How to Prepare for Power Outage in Emergencies

Frustration levels can get high when the power is out due to storms (or the recent implementation of safety measures in California). But with a little preparation, you can deal with the situation with minimal inconvenience. If you’re not ready, now’s the time to prepare for power outage. You’ll be glad you did.

Be sure to take a peek of this list of 100 items that disappear first in an emergency.

lantern at night

Here’s how a nearly week-long power outage went for us:

Day one: Waiting, waiting, waiting for power to return. We have work to do! (My son and I both work from home, via the Internet.) Wonder why our (new-to-us) solar hot water heater isn’t putting out hot water. Too cloudy?

Day two: Still no idea when power will be restored, but we head outside. Might as well accomplish some yard work. Drive to coffee shop to handle a couple of work deadlines that couldn’t be put off. Feel thankful that we opted for a gas stove in the as-yet unfinished kitchen. After cooking outside on a single burner camp stove, cooking inside with multiple burners feels absolutely luxurious. The boys pull out the chess board and begin to strategize.

Day three: Get up first thing in the morning and head outside. Spend most of the day weeding, clearing, cleaning, and enjoying the sunshine. Hear from power company that it might be as long as two weeks until power is restored. Discover that the solar hot water heater actually requires an electric pump to circulate the water. Immediately, everyone feels the desperate need to shower.

Day four: Sun is shining so more yard work. Prepped and planted a garden bed with some cool weather seeds. Realize just how many times a day we count on the Internet to look something up. Hand wash a small load of lightly soiled laundry and hang to dry.

Day five: Boiling water for “bathing” is becoming tedious. Work deadline is looming. Yard work and chess games continue, as do some great conversations without the distraction of the Internet. Begin to see signs of utility workers in our area. Applaud worker on power pole when electricity is restored after dark. Blink like a gopher because lights are so bright. Turn on electric override on hot water heater so we can all have a hot shower.

Here’s the thing. Except for the need to connect to the Internet for work obligations, being without power for an extended period was a mere inconvenience. And I’d take it a step further and say that being without power was a great reminder about being judicious in our use of the Internet. I’m just as guilty as the rest of you when it comes to getting distracted by the “need” to be online. If I’m honest with myself, I could be a lot more efficient with my time on the computer. Focus on the work, get it done, and get outside. <<– That’s the new plan.

The outage also gave us a bit of insight as to just how prepared we are for more long-term emergencies. While we’re no doomsday preppers, there is always the chance of a grid collapse or long-term interruption in services, especially living on an island that is dependent upon barged-in diesel for power.

Ten tips for surviving a power outage

  • Invest in solar lighting options to make maneuvering in the dark easy.
  • Be certain that you have access to water, especially if you rely on well water. This water storage cube holds 30 gallons.
  • Store some bulk food items and emergency food that doesn’t require cooking.
  • A camp stove with a full propane tank will allow you to heat food. If you’ve got a gas kitchen stove, that will work, too, as long as you have a lighter on hand (the electrical starter won’t work).
  • Keep a manual can opener at the ready.
  • While it’s not critical, access to hot water for washing dishes and showering greatly improves morale. This solar shower is inexpensive and you can also use the heated water to wash dishes.
  • Access to the internet would have allowed us to be in contact with family as well as stay abreast of the situation. Adding a couple back up power sticks allow phones to work just a bit longer. A simple car charger for USB devices would be another way to extend connection.
  • It’s a good idea to have an old-fashioned corded telephone on hand.
  • Keep a well-stocked first aid kit (power or no).
  • While not essential, a solar book light makes reading once the sun goes down more doable.
  • Go camping before the power goes out. The experience will make a power outage easier to cope with.


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About the author: Kris Bordessa is an award-winning National Geographic author and a certified Master Food Preserver. If you want to send Kris a quick message, you can get in touch here.

10 comments… add one
  • cindl May 26, 2015 @ 15:09

    I learned to cope with the loss of modern conveniences while living in a hurricane prone area, motorcycling and traveling in a VW bus. I always kept a black trash bag at hand for heating water. I would fill it halfway, put it in the sun and I’d have hot water within the hour. I could get in the bag, drawing it up around me and wash myself and my clothes in semi-privacy. Remember, there is no such thing as a “hot water heater”; they heat cold water.

  • jan pelmulder Jan 13, 2015 @ 23:18

    I liked your suggestions but laughed about the manual can opener. I’m of the older generation that hasn’t moved on to the electric can opener, so no problem. We were living in the center of the 1994 earthquake in Northridge and didn’t have power or water for over a week. We had plenty of stored water and a camp stove to cook on but it was a wake-up call to buy a generator. That may not be compatible with your philosophy but we moved it over with us and have used it several times. I can easily live without lights and the computer but hate to loose food in the refrigerator and freezer.

  • Angi @ SchneiderPeeps Jan 9, 2015 @ 5:59

    Your can opener comment made me chuckle. I once had a friend tell me she had never met anyone that didn’t have an electric can opener. I’m so glad that I could show her the new-fangled manual can opener gadget ;-).

    Our big issue with losing electricity is our water well. We really need to either put up some solar panels for it, get a generator or install a hand pump.

    • Kris Bordessa Jan 9, 2015 @ 7:08

      I’d like to know what can opener you use/love. I’m looking for a quality replacement. And yes – when we had a well, that was always a concern. Our water catchment tank is above ground. There wouldn’t be much *pressure, but we can access it easily.

      • KC Dec 26, 2015 @ 15:19

        I’ve tried lots of can openers that just stopping working after awhile, lots of name brands. The one I have now continues to work and is over two years old, it’s from Target by Giada de Laurentis.

        Overhead college kids in the grocery store and they were selecting the pop top cans because none of them knew how to use a manual opener! Help!

        • Kris Bordessa Dec 27, 2015 @ 8:26

          Thanks for the recommendation. I have such a hard time with can openers. And *crazy about those college kids!

          • Amy Sep 15, 2018 @ 8:00

            I realize that this post is a few years old but I really like the pampered chef manual can opener. We have had ours for years.

          • Kris Bordessa Sep 16, 2018 @ 9:40

            Good to know – thanks!

    • Beth Backen Oct 12, 2020 @ 16:58

      So funny how we get used to things. We had an electric can opener when I was a kid, but I’ve never owned one as an adult – I actually haven’t thought about electric can openers in years. I’m sure I have other electronic gadgets that I would be lost without – but can opener is one I don’t miss.

  • Melissa Jan 9, 2015 @ 4:07

    Good for you for being so prepared! We were without power for a few hours a couple of weeks ago and my mind ran wild! You know, we think, “Oh, I could do it, no biggie!” but we are so conditioned to have all of our conveniences, hot water included, that I imagine it really does wear on you pretty quickly. So, it’s definitely time for us to get more prepared for any potential power outage! Thanks for sharing your experiences!

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