow this simple principle you will never have to discard food from your emergency kit and will always have a fresh supply on hand for emergencies. With canned foods this rotation can be automated by building or buying a building a rotating canned food shelf.

I suggest you keep at least a two-week emergency food supply on hand at all times, several months to a year would be even better, but isn’t practical for most people. This food storage calculator is a big help when determining needed amounts, but it isn’t exact and you will have to make the final decision based on your family’s eating habits.

Heating and Cooking

Most power outages in the U.S. happen during periods of extreme weather. For example, in 1993, I was without power for three weeks after an ice storm blanketed my area. Luckily, I had a fireplace for heating and cooking and a supply of wood to keep the fire burning. But, many folks aren’t so lucky and need to make other preparations for cooking and staying warm.

Kerosene heaters can be used for heating and even cooking with certain models, for example the Alpaca Kerosene Cooker. Kerosene can be stored in large quantities for long periods of time without any special treatment. It has been estimated that a gallon of kerosene will provide about the same heat output as a wheelbarrow load of wood!

Kerosene is easy to store and has a longer storage life than does gasoline. I store kerosene in blue cans marked for its use. Mistakenly pouring gasoline into a kerosene heater, could have dire consequences. Following a color coding system helps avoid this possibility.

The main disadvantage to using a kerosene heater is that they can be smelly if not used properly, they have to be refilled every few hours and the wick needs to be replaced every few months depending on how much the heater is used during that time.

The standard fuel container color coding system is blue for kerosene, red for gasoline, and yellow for diesel. I suggest you follow this system. You’ll need roughly two – three gallons of kerosene per day with continues use, so for two weeks you would need a minimum of 28 gallon.

Keep in mind that this is only an estimate and actual usage will depend on several factors. Including but not limited to the type of heater, quality of the fuel, condition of the wick (don’t for get to add an extra wick to your emergency kit) and environmental conditions where the heater is used.

Propane heaters like the Mr Heater Buddy can be used indoors and in my opinion they are safer and more efficient than the kerosene heaters mentioned. I’ve used one of these heaters for the past two winters to heat my travel trailer with no problems what so ever. They work great and I like not having to refill the tank every few hours or needing to replace the wick as is the case when using kerosene.

I drilled a two-inch hole through my floor beside the outside wall and connected a 100 lb propane tank to my Mr Heater Buddy heater via a hose adapter and filter then sealed the hole around the hose with expanding foam insulation. This also has the advantage of keeping the fuel source outside. One 100 lb tank will last me over a month even in the coldest weather, if I keep the heater burning at the lowest setting.

The downside to the Buddy heater are that they are difficult to cook on and you’ll need a stove just for that purpose if you don’t already have a gas cook stove in your home. I suggest a small propane Colman camp stove; these can be found in the sporting goods department at your local Wal-Mart or Kmart.

It is recommended that portable gas camp stoves not be used indoors as the fumes can be deadly. Using the stove in a ventilated area will help reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. In other words crack a window or door and have a working carbon monoxide detector if you must use the stove for cooking indoors. And make sure the stove is turned off after use.

Miscellaneous Suggestions

Most of these items can be stored in some sort of bug out bag, five-gallon plastic bucket with gamma seal lid or plastic totes until needed.

  • A good first aid kit
  • A sleeping bag for each family member
  • Several pairs of wool socks for each family member
  • Thermal underwear for each family member
  • A battery-operated or crank radio and extra batteries
  • A deck of cards, jigsaw puzzles, and board games etc.
  • Flashlight and batteries
  • Battery-powered lamps or lanterns
  • Non-electric can opener
  • Prescription drugs and other needed medicine
  • Rock-salt to melt ice on walkways
  • Chemical fire extinguisher
  • Battery powered smoke alarm
  • Battery powered carbon monoxide detector
  • Disposable plates, bowls and utensils (to avoid wasting water washing dishes)

If you have any other suggestions or questions feel free to ask in the comments below. Stay safe my friends.


Jeff February 2, 2011 at 2:49 pm

We also went through a “once-in-a-lifetime” ice storm a few years back, as we live in a warm weather climate. Power outages were generally in the 3-7 day range (due to downed lines) with sustained temperatures below freezing (in a place where freezing temperatures are somewhat rare). The event really taught me that the power going out community-wide for more than about 48 hours can cause serious chaos. The three biggest issues locally were:
1. People not recognizing the dangers of downed power lines who got electrocuted (n= at least 3 serious cases; 2 died). Just because your home has no power does not mean the electrical lines around you are not “live”.
2. People with no back up source of heat when the electricity went out. The few local motels with power quickly filled up and had no vacancies. Lots of people stayed with friends or family who did have a second source of heat.
3. People who had almost all of their food in the refrigerator or freezer in the form of perishable items. It was cold, there was no power, but it was warm enough indoors for the food to spoil (houses have enough mass that it takes a few days for the temperature to really drop). Some people did not have money to simply replace the food. Many tried to eat food that should not have been eaten and got ill.

Dean in Michigan February 2, 2011 at 3:18 pm

Another good one M.D. , glad to see a swift recovery from the writers block.

I don’t worry about my “best by” or expiration dates on canned food or bottled water to much. I mean if it’s ancient, that’s one thing. Dates on food products is a result of being under the regulation of the FDA.

A canned or jarred good will be OK after those dates as long as the seal remains intact. The nutritional value will be less, but it won’t make you sick. The best way to check the can or jar is to push on the lid. If it “pops” up and down, then it has been exposed to air, and thereby, trash.

