Thursday, December 1, 2011

the calm before...

Folks, this is the calm before the storm. These weeks before winter truly sets in and drops a bucket of trouble on us, is a time for planning. Soon this part of the world will plunge into below-freezing temperatures and hectic weather. Last winter was my first winter alone in the farmhouse, and I wish I had been more prepared for it. Bad stuff happened, and I wasn't ready. But this year, hoo doggy, I am plenty ready, and I would feel a whole lot better about it if you were too.

I strongly urge every reader of this blog to set up a winter storm emergency kit in their home and darn well expect to use it. It doesn't have to be expensive or grand, most of these items you already have around your home or apartment—but this weekend I want you to take note of where they are, and gather them all into the same duffle bag or closet bin so when the wolf is outside the door, you know exactly where the flashlight, candles, extra blankets, can opener and cell phone charger is. So I am offering this challenge tonight: Prepare for winter by assembling a basic kit for a winer week without electricity. Post about your plans and ideas, and help inspire others to take action. I will pick a random winner from those posts Sunday night and offer two FREE passes to the Plan B workshop here at the farm in May with James Howard Kunstler and Kathy Harrison.

The challenge is this: Prepare for a basic emergency situation due to power outages from winter storms. I want everyone on this blog to compile these supplies and comment that they have, pledge they will acquire, and share with is where they will store them. For every comment left, it is an entry towards the workshop. So engage, talk to others, give the girl with a studio apartment advice on where to stash this stuff without freaking out her roommate. Tell stories, share wisdom, and talk about your own emergency stories and how preparedness saved you.

Basic Emergency Supplies
Gather a flashlight and spare batteries, a book of matches, forty dollars cash (in case ATMs are down), a can opener, extra candles and a place to light them (mason jars work great!), a blanket, a radio (with batteries or hand cranking ability), first aid kit, plastic bags, screwdriver, wrench (for turning off utilities), a non-grid cell phone charger (there are cranking, battery, and solar versions. My radio has a USB plug to hand-crank power to my phone!). For more information on basic disaster kits click here

1 week (or more) of food
Purchase one week's worth of meals and water for your home for each person in your household (including pets) and set it aside. The basic rule is 2500 calories and one gallon of water per person, per day. This can be as simple as a single person picking up seven 99-cent gallons of water, seven cans of soup, a canister of quick oats and two bags of rice and beans. I bet you could get all that for under twenty dollars. If you don't have a camp stove, wood stove, or any way to cook without electricity forgo the oatmeal, rice, and beans and invest in meals you don't have to cook, like a box of energy bars, a jar of peanut butter, beef jerky, and wrapped non-refrigerated cheese. Plan what will work for you. Make sure these are items that can sit on a shelf for a few months without worrying about spoilage or rodents. If you don't have one, buy a metal or rubber bin and store it under a bed where mice and ants can't consider it.

If you don't have electricity, and can't leave your home, how will you stay warm? Wood stoves are great for those of us who may have them, but others can, and should, think about their fireplaces, kerosene heaters, and other off-grid forms of heat. Do you have some wood in the garage for your fireplace? Do you have 2 or three containers of kerosene if the power goes out? Do you even have a way to stay warm and shut off the water main? A 45-dollar kerosene heater, 5-gallon of fuel, and some wool blankets could be life savers some day. Be prepared to be warm. Plan B should always be ready.

When you have a week of food, water, and a set of supplies waiting and ready for you, you'll let go a sigh of relief you didn't realize you were holding in. Modern society is a great thing, but did you know that the average town only has enough food on supply to last three days (in grocery stores, I mean). If a true disaster hit, like a bad ice storm or 60+ MPH winds after heavy will be beyond grateful you set aside those shells and cheese boxes, water, and got that camp stove and propane on sale at the sporting goods store last April...

This is not a post about scaring you, or living in fear of disaster. This is not a contest to see who can win a workshop either. This is me, genuinely concerned that most people aren't ready for things when the worst occurs, and maybe if everyone who reads this blog is prepared, you can help keep the older lady in the apartment next door warm and calm by your heater and lamp light till the NYC grid kicks back in? Or maybe having a sleeping bag, flashlight, and a favorite toy on hand will help calm your children by the fireplace if an ice storm has you in the dark? I don't want any readers on this blog to be victims, I want us all to be the folks who are ready, calm, and able—ready to help others who may need it along the way.

P.S. Just out of curiosity, do any of you have land lines?


Blogger lemontreelane said...

nicely done jenna... we'll be busy this weekend adding to our BOBS (bug-out-bags)... thanks for the lists! and ummm... no land line!

December 1, 2011 at 9:24 PM  
Blogger Yart said...

We have a good system set up for power outages as we have a couple each winter. But I have been helping my MIL prepare as she lives in an apartment. She has enough fluids and canned goods now to stay fed and hydrated until the power comes back on. She has a flashlight and extra batteries, because she isn't allowed to have candles.

One of the biggest concerns is that she lives on the 7th floor and she would have to walk up and down the stairs to take the dog out. I think that she could put him in the tub to his business. What do you all think? He is a Jack Russel Terrier.

No land line here. Got rid of it a few years ago.

December 1, 2011 at 9:30 PM  
Blogger jim said...

jenna- still have the land line plus the cell and computer hookup-have a woodstove and 3 cords of wood out by the barn-have emergency radio,larder is full of staples like dried beans, mac, speghetti, etc- canned spam, tuna and chicken to name a few-our water is from a county line so we don't need power to access. Have candles, matches, first aid kit etc. Lived in the country a long time and a country boy-[family] will survive. [and i will personally make sure my neighbors do as well-we also keep vehicles full of fuel in the winter-since power outages mean stations cannot pump even if they have it-thanks for the reminders

December 1, 2011 at 9:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the reminder, Jenna. Here in NJ we traditionally don't get disabling storms, but this year is starting to make me wonder. Between Hurricane Irene in August, and the Halloween snow, we've lost power several times, for days at a time.

