Emergency Lighting: The Importance of Illumination in Your Preps

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How important is light?  Well, in the Bible, on the first day, the very first thing God created was light. This signifies exactly how vital a role illumination plays in  any situation.

Any person who has ever moved from the city to the country can agree, there is no darkness quite like that of being in a place where there are no streetlights, no neon signs, no car headlights, and no light from nearby houses.

When we first moved far away from the city to our little cabin in the woods, the darkness there was of an entirely different variety from city darkness. I’ll never forget the first evening when the moon was hiding. It was a cloudy night that also hid the stars and the blackness was almost palpable. I had stepped outside to take the dog out for her last walk of the evening, and even she was disconcerted by the thick darkness. You literally couldn’t see your fingers waving in front of your face. I like the night – the stillness of it, the rustling music of the nocturnal world going about its business – but when you suddenly become essentially blind, it can make you feel a little panicked or afraid. You can’t see, but you wonder what is out there that can see you.

Multiply that feeling greatly if you are in a situation that is already dangerous or unfamiliar, and then you can start to contemplate how vitally important to your psyche a reliable source of emergency lighting will be in a crisis scenario. While fear can be a very important survival mechanism, you don’t want it to overwhelm you to the point that it becomes debilitating.

Complete darkness after a disaster

This was the kind of darkness experienced more than a year ago when Hurricane Sandy took out the power in New York City.  The city that never sleeps was suddenly cast into the same kind of pitch blackness as you would find in the middle of a forest on an overcast night.

The extreme darkness wrought psychological havoc on many people.  Not only were children afraid, but adults found the complete blackness of the nights to be disconcerting, at the very least.  Crime went up when people realized they had the complete cover of a pitch black night.  Instead of being a restful time, night became something to endure until the sun came up.  Small tasks were difficult, if not impossible, to accomplish once the sun went down.  For those who had a few flashlights or candles on hand, those light sources soon ran out as the crisis extended into yet another day without power.  Add the darkness to the lack of power, heat, and sanitation facilities, and it made a terrible situation even harder to endure for many who were not prepared with emergency lighting sources.northeast-blackout_10825192

The psychology of why we fear the dark

Psychologically speaking, emergency lighting should be near the top of your list for preps.  Although most adults would be loathe to admit it, nearly everyone is unsettled in complete darkness.

This fear is not necessarily irrational. It may be somewhat ingrained in our DNA, as many predators are nocturnal.

It isn’t always so much a fear of the darkness itself, but more a fear of the unexpected: you can’t see what is out there in the blackness with you.  You have lost one of the senses that you rely on the most to assess impending danger – your vision.

Emergency lighting sources

You should have several different sources of light included in your preparedness supplies.  Some of the sources should be easily renewable, in the event that a situation exceeds your supply of replacement batteries.

Here is a list of a few alternative light sources to consider adding to your preps:

Safe emergency lighting for children

Emergency lighting for children can pose some very real concerns. You don’t want to give them a light they might accidentally leave on as they fall asleep, using up valuable battery life, nor would most parents want to leave a child in the room with a candle or oil lamp because of the risk of fire.

Here are a couple of safe options for kids:

  • Consider adding a toy that offers a soft light when hugged to your emergency kit. (Remember Glo-worm?)  This allows them the comfort of control over light when they feel afraid.
  • Stock up on party supply “glow bracelets”  for children.  They don’t give off an enormous amount of light but kids would enjoy the novelty and the items will most likely last long enough to allow your youngsters to fall asleep. As well, if you are camping, a glow bracelet will help you find your child in the dark more easily should they wander off.

Don’t forget these supplies to go along with your emergency light sources

Some complimentary supplies to keep on hand along with your alternative lighting sources:

  • Batteries
  • Rechargeable batteries and solar charging device
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Lighters and matches

Prepping your home for a power outage

Be sure to keep your supplies where they are easy to find in the dark. We don’t always have a warning before a power outage occurs, although when a bad storm blows up you might want to consider having your alternative light sources at the ready.

When my daughter and I spent a winter in a little cabin in the north woods of Canada, we lost power so frequently that we kept candles and a box of matches out as part of the “decor” in every room in the house. We also had flashlights in the top drawers of our end tables.  It was a quick thing to immediately be able to supply light when the electricity failed. As well, several lovely old kerosene lamps were scattered around the cabin.

Depending on the situation, you might not want your home to be the only one in the neighborhood that is well-lit.  Consider having supplies to cover your windows so that your home is not a beacon to those who are less prepared.  Blackout curtains or heavy duty garbage bags duct taped to the windows can keep most of the light contained.

Don’t sit there in the dark during a crisis

Proper lighting is one of the most psychologically vital preps that you can make.  Being scared of the dark isn’t just for kids.

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived, and 3) PreppersDailyNews.com, an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. She is widely republished across alternative media and  Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses. You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

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  • I’m just beginning to get into oil lamps, lanterns and such a bit more right now.

    So far, from what I’ve read and the tests I’ve done, olive oil will Not burn in what most people refer to as an oil lamp. I do Not think vegetable oil will burn in an oil lamp either. I could be wrong?

    I used to think a lantern was a lantern, and like oil lamps, all you had to do was fill them and light them. Oh boy am I finding there’s much more to it.

    I have learned that olive oil used as fuel to keep a wick burning in a jar will self-extinguish if spilled. For that reason I think they would be useful to use to teach children about fire and such.


    “All tubular Hot Blast and Cold Blast lanterns made since 1912 will self extinguish if tipped over. This safety feature is not found in any other other type of oil burning lamp or lantern!” – http://www.lanterns.us/faqs.htm

    Lots of other useful stuff to know about oil lamps and lanterns at that website. Now if I can just absorb it all.