This is what I was always taught….If I’m wrong then I’m sure the people will let me know.

Barb February 2, 2011 at 7:17 pm

You’re right on the exp dates. 10 yrs ago I did some research on the subject. These days most agencies will give you the politically correct answer: “It’s best to follow the guidelines set for you.” (Translation: don’t think for yourself, just trust that those assigned think for you have any semblance of a brain.)

I spoke to the chief science engineer (lab rat) for several major canned foods companies, including Green Giant and Kuner. I also spoke to a representative of the American Canned Foods Coalition. Ten years ago all of them had this answer. Provided the integrity of the can is uncompromised, (no deep sharp dents, leaks, bulges, etc.) the food is SAFE to eat. After an average of 5 yrs, the food begins to loose flavor, texture and nutrition.

We’ve all heard the tales of 100 yr old canned food that’s still good. Well, “good” is subjective. It’s likely true it was pathologically safe to eat. But it probably tasted like damp paper towels, looked like #%*@!, and had no nutrition.

The expiration dates are just chosen, by the marketing departments of the manufacturers. Except in a few cases, canned foods can be expected to be excellent at five years. After that things begin to go downhill, though slowly.

OhioPrepper February 3, 2011 at 9:34 am

I think you can in part thank the lawyers for the expiration dates. It only takes one idiot to get sick to sue for a large payout. The expiration dates give the companies something to help defend themselves in these cases. Also, the expiration date gives a cushion on storage conditions. Your 5 year figures depend at least in part on how the food was stored. Extremely high temperatures can degrade the contents of the cans a lot faster than 5 years.

Rey February 3, 2011 at 1:45 pm

Just be very careful. I just found out, and not in a good way, that some cans spoil even before the expiration date. I rotate my cans (FIFO) and had some store brand cans of beans that were about 90 days old come up on the rotation. Although the cans where not bulging, the beans stunk to high heaven! I ended up opening 3 cans (same brand and expiration dates) and all three were bad. I’ve had this happen before with evaporated milk cans. AS much as I hate it, it is brand name only from now on. I can not afford to save 10% on the initial cost of a can just to throw away some of them if SHTF.

Lint Picker (Northern California) February 3, 2011 at 8:51 pm

Brand names only for me, too. I’ve been disappointed with some store brands and have learned that spending a few extra cents up front is cheaper in the long run. That’s one reason I like Costco, they sell brand names and I have never been disappointed with any of their meats, canned goods, dry goods, etc. (No, I don’t work for Costco. LOL)

I also don’t buy big cans because as a single person, I cannot eat all that food in one sitting and if the power goes out, I’ve opened a can that cannot then be refrigerated for later consumption.

For me, and I don’t advocate this for everybody, brand names and smaller cans are the cheapest way to store foods.

Luddite Jean February 4, 2011 at 5:13 am

I came across some forgotten stores this week, and most cans had a best before date in 2006/7. So far I’ve eaten 3 cans of expired tuna, and it tasted fine and I had no ill effects whatsoever.

I checked the cans for integrity first, all seemed fine.

Tomthetinker February 2, 2011 at 3:20 pm

MD: Dang fella…. the Writer’s block sorta wore off huh….. As I have planned ahead for this storm, off I go to plow out the other half of the driveway using the stored gas and 2 stroke oil I alway have in storage. Paid a visit to the local Kroger on the way home last night….. I am so proud and relieved to have watched a slice of America shop calmly and with wisely. the local blowdries have been pounding the panic button about this lil storm for 2 days.

Tomthetinker February 2, 2011 at 3:21 pm

remove the ‘with’ and just use the wisely… I’m a product of a public school system and don’t puter so good.

bctruck February 2, 2011 at 6:42 pm

dont fret nun. i aint no gud puterizer neether. butt bi GOD eye can spel plnti gud!!

Bobby February 2, 2011 at 4:15 pm

The only thing I can add is check and recheck your supplies. Here in Ohio we just had the big storm blow through. Before the storm . I had forgotten that I loaned out my kerosene heater to a family member for her outdoor Halloween party. Went to my garage to look for it, of course it was gone. Remembered who I loaned it to, and went to pick it up. It had mysteriously disappeared. Had to stop at a Menards and pick up another one. Luckily they had 6 left after receiving 40 in that day. Got home just in time for the storm to begin.

The moral: Check and recheck.

Tomthetinker February 3, 2011 at 8:11 am

How does the saying go….? “…One is none and two is one..” something like that. I have ‘loaned’ equip. out with the same results. bummer. You have me thinking about simple ‘loaner’ items I can afford to hand out and keep my home prep items …. for home.

Jim Murphy February 2, 2011 at 4:16 pm

Our basement stays around 45-55 degrees in the winter with no heat
on at all. A bit chilly but a place to retreat to if the power is off for an EXTREME extended period of time. One thing I really hate is when our power goes out and I KNOW it’s OUT, yet everytime I walk in a room I try to switch the light ON. I wonder how long it takes for that reflex to go away.

OhioPrepper February 3, 2011 at 9:40 am

More than a dozen years ago I was without power for about 4 days, the longest I’ve ever been without power. I can tell you that at the end of 4 days, I was still switching lights on & off LOL.

Ben Halverson February 2, 2011 at 5:22 pm

Boy, I bet some of the people in North Texas could use this information.
Great info!

Donna Gutierrez February 2, 2011 at 6:17 pm

Which model of Mr. Heater are you using.
Thinking about purchasing the MH9BX.
But wondering about it not having a fan to blow the air around the room?
Heating a small bedroom.

