We lost power for seven days. On the sixth day, our electricity was restored, but we were hit with another Nor'easter, leaving us without power once again. I am happy to report on the eighth day, all has returned to normal!
Living by the constant roar of fire and flickering candlelight and allowing ourselves to disconnect while internet and electricity were not plentiful was romantic, but it was also a drag. Without power, all creature comforts are gone: Heat/AC, running water, flushable toilets (if you’re on a well), ovens (if electric), and anything with a plug.
In the cold, you’re freezing, especially if you don’t have a fireplace, and in the heat, you’re sweltering with no way to cool yourself off. Without water, you can’t shower, wash your hands, your dishes, do the laundry, or flush the toilet. Without electricity, there is no internet, no TV, no lights, no electric coffee pots or coffee grinders, no refrigerators or freezers, and no way to charge your devices.
After living through these conditions for a week, I decided to write a post on how to prepare yourself for these situations, and make your life as comfortable as possible.
MUST HAVE ON HAND:
WATER: Of course you need it to drink, but you also need it to flush the toilet, wash your hands, yourself, brush your teeth, and wash dishes. If a storm is approaching, fill the bathtub or keep several gallons of water on hand at all times. CANDLES: I suggest having both regular and electric candles. Place electric candles in areas that are left unattended. LIGHTER: You’ll need a lighter for candles, to light the stove (if gas), and for fires (if you have a fireplace). BATTERY POWERED STRING LIGHTS: Not only for the holidays, but these also give off a surprising amount of light. BATTERIES: You’ll need them to power your battery operated candles, string lights, flashlights, and any other devices EXTERNAL CHARGER: It’s wise to have your external charger juiced up at all times, but who does that? If there’s a storm, this is the time to make sure it’s fully charged. I’d recommend an external charger per person in the house. FLASHLIGHTS: keep a few handy
HAND CRANK RADIO: If you don't have cell service, having a hand crank radio will keep you updated. This one is amazing because it also acts as a flashlight and a phone charger. LANTERN: We survived without one, but it would have been nice! FIREWOOD (if you have a fireplace): We went through a ton of wood, luckily we had a bunch on hand
PURELL: It’s difficult to wash your hands without running water, so make sure to have some in the bathroom PAPER PLATES/CUPS/UTENSILS: I hate using disposable dishes and flatware, but when you can’t wash your plates you'll want to make concessions.
COOLER: Since your refrigerator and freezer won’t work, you’ll need a place to store necessities. Make sure your cooler is secure. We left some unsecured milk outside, and it was ransacked by raccoons. FRENCH PRESS: Is “but first coffee” your motto? If you rely on an electric coffee pot, it'd be unfortunate if you didn’t have a French press as a backup. GROUND COFFEE or a HAND GRINDER: So you have the French press, but only whole bean coffee. Either grind a bunch a coffee before the storm or invest in a hand grinder. TEA KETTLE: don’t drink tea? Even so, you’ll want a tea kettle to heat up water to make coffee, do the dishes and wash yourself. Of course, you’ll only be able to do this if you have a gas cooktop. EMPTY BOTTLES/HOT WATER BOTTLE: If your power goes out in the winter, expect your sheets to be freezing. It is not fun climbing into a cold bed. A few hours before bed, fill up a few bottles with hot water and put them in your bed. WINE/BEER: cause it gets dark and there’s not a lot of entertainment! Red wine is my preferred option as it doesn’t need to be refrigerated. NONPERISHABLE SNACKS: There’s nothing worse than the anxiety that comes when you don’t have food during an emergency. Make sure to have some nonperishable snacks: chips, granola bars, nuts, dried fruit, canned soup, beans, etc. A GOOD BOOK: get ready to read a lot. HEADLAMP: reading proves difficult by candlelight. A headlamp makes it much easier!
Most towns have emergency relief staging areas that supply food, water, and dry ice. Make sure you know where your nearest staging area is.
Fill up your gas tank! Gas stations also lose power, and you may not be able to fill up. Cars also act as mobile charging stations, so when your devices die, you can charge them from the car.
Have cash on hand.
Section off your house to the best of your ability. We spent most of our time in the living room and the kitchen. Using my staple gun, I fixed curtains to the doorways between rooms, an effort to keep the rooms insulated. When we lit a fire in the living room, the heat stayed concentrated, rather than escaping into the foyer.
Put all devices on low power mode
If you’re fortunate enough to have a gas cooktop, only make one pot meals. Washing dishes isn't easy without water.
Place your candles in front of a mirror to maximize the light.
If you have plants, bring them into the warmest room in the house.
Cats are excellent space heaters that run on zero electricity, and I suggest adopting one today.
In all seriousness, we didn’t have it half as bad as other people in our neighborhood. My family lives 20 minutes away, so a hot shower and an endless supply of water were accessible. We also don’t have children; I can’t imagine the degree of complexity that would add.
I hope this has been helpful and prepares you for your next power outage. Please feel free to share any advice you have below!