This weekend, I'll assemble my emergency kit!

December 1, 2011 at 9:56 PM  
Blogger Tech_Guy'02 said...

Of course I have a land-line. It's the only phone I have "Active". I also have a CORDED phone that gets it's "power" from the phoneline, cordless phones don't work if the power is out.

I have 2 no longer used cell-phones one in the car one in the house (car one has a 12V adaptor for charging AND it's wall charger which I have an inverter to plug it into) it can be used to call 911 in an emergency despite lacking an active calling plan.

I just picked up a powerful (short-term use) flashlight, one for the car one for the house (already had one of them, waited til they went on for $10, bonus was each came with a wall wart and a 12V adaptor giving me options. (I keep ALL my wall warts even after the devices are gone, they make great tinker items)

Wool-blankets I like to snatch up whenever I see them at yard-sales, they'll help keep you warm even if they get wet.
Candles in the house and the car, I've had to use them in the car on a 400 mile trip in -30 degree weather with no other source of heat, they do wonders to heat a small space.

I just bought 25 boxes of lids for mason jars (just the seal part, the rings I can borrow off already sealed containers) They were on for $1.25 a box instead of $3.99 regular price so I snatched them up, same with the rubber rings for my glass top jars when they went on for $0.99 I bought a dozen boxes. I'll buy more of either whenever I see them cheap.

I've got a 25lb sack of rice, 20lbs of flour, 2 cases (12 cans each) of 2 types of soup, 5 of the 18L "water-cooler" jugs full of water. The 25lb rice cost less at a whole-sale club open to the public than 2 10lb bags do at a regular grocer. Also in the pantry, half a dozen canned raspberries (quarts), a dozen cooked raspberry jam, a dozen freezer jams, pickled beets.... 10 lbs of 3 different types of beans... 2 turkeys... cocoa, nuts...

There are many board games / card games with rule books when we get bored of the same ol' same ol' games, tons of reading material,
NiCad batteries and their chargers, I top them up as soon as I've used them so I never meet a power failure with-out available batteries.

I disassembled some "broken" walkway lights with their solar panels, re-wiring them to some battery trays lets me charge them in a pinch.

on my wish list over this winter is
a hand-crank / solar charging radio with the weather alert and maybe shortwave tuning if the price is right
a pressure canner
more hand-tools for the garden AND the workshop.
Way more self-sufficiency books, and farming books.

There's no time like the present to start, your ducks may never be all in a row, just start, whatever your first purchase is already puts you better prepared than you were.

Gifts I'm giving this year include GI can-openers that Cabela's sells for $1.70 a pair, especially to family that only have electric can openers currently. If I've got time I'll be fashioning some circuit checkers for polarity (12V circuits, green when proper polarity / red when polarity is reversed... so hard when shade-tree mechanics have made a mess of a wiring harness.

I know even with a job loss, or severe weather etc I'm eating for at least a month, I have a 2 burner propane camp stove, 20lb propane canisters with a distribution tree, a full-size propane barbecue, a charcoal stove and half a dozen steel garbage cans full of briquettes. Rubbermaid storage bins keep all the essentials ready to grab, and ANY time I find myself going into the essentials bag it goes on my list TODAY to buy a second of the item I'm taking so it can always be in the essentials bag.

December 1, 2011 at 9:56 PM  
Blogger ican said...

No land line, but two woodstoves, about 14 cords (not facecords either) of firewood, split, stacked, and seasoned, a Honda generator, several filled gas cans, a pantry with a decent amount of canned goods, snowblower, and snowplow ready on the truck.

December 1, 2011 at 9:56 PM  
Blogger jim said...

jenna-in addition have enough meds on hand for at least a week in case travel can't happen-4 wheel drive doesn't always cut it and one might have to wait for the big plows and blowers

December 1, 2011 at 9:57 PM  
Blogger J.D. said...

OK! Pardon the emergency manager emerging from the pack. First grab a cuppa, something to jot down ideas/projects, and gather the family to brainstorm.

Jenna covered most stuff in her post. Here aresome itemz that can spare a ton of dough, aggravation and just might save a life. Look around your farm house for hazards, such as ailing trees, gutter repairs, sagging wires, anything that should stand tall, but lists more than 20 degrees might require some attention.

How's your vehicle emergency kit? Blankets, water, flashlights, flares, extra mittens, gloves, hats for each family member? Sand and shovel in te trunk? Vehicle winterized? Tires good and appropriate for your terrain?


December 1, 2011 at 10:00 PM  
Blogger Jasmine said...

I've been thinking about this quite a bit recently. And wondering how people manage when they're not set up for it.

I lived without running water for about 6 years. And without electricity for a year and a half.

Where I live now, we have both, but are fully off grid. There's less than 15 feet from the conex that houses the generator and batteries and solar system to the house, and the fuel tank is in the middle of it. We have a backup generator if the diesal one dies, we can still power the heat tape to keep the well lines from freezing, and the well pump. No way for our power lines to go down, as they run on the ground :-)

The hot water heater and stove are both propane. And we still have all the oil lamps and the habit of candles from the non electric days. And of course there's the full pantry and freezer, though more of it is from the grocery store rather than the CSA and garden than I'd like ...

December 1, 2011 at 10:08 PM  
Blogger Jasmine said...

Oh, and we heat with wood...

December 1, 2011 at 10:09 PM  
Blogger jenomnibus said...

Here in California we don't have to worry about snowstorms, but just last night we had some crazy windstorms - up to 100 mph - and the power has gone out in several parts of the city. Of course our big concern out here is earthquakes, and the city is always trying to get people to get their emergency kits together just in case the big one hits. Thanks for the reminder!

December 1, 2011 at 10:24 PM  
Blogger J.D. said...

'Determine your children's winter emergency plan. D they have an alternate location or family member to call and a meeting place?

