Major blackouts are more common now than ever before. Most of us have experienced a blackout for a few hours. A blackout is a power outage that can range from a few hours to months. They might happen because of a major storm, a hurricane, a transformer blowing, or other issues. It is a good idea for everyone to stockpile things for the next blackout.
You might be new on your preparedness journey or find it strange to prepare for an entire year without power. No matter where you are on your journey, I encourage you to prepare for at least a two-week period without electricity.
Why? There are dozens of examples of this happening. If you live along the coast, a major hurricane can wipe out the power grid for multiple weeks. Earthquakes, major storms, and blizzards all frequently cause blackouts. Everyone is at risk.
Typically, it won’t take two weeks to get your power restored, but most Americans barely have enough food for two days (and will put themselves in the delicate situation of risking their lives trying to find them).
You will be ahead of the curve by preparing for two weeks. Let’s take a look at things you need to stockpile to last those two weeks and beyond.
You need to have clean water to survive; everyone knows that. During a blackout, there is a chance your taps won’t work. There is also the chance that filtration systems set up may stop working, which means the water might be dirty or unsafe to drink.
It is crucial for every family to have a two-week supply of water stored. The general rule is one gallon of water per person, per day, but you’ll need more for cooking, for when you get sick, laundry and so on.
To last two weeks, our family of five needs 70 gallons of water. It is also important to stockpile water for your pets as well. We have two dogs, a cat and a rabbit to consider, as well as livestock!
Disclosure: This post has links to 3rd party websites, so I may get a commission if you buy through those links. See my full disclosure for more.
A Water BOB is a great investment as well. They go right into your bathtub; if you are expecting an emergency, fill it up. You can use the water later if the power doesn’t go out. You also want a way to filter the water if your taps are working. Purification tablets are a good choice.
Multiple Sources of Light
A source of light may seem like an obvious thing to want on your list. It would be nice to have solar power, but that isn’t financially possible for everyone.
You will want to have flashlights on hand, as well as plenty of batteries. LED flashlights take one or two batteries and last a long time. Even the dollar store sells flashlights for cheap. Stock up on them!
Keep a solid stock of candles on hand as well. Taper candles are my favorite. They shine well and last for several hours. Plus, they are some of the cheapest candles aside from tea lights, which don’t last very long. Glow sticks last for 24 hours, are cheap, and perfect for kids who need to find their way through the dark.
One thing to think about is that a source of light during a blackout can draw attention to you. Avoid using light as much as possible in the evening.
During the first few nights, people will have more lights available, but those will slowly go away over a few days or week. Invest in some black-out curtains for your living room. Your family can stay together in one room at night with the lights.
Your smartphone, many flashlights and even your emergency radio are critical pieces of survival gear during a blackout, and though you must always ration power and such times you’d be a lot better off if you have a way to generate your own power for recharging these modern devices.
Our technology today has finally progressed enough where compact, high efficiency solar chargers are within financial reach of virtually everyone and can provide a critical missing link in your own off-grid power architecture.
Using nothing more than a clear view of open sky and, hopefully, clear, sunny weather you can rapidly generate enough electricity from the abundant and virtually limitless supply of radiation from the sun.
These devices are hardly foolproof, as you might be expecting, and they will do you very little good while indoors and no good at all when the sun is not in the sky. Nonetheless, energy independence like this is extremely valuable.
A Way to Cook
You need food. Room temperature food is no fun, and most food needs some preparing. If you happen to have a wood burning stove in your home, you are in luck. You might have a gas stove that will work, but there are a few other options that don’t require the grid.
A popular choice is a camping stove. You could also use a grill, but you have to stand outside to cook. You will need to keep lighters and matches on hand. If you opt to use a camping stove or grill, you will need to have fuel on hand. Keep a large enough stock to last a few days easily.
After you run out of fuel, cooking can be tricky. You could use fire, but smoke could alert those you don’t want around. Solar ovens are also a great tool to have, but they can be stolen if left unattended!
Stockpiling food that doesn’t require cooking is a great idea. It allows you to conserve your cooking method. For example, while dried beans are cheaper, it takes a lot of cooking fuel to warm them up. Canned beans are easy to cook and could be eaten cold if needed. Here are some of my favorite foods to stockpile.
- Protein shakes – just use water!
- Peanut butter or almond butter
- Dry cereal or granola
- Powdered milk
- Trail mix
- Canned fruit
- Canned beans and vegetables
- Packages of pre-cooked and seasoned rice
- Canned soup
- Instant mashed potatoes & gravy
- Canned beef, chicken, and tuna
Keep fresh fruit on hand. Most can last for two weeks when stored outside of the refrigerator, such as apples, melons, oranges, and pineapples. They make great snacks for your kids as well.
Source of Heat
If you live in the Deep South, a source of heat may not be an issue. Since I live in Ohio, heating is important, especially if the blackout happens during the winter. For the first 24 to 48 hours, blankets, candles, and sleeping together can keep you warm. After that, you will need an extra source of heat.
