Living on the Gulf Coast my entire life, I’ve learned how to prepare for hurricanes. During the recent hard freeze (worst in thirty years), millions of people unexpectedly lost power. Fortunately, I am mostly prepared year-round. Over the years, I have seen so many lists of what to buy to prepare for disasters, and the lists are usually expensive. Even though I have spent a little money on preparedness, I focus more on reducing my losses.
I try to prevent food spoilage by keeping several containers (some are pictured) of ice in my freezer. Plus, that’s where I store ice packs meant for ice chests. After four days without power (and only opening my fridge once to get batteries and a few other things), my little containers of milk were still mostly frozen. Everything else was fine. Since I don’t use ice, I removed my ice maker probably ten years ago to increase freezer space. On the rare occasion that I want ice, I use plastic ice trays. During hurricane season, I try not to have ice cream or too many TV dinners in my freezer. I mainly use my refrigerator for leftovers, fruit, and salad ingredients. For energy efficiency, I also keep a lot of liquids in it (i.e. water and alcohol). I only had to dispose of an ounce or two of milk that was in my refrigerator.
When lightning is too close to my house, I unplug almost all of my electronics. For example, I unplug my TV, computer, and items connected to each such as my internet modem. It doesn’t take much time since all connected items are on the same surge protectors. I have seen the damage caused when lightning strikes a house, and surge protectors are not rated for that voltage. When there is a chance my house will be flooded, I remove all electronics off of the floor, and I place other at-risk items on top of couches, counters, and beds.
I keep important documents in a water-proof, fire-proof safe. I also keep my digital documents and computer backups in there.
Last week was the first time in my life that I had to worry about my pipes bursting. Even though I know how to shut off the main water valve to my house, I decided not to shut if off since the forecasted temperature was in the teens. I let my faucets drip instead, and it apparently helped. It seems that the large amount of insulation in my attic actually saved my pipes. If it were colder, like up north, I would have shut off my water. I might next time just in case. I was more worried about my pipes than myself. After all, it is much easier to be warm in the winter than be cool in the summer.
I keep quite a bit of non-perishable food in my pantry year-round. Every time something is the right price, I stock up on it. Fortunately, I am not a foodie, my needs are simple, and I regularly eat the same items. While my power was out, I had no milk in my breakfast cereal. Instead of peanut butter on toast for lunch, I had peanut butter on saltine crackers. Dinner is usually my biggest meal, but I had more peanut butter on saltine crackers. I thought I would be hungry, but I was not, and I attribute it to two things. I wasn’t as active, and I wasn’t drinking alcohol. I know alcohol makes me hungry, and that was my primary reason for avoiding it while I had no power.
Even though I do not usually drink bottled water, I keep it in stock for emergencies. For example, we were under a boil notice for several days. Like everything else that I buy, I wait for it to be on sale. I think my last case was $0.99. Once the water is too far past its expiration date, I don’t consume it, but I will use it for other things. Many people think bottled water does not expire, but the plastic breaks down and releases toxins into the water. For the past couple of years, I have been trying to remember to drink a bottle occasionally so less of it will expire.
I keep batteries in stock, but I don’t keep as many as I have in the past. I became frustrated with discarding unused batteries that expired. I also started keeping them in the refrigerator so they would hopefully last longer. I now know to get them out of the fridge before a potential power outage since I might want some, and I generally refuse to open my fridge during a power outage. Most states have a sales tax holiday for back-to-school shopping. Texas also has a sales tax holiday for emergency supplies at the beginning of hurricane season. That is generally when I buy batteries. In addition to saving sales tax, they’re usually on sale, and I usually have a coupon. I try to remove batteries from electronics that I rarely use since they frequently leak after they expire.
I have a large number of candles in my house, but I do not burn them. Most of them are decorative, and I had a bad candle experience many years ago. Safety tip: never burn a gel candle. Fortunately, I do have several that I am willing to burn. I only burned them on my empty kitchen counter, and I stayed at (or on) the counter while they burned. I noticed that candles with clear containers produce much more light. If I really wanted to heat a can of chili, I could have used a tea light candle with the fondue pot that I’ve never used.
I do not have a generator, and I have no plans to buy one any time soon. Several years ago, I decided I would buy a natural gas generator when I win the lotto. My first extended power outage (in 2008) only lasted 24 hours. My last power outage (in 2017) lasted 32.5 hours, and this outage was 86.25 hours. This was the first time in my life that a fireplace would have been useful, and I didn’t want one because it was a waste of space. My house got down to 48 degrees, but I had no problem staying warm. It was just very dark (pitch black) and eerily quiet.
Fortunately, my personal life is not dependent on technology (unlike my work life). I did not miss the internet. I texted a couple of people so they would know I was okay, but I limited my cell phone use so I wouldn’t drain the battery in case I had an emergency. I also changed the battery saving feature on my cell from medium to maximum. After a few days, I recharged my cell using a laptop. For me, the worst part about being powerless was the silence. I always have music or movies on for background noise. On the third night, I finally replaced the batteries in my portable CD player so I had music the rest of the time, and I was really excited. Previously, I used my clock/radio sparingly (trying to get news) since it uses an expensive type of backup battery that I only buy for my smoke detectors.
Are you prepared for a disaster? If not, I hope this helps.
Good luck and be safe!