Medical issues: Are your medication in te winter prep kit. If you have to evacuate to a shelter plan to bring any special foods or take precautionz for those with peanut allergies, or any allergies for that matter.
Who are your neighbors? Does that elderly woman down the road have a kit? I take care of my aging parents where one is on oxygen. Are there enough cannisters to last one week? Is there a spare waffle matttress in the event an airflow mattress is down due to lack of power.

P.S. chimney check? Clean? No loose bricks? Ditto the generator. Good working condition?

These are but a few of the reasons that push folks to area shelters. Do you know where your designated shelterr might be?

There's more I could list. No landline, ham unit on standby. Stay zafe! Sorry for being so verbose, but I'm passionate about this topic.

Now ask each family member for their winter concerns. Ask if they know what to do. Plan your work and work your plan before an emergency strikes. Workthe kinks out prior to Winfer's arrival.

December 1, 2011 at 10:30 PM  
Blogger J.D. said...

Oh one more thing, please please retest fire alarms and carbon detectors if you have them. If not, please consider installing them in your houses and barns. Thunder snow can carry lightning.

Sorry for the poor typing, but I'm getting used to this touchpad which certainly lives up to its name.

December 1, 2011 at 10:51 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

Love this idea! I think you've posted about your radio before, but I can't find the post because I think it's WAAYYYY back in there, but what kind of crank radio do you have?

December 1, 2011 at 10:52 PM  
Blogger Sam said...

we are fortunate enough to have a generator at our place. The previous owners had handicapped children who couldn't be without special breathing machines etc, so we lucked out- it came with the house. Now, it's a big sucker but it still doesn't power the whole house. It does however power whatever part of our gas furnace requires hydro to work (I don't really understand it, I just know it works :)), nana's electric fire place, and the hardwired thermostat for our gas fire place. It also powers nana's kitchen as well as ours. It also runs the pump for our well. We have the bbq to cook on (yup, use it all winter) and there is always an extra tank of propane in the garage. We also have several camp stoves to choose from- I'm a girl guide leader. Our soup cupboard has 54 cans of soup in it... it ain't specifically set aside or nothing, but you can bet we won't go through it any time soon. I have candles throughout my room because I enjoy their light anyways. The matches are in my bedside table. There is also a big glass kerosene lamp in the bathroom, and a coleman lantern in the garage. We have five sleeping bags, each bed has a down filled duvet and I have a closet full of wool blankets from re-enactment camping... While we've never necessarily put aside a kit, or gotten prepared, power outages are a pretty common thing in our neck of the woods, usually for a couple of hours at a time. It's kinda no big deal, we just keep on rolling... hardly notice it really.
I live a bit far, Im not really interested in tickets to the workshop, I just thought I'd share what "emergencies" look like in this laid back neck of the woods. And yeah, we have a landline :)

December 1, 2011 at 10:56 PM  
Blogger Glyndalyn said...

Great post with lots of ideas. Yes, the Phony Farm is prepared for winter in TN. A few inches of snow is a major deal but like dew in New England.

We live like this all the time.

There is enough food for several weeks, much of it preserved by me. Also several gallons of drinking water since the water in our tiny hamlet tends to intermittantly stop. Also plenty for animals.

We have a land line and cell phone and consider it a blessing when they go off line. Also a battery operated radio and crank flashlight.

Of course we heat with wood and have a campstove (and fuel) for backup. Plenty of tools for repairs. Working in emergency health care, there are plenty of first aid and disaster supplies.

Many quilts, a down comforter, and a real Hudson Bay blanket.

Most people in our rural area are prepared. However, I am concerned about a few of the elderly neighbors.

December 1, 2011 at 10:59 PM  
Blogger Amanda said...

We've got just about everything mentioned covered except heat. My last place had a fireplace, but the new place has no heat other than electric. I'm wondering if anyone has opinions on or recommendations for kerosene heaters. I have a nice concrete floor shed where fuel could be stored, and I've used kerosene heaters in the past, but it's been at least 15 years. Thoughts?

Also, people should remember the gas grill for cooking, ours has one burner, so I can at least warm stuff up and boil water out there if need be. Which reminds me, I need to pick up an extra tank!

December 1, 2011 at 11:10 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

I have Etons, and everyone from NPR to LLBean sells them now.

December 1, 2011 at 11:15 PM  
Blogger TransFarmer said...

I've got food and water covered. The pantry is stocked with food that doesn't necessarily need to be heated to be eaten. I have extra flashlights and batteries ready. I've put the extra water in the most interior closet to prevent any freezing. We don't have landlines, but to have cell phones that can be charged through the car if needed. If the power goes out, we do have the option of heating the home with wood in the fireplace. Although it isn't the best option as it draws heat from the house, it is an option for heating. We're in a pretty good place of preparedness.

December 1, 2011 at 11:55 PM  
Blogger Joleen said...

I have land lines, and because of it over 50,000 people are out of power right now here in Salt Lake City because of horrible winds up to 120 mph last night and it will be in the 20's or lower tonight and lots of people will have no heat. I'm glad for my emergency supplies right now. Thanks for the reminder. Winter is here.

December 1, 2011 at 11:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

one of the many nice things about living in a rural, isolated area is that planning for power-outages is a "when" not an "if" scenario - and I say it's nice because it's a time that neighbours check on each other and share wine.

In the fall, the local grocery store has a canned goods blow-out, and everyone stocks up. We actually have all of our food stock in a high ground location, as we live in a severe flood zone. In the event of a severe flood, we'd evacuate to this other location.

In the event of a multi-day power outage, we'd go live with one of our many neighbours with a wood stove - it works out because you can make more interesting camp stove meals when you pool your food supplies.

I suggest adding a small bottle of chlorine bleach to your supply bag - sometimes running water is back, but the water is not considered to be potable. Adding a couple of drops of chlorine bleach per liter will save you a lot of time and fuel, not having to boil drinking water for 20 minutes.

December 2, 2011 at 1:05 AM  
Blogger Katie said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

December 2, 2011 at 1:57 AM  
Blogger Katie said...

