Imagine yourself and your family, forced from your home in the dead of winter, with nothing more than the few supplies you were able to carry among'st yourselves. Then imagine being confined into a community center with thousands of other families, displaced from their homes as well, relying on what few supplies the government could provide.
If you live a comfortable middle-class lifestyle in a first world country, this situation sounds preposterous, doesn’t it? Many families in fact, faced this very predicament on December 20, 2013, when a massive ice storm crippled parts of central Canada and the U.S., leaving many cities and leaving tens of thousands without power for days, sometimes weeks. Those who were prepared for such an event, having items such as blankets and medications to bring with them, fared much better than their ill-prepared counterparts.
If you accept that a power failure is a possibility, and already have a few flashlights stored along with some batteries, you are already more prepared than many individuals out there. When it comes to emergency power, there are different types to be considered; those for short term disasters, and those for long term sustainability.
In a temporary loss of power, disposable batteries will suffice. Having a stockpile (and rotating them accordingly,) is a simple precaution to guard against any possible interruptions for a week or less of power. It is important to recognize that some flashlights take different sizes, and to standardize your batteries as much s possible (much like your ammo supply.) There are adapters that can fit around a AA battery to fit into a D-cell slot, but on a temporary basis those won’t be necessary. The basic battery sizes that you should stockpile (with exceptions,) include;
AA (any small device)
AAA (very small devices)
C (some flashlights.)
D (flashlights, lanterns, any large devices)
6 volt batteries- usually larger flashlights, spotlights, and lanterns.
If you lack a way to cook your food (ex. A propane fuel source) then purchasing a small camping stove would serve to be in your best interests. The fuel for them is cheap and plentiful- for now. A small case of spare cans for the stove would ensure you could cook any food, should some start to spoil in a temporary emergency, as well as boiling water if the need arose.
Also, a generator with extra fuel could be used; allowing continued refrigeration and temporary light. Depending on your area, a generator can be gasoline, multi-fuel, or diesel. Which fuel source it runs on is up to the individual.
In most cases, there was just a glitch in the power system, and power will be restored fairly soon. Perhaps a tree limb fell across the wire, or a storm brought down a power pole. If it is a local event, there is a very good chance such an outage is a short-term issue.
However, there will be a time when such an emergency will extend beyond a week or two. In this case, disposable batteries will not be enough, unless you have a warehouse full of the things.
In order to be prepared for a short-term power outage, you should have available at the very least;
More than one source of light; candles, flashlight, lanterns.
Replacement power for light sources (Standardized batteries, matches, extra candles)
Supplies to last for a week without outside help; canned foods, bottled water, toiletries, feminine hygiene products, and, if with children, some form of entertainment.
Long term power is a tricky subject, since it is limited by funds available and sometimes location. To begin, first one must have a way to collect power. This can come in the form of hydroelectricity (if there is a stream or river on your property,) solar power, harnessing the wind, or manual labor (a bicycle generator.) Gasoline or similar consumable fuels will eventually run out, even on the most stringent of rationing.
To ensure long-term power, you need to have a method of storing electricity. Battery banks composed of car batteries, or deep-cycle RV batteries are both good options. Having an inverter to allow the charging of different devices and appliances is also key.
Solar power is a good way to passively charge these batteries, since there are many options that you can purchase or make yourself. Wind power isn’t as efficient, and requires more work and maintenance, but if there is a steady wind at your retreat location, it is certainly a good option to consider.
Along with wind power, hydroelectricity requires more work to initially set up, and it is location-specific. However, if you have the means and time to do so, it can yield a steady power source.
A simple bicycle generator is a good primary and backup method of generating power; and it also serves to provide a simple form of exercise, if injury or other conditions prevent normal movement.
Planning for short term power outages should be everyone’s first priority. Whether it be weather or a technical glitch, power outages happen. Once you have a plan in place for such an event, it is prudent to start thinking long term. As with other preparedness items, one shouldn’t max out a credit card on solar arrays and batteries; but start small. If funds, time, or location doesn’t allow long-term preparation, modify your short term items to include as many variable power sources as possible (a small hand-crack generator, a backpack solar array, etc.)
We live in a beautiful world now; with all the technology available and many activities being made simple through the utilization of such devices. Hopefully, none of us will need to use the long-term preparations, but instead be content riding out a temporary storm or downed power line.
However, should things take a turn for the worst, nobody wants to be left in the dark when the lights go out for good.