Three Scenarios, Three Kits
The reality of life is this: things can, will, and do happen, but with just a little forethought and preparation it can be handled calmly and with confidence.
Keep in mind the following recommendations are 101 level items.
Listen to the audio version here:
Let's talk about the most common and least threatening kind of breakdown. You have your cell phone, it's daylight, and there are other motorists on the road. It's probably a minor inconvenience. We highly recommend a AAA membership -- if you use AAA just once every three years, it pays for itself. AAA provides services like re-inflating tires, opening your car if you lock your keys in it, and of course towing. Usually they arrive in under an hour. It's 100% worth it. . .and they don't pay us to say that, it's just the truth.
While you're waiting for AAA, though, what if you have kids in the car? It's an extra hot summer day and you're stuck on a busy street, forcing the kids to stay in the car. Why not add a few packets of emergency water, or even a few bottles of normal store water to a car kit. Throw in a long shelf life ration bar or a granola bar or two. Add a new coloring book or other such dollar store "toy" to your kit for just this occassion. The kids will be off your back and focused on the treats and "new toys" making the situation much less stressful and thereby allowing you to make the best decisions. While you're at it, have a a granola bar to bring your blood sugar back up, a sip of water, and return even more control over your situation.
Let's talk about security for a moment. If it's not daylight hours, if you're not in a great part of town... I'm a big fan of pepper spray. I carry a handgun daily, but I still carry pepper spray. I know for a fact a good brand such as SABRE or FOX will drop an attacker instantly, causing temporary near blindness and excrutiating pain. The beauty of pepper spray is that it's effective, it's considered "non-lethal", and you're not touching someone physically, henceforth it's not considered a physical assault, which lessens your culpability should an aggressor attempt to put the blame on you.
When you're broken down, you are in a compromised position. Nare-do-wells are a reality and we should be ready for all threats.
Also, have a good pair of walking shoes. In certain circumstances, you may have to do some walking and the dress work shoes won't cut it.
Is your cell phone fully charged? Consider carrying a back up battery booster for cell phones just in case. If you can't make a call and no one is around, if you're on a deserted road, things will definitely feel more real.
If it's winter, in addition to all the above, you also need appropriate clothing, gloves, hats, wool blankets -- all these things must be considered ahead of time if you're going to be ready for life on the road year round.
Here's a great tip: If you're needing a jump start, don't stand around with jumper cables waiting for someone to help you. If you do, you have no choice over who you're dealing with because someone will approach you. Instead, wait in your car and when you see a brotherly, sisterly, grandfatherly-or-whatever-looking someone who seems on the up and up, then you approach them -- in this manner, YOU are choosing the person you interact with -- in this way, YOU are controlling the situation.
The Power Outage
In the midwest, spring storms and winter snow often bring power outages, but brown outs can also occur in the summer with the over use of air conditioners. Usually these outages are quickly remedied by hardworking linemen, but occassionally the power may be down for days or even weeks -- such as happened here in Dayton in 2008 when the remnants of Hurricane Ike blew through with 80 mph winds.
In the spring, summer, and fall months, power outages are pretty much mere inconveniences, but wintertime outages, however, are much more concerning due to the lack of heat. Kerosene heaters and wood burning fireplaces have fallen by the wayside in popularity over the past 30 years, but fossil fuels are about the only way to keep your home heated when there's no power -- the old ways.
Besides physical comfort and safety, another major consideration for homeowners during cold winter power outages are the home's water pipes. If water pipes burst, your problems just quadrupled. If you know you'll have no way to keep pipes warm, you'll need to drain them. Portable propane or kerosene heaters may be one option to keep pipes warm enough to prevent freezing, along with insulatory attention on the outside of the house for spigots.
Sleeping bags, blankets, and warm clothes, of course, are another necessity to have access to when needed with regards to warmth.
The following equipment applies to power outages, to be sure, but is also relevant to all emergency situations...
Have at least one flashlight or lantern with separate, spare, new batteries ready and in a specific location just for this occassion. Hide it from the rest of the family if necessary -- too many times a child or someone else in the household "borrows" it and never puts it back....and then you'll find yourself in the dark.
There are many lanterns on the market which are battery-powered LEDs and can run for quite a long time, days in fact. As a last resort, if you're comfortable with the useage and safety concerns, there are oil lamps and lanterns. A good oil lamp not only adds a bit of nice ambiance and light to a power outage, but it also adds heat -- the icing on the cake, too, is that they only cost about $0.04 an hour to operate.
You need a way to cook food and/or heat water. A propane grill is one of my favorite "preps" because I use it all the time under normal circumstances, getting plenty of use for my money. A 5 gallon propane tank can heat up lots of canned goods and cook any other foods you may need, as well as boil water...all efficiently. A cup of hot coffee goes a long way in an otherwise stressful situation. Have some instant coffee on hand which can be added to simple heated water, or perhaps some Earl Grey tea.
Make sure you have food in general, of course, in the form of canned goods, enough for at least two weeks. Bottled water is also a good idea, possibly as much as two or three cases worth. You may be on a well, but unless you have a generator the well pump will not be pumping. You'll need water for cooking, brushing teeth, and for hygiene.
Naturally, a generator can make things easier by keeping your refridgerator and/or freezer from thawing, as well as to help charge devices like cell phones, laptops and tablets, for running blowers on fireplaces and buck stoves, and for general morale boosting. Small solar panels for charging small devices can also come in handy.
Board games, cards, books and other non-electronic forms of entertainment are some other items you'll want to have on hand. Get ready to spend some much needed time with the family (or with yourself) without the constant distraction of the television or smart phone. Mental well being is just as important as all of these other considerations.
A power outage is a great time to enjoy nature and make a good time out of an unusual, uncommon, and hopefully short-lived situation. No need to get stressed about it.
Should this traumatic disaster befall you, we recommend having a pre-positioned, well-stocked rubbermaid type tote at a relative or friend's house which contains the things that will make this rough time a little easier. You may not want or even be able to sift through the remains of your home for much needed equipment and belongings.
Perhaps most importantly, have copies of legal documents needed to help rebuild your life: insurance documents, deeds, mortage papers, IDs, even birth certificates and recent photos of all family members. These can be kepts as hard copies, or scanned images stored on a small USB drive.
Have as much cash (preferably in $20's and smaller bills) as your budget will allow for you to store in your emergency tote -- a large power outage or disaster scenario caused by a big tornado could keep stores from taking credit cards due to widespread power outages. Cash is always accepted, while cards and other means may not be.
Blankets, sleeping bags, personal comfort items like stuffed animals and blankets for the kids might also be things you'd want to store in this tote to make your unexpected stay away from home a little more easy to bear. Also, consider purchasing a fire and water proof safe to store irreplaceable items in your home, such as special photos, journals, or other items. When the dust has settled, you have a good chance of recovering such a safe from the remnants of your home.
We hope this has been useful food for thought. Remember that Omega always stands ready to assist with information, as a sounding board for your questions, and of course as a source for emergency preparedness gear. Stay safe out there and remember:
Preparedness = peace of mind.