Interestingly enough, it was your post a couple weeks ago about being self-sufficient that was my wake up call. I have always been a girl scout "always be prepared" type person, but I just moved to a new town a couple months ago and realized I'm woefully UNprepared if something were to happen (like lose electricity, the most likely) for more than a day. Since then, I've been working diligently at planning and getting ready as best I can for this year. Thanks for this post, and all you share and do. I'm eternally grateful.

December 2, 2011 at 1:58 AM  
Blogger KiwiGirl said...

We have had two large earthquakes (7.4, 6.3) in the last 12 months down here in Canterbury, NZ. After the 6.3 quake in February, I put together an emergency kit for our family of 4 + dog (incl. water) from the NZ Civil Defence webpage ( It's given us a little bit of peace of mind at our place should another big one roll on in (which is reasonably likely, given current predictions).

December 2, 2011 at 2:56 AM  
Blogger Sarah said...

Hi Jenna,

Thanks so much for writing this! Reminded me to restock the extra food and water that got used up in the October snow storm (CT). We lost power for 8 days but were able to live comfortable and somewhat normal lives for that week. However, even with extra blankets, we were very cold by mid-week and it wasn't even winter yet. When a friend got her power back, she lent us two sleeping bags. Those were a huge game changer! Something about sleeping in a really warm place made the rest of the day seem warmer. We went out and bought our own as soon as we could. May not be for everyone but sleeping bags are definitely on my list for a winter emergency kit.


P.S. If you do use a camp stove or anything else run by gasoline during a storm, make sure its in a really well-ventilated area. People got carbon monoxide poisoning in October from using them indoors.

December 2, 2011 at 5:29 AM  
Blogger Cindy said...

We have a landline--cell phones don't work where we live although we have one for the car. And we learned the first week we were here to have a corded phone for when the electricity goes out.

Also, have been stocking the pantry for the past several years--we could eat from it for months (sure would be some interesting meals near the end, though). Our well water tastes terrible so we regularly visit a spring a few miles up the road and fill over 40 gallon jugs with water.

Woodstove covers heat and cooking. Candles, flashlights, and oil lanterns for light are on hand and a handcranked radio.

I put together go-bags a few years ago with money, keys, IDs, clothes, water, first aid stuff, etc. and refresh them every December.

Still, everytime we have an outage, we find something else to consider; I'm always amazed at the people who live here in snow country who aren't at all prepared.

December 2, 2011 at 6:26 AM  
Blogger Cindy said...

Landline, corded-yup.
Food, water, heat, light--yup.
Wishlist--back-up power for the computer (everytime the local channels forecast a storm, they say "stay tuned here for updates"--uh, HOW if the power is off?).

December 2, 2011 at 6:29 AM  
Blogger karen said...

Great post Jenna! Having just spent 9 days with no power I know where the weak links in my prep are. I have a camp stove that uses propane but did not have enough tanks on hand to feed 5 people for 9 days. Now I know what I need to have on hand in the event we could not get out or find any in a store. I plan on getting enough to last 2 weeks. We also had a sterno stove which we used and need to double the fuel for that as well.

We do have a land line but that went down with the power and cable lines. No land line phone for 9 days but the cell phones worked. We had car chargers that charged our phones and my husbands laptop which has satellite connection as well as our portable dvd players for the kids. We have battery and crank radios that can also charge a phone.

Have enough easy to prepare food for at least 2 weeks and water as well. What really made a difference was gathering all my items needed in case we lost power and putting them in the dining room when we heard how bad the storm might be. When the power went out everything was right there.

We had flashlights for every person as well as lanterns that if you stand up and shine on the ceiling they do a great job of lighting your space. Battery operated votive candles do a fine job of lighting up a door way or a bath room and last forever. I have many of those and put them in strategic spots through the house. I put everything away in one spot after the power came back on.

Holes in prep:
Need more blankets, large supply of dry wood for the fireplace, more frozen water bottles in the upright fridge to keep the food good longer,beef up the first aid kit, make sure pet food supply is good and medications are filled.

Thanks to the bloggers I read who advocate preparedness -like Kathy Harrison-I feel good about how much I have accomplished so far. Room for improvement which I am committed to. Karen from CT

December 2, 2011 at 6:46 AM  
Blogger seagoddess said...

What a great post, Jenna - thank you. I have a land line - cannot stress that important little line enough!! I was the only person when I lived in FL who had one, too - I couldn't believe it. Living through three hurricanes taught me about prep like this.

I have most of the supplies you mention. I live in an apartment with non-working fireplaces/gas heat. I'd also like to offer this for coffee drinkers - get a stove-top (or if you have a small camping stove for emergencies) so you can make coffee. I learned that lesson on my first hurricane with a (blech) electric stove; thankfully now I have gas. Also you can cook oatmeal, soup, etc if you don't have a gas stove. water-proof matches are a good thing, too.

I keep my sleeping bag in the car along with a headlamp. I'm interested in the hand-crank radio with cell-phone charger. I'm going to gather things in one place though as you mention - so not scrambling if the need arrives on a windy night!

December 2, 2011 at 7:12 AM  
Blogger Kelpie and Collie said...

I've got a land line. Cell phone service is iffy at best at my place (have to hold onto something metal to get a signal). I am getting a gel stove for power outages, and I have a small electric heater for furnace outages. My main thing is I am happy I have 4wd now, so I can get to my sheep on these snowy days.

December 2, 2011 at 7:32 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

have to hold onto something metal to get a signal?!?!

really! cause I laughed out loud at that!!

December 2, 2011 at 7:43 AM  
Blogger mdoe37 said...

I have a landline here as well, in case of a medical issue (and a corded phone!). I've got a good stock of lanterns, oil, batteries, flashlights, some water, weather radio.

Several years ago the power did indeed go out. I had an electric stove, water heater and no way to heat the house or pump water.

