By Daisy Luther
If you’re new to preparedness, you may be reading some of the excellent and informative websites out there and feeling quite quite overwhelmed. While many sites recommend a one year supply of food, manual tools, and a bug out lodge in the forest, it’s vital to realize that is a long-term goal, not a starting point.
A great starting point for someone who is just getting started on a preparedness journey is prepping specifically for a two-week power outage. If you can comfortably survive for two weeks without electricity, you will be in a far better position than most of the people in North America.
Even if you aren’t convinced that hardcore preparedness is for you, it would still be difficult to argue against the possibility of a disaster lasting for a couple of weeks. Major natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy down to lesser storms like last year’s derecho in the Metro DC area are incontestable – storms happen and all you can do is be ready to weather them. As well, a large western US power company recently announced that they did not foresee the ability to keep up with electrical demand this summer, and may institute rolling blackouts to cope with it. If you are prepared for two weeks without power, you are prepared for a wide range of short-term emergencies, including quarantines, interruptions of income, or civil unrest.
To prepare for a two week emergency, think about what you would need if the power went out and you couldn’t leave your home for 14 days. Once you begin creating your plan, you may be surprised and discover that you already have most of what you need to batten down the hatches for a couple of weeks. It’s just a matter of organizing it so you can see what you need.
Use the following information to create your personal 2 week preparedness plan. Modify the suggestions to adapt them to your particular home, family, and climate.
Everyone knows that clean drinking water is something you can’t live without. In the event of a disaster, the water may not run from the taps, and if it does, it might not be safe to drink, depending on the situation. If there is a boil order in place, remember that if the power is out, boiling your water may not be as easy as turning on your stove.
Each family should store a two week supply of water. The rule of thumb for drinking water is 1 gallon per day, per person. Don’t forget to stock water for your pets, also.
You can create your water supply very inexpensively. Many people use clean 2 liter soda pop bottles to store tap water. Others purchase the large 5 gallon jugs of filtered water from the grocery store and use them with a top-loading water dispenser. Consider a gravity fed water filtration device and water purification tablets as well.
Food and a way to prepare it
There are two schools of thought regarding food during a power outage. One: you need a cooking method that does not require the grid to be functioning. Two: you can store food that doesn’t require cooking.
If you opt for a secondary cooking method, be sure that you have enough fuel for two weeks. Store foods that do not require long cooking times – for example, dried beans would use a great deal of fuel, but canned beans could be warmed up, or even eaten cold.
Learn more about building your pantry HERE.
Click HERE for a short term food storage list
Click HERE to find a list of meals that require no cooking.
Heat (depending on your climate)
If your power outage takes place in the winter and you live in a colder climate, heat is another necessity. During the first 24 hours after a power outage, you can stay fairly warm if you block off one room of the house for everyone to group together in. Keep the door closed and keep a towel or blanket folded along the bottom of the door to conserve warmth. You can safely burn a couple of candles also, and in the enclosed space, your body heat will keep it relatively warm. As well, dress in layers and keep everything covered – wear a hat, gloves (fingerless ones allow you to still function), and a scarf.
Click HERE to learn how to stay warm with less heat.
However, after about 48 hours, that’s not going to be enough in very cold weather. You will require back-up heat at this point in certain climates. If you are lucky enough to have a source of heat like a fireplace or woodstove, you’ll be just fine as long as you have a supply of wood.
Consider a portable propane heater (and propane) or an oil heater. You have to be very careful what type of backup heat you plan on using, as many of them can cause carbon monoxide poisoning if used in a poorly ventilated area. Also invest in a CO2 alarm that is not grid-dependent.
Learn more about off-grid heat options HERE.
A common cause of illness, and even death, during a down-grid situation is lack of sanitation. We’ve discussed the importance of clean drinking water, but you won’t want to use your drinking water to keep things clean or to flush the toilet.
For cleaning, reduce your need to wash things. Stock up on paper plates, paper towels, and disposable cups and flatware. Keep some disinfecting cleaning wipes and sprays (I don’t recommend using antibacterial products on a regular basis, however in the event of an emergency they can help to keep you healthy.) Use hand sanitizer after using the bathroom and before handing food or beverages – there may be a lot more germs afoot in a disaster.
Look at your options for sanitation. Does your toilet still flush when the electricity is out? Many people discovered the hard way that the toilets didn’t work when the sewage backed up in the highrises in New York City in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. At our cabin, the toilet won’t flush without power because the pump is electric.
If you are on a septic system, with no risk of the toilet backing up into the house, simply store some water for flushing in the bathroom. (At the first sign of a storm, we always fill the bathtub for this purpose.) Add the water to the tank so that you can flush.
