Survival Tips for a Winter Power Outage
We recently had our power go out for a couple of days in the middle of the Winter. This is the worst possible time to have a blackout, but because of snow storms and ice storms, it’s not uncommon for electricity to go out during the winter.
Here’s some tips I learned about how to stay warm, safe, and sane during a winter power outage.
Perhaps our best discovery was this portable indoor safe propane heater – it helped us stay a bit warmer!
Tip: Get supplies before you need them. If there’s a widespread blackout, the stores will quickly be sold out of emergency supplies.
An LED Lantern is invaluable – Much better light than candles or a flashlight
I thought candles and flashlights would be good enough for a power outage…. boy, was I wrong! You have to light A LOT of candles to get enough light to read by, and then there’s always the worry of them tipping over and catching the place on fire. And as for flashlights, they work well, but there are two problems with using flashlights for the main power source – 1) You have to hold them all of the time or prop them up somehow. 2) Many of them (especially the really bright cree ones) burn through batteries really fast.
This lantern is a bestseller on Amazon, and I think it’s because it provides bright light for many hours on only 3 D batteries. Furthermore, it has a LED light that flashes when not on, so if the power goes out you can locate it. It has high/low/strobe settings and handles and a hook. It gets great reviews and is one of the best LED lanterns you can buy for an emergency.
Mummy Sleeping Bag for Really Cold Temperatures
When the power went out recently, it reached 23°F outside and 43°F inside on the first night with no heat. We piled on a ton of blankets on the bed, put on hats and wore out clothes to bed.
I had a sleeping bag, but my husband did not. When the power came back on, one of the first things we bought for him was a sleeping bag! In my sleeping bag under all of the blankets, I actually got too warm, and he was still struggling to stay warm. Your body heat builds up in a sleeping bag over time, so it really does get quite toasty.
This one gets good reveiws and is a pretty good price, but there are others. They sell XL ones for bigger people and youth ones for kids.
Sleeping well is essential to staying sane and happy during a power outage. Poor sleep can diminish thinking abilities and cause grumpiness, lower your immune system, and generally make your health worse.
More Sleeping Bag Sizes
Extra large sleeping bag for tall people.
Sleeping bag for kids.
Charge your phone while the power is out!
Solar/Hand Crank Radio with USB Charger
We experienced a common problem…. No way to charge a phone or tablet with the power out! Actually – we did have one way – we could plug it into the car charger to charge it. The problem with this solution though is we either have to sit in the car while it charges, or we have to be away from the phone.
This solar and hand-crank powered charger is a better solution. It will charge any USB device. Even if it charges it slowly, a slow charge is better than a slow drain of the battery.
Not to mention that this also has AM/FM/NOAA Weather Radio and a flashlight!
I own an older version that’s similar to this but doesn’t have the USB phone charger. My old version works to power the radio by hand crank surprisingly well, but I think I’ll be upgrading to this one.
Indoor Safe Propane Heater – Keep your room warm while the power is out!
This Mr. Heater Buddy propane radiant heater is safe to use indoors because it was a low oxygen sensor shut-off. This means it will never run in conditions with low oxygen, which means that it won’t produce dangerous carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is only produced in low-oxygen conditions, which this won’t run in.
We bought this in desperation and we were pleasantly surprised by the amount of heat it produces. It takes the chill out of the room. It can also be used in a garage or other location to prevent pipes from freezing during an emergency power outage.
It will run 3-6 hours on a small 16oz bottle of propane. Or, you can hook up a larger tank and it will run for days.
Outdoor Battery Powered Light for Security – Discourage Thieves!
One of our concerns during a blackout is security. Usually we have lights outside, but with the electricity out, there’s no light, which means thieves can steal or break-in without being seen. Darkness invites trouble. So to discourage would-be robbers, we might put up one of these lights that will still work during a power outage.
