Disaster Prep For The Rest Of Us

by Dave Robinson

Dave Robinson

Power Outage
Originally published March 23, 2014

Several of us experienced an electrical power outage this past weekend. I’m not privy to the technical details, but due to high winds most of us here in southern Coos County had at least a short-term lapse in electrical service beginning Saturday afternoon. My own power was out for roughly 5 hours while neighbors only a mile away lost their electricity for 24 hours.

The local grocery store closed its doors. The gas station shut down as did most other local businesses. The hardware store was one of the few open in the downtown area. Powering up the cash registers with an SUV-mounted inverter and extension cord, they were doing a brisk business selling flashlights, batteries, lamp oil and all manner of propane lighting, candles and other camping gear.

The Deli was experiencing a definite up-tick in business. Powered by natural gas, their kitchen was kept busy while customers shopped by alternative lighting. What grocery items they do carry were flying off the shelves.

At my house, electronic devices were exchanged for Legos and a chess game. A pot of homemade chili cooked on the camp stove made for a special dinner by Coleman lantern. After a few hours of “camping-in” there were sounds of disappointment when the power came back on.

Here are some thoughts: Have a few small flashlights. Give one to each member of the household to carry in their pocket so if they need to go to an unlighted room to look for that board game, they can find their way without carrying the Coleman lantern.

Candles. Candles are great to place in the bathroom or other strategic locations around the house. With candles or any open flame, always be aware of the fire danger. It’s best to use candles that won’t tip over easily, like the ones that come in the fancy jars. The long tapers make nice table decorations, but from a practical standpoint the fire danger from tipping is a definite downside. One idea I’ve seen on the web is to stick a lamp wick in a can of Crisco. The claim is it will burn for 45 days. I haven’t tried it myself, but it makes sense. If you have kerosene-style lamps or lanterns, be sure you are compatible with the fuel. One acquaintance found that the fumes from burning kerosene caused her to have headaches. Liquid paraffin or other lamp oil might be a more acceptable choice. And lastly, I know I keep pounding the “stock-up-on-batteries” drum, but after the lights go out is no time to run to the store. They may be in short supply after this weekend’s outage, but now is the best time to prepare. Besides when you prepare ahead of time, you don’t have to shop in the dark!

As always, send your questions, comments and “lights-out” stories to disasterprep.dave@gmail.com.

Note: Dave Robinson is Bandon's Postmaster and has worked for the postal service for 30 years. He has a background in law enforcement, served in the Air Force in Vietnam, worked nine years for the Coos County Sheriff's Department, and serves on the Myrtle Point School Board, where he lives.

additional columns by Dave Robinson