What to Do If You Lose Power and Heat

Ice Storm Power Outage

Losing power at anytime can create serious disruptions in your everyday life, however, when it is cold out it not only creates disruptions it can become deadly. Ideally, you are prepared for disruptions in cold weather, and have paid particular attention to keeping everyone warm during a power outage.

Things You Can Do before the Power Goes Out

If the local forecast calls for weather that could disrupt your power such as ice and heavy snows, you can take steps before the power goes that will be beneficial to you during the outage.

Turn up your refrigerators and freezers to the highest setting. You want the foods inside as cold as possible for when the power does go out. Considering combing contents into one refrigerator or freezer because the more food items inside of a freezer or refrigerator the longer the foods will maintain a safe temperature. Remember to turn down the settings when the power is restored.

Once the power goes out avoid opening the doors. Refrigerators if full can maintain a safe temperature in some cases up to 6 hours, while a full freezer can maintain safe temperatures up to 48 hours and one that is half full up to 24 hours.

Any perishable foods that have been stored above 40° F for more than two hours will need to be discarded.

Make sure all cell phones and other devices are fully charged before the power goes out, and check all flashlights and other battery operated devices.

Fill your bathtubs with water to use for toilet flushing and other sanitation needs. You can use the water for drinking only after proper purification unless you use a waterBOB.

If you rely on electricity for your heat then you will need to essentially close off portions of the home to conserve what heat is in the home. If you have a wood burning fireplace, or have a gas burning one then of course, this would be the room to gather in, otherwise pick a room that everyone can stay in and likely sleep in as well.

Your emergency supplies should have Mylar emergency blankets, wool blankets, sleeping bags, and consider bubble wrap as well. Bubble wrap can be used as an insulator between you and the floor. The material of course is made of air filled chambers. The air chambers will provide insulation and cushioning for sleeping.

The wrap can also be placed over windows to reduce heat conduction. Cut the wrap to fit and then wet the glass slightly and then place the wrap over the glass, it will cling to the glass.

People that are chilled or you suspect may be in the early stages of hypothermia can be wrapped in the material to help control the core body temperature in an emergency.

Hang Mylar or other blankets in doorways to reflect heat back into the room you are staying in and they can be placed over windows and outside doors as well.

Water pipes may freeze so make sure they are well insulated, and if you still believe they may freeze during an outage you can shut off the main water supply and open all faucets to drain the lines. Make sure you shut off the power to the hot water tank before shutting off the main water supply. The water in the tank will stay warm for hours, so it can be used for bathing and other needs or used as an emergency drinking water source after it has been filtered and purified. Attach a hose to the drain spigot to get water from the tank once you have shut off the main water supply. 

Snow banks can be used as emergency refrigerators during a power outage. Try to find areas that receive the least amount of sunshine. Radiant heat from sunlight will warm up surfaces beyond what the air temperature is. This is why you will see snow melting on surfaces even when the air temperature is below freezing. The food items will need to be under as much snow as possible and in waterproof containers.

Snow can be melted for drinking water but it must be warmed before drinking so you do not lower your core body temperature. If there are no obvious contaminates melted snow can generally be consumed without purification. However, if you suspect contamination then purify the water. If the snow has been contaminated with any chemicals then it cannot be used for any purposes. Do not consume water from melted icicles that hang from the roofline without purifying first.

Small propane heaters that are rated for indoor use will typically have a low oxygen shutoff valve. The valve will not allow a flame when there is not enough fresh oxygen in the room. Always use any heating device with caution and kerosene heaters, charcoal Hibachis and other fossil fuel devices should never be used in any confined space.

Consider a Generator

A transfer switch can be added so the generator is essentially wired to the home’s electrical system but this must be done by a professional. If you do it yourself and it is not done properly electricity generated can flow back through the lines hurting anyone working on the lines. This is important.