I now have a generator for the water with 30 gal of gas available. I installed a whole house instant hot water heater that uses propane. I have a stove upstairs and a "canning" stove downstairs that also use propane. The downstairs stove can also be used to keep the pipes warm.

I store an abundance of food. I'm 10 miles from a grocery store and simply can't run everytime I run out of a can of "cream of cr*p" soup. With a diabetic in the house, food isn't optional either. I do store some easy foods in case the power goes out, but can also scratch cook. I do some canning - meats (even hamburger) to sweet potatoes to cranberries. Homemade convenience food in a jar.

The final piece came into place this fall. I installed a propane wall heater (30K btu) that requires no electricity at all. Ugly but very very toasty.

I've found that the more you are prepared, the less likely something happens. Or maybe its just that you don't skip a beat and continue on as always. I guess I'm not a betting kind of girl though -- its just bound to happen 20 miles off of Lake Michigan more times than not!

December 2, 2011 at 7:47 AM  
Blogger Anke said...

Great idea Jenna! After our area was hit hard by the April tornadoes (and we were not as prepared as we thought we were) we started stocking up. We have flashlights that can be cranked and flashlights with batteries. We have the "McGyver" of radios (solar, crank, with built in flashlight, reading light...) plenty of candles and oil lamps (and extra oil), lighters + fluid and matches. We now own a generator and have extra propane and wood on hand to use the grill or the fire pit. We have bottled water for emergencies, a stocked pantry and a stocked freezer. There is always some cash on hand since we had to drive almost an hour in April to find a working ATM. Hopefully none of it will be needed in an emergency, but after April I decided we had to have it just in case...

December 2, 2011 at 7:48 AM  
Blogger Rainsong said...

Preparedness posts are ALWAYS the most popular on my blog. Good job Jenna. Lots of good info on the post and here in comments. The things I add are more for comfort than life in the raw. Someone already mentioned board games and cards, I think I saw water filters too.

1. A source of caffeine can make a HUGE difference to the good humor of the addicted. Something as simple as Excedrin or Via (Starbucks instant) that will mix with cold water)
2. Head lamp. Flashlights and candles are great, but headlamps are nice for reading (velcro extra batteries right to the strap)
3. Some kind of hand-wipe. Being able to clean up is like caffeine, it helps you face another day.

We have bought old fashioned CB radios. There is also a small short-wave. Nice for news and communicating when cells are down. My family has a plan for where we will leave messages about our safety if we cannot get home.

Read aloud books take the place of TV (it is true, some of us watch too much TV) It doesn't have to be a children’s book. Art projects, coloring books, crossword and sudoku puzzles kill the hours that TV might otherwise fill.

December 2, 2011 at 8:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good idea to remind folks about preparedness. We live in northern Az where summer storms are more destructive, but we get snow too at our 5500 feet of elevation. Water storage is an issue here. We have a set of 10 gallon plastic jugs we keep full. We have LED flashlights (batteries last longer in these), batteries, food for humans, dogs, and bird for a month or so. No land line. BTW a car cell phone charger can substitute for a hand cranked one, as long as a vehicle has fuel. We lack a back up heat source - something we are well aware of. Another item I did not see mentioned is a firearm in working order and ammunition in case someone threatens you with bodily harm - not everyone around us is a friend or neighbor.

December 2, 2011 at 8:49 AM  
Blogger Barb T. said...

I have never commented before but had to on this one, Jenna!!! Anything on storm preparedness is so important with all of the super-weird weather we have been having. I live in Maine on the shoulder of a mountain in a total black hole for cell phone service (actually, I am on the wrong side of the mt. for the tower--that's ok, I don't want a big cell phone tower on my side!). I can drive a couple of miles and get service, but it might be dicey getting out of here in a storm so we do have a landline.
We have only lived here in Maine for 3 months or so, but being a native Wisconsinite, I am ok with bad weather preparedness; reading the comments made me feel good. We have most of the stuff you and others listed, and we are fortunate in 2 things--we have a generator which we purchased from the previous owner, and a propane cooktop.
When I have heard of bad weather coming (we've already lost power for 12 hours, a drop in the bucket, but good practice), I have assembled everything in a central area. I also have done things like charging my Kindle for reading before (if we can avoid using the generator, we have) and grinding fresh coffee--my one real weakness, well, knitting,too! With our first storm, I freaked out when the power went out and realized I wouldn't get my coffee fix (we weren't certain we could start the generator and hadn't attempted this at breakfast) but we came up with a pretty good idea for brewing fresh coffee. We heated water on our cooktop and put fresh grounds in the drip maker as usual. We then poured the hot water slowly over the grounds for a pretty darn sweet cup of joe!
I won't tell you about some of our stupid mistakes upon moving here; we do have a woodstove but are still way too dependent upon heating oil. We are preparing for next winter already cutting wood from our own property. We are not a farm so my boyfriend plays the role of Jasper!

December 2, 2011 at 8:57 AM  
Blogger karental said...

Please don't forget - If you need medication, have a supply in your emergency kit. If power goes out or if supplies can't be delivered, meds will be in short supply. Change it out as needed to make sure it maintains potency.

December 2, 2011 at 9:03 AM  
Blogger Kristen said...

Great post, Jenna! I do have a landline, but right now, no emergency supplies other than what's on my pantry shelves (which isn't much since I had a baby six weeks ago and haven't done a major shopping trip since before that). I hereby pledge, though, to make this a priority. Winters in Michigan are no joke, and I heard the dreaded words "lake effect" in the weather forecast this morning. As for storage, I can use a corner of my kitchen temporarily, but a basement clean and dejunkify is on my short-term to-do list. There will be plenty of storage after that. Great post! :)

December 2, 2011 at 9:49 AM  
Blogger Cindy said...

We have a landline and the phone is a 1947 model that needs no electricity to run. We already heat with wood so set there, and can cook on top of the wood stove if we have to. Made me think we should get extra rabbit and chicken feed this weekend and keep it by for the duration of the winter. I grew up in the country in WI so was used to being snowed in for days at a time when I was younger so even now I keep my pantry stocked up for at least several weeks at all times. We have kerosene lamps and candles around the house already so we are pretty set with that.
Pet food and water are what I had not thought of and we need to get, thanks Jenna!

