Skip to comments.Hurricane Preparedness ( and general "bad times" links )
Posted on 10/23/2005 2:50:03 PM PDT by backhoe
Tossed in is some general disaster information. Credit given when I can find or remember it.
The Survivalist & Y2K hounds weren't so wrong, after all...
Survival starts at the household level -Here is one Survivalist site which I've found fascinatingly useful...(Simple Survival)
Emergency Preparedness (year's supply of food, 72 hour kit)
( Our own UtahGirl- hattip! )
I hope everyone reading your post is paying attention. Losing electricity means no water, no refrigerated food, canned food disappearing from stores twice as fast as a result, no gasoline, because pumps can't bring it up out of the ground, and because there's no gasoline, no deliveries of food or medicine or other necessary supplies.
From what I've seen in the aftermath of these two hurricanes. most Americans simply are not set up to survive without electricity, and this worries me, because our electrical grid is wide open to a terrorist attack.
If we can't defend a 1000 mile border with Mexico, how can we possibly defend ten thousand miles of transmission lines? Any group of idiots with a crate of hand grenades can do to the country at large exactly what we see happening in Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi.
I've spent a lot of time thinking about this, and it seems to me that survival in the absence of electricity falls into four main categories.
1. Water. You can survive for 3 minutes without oxygen, three days without water, and three weeks without food. You need a dead minimum of 1 gallon of water, per person, per day. This will only meet survival needs if no water is used for flushing toilets or for bathing. The average person may not drink a full gallon everyday, but by the time you factor in cooking and cleaning needs, one gallon per person is cutting the supply very thin.
Water storage takes up a lot of space, and it can be a fragile resource. Most containers of store bought water will break down over time and leak, they are designed to, so that they will biodegrade. Two liter soda bottles seem to hold up for much longer. So do water jugs purchased for camping. A family of four will need a minimum of 40 gallons to survive ten days. That is eight 5 gallon camping jugs or 80 two liter pop bottles full.
Far better is a sustainable supply. With the proper preparation, a creek or lake will keep you and your family alive for a long time. You need to be able to filter out particulate matter and you need to be able to kill germs and bacteria to use this water, especially since the chances are that others will be using these sources for waste disposal in the event of an emergency.
Water filters for backpackers can be purchased for around $50 to $100, but without filter replacements, they are limited to 100 to 200 gallons before they clog up.
A large scale filter can be constructed from a pair of large tupperware containers or buckets, some playground sand, and some fist sized rocks or driveway gravel. Cut half inch holes in the bottom of the smaller container and fill it two inches with gravel. Fill it another four inches with playground sand. Place about two inches of gravel in the bottom of the larger container, and then place the smaller container inside the larger one. Unfiltered water goes into the inner container, and filtered water is drawn off from the outer container. Be careful not to contaminate the outer container when pouring unfiltered water into the inner one.
This will remove mud, sand and grit, but it will not purify the water. Purification can be accomplished with ordinary Clorox bleach, 5.5 percent sodium hypochlorite solution, no perfumes or softeners. Use 8 drops of bleach per gallon of clean water, or up to 16 drops of bleach per gallon for water from suspect sources. The colder the water, the longer it will take the bleach to kill the bugs. Let the bleach do it's thing at least half an hour, I prefer to let it stand overight before using it. This will allow you nearly unlimited reserves of water without consuming fuel for boiling.
2. Food. Canned or boxed food, anything that does not require refrigeration, will disappear from stores overnight or sooner in the event of an emergency. You cannot wait until disaster strikes to stock up. You need breakfast, lunch and dinner for each person to function in the long term without electricity or outside aid. Foods requiring only boiled water require less water for cooking and cleanup.
Oatmeal or cream of wheat will suffice for breakfast. Canned fruit can improve the taste and nutrition value. Sugar may be required for flavor. Powdered fruit juice mixes can be served cold. A mix of powdered fruit juices and powdered gatorade will serve multiple purposes in warmer climates. Tea or coffee will improve the morale of adults.
Peanut butter, jam and crackers can serve as a basis for lunch. Powdered soups may supplement. Discount stores sell ramen noodle soups with vegetables by the case for less than 2 dollars. Beef jerky, peanuts, and M&M's can provide a change of pace. Canned tomatoes and elbow macaroni make a tasty hot dish. A little bit of onion or garlic seasoning go a long way to providing variety and improving flavor.
Dinner options are limited. Canned chicken or fish is most readily available. Bulk can be achieved with canned vegatables, canned fruits, and rice/macaroni. Foil pouches of hamburger do not require refrigeration and taste ok for tacos or spaghetti sauce. Spam and armor treet do not require refrigeration. Canned beef stew, beef hash, and spoaghetti/lasagne products can be purchased by the case from discount houses. Canned ham is readily available. One can of vegetable and another of fruit will keep from lunchtime to dinnertime, allowing for less waste and more balanced servings.
Liquor can serve as trading stock, and in some cases, fuel. A surplus of spices can serve as trading stock.
