Power outages can happen any time of the year and in any place in the country. Being without electricity can be fun and a chance to reconnect without all the distractions, as long as you have the basics covered. You may even find that because you’re comfortable and having a great time, when the power comes back on it can be a disappointment! But what do you need to take a power outage from an emergency to a fun family event? Planning, preparation, and a positive outlook.
Everyday Home Safety Makes Emergencies Easier
With a firefighter in the house, to say we’ve got home safety covered is an understatement. Before I share with you what went in our power outage kit, let me tell you how our home is set-up for everyday safety which comes in handy in the event of a power outage.
First, our home is covered in battery operated smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. We also have a hardwired model with battery backup. All homes should have a minimum of one detector on every level (though we have one in every bedroom, crawl space, attic, and garage). We also have ABC Fire Extinguisher on every level and two in the kitchen.
We have a landline phone with an old-fashioned phone that doesn’t require power to operate. In many emergencies, landlines are the only phones that work. We keep non-perishable food in our pantry that can be enjoyed without heat and a manual can opener. We also have a backpacking water filter in the event our water supply becomes undrinkable (if you don’t have a filter, consider storing 1 gallon of water for every member of the house – if you have a freezer, store them in there and use it to keep your food cold longer as well).
Because we’ve had several extended power outages during winter months, we invested in a Honda generator. It’s been worth the cost and has kept us warm through winter storms and our food cold and run fans to keep us comfortable through summer outages. We keep fuel on hand for it as well as a small amount of cash to buy additional fuel in an emergency. We also have several emergency LED blackout flashlights that are plugged into electrical sockets near stairs and landings. They remain charged and ready until they detect a power outage, then three bright LED alert lights activate. Removed from the wall sockets, they become emergency LED flashlights. They keep us from falling or stumbling around in the dark, and they will make finding our new emergency kit easier.
Power Outage Kit: The Essentials
There are certain essentials every power outage kit should have for your immediate needs – light, warmth, and communication. Our kit includes an emergency radio for news and updated weather reports and has a cellphone charger built-in, electric lanterns or flashlights, matches ( For lighting a fire in our fireplace. You’ll notice candles are not included in our kit. They’re too much of a fire risk), and minor first aid supplies.
Power Outage Kit: How to Choose the Right Emergency Lantern, Radio & Batteries
When it comes to creating a kit, chose carefully. You want quality equipment that you can count on. Here’s what’s in our kit: Our Eton Red Cross emergency radio has several charging options including crank, batteries, solar, and DC power (mini-USB). It was also has an AM/FM radio and it receives all 7 of the NOAA Weather Bands and has emergency weather alert function, alarm clock, cellphone charger, and flashlight. It’s small and powerful and can also be used in a bug-out bag (a bug-out bag is one that has lifesaving emergency supplies for 3 to 5 days including water, food, personal care products, etc.). It’s powered by AAA batteries that are easy to store and take up very little room. Paying a little more for a radio that can keep us informed of severe weather and keep us entertained is priceless.
The second important piece of safety equipment is our electric lantern. I bought the Ultimate Survival Technologies 30 day LED lantern because it offered the highest number of lumens possible has several settings (there’s now a UST 60-day Lantern available). A low light setting will help my batteries last much longer. Also larger batteries have longer lives so a lantern that takes D-cell batteries will usually be brighter and last longer than one that takes AA-cell batteries.
The third important safety item is the batteries. I choose Duracell Quantum Batteries because they have a 10-year power guarantee when stored which makes them perfect for emergency kits. I keep them in their original packages and not in the emergency equipment to prevent any leakage. I mark the batteries so I’ll know which item in the kit they’re for and also that they’re from the emergency kit in the event someone “borrows” them from the kit. The “Guaranteed for 10 Years in Storage” is a feature of both the Duracell Quantum and Duracell CopperTop batteries.
Power Outage Kit: Beyond the Essentials – Comfort Items
Beyond these essentials, there are some items that are helpful in winter or summer outages as well as comfort items for families with kids. Glow sticks are perfect for hanging in hallways to mark the way to the bathroom so you and the kids can travel back and forth without needing a flashlight. Kids like them because they glow softly and don’t disturb sleep, though they do have chemicals which may pose a hazard, so keep them up and out of the reach of small children.
A blackout journal and writing pen can serve several purposes. Use it to create a list of the things that should be done in a blackout (like unplugging electronics) as well as a place to store all of your important contact numbers. Don’t forget to include an out-of-state contact number in case interstate lines are busy. The journal can also be used to create a history of the event like who you were with, what you did to entertain yourself, and how long it lasted. It’s also a place to play games, draw, etc. Playing cards are always handy in a kit too. If your family isn’t used to playing card games, print out some game rules and store them in your journal.
If you live in an area where outages are common in winter, hand warmers are a great item to add. If you’re more likely to have them in the heat of summer, cool caps and cooling bandannas are a perfect addition.
Power Outage Kit: Kits for Kids
When you have kids in the house, there are a few things you can do to make them more comfortable. First, create their personal power outage kit with a kid’s headlamp, crank flashlight, colored pencils or crayons, non-perishable snacks and drinks, books, and games. Sometimes just knowing they have their own personal emergency supplies available will calm them and make it more fun, but reserve the kit for power outage fun.
Consider a record-your-own-voice stuffed animals for younger kids with a fun message from mom and dad in the event one of them is away during the emergency. It will reassure the child that all is well.
How to Keep Kids Entertained During a Blackout
Planning ahead is the best defense or bored kids during a blackout. Read books aloud (Little House on the Prairie books are perfect for blackouts, or if your children are older, the Harry Potter series is fun). Play card games like Rummy and War or flashlight games like shadow puppets, flashlight limbo (use the beam of light to create a virtual limbo pole and see who can go the lowest without falling down), or flashlight writing where one person uses a flashlight to write a word and the person who guesses it goes next. Create your own flashlight games and record them in your blackout journal for the next time!
Power Outage Kit: Store It
How your store your power outage kit depends on where you live and what circumstances you may need it in. You can store it in plain sight in a great basket if waterproofing isn’t necessary. I wanted to be able to throw mine in our bug-out kit, so I choose a sturdy plastic container with a handle.
Then to make it visible in low-light situations, I purchased reflector tape (in the automotive center), and I added black stick-on letters to make it obvious what it was. I cut small strips of white reflector tape and stuck it to all of the equipment in the kit as well. There’s nothing worse than not being able to find your emergency equipment when it’s dark!
I labeled and packaged everything so it could withstand a bug-out and so that if it gets taken from the kit, it’s easily identifiable so we can get it right back into it.
Power Outage Kit: Keep it Handy
Our kit is ready and waiting for the next power outage. I feel better knowing it’s close at hand and ready should I need it and it’s a great kit that combines easily into a larger emergency preparedness kit should Seattle finally get the earthquake they’ve been predicting for years.
How do you handle power outages? Do you have a blackout kit?