If this is not an option, another solution is to stock up on extremely heavy duty garbage bags (like the kind that contractors use at construction sites) and kitty litter. Place a bag either in your drained toilet or in a bucket. Sprinkle some kitty litter in the bottom of the bag. Each time someone uses the bathroom, add another handful of litter. Be very careful that the bag doesn’t get too heavy for you to handle it. Tie it up very securely and store it outside until services are restored.
Lighting is absolutely vital, especially if there are children in the house. Nothing is more frightening than being completely in the dark during a stressful situation. Fortunately, it’s one of the easiest things to plan for, as well as one of the least expensive.
Some lighting solutions are:
- Garden stake solar lights
- Long-burning candles
- Kerosene lamp and fuel
- Flashlights (don’t forget batteries)
- Hand crank/solar lantern
- Don’t forget matches or lighters
Tools and supplies
Some basic items will make your life much easier during an emergency. Here are some things that are essential in the event of a power outage:
- Lighter/waterproof matches
- Batteries in various sizes
- Manual can opener
- Basic tools: Pliers, screwdriver, wrench, hammer
- Duct tape
- Super glue
- Sewing kit
- Bungee cords
If you’d like to expand on the basic supplies, a more detailed list of tools and hardware can be found HERE.
First Aid kit
It’s important to have a basic first aid kit on hand at all times, but particularly in the event of an emergency. Your kit should include basic wound care items like bandages, antibiotic ointments, and sprays. As well, if you use them, keep on hand a supply of basic over-the-counter medications, like pain relief capsules, cold medicine, cough syrup, anti-nausea pills, and allergy medication. Particularly important if sanitation is a problem are anti-diarrheal medications.
If you want to put together a more advanced medical kit, you can find a list HERE.
This is something that will be unique to every family. Consider the things that are needed on a daily basis in your household. It might be prescription medications, diapers, or special foods. If you have pets, you’ll need supplies for them too. The best way to figure out what you need is to jot things down as you use them over the course of a week or so.
Get started today
You can start right now – this very minute – all you have to do is grab a pad of paper and a pen.
- Begin by personalizing the suggestions above to fit your family’s needs and make a list of your requirements.
- Next, do a quick inventory – as I mentioned above, you may be surprised to see that you already have quite a few of the supplies that are recommended.
- Make a shopping list and acquire the rest of the items you need. If you can’t afford everything right now, prioritize the most important things first.
- Organize your supplies so that they are easily accessible when you need them.
The peace of mind that comes from being prepared for a disaster before it happens cannot be measured. You won’t have to fight the crowds or be faced with empty store shelves. You won’t have to sit there, cold and miserable, in the dark. You won’t be hungry or thirsty. You will be able to face the event with the serenity that readiness brings, and this will also make it less traumatic for your children when they see that you aren’t afraid.
If you’ve dealt with a long term power outage, what were some of the items that you found the most important?
Learn more about getting prepared with Tess Pennington’s new book, The Prepper’s Blueprint: The Step-By-Step Guide To Help You Through Any Disaster
With battery-powered shortwave radio, one can listen to information from other states and other countries.
Good common sense.
Great list. Regarding sanitation, one thing we in the field while in the marines was use baby wipes for bathing. They need neither power nor water, and will keep you nice and clean. Oh, and maybe this is my little paranoia speaking, never forget defense and security (I was shocked how few law abiding people had weapons in hurricanes I lived through in LA and TX).
Go to a home improvement store and buy a 5 gallon bucket….then go to Cabella’s website and buy a toilet seat for it (about $14.00) – hunters use them all the time in the field. It makes a great toilet in case of an emergency. Just put in a trash bag and then add camper toilet chemical (from Wal Mart, etc.) or orange Pine Sol, etc. For less than $25.00 you can have a safe, clean and efficient toilet.
I live in a rural area. Power outages are common when storms blow trees down over electric wires.
I agree baby wipes are a useful item to have on hand. If they get ‘dry’, just put some wipes in a ziplock bag and add a little water.
Another good item to keep on hand is a tarp or an extra shower curtain and some 5 gallon containers. You can rig up a tarp to direct water into containers. Shower curtains tend to be cheaper than tarps. We found sturdy shower curtains for $1.99 at an outlet store.
Take care! 🙂
We were without power for 11 days due to Sandy. We were three days shy of two weeks. Not that we minded. Being prepared doesn’t mean that it isn’t more work. It is. Our preparations did work, but we are making plans to tweak them up a bit. A problem that we needed to address, but did solve, was temperature sensitive pets.
When each of the kids flew the coop, we were left with a “remembrance.” Their pet. One was an Iguana. How do you keep an Iguana warm? We wrapped her living quarters with towels, but leaving an good space for air. We made an iguana hot water bottle by filling a pint canning jar with boiling water and wrapping it with a towel. She would be laying on the bottle by morning, but she made it. She succumbed to old age, but during our attempt to find the fountain of iguana youth for her, the vet mentioned that many reptile owners lost their pets during that time. Some birds are not able to withstand prolonged cold temperatures, either. Rabbits (pets or rabbitry) cannot tolerate very hot temperatures.