M.D. Creekmore February 2, 2011 at 7:17 pm
OhioPrepper February 3, 2011 at 9:45 am

Another thing about the Buddy series of propane heaters is that they all contain an oxygen sensor and thus are rated for indoor use. Many other propane heaters are not rated for indoors, and if it’s all you have available you need to be very careful about ventilation.

Timmy February 2, 2011 at 6:25 pm

I am pretty sure the Mr Buddy heater emits CO2 – which will kill you. They are however equipped with a safety shut off should you try operating one in a confined space…but I would not bet my life on its reliability. To be truly safe form CO2 poisoning, a person should get a “catalytic” safety heater like is found in many RVs. They cost a bit more than a Mr Buddy – but much less than a burial plot. I bought mine on Amazon.

M.D. Creekmore February 2, 2011 at 7:13 pm


The Portable Buddy Propane Heater was designed and certified by CSA (American Gas Association) for use indoors and has a Low-Oxygen shut-off system. I’ve used one in my trailer for two years and I’m still alive. Sure beats freezing to death.

Drew February 3, 2011 at 12:49 am

I think CO2 is safe (except to the climate…not). I think you might mean CO.

OhioPrepper February 3, 2011 at 10:08 am

CO2 (a gas we all exhale) is produced by any combustion process and can asphyxiate you in large concentrations, so any heater catalytic or open flame must have adequate ventilation. CO OTOH atomically replaces oxygen in the blood stream and can asphyxiate you in much smaller concentrations as it actually replaces oxygen in the bloodstream. When working properly with adequate ventilation, the Buddy heaters produce mostly CO2 and water vapor.

Terri February 2, 2011 at 6:38 pm

I do have a kerosens heater. Thanks MD for telling me how much kerosene to buy. I didn’t know it was that much. You have to crack open a window and, I light mine outside and bring it in. Maybe I should get a carbon monoxide alarm. I need to get some new filters.

alcade February 3, 2011 at 9:04 am

We used to use a kerosene heater to take the chill out of our upstairs, as we had a floor furnace growing up. The house was drafty, so we didn’t bother opening any windows. But a CO detector (battery operated is the only way to go, in my opinion) is definately a must. It has almost killed a friend of mine before, and the doctors said it did in fact give him some brain damage. He recovered, but his friends and family all noted that he acted a little differently for over a year after the episode.

bctruck February 2, 2011 at 6:48 pm

well,i live in north west louisiana and they are predicting extreme low temps with record snow fall.(probably as much as a few inches.)having grown up in new england,i cant tell you how funny that sounds. when i was a kid,they wouldnt close schools until the snow was up to your,,,,,well any way.watching people here run around buying all the soup and batteries is a lttle funny. take care,gotta get soup and batteries! when in rome.

Jim (toledo) February 2, 2011 at 7:07 pm

Got about 11″ here total over the past two days. The good thing about prepping for SHTF is that it means you’re already prepped for more minor things like snow/ice storms. All I had to get was a couple more gallons of kerosene, an extra flashlight, and a fire extinguisher (we should have had a fire extinguisher to begin with but somehow that got overlooked). Good call though on the battery operated CO detector… we have a battery smoke alarm, but the CO detector now is electric. It wouldn’t do much good if the power goes out.

Mark February 2, 2011 at 11:45 pm

I had been curious to hear from folks north of me. Sounds like you’re well. Wow… 11″.

I’m in the SW corner and we saw a little freezing rain, followed by more rain and high winds. We lost power briefly, a few times, but not long enough to warrant connecting the generator.

OhioPrepper February 3, 2011 at 10:17 am

CO detectors typically draw a little more power than a smoke detector, which is why many of them are line powered. The thought is also that with traditional combustion heating equipment, the furnace doesn’t run without electricity, so no need for the CO detector to run either. My recommendation for the CO detector is to find one that is line powered AND contains a battery. The battery will typically last a lot longer in these detectors.

The brainwashing wore off... February 2, 2011 at 7:15 pm

I have been through Hugo (in ’89) and an ice storm (’71) and will never forget either. At the time of the hurricane, my youngest child was 5 months old. We were without electricity for about 7-8 days. It was horrible. Place looked like a bomb had detonated. Couldn’t walk in the yard without fire ants attacking you (they were everywhere) as was debris and critters. Up to 2 weeks later few stores were open, no gas available, people coming to blows over bags of ice (saw news reports later- we sheltered in), and people unfamiliar with using chain saws having deadly mishaps. We made do, fortunately I had enough diapers, formula and food for the baby, but water was undrinkable. We had city water at the time and they advised against drinking it without boiling it. So many pines trees were downed the water even weeks after, tasted like pine. We had borrowed a generator from our inlaws so were able to keep the refrigerator going, but nighttime was awful. No lights, looting, unnaturally quiet and worried about CO2 buildup poisoning my family (we had the generator in the garage but gaps in the door let some of the fumes into the kitchen).

Things I learned:
1) have a variety of canned goods -a must to avoid appetite fatigue
2) you can heat water for bathing by leaving your water jugs in sunlight- beats cold water baths
3) books and cards (and toys for kids) relieve boredom
4) get in the habit of filling up your car- don’t ride around on 1/4 tank
5) fill the bathtubs, pots, pans, containers with all the water you can
6) get a weather radio and generator – and move the frig if you have to!
7) antiseptic wipes and gels are a must

The only thing I really remember about the ice storm was my mom hanging the jug of milk outside to keep it from spoiling (colder outside than in) and sitting in front of our oven for warmth (it pays to have a gas stove).