Fuel Supply for Heat and Cooking

If you have a wood fireplace then you will need an ample supply of wood that is accessible. Before the storm bring some wood close to the house so you do have to carry it through the snow or try to navigate icy surfaces with an armload of wood.   

One pound propane bottles are the only containers rated for indoor use and they can be used with camp stoves and small heaters as well as lanterns. 

Avoid outside as much as possible, because ice and snow or broken limbs may have brought power lines down. Ice sliding off of roofs can be a hazard as well, not to mention falling trees and limbs because of heavy layers of ice buildup.

To protect your electronic devices you should connect your devices to surge protectors of good quality. Unplugging the devices can prevent damage from power surges once power is restored.

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Winter Checklist for Your Vehicles

Winter Checklist Vehicles

Cold weather is on its way, so is your vehicle ready for cold mornings and snowy or icy roads. Are you ready for cold weather? It is time to inventory your vehicle’s emergency gear and to pull out the swimsuits and sandals and replace them with cold weather clothing. Vehicle maintenance is important as well, and so there are certain things that should be checked before the first cold snap.

Already you may be thinking, “Really another checklist for winter driving”. Yes, there are hundreds, if not thousands of articles out there on this very subject, and yet every year people jump in their cars and head out unprepared.

They wear their office/work clothing and inadequate footwear when snow and ice storms are predicted, because they think it is only a few miles to work and I can beat the storm. Many have no gloves, hat, or any cold weather survival gear in their vehicles.

Some end up stranded, and this is when tragedy strikes, and so yes, another article, call it a friendly reminder, if you will, that nature is unforgiving and we are not yet able to control it or even forecast it very well.

1.) Depending on your location, you may be required to have snow chains available. Signs usually go up stating they are needed to proceed along the highway or road, so you better have them if you live in certain parts of the country.

Keep in mind studded tires are not a replacement for chains if tire chains are called for. Typically, there is a weight requirement when it comes to studded tires, some states do not allow them on vehicles over 10,000 pounds. Obviously, make sure the tires themselves are serviceable, because worn tires are a hazard regardless of the weather.

All wheel drive vehicles are usually exempt from chain requirements, but check your state laws. There are only certain times of the year that you can drive with studded tires/chains so check first. Studded tires are not nearly as common as they were a few years ago, because of all wheel drive and advances in tire chain technology.

2.) Anti-freeze should be checked and it is always a good idea to have your system flushed and checked once a year. Adding anti-freeze on top of old anti-freeze or on top of water dilutes the solution and this could lead to problems when the cold gets extreme. You can check the solution yourself with a coolant tester available at any parts store or at many retail stores.

3.) Have cold weather shoes/boots in the vehicle. While you should always stay with the vehicle if it is safe to do so, you may have to hike out in some circumstances, or even explore in and around the vehicle so you need the proper footwear. You cannot walk on slippery surfaces with high heels and loafers and some people have been stranded, because their footwear would not let them get 10 feet from their vehicle if the ground is slick with ice or snow.

4.) Heavy coat, gloves, and hat should be in the vehicle as well as, blankets such as wool and/or Mylar solar blankets. Sleeping bags can also be used.

5.) A cell phone charger could be a lifesaver, so make sure you have the right one in the car, and having a spare battery is not a bad idea either. Batteries are expensive so it is not always practical to have extras lying around, but keep it in mind if you happen to find a deal on one. The point is you always need the means to communicate. You cannot let a dead battery come between you and survival.

6.) If you get stranded for more than a few hours you will need water for hydration. Have a gallon of fresh water on hand at all times. Break it up into bottles that can be carried with you, and in some cases you may have to protect it from freezing if your vehicle is left outside for an extended period in the cold.

7.) Food is important for morale. You won’t starve if you go for 24 or 48 hours without any, but you need it to keep your energy levels high, and to keep your spirits up. Food as it digests will also help maintain proper core body temperatures. When choosing, consider what effects the cold will have on your foods. It is not likely you would have the means to cook foods but some Meals Ready to Eat (MRE’s) will come supplied with a heater.