Battery Operated Home Security System – Cheap Alarm for Peace of Mind
This set of door and window alarms is a great deterrent! Unlike some security systems, this works even when the power is out, and there’s no monthly bill! If someone opens a door or window that’s armed with these, a loud siren will go off. This will hopefully scare off the criminal and, if you are home, alert you of the intruder.
If you are using propane or kerosene inside, get this for your safety!
There are indoor-safe propane heaters and stoves, and then there are ones meant for outdoors that you may decide to use indoors despite the warnings… Well the main danger is carbon monoxide, a deadly gas. Even if you use an indoor-safe propane heater or stove, I recommend you get a carbon monoxide alarm like this one just as a safety precaution. Better to rely on two safety precautions when your life depends on it than to trust in just one.
A few more tips for coping with a blackout
Put your food outside before it spoils! If it’s cold enough outside, put your refrigerated and frozen food out there. With the power out, refrigerated food will only stay good for about 4 hours. Food in your freezer may stay good for 24-48 hours depending on how full it is. If it’s under 40 degrees, you can put refrigerated food outside. If it’s under 32 degrees, you can put frozen food outside… However, depending on how cold it is, you may need to pack it together well and keep it stored a little distance from your house so that the warmth of your house doesn’t cause it to go above freezing temps.
Cold Batteries If a battery is getting low on power, cold temperatures might be enough to make it go bad. Try to keep replacement batteries for anything important. Oddly enough, the cold temperatures made my car fob battery die…
Store up on Comfort Food Chocolate, soda, canned food that you actually like, etc… A big part of mentally surviving (even enjoying!) a blackout is having some pleasant stuff. During our recent blackout, we made cold coffee drinks from instant coffee and liquid creamer.
Never let your gas tank go below half. Keep gas in your car, at all times. You can always go in your car to stay warm. Or, you can drive somewhere that has power.
Green lasers don’t work well in the cold. If you have a green laser sight on your gun, it may not work if it gets cold. Go with red laser instead.
Wrist Watch with Light – It’s somewhat reassuring to know the time in the middle of the night.
I own this watch, and I kept it on my wrist while I slept…. That way when I woke up I could push the indiglo button to look at the time. It made me feel good to know how long I had been sleeping for – or not sleeping for – and I found the light feature to be really handy. It’s just bright enough to see the time, but not so bright that it wakes up my sleeping spouse. It also has an alarm and date function. I kept forgetting what day of the week it was, but this little watch solved that problem.
Electricity and The Telephone – Your phone might still work
If you have a home phone that’s corded, like this one, you may still be able to use it during a power outage. Corded landline phones are powered by the phone line, which is often unaffected by a blackout.
Tip: If all you have are wireless phones, they will not work until the power comes back on. While the power is off, it is a good idea to take the phones off of their charging base. The charging base may actually drain power from the phone during a blackout.
Disposable Silverwear, Cups, & Paper Plates are Useful!
You won’t feel like doing dishes in cold water…
It’s convenient to have plastic silverware, plastic cups, and paper plates. Of course you can wash stuff by hand in cold water, but it’s sure not fun.
Helpful Links – Learn how to plan for an emergency, what supplies you should have, and more.
- Refrigerated Food and Power Outages: When to Save and When to Throw Out | FoodSafety.gov
Refrigerated Food and Power Outages: When to Save and When to Throw Out
- Frozen Food and Power Outages: When to Save and When to Throw Out | FoodSafety.gov
Frozen Food and Power Outages: When to Save and When to Throw Out
- The 10 Rules For Your Emergency Food Pantry
Those of you who plan to take the first steps toward preparing for emergencies may feel a bit overwhelmed at where to begin. After all, there is a lot of food to choose from at the grocery stores.
- Food Safety: Stock an Emergency Food Pantry
Nature can strike quickly with floods, tornadoes, hurricanes and other disasters. Stock an emergency food pantry.
- Emergency Preparedness and Response
Learn how to store up on food, drinking water, and more.
- Survive a Power Blackout – Wired How-To Wiki
Learn what to do when the power goes out, and what supplies you should buy to have on hand.