Sorry for the long, rambling post.

Granny Miller February 2, 2011 at 7:16 pm

All good suggestions.
I would recommend Kleen Heat over kerosene because it stores longer and has no odor.
Also you will need good bright light and single wick oil lamps don’t cut it. You should probably get at least 1 Aladdin lamp and learn how to safely use it.
A simple 5 gallon bucket composting toilet is a good idea. Basically it’s a 5-gallon bucket with absorbent material – like peat moss or sawdust.
Down comforters go a long way by keeping everyone comfortable and happy during the night. One for every bed is easily had by shopping the thrift stores.

I have long be a believer of doing a “living household inventory”. It might help to be better prepared for extended power outages in the future. Since every household is different it is a way to plan for the unexpected.
You can read my recommendations & suggestions here if you are interested.

Sunny February 2, 2011 at 7:59 pm

Great post, we went 11 days w/o power in 2004 hurricanes and while it was miserable it was a learning experience. We quickly realized how unprepared we were to deal the sweltering heat of Florida in the summer. We now have a window ac unit that our generator can run. That way we can a least get some sleep and breathe (I have asthma).

bctruck February 2, 2011 at 10:03 pm

i did the same thing. i can handle heat and humidity all day. when it comes time to sleep,ive got to have an ac.i bought one just large enough to cool the bedroom. florida is the most humid place ive ever been. followed by houston. then my house in north west louisiana

Spook45 February 2, 2011 at 8:10 pm

We had a short outage yesterday due to wind. MY buddy got hungry and tired of waitning for the lights to come back on so he did what any good survivalist would do. He lit up his handy dandy penny stove(look on utube if you dont know what this is) and cooked a 3 coarse meal with 3 oz of fuel. He reaheated some hamburger helper, cooked mashed potatos and cooked hamberger steaks. Now, if you know what a penny stove is, you should quite impressed. If you dont, look on utube, and then go build one. Works great, easy to make and it is so small it will fit in a grenade pouch. I went thru this power outage crap back in 94 during the big ice storm. We were without power for about ten days and I am SO GLAD I have a wood stove!

Bryce February 3, 2011 at 10:34 am

Know how to bake a pie on a camp stove? Seems like you might be the best one to ask!

OhioPrepper February 3, 2011 at 1:35 pm

I’ve never done one on a camp stove, but with a camp fire and a dutch oven, pies come out great. You might be able to adapt the camp stove to heat the oven, hmmm gotta think that one over.

Spook45 February 3, 2011 at 3:02 pm

IDK, never thought about it. I would probly wrap the whole thing in foil(to distribute heat all the way around it) and elevate it away from the flame. You want the heat but not concentrated in one place. Sort of a makeshift oven. You can make Buscuits, muffins and a few other things in a canteen cup. With the pie, I would probly just put it on the wood stove and let it cook for a long time.

Luddite Jean February 4, 2011 at 5:23 am

I’ve cooked pies in a dutchie, but I’m thinking about getting a couple of jaffle pie irons. I had a jaffle pie on a road trip once, and it was very tasty, too.

Jaffle iron:

Lint Picker (Northern California) February 2, 2011 at 10:07 pm

All great suggestions. And quite timely, too.

Fortunately, we don’t have many power outages, but we get a major Pacific Storm (think of them as a Level 1 Hurricane) every few years that have strong winds. With all the trees around here, the electric lines take a beating and the power can be out in remote areas for up to 10 days.

I made it a project one day to check with the nearest gas station and grocery store to see if they had backup generators. Both do, which means if the power goes out at my house I can walk to the gas station and get a couple bags of ice to keep my frozen foods cold in ice chests. I have the 5-gallon bucket like GrannyMiller suggested. And everything else that’s been suggested EXCEPT for a secondary heat source.

There is no wood stove or fireplace in this house, which is cause for concern. Fortunately, it seldom gets really cold here for very long. Last December we had a cold wave (not like many other parts of the country get, but plenty cold for these parts) and it gave me the incentive to check on my supply of blankets, comforters, and sleeping bags. I have enough of those things to supply the neighborhood. LOL

So, I raise my glass of V8 Juice to toast all preppers – here’s to you for taking care of yourselves and not being a burden on rescue workers. Job well done!

axelsteve February 2, 2011 at 11:58 pm

We have a Moniter kerisone fuel home heating system. unfortunatly it will not work if we lose power beacus it is electrical start. We have a woodstove so we better start stocking up on firewood. There is alot of oak in my erea so I will get a permit to cut some trees. We do not lose power very often or very long however, all it takes is a couple of kids in there lowered purplr hondas to screw that up worse.I better get my act together. Steve

JB February 3, 2011 at 12:01 am

Well I’m here in South Texas and it’s COLD. Not the coldest I’ve ever been but it’s still cold with single digit wind chills. Just the other night it was 65 degrees and I stopped by Wal-Mart to pick up a few things including a Mr Buddy heater. It was funny because everyone was looking at my cart as I walked by. They noticed the heater, then the propane bottles, the soup, the tarp and whatever else I had in there. Then they looked at me. I just kept on walking.

The rolling blackouts haven’t been too bad down here. I never lost power at the house but if it happens tomorrow when the snow hits I’ll still be prepared for it when I get home.

Oh and one more use for 2 liter soda bottles, stick them in your freezer after you fill them with water if you have room. It will help keep things cold and you can also move one to the fridge. Plus when they melt, you have water for cooking, drinking or hygiene.