Am just curious-just bought 2 new large lanterns and am wondering what is best to use–kerosene or lamp oil? Thanks much.
I have the the same question as you. I have determined that 1. There is no such thing a living totally off the grid. We are always dependent on something. 2. There are no easy answers to non-electric lighting. For every positive there is a negative. 3. Lighting is very important to the well being of the family; We do not live in a dawn to dusk society any longer. 5. Energy costs. 6. Being prepared also means having a skill base large enough to work around all of the problems.
A while ago I stumbled upon this information. We are also considering other solutions, most probably multiple solutions. I hope this helps.
Lamp oil is a derivative of kerosene processed so that there is less or no odor. With either fuel, if it is a non-pressurized lantern there will be a stronger odor. Kerosene is a petroleum product. Prudent use would be to ventilate the area you are lighting.
Lightsticks are also good and safe for use by kids and elderly
The lightsticks can be bought at wallyworld,camping stores and Target.
The best options for dealing with poweroutages is a winpower. you can hook them into your power box then fireup the tractor and have all the juice the house needs. we have power outages every year so its quite normal to get the winpower generator out plug in and rev up , water works everything works. we have had the power go out as long as 3 weeks so its up to you. also buy a wood fired cookstove you have heat plus someplace to cook. not to mention most towns or counties have a compost yard where they take trees or leaves. that is a great free place to get wood just cut split and haul all you want or need
Just getting started with prepping for small scale emergancies. Thanks for the tip about the solar stake lights. Genious.
I save the big bottles left from liquid laundry detergent. They are great for storing water for toilet flushing. Easy to handle.
When we lived in Hurricane country I would fill the washing machine before the power went out. That’s an extra good amount of clean water.
Great Idea I have recently moved into an apartment that has only a shower stall. I used to fill the bath tub up. For the toilet. But to just do a clean rinse with bleach prior as is recommended for the washing machine in general once a month or depending on how often the washing machine is used. It truly is a great way to have a good amount of clean water.
Any suggestions on how to actually get electricity during a blackout? My husband utilizes a breathing machine for his chronic asthma as a back up to his inhaler, was wondering if you any suggestions for that.
Granted its not a permanent solution, but a good emergency source of electricity is a generator. Though that will run out rather quickly.
Most people wouldn’t think of it, but a car is also another good source of electricity. Using a power inverter(found at most retail or hardware stores). you can provide emergency electricity for most items.
However the most realistic item to solve a need for electricity is an electric storage device. These are most recognized to be used with jumping cars, though some are made specifically for camping or surviving off the grid.
I would start with a uniteruptable power supply UPS normally used to backup computers. Some larger ones have expandable battery banks. Then get a solar panel with a large battery and 120 volt outlet to supply power to the UPS. It will never run out of gas.
We have written a novel, “Post Grid.” Here is the Blurb: Kelly, a nurse, has survived the destruction of the power grid and must now struggle to make it to her mother’s, rural, Arizona ranch. Jared, a sheriff’s deputy, has been shot in the melee and likely won’t survive without her help. They find themselves among an unlikely group of individuals, with knowledge and skills that will improve everyone’s chance of survival. Look for us on Amazon and see our Facebook page, http://www.Facebook.com/NovelPostGrid
Non gas generators are a must for preppers. During a disaster gas is almost always in short supply and if the power is out some gas station pumps may not even work.
Solar generators are an excellent way to have clean, reliable power during a blackout.
Love my bio-mass stove. (I have Solo brand, but any brand will solve some cooking issues)
I boiled water with it in less than 7 minutes (which is faster than my electric stove)) and now plan my stored food purchases based on just needing boiling water.
**Note: Bio-mass stoves MUST be used outdoors….I use mine on the glass table on the covered deck…since there is 35 acres of forever wild right behind my house, finding bio-mass, even in the winter, is not a problem. Folks with neighbors only feet away might want to invest in a propane camp stove that uses the little green canisters of fuel…easy to store, less cumbersome than 20# bottles of propane…however there is an adapter to make the camp stove hook up to 20# tanks if you are preparing for longer time OR have a larger family that will require more food preparation.
Addtional note: Boiling water and taking it inside to make my meal will keep those with keen noses (and no stored food) from finding out that I was prepared…and trying to remove my food from my home. (while I have “home protection” available, not having to use it is my first plan)
I have never been in a power-outage that has lasted more than a day before. But it is always possible, especially when you live on a fault line like we do. I’m not sure if I would be able to survive an electrical emergency that lasts two weeks. Thanks for the helpful list of tips to get prepared. As I stock my food storage, I will be sure we have everything on your list.
