When it comes to worst case scenarios, it’s hard to beat the Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) and many people wonder how to make a Faraday cage to protect their electronic devices . From my book, Survival Mom:
I’m not ashamed to say that reading One Second After by William Forstchen scared the living daylights out of me. For weeks, I didn’t want to travel more than 15 or 20 miles from home. The novel details life in a small North Carolina town following an EMP, an electromagnetic pulse. An EMP can be caused by the detonation of a large bomb, nuclear or otherwise, in the atmosphere, miles above land. Its pulse wave can easily cover a continent and destroy electronic components in computers, engines, power plants, and solar panels alike. An event like this has never happened on a large scale, and there are differing opinions as to the exact consequences, but one thing is certain: In a matter of moments, life as we know it would be gone forever. Our closest star, the sun, could also do extensive damage in the form of a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME). The results would be similar.
One recent TV series, Revolution on NBC, portrays life 15 years following some type of EMP/CME event, and it isn’t a pretty picture. Life without modern technology would be deadly for tens of millions of people. This was recognized in the official government EMP report. Again from Survival Mom:
Some might describe a post-EMP world as going back to the nineteenth century, but I think in some ways it would be far worse. We no longer have the tools, skills, knowledge, and, in some cases, raw materials to make the most basic tools for survival. How many blacksmiths do you know? Do you happen to own a pair of oxen and a wagon for transportation? You might know how to sew, but can you create cloth from raw cotton or sheep’s wool? The moment of an EMP burst freezes time. The food, medications, supplies, and tools in our homes may be the only ones we have for a long time. If you have 9 bottles of Advil, that’s all you may ever have.
There are so many unknowns when it comes to EMP/CME, but one way to prepare is to build one or more containers to shield important items from the effects of 50,000 volts of power.
These containers are called Faraday cages and were first invented by Michael Faraday, a top-notch scientist of the mid-1800’s. Fortunately for us, they’re pretty simple to make.
My friend Rob Hanus of The Preparedness Podcast and author of Surviving EMP, has spent a good deal of time researching the facts and myths of EMP/CME, and here are his simple instructions for making your own Faraday cage.
The hardest part about protecting your equipment is simply doing it. A few rolls of heavy duty aluminum foil, some cardboard boxes and a galvanized steel trash can are enough to create your own Faraday cage and protect your electronics from EMP.
The simplest and cheapest way to build your own Faraday container is to use heavy duty aluminum foil. By completely wrapping an item in several layers of foil, you can protect that item from damaging effects of EMP. Keep in mind that every side of the item needs to have a minimum of three layers, so by the time you’re done wrapping it in the foil, some sides may have more than three layers. This is fine, so long as you have no less than three layers of HD aluminum foil between any part of the item and the open air.
By itself, these three or four layers of foil are probably enough to protect your electronic gear, but when dealing with a TEOTWAWKI* scenario, there are no replacements, nor second chances, so it pays to do it right the first time. Simply adding more than four layers of foil to the device is probably overkill and may not add any more protection than the initial three or four layers. However, you can increase the effectiveness of your Faraday protection by layering, or nesting them.
For example, place your foil wrapped device into a shoe box or other cardboard box that is wrapped in foil, then place that box inside a galvanized steel trash can with a tight-fitting lid. For convenience, you may want to use several smaller steel cans with lids rather than just one large one. With your devices protected by three layers like this, they’re likely to survive even an enhanced EMP attack with a stronger electromagnetic pulse.
To get started on your own Faraday cage/container, you’ll need these supplies:
The procedure is very simple. First, wrap an item in cloth. This will add a layer that will isolate the item from the foil and will also help to keep any sharp edges or corners of the item from puncturing the aluminum foil.
Next, wrap the object with plastic wrap or place in a plastic bag and then wrap with at least 3 layers of foil. Use your hands to gently mold the foil each time, making sure there are no holes or rips in the foil. Every bit of the item’s surface should be covered with at least 3 layers of foil.
Place your wrapped items in the cardboard box and then wrap the entire box with two layers of foil. Layering for EMP/CME is just as important as layering for winter weather! Be sure that no foil used to wrap the outside of the box touches any of the foil within the box. When your box is wrapped and finished, store it off the ground.
If you want to store large items or have numerous items to store, completely line a galvanized steel trash with cardboard. Make sure there are no gaps. The foil wrapped items cannot touch the metal of the trash can. Make sure the lid of the can fits tightly, and you’re good to go.
Admit it, you have been thinking about it. Off the grid living.
Late at night, at the end of a long day, you have pictured your life off grid. Images of Little House on the Prairie come to mind. Maybe you ponder becoming a long bearded man living in the mountains, content to be a hermit.
You are not alone in your thoughts, as more people are choosing an off grid lifestyle. Some are able to escape the noisy concrete city and move to quiet acreage in the Midwest or another idyllic country setting. However, for many, like me, work and family obligations make that impossible, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do our best to live as off the grid as possible.
Living off grid is defined as being self-sufficient of municipal utilities, such as water, natural gas, electricity, sewer and trash services. Choosing to live an urban off grid life is possible and does have many advantages.
One advantage is knowing that you and your family can be prepared and will be able to survive quite well when a disaster happens. Many have been able to save money on their utilities and purchases. Others have found peace and confidence in their new learned skills along their path to grid-less-ness, but do not conjure up a romanticized version of happily churning your own butter and building an outhouse. Off-grid living, whether urban, suburban, or rural, isn’t the easiest choice you’ll ever make!
The type of home in which you are living determines, in large part, the extent to which you can go grid-free. If you are in a home with a yard, it is easier to become more self-sufficient. Apartment life can accommodate a degree of off-grid living, just in a smaller scale.
