Military medical care, time to pay attention
Enter The Danger Room

Preparedness Week: Car And Power

Continuing what has become both a repost and a bit of an expansion of some previous preparedness posts. You can find an archive of all of them here, and I would also urge you to go back and read the "fundamental" posts and -- especially -- the comments here, here, and here; and the post on walking home and the looking after yourself post. The post on room kits is here. Today's post is actually a two-fer looking at car kits and power.

What do you do if a hose develops a leak in your car? If you get stuck? Stranded? Are you prepared to deal with everyday life, much less a disaster, if you are out and about in your car?

Below is part of the gear I have tucked away in my car. It is only part because I got tired and lazy, and refused to haul up any more to photograph it. This gives you a good idea and basis on which to build. Here you can see a means to inflate a tire or anything else that can be blown up, pull myself out of a ditch, fix minor mechanical problems, and bug out if needed.


Believe it or not, this all fits in a very compact area, and with it I can handle most things that happen. A small pack that has some food, a compass, and other small items gives the ability to leave the vehicle if necessary. But, most things are designed to let me keep mobile in the vehicle.

Notice the collapsible water jug in the mix. Remember the first question? Let me tell you what some people I know did. The hose went out in the middle of nowhere, and they made it to the side of the road safely. A rag helped dry the hose off, and reinforced tape allowed a temporary patch to be made. They then used a collapsible jug to get water from a nearby creek, refilled the radiator, and made it to where they could do a proper repair. What could have been a real problem was turned instead into a minor inconvenience and a good story.

I have managed to get stuck a couple of times over the years, and so have a come-along tucked away. In place of steel cable, I bought the strapping from a cargo parachute used to drop heavy things. This is just as strong as cable, takes up less room, and cost far less. The bonus was getting twice the length for less than half the cost of half the length. The come-along has also come in handy for moving objects out of the way or off of things.

The tool kit should be obvious, and good small kits are not expensive these days. I do recommend putting in some hose clamps and such as they come in handy. Cord or rope do as well, as does some wire. Get heavy duty jumper cables, they are worth the extra money. With these things, minor problems remain that, and not something that keeps you stranded and dependent on strangers and/or the authorities.

I have two first aid kits, as each has different things inside. This gives me options and flexibility in an emergency, and helps ensure that at least one will be available when needed.

The pack not only allows me to bug out, but also to stay put if needed. It has an emergency blanket, an Exstream water purification bottle, a day’s worth of dried food, compass, light, and such. It is mostly empty, however, so that I can add to it things from the car that might be needed. With it and its contents, I can survive a great deal and have options as to staying or going.

There is a folding shovel for dealing with a variety of situations. I can dig myself out, dig a latrine, or even make a quick shelter if needed. There is a canvas tarp to provide extra cover if needed, along with smaller stuff to provide comfort. I have a small fabric cooler as well, both for unplanned shopping and to provide an insulated container if needed in a real emergency. The axe and knife come in handy as well.

There are some canvas bags I picked up at trade shows in there too. They come in handy for hauling things, and I would point out that one that is waterproofed as a beach bag also makes a handy container for transporting liquids.

There are a few other goodies, including road flares, but you get the idea. So, what’s in your car?

Rational Preparedness: Power

What, did you think I was going to miss something this obvious? The great blackout gives ready fodder for the mill, especially when you have reporters and anchors on network news talking about how ill prepared they were. The fact is, a power outage does not have to be the end of the world, just a mere inconvenience to those who are prepared.

There is already talk about lawsuits, who let this happen, and such, but lost in all the blather is the simple fact that it is up to each and every one of us to be prepared. It is not up to the government to take care of us, it is not up to the power company, nor is it up to anyone else. It is up to you to be prepared. This goes double if you or yours have a critical need for electricity, such as for medical equipment.

First off, you should always have at least one flashlight in the home with batteries changed out every six months. I have absolutely no sympathy for those caught without during this last blackout. Good flashlights are not that expensive, and you can get so-so quality lights for almost nothing. Personally, I recommend and use Hubbell brand/HubbelLite because they are well designed, much brighter than the average flashlight, and about as rugged as they come. They can even be used in some hazardous environments. Yes, they are a little pricey at close to $20.00 each, but well worth it.

While you should have at least one flashlight, I recommend having at least one in each room and one in each vehicle. There is no warning when the power goes out, and rummaging through the dark trying to remember where you put the single flashlight is not a fun party game. Put them someplace obvious, even if discrete, and check them periodically.

Candles can also provide light, but they are a fire hazard. If you have proper holders and take great care, candles can and will provide light and even a small amount of heat if needed. They make a great way to conserve batteries, and you can even have some fun turning the incident into a good excuse for romance with a partner, or adventure with kids. A good way to protect furniture and walls in an emergency is to use aluminum foil to catch wax, reflect light, and protect surfaces from heat.

Better than just plain candles for lighting are candle lanterns. These are sold a sporting good stores and are a wonderful gift to the camper and preparedness freaks such as myself. A candle lantern is a self-contained system that keeps the candle in a protective environment for fire safety, provides a reflector that can be used to make it directional, and a mechanism for either standing or hanging the system. The candles that go in them are multi-hour candles, so they can be used for very long stretches. The replacement candles are also fairly inexpensive, so it is not a problem to have enough candles to go 48 or so hours straight.

