Blackouts and natural disasters can strike at any time, leaving you without electricity for an extended period. While it's impossible to predict when such a situation will occur, being prepared can make all the difference. Whether you're faced with a power outage due to severe weather or an unforeseen event, having the know-how to survive without electricity is crucial.
In this article, we'll provide you with essential survival tips that will help you stay safe and comfortable during prolonged blackouts or natural disasters. From stocking up on emergency supplies to using alternative sources of light and heat, our tips are designed to help you weather any storm until power is restored. So let's dive in and learn how to cope when there's no electricity!
How Do Electrical Blackouts Happen?
Blackouts are a major concern for all of us, and it's important to understand how they occur so that we can be better prepared. In simple terms, a blackout occurs when the power grid is overloaded or there is damage to the electrical infrastructure. When this happens, the system automatically shuts down to prevent any further damage.
One of the most common causes of blackouts is weather-related events like thunderstorms, hurricanes, and snowstorms. An example of a significant blackout in the USA occurred in Texas in February 2021, when a severe winter storm, known as Winter Storm Uri, caused power outages across the state, leaving millions of Texans without electricity for several days. The power grid, managed by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), could not keep up with the high demand for electricity, and some power plants were unable to operate due to freezing temperatures. The blackout led to water shortages, frozen pipes, and a loss of heating in sub-zero temperatures, resulting in numerous deaths and a humanitarian crisis.
These types of events can cause damage to power lines and other electrical equipment which can result in a widespread outage. Another cause of blackouts is human error such as accidents or negligence during maintenance work on transformers or other electrical components.
It's important to note that blackouts don't just happen out of nowhere. There are usually warning signs that something might be wrong with the electrical infrastructure before an outage occurs.
What Happens During an Electricity Blackout?
During an electricity blackout, all electrical appliances and devices that rely on electricity stop working. This can include heating systems, air conditioners, refrigerators, and lighting. People often have to resort to alternative light sources such as candles or flashlights. Lack of electricity can also disrupt communication, and in some cases, can lead to loss of life if medical equipment that relies on electricity is not functioning.
Survival Tips for No Electricity
1. Gather Essential Supplies
This is when it would be a good idea to pull out your family emergency kits which are designed to help you survive the first 72 hours of most disaster situations. We’ve put together a list of essential items you can add to yours, here. As a general rule of thumb there are a few items that are good to have in your home, not just in a backpack, for when there is an electrical outage or a natural disaster:
Water - Make sure that you have plenty of drinking water stored up in advance as water pumps may not function without electricity. Store at least one gallon of water per person per day for drinking and hygiene purposes.
First aid kit - Accidents are bound to happen in the darkness and without electricity, it may be difficult to navigate around your home or neighborhood. A first aid kit should include bandages, antiseptic wipes, gauze pads, tweezers and scissors, along with any necessary medications.
Portable power bank or solar charger - to charge phones or other small electronic devices.
Manual tools - such as a hand-crank can opener, a manual can opener, and a battery-powered or hand-crank radio.
Sanitation supplies - such as hand sanitizer, wet wipes, toilet paper and garbage bags.
Important documents - such as passports, birth certificates, and insurance policies, kept in a waterproof container.
It's important to remember that every household's needs are different, and you should customize your emergency kit to suit your family's needs. Make sure to check and update your supplies periodically to ensure they are still in good condition and are up-to-date.
2. Learn About Alternative Light Sources
In a blackout, the nights are very dark, so you’ll need to have a few different light options ready, especially if you have a bigger house. Here are some alternative light sources for electricity blackouts:
Candles - Candles are a classic source of light during blackouts, but make sure to keep them in a safe location and away from flammable objects.
Flashlights - Flashlights are a more reliable and safer option than candles. Make sure to have extra batteries on hand.
Lanterns - Battery-operated or propane lanterns provide bright, long-lasting light and are great for larger spaces.
Glow sticks - Glow sticks are a low-cost, long-lasting light source that can also be used as a marker or signal. They can also make the nighttime fun,and less scary for younger kids.
Solar-powered lights - Solar-powered lights can be charged during the day and provide light at night. They come in various sizes and shapes, from small flashlights to large outdoor lamps.
Oil lamps - Oil lamps are a traditional source of light and can provide long-lasting light when properly fueled.
Headlamps - Headlamps are a hands-free light source that can be useful for working or moving around in the dark.
It's important to have multiple light sources on hand, and to check and test them periodically to ensure they are in working order. Always use caution when handling any source of light, and make sure to keep them away from flammable objects.
3. Keep Food Safe and Fresh
During an electrical blackout or storm, it's important to take steps to keep your food safe and fresh to avoid spoilage and prevent foodbourne illness. Here are some tips:
Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature inside.
Use perishable items first and keep them in a cooler with ice or freezer packs to keep them cold.
If the power outage lasts more than four hours, discard any perishable foods that have been stored above 40 degrees Fahrenheit for more than two hours.
When in doubt, throw it out. If you're unsure if a food is safe to eat, it's better to err on the side of caution and discard it.
4. Stay Warm Without Heating
Due to the fact that most outages happen during storm related events, it can get cold, so it’s important to ensure that you and your household stay warm. Here are some ways you can do just that:
Dress in layers: Wear several layers of clothing, starting with a base layer of thermal underwear, followed by a sweater or fleece, and then a jacket. This will help trap heat close to your body and keep you warm.
Use blankets and sleeping bags: Cover yourself with blankets or sleeping bags to retain body heat. You can also use blankets to cover windows and doors to prevent drafts.
Keep your head and feet covered: Heat escapes from your head and feet, so wear a hat and warm socks to keep them warm.
Stay active: Exercise or perform some physical activity to generate body heat.
Use alternative heat sources: If you have a fireplace or wood stove, use it to keep warm. Be sure to keep a supply of dry wood on hand.
Stay in a small, enclosed space: If possible, stay in a small room or enclosed space to conserve heat.
Remember to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and other fluids, as dehydration can increase your susceptibility to hypothermia.
On the flip side, power blackouts can also be caused by extremely hot temperatures, which can be just as dangerous. Here are some easy tips on how to stay cool in a heat wave:
Stay in the shade: If it's cooler outside, stay in the shade. If there is no shade, create one using a canopy, umbrella, or cloth.
Keep the windows open: Open windows and doors to create a cross breeze that can help cool down the room.
Use a fan: Battery-powered or manual fans can help circulate air and provide some relief from the heat.
Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration, but avoid drinking alcohol and caffeine as they can dehydrate you.
Use a wet cloth or ice pack: Place a wet cloth or ice pack on your forehead or other pulse points to help cool down your body.
Take a cold shower or bath: A cold shower or bath can help bring your body temperature down.
Stay on the lower floor: Heat rises, so if you have multiple floors, stay on the lower floors where it is cooler.
Wear loose-fitting, light-colored clothing: Loose-fitting, light-colored clothing can help reflect the sun's rays and keep you cooler.
Remember, heat exhaustion and heatstroke are serious conditions that can result from prolonged exposure to high temperatures. If you experience symptoms such as dizziness, headache, nausea, or rapid heartbeat, seek medical attention immediately.
When seeking clean water sources if your taps have frozen, or there's been flooding, etc. remember to have a water filter ready to help you. A portable water filter is always recommended because it can go with you if you're needing to leave your home, or if you need to access water quickly but aren't able to carry any with you.
At the end of the day, being in a situation without power for an extended period of time can be incredibly frustrating. But it is important to stay level headed and calm as you navigate the situation.