An advantage for both types of homes is that everything you normally need in the course of a day or week is close to home. Walking or biking around town provides great exercise and saves money on gas, vehicle maintenance and insurance. Bikes can be inexpensive and easy to repair. A wagon or cart can be added to the back.
Public transportation, like the bus system, can be very economical. Try the various methods of transportation your city offers and know what works best for you. Look into monthly passes, if used regularly, it may save you money. Pay attention to where you go and its location. Combine trips, shop in your local neighborhood and learn of new activities in your community for your family. Libraries, parks, swimming pools, local colleges and recreation centers offer free or low cost entertainment and activities. All of these options will allow you to not be reliant on your gasoline/diesel powered vehicles and the supply of fuel into your community. It will also help you to save money.
Being independent of all utilities may not be possible, but minimizing usage and creating your own electricity can be. Solar panels are one alternative and can be installed on various types of homes. Be aware that an entire house solar system will be tied to the grid and will be vulnerable to the effects of an EMP, should that ever occur.
Another way to save money and energy is to minimizing your electricity usage. Some easy suggestions are:
• Unplugging everything that isn’t currently being used. This will help you realize what you rely on the most and then find ways of coping without that appliance, electronic, or whatever.
• Turning off lights. Try to go for 48 hours without using any lamps or electric lights of any kind. This will help you figure out what kind of lighting you would need in a grid-down emergency.
• Throwing on an extra layer of clothing on in the winter
• Hand washing clothes
• Hanging clothes on a clothes line
• Insulating your attic
• Wash dishes by hand
• Close unused air vents
• Swap regular bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs
We need to use water for cooking, cleaning and washing, we just need to be wise about our water usage. Whether your water comes from a well or the city, less is better. Try some of these simple methods to reduce your dependence and cost of water:
• Short showers, maybe shower at the gym. A 5-minute shower can save you up to 1,000 gallons per month.
• Have a 5 gallon bucket in the shower to hold any water that is running while you find the right temperature for your shower. Use this water for plants or flushing the toilet.
• Keep a clean dishpan in the kitchen sink. It will hold the running water you use when washing hands and rinsing veggies.
• Use this water for your garden or washing dishes.
• Install water saving shower heads, faucets and toilets.
• Use a rain barrel system to collect water for your garden.
Begin to minimize your dependence on grocery stores by growing your own food as much as possible. Start small with just 1 vegetable and 1 herb. If the plants don’t seem to be thriving, try using more or less water, a fertilizer (consult a nursery), but be sure to make notes. Growing food to any large extent is extremely difficult and can take years to master.
Apartment balconies can hold pots for vegetables and you can build vertical growing systems. In a home, you can plant in flowerbeds, allot a spot in your yard for a garden or add containers for additional space. Learn how to vertical garden and utilize the fence and exterior walls of your home. If you do not have the space to garden, consider community gardens. The are a low cost option and give you an opportunity to know your neighbors. Another option is to arrange with a neighbor that, in exchange for the use of their backyard for your garden, you’ll give them a percentage of the harvest and cover the cost of water, fertilizer, seeds, mulch, and the like.
Choosing to become more self sufficient and rely less on the grid can be an overwhelming thought. It is a lifestyle choice, a commitment to use less, save money and prepare. Take these suggestion and implement them into your life one by one. You will find more money in your budget to stock up on food and other emergency supplies for your family as you implement urban living off-grid. Maybe this will increase your savings so you can get that acreage in your favorite rural countryside.
*Check with city and county codes before going partial or off grid.
What is an EMP and how does it work? An Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) is a burst of electromagnetic radiation resulting from large explosions , especially nuclear explosions, or from a magnetic field fluctuation. EMPs can produce damaging current and voltage surges within electrical systems.
There are currently two main potential causes for a large EMP in our modern society;
1. HEMP – High-Altitude Electromagnetic Pulse created by a nuclear device detonated several hundred kilometers above the Earth’s surface
2. CME – Coronal Mass Ejection from a solar flare creating rapidly changing electric and magnetic fields in Earth’s magnetic field.
The first true tests of HEMP devices occurred in 1962, an event called Starfish Prime, when a 1.44 megaton nuclear device was detonated 250 miles above the surface of the Earth over the Pacific Ocean. This extremely small device (in today’s terms) knocked out streetlights and other electrical equipment in Hawaii, 898 miles away.
In that same year the Soviet Union detonated a much smaller device (only 300 kilotons) in space over Kazakhstan. The resulting EMP was reported to be many times greater than that of the US tests over the Pacific Ocean due to the land mass below and the stronger magnetic fields in that specific area.
According to scientists within the US government a large nuclear device detonated roughly 300 miles above Kansas could result in an EMP spanning the entire mass of the continental United States.
The first thing you need to know about a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) is that not all Solar Flares result in a CME, and not all CME’s are the result of a Solar Flare. The most likely cause of a CME is a solar flare however, and on average, the larger the flare the larger the potential CME. CME’s occur quite often and even when they strike the Earth they cause little to no damage.
That being said, a CME of large enough scale striking the Earth’s atmosphere could create the disruptions in the electric and magnetic fields of Earth similar to those created by a HEMP and potentially cause the Earth’s magnetic field to shift its alignment unpredictably.
In 1859 an enormous CME caused what we now refer to as a Solar Superstorm. This event caused the northern lights to be seen as far south as Cuba and made compasses and telegraphs fail across the globe.
The odds of an HEMP attack upon the United States are unknown, even though we can answer the question, what is an EMP and how does it work? Up until the recent past, very few nations had the capability of an attack, but as each year passes and the knowledge needed to complete such a mission becomes more available, the odds increase. Currently, China, Russia, North Korea, and likely, Iran, have sophisticated weapons that have been designed specifically to create an EMP.