8.) Extra battery/battery pack and cables for jump starting a dead battery. You can jump start your vehicle battery from a spare battery if you have the cables. Battery packs can be used and the cables are already attached, but you have to match the cranking amps with your battery. In the manual for some packs the fine print may state works best or only works with six cylinder vehicles, so match the pack with your vehicle to ensure it has the power, because in some cases you only get one chance.

9.) Basic tool kit and other gear. Duct tape, small battery operated or hand crank radio with a weather station, multi-tool and small tool kit for minor repairs. Today’s cars are complicated and most repairs would be out of the question alongside the highway, but you can replace radiator hoses, or patch one that holds long enough to get you to a service station.

Make sure you know how to change a flat tire and that the jack and lug wrench are in the car and they actually match the vehicle. Carry matches, lighters, road flares, and signal flags, along with glow sticks, flashlights and candles in a metal can for emergency heat and light.

10.)  Do not get in a hurry and stay informed on weather conditions. Leave yourself plenty of time if you are worried about getting to work or to anywhere on time. You simply cannot rush when the roads are slippery and you need to be patient.

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Winter Checklist for the Home

Winter Checklist for the Home

It seems like the summers are getting shorter and the winters longer, but then again, we say this every year, and it may just seem that way as we get older. Nonetheless, winter is just around the corner, so it is time to start thinking about winterizing your home. Some things can wait, while others cannot.

1.) Garden hoses can be damaged if left exposed to the cold, so start thinking about storage places. In addition, if you have freeze proof spigots, hoses have to be uncoupled to allow the water to properly drain from the spigot to prevent freezing and bursting the line.

2.) Cover outdoor spigots with insulated covers as an added measure to prevent freezing.

3.) Lawn sprinkler/irrigation systems must be drained to prevent damage to the system.

4.) Crawl space vents will have to be closed or covered to keep cold air out of the crawl space. In warm weather, of course, the vents are opened to reduce moisture buildup which can lead to mold and mildew problems, not to mention moisture attracts insects in particular certain termites.

5.) Have your heating system checked before you need it. Heating and air conditioning service companies experience high demand for services during the first cold snap of the season, so get ahead of the rush.

6.) Make sure your gutters are cleaned out. Stopped up drain spouts will allow water to build up and if it freezes it can damage the roofline, soffits, and the guttering system itself.

7.) Prune back any branches that overhang the roofline. Snow and ice can weigh down even healthy limbs that right now do not seem to be a hazard, but once under strain from the weight of snow and ice could snap and damage the roof or walls of the home.

8.) Stock up on ice melt now, because as you know, the minute the first snow or ice is predicted people rush to the stores and clean out the supply. Retail stores never seem to have their act together when it comes to inventorying certain items, because if they order too much then they have to inventory a product that has only one use for a short period.

9.) Service your generators and stabilize the fuel. Make sure they work properly and that you have fresh fuel going into the colder months. Inspect your electrical cords for serviceability and if you had purchased appliances over the summer months, make sure you have electrical cords rated for the appliance and ensure your generator can handle the additional load.

10.) Check your water pipes insulation, and if you use heat tape make sure it is working by testing it before it gets cold.

11.) Inspect your hot water tank blanket, and if you do not have one it is recommended you do get one if your tank is located in a non-heated part of the home such as in the garage, basement, or crawlspace.

This may also be a good time to drain your tank to clear out the sediment. Too much build up in the bottom of the tank can have an effect on the efficiency, and may even cause damage, and in some cases the sediment may build up to the point you cannot drain the tank, because of a clogged spigot. In addition, if you need to use your hot water tank as an emergency water supply, you want it as sediment free as possible and of course you want the drain to work.

12.) If you have a wood burning fireplace or wood stove have your chimney cleaned and inspected for damage before your first fire. Creosote buildup as you know is dangerous and over time it will build up even if you only burned well seasoned wood. Seasoned wood will still have up to 20 percent moisture content which will cause a buildup.

