Monday, July 2, 2012

Are you prepared for the loss of electricity?

In light of the past few days where so many people in the Mid-Atlantic region lost power, I thought I'd address some issues. First of all, you CAN survive without taking a shower for a few days, You CAN live without air conditioning. You CAN live without t.v. or  lights. (Go to bed when the sun goes down and get up at dawn) 

Air conditioning was invented in 1902  by Willis Carrier  as a solution to keep muggy air in a printing plant from wrinkling magazine pages. As with the modern day computer, the air conditioning unit went through many stages before it became a common household machine. It was considered a luxury. As a child in the 60's I remember my best friend's mother taking us swimming in their car which had air conditioning. It was stifling inside because she insisted the windows be kept up until the ac had sufficient time to cool the air. We were glad to get out at the local pool as by then the sweat was rolling off of our faces. When she came back to pick us up, the card was frigid. We, of course had cooled off all afternoon at the community pool, and the car felt like it could snow at any moment!

We went to school without ac in the schools. After recess, our bodies dripping with sweat, our faces red, the teacher would keep the lights off, the windows open and we would lay our heads down on the desk for a cooling down period. I remember one teacher telling us that the quieter we were and the less we moved we would be able to feel the slight breeze coming in through the windows. To this day, if I am that hot, I often lay quietly near a window, and wait for the slight breeze to find me.

As Americans, we are quite spoiled when it comes to our comforts. And the least little thing to change that comfort throws us into a panic. Yet there are people all over the world without ac. In our own country, the Amish do not have air conditioning. Yet if you see their houses, you will notice deep porches, which keeps the summer sun from shining directly into the windows. There are also trees shading the house. The house that I grew up in had huge trees all around it and a wrap-around porch. I have to admit, though, that my Dad kept a fan in the window upstairs as a way of pulling out the days heat, then pulling in the night air.

Although on our homestead we do have electricity, we lived here for 8 years without any in the house. We found that when you live without electricity, going outside to work and do chores is not much of a problem. You simply don't notice the heat that as much - the outside temperature is pretty equal to the inside. But, if you have air conditioning,  you really notice when you are going from a cool house to the oven outside. Yes, you can actually survive without the air conditioner.

So, if you are already used to it, and the power goes off, what can you do? I am sure a lot of you have already read preparedness information and simply didn't think it would apply. Now is the best time to access what you need to do if this happens again.
First of all, be sure to have water. Water, water, water is a huge key to survival. When the power is off, the pump will not bring water to you to drink, or to use for cleaning the dishes, flushing the toilet. So, you will need a supply of water for drinking and some for the other things. Washing your dishes by hand is easy. Using paper plates temporarily may be a better option.  Flush the toilet only when needed. Take the tank lid off of the back and fill it with water, then flush. 

Matches and a lamp filled with lamp oil will help keep the rooms lit when it is dark. Don't use these to light your way through the house as the possibility of dropping them and starting a fire is too risky. The lamps can be placed in a room, maybe in front of a mirror and light the area. Flashlights should have plenty of fresh batteries.

Sleeping can be a big issue. Move your beds to the lowest level of your house. Sleep near a window that may let the night air in. Sleep on your porch or even in the yard. The night air is cooler so get as close to being outside as possible. 

The hardest part is keeping your food refrigerated and frozen. Not always something that you can accomplish. Don't open the freezer. The longer the power is out the less likely you will be able to save your food if you keep opening it. Keep your windows covered to keep the sunlight out if there are windows near the unit.  You can also put ice in a cooler and keep your refrigerated food in there. We used a cooler for many years as a fridge without any problems. We did have to purchase ice, so be sure to have enough coolers to hold the ice you think you will need. 

When the big black out on Nov. 9, 1965 came and took out power to 7 states and parts of Canada,  my mother told me then to always cook with a gas stove. And I have always had a gas stove. Without power, you can at least have a hot meal (although this isn't a blessing in the heat of the summer). The new stoves now  have an electric ignition that won't let you  light them (all for our safety, you know). In that case, a camp stove with those little propane cannisters will do in a pinch. Cooking outside on the grill is an option. And for those adventurous, use a solar cooker. The first one we had  was made out of boxes, but Jim made me a wooden one last year. There are also sites you can get ready-made solar cookers.

My great aunt was without power in the middle of winter for 3 weeks. She was in her 90's at that time. She put blankets over all the doors that led out of the kitchen and brought in her small love seat. She stayed in the kitchen with her oven on for warmth. Not that I would recommend this to anyone, but desperate times called for desperate measures.

A generator is a huge help. This time when the power went out, my husband, Jim, ran the generator 2 hours at a time, then let it sit for a couple of hours before running it again. This was to keep the 2 refrigerators, one freezer and our incubators running. That was all the load the generator could take, and with the run-on gas that we experienced, (the lines were so long)  we didn't want to run out of gas and not be able to use the generator at all. It is a noisy, annoying thing to have, but it saved all of our food (although we do not know if what was in the incubators survived yet). 

And last, but not least, if you can find a lake, pond, river, creek with good water to take a dip in, this is a great way to relieve the tension of being hot all the time! 

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