One likely scenario involving an EMP attack would be carried out by a terrorist element, such as ISIS or a similar, radical group.
The odds of a massive CME striking the Earth are much more difficult to calculate. The easy odds are that the chances of it happening are 100%. It has happened before, it will happen again. The hard odds are whether or not it happens at a time when the human civilization cannot withstand it…like now.
The easiest way to protect your devices from the effects of EMP is to construct a Faraday Cage. In simplistic terms you can build a Faraday Cage by constructing a metal container that can be closed relatively tightly. Inside this container you would install some form of insulating material such as Styrofoam. As long as the container closes relatively tightly and the insulating material covers all metal surfaces, any items inside the container are reasonably well protected from the effects of am EMP. When the EMP strikes the cage it will simply conduct itself around the metal exterior, not passing through the insulation to the devices inside. If the container is open, the EMP will certainly have a good chance of striking the items inside.
Faraday Cages can be scaled up large enough to protect items as large as vehicles as long as proper insulation is used. A large metal shipping container insulated with several inches of Styrofoam insulation could easily protect hundreds or even thousands of small devices or many devices ranging in size.
The effects of a massive CME striking the Earth vary among sources. As a prepper it is my inclination to prepare myself and my family for a worst case scenario. In a worst case scenario the handheld electronics you have protected in your Faraday Cages will most likely be the least of your worries. However, they are very useful as sources for information, education, and entertainment.
The moment a large EMP wipes out earthly electronics there will be massive death. Everyone utilizing any method of flight may suddenly find themselves falling to the earth. Although no hard numbers are available for how many people are in the air at any given moment, it is probably close to 1 million.
At the same moment it is quite possible that all vehicles travelling will suddenly lose power. Many will not be able to brake or steer properly, creating massive casualties globally. Millions of people worldwide that depend on machines to perform life support functions will begin to perish within moments of the EMP.
Immediately after the EMP, the world’s supply chains are finished. Famine stricken areas around the world will have received their last shipment, drought stricken areas their last water. In the United States grocery stores will most likely have stocked their shelves for the last time and larger non-farming based communities will begin a rapid decline. In a matter of days the socio-economic societies of Earth will crumble and fail.
Most estimates state that the loss of power would last weeks or months until power is restored. I don’t believe these estimates to be accurate and feel that with all of the other concerns that will be present, re-establishing power across the country will be low of the list. There are also numerous variables that would affect the electromagnetic wave.
Begin your preparations now by becoming self-sufficient. Develop your own power sources via solar and wind power devices. Ensure you have all of the necessary knowledge and materials to repair these devices after an EMP and obviously ensure the spare parts are protected against EMP. Learn to live off of food that you have grown and processed animals you have hunted or bred for livestock. In other words you need to begin preparing now to do it on your own.
It was the second time my power went out in one day. The first time was at 2 in the morning when a nearby fuse or transformer blew, causing a power outage. Other than the backyard solar light glowing, the entire neighborhood was cast into darkness.
A few hours later, our power was restored, and the bedside clock started blinking. The sun wasn’t up yet, but the house soon became alive with overhead lights, bacon on the stove, a hot shower, and the screech of my ironing board as I unfolded it and plugged in the iron.
After my husband left for work, the computer and TV abruptly flickered off on its own, and the room was silent again.
I sat in the dark and wondered at the cause of the outages and why I felt so helpless. For years I had been stocking up on candles, oil lanterns, and imagining life without electricity, and instead of feeling prepared, I was paralyzed and rooted to my couch.
Although I had grown up for a season in a one room cabin without utilities or indoor plumbing, the bulk of my experience was volunteering for several years at an 1800’s living history museum.
Once or twice a week my family would put on our pioneer clothes, load up the car with supplies, and spend the day on the prairie, cooking from a wood stove or open fire, sewing, reading books, and fanning our faces from the front porch.
We learned to appreciate the hard work involved in gardening, collecting firewood, and cooking and cleaning from scratch. With no electricity and running water, it was a sun-up to sun-down type of existence.
By the end of the day, we were anxious to return to the 21st Century. Walking into our modern day home, we were greeted with air conditioning, plush furniture, computers, TV, fast food, the refrigerator, microwave, the faucet, and a toilet that flushed—it was pure luxury.
We endured the primitive lifestyle and 100 degree weather because we knew it was temporary. After an exhausting day on the farm, we’d reward ourselves by stopping off at the convenience store or drive-thru for an ice cold soda pop.
Preparing a quick dinner at home with ease, I was thankful for my generation. But at the same time, the bouncing back and forth into the 19th Century was a nudge to not take my privileges for granted.
I gradually started making some changes at home. I wanted my kitchen to be functional like our ancestor’s had been. This meant no more decorations taking up needed shelf space because it looked cute or placing all my dependency on an electrical cord. A few of the changes I made:
Imitating our ancestors who prepared for emergencies and the change of seasons, I, too, took advantage of the seasonal sales at the farmer’s market and grocery stores, stocking up on bulk and dry goods, canning my own soups and meat, and taking advantages of the holiday clearances.
As I faced my 2nd power outage that morning, I realized my helplessness was due to my dependency.
My entire day was planned by the instant gratification of electricity:
…and now my day was shot.
But more debilitating was the unknown. Like every other power outage, I didn’t know when life would resume to normal.
Although I was inconvenienced that morning, I was equipped and capable of stepping back into the 1800’s.
The thought crossed my mind that if I could still experience helplessness even though I was prepared for the long term, I could only imagine the feelings of hopelessness for those who are inadequately prepared for the short term.