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Survival Uses Tarps

5 Survival Uses for Tarps

If you have ever researched bug-out-bags, wilderness survival, and survival articles in general, you will find tarps listed as a survival must. There is a reason for this of course, because they are versatile. Emergency shelters usually come to mind, but they have other uses as well, many other uses.

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Preppers Seasonal Inspection

Preppers: Seasonal Inventory Inspection and Cleaning

Closer and closer to fall and then winter, so this means the seasons will change from oppressive heat to cooler and eventually to bitter cold in some parts of the country. In other parts of the country, the change will not be as dramatic, but change it will.

Changes in the weather means you have to change some of your gear out, or add some things to your emergency packs, things that may have been packed away all summer, and then you may have to pack certain other items away for the winter.

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Cotten Swabs Q-Tips

5 Survival Uses for Cotton Swabs (Q-tips)

For cleaning your ear canals right, well doctors do not recommend you put anything smaller than your elbow in your ear. Q-tips and ear canals do not mix well, because you can rupture your eardrum, and besides, ear wax plays an important role in protecting your ears. Why do they have two ends then, for two ears right.

There are various types of cotton swabs, one with wooden rods, and those with short plastic rods. Medical ones typically have the cotton swabs attached to a wooden dowel, and these do come packaged sterile, and they are considerably longer than swabs that are normally found in home medicine cabinets. Then you have cotton swabs designed to be used in model making and those specifically for cosmetic applications.

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Preppers: How Well Suited Are We for Different Environments

Preppers

Somewhere along the evolutionary trail the human brain became bigger. Bigger brains meant less physical work. We were able to fashion tools, weapons and build things like shelters. This meant we needed less physical attributes, because we could think and reason and to some extent figure out what the future held, by events occurring today.

If a hurricane struck relatively at the same time each year, early humans that lived in coastal areas, figured out that maybe they should prepare for next time, or pack up and move further inland until the crisis abated.

Humans are the only species on earth that can to some extent change their environment. If a mountain is in the way we do not build around it, we move it, and yet if exposed to the cold unprotected we could lose fingers or limbs or even die because of it just after a few hours in some cases.

A disease carried by tiny lice that hitched a ride on rats killed millions of humans during the dark ages. Too much sunlight can burn our skin and cause it to peel, and we can die just after a few hours exposed to blazing sunlight.

We cannot see in the dark and compared to other species our hearing and eyesight is poor. Our sense of smell is weak compared to other predators. We cannot drink the water unless it has been treated, or otherwise we may get sick or even die, meats have to be cooked to destroy bacteria or we could get sick and die, and while we can eat plants, many that we would find in the wild would kill us if consumed. We have big brains however.

Our brains were so big in fact; that we could not figure out that raw sewage dumped in the streets would find its way to the rivers, where we drew water for drinking and cooking, but not so much for bathing in Europe just a few centuries ago. We have killed ourselves off in record numbers, because we failed to see what was right in front of us.

What we do not always see is that nature has a system, and as big as our brains are we still think we can trick it, change it, and survive in it regardless of the situation. The will to live, to survive is strong, so strong that we can sometimes overcome the odds, but it is a hard slog and in some cases unnecessarily hard, because we failed to prepare.

We fail because of our bigger brains. Once you start thinking you are the smartest thing on earth then everything and everyone else is, well less smart, which only stands to reason right. Google makes everyone smart, but what happens when Google is gone, can you survive.

What Does All of This Have To Do With Being a Prepper?

Technology, and the fact we all think we are smarter than nature, has lulled us into thinking we have all the bases covered. It gives us all a false sense of security and for some this is needed so they can sleep at night. You can fool yourself for awhile, but when the crops fail to come on, when the rains stop and the snow begins and Google is just a faded memory what will you do. The tornado headed your way does not care about technology. It barrels on sucking up everything in its path mindlessly doing what it has done for millenniums.