You will need to have extra canisters of propane available. It is also wise to keep a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector in the room with you for protection. The other choice is a kerosene heater, but they pose a fire risk.
Germs and infections spread quickly in unsanitary places. There are a few things you can do in your house to keep it sanitized. Have a stock of paper plates, paper towels and disposable flatware. You don’t want to keep dirty dishes lying around.
You should also have cleaning wipes and sprays, hand sanitizer, baby wipes, disposable diapers, and toilet paper on hand. Something else to consider is if your toilet will flush without electricity. If you can, you can store water for flushing by adding it to the tank whenever it needs to be flushed.
If the toilet doesn’t flush, you will need to stock up on heavy duty garbage bags and cat litter. You can put the garbage bag into an empty toilet or bucket. Put a layer of cat litter and add more after each time someone uses it. Then, put the bag outside, but don’t wait for it to get too heavy. You don’t want it to break.
Hygiene supplies are a chronically underrepresented item in the survival stashes of preppers. while it is true that going a day or two without your typical morning or evening bathroom routine is unlikely to kill you or make you too terribly stinky, longer term neglect can have serious consequences physically and mentally.
First things first, no one likes to be around people who stink, and even though most folks go nose blind after long enough exposure, BO and rancid breath are just one of those things that you never seem to get over in time.
Next, being dirty promotes bacterial growth on the skin which can lead to infection if injured or a host of other maladies otherwise. Avoid this unhappy outcome and help keep the other people in your family or group from losing their minds under the circumstances by keeping clean.
Easier said than done considering that a regional loss of power might well mean that your usual water supply is compromised or even cut off entirely.
Accordingly, you should be ready to swoop into action using baby wipes at a minimum or a bucket and sponge or rag for a simple sponge bath.
All of your other usual hygiene necessities like toothbrush and toothpaste, deodorant, body powder and products for handling female menstruation should be on hand in abundance.
First Aid Kit
No matter what you are preparing for, you need a first aid kit. Inside of your kit, you should have all of the basic wound care items like antibiotic ointments, bandages, sprays, and gauze. You also want to keep pain relievers, cold medicine, allergy medication, cough syrup, and extra prescription medications on hand.
Fuel for Your Car
When you start thinking about long-term blackouts, you realize that people will eventually start to migrate, looking for power or resources.
I highly recommend that you stay where you are until you have to leave. That time may never come. If it does, gas stations won’t work. You need to have fuel stored for your vehicles. Ideally, you want enough fuel stored to travel within a 500-mile radius.
Firearms and Ammunition
Most people are not prepared to lose power for two weeks. After a few days, they will become desperate. If they think you have something they could use, you may have to defend yourself and your family. The hope is that this never happens, but it is better to be safe than sorry, by getting a firearm for home defense.
Chances are everything in your refrigerator and freezer will perish unless you cook it up over the first few days of the blackout. However, you may have some medications that need to stay cool. A cooler with jugs of water, can keep your medications at a lower temperature. If you are in the winter, you are in luck.
A cool cheap way of maintaining a low temperature for things like veggies is to have a Zeer pot. This uses water and the process of evaporative cooling, something that has been used in the desert since ancient times.
For the short term blackout, you will want to have cash on hand. If you do venture out and find any stores open, they can only take cash because of no electricity. Carry smaller bills, so it is easier to get what you need.
I love electric tools as much as the next person, but most are useless during a blackout. If you don’t have a manual can opener, you will struggle to open those cans of beans. I suggest having more than one! You also want to have regular manual tools.
Drills are great, but they can’t be charged without power. You need a tool kit full of different sized screwdrivers, wrenches, hammers, nails, screws, a saw, and more. Keep the electric tools on hand for when power is restored.
Tarps are one of those ubiquitous tools that all preppers love, and you’d be well advised to have some on hand at all times for dealing with emergencies and disasters, including blackouts.
Your tarps can be used as a shade or blackout curtain inside, a ground cover outside, or even for creating a shelter or microclimate to take advantage of when the weather is rough.
Also keep in mind that you might only be experiencing a blackout in the aftermath of some other major natural or man-made disaster, the kind that could very well damage your home, particularly the windows and roof.
A sturdy, large tarp with heavy duty grommets is just the thing for covering up this damage and keeping your primary shelter livable.
This is one item you definitely don’t want to cheap out on, and make sure you have appropriate cordage or cargo straps to use in conjunction with it for whatever purpose. Paracord is good if you have a working knowledge of knots, but you might also consider those ratcheting tie down straps as an alternative.
Boards for Your Windows
Many people board up their windows during a hurricane to prevent damage. During a blackout, boarding up your windows deters people from trying to break in and secures your privacy, along with those curtains I recommended. The fact is, you don’t want people knowing you aren’t as panicked as they are. People do crazy things.
Electrical radios won’t work, but crank radios are great for connecting to the world and receiving news. You can even buy some crank radios that allow you to plug in your phone chargers. Any information you can receive about the events happening is better than nothing and gives you an idea of what to expect.