What if in a worst case scenario, our power was off long term?
Living by the motto to not focus on the problem but to look for a solution, this is how I would approach my original itinerary.
When I read about massive power shortages in other places, the long gas lines, and the empty store shelves, I am reminded of how dependent our society has become.
My question is: Are you empowered enough to face a short or long term power shortage, or will you too be left feeling powerless?
More than ever, our civilization relies on electrical power for everything: lighting, entertainment, communications, security, heating / cooling, cooking, food refrigeration, the list goes on and on. Our reliance on the electrical grid has made electricity critical to our lives.
Short power outages (under 12 hours) have resulted in widespread traffic chaos, hospital evacuations, and even civil disorder. Multi-day outages can adversely affect water and sewage systems, supermarkets, gas stations, and cellular phone systems.
Even big cities like New York can suffer from power outages. The massive East Coast blackout of 2003, stranded thousands of people in airports and subways, hospitals were affected, and some took advantage of the crisis with a fair amount of looting.
The subject of how to generate and store power is huge and I am only scratching the surface here in this article. As a result, I’m not discussing solar, wind, or small-hydroelectric power. All three have pros and cons that are discussed at length in print and online. Here I will concentrate on what most people can easily put together in a suburban environment with a reasonable investment in time and money.
Preparing for extended power outages is a little more complicated than you’d think. These days, having a generator is hardly the ultimate in power generation…EVERYTHING in our lives consumes electricity. While you could run a generator 24 hours a day, it is a horribly inefficient waste of fuel, as well as a surefire way to piss off your neighbors and attract unwanted attention.
Any serious power outage strategy will also include one or more storage batteries, a 12 volt-to-120 volt inverter, and a quality battery charger. You can run your generator in the daytime to power appliances and charge batteries, then shut it down overnight while you quietly run your devices on the stored power in your batteries.
The electricity that comes out of your wall sockets is 120 volts, alternating current (AC). AC current is easy to transmit long distances, but cannot be stored. AC current is very dangerous if mishandled, resulting in burns, electrocution, and/or death. Conversely, direct current (DC) which is used in phone, laptop and car batteries is able to be safely and easily stored for later use. 12 volt DC current is one of the keys to emergency power.
Let’s define a few electrical terms:
AC current can be converted to DC current; we do this every day when we plug in our phone or laptop charger. DC can be converted to AC through the use of an “inverter.” To store power, we use “deep-cycle” batteries which look like car batteries but are specifically designed to efficiently take in and give back DC current. When we need AC current to run a refrigerator or lights, our inverter converts the DC current to AC.
Like generators, inverters are rated in watts, so you can easily choose the model for your needs. Deep-cycle batteries (also called RV or Marine) are rated in amp-hours. Using the formulas below, you can calculate the size and number of batteries to support your system.
If you can understand a couple of basic formulas, you are set:
Watts=Volts x Amps
All electrical devices are marked with their power requirements, allowing you to make an electricity “budget” and intelligently plan for your needs. For example, my refrigerator requires 5.0 to 6.5 amps when operating. Using the equation above we can determine the number of watts it needs: 6.5 x 120 volts= 780 watts. Here are some common wattage requirements for various appliances:
• Table lamp: 40-100 watts
• Toaster: 800 watts
• Microwave oven: 1500-2000 watts
• George Foreman grill: 800 watts
• Electric skillet: 900 watts
• Cellular phone charger: 24 watts
• Laptop AC adapter: 72-144 watts
• 42” Plasma TV: 286 watts
• Digital cable box: 40 watts
If I expected to run all of the above devices at the same time, I would need to provide up to 5,100 watts of electricity. However, if I planned ahead and was careful not to use high-wattage devices at the same time, I could get away with only half of that capacity. As you might expect, the more watts you need, the more it will cost.
So let’s build a simple system based on the above information, assuming that we will run the generator 12 hours a day (7:00 AM to 7:00 PM) and use inverter-provided power the other 12 hours. If we do all of our cooking while the generator is on, we can get along with a smaller inverter and less battery capacity for our nighttime needs. We can also freeze some ice blocks during the day, putting them in the refrigerator compartment at night and turning the fridge and freezer controls down to low at night. As long as the fridge stays closed, it will run minimally at night.
Our system will include a 3,500 Watt-rated generator ($400), a 1,600 Watt inverter ($110), two Sears Diehard Marine batteries with 180 amp-hours capacity ($220), and a Diehard automatic battery charger ($75). This is a solid, basic system that can be upgraded as needed, and will maintain your ability to communicate, cook, store food, and keep alert for emergency notifications. Don’t forget to sock away enough extension cords to reach your appliances.
Your electrical preparedness strategy is crucial to your family’s safety and comfort in a disaster. The good news is that you don’t need to be an engineer or electrician to properly prepare for when the lights go out.
After living nearly my entire life in Phoenix, I know a think or two about hot weather and what it takes to stay cool, at least cool enough to survive. I can remember running as fast as possible across blistering hot asphalt in my bare feet and
This is an excerpt from my book, Survival Mom: How to Prepare Your Family for Everyday Disasters and Worst Case Scenarios.
One of the most critical uses of electricity is staying cool in very hot weather. Our bodies can become quickly overheated, with young children and the elderly being most susceptible. I was in Chicago during one of its worst heat waves in 1995. Employees of the Hyatt Hotel where I was staying had to stand on the roof and hose down giant air-conditioning units with water in order to keep them running. In a matter of days, more than 700 people died because of this heat wave.
