Setting up a basic emergency plan is something every man needs to do. Whether you are the head of your household, a devoted son, or just a conscientious boyfriend, having a plan for when the “light’s go out” is always necessary.
We, as humans, are very poor at planning ahead for future mistakes. However, we are exceptionally good at learning from past ones (for the most part). It’s a matter of programmed conditioning. Burn yourself once by touching a hot stove, and you’re likely never to do it again. But planning ahead NOT to touch that stove is an entirely different matter. A lot of boils down to psychological conditioning and instinctual learning behavior, which we don’t need to get in to right now.. But for argument’s sake, if you’ve ever experienced a power outage or emergency requiring you to think fast, what was the first thing that came to mind? Was it, where are the flashlights? Do they have batteries? Do we even have flashlights?
Times like these are when we need to step up, take charge, and to have planned ahead. While the nature of emergencies like these vary from a basic blackout to a prolonged natural disaster like a hurricane or flood (or both), there is a short list of things you can do now to start a basic emergency plan. For the sake of this article, let’s consider a basic power outage and three essentials: lighting, water, and food.
This one’s easy. Candles, flashlights, lanterns, a flashlight app for your cell phone. Just anything that emits light. And backups of whatever powers them. Better yet, have everything above, that way you can spread them around in different parts of the house.
Tea candles, the little white ones in the aluminum cups can be bought from the grocery store for about a $1/half dozen. Stock up next time you’re buying beer and chicken, and make sure you buy a pack of cheap Bic lighters to go with them. Stick a pack in a kitchen drawer, and each of your bathrooms (since they are safer to use when you can set them on a hard non-flammable surface – like the stove top or counters). Better yet, score brownie points with the spouse by spending a bit more on some scented decorative candles. Your spouse will likely be overjoyed that you braved the nauseating stench of a candle store for them and proudly display those candles in the same places (romance and manliness, double win!).
A few decent quality flashlights should be purchased too. One light for each member of your household. When starting out, you can buy cheap but don’t rely on them. Having at the very least, one “good” quality flashlight, like Mag Lite, is recommended. You don’t have to spend much to get something that won’t break the first time you drop it on the kitchen floor. Mag Lites go for $20 now for a halogen bulb. I encourage you to spring for LED whenever possible. They are brighter, last longer, and have a bit more impact resistance than a traditional bulb. On the other hand, I do recommend stocking up on a few cheap lights as well, that can be used as “burners” or “throwaways”. Something to give to the kid to play lightsabers with or to loan to a neighbor who lost his.
Also, buy one or two head lamps. You choose the quality. Head lamps are very useful in that they are hands-free. They make life much easier if you need to make emergency repairs or bring up supplies from a dark basement.
And this should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyways. For lights and everything else you store, know exactly where they are and how to get to them. In the dark. Practice a few times with the lights off, if need be.
In most households, the water systems are tied to the electric grid. Even if you are on a well system. For short outages, water isn’t too big a problem. You can get by for a few hours without water, but if the outage persists, you can start to get thirsty. A couple cases of bottled water solve the drinking water issue for the short term. However, don’t let a case of water sit around in the garage for years and years. Bottled water can be cycled out if you start using them after about a year. Just make sure you have a full case in reserve as you burn through your first one. Gallon or three gallon jugs are also very economical, gallons can be purchased for $0.50 – $1.00 each, and a bit more for the three gallon jugs. Be sure to not store these plastic containers against on bare concrete floors, like the one in your garage. The plastic will react with the concrete/cement and degrade over time, leading to leaks or contamination. Store them on a shelf or a piece of plywood if you must place them on the floor. If you’re in a climate that experiences freezing temps regularly, consider storing them inside. Although plastic jugs and bottles can bounce back after a freeze, it’s better to be safe than sorry and avoid this issue.
Really, another basic problem. A few cans of soup, chili, or Chef Boyardee. Pretend like you’re back in the Scouts. It isn’t filet mignon, but at least its something. Most propane stoves can be used without power, you may just need to light it manually with a match (sometimes the ignition is tied to electric on those). If you’ve got an electric stove, fire up the grill! You did read about how to buy a grill right? The one thing to remember is, the longer the power is out, the longer your fridge is not being kept cool. Modern fridges can maintain a low temp for a day, just don’t open it if you don’t have to. But if you’ve got some meats pushing their best-by date, or any other foods that are best kept cold to prevent spoiling, consider using those up first. If the outage is small scale but persisting, maybe due to a grid issue or line crews working on the line, you can probably just nip out for some food. Only if it’s safe, obviously.
As far as emergency plans go, this article was merely the tip of the iceberg. There’s so much more you can, and should, do to be better prepared for what life can throw your way. Start with the basics I’ve listed so far and stay tuned for more in-depth articles.
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