Sunday, November 30, 2008

When the Lights Go Out

Power outages are a common problem where I live. Of course we're not exactly on a power grid. It's more like we're at the end of a single long power line, so any problem along the line affects everyone from there to the end. You may be in a better situation, but even in the big city the lights can go out. For us it's usually just a matter of hours before the lights come back on, but sometimes it can be a bit longer. During one particularly bad ice storm we were without power for 10 days, and after a recent hurricane we went without power for 5 days even though we are over 200 miles from the coast. So power outages are something that we are pretty well prepared for. Of course a power outage can affect more than just lights. Heat, air conditioning, refrigeration, an electric cook stove, cordless telephones, radios, televisions, and many other items depend on electricity; but right now we're just talking about lights.


When the lights go out, the first thing that we reach for is one of our plug-in rechargeable emergency flashlights. These are super handy because they are always charged up and they have a little blue night light that makes them easy to locate in the dark. I've never timed them but I would say they are good for 30 minutes or so. Not a long time but long enough to find and light kerosene lamps, hook up a generator, or etc. I personally have little use for battery operated flashlights. Every time I've needed one it seems like the batteries are always dead. The plug-in flashlights are not expensive, about 10 bucks, and I have three of them plugged in around the house. One thing that can fail on these lights is the bulb. I bought several extras that I keep in my supply closet. I also have two hand-cranked rechargeable flashlights that come in handy if the plug-ins run down.

Propane Lantern

For a really bright area light it's hard to beat a propane lantern. I have a Coleman brand lantern that has served me well for years. I keep about twenty of the small propane bottles in my outside storage building. I also keep about 8 extra mantels and an extra glass chimney in my storage closet. The extra glass chimney costs about 10 bucks, and I have had two or three break over the years. One broke for no reason that I could tell. It just cracked while I was looking at it. So keep at least one extra on hand. Word of Advice: Buy these now. When there is a prolonged power outage, lanterns, cook stoves, propane heaters, and propane bottles fly off of the shelves.


Candles are useful in a pinch, but they don't really put off much light. They don't last that long, and they are dangerous. I use them only in candle lanterns because I am afraid that the open flame may cause a fire. I usually pick up candles on the cheap at the Goodwill store or at garage sales.

Kerosene Lamps

Kerosene lamps, also called oil lamps, were a mainstay of home lighting throughout the 1800's. They are just as effective today. Kerosene lamps provide good light, they are inexpensive to buy, and inexpensive to operate. You can buy kerosene lamps at Wal-Mart, or at almost any hardware store. Don't be suckered into buying the pretty bottles of colored and scented lamp oil. Way too expensive. Go to your local hardware store or to one of the big home centers like Home Depot. I always buy the lower grade bulk kerosene to burn in my lamps. It burns fairly clean and has little odor. Bulk kerosene can be purchased from most hardware stores for about 5 bucks per gallon. You bring your own approved fuel container and the people at the hardware store will fill it from a 55 gallon drum. Five gallons of kerosene will go a long way. Just to see, I put 1/2 cup (4 ounces) of kerosene in one of my lamps; and it burned for 6 1/2 hours. I have half-a-dozen kerosene lamps in my house, and I keep about a dozen extra wicks in my supply closet. I also have 6 extra glass chimneys and 10 gallons of kerosene in my outside storage building. Don't underestimate the power of a kerosene lamp. I keep one on my bedside table when the power is out, and it is plenty of light to lay in bed and read by. The trick is to keep the wick adjusted so that it creates a bright flame with no smoke. Flipping on lights is a real habit. We've had the electricity go out before and I've noticed that for the first couple of days every time I walk into a dark room I'll flip the light switch, even if I'm carrying a kerosene lamp in my hand. The minute I flip the switch I think "You moron, the electricity is out." After a few days you quit doing it, but it's kind of funny and irritating at first.