How did our ancestors survive, then, without air conditioning? I’ve spent my entire life in the American Southwest, and as you might expect, I have a few tricks up my sleeve when it comes to staying cool:
1. Keep spray bottles of water around and spritz faces and wrists to stay cool.
2. In the earliest morning hours, open windows to let in all that cool air. Be sure to close them again, along with all blinds and curtains, once the day begins to heat up.
3. Just before bedtime, spray bed sheets with plenty of water, aim a battery-powered fan toward your side of the bed, jump in, and go to sleep, quickly!
4. Wear bathing suits around the house.
5. If you’ll be outside, wet a bandanna, place a few ice cubes down the center, diagonally, roll it up, and tie it around your neck.
6. Check doors and windows for incoming warm air and install weather-stripping if necessary. This will do double duty in the winter, when cold air is the enemy. Duct tape can substitute for weatherstripping if you’re desperate.
7. Check the western exposure of your home. If you have windows that face west, check into inexpensive blinds from Home Depot or Lowe’s. Even aluminum foil taped over your windows (gasp!) can help keep your home cooler.
8. If you need to do outside chores, do them in the morning when the sun rises or even earlier.
9. If you must, douse your naked body with water and stand in front of a battery-operated fan. Stock up on these fans and make sure you have plenty of batteries—and please close the blinds!
10. Take a slightly warm bath, as long as there is water in the hot water heater. It will lower your body temperature, making you feel cooler longer once you get out of the tub.
11. Drink those 8 glasses of water per day.
12. Plant fast-growing shade trees, particularly on the west side of your home. If they provide shade for outside windows, so much the better. Shade = cool.
13. Most of the hot air that enters your home comes through the windows. Thermal curtains may be the solution if your home has lots of windows. If that’s not an option, try using pushpins to hang blankets over each window.
14. If you long to be outdoors, fill a kiddie pool with water, sit down, and relax. Be sure to wear sunscreen! When the water gets too warm to enjoy, use it to water the plants.
15. Don’t overexert yourself. Avoid working up a sweat, if possible. Save physical labor for the cooler parts of the day. Take a lesson from desert animals: They rest in the shade or underground during the day and come out at night.
16. Fill a tub with a few inches of water and dangle your feet in it while you read a book.
My friend, Debbie, is a fanatic about keeping her electric bills as low as possible in the summer, so she follows many of the tips above, but right around lunchtime, when the most intense heat is on its way, she and her kids head for cooler locations: the public library, movie theater, mall, a friend’s house, public swimming pool, etc.
Be aware of the signs of heatstroke:
Stay aware of the effects of heat on your own body as well as those around you. Succumbing to heat exhaustion or heat stroke means there’s one less adult for your family or group to depend on. In a grid-down scenario, it may be best to take care of many household tasks once the sun goes down.
We preppers talk a lot about water storage. Water is critical to survival and really you can’t have too much of it stored. However, in the event of a true crisis, on top of the cases of bottled water you have squirreled away, you likely already have a fairly sizeable supply of water at your fingertips.
The average water heater contains about 30 gallons of water at any given time, except perhaps right after your teenager has taken their daily 90 minute shower. For all intents and purposes, a water heater really just amounts to a giant glass and metal thermos with an attached heating element.
Homeowners should already know where their water heater is located, often in a basement or utility closet. Those who live in apartments and condos might have to do a little hunting to find theirs. Again, though, check the building basement first. If you live in a mobile home, the water heater is sometimes found behind a false wall in a closet.
Draining the water from a water heater is a fairly straightforward process. Start by turning off the water supply coming into the heater. This can be important as if the water supply becomes tainted at some point down the road, you don’t want that flowing into your water heater.
If your water heater is electric, turn off the power at the circuit breaker panel. Do this even if the power is already out in the area. The heating element inside a water heater can be come damaged if it turns on and there isn’t any water inside. If you have a gas water heater, turn the thermostat to Pilot.
Toward the bottom of the water heater, you’ll see the drain valve. It looks like a faucet. Connect a garden hose to the drain valve but do not open the valve just yet. First, open a hot water faucet in your bathtub or sink, being sure to plug the drain so as to save any water that comes out, of course.
Run the hose from the drain valve to a bucket, then open the valve. This water may still be rather hot, so be careful. It is best to have several water containers at the ready as, again, you have about 30 gallons or so of water to drain. You don’t have to drain it all at once but that might be ideal, depending on the circumstances.
As you get the last of the water out, you may notice some sediment. This stuff isn’t going to harm you, it is merely mineral deposits. Just let it settle to the bottom of your bucket.
When it comes time to put your water heater back into use, start by making sure the drain valve is closed. Turn on the water supply going into the water heater and let it fill. Turn on the power or turn the thermostat back up. Once the temperature is back to where it should be, you’ll need to test the pressure relief valve on the side of the water heater. The instructions for doing so should be printed right on the heater or on a tag attached to that valve. If it doesn’t test properly, get in touch with a licensed plumber to get it fixed ASAP.
There’s one thing people enjoy doing when the power is out, and if you don’t believe me just show up to the nearest hospital 9 months later. There is often about a 20% increase in babies born, or in Hurricane Sandy’s case, about a 30% increase.
After natural disasters that force many to stay at home, and large metro area power outages that strand millions, about 9 months later there is a mini baby boom. – Florida News Journal
Nothing is wrong with enjoying each other when the power is out, but what do you do with the rest of your time?
After going through our first hurricane and losing power, I quickly realized practically EVERYTHING I do requires electricity. Entertaining kids was difficult (they’re iPad addicts), I couldn’t get any work done without a computer, and even chatting with friends was not an option without cell phones working.
With hurricane season here and the chance of being without power increasing, you might want to have a few ideas up your sleeve so you’re not twiddling your thumbs. It gets real boring – believe me! Every day without electricity felt like 100, especially when your neighbors get power back before you do and you can’t help but stare at them in envy!