Because I both like to camp and because I live in an area where thunderstorms, tornadoes, and ice storms hit, I also have a good lantern. Lanterns can be a good investment and the route I chose was to go with a multi-fuel lantern. These can burn the special lantern fuel, white gas, kerosene, or unleaded car gasoline. If you have my luck with mantles, keep several spares handy.

Okay, these take care of light, now what about heating for heating food, water, and such? Easy. I have my camping stoves, and for the urban reader I also have a portable chef’s stove. The latter can be found in restaurant supply stores, online at Chef’s Club and similar outlets, or even in some department stores. It is the same thing many places use for made-to-order omelets and such on buffets, makes a nice addition to any household, and has practical uses for entertaining and such. No reason preparedness items shouldn’t be used for other things, in fact all the better.

Other heating can be problematic, but solved by things such as kerosene heaters, fireplaces, and such. To be honest, I don’t have a kerosene heater simply because the apartment comes with a fireplace. If I did not have a fireplace, I probably would have something else but to be honest I have never absolutely had to have one. The last time we had a significant power outage because of an ice storm, the place stayed fairly warm just from candles, cooking, lanterns, etc. With proper clothing, I was quite comfortable and set to the point that the people running the nearby shelter threatened to come stay with me.

Now, what about the wonders of modern life, the many electronic conveniences? If you are fortunate enough to have a gas stove, heater, water heater, etc., you may think yourself set for much of the vicissitudes, but bear in mind that many will not come on without power. Your computer, fancy phones, and other items also require power. What to do?

Again because of thunderstorms and such, I have invested in a series of real surge protectors (not talking cheap power strips here, stick a crowbar in it and get real) and UPS systems. With them in place, I can keep the command phone running including message system, keep the laptop going for quite some time (provided the laptop battery is in good shape), and even run some of the peripherals as needed. Were there other critical systems, they would have a UPS as well. I have threatened to put one on the entertainment center, but that is just because I hate resetting everything after the thunderstorms roll through. All major or expensive electronics do have good surge protection because of the storms. This is an area where the Air Force invested some significant money in a nearby facility to put all the computer cable over to fiber optic in large measure because of the thunderstorms and the repair bills from same.

If you or a loved one have critical medical equipment, call your local power company right now and find out how to get them set for priority support. There is a brief amount of paperwork (at least here), and it ensures that in an emergency you or they will get priority service. I did it for my Dad and his oxygen system, just in case.

Yet, if you have a situation where it is a matter of life or death to keep power, it is not up to the power company or the local government to take care of things, it is up to you. Get with an electrician, go to the local home store, and get a generator. Get the electrician to hook it in on a special circuit that will run the medical systems and maybe a light or two. This does not have to be expensive, especially given that a life is at stake. Splurge a little and get a larger generator and have a bit more comfort at home. Also, don’t forget to check and see if this can be deducted from your taxes because of the medical necessity.

Okay, you say, this is fine if you have your own home. What if you are part of an apartment complex, live in an apartment building, co-op, condo, or such? Well, then, work with your neighbors and the owner of the complex to go in on things together. If you do it right now and live in an affected area, you might be surprised at what people would be willing to chip in to help all. If one or two don’t want to participate, keep in mind that it is okay. Yes, they may get a free ride in an emergency, but better that than you be without just because of them.

The other thing to do is be sure you have battery powered radios and at least one battery powered television. Be sure to have spare batteries as well. This way, you can get news and information, and even have entertainment as needed. I say radios because I recommend having one boombox or similar device that many can listen to, and at least one personal radio that can clip on a belt or go in a shirt pocket to stay with you as you move around. Consider also some of the handcrank radios and related gear as they will not be totally dependent on batteries.

While it is not directly related to providing power, I do recommend keeping a few gallons of water tucked away for emergencies like this. It can be in the back of a closet or shelf, or wherever works for you. Just remember to change it out about every six months or so. With water, you can survive about anything. If you keep some food as well, remember to make it food that does not require extra pots or things that will need water for cleaning…

When you travel, also take certain precautions. I always travel with a flashlight (actually, a Hubbell and a penlight Hubbell) and some other basic gear. I prefer hotels that have windows you can open, rather than totally sealed. In this way, you need not end up like those poor people who slept outside in New York the other night rather than in the rooms they could not get to or stay in. Yes, you or your travel agent can find out about such things before you go, so take an extra 30 seconds and ask.

Also, wherever you are when the power does go out, get a light and every available container in the room and head for the bathroom. Fill up the tub(s), and fill the containers with potable water. The water may not stay on if the water supply system also looses power. It should have backup power, but as seen recently even cities that know better may not have a working system for such. The tub water can be used to flush the commode every now and then (not every time you go), and the potable can be used for drinking, making coffee or tea, etc.

Have a plan for travel and home, and follow it when needed. For an hour or two of planning, an hour or so of shopping, and less than $100.00, you can do a heck of a lot of preparation that will get you through a blackout in comfort if not style. Spend a little more and do even better. Remember, as I’ve pointed out before in the rational preparedness posts, you don’t have to (and shouldn’t) go spend large amounts at once. Do it over time, take your time and shop around, and build up for emergencies.

Yes, you will end up with an investment in supplies, but that investment is returned many times over when you need it. It is not up to anyone else to take care of you or provide for you when the lights go out, that is up to you.