    • Historically, in ancient times in the Mediterranean, olive oil was THE oil for lamps. It was smoke free and burned a long time. The ancients used the lowest grade (called lampante) for burning and the higher grades for body oil and food.

      One of the big problems now is almost all olive oil sold in grocery stores is not really olive oil, or is, at least, an adulterated mix. And almost all of it of it comes from Europe – esp Spain and Italy. There has been much written about how the rapid boom in demand for olive oil has led to lots of adulteration and fraud. Sometimes this is outright fake oil that’s cheap oils with chlorophyll coloring, or at least a mix of cheap oils and low grade olive oil.

      The bottom line is that it’s very hard to determine if you’re actually buying pure olive oil. Labels are, of course, faked, and show bucolic scenes and advertize bogus extra virgin when it is not. The best advice is that if it’s cheap, it ain’t 100% olive oil. And much in the stores is cheap. And if it costs more, it may not be real, either.

      And if you’re not buying 100% real olive oil (and you probably aren’t), then it very well might not burn well.

      There is a local grower at the farmer’s market, here, that grows and makes their own olive oil. I intend to spend (it costs, as quality often does) for the real thing in the coming season to check it out.

      Also, a good book to read is “Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous world of Olive Oil” by Tom Mueller. It’s a good read with descriptions and anecdotes, with some technicalities.

    • Olive oil has been used as lamp fuel since biblical times whereas kerosene was only refined by Abraham Gesner in Canada in 1846. Olive oil won’t work in a “modern” kerosene lamp because it is too thick, too viscous. The kerosene wick, relatively densely packed and working by capillary action, won’t lift the olive oil to the flame. The book “Olive Oil Lamps &c.” (available on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback) gives 15 designs for homemade olive oil lamps. All of which you can improvise. Nice to know when you’re away from home and the lights go out. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00KB7F9SU?notRedirectToSDP=1&ref_=dbs_mng_calw_1&storeType=ebooks

  • Thermal shades are great light blockers! Plus they keep the heat out in the summer, and the cold out in the winter. When my thermal shades are down, I’ve had people comment that they thought I wasn’t home, because the house was dark. – yet I had every light on in the house. These thermal shades seal on the sides with either magnets or Velcro, and have an r value of 7. I can’t even begin to tell you how great these are. Best of all, they easily open in the day to let the sunshine in, and close at night. Check out all the awesome styles at artwithanrvalue.com

  • If you live in an active earthquake zone then you should not use oil lamps at all. Period. Maybe because I’m an older person, but I wouldn’t trust the spill proof lamps, either. Partly because they can break.

    In an earthquake, oil lamps will tip over or break, sending hot burning oil all over. Your home WILL catch on fire.

    Check seismic maps. Some places are not so obvious as earthquake zones. Such as the Yellowstone basin and South Carolina.

  • Nothing comes close to the efficiency of burning standard K1 kerosene in standard oil lamps. One gallon of kerosene burned in a well-adjusted lamp will give you over a hundred hours of bright light and some heat as a bonus. For under a hundred dollars you can have a few 5 gallon cans of kerosene and few oil lamps and lanterns from Wal Mart (or a swap meet or yard sale) and have years worth of light!

  • The LED headlamps are great for reading and HANDS-FREE working. They are actually quite comfortable. The angle of the light and its brightness are easy to adjust. Some have red light options.

    Have you ever changed a tire on a cold dark night while holding a flashlight in your mouth? Yea, me too. Now I carry an LED headlamp in the vehicle (along with my BOB).

  • Can’t wait until the Gravity Light goes commercial. I participated in the indiegogo campaign and just got my prototype in the mail a week ago. It’s a brilliant option for fuel-less, albeit small-scale, emergency lighting.

  • Good ideas. Thank you. My city grandsons just visited us in the country and brought a couple of glow-in-the-dark toys. They were surprisingly bright. Several of those, charged with daylight, will help a youngster enjoy falling asleep in complete darkness.

    The headlamps are a great idea when you must go outside for any reason after dark in the winter. They leave your hands free to haul wood, shovel, etc. We have some in the car, also.

    I think the thermal shades will be next winter’s sewing project. A prepper somewhere posted an article about the many uses of the mylar space blankets. One use was over a window for insulation, another was placement behind lanterns, candles, etc. to reflect light.

  • I live off grid in Alaska at 62 degrees north latitude so right now we still have enough light to walk around all night but we are loosing about 7 minutes a day. In winter it doesn’t get light until 10 at Christmas. We use propane hard plumbed lights for our main source. We keep a couple kerosene lamps as backup. Below 44 below zero propane does not flow. The new LED head lamps are great and have long battery life. I often read in bed with mine after we shut down the propane lights. Stay away from aladin mantle kerosene lamps for occasional use. They have a learning curve and can suddenly flare just from some one opening a door.
    As far as young children are concerned maybe they should stay with an adult if they are apprehensive about the lights being out. Take the toddler to bed with you especially if it is cold as well as dark. If you put your kerosene lamp on a tall dresser or whatever in a room with you it is safe for children.
    For a real emergency back up if you are running out of resources you can thread wicking material through the holes in a large button. Place it in a shallow bowl with what ever fat is available and light the wick. Ad fat as it burns. The traditional eskamos use specially shaped dishes with moss wicks inches wide laid along one edge for heat and cooking as well as light. (I have seen pictures but have not tried it).

  • Those glow bracelets and necklaces from the dollar store are also great for dogs when camping or if the lights go out. Just affix them to the collar and a dog is easier to spot if it chases something at night

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