I won’t lie, this is the first thing I did when the power went out, but it’s usually what I do whenever I have some extra time. 😉 Go ahead and let yourself relax and catch-up on sleep. Let’s face it, most of us could use a little more!
Kuddos to you if you know your neighbors already, but if you don’t, get out of your house and meet them. There really isn’t a better time to get to know your neighbors than when the power is out and everyone is forced outside anyways.
With Wii’s, iPads, and Play Stations, we sometimes forget that not all games that aren’t hooked to an outlet exist. Find some fun games your family enjoys, or be creative and invent your own!
When’s the last time you wrote a letter, with a pen and paper? I”m sure you can think of someone who would appreciate knowing you were thinking of them. You can also take this time to write in (or start) a journal!
Learning a new language requires plenty of quiet, thinking time and lots of time for practicing new words. In the power-free hours following a major storm or some other disruption, why not learn a little Spanish? Or French? Norwegian or German? There are 2 websites that I recommend for this purpose: Mango Languages and DuoLingo. Both also have handy phone apps, and as long as you have a small generator or solar chargers that can keep your computer and/or smartphone charged, you can begin working on becoming multi-lingual!
This is a great time to take the kids outside and teach them a thing or two about survival (or even work on a few skills yourself)! Here’s a list of 48 skills you can print out and have ready for when the power goes out.
With Audible and e-books becoming so popular, not as many people have a library of books in their home. If this is the case for you, make sure you get a few books to read because they will become your best friend! Need some ideas? Here’s a list of books related to survival and prepping and another list of similar books for kids of all ages.
By the way, kids of all ages enjoy being read to. A chapter book, such as The Hobbit or Hatchet are great for family bonding time, since everyone is enjoying the experience together and will have plenty to talk about after each chapter.
Chances are you’ll start to realize you don’t have everything you need – especially when the stores are closed! This is a great time to take inventory of what you have (or don’t have) and make a shopping list.
Go on a walk, take a bike ride, work in the garden, or even play flashlight tag once it gets dark. Sometimes we don’t appreciate the outdoors enough – I know I don’t!
Sometimes getting organized is one of those things that keeps getting pushed down to the bottom of your to-do list! Well…when you don’t have anything else to do, take advantage and finally get it crossed off!
Don’t forget to make a printed list of all the things you can do when the power is out, because you won’t have the internet when it does! Better yet, put a box together filled with games, books, and this list for the times you’re without power.
Going without electricity for a few days can throw off the whole balance of a family. When living in an apartment or condo there are simple ways to keep the family in clean clothes, power electronics and provide decent cooking options. You just have to know a few things about preparedness for power outages.
Most apartments or condos don’t come with an emergency power generator. Not only are most generators are expensive to buy (portable or not) but they also require fuel. Between the two, that’s a good deal of resources and space used up in your home. Luckily there are other ways around a generator.
I have seen so many things that can be run on a car battery. I have even been able to find an adapter that has electric sockets so items can be plugged in. If you have access to your car battery you can run anything from a shower to a stove. With the above mentioned adapter you could even run an electric fan if you needed to.
When you choose to use a car battery as a power source, you have the ability to use the item you are powering without needing to keep a generator running. This is particularly helpful if you have built your own generator. Best of all, a car battery can be charged and used again.
Solar power can be useful for charging those little things we have trouble living without in our lives. Depending on the size of the solar charger you can power anything from a phone to a laptop. Some solar chargers are also made to be mobile. They come in the form of a pad you can roll up and take with you or are small enough to store in a purse. If you rely on electronic devices to stay in touch with people, organize your schedule, pay bills, or for your livelihood, this is an important part of preparedness for power outages.
YoutTube has a large number of creative ways to produce power using treadmills, exercise bikes and mountain bikes. Rather than chemical energy (in the form of fuel) you are using kinetic energy (in the form of body movement) to power a device or to charge a car battery (a car battery is fully charged around 12.6 volts).
Building these generators may require other components such as energy adapters, alternators and serpentine belts depending on which type of generator you choose to build. It’s important to use a video, book, or website that shows very detailed instructions with regard to building your generator.
Being without power or stuck in our homes for a while doesn’t suddenly make us happy to wear dirty clothes. There are some options available to help us get our clothes clean.
I have seen a couple models of hand cranked washers. They usually cost some where between fifty and one hundred dollars. There are even models that have a built in spin dryer. The Wonderwash is one that we reviewed, and a simple plunger-and-bucket method is described in The Survival Mom:
My recommendation is a child-powered washing system. This can
be as simple as two 5-gallon buckets with lids, two new toilet plungers,
and round holes cut in the center of both lids for the handles of the
plungers. Fill the first bucket with water, a little soap, and a few pieces
of dirty clothing and put that kid to work! You can explain that the
process is the same as for churning butter. Boys, in particular, might
be enticed to work harder if they realize it’s a great exercise for building
their biceps. Either way, in a few minutes you’ll have clothes that are
ready to be rinsed in clean water in the second bucket, wrung out, and hung on a clothesline.
If you don’t have laundry facilities (or don’t want to shell out five dollars per load) these sweet little machines also reduce the amount of laundry that you will need to take to the laundry mat when there isn’t an emergency. If you have a larger family they are great for keeping up with socks and under garments. Smaller families can just keep up with clothes daily.
When using these items it’s important to consider:
Over loading a hand cranked washer may not break it, but your clothes won’t agitate well and will remain dirty.
In a long-term power outage, you’ll want to completely re-think the way you and your family dress. There’s a reason why, for many decades, women wore aprons and pinafores. They protected the clothing underneath, which stayed clean-ish for weeks, if necessary. Made of lightweight cotton, aprons were much easier to wash and quicker to dry than heavier pieces of clothing.