The Home Generator

A lot of folks who live in the country, like me, have a portable home generator that they can hook up when the power goes out. I seldom use my generator just to run lights. It is reserved for running the refrigerator and freezer for a few hours a day to keep food from spoiling, or running the well pump to fill up water bottles. Of course, when the generator is running I take advantage of the power to charge up my rechargeable flashlights, cell phones, walkie-talkies, and my wife’s laptop computer. A good generator should definitely be part of your preparedness plan, so I will address generators and how to pick the right one in a future post.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Why are You Preparing, and What are You Preparing For?

Welcome to my blog. I am starting this blog at the suggestion of a friend who tells me that recent events in our society have created an increased public interest in survival and self sufficiency. Since I have been pursuing and living this life-style for the last 25 years he felt that I might have a few ideas to offer those who are just starting down the road to independent living. The reason that I have named my blog SENSIBLE SURVIVAL is because I feel that that's what I do. I don't have a pile of assault rifles and cases of ammo, I don't have a hoard of silver and gold coins, and I don't secretly hope that society collapses so that only the prepared will survive. I like air-conditioning. I like watching T.V. But I also like the security of knowing that if all of the modern conveniences are suddenly unavailable, I and my family can survive and still live a fairly safe, comfortable, and fulfilling life. In other words, I don't mind all of the things that modern society offers; I just don't want to have to depend on them. If that makes me a survivalist in your book, then so be it. I just call it sensible living.

Let me start off by saying that not everything that I talk about on my blog can be implemented by everyone who reads it. I live on a small farm about ten miles from a small town, so I have the space, isolation, and freedom from local ordinances to do more than the average suburban dweller. For example, few people in the city have (or would want to have) a water well. On the other hand, many of the things that I do can be done by anyone, even people who live in apartments. So I'll just lay it out there for you, and you take what you can use and adapt it to your own situation.

You'll hear me talk about different levels of preparedness in the blog. By that I mean that not all potential crises are the same. Some problems could last for only a few days, like widespread power outage caused by a storm. Some could last for weeks or months, like a general social breakdown caused by natural or man-made disaster (think hurricane Katrina). And in the worst case, things could change forever; what some refer to as "the end of the world as we know it." Each of these situations would require a different level of preparedness. I will try to address all of these levels of preparedness, but I will be the first to admit that how to deal with a level three crisis is pure conjecture and I personally hope I never have to find out if my conjectures are correct.

Some of the topics that I hope to address in this blog are:

Water storage and water purification

Alternative power sources

Heating and lighting

Fuels and fuel storage


Raising fruit

Small animal husbandry

Home defense

Food storage

Wilderness Survival


Kitchen utensils and cooking


Medical supplies


Survival communities

Hunting, fishing, and foraging

And anything else that comes to mind

I'm going to try and update a couple of times a week, and of course your comments, advice, and additional information are always welcome.

Why Are You Preparing and What Are You Preparing For?

How many times have you been asked these two questions? It never fails to amaze me that otherwise intelligent individuals, who insure their homes, their cars, their businesses and their lives, think that that it is somehow crazy that there are those of us in this world who want to insure ourselves against the breakdown of our social order. Our government, our society, and our economic system are all complicated and delicate machines that are subject to malfunctioning at any time. The catalyst for disruption could be a natural disaster, an industrial accident, a terrorist attack, war, riot, or insurrection, to name a few. The duration could be days, weeks, months, or years. We have seen proof positive that our government cannot deal with even a localized disaster like Hurricane Katrina. How do you think they would perform if a terrorist state set off an Electromagnetic Pulse devise that fried all of the computers, communications equipment, and automobile ignition systems on the North American continent? Thanks, but I'd just as soon make plans to take care of myself. Sure it takes a little time and money to prepare now, but the cost of preparing now is only a tiny fraction of what it will cost you to survive a catastrophe if you aren't prepared. Just ask a Hurricane Katrina survivor what they would have paid for a gallon of water four days after the storm hit.

So the next time somebody asks you what you're preparing for, hand this article to them. It probably will go right past them, but at least you gave them a chance to wake up.