We knew this storm was a short-term situation, and so we used it as an opportunity to test systems and find holes in our plans. Keep that in mind as you read this article. We just experienced very heavy and sustained winds and no snow/rain/flooding, which would obviously bring a whole new set of challenges.
Backup generators are critical. Ours is a “portable”, 10K watt starting (8,500 running watts), gasoline-powered Generac. It has a 30 amp plug and cord that is then connected into a cable that connects into a 50-watt sub panel we have integrated to our home main electrical panel. That home panel has a dedicated set of circuits that can run critical components, such as the furnace, kitchen appliances, and outlets, a few rooms with light, and our upstairs MBR and bathroom with power. It also runs our septic and well systems. Lots of comforts were had when 95% of the neighborhood was dark and without water or septic.
Running a Noisy Generator
We ran the generator at three-hour intervals during the day and turned it off as we slept. The unit ran for approximately 12 hours, and it drank around four gallons of gasoline. It is loud, but all the neighbors have acreage around us, and I didn’t find that anyone beyond my closest neighbors who could hear it. I would like to see about some sort of muffler enhancement to make it less noisy. The generator also has a pull string start, which is handy because the battery is quite dead. We would have been more conservative with the hours running the generator, but we knew that this was a short-term situation. It was a good time to run a good test and learn some lessons.
BTW, we should all be keeping maintenance up on our generators. Run them now and then and make sure they are running well and maintained properly.
Does Your Spouse Know How?
Also, does your spouse know how to power up the generator and how to hook it up? Do they know how the panel operates, and are they proficient with it in case you are not home? My good friend was out of town on vacation and his wife was home with the kids. She had no idea how to work this process. We need to quit trying to be a hero and make sure the whole family can be self-sufficient, should someone not be available. Yes, we offered to help.
In advance of any storm or potential for power-outage, filling the bathtubs with water for flushing toilets or other gray water uses is important. You could also buy a waterBOB or three and have drinking water available.
We were able to power our electronics and had a few of the small (hand-sized) backup battery units that we could use in our bedrooms at night to power devices, clocks, et cetera. Those worked very well, along with the rechargeable LED lanterns.
What didn’t work well is a 3-year-old battery system from Costco. I recharged it fully two times, and within hours it was basically dead.
We have a teenage son and realized how hooked he and we are to our electronic devices, Internet, and gaming. The wife did well, as she reads a lot of books. However, those are also all digital books on her phone, so she would have been as bored as the boys without the juice to run her device.
Our cellular communications service where we live is not good. Now, it is maybe one bar of service, but a new tower should be up and running soon. However, I can see if we didn’t have cell service, we would be basically unable to communicate. Texts work well with poor coverage, but the phone is spotty at best and Internet is basically useless.
This learning opportunity gave me a chance to dust off the cob webs of my scanner. Listening to the county emergency services was entertaining in itself. I realized I was not as familiar with my scanner as I should be. (The new ones with trunking and that require programming really require some effort, homework, and familiarity.) Wow, the amount of calls over the scanner for trees down and brush fires was amazing. Radios are nice to have as backups as well and would have been useful in a more serious emergency and longer-term grid down situation.
Many of us have the all-in-one phone/Internet/cable packages offered by the big companies. These usually come in the house in a single location and then loop throughout the house from there. Do you lose all those services when the power is down? Can you get power to it if you have a generator? Can you make a phone call when those services aren’t working? It’s worth exploring all of the options to address these questions.
Chainsaw and Safety Gear
If you had to travel, take the chainsaw and safety gear. I remember one time being deep in WV when a big storm came through and knocked trees down over the road. It was amazing seeing several guys with saws come out of their truck. They had the road clear in minutes. There was no other way off the road on either side, and no one was waiting for help. They were prepared and took action. That was a great example of living prepared.
We didn’t need to bring out the chainsaw, but I was ready for that. I think a second one may be a good investment as well. Two is one, one is none. I’m thinking of purchasing a smaller Stihl chainsaw. (I already have a Farm Boss model for bigger work.) The smaller Stihl might be one that I can train my family with and use for the smaller jobs. We are all small statured and need to keep in mind our physical capabilities. We are in good shape, but the heavyweight in our family weighs in at 160 lbs, with an occasional gust to 165.
Board Games For Entertainment
There was a recent article on board games that was quiet timely as well. We have a few but realized we could use some more the whole family enjoys. Combo chess/checker/backgammon is nice. Also, we like Yahtzee and Pass the Pigs, but we need to visit the soon-to-be-bankrupt Toys-R-Us and stock up on a few more.
I have a nice stock of rechargeable batteries and was able to learn lessons there as well. I have both Eneloop and the Amazon branded batteries. The Eneloop far outperformed the Amazon brand. These batteries were all charged to full capacity in the last few months and were sitting in a bag ready to go. YMMV, but that’s what I experienced.
We discovered our hot water heater is not connected to the sub-panel for the generator. That was another first world problem, but it could be a bigger pain in a longer-term scenario. We were duped for the first 24 hours, because the water was still hot. However, after a cold shower the following morning, we quickly realized. So, we plan to research both how to get power to it or perhaps move to a tank-less gas system.
The gas fireplace also will not start if the power is down and is also not tied into the sub-panel. Do you (and your family) know that there is likely a battery compartment underneath the fireplace that once you have batteries in it will get the spark necessary to run it? Do you have the batteries and know how to make that happen? I did, but not sure my wife knew how to do it. Yes, she does now.
