Guest Article: Lights Out, by NightlyJazz

Not to take away from the novel of the same name by David Crawford–which really is an excellent book that I do recommend you read as well as save a hard copy–I experienced my own little Lights Out situation.

I’ve always wanted to test my preps by switching off the electricity and running everything off the grid, but I never pulled the trigger. I kept telling myself that I did not have enough equipment to do a test, plus there was also the fact that I was afraid, as a single father of one-, two-, and three-year olds, my children would freak out if I plunged them into darkness.

Imagine my surprise to arrive home one Friday evening to discover that the power had been turned off for non-payment. While I was able to make a payment, the offices were closed and there was no one to come out and turn the power back on until the next day. I thought, “It’s no problem. I’m a prepper and I have enough supplies to at least get us through the night.” Yeah right. I was in for a surprise.

Here are some things to think about. We congregated in one room to conserve heat. I entertained the kids for a few hours, fed them, and then they went off to bed. It was easy enough.

Refrigerators/Freezers. Do not open the freezers, and keep the fridge openings down to a minimum.

Water. The water was still on, so I did not have to worry about that. I do have a few hundred gallons stored though.

Cooking Food. Although I have a charcoal pit, I did not want to open the freezer to take anything out. Instead, I pulled out the jetboil and heated enough water to have a Mountain House meal. We had the chicken and rice dinner, which tasted pretty good to me, but the children would not eat it.

Emergency Food. I have to say this did not work because two of my three children would not eat it. Yes, I understand you should stock what you eat and I pretty much do that, but at the present time, most of my food stores are perishable as I purchased ¼ of a cow, a couple dozen chickens, and lots of frozen food. I do have other items, but what I pulled out to eat is the Mountain House.

Power. I have a generator large enough to run two freezers, the fridge, electronics for entertainment, and lights. I also have 50 gallons of gas to run the genny for a long enough time. What I did not have was an extension cord to run from the generator outside to anywhere in the house. I had not one single extension cord. Sure, I have power strips that are the three feet variety, but I had no extension cords, so we had no power.

I had only eight D-cell batteries none of which were rechargeable and no way to recharge them even if they were. While I have lots of AAA and AA batteries, I have no way to charge them without the generator.

Propane. I have lots of propane– about 20 small bottles, regular barbecue pit bottles, and a 100-lb bottle. Besides the Big Buddy, I have absolutely nothing else to use the propane for. As it was a warm night, the propane was not useful. I had no lighting, nor a two-burner cook top that uses propane. I don’t even have a propane barbecue grill.

Lights. I have two lanterns and two different types of fuel– a clear fuel substance you find in the candle section at Walmart as well as kerosene. I purchased a lantern from each of the sections as well. So I light up the lanterns and get an alarming (annoying) amount of black smoke coming from each one. I go to open the windows and none of them will open. I’m a renter and had never attempted to open them before. I do have head lamps, which worked well. The headlamps, a flashlight, and a couple of light sticks pretty much sustained me through the night. While I do have a combo emergency light with a radio and signal light included, it shorted out and kept blinking in and out. There is nothing like seeing your equipment fail when it’s time to use it.

Entertainment. I have lots of electronic entertainment items. While my children have a playroom, there’s nothing in the way of board games, puzzles, or even crayons for that matter. Over a longer period of time, my entertainment options are too limited at the moment.

Some of the lessons I learned, include:

  • Don’t just purchase without a clear plan. I think this was the most important lesson.
  • Testing is essential. Plan a thorough test, and put it on the calendar. Then, stick to the plan. I chickened out. We went to IHOP for breakfast the next day.
  • I needed a complete end-to-end power system. I went out the next day and purchased two contractor’s extension cords from Sam’s Club and purchased more D-cell batteries. I also realized I need a solar option to recharge batteries.
  • As far as emergency food is concerned, it’s important that the children actually eat the freeze-dried food. If we have to bug out, that’s what’ll be on the menu. I know I like it, but they need to be introduced to it. I’ll server it to them twice a month moving forward.
  • Ventilation is important for the use of the lanterns and the propane. CO2 detectors are needed throughout the house.
  • I have only one small fire extinguisher and need more.

This was an extremely simple test that I failed. How would you fair in such a situation?