7 Warning Signs that You Aren’t Prepared for a Power Outage

We all know that there’s no getting out of death or taxes, but unfortunately, life’s list of inevitable problems doesn’t end there. As more than 50 million people discovered during the blackout of 2003, at some point, a power outage will leave you sitting in the dark.  Since these interruptions are pretty much a given, it just makes sense to be prepared.

Unfortunately, the skills you need to look your own mortality—or worse, the IRS—squarely in the eye are beyond the scope of this post. What this blog can do, however, is encourage you to assess your own level of preparedness for weathering those unexpected times when you’re cut off from the grid. Need help getting started? Consider these seven warning signs that you aren’t prepared for a power outage. Once you know where you stand, take any necessary steps and raise your readiness to the next level.

You Don’t Have Food and Water Stored
Think access to safe and abundant supplies of water and food is something you can take for granted? Try finding and preparing some after a protracted blackout. Without refrigeration, pumps to keep water moving, and electric ranges to prepare meals, modern food production and distribution systems quickly grind to a halt. To keep hunger and thirst at bay, have a supply of fresh water and nonperishable food stockpiled to help you keep the family fed until the lights come back on.  How much depends on what kinds of disasters are likely to occur in your area, but certainly try to ensure three days’ supply for each person in your family.

You Rely on a Debit Card
When the electric is out, cash is king. No matter how hefty your bank balance, a debit card won’t do you any good if a merchant can’t process your payment. And without the ability to take part in commerce, you will find that you, like Blanche DuBois, have come to depend on the kindness of strangers. There is a better way. Always keep a healthy stash of cash available for emergencies—and let Tennessee Williams handle the drama.

You Have No “Old School” Entertainment
Boredom can make an annoying situation feel intolerable and the nicest people seem insufferable. It can also make a power outage that lasts five hours feel like it lasted five days. For the sake of your family—and your sanity—make sure that you have some entertainment around the house that doesn’t require an AC outlet. A deck of cards, a few board games, and some great paperbacks can go a long way towards passing the time and keeping the peace.

An Outage Would Plunge You into Total Darkness
Suddenly finding yourself in a darkened room is not only disorienting; it can also be dangerous. When the power goes out, you need to ensure that you can navigate through your home and around your property safely. If you do not maintain easy access to flashlights—especially solar powered or shake flashlights, consider yourself woefully unprepared for a blackout.

You Have No Way to Cook
When the grid goes down, the microwave is no longer an option. Neither is your electric stove. To avoid spending the holidays listening to your children tell grandma all about “the week when the lights went out and we ate saltines,” make sure that you have a way to cook even when the power is gone. Even a small camp stove that you can set on a small table outside will do nicely. Never use it inside as that can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. Of course, if you have a gas stove, you may be all set.

You Don’t Own a Handheld Can Opener
In the face of a disaster, two things never cease to amaze the unprepared: how many nonperishable foods come in aluminum cans and how useless an electric can opener is without power. Always give a handheld can opener a little real estate in your junk drawer. If the grid goes down, you will be glad you did.

You Can’t Make Your Own Electricity
In the today’s world, so much depends on access to electricity. Some of those things might be mere conveniences, but others, such as oxygen concentrators and home medical equipment, can literally mean the difference between life and death. Purchasing a solar powered generator is a great way to ensure that you will always have electricity when you can’t afford to wait for the power company to get the lights back on..

If these warning signs reflect the way you live your life, you may not be ready when the power decides to go off for more than a couple of hours. That’s a costly proposition, and it could even be dangerous. Fortunately, a little preparation can go a long way towards making your post-disaster life safer and easier. Begin by addressing the biggest needs first and then catch up on the details. By adopting a proactive stance, you can weather even a prolonged power outage