Many of us have to stop thinking that someone or something mainly the government is going to come along and fix things for us, or have the answers we seek. It is not going to happen for most of us. Once in the midst of a crisis you are on your own, and you had better have your game face on to survive.

We need “stuff “to put it bluntly, because most of us cannot raise enough food to feed our own families even during the best of times. We do not have cattle, goats, chickens and dairy cows out in the barn, or acres of corn, beans, and peas always ready to pick. Crops need a growing season, so what will you do for food in the middle of winter.

We need supplies stockpiled and we need a lot, and if you do not know how much, you may have already lost the battle for survival. Remember, you cannot just go out and start gulping whatever water source is close to home, you need to know how to purify it first, you cannot just start eating plant life you find in the wild. You cannot just sit down and start gnawing on raw meat; it has to be cooked to kill the parasites and bacteria.

We need heavy clothing for the cold weather, we need protection from the hot sun and we need artificial light at night, we glasses and binoculars to spot threats around our camps or home, and we need to be alert because remember, we cannot hear well. We need a defense plan, and weapons to defend ourselves against stronger predators out there, and we need tools to survive.

We can hear well enough to talk on a phone, have a conversation if people are close or to listen to the radio or television, but can we hear a skilled predator stalking us in the wilds, most of us cannot until it’s too late. We cannot smell the threat unless the gnashing teeth are inches from our face, unless the meat tearing incisors are sunk in our necks.

All and all we humans are frail in comparison to other species. Our stomachs revolt when we change our diets. Our feet blister and sometimes give out after just a few miles of walking, and our backs are really only designed so we can walk or run upright. They are not designed for heavy loads. We are not load bearing mammals. We have back problems, we wear braces and we take pills and we have to be careful how we lift, how and where we walk and we have to control how much sugar and salt we can have.

We cannot bring down game with our claws and teeth, and then drag the kill to a safe spot to dine on it. We have to have weapons and tools in which to butcher and we need a means to cook that kill and we need refrigeration because we cannot eat rotting meat. We have to be smarter than the animals, and even when we are, we often times come home empty handed.

We have to hoard essentially, and have things at the ready for when disaster strikes, and if we do not, we may not survive. We have to think ahead as our brains are designed to do, because essentially that is the only advantage we have in this world, the ability to look ahead and say “you know what, if disaster struck tomorrow, we would need this, that and a few other things”.

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Plastic Bottle Survival Uses

Top 10 Survival Uses for Plastic Bottles

1.) Fish Trap

Plastic Bottle Fish TrapThis works best with a two liter bottle because of the size. First, cut the top off to create a funnel. Then you cut the threaded neck off to create a bigger opening in the funnel, or leave it in its original state depending on what size fish you want, or expect to trap.

Then push the cut top into the bottom portion. You can punch holes through both pieces and secure together with fishing line or any cordage. Punch holes in the sides of the bottle and the bottom to allow for water flow.

The fish swim in the enlarged end and are funneled into the bottom portion. You can cut a flap in the bottom of the trap to release any fish you do not want. Bait and then secure the trap with line or weigh down by placing stones inside.

Use the same method, but do not cut the opening bigger to trap live bait.

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Where Should You Store Your Emergency Water If You Live in an Apartment

Emergency Water Storage Apartment

It’s not as easy as it may sound either. Water weighs approximately 8.5 pounds per gallon, which means that you have to choose where you store your water carefully. It would not be hard to imagine a shelf collapsing under the weight. Five one gallon jugs of water would weigh slightly over 40 pounds, and a shelf already loaded down with canned goods would be under considerable strain.

Avoid Using the Following Containers to Store Safe Water

  • Containers that cannot be sealed tightly
  • Containers that can break, such as glass bottles
  • Containers that have ever been used for any toxic solid or liquid chemicals (includes old bleach containers)
  • Plastic or cardboard bottles, jugs, and containers used for milk or fruit juices

It is all about the packaging material when it comes to storing water. You can of course repurpose containers that previously had stored water or certain other foods. According to the CDC, however, water not commercially bottled should be discarded after six months. A previous article had discussed the safe bottling of water at home, and it detailed how to properly sanitize water storage containers (CDC, 2015).