Believe it or not, the type of drying rack you choose matters a great deal. You want to make sure to choose one that has a good solid base or can hang from the ceiling. Also, make sure that you can space your clothes far enough apart to maintain air flow. Without air flow to help your clothing dry they may just mildew on the rack.
When your condo or apartment has a balcony, you can get away with a lot when it comes to laundry. You don’t really need a spin dryer because your clothes can drip dry from racks placed on the balcony. This is particularly true in hot, dry areas.
When you don’t have a balcony or you live in a colder or more humid climate, having a spin dryer is the best way to go with an electric free laundry program. Small spin dryers can be powered by a car battery, although it’s possible to make your own hand-powered version. If you don’t have access to a spin dryer have a hanging drying rack over the tub in your bathroom. This will enable your clothes to drip dry without you needing to put down a tarp. Just make sure that the bathroom has plenty of airflow. Open windows and doors or set up portable fans.
There are couple of other items that can be easily stored and be useful in a extended power outage. These items make living conditions more comfortable for your household.
There are battery powered portable showers on the market, and there are some that run off of a car battery. Just plug it into the cigarette lighter. This is ideal for a camping trip, but can get complicated when you’re indoors.
For indoor showering there is a portable shower that pumps water out of a bucket. The one I found can be recharged from a laptop USB, filters water and has a water filtration system.
There are many option for cooking without electricity. A simple one is the BBQ grill, and some apartment complexes provide them in the common areas. The very basic models fit well on a balcony. If you don’t have a balcony there is even a mini BBQ grill that is easier to store indoors. It’s perfect for grilling on a porch.
Watch for sales on charcoal around the major outdoor/picnic holidays, such as Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day. One year I was able to stock up on 8 gigantic bags at a huge discount at Lowe’s.
There are a few varieties of camp stove that are also an option, such as the dual-fuel EcoZoom stove. Kerosene stoves are a tried and true option, and there is also a stove that will run off a car battery.
If your cooking or heating source uses an open flame, whether with wood, kerosene, or some other fuel, it’s absolutely vital to never leave that fire alone, have at least 2 fire extinguishers in the house (and everyone knows where they are and how to use them, have plenty of ventilation, and a carbon monoxide detector/alarm.
Solar cookers are a long-time favorite of those wanting an alternative way to cook food and heat up water for emergencies. They are also a far safer option than anything that requires a flame. You can make your own, but the Sun Oven is considered to be one of the best, and I’ve also learned to love the Solavore.
Whatever you use to cook your food it will need a power source. Determine which fuel or power source works best for your family and with your available storage space and then stock up on that fuel, and lots of it.
Sometimes people think that a summer power outage is easier to deal with than a winter one. After all, in the summer, you don’t have to worry about freezing to death, which is a very real threat during a long-lasting winter outage.
However, a summer power outage carries its own set of problems. Foremost are heat-related illnesses and the higher potential of spoilage for your food.
Even if you aren’t convinced that hardcore preparedness is for you, it would still be difficult to argue against the possibility of a disaster that takes out the power for a couple of weeks. Basic emergency preparedenss is important for everyone, not just us “crazy preppers.”
Just ask the people who lived through the Derecho of 2012 how unpleasant it was. Severe, fast-moving thunderstorms (called derechos) swept through Indiana, Ohio, Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey, and Washington DC. Millions lost power, an estimated 4 million for an entire week. As if a week-long power outage wasn’t miserable enough, that part of the country was in the midst of a record-setting heatwave during the time period.
Also keep in mind that summer stresses our fragile power grid to the max, as everyone increases their usage of electricity to try and keep cool with air conditioners and fans. This ups the chances of an outage even when there’s not a cloud in the sky.
Back in 2003, a software bug caused an extremely widespread power outage in the middle of August. It was a very hot day, and increased energy demand overloaded the system. Because of the issue with the software, engineers were not alerted of this, and what should have been a small local outage turned into an event that took out power for over 10 million Canadians and 45 million Americans. I remember this one clearly because the little sub shop beside my workplace gave away all the perishable food that they had out at the time before it spoiled and I took home fresh sandwiches for my girls’ dinner that night. We sweated uncomfortably through the next two days until the power was restored.
On of the most serious concerns that sets apart a summer power outage from that of other times of the year is the heat. When you don’t have so much as a fan to move the air around, heat-related illnesses and dehydration are strong possibilities. From my book, The Prepper’s Water Survival Guide, here’s an excerpt from the chapter on dehydration:
Dehydration is the state that occurs when you use or lose more fluid than you take in, and your body doesn’t have enough water and other fluids to carry out its normal functions. Your electrolytes are out of balance., which can lead to increasingly serious problems.
Symptoms of electrolyte imbalances include dizziness, fatigue, nausea (with or without vomiting), constipation, dry mouth, dry skin, muscle weakness, stiff or aching joints, confusion, delirium, rapid heart rate, twitching, blood pressure changes, seizures, and convulsions.
Dehydration can lead to very serious side effects, including death.
Following are the most common dehydration-related ailments.
Heat cramps: Heat cramps are painful, brief muscle cramps. Muscles may spasm or jerk involuntarily. Heat cramps can occur during exercise or work in a hot environment or begin a few hours following such activities.
Heat exhaustion: Often accompanied by dehydration, heat exhaustion is a heat-related illness that can occur after you’ve been exposed to high temperatures.
There are two types of heat exhaustion:
- Water depletion. Signs include excessive thirst, weakness, headache, and loss of consciousness.
