Originally published on 16FEB2011 for Examiner.com
K&B, LLC co-owner and instructor Don Alley is a martial arts, personal protection, and emergency preparedness writer. Many of his articles originally appeared in Examiner.com. As these articles are able to be retrieved from old web caches, they will be posted here.
The power goes out in Livonia. It’s 7 p.m. in February, and it’s already dark. The television our example family was huddled around has dimmed. After a few moments, their eyes adjust to the new light level, and a flashlight is found at the bottom of the junk drawer. With a quick twist of the bevel the little two AA battery lights up to provide a meager amount of light. As the room is scanned, the little light goes out leaving the family in the dark once more. The batteries in that thing were three years old, never replaced since the thing was bought at the Do-It-Yourself store on sale. After much fumbling, raiding a kid’s toy for some batteries while wishing fresh batteries were in hand, and using the dim light of a cell phone screen for illumination, the little light is operational once more.
“Daddy, it’s getting cold in here. I’m scared.”
The furnace ignition runs on electricity, as do the blowers. With the 22° F temperature outside, with lows dropping into the teens, the house’s insulation will not hold in the warmth for long. After this half-hour ordeal, it’s time to consider the power won’t be back on tonight. It’s time to get to a hotel.
“Honey, I’ll get the kids packed, you make reservations”, the wife says.
The husband agrees, and goes to the computer to look up the nearest hotel and the number. Of course, the computer is not working, and the cable modem is down. Where’s the phone book? Do we even have a phone book? Never mind that, just getting to the hotel should be enough, they have rooms.
After everyone is packed for the night’s stay at the hotel, the house has dropped 10 more degrees. Loading everyone into the car, the garage doors are opened… wait… there is no power. They aren’t opening. Getting out, pulling the emergency handle and lifting manually, the car is finally clear to be taken out. Lowering the garage door, the manual pull cord doesn’t seem to snap back in place. Back inside the garage to shut it. The handle is finally pushed back in place so it locks into the automatic opener’s track.
Walking through the house to the front door, the husband exits and goes to lock the door. The keys are in the car. After getting the keys, locking the door, getting in the car, and going, it’s been over an hour, and probably longer, before the family is on the road.
Add in rounding up multiple kids, worrying about pets, and other concerns, this time could easily extend into two or three hours, only to arrive at a hotel that is full, or doesn’t allow the family cat.
This example has played out countless times in the southeastern Michigan as well as any metropolitan area. There are so many “oops” moments in the example above, yet they are continuously repeated time and time again.
In the example above, simply routinely changing batteries in the emergency flashlight could have saved 20 minutes or more. Having multiple flashlights stashed in various rooms will cut down on the “zombie walk” through the house while searching.
Having wood for the fireplace (if the home is equipped) or a decent fixture for gas fueled fireplaces can take the edge of a winter night without power. Knowing how it works is essential. Without a supplemental heat source, having a set time to wait for the power to come back on before deciding “bug out” to a hotel is a good idea. Worst case, some money is spent on a room and the kids can enjoy the pool.
Having an actual phone book can be an indispensible resource. Additionally, use some post-it notes to mark off certain anticipated things, such as hotels, the pet’s veterinarian or kennel, the local urgent care, etc. Cell phone towers usually have back-up power, so make the necessary calls quickly before too much cellular traffic makes it difficult to get through.
Having pre-prepared bags with a couple changes of clothes, toiletries, small reserve supplies of medication required, a few comfort items, and a small book of other important information can eliminate the packing-up phase. Having a supply of cash in the bags can help buy needed items when the credit card readers aren’t working.
Knowing what devices in the house run on electricity and how to operate them without electricity can save time and headache. During a situation is not the ideal time to learn this, knowing and practicing ahead of time is. How hard are the garage doors to disengage and reengage from the automatic system? Does the house alarm have a battery back-up? How does the water get shut off and pipes drained so they don’t freeze? Which one is that handle? Is the sump pump going to work? Will there be flooding?
What hotels are in the area? Were they affected as well or do they have power? Do they take pets? Will they in an emergency such as this? What’s the best way to get there?
The fact is, there are actually very few “emergencies” in our lives, but lack of preparation or emergency equipment elevates these situations into far more uncomfortable or dangerous scenarios. Having even basic preparations for simple scenarios can save a lot of discomfort, injury potential, and worry.