While watching and listening to the media over the past week I have noticed that while there is plenty of advice on what not to do to cope with a sub-zero power outage, there has been very little offered in the way of advice on what one should do. I suspect that everyone is concerned about people following their advice, having some sort of mishap due to chance circumstances or individual stupidity, and then being sued for providing “improper advice”. What little advice I have seen, such as in the area of food storage, has often been misguided, overly skewed towards safety.
It is also evident that many people, especially those in homes or apartments that are not automatically equipped with survival options like wood burning stoves, were woefully ill prepared to deal with even this medium level emergency. Yes, medium level. It could get a lot worse, and Toronto didn’t even declare a “state of emergency”.
So, over the next few days I’m going to offer some suggestions for better preparedness. Why do I feel that I am qualified to do this? I’ve been teaching survival for the past 40 years and I think I’ve managed to figure out a thing or two about coping with a power outage. However, knowing how easy it is to be misinterpreted or how suggestions can be carried out without all due diligence, I obviously tell you that you follow my suggestions at your own risk. If you do it halfway, or are just unlucky with unique circumstances, I claim no responsibility for unfortunate outcomes. In the end, common sense has to be the driving force. Also, I’m eager to hear any suggestions you may have, or any criticisms of mine.
Let us start, today, with water.
Everyone should have water stored in their home. I would suggest a case of bottled water per person for drinking, along with several large containers of water for other purposes. This is even more crucial for homes that are not on city water lines and get their water from pump driven wells, as that will no longer be available in any power outage. (Unless you have a generator, which we’ll talk about later.) You can fill your bathtub with water, but I’ve spoken to several people who have done that and found that their plug was not tight, meaning that their water went down the drain in a matter of hours.
If you have city water and are concerned about any form of contamination, you may want to invest in a camping water filter, or at least a bottle of chlorine. Two to four drops of chlorine per litre/quart of water is normally used for purifying water, although you can double this amount if the water is cloudy or contamination is more obvious. Shake and let stand for 30 minutes. There are better water purification chemicals out there than chlorine, but they would require a little research.
In addition, buy a pail. Water from rain, snow or ice can be gotten from outside. Just be aware that ice will sometimes take a day to melt indoors. Make sure your pail is sound. I had two pails, one new, and discovered that both had holes when I needed them. The water in the pails can be used to flush your toilet. Just pour the water in the bowl occasionally and you will have normal flushing (unless your sewage system is frozen, which is unlikely).
If the power is off for more than a day or two and the temperature is sub-zero, you may need to consider steps to avoid damage to your pipes. If the water in the pipes freeze and are damaged, you may get a nasty surprise when the power comes back on and everything thaws. In the case of this possibility, should the temperature in any part of the house threaten to go below freezing, turn off the water and drain the pipes. You only need to drain most of the water; a little left over water will only cause damage if it is in something like a tap or a pump mechanism. Water traps under drains are probably OK, but if you can, it would be most prudent to drain them. Some say that you can prevent freezing by letting the water run slowly, but I feel this is kind of a big waste, and will probably only protect the pipes in which the water is moving. That’s not likely to be all of them.
In the next entry I’ll deal with shelter an heat.