Live near Raleigh, have had 3 major outages in 30 years.(More than 1 week) Have always had generator with transfer switch. Still have original generator. Now at daughter’s house. One carburetor overhaul and one electrical repair. Have large diesel generator now. Coleman propane stoves are great. Get Coleman L at camp store or Walmart. Light, stove off 20lb propane tank. Lasts for weeks. Can be used inside if just for meals. Buddy Heaters great. Heated 3 rooms for 21/2 days with small heater. Was freezing outside. Have well and generator key to this. Have wood stove with blower. It will almost heat house without blower as in basement. Have extra chlorine if pool, can use water for flush or bathing if summer-hurricane Fran. If anticipate outage cook meals and freeze. Also get laundry up to date.Always keep extra gas with stablizer and rotate to mowers or car. Like idea of tent in house to keep warm. Kids love camping idea. Generator also keeps freezers working, can make ice in milk jugs keep cold things in cooler,,much more efficient than opening fridge. If gas generator be sure several quarts of oil. Remember generators run almost continuously usually use oil every other day. New LED rechargeable lanterns are great.Next outage we will likely use those. Recharge when running generator. Keep your landline phone. Worked in all three outages, more reliable than cell in my experience. Recently internet problem and much of Raleigh lost cell coverage for half a day. Suspect the internet is becoming more of our infrastructure than people want to admit. A major disruption from cyperattack or major power outage and I bet there will be lots of problems Cable least reliable in my experience.
Having emergency backup power is one of the most important things you can do to be prepared. Just make keep in mind that gas is often unavailable when shtf. Solar power is a very good alternative to a gas powered generator.
My dad, who was a WW2 Vet, used to always say water first! My wife and kids used to laugh at me whenever a snow/ ice storm was coming by filling the bath tubs with water until we finally had a severe ice storm w/no water or electricity for several days! It solves SO MANY PROBLEMS. A bath tub can hold a lot of water. If you have two then you are even more prepared. Use it for bathing, toileting. washing dishes, cleanliness etc.. Make sure to keep one of those Britta (or competitor brands) water filters in your house for drinking water. You will not have to worry about dysentery, dehydration, etc.. Of course these are ideas for temporary electrical outages and also assumes short durations. For long term preparedness or “bug out” situations then refer to the preparedness experts !
Great common sense.
Solo stoves and equivalents
I like the design very much of the Solo Stove system, whether the smallest backpacking model (around $70 or so on Amazon) or the larger models for groups. The Chinese knockoffs of that smallest model (the Solo Lite) on eBay work just as well for roughly a fourth the price. Either works even better by using a set of cross-members (upper and lower) from https://siegestoves.com/ — the upper pair lets you use much wider bottomed cookware, or even smaller pieces such as steel cups, while the lower pair not only gives you a more stable footing on rough ground, but also can let you operate the stove inside a larger pot or even a fry pan with perhaps an inch of water so there’s no danger of any tiny glowing embers falling through the grate system and igniting any dry leaves you carelessly did not clear away first.
While the Solo or the Chinese knockoffs are designed to burn wood, pine cones or whatever biomass you can find (for outdoor use), you can also power either with an alcohol burner (such as the Swedish Trangia burner, or again the Chinese knockoffs of it). You can cut down a tin can so that when turned upside down, it can be the perfect spacer to optimize the flame distance between the brass alcohol burner and the bottom of your cookware. (For the Trangia, that’s about 38mm.) When using that alcohol burner, your big Ah Ha moment comes when you realize that can let you cook indoors, something you can’t do safely when burning wood, other biomass, or charcoal.
Oh, those Siege Stove cross-members might need a wee bit of file work to get them to fit correctly on the Chinese knockoff stoves. Mine did.
Water storage in your bathtub(s)
It’s not uncommon for bathtub drain plugs to leak a little, or maybe a lot. That’s not a good plan for water storage during a prolonged outage. What is a better plan is having a Water BOB bag handy, or having one for each bathtub if you have more than one. See the Amazon link for details:
Of course, a Water BOB can only help if you can anticipate the situation where your water supply might be cut off (such as hurricane warnings, etc) so you can fill up the Water BOB before such a cutoff. Store your Water BOB(s) as close to your bath tub as possible, so in an emergency you won’t have to hunt madly for it.
Solar generator retailers love to praise their product features. What all but one do NOT discuss is the EMP risk. The only one that makes an EMP-hardened option available to civilians are these people:
Now think through the folly of an EMP strike (whether from solar or enemy) that wipes out the semiconductor circuitry in your solar generator system. If not during the first strike (while you might have had your gear protected in a Faraday cage), it could certainly be vulnerable to a second strike after you had time to pull your solar generator out of protected storage so you could use it.
Solar systems can fairly easily be hardened per this article: https://www.superprepper.com/solar-panels-survive-an-emp-attack/