M.D. Creekmore February 3, 2011 at 6:39 am


It’s strange the way the majority of people look at those of us who are prepared for disaster – it’s like they think being a helpless dependent is cool…

Bryce February 3, 2011 at 10:37 am

M.D. you are so right, but we are the first door they knock on whem Mother Nature thorws us a reminder of who is in charge.

Donna Gutierrez February 3, 2011 at 12:35 pm

True…even for something as simple as snow gear.
We had the neighborhood kids over on Monday, all playing in the snow for the morning.
We had to lend ALL of them hats, scarves, gloves, and boots, and even a winter jacket for one!
They lived close enough to go home for gear….but they didn’t have any!
I found it mind boggling!
We felt like WE were the ones that were odd!

shotzeedog February 3, 2011 at 11:16 am

In the past when I was a casual prepper, I would sometimes check out other peoples cart and think maybe I should get some more of whatever they had in their cart. Maybe you were helping others to think that they should get some of what you had.

Mental Matt February 3, 2011 at 2:33 am

Hey Dean , your right on the mark with those dates, canned good hold up alot better than most. A note to remember everyone does not can the correct way, (when dealing with home caners). Please remember everyone does not no how to do it the right way. Oh and yes that means me!

Tomthetinker February 3, 2011 at 8:30 am

It’s possible that my wife (my better 2/3rds) has gotten the picture regarding my preps. The morning after the ‘storm’ she asks…”honey do we have any gas for the blowers..” After that it was a question here and there about the ‘IF’ we had this and that and had to go out for any…. thing. All answered with a “… No honey, we have it in the basement, garage, pantry, safe room………..” Tom smiles and enjoys the quiet time… to reflect on his good luck… not to have had to ‘go out’ in the bone crackin cold for a bread and milk run…. or gas… or wood… or beans…. or Beer!

alcade February 3, 2011 at 9:11 am

We weathered this so called “snowmageddon” pretty well. No power outages or anything like that. The roads were closed for the night while the storm was at its peak but were reopened the next day. I just made sure to top off our bottled water before hand, as well as some extra gasoline for the vehicle.

One thing I’d like to add, I heat my home with wood, and always try to maintain at least a two year supply of firewood. I figure that if I ever break a leg or something and am facing a long recuperation time, not having to worry about hefting a chainsaw and splitting logs will be a huge burden lifted.

LynnS February 3, 2011 at 9:36 am

Last year’s Winter blizzard took out the power for 4 and 1/2 days for us. We are prepared and were fine. We cranked up the generator for the fridge and freezer. Used our oil lamps for evening light. Cooked meals in our propane oven/range. We are on a well so our electric pump didn’t run but we store water and had snow to melt. Our main heat source is the wood stove so we were warm, well fed, and enjoyed the quiet. Bring it on!!

OhioPrepper February 3, 2011 at 10:48 am

Preparing helps, but Attitude is Everything!!!

Joshua February 3, 2011 at 9:37 am

Nice post!!!

Judith February 3, 2011 at 10:34 am

It is 19 degrees here in the Ca. desert this morn. I am well equipped to survive this below normal cold spell. It is the summer heat that worries me. I havn’t figured that one out yet.
Like Lint Picker says we seldom lose our power. Knock on wood.
Havn’t talked DH into a big generator yet. Still trying.

OhioPrepper February 3, 2011 at 10:42 am

For those of you old enough to remember, back in 1978 there was a blizzard that pretty much shut down the US from the central plains to the north east coast. Someone was smiling on me during the blizzard because I was one of the few in my little town that still had commercial power. Ended up with a lot of neighbors camping out. About a week after the initial blast someone in the area remembered an old lady (in her 70’s) who lived out by herself on an old farmstead. When rescue workers arrived, they were prepared for the worst. What they found was an old lady with spunk, who greeted them. Although she didn’t have an alternate heat source, she barricaded herself in the bath room, ran a little water in the tub and then lit a dozen or more candles, sitting them in the bathtub for safety. She had dragged a mattress, and numerous quilts, comforters, canned foods and water into the bathroom along with a battery powered radio. The blizzard had inconvenienced her a bit, but she got through it pretty much unphased. I had a 4WD vehicle, and anyone with those or snowmobiles was asked to help deliver supplies to the hinterlands. Most of the folks I delivered to, or in some cases brought back to shelter in town, were totally unprepared. Attitude is everything.
Also, on the kerosene heater wicks. Before we heated with propane we heated with fuel oil and did some spot heating with kerosene heaters. They used to make (don’t know if they still do) both cotton and fiberglass wicks for them. The fiberglass is more expensive, but they seemed to last forever.

Lint Picker (Northern California) February 3, 2011 at 3:03 pm

You raise an interesting point, OP, about 4x4s. The government wants to push us into electric cars and microcompact cars, but they will get us killed faster than
any other type of vehicle except for maybe a motorcycle.

Privately owned vehicles equipped with 4wheel drive have rescued more people from disasters and potential disasters than any emergency vehicles have. I lived in a town that was prone to flooding in the lower sections and it was always the guys with 4×4′s who were able to go in and rescue the folks who were being flooded out. The city just couldn’t cope with the numbers of people needing rescue.

Don’t let the government take away our right to own 4x4s, full size pickups, guns, and ammo. With those things, we stand a chance to avoid what Egypt is going through.

templar knight February 3, 2011 at 3:35 pm


I will take this a bit further. Electric cars suffer the worst from cold weather, as the chemical reaction that takes place in batteries to generate electricity slows down considerably when the temperature plunges. Can you imagine being stuck in an electric car like the people were on that parkway in Chicago? If you have a gasoline-powered vehicle, you can run the engine and keep yourself warm. An electric vehicle would get you killed in that scenario.