Don't forget the can opener, manual type, and a backup, plus a couple of P-38 style emergency backups.
3. Sanitation and human waste disposal. If water is readily available and sanitary sewers are functional, unfiltered water can be used to flush toilets. Dedicated containers make this process easier. Be sure to differentiate between containers used for filtered and unfiltered water and do not mix them up, or flushing requirements will skyrocket.
If sanitary sewers are not functional or water for flushing is in short supply, solid human waste should be deposited in 5 gallon buckets and burned in 30 or 55 gallon steel containers. Some fuel (kerosine works well) will be necessary to get the fire started. Burning containers need ventilation holes punched around the bottom rim for good combustion. Note wind direction before burning waste. A standard toilet seat will fit onto a 5 gallon bucket for better balance. Provisions for privacy will do a lot for morale. Don't forget to stockpile toilet paper.
A solar shower can be purchased for less than $10 at discount houses. In an emergency one can be constructed from a black garbage bag, but it will not function as well or as fast as one designed for the purpose, nor will it serve as a sprinkler head. In cold or cool climates, the ground or the hood of a vehicle will act as a heat sink and speed heat loss and prolong warm-up times. Insulation under the shower bag will counter this effect. On cloudy days, or whenever warming does not happen fast enough, take what you can get from the sun and enhance it with water warmed on the stove. This water does not have to be filtered, but it should not be swallowed or used to brush teeth if it hasn't been purified.
One adult can shower with as little as 1 gallon of water, although 1.5 gallons is a more realistic estimate.
Don't forget soap and shampoo. Clothes can be washed in a tub, sink or other container, using the friction method. Don't forget a suitable detergent. Dishwasher soap and automatic laundry detergents are poor substitutes for the manual variants. Clorox will act as a good disinfectant.
4. First aid. The major injuries you can expect after a disaster are cuts and broken bones. You need a way to stop bleeding, to clean and disinfect wounds, and to dress them so as to avoid infection later on. You can never have too many four by fours, 4" square gauze pads. You can never have too much duct tape. A well made dressing does not require surgical tape, since the tape does not touch open or abraded skin.
Duct tape and splints will stabilize broken bones. Be sure to pad splints if they will be used for an extended period, or ulceration will occur.
In an absolute emergency salt water will kill germs, and a ziplock bag with a pinhole will serve as an irrigation aid. Better yet is to stock up in advance on commercial disinfectant ointments. Rubbing alcohol and/or hydrogen peroxide are inexpensive in quantity but suffer some of the same drawbacks as salt water. Rubber tourniquets are worth their weight in gold, for a lot more than medical emergencies.
In addition to being ready for cuts and broken bones, a well tuned first aid kit will contain apsirin, antacid tablets, and antihistamines. Cough drops are a plus. Heavier pain medications may be useful if you have a prescription. Surgical masks, disposable rubber gloves and scissors are very useful to have.
If you purchase a surgical suite, or include needle and thread in your kit, be sure to include a weighty medical reference text along with it. Emergency appendectomies look good on TV. Your mileage may vary.
These are the four basic considerations in a situation where electrical service is interrupted for an indeterminate time, water, food, sanitation, and medical emergencies.
Heat or cold temperatures will require forethought and some sacrifice. Layers provide better insulation that one thick coat. Artificial fabrics next to the skin will wick away perspiration and greatly improve your survival chances in cold weather. Cotton holds moisture and kills people in cold environments through hypothermia.
In hot environments you need steady water intake to survive 4 hours of sweating. If you feel thirsty, you have waited too long. After four hours of heavy perspiration, you will need to address electrolyte balance. Powdered gatorade will deal with this, as will other sources of potassium such as bananas. Ordinary salt might not hurt, but it won't help as much as gatorade. One quart of gatorade will allow an adult male to perspire heavily for 8 hours without significant effect. Dinner and breakfast can be used to replete electrolytes after the workday is finished, preserving and extending gatorade stockpiles. An ordinary headband, handkerchief, or ballcap will keep sweat out of your eyes while working, and will go a long way towards improving your effort and its beneficial effect.
Emergency lighting is necessary, but not always advisable. LED headlamps provide hands-free emergency light for working, and preserve battery life up to 100 hours. Flashlights require a hand to hold them and use batteries much faster. Whale oil lamps can soot damage a dwelling very quickly if not properly adjusted, but will last longer than candles and will provide more light. Most oil lamps are cheaply constructed, get familiar with their inner workings before you need to depend on them. A small needlenose pilers and small screwdriver are essential for servicing these lamps. Oil for lamps can spontaneausly combust, discard wicks and rags outside, away from flammable materials after use. Any combustion consumes oxygen. Proper ventilation is a must.
Displaying light after sunset will call attention to your dwelling and may invite unwanted attention. Changing to a sunrise to sunset schedule will preserve resources and enhance security.