- Salt depletion. Signs include nausea and vomiting, muscle cramps, and dizziness.
Heat stroke: Heat stroke is the most serious form of heat injury and is considered a medical emergency. Heat stroke results from prolonged exposure to high temperatures—usually in combination with dehydration—which leads to failure of the body’s temperature control system. The medical definition of heat stroke is a core body temperature greater than 105°F, with complications involving the central nervous system that occur after exposure to high temperatures. Other common symptoms include nausea, seizures, confusion, disorientation, and, sometimes, loss of consciousness or coma.
Dehydration can lead to other potentially lethal complications. The Mayo Clinic offers the following examples:
- Seizures: Electrolytes—such as potassium and sodium—help carry electrical signals from cell to cell. If your electrolytes are out of balance, the normal electrical messages can become mixed up, which can lead to involuntary muscle contractions, and, sometimes, loss of consciousness.
- Low blood volume (hypovolemic shock): This is one of the most serious, and sometimes life-threatening, complications of dehydration. It occurs when low blood volume causes a drop in blood pressure and a drop in the amount of oxygen in your body.
- Swelling of the brain (cerebral edema): Sometimes, when you’re taking in fluids again after being dehydrated, the body tries to pull too much water back into your cells. This can cause some cells to swell and rupture. The consequences are especially grave when brain cells are affected.
- Kidney failure: This potentially life-threatening problem occurs when your kidneys are no longer able to remove excess fluids and waste from your blood.
- Coma and death: When not treated promptly and appropriately, severe dehydration can be fatal.
How to Treat Dehydration
People who are suffering from dehydration must replace fluids and electrolytes. The most common way to do this is through oral rehydration therapy (ORT). In extreme cases, fluids must be given intravenously. In a disaster situation, hospitals may not be readily available, so every effort should be made to prevent the situation from reaching that level of severity.
Humans cannot survive without electrolytes, which are minerals in your blood and other bodily fluids that carry an electric charge. They are important because they are what your cells (especially those in your nerves, heart, and muscles) use to maintain voltages across cell membranes and to carry electrical impulses (nerve impulses and muscle contractions) across themselves and to other cells. Electrolytes, especially sodium, also help your body maintain its water balance.
Water itself does not contain electrolytes, but dehydration can cause serious electrolyte imbalances.
In most situations, avoid giving the dehydrated person salt tablets. Fresh, cool water is the best cure. In extreme temperatures or after very strenuous activities, electrolyte replacement drinks can be given. Sports drinks such as Gatorade can help replenish lost electrolytes. For children, rehydration beverages like Pedialyte can be helpful. (Source)
One of the best ways to avoid the heat-related problems above is to store lots of water.
You can’t always rely on the faucet in the kitchen. In the event of a disaster, the water may not run from the taps, and if it does, it might not be safe to drink, depending on the situation. If there is a boil order in place, remember that if the power is out, boiling your water may not be as easy as turning on your stove. If you are on a well and don’t have a back-up in place, you won’t have running water.
Each family should store a two week supply of water. The rule of thumb for drinking water is 1 gallon per day, per person. Don’t forget to stock water for your pets, also.
You can create your water supply very inexpensively. Many people use clean 2-liter soda pop bottles to store tap water. Others purchase the large 5-gallon jugs of filtered water from the grocery store and use them with a top-loading water dispenser. Consider a gravity fed water filtration device and water purification tablets as well.
This is easier said than done when it’s 105 and you can’t even run a fan.
I’m not a big user of air-conditioning, so I recently wrote an article about staying cool without it. Be sure to check it out HERE – there are some suggestions on keeping your house cool naturally that will help in the event of a power outage.
Here’s an excerpt from the article with some tips for keeping cool when the grid is down:
If a power outage lasts for more than 4 hours, you need to err on the side of caution with regard to refrigerated and frozen food. Coolers can help – you can put your most expensive perishables in a cooler and fill it with ice from the freezer to extend its lifespan. Whatever you do, don’t open the doors to the refrigerator and freezer. This will help it to maintain a cooler temperature for a longer time.
According to the Red Cross, if your freezer is half-filled and is not opened the entire time that the power is out, the food in it will remain sufficiently frozen for up to 24 hours. If it is completely filled, your food should remain safe for up to 48 hours. If the worst happens and your freezer full of meat does spoil, keep in mind that most homeowner’s and renter’s insurance policies will pay for their replacement, but unless you’ve lost a whole lot or your deductible is very small, it may not be worth making a claim.
I strongly recommend the purchase of a digital, instant-read thermometer. This has many kitchen uses, but in the event of a disaster is worth its weight in gold for determining food safety. You can use your thermometer with this chart (print it out so you have it on hand in the event of a down-grid emergency) to determine the safety of your food.
If a power-outage looks like it’s going to be lasting for quite some time, you can be proactive if you have canning supplies on hand and a propane burner, and you can pressure can your meat outdoors to preserve it. If you decide to get one, THIS PROPANE BURNER is probably the closest one to a kitchen stove out there. It works well for keeping your product cooking at a steady temperature. Don’t cheap out on this purchase, or you will stand there in front of this burner for a long, frustrating time and still end up with food that has not been canned safely. Be very careful to supervise the canning pot: you don’t want the pressure to drop to an unsafe level and you want to keep kids and pets away from this project. Added bonus – when you have a propane burner like this, the sky is the limit as far as cooking in a power outage.Another way to combat the potential losses of a long-term summer power outage is to use other methods for preserving your feed. Canning and dehydration are not grid-dependent and can save you a whole lot of money and prevent a mess of rotting meat in your freezer.
Many preparedness concerns are the same, no matter what time of the year your power outage occurs. Here are some of the basic things you need for any power outage.