Semtex-Jes February 9, 2011 at 1:18 am

Temlar-Lint ,
Not only do I live in Chicago,But I work for the Company you may have seen on tv who ran the entire clean up of our little disaster,You may be surprised to know how many people stuck on lake shore dr that day had electric veh’s , And you may be even more surprised to hear that every single electric veh stayed running throughout , now they may not have been able to handle the snow but they handled the cold as well as every other model on the drive….They are designed to run off the gas if the batteries fail and are leagues above gas powered veh’s when it comes to idle time , don’t get me wrong , gas powered is the way for me , But from first hand experience they held up better than I would have thought under that kind of wintery hell : )

Ps … Not only did I survive our Blizzard in Chicago,but was very prepared for it , thanks in big part to you great people on this fine blog , Had this happened a yr ago I fear my Blizzard would not have been so easy to handle…Big Thanks to all you who speak so I can listen !

LynnS February 3, 2011 at 3:52 pm

Those electric cars will wind up draining folks financially-dry once ‘electricity necessarily skyrockets.’ And how can you run one of those tin cans if there’s a black-out? If someone is going to go the route of electrically-run cars, they should go DC, not AC! Or get a bike…..

Me, if I had to give up my truck, I’d hitch a horse to a wagon and take the slow route to town.

OhioPrepper February 3, 2011 at 4:24 pm

I’m not sure what the difference here would be from AC to DC, unless you generate your own. Generally the electric cars run on batteries (DC) and are charged from line power (AC). The interesting thing here is that about 80% of power in this country is generated using coal, which actually makes these cars coal powered; thus only moving the carbon generation from one place to another. The power plants do have better pollution controls than a majority of autos; however, the difference is marginal. But let’s not confuse anyone with the facts.

Bctruck February 3, 2011 at 6:02 pm

Well that’s just crazy talk!! Next thing you’ll be trying to convince us that al gore wasn’t the inventor of the Internet. Boy that is a hoot. I’ve experienced the same thing in my business. The EPA demanded that trucks burning diesel give off fewer particulates. To do this the engine mfgrs had to add many thousands of dollars of engine modifications. Not only does it put a $15,000 premium on new trucks but it gets far less fuel mileage and is prone to mechanical failure far more often than earlier model engines. Only the government can make sense out of using mire fuel to do the same job and hit the consumer with and even bigger purchase price of a truck and more cost during its life to deliver goods. Thus if course translates directly into higher prices for everything that get from hither to yon on a truck. But like Ohio prepper said,, let’s not confuse them with facts.

bctruck February 3, 2011 at 6:30 pm

wow! when i typed the above,i was out in my shop and my glasses where covered with dust from sanding. i come in the house to take a little break and let the poly dry and read my riddled with typos post. sorry!

LynnS February 3, 2011 at 7:56 pm

That was my point — DC from solar, off-grid.

You’ll need to double-check your coal percentages. It’s more like 30% or so in the US, not 80%. Let’s definitely not confuse anyone with the facts.

OhioPrepper February 4, 2011 at 11:54 am

You’re correct, it’s not 80%. Not sure where I got that number. Here however are the facts from The US Energy Information Administration.
• Coal 44.5%
• Hydro 6.8%
• Natural Gas 23.3%
• Nuclear 20.2%
• Petroleum 1.0%
• Other 0.3%
• Other Gases 0.3%
• Other renewable 3.6%
• Total 100.0%

Although Natural Gas does emit somewhat less CO2 than coal, the total of these fuels that do release CO@ is nearly 70% (69.1). So in general the electric cars do have an overall substantial carbon footprint, and thus are not zero emissions.

After researching the battery capacity of a typical electric car, it appears that the range is somewhere between 10 and 20 KWH. Assuming a charge time from a solar array of 8 hours, and a charging efficiency of 80%, one would need a solar array capable of producing about 3 KWH continuous during daylight hours. Perhaps a better solution in AZ than in OH. According to a Mother Earth News article from May 2009, the cost of an off grid system runs about $8000-$10000 per KW, installed. A DIY installation with someone looking for deal could but the system cost by up to about 50%, making the 3KWH system somewhere in the $15000-$30000 range. That’s a little expensive for startup costs, but a solution that is quite doable.

Semtex-Jes February 9, 2011 at 1:46 am

Speaking of double checking your facts , Check the rising costs of fuel vs what it takes to run one of those cars , you should read a little into the field of electric veh’s before you condem them , Number one a black out wouldn’t bother a owner of one unless it was completely dead before hand , These car’s have a recharge system built into them , so that means as you drive them they recharge themselve’s… Number two , these veh’s are just babies give them time to grow , remember ford didn’t start his company with a Expedition , in a few yr’s I expect electric veh’s to surpass every veh ever made in every catagory they have , you have to understand we cannot keep your LAND TANKS running forever , the planet simply doesn’t have enough oil for you,me and the 300 billion china men who also want to drive fancy American suv’s .

Led Zepplin said it best…. ” If it keeps on raining the levee’s gunna break ”

Many people fear new tech , if nothing else simply because they “think” they understand it …… Not all change is bad …. Some thing’s should be supported by the people .