December 2, 2011 at 10:05 AM  
Blogger Alassel said...

I'm still trying to convince my husband to let me do more emergency preparedness - he thinks my plans are silly and would take up too much space. *sigh* I see no reason why our downstairs shower stall, which hasn't had a person inside it since 2003, cannot instead play host to a 55 gallon water barrel (with hand pump) and a couple bins of dried food. To make it more difficult, one of us is gluten intolerant which means that emergency rations and many meal bars are not suitable, as they contain gluten.

I generally have a week or so of food in the house, so we would be fine if we were stuck for a week (which would be impressive given where we live). We also have two generators for our RV which stay at our house, so I can use those as needed to keep the freezer and fridges cold. Finally, we have two gas-log fireplaces that can be our alternate source of heat should the power go out, although admittedly if we lose power and gas then we're kind of screwed.

Don't forget to plan for your pets as well! I buy my dog/cat food once per quarter and generally have an extra 2 weeks left at the end of the quarter, so they'll be taken care of as long as I can run the generator intermittently to keep the freezer cold. I should pick up an extra bag of cat litter to have on hand too, nobody wants to deal with cats no longer using the catbox during an emergency!

And finally, it's been said once but to say it again would be good - if you run any sort of combustion-based generator, cooking grill, or heat source, you MUST do so outside or at a minimum vent it outside. My plan to keep the freezers running is to set up the generator in my dog kennel just outside the garage (locked to the fence with a bike cable), and run the extension cord from the generator inside the window to the freezer. :)

December 2, 2011 at 10:35 AM  
Blogger Janet said...

Live rurally with woodheat and an excellent supply of wood under cover. I routinely run off sufficient water to last a week or two and can cook on the woodstove. Always have a good supply of food on hand, cash and gas in the vehice. The well doesn't work w/o power so no fresh water and no flushes. You have to be ready with waste management plans. The longest outage so far was close to two weeks, but we are assured of shorter outages whenever the wind blows it seems - our utility is into zero maintenance - bottom line is it is cheaper to be reactive rather than proactive and forget about customer safety and satisfaction.
I still have a landline and dialup as recepton is less than adequate where I live.
Don't count me in for an entry - too far away!

December 2, 2011 at 10:38 AM  
Blogger Tina - Our Rustic Roots said...

We've got all of that covered plus medications, food for the animals and you need an emergency kit in your vehicle, too.

We do have a land line, with a corded phone and a wireless. The corded will still work when the power is out. Cells rarely work out here.

December 2, 2011 at 12:35 PM  
Blogger MIB said...

We heat the house with wood, which is stacked in the basement. We have a camp stove (and keep extra fuel) for cooking, which we actually used post-Hurricane Irene when we were without power for five days. We have a spring-fed pond as an emergency water supply for us and our livestock (spring-fed means there's always a spot without ice that we can get to). We have plenty of candles and an oil lamp on hand, a flashlight that gets its power from you shaking it, and a hand-crank flashlight/radio/cell phone charger. And we most definitely have a land line, as well as a corded phone to use in emergencies. And the good thing with a snow storm (as opposed to a hurricane) is that there's plenty of cold storage outside for the 1/3 side of beef that's now in the freezer!

December 2, 2011 at 1:33 PM  
Blogger annet said...

We have 300 plus jars of canned and dried food. We have butane stoves if the natural gas gets turned off. We have stored water. I just bought 25 KG of organic flour and I have a quart of dried yeast on hand -- we can bake flatbreads, English muffins, and thintini buns on a cast iron griddle. We have a store of candles and matches plus several crank flashlights and lanterns. We've got squash and onions in storage. Our biggest vulerability is heat -- no electric means no fan for the gas furnace so no heat. We do have a natural gas fireplace -- useful as long as there's no problem with the natural gas supply.

December 2, 2011 at 2:09 PM  
Blogger Jasmine said...

@ Jenn - my darlin' man got "me" (he uses it more probably) a crank radio for our anniversary. He got it at Radio Shack.

@Kelpie and Collie - I'll have to try that holding onto metal idea! We get cell service in certain spots - like by the woodpile (rough at forty below!) and sometimes at certain windows when there's little or no cloud cover. Texts work more reliably for whatever reason. And we're two miles beyond any land lines - phone or electric.

December 2, 2011 at 3:03 PM  
Blogger La profesora said...

We have a landline phone, mostly because we don't have good cell phone reception at our house and our electricity goes out several times a year. This year has been a record, with 6 power outages of varying lengths. The landline is a wonderful thing to have when the electricity goes out!

We have a woodstove that is our main source of heat, and two cords of wood stacked up. I need to buy two more to get us through winter.

I have a question for others who are on well water. What do you do about sanitation when your electricity is out for an extended period (more than one day)? It has happened to us multiple times, and so far we have been traipsing to in-town family's houses to shower and to fill up jugs of water (to flush toilets). Is there a better way to prepare? I'm concerned about the possibility that one of these times we won't be able to get to an in-town friend or family member to fill up on water to flush toilets. What is the best way to prepare for that?

December 2, 2011 at 3:15 PM  
Blogger JeanineH said...

For flushing toilet, if you have advance "Warning" that there is a storm coming one of the first things you should do once you know where everything is is have your shower and clean up so you go into the outage clean... then fill the tub up.. it's usually RIGHT beside the toilet, use an ice-cream pail to scoop water out (4L jug) and pour it into the bowl directly (there's a sweet spot that triggers mine to drain) or you can fill the tank

If there's tons of snow outside bring in buckets full of snow to let it melt if you run out of tub water before you get power back.

December 2, 2011 at 3:33 PM  
Blogger doglady said...