A major obstacle if you want to call it that would be where to store water because of its weight. A 50 gallon container of water would weigh over 400 pounds, and 50 gallons of water would not last a family of four very long if you consider each person would need between 3 and 5 gallons per day for hydration, cooking, area sanitation/cleanup, and personal hygiene.

If you live in an apartment building on the upper floors, weight may become a concern, not to mention space. Older buildings may have weight restrictions. Some of you may remember when waterbeds were popular. Because of the popularity many apartments had to state in their lease contracts that they were not allowed because of the weight, and because of water damage that would be caused due to a leak. There is not a lot of water in a waterbed, so you can imagine what kind of a problem 4 or 5 five 50 gallon barrels could create.

There is an option however, and that is your spare bathtub. If you have two bathrooms one can be used to store water. If you have the standard 35 gallon bathtub that was installed in the apartment then you have to assume the builders had reinforced the subfloor under the tub to accommodate what 35 gallons of water would weigh. Leaks in any container would of course go down the drain. The engineers would also have to accommodate for the weight of a person in a full tub of water as well.

Other parts of the apartment may not have the same reinforced flooring. Bedrooms often times do however, have reinforced subfloors to accommodate heavier beds, but you would have to check with the building supervisor or manager.

The tub may hold even more than 35 gallons but 35 is the lower end of the standard, so it could be up to 50 or even more depending on the style and the apartment itself. Now you have a place to store up to 35 gallons of water safely, and even more if you wanted to use the other tub increasing your stockpile to 70 gallons. This of course does not mean that you cannot store water by the gallon in your pantry or kitchen, but you would again have to be aware of the weight.

Some apartments offer storage rooms or small lockers that may or may not be community storage. If you have a storage room in the basement then you do have another option as long as you can fill a 50 gallon barrel in position. You cannot fill a 50 gallon barrel next to the outdoor spigot and then expect to carry it to the basement storage room.

Access during an emergency is another consideration. Can you get to your water supply during a crisis? Do others have access to your water supply is another question. You cannot trust the quality of your water if others have access to it.

In newer apartment buildings weight may not be a factor, but usually there is some type of weight restriction, because any subfloor would be rated for a certain amount of weight.

You might say well I have heavy friends that come over and it is no problem. Well there is a difference between a heavy object sitting in one place and weight disbursement. People do not park it in one place for weeks or months at a time, they move around. They are not there for an extended period in the same place.

The Following Is an Excerpt from A Rental Agreement, What Does Yours Say

“LIQUID FILLED FURNISHINGS: No liquid filled furniture, receptacle containing more than ten gallons of liquid is permitted without prior written consent and meeting the requirements of the OWNER. RESIDENT also agrees to carry insurance deemed appropriate by OWNER to cover possible losses that may be caused by such items”.

Obviously the lease terms are restrictive, overly so, but failure to comply with a particular clause in your lease/rental agreement may create an insurance nightmare, and other problems, if one of your water containers sprung a leak for example. Know your rights and your obligations before storing large quantities of water.

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Survival Uses Tobacco

5 Survival Uses for Tobacco

First, smoking and using tobacco products is detrimental to your health.

Nicotine is a potent parasympathomimetic alkaloid found in the nightshade family of plants (Solanaceae) and is considered a stimulant drug. Nicotine can be toxic to humans and to insects/parasites. Nicotine is found in the leaves of Nicotiana tabacum, the tobacco plant.

At one time the United States Military provided cigarettes in rations that were issued to members of the military. Typically three non-filtered cigarettes were provided, but they were not just for smoking. Some of you may remember “Smoke Em If You Got Em, Bum Em If Ya Don’t”.

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