OhioPrepper February 9, 2011 at 10:29 pm

The rising fuel prices also impact the cost of the generated electricity, so as prices rise costs also raise for both vehicle types. I’m not condemning them, just being a realist as to their capabilities.
A blackout also doesn’t affect my petroleum powered vehicle either as long as I have fuel. Additionally I can charge my petroleum based vehicle with the power off, by pouring stored gasoline into the fuel tank. I’m not sure of the point here.
Electric vehicles do not have a system to charge the batteries while running. The electric hybrids have that capability, but they do it via a petroleum based engine running a generator or alternator.
As for the vehicles technology being in its infancy, that’s mostly correct. The real issue is the energy storage, which are in most cases of new cars some sort of lithium polymer or lithium ion battery. That is the real stumbling block, and as new batteries are designed with higher energy density, this will get better. You still however have to charge the batteries and the only clean way to do this is by either hydro or nuclear power. There are two nuclear plants under construction that should be online in about 5 years. These are BTW the first to be built in 30 years.
This is basic engineering, chemistry, and physics, and so far the laws of thermodynamics still lean heavily toward the energy density in fossil fuels. I for one don’t fear new technology, it’s what I do for a living, but there are also those who embrace technology because they also “think” they understand it.
J.D. Power and Associates states that the global sales of both hybrid and battery electric vehicles were expected to reach just 5.2 million vehicles in 2020, or only 7.3 percent of the 70.9 million autos expected to be sold that year. In its Drive Green 2020 report it states an expected 1 million unit sales of electric and hybrid vehicles this year, that’s a bit more than 2 percent of global demand for vehicles. All in all it’s not a lot of vehicles in the overall scheme of things. If however there is a major breakthrough in battery technology, giving greater range, then these numbers could increase.

Cathy February 11, 2011 at 2:33 pm

Little late in reading these posts, but I was 17 and lived through the 78′ blizzard. (Carey, OH). My parents and I lived in an old, little house. Luckily we had a gas stove. We blocked off the kitchen with hanging sheets. I slept on the floor, mom and dad in kitchen chairs. couldn’t get out of the house because of the snow drifts. Melted snow for water, but we ate like kings because of the gas stove and oven. We get together and still talk about our “survival” during that storm. Tough storm, but great memories!

shotzeedog February 3, 2011 at 11:27 am

We lost power late Tuesday night . We are on a well so the husband hooked up the generator to run the well pump, refrigerator and freezer. We used our new Big Buddy heater to help keep the house warmer. We dressed in our fleece lined jeans and wore our fleece sweaters. He also fired up the large kerosene heater in the basement to help keep the pipes from freezing. When we called the power company they originally said the power was going to be out until Friday. It was a nice surprise to have the power back on by Wednesday 4:30 in the afternoon.

farmgal February 3, 2011 at 12:16 pm

Well, we were told that it was going to be bad, and I did a little extra prep work(filled an extra 55 gallon drum with fresh water), hauled in a little extra wood, cooked extra food up/made a big batch of bread etc.

And we got a basic Canadian snow storm with about eight inches of snow, some winds that pushed into 3 plus foot high drifts, hubby didn’t even stay home to Tel-work, which he normally does if it gets bad.

They said to look for white out condions, so we double checked the rope and pulled it up just in case (the rope that runs from the big barn to the little barn so that in a true white out, you can’t get lost. I hate storms that are bad enough that you need the rope to get to there and back safe.

This was not one of them at least not in my area.. hope everyone is doing well in their neck of the woods.

Donna Gutierrez February 3, 2011 at 2:45 pm

Got this warning today:

Channel 4 and other sites are announcing that the gas co., is shutting off gas service in a rolling manner so some part
of town will have no gas for a period and then it will turn on and
another part will have no gas.

When you don’t have heat water pipes can freeze, especially those on
exterior walls. Insulate exterior faucets with Styrofoam, bubble wrap
or towels to keep outside air from blowing against the faucets and to
keep heat in the pipes.

It is a good practice to drip the COLD water lines at your sinks and
tubs, esp those with wipes in the outside walls, because moving water is
harder to freeze.

Good time to stock up on a few gallons of drinking water.

As far as I know there will not wholesale gas shutdown for extended
periods but that can change.

I am no expert but know these tips help and are meant as good practices.
Please don’t take this as a call to emergency. Search the web for
better information if you have concerns. FEMA, Red Cross have good

Safety Department
A family member who refuses to believe in, or listen to, any promptings I have given in the past, to do some prepping, was at Home Depot, Walmart, & Lowes, this morning, (in a panic), looking for a couple of extra heaters today.
They were all SOLD OUT!
Wish this would turn into a wake up call for her and a few others…..but for some reason I doubt it.

Lint Picker (Northern California) February 3, 2011 at 3:44 pm

I have a sister like your family member. She is always running around having a great time and ignoring tomorrow or next week. She truly lives for today, which I admire to some extent. However, when there is an emergency, she is often caught flat-footed and doesn’t have a clue as to what to do. It’s at that time that she calls me for advice. Of course, by the time she calls me the damage is done and there’s no way I can get to her to help her. She has a husband, but he’s always working in his flower garden and seems to be completely oblivious to potential emergencies. To say they are both in denial would be a gross understatement. LOL

So, I prep for myself and put aside some supplies and foods for them, just in case. It’s an extra expense for me, but I would rather have some supplies set aside for them than watch them suffer.

Matt Killa February 3, 2011 at 4:31 pm

One second after, is a great book about an EMP going off over the US…….check it out.