Along with my land line, I'm pretty well situated for a power outage which isn't unusual for Downeast Maine. I have water set aside for animals, me and flushing. I have a wood stove for heat and 2 cords in the basement. I have lots of food and a gas stove to cook it on. I also have a Power Dome that I use to run my WiFi and computer. The cell could be charged by it too. As long as I can get out of my road, I can always take the Power Dome somewhere to be charged.

December 2, 2011 at 7:02 PM  
Blogger The Sprouting Acorn said...

Nice post, Jenna.

@ jeanine: We were just without power this week for three days and filled an old canner up with snow to melt for the flushing of the toilet. Works well. :)

I skimmed through most of the comments, and didn't see (not that it's not there, just didn't catch it if it is) a cooler listed. It's something we've needed to replace but haven't yet. Instead, lost all that was in the fridge. If you don't have a generator, a cooler may save the day. I've also been known to put milk jugs out in the snow.

We heat with wood, and also have a fireplace. Black iron cookware works nicely for the fireplace. Something else I've been wanting to do, but haven't yet, is to can vegetable soup. It would have come in soooo handy this week!

Saw that the storm was coming, so made a pot of chili. Filled the lanterns. Headlamps are wonderful. Blankets to hang in doorways to keep certain areas heated... wood was stacked. Do your laundry if possible before a storm, and clean the kitchen -- nothing worse than dirty dishes when the power goes out... and having no clean underwear. ;) Oh, and take a shower. You don't know how long you'll have to go without one. Fill those milk jugs with water. Stick them out on the porch to either make ice or put them in your freezer to help keep it cool in the event of a power outage.

Land line phone? nope. Only for internet and fax. Still have the phone plugged in and can call 911 from it if need be.

Next tax check: generator. We lose power quite a bit... would love to be off-grid. Maybe this will be the first of many steps toward that....

December 2, 2011 at 7:57 PM  
Blogger Karen said...

We have some oil lamps, two battery flashlights, and a light that charges from the wall. We have a camp stove, for which I will get the appropriate fuel this week. In our store of foods: pasta, canned fruit and soup, and we usually have bread in the freezer. My only real concern is how to keep the pipes from freezing in long blackout. We don't have a fireplace or wood stove, and I sure wish we did! If travel was possible, we'd go to our daughter's, as she does have a woodstove, and a generator.

December 2, 2011 at 9:21 PM  
Blogger alewyfe said...

We've got tons of blankets and sweaters and a good cold tolerance, a woodstove, some wood cut and stacked but need a lot more! Lots of stored food- both bulk staples and canned goods, and a pressure cooker, jars, and a case of lids to start canning the rest if we lost power, a couple grills and lots of charcoal, rain barrels full of water and a hiking filter to purify it (or iodine or chlorine if that doesn't work), lots of matches, camp stoves, and the alcohol and white gas to run them, lanterns and lamp oil, candles, a pretty extensive first aid kit, cards and board games, more books than we could read in two lifetimes of free time, many kegs of homebrew and co2 to dispense them, flashlights/headlamps, air rifles and crow pellets for the zombies (just kidding). We're pretty much every-day "if it's yellow, let it mellow (unless it gets too stinky) types, so occasional flushing is fine by us... Oh, and I live with a grown-up eagle scout, who still has the little fire drill he made as a teen, oh, about 20 years ago- so if we use up all the matches, Man can still make fire. :-) I'm gonna get him a hand-cranked multi-band weather/radio for christmas (thanks! I never know what to get for the grinch that has EVERYTHING and now I have an awesome gift that he'll like!). No land line, though when we actually move into our house fully and out of our work-studio (and lose our "free" internet access) we'll probably get one. Oh, and we NEED to get at least one giant tree towering over our (still uninsured! ack!) house trimmed before the snow comes...

December 2, 2011 at 9:47 PM  
Blogger Woman Seeking Center said...

Jenna this is a great topic. Truly wonderful that you've instigated awareness for some (and reminded others) what it is to be prepared.

Unless I missed the mention(s) here are a few things I've incorporated over many years of rural living...

*The 'break to activate' light sticks (often found in the camping section of stores). Once activated they glow hour after hour and are easily/safely portable. I keep one by the bed and another by the couch where I'm likely to be when power goes out at night.

*Another helpful lesson learned to have kindling inside with your emergency wood for heat. NEVER a good idea to be trying to split kindling in the dark or dim light lol. And kindling that's wet? Useless.

*For older relatives, kids and even active adults having full thermal underwear or snow pants/tops or vests/slippers dedicated to the emergency supply location is a wonderful. No hunt and seek to find them in closets/drawers for everyone.
A great help in staying warm during low(er)temps with or without backup heat and certainly makes sleeping more comfortable in low (or no)heat situations.

*I saw someone mentioned a cooler (great idea) to which I'd add set aside a thermos (one or more). Fab for keeping water hot once you've gone to all the effort to heat it. Usually keeps quite hot for tea/coffee, oatmeal, face/hand wash. Also lessens the frequency with which you need heat water.

*Hot water bottle is also another item to add to the stash if you are able to heat water.

So many excellent ideas and suggestions - thanks to you for starting and everyone else for adding!

December 3, 2011 at 5:09 PM  
Blogger BJ Gingles said...

No land line here. Do have car chargers but need to invest in hand crank radio/cell charger. Plenty of food and water stored for peeps and pets. Candles, matches, kerosene lamps with fuel, flashlights and batteries on hand. We have a fireplace (just had the chimney cleaned) with 2 cords of wood. We've had about one power outage of a couple days duration each year in the past five years and have learned pretty well how to cook with cast iron in the fireplace. I do need to update the stock of meds in the emergency kit. Thanks for the reminder.

December 3, 2011 at 10:49 PM  
Blogger Tara said...

My two cents' worth of advice - when the power does go out, take action immediately. Go ahead and assume right then that it will be out for an extended period. You'll take needed steps in a timely fashion if you're thinking that way, and if it does come back on quickly, well, you're no worse off.