I’d much prefer a wood stove to the gas fireplace in these emergency/SHTF situations. Can I convert mine? I will explore this. Options in newer built houses for this are a little more difficult, if not planned in advance. I had one in my last home, but it was very costly (4500-5K), as the stove was in the basement (a good spot). However, because of the layout of the house, I had to have a 40-foot chimney to get safely above the roof line. Those four foot sections of double insulated chimney are not inexpensive. The chimney cost more than the stove. In a long-term grid down situation, a wood stove will be critical. Gas (natural gas) service will eventually stop, as they need power to bring it to your home, unless you have the very rare exception of gravity fed gas.
Do you have some gasoline stored? I’ve switched to all ethanol-free gasoline for all my lawn/garden equipment and anything else I put in a can. I’ve also switched to the all-metal gas cans. (No more plastic here.) We store 25 gallons, but I don’t think it would hurt to have more. (We use Stabil in all of them.)
Also, I’d recommend anyone use ethanol only for their lawn/garden/mix gasoline oil, et cetera. It is a little more expensive and can be a little harder to find, but a quick Google search can help you out. I’ve seen quite a few more locations offering ethanol free recently, so I think word is getting out. Have you seen those “mixes” at your local hardware store that sell for a ridiculous amount for safe gas? That’s all this is really. Ask your local repair guys who work on mowers, blowers, trimmers, et cetera. The gummed up carburetors they see and fix is mostly related to poor gas and gas/oil mix. Ethanol free is a great help to avoid this.
Does the family know how to open, close, and secure the garage door when the power is down? Teach them if they don’t know.
We have a travel trailer (RV) that could be used in a bad situation as well. I do have two ***Honda 2K generators***amazon.com/Honda-2200-Watt-120-Volt-Portable-Generator/dp/B079YF1HF6/ that can tie together. However, I realized I don’t have the right connection to directly put the trailer 30 amp plug into the unit. A cheap $10 part would cause me a problem. Ugh. Don’t let this happen to you.
Experience Taught Us a Few Lessons
This experience helped us learn a few lessons, and I think (hope) it impressed upon our son that being prepared and the work that goes into it is well worth it. What are you preparing for? Are you preparing for a one-day, two week, 30 day, three month, or longer scenario where you have to stay in place? You don’t get to three months without being able to do a week, then two weeks, then a month, et cetera. Use the opportunities to test your preparedness when you can.
Minor Things Can Make Life Better
I quickly realized how little others are prepared and how a few minor things can really make life better in a shorter-term situation. I can feed my family for six months in grid down, but I can’t heat my house in the winter without gas and some power. That needs to change and is probably my biggest “need to fix”. Another area to evaluate is communication with other prepared friends in a longer grid-down situation. We have radios, but I have zero confidence we know how to use them properly to communicate, should land lines and cell towers be out. We need to fix that as well. There are dozens of articles on SB on this. I just need to take action on it.
Be critical of yourself and your plans. Find the holes, and take action. God speed.
SurvivalBlog Writing Contest
This has been another entry for Round 75 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The nearly $11,000 worth of prizes for this round include:
- A $3000 gift certificate towards a Sol-Ark Solar Generator from Veteran owned Portable Solar LLC. The only EMP Hardened Solar Generator System available to the public.
- A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate. This can be used for any one, two, or three day course (a $1,095 value),
- A course certificate from onPoint Tactical for the prize winner’s choice of three-day civilian courses, excluding those restricted for military or government teams. Three day onPoint courses normally cost $795,
- DRD Tactical is providing a 5.56 NATO QD Billet upper. These have hammer forged, chrome-lined barrels and a hard case, to go with your own AR lower. It will allow any standard AR-type rifle to have a quick change barrel. This can be assembled in less than one minute without the use of any tools. It also provides a compact carry capability in a hard case or in 3-day pack (an $1,100 value),
- Two cases of Mountain House freeze-dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources (a $350 value),
- A $250 gift certificate good for any product from Sunflower Ammo,
- Two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value), and
- American Gunsmithing Institute (AGI) is providing a $300 certificate good towards any of their DVD training courses.
- A Model 175 Series Solar Generator provided by Quantum Harvest LLC (a $439 value),
- A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol and a SIRT AR-15/M4 Laser Training Bolt, courtesy of Next Level Training, which have a combined retail value of $589,
- A gift certificate for any two or three-day class from Max Velocity Tactical (a $600 value),
- A transferable certificate for a two-day Ultimate Bug Out Course from Florida Firearms Training (a $400 value),
- A Trekker IV™ Four-Person Emergency Kit from Emergency Essentials (a $250 value),
- A $200 gift certificate good towards any books published by PrepperPress.com,
- RepackBox is providing a $300 gift certificate to their site.
- A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21 (a $275 value),
- A large handmade clothes drying rack, a washboard, and a Homesteading for Beginners DVD, all courtesy of The Homestead Store, with a combined value of $206,
- Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy (a $185 retail value),
- Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security, LLC,
- Mayflower Trading is donating a $200 gift certificate for homesteading appliances, and
- Two 1,000-foot spools of full mil-spec U.S.-made 750 paracord (in-stock colors only) from www.TOUGHGRID.com (a $240 value).
Round 75 ends on March 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.