Family Activities and Boredom Busters
You have at least two weeks ahead of you. I don’t know about your kids, but mine are sure to start fighting quickly. You could send them outside, but you have to be careful. As time goes on, people will become more desperate. If they see happy kids playing, they may want to find out why they are so relaxed and happy.
Keep a stockpile of books for your kids. I love yard sales; you can find books for $.25. Another great thing to have on hand is board games. We have a closet full of board games, perfect for kids and adults. Any way to forget about the stress outside is helpful for a blackout.
Personal Docs Package
Keeping a paper file or encrypted flash drive with copies of all of your identification cards, deeds, titles, bank statements and other critical paperwork on hand is a good idea for handling all kinds of disasters, and blackouts in particular.
There is seemingly no facet of modern society that does not depend upon a mountainous administration and grinding bureaucracy in order to function, and considering that a large scale local or regional blackout is highly likely to disrupt or completely take down our internet and other communications infrastructure you had better be able to provide your own papers that prove you are who you say you are and own what you say you own if required.
Now, the greatest possible care must be taken to protect this sensitive jacket full of your most vital information, since it will provide a malicious person everything they need to assume your identity and generally ruin your life if they can lay hands on it.
Paper copies might be more comforting but are far more vulnerable to theft and malicious implementation than unencrypted and password protected flash drive containing digital copies.
It is unlike the fire department is going to respond, since there is no way to call 911. You are going to be using propane heats, kerosene heaters, candles, grills and more. Even if you are very careful, it is a great idea to keep a few fire extinguishers throughout your home.
No matter where you live, from a smaller rural community to the swarming metropolis of the biggest cities, security is always going to be a concern during a major blackout.
First and foremost, emergency services to include police are going to be very, very busy for the duration and that means the likelihood of getting them to attend to your problem, out of hundreds or thousands of others, is very low.
Of course, this also assumes you can raise emergency services at all. Between your own communication problems, degraded or offline communications networks, and clogged channels you’ll be hard-pressed to get anyone on the horn. This means you are effectively going to be on your own for the duration.
If you live in a place that is famous, or rather infamous, for violence and anarchy in the midst of a blackout you must be on your toes. Quite a few regional scale historical blackouts resulted in widespread criminality and mayhem in the bargain, so this is not conjecture.
Even if this is not the case, blackouts almost always, as a rule, bring the cogs of commerce grinding to a squealing halt, and as soon as people cannot get the food and other sundry items they are used to getting in plenty and on demand they might start getting crazy or desperate.
That means that people might come for what you have, or what they think you have.
This is of particular concern if your house is illuminated and seemingly functional when everyone else’s is not, typically a sure indicator that someone has a generator or other off grid power supply. We will talk more about that in the following section.
At any rate, you must be prepared for posting a watch if you have the manpower to spare. These procedures along with responses to typical threats should be practiced and rehearsed ahead of time so that everyone is on the same sheet of music.
You must know who you will help and under what circumstances, if anyone, so that you do not present a fractured front to any unknown contacts.
Should You Invest In and Rely on Backup Power Systems?
The apple of many a preppers eye when it comes to blackout preparedness is having their own power generation or storage system that is either built into their home or is adapted for supplying their home with electricity.
Imagine it! What could be nicer and simply flipping a switch and carrying on as normal while the rest of your neighborhood, town, city or region is plunged into darkness and doing without?
While that would undoubtedly be a serious comfort and convenience, like all things in this sector there are some serious drawbacks. First and most obviously, is the expense and complexity of such systems, whatever form they take.
Emergency or standby generators are very expensive, require significant maintenance and upkeep and create logistical challenges and that storing the fuel required to run them in most cases is a pain in the rear, propane excluded.
Solar is an increasingly viable option for individual primary or supplementary power, but is highly dependent upon location and weather for its effectiveness.
In the right place and at the right time, solar could provide all the power you require and then some, allowing you to remain completely grid independent in case of emergency.
Another option is a whole house battery system, typically a bank of deep cycle batteries that will be charged off of your usual electrical system and can then be activated in the absence of electricity to supply connected appliances and other devices with power.
All of these systems have merit, and properly thought out and installed all of them can supply either your most critical tools and appliances of electricity or potentially your whole house.
Systems like this might well be mandatory if you or someone else relies upon electricity for medical equipment or refrigeration of vital medicine and if this describes you or someone you love you definitely want to start working towards a solution in this regard.
However, out of all the things you might do that will attract unwanted attention from the wrong people during a blackout, having a house that is lit up and otherwise functional is number one, especially if you have a noisy, running generator accompanying the lights.
There is only so much you’ll be able to do to hide the fact that you have power while others do not, and at any rate you must prepare accordingly for unwanted visitors.
Preparing for a short-term blackout takes some creativity. If the blackout period lasts longer than six months (could be due to an EMP or a grid hack attack), you will need to think about the future.
Before you can prepare for a long-term blackout, you have to be ready for two weeks without power. Are you?
Bethany Hayes is a mother of three kids who has a small, suburban homestead. When she isn’t homeschooling or gardening, she might be focusing on building up their homestead or preserving the harvest.