Yes to the land line (and corded phone. I might try holding onto something metal myself - our cell signal out here is abysmal! :)

Also, yes to a cooler. We have two of the giant igloo marine ice chests which have saved the contents of our refrigerator on more than one occasion. Not usually cold enough here to store our perishables outside in winter, and even if we did, they would quickly be spirited away by every raccoon within a 5 mile radius! We live with power outages on a frequent basis (year round), so we've been well prepared for a long time with lighting, heat, food, fuel, cash, etc. It's extremely comforting.

December 3, 2011 at 11:10 PM  
Blogger Valri said...

Love all the comments and suggestions ... no new ideas to add, but for myself, I lack a few gallons of water stored away. I haven't yet because we do have an neat, old, hand-dug/brick lined well on the property that opens to an underground aquifer, which we use in the summer for the garden. I think in an extreme emergency we could rig a bucket/rope/pulley, but it would be good to have a few gallons stored for a short-term emergency.

December 4, 2011 at 1:25 PM  
Blogger CarolG. said...

Land line in place and working. We have a couple months of food stored in the house. Our week areas are water and heat. On the other hand, we have a couple of large tubs to fill and we have lots of warm clothing, blankets, and comforters. We also usually keep the heat at 55 degrees so we are prepared a bit more for the cold.

December 4, 2011 at 5:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No land line here, other than the dsl service.....

My primary heat is gas/hot water, which needs electricity. "Just in case", i have a 30,000 btu unvented gas infared heater mounted on a wall, that requires no electricity to run, and can heat my entire home.

I like the idea posted here of recycling solar panels from walkway lights to recharge batteries...... brilliant! Most of the time those lights aren't broken but the batteries are just shot, so a simple thing to rig up...

Al from Pennsylvania

Have had a small emergency kit for years with a Grundig radio (hand crank/battery/or 110/or 12v power) candles, firestarter stuff, and so on)....... energy bars, and so on. Backup to charge the cell phone is a 12v car charger. Also have a medium size gas generator.

Lots of canned food, spaghetti, dry pasta, dry milk, COFFEE, sugar, and so on, and home range is gas - needs no power. Backup lighting / cooking is also available via plenty of camping equipment - white gas stove, lanterns, plus kero lanterns, and did I mention a coleman drip COFFEE pot that runs on a campstove / gas stove? Lol - a crisis would be bad enough, don't wanna face it without my caffiene!

One thing i need to step up on is stored water. I switched to a tankless water heater a year and a half ago (many people forget that in a crisis an old fashioned "tank" heater puts 30 to 60 gallons of water in your reach, simply open the drain valve) and i need to get some 5 gallon containers filled for storage.. Already have two on hand.

One other place I found a great way to store water........ the chest freezer. Mine is nowhere near full of food (due to my no-so-great hunting and gardening skillz), and an empty freezer uses a lot of power. My solution was to fill the unused space with 1 gallon jugs of water. The water freezes, giving more thermal mass to retain cold, thus helping the freezer to remain cold longer in the event of an power outage, plus helps to save energy, plus is also stored water in an emergency. Simple, cheap, and win/win type of thing.

Security is provided by many firearms and lots of ammo. 500 rounds of .22 lr ammo takes up just about a 6 x 6 inch cube, btw.

Also some dehydrated food, via a dehydrator i recently picked up at a thrift store.

Amazing how 30 years ago people who prepared like this were on the fringe of society, so to speak, where today, it's becoming more common for folks to, well, take responsibility for their own well being. About time!

December 4, 2011 at 7:44 PM  
Blogger Tigersmom said...

No land line, but 2 way radios, lots of assorted batteries, wood stove, canned goods, emergency water, candles and probably lifetime supply of matches.

December 5, 2011 at 10:46 AM  
Blogger crashdown said...

Why didn't a winner ever get announced?

December 5, 2011 at 11:40 AM  
Blogger Lorri said...

We still have a landline, but as it goes through the internet, we still lose it when we lose power. All the lines are like that around here, now. We're in hurricane territory so I plan for 95'f & humid as much as for winter's cold.

We have a camp stove, 4 or 6 cans of fuel for it, and I should be able to cook outside, or in the fireplace so it can vent up the chimney. We have some water (a few day's worth, I need to revisit this). Fireplace for heat, but needs more wood/kindling. We keep a large pantry, including canned meats/ veggies, dried beans, dried veggies, canned fruits, rice, oatmeal & pasta; at least enough food for a week if I can survive no milk in my coffee! Oil lamps & candles for light, a stash of board games & books, lots of blankets. One small bottle of chlorine bleach, a cooler, an Aladdin thermos & backup for the kittie supplies. Also, solar-power camp showers & items for a sawdust toilet.

We still need a hand-crank radio that will charge our phones.

Yart - you may be able to train the terrier to use a cat box. Some of the small dogs can learn.

I'm not worried about the drawing but did want to share.

December 5, 2011 at 2:21 PM  
Blogger julronimo said...

wasn't able to read your post as I am really behind due to the POWER OUTAGE last week. Several inches of heavy wet snow and below freezing temperatures made for a day(and night) or so without electricity. Found the flashlights (but where were the batteries?), can charge my cell phone in my car (or could, if the car charger didn't stay in the car that went to college with my son)and boy was I glad that I didn't have to go to work since I had no clean scrubs! So, even if you have set aside your emergency supplies, the lesson is to check periodically and make sure nothing needs to be replaced! And don't leave the laundry/charging/wood restocking until the last minute. Hopefully, lesson learned here!

December 7, 2011 at 7:38 PM  
Blogger julronimo said...

Oh, and yes, still have a landline.

December 7, 2011 at 7:38 PM  
Blogger Lorri said...

I was reminded - anytime I hear a big storm is coming, I clean the house & wash all the dishes & laundry. And take out the trash.

See, I once lost power for 9 days, and forgot to run the (full) dishwasher. I got to handwash all the dishes the next day. Not so fun.

December 8, 2011 at 4:38 PM  

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