Terry in Texas February 3, 2011 at 5:02 pm

This post came just in time. I live in the southwest and have never experienced cold like this before. Thankfully, I have some of the items you mentioned but had never used them until this week. It was helpful to have your update on the Mr. Buddy and Coleman stove because I was not sure I could use these indoors. Thank you for all of your help. It was a comfort to know I was not going to blow up the house!

blindshooter February 3, 2011 at 8:21 pm

The EPA now has the ability to regulate carbon dioxide and since coal is used to generate most of the electrical power in the US I can see the time when instead of the lights going out we will have power but won’t be able to pay for it. The rate where I live went up from .09 to .145 per kwh in a year. That hurt so much that I bought a 320 gallon LP tank, regulators and line to feed three radiant lp heaters. With a full tank I could keep warm and cook until spring comes.

Now if I can just keep the bank from taking the place and putting me out in the cold I’ll be OK;^)

stephen February 4, 2011 at 8:17 am

We live about 40 miles northeast of Dallas in a very rural area. We were without power due to the blackouts for 8 hours with it being 11F outside. Wouldn’t have been too bad if I wasn’t already sick with Pancreasitis. Roads were so bad we couldn’t get to the hospital till yesterday morning. Hopefully I’ll be out today or tomorrow. :)

Lint Picker (Northern California) February 4, 2011 at 4:36 pm

That’s got to be scary, when you can’t get to the hospital. Sounds more like NYC. Hope you get well soon.

stephen February 9, 2011 at 7:03 pm

Thanks! All better now.

Leo February 4, 2011 at 10:15 pm

Hi all,
I just got through reading the news about the Texas power outages and the problems that New Mexico is having with their supply of natural gas. Seems like there is a lot going on in this old world. Over the years I have started getting things put together for an emergency etc… I don,t know if its something that I picked up in the Boy Scout or my time in the military but it seems like I have always felt that it would someday be needed. About 20 years ago I was traveling through the Western United States and as I was going through Wyoming I saw a trailer out with a band of sheep, it interested me, and over the years I have wondered about its use. Well a few years back I was again crossing Wyoming and I saw what I thought was the same trailer, but this time my curiosity got the best of me, so I stopped to take a look at it. There was a man that lived in it, he told me that it was called a sheep camp. Over the years I have researched them they are called sheep camps, sheep wagons, range camp, they have been used in the agriculture industry for well over a 100 years and I have seen a number of these trailers /camps the are were still in use that were well over 70 years old. Anyway 3years ago I decided that one of these trailers was what I wanted to place on a piece of property that I have. So I started looking and found a company called TRC Range Camps and they built a Timberline Range Camp for me. Anyway as I have been reading this blog I was just think about how glad I am that I purchased this trailer and the security it gives me. It is very well insulated and has two sources of heat and light and lots of storage for food clothing etc… We had one day this year that the power was off for around 14 hours my family was nice and warm sitting around the wood-burning stove in our trailer. I still need to get some things together to become more self reliant, a number of my neighbors think that all they will need is a 72 hour kit and that they will be fine, figuring that some government agency will be along to help them by then. All I can say is they have more faith in the government than I do.

Robin February 5, 2011 at 10:06 am

Unlike the author, I know exactly when the problem started with our finances. I burned out of my profession and had to start over just when the 2 kids were at the beginning of adolescence. We did have a 30 year mortgage; I always wanted to get a 15 year one, but it was always a little more of a stretch than we could do. With the holidays each year and a birthday each month in between, and the added expenses we developed 60,000 in credit card debt. Every decision we made was to try and get by. We stopped eating out years ago, neither of us smoke. The kind of foods I eat rarely have coupons. The job I have now I am finally making what I made when I burned out. But of course that 14 years ago and everything is much more expensive.

I even lost my cell phone and will not be able to replace it for a while. I am looking to go back to where I was when I burned out, and I am non too happy about it, but keeping the house is the number one priority. I bought a solar generator to run my well pump in case the grid either falls or, more likely, the grid gets too expensive for me to access. I am stocking up on food and doing everything I can to stay afloat. I have no fat left in my lifestyle and I am at the tipping point. But you got to do what you go to do. The worst part is that my entire family, immediate and extended thinks I have lost my mind. And it is no consultation that I am right. I want so much to be wrong. Every day it is one foot in front of the other and trying to scrape pennies together to prep a little along the way. I know I won’t be ready… but I guess the best adage here is … better late than never.

Donna Gutierrez February 5, 2011 at 11:05 am

If you don’t mind my asking, what kind of generator do you have?
We have a well, and worry about getting our water if the grid goes down, or like you said gets too expensive.
Seems like a gas generator would be awfully loud and alert the whole world that you have one going.
Are solar generators just as noisy?
Was also thinking about installing a hand pump….but I think a solar generator would be more efficient.

Robin February 5, 2011 at 12:10 pm

Hi Donna;

I have a “Sun Runner” http://www.sunrnr. com. It has the ability to do 220 volts which is what I needed for my well. They don’t make any noise and you don’t have to worry about buying fuel for them. They have their limitations, but so far so good.

If you contact them, please say I sent you as I am trying to distribute these and I won’t get credit if you don’t. It will not make the generator cost any more.

My last name is Laird.

Chris February 13, 2011 at 3:30 am

For the winter a means of staying warm has to be a big one. A safe way to generate heat, to many people give themselves carbon monoxide poisoning and the like when the power goes out due to cold weather.

In Oklahoma the ice knocked out the power for a week once. We got out our flashlights and lit the gas fireplace. we cooked outside on the porch with the grill, played cards during the day and we all slept in one room to stay warm. It really wasn’t that bad, with seven people to generate heat.

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