Security is a matter of personal choice, especially involving firearms. The uninitiated will be best served with a 12 gauge shotgun, which requires minimal practice to serve as an effective deterrent. During an emergency is a bad time to learn muzzle and trigger discipline, not to mention markmanship. An assortment of #5 or #7 birdshot, double ought buckshot, and deer slugs will allow you to double the utility for both defense and for small game hunting. Weapons should always be kept immaculately clean and should always be considered to be loaded.
That's enough for now, it covers the basics and doesn't add more detail than is necessary. In my opinion, it is only a matter of time before large segments of the American population are subjected to moderate or prolonged periods without electricity. We will either be ready for it, or we will not. The choice to prepare ourselves rests with each of us as individuals.
a fill bath tub
b fill all large pots
c several dozen cleaned plastic milk carton / change quarterly
Battery operated radio
Battery operated flashlights (1 per person + 1)
Week worth of batteries for above
Fill propane for gas grill
Fill all cars
Sterno cans and fondue pot for cooking
Matches, lighter, lighter fluid
Several rolls of 6 mil plastic sheets 10 x 100
5 boxes of 20 each, large garbage sacks
4 pair heavy work gloves
Axe, hatchet, shovel nails, heavy duty staples, staple gun, hammers, saws, chain saw
6 bread baking pans (to make block ice)
4 large ice chests
Hand operated can opener and bottle opener
1 month of all medicine, gauze, band aids, tape, alcohol, OTC headache, antiseptic
Heavy duty knives, 100 each plastic forks, spoons, knives, paper towels, paper plates Toilet Paper!
Soup, Vienna sausage, peanut butter, crackers, chili, bread, several small jelly, mustard, spam, apples, dried fruit, hard candy,
Stove top coffee pot, 10 lbs coffee, sugar, salt, pepper, tea bags
2 12 ga shot guns 2 boxes of 00; 1 of slugs; bird shot
Can't recall the SN of the FReeper who penned the above- apologies!
SOME PRE-HURRICANE PREPAREDNESS SUGGESTIONS.
Plus, a hurricane preparedness list.
And heres a roundup of hurricane tips from a while back.
My Irene post at our Canadian sister site, plus good stuff from Ace of Spades:
DISASTER-PREP TIP: How To Keep Your Cellphone Going As Long As Possible.
Note this in particular: Text messages use a tiny fraction of the power required to make an actual phone call. In addition, there are very good selfish and selfless reasons to use SMS instead of calling during a wide-spread crisis: Texting helps keep the network from being overwhelmed, and texts are more likely to get through than voice calls.
Also: Need to check Twitter? Dont forget that your 3G Kindle has a web browser in it.
FASTER, PLEASE: A Wireless Communications System That Works When Cell Phones, Internet Are Down. LifeNet lets computers and phones talk to each other without an Internet connection, which could come in handy after disasters that knock out communication networks.
One of the first things to disappear in the wake of a major disaster is reliable communication. Without access to cell phone service or the Internet, its difficult for first respondersor anyone who wants to help outto speak with each other. And while satellite phones work in these situations, theyre too expensive for many first responder organizations to purchase en masse. Now researchers from Georgia Tech College of Computing claim to have developed a cheap, easy solution: LifeNet, a piece of software that allows people to communicate after disasters, even if landlines, cell phone networks, and the Internet are all down.
Its just a piece of code that you can have on your laptop or phone. Once you have the software, the computers can communicate with each other, and you dont need infrastructure, says Santosh Vempala, the Georgia Tech computer science professor in charge of the project.
Any device that has LifeNet installed acts as both a host and router for the networkmeaning the software can route data both to and from any other LifeNet-enabled device. You can read more technical details here.
Cool. Nice work, Georgia Tech folks
With a hattip to Glenn at Instapundit- which you should read every day:
Six Letters Re: Hurricane Irene Lessons Learned
By James Wesley, Rawles on September 2, 2011 9:43 PM
Dear Mr. Rawles:
We’ve been without power for 3-1/2 days and Internet even longer, so I’m late in writing, but I wanted to say that the grace of God and deep preps won the day, here as hurricane Irene blew through.
When the power went out, we went to our generator, so we had water for ourselves and less prepared neighbors. Those votive lights, the ones in the tall glass containers that often have saints’ picture on them were perfect for our windowless bathrooms, and they’re fairly cheap. They burned safely almost the whole time and there’s still a day left, I’d say, in each one. That was a SurvivalBlog idea I picked up on - thanks.
When our old stove died, I went through a lot of hassle to get one with pilot lights instead of those newfangled glow plugs. Few companies make them - mine was by ‘Summit’. We had to do part of the installation ourselves because the gas guys weren’t used to dealing with such old-fashioned stoves, although one old-timer did give us some good hints so we were able to set the flames. But...this mean that as long as we had propane we could cook anything, bake whatever we wanted. The Summit stove is very efficient (as is our generator) so it needs no preheat time for the oven. It also has no timers, lights, etc., which is okay by me. I have the old-fashioned wind up timer and find I don’t really need an oven light now that I’m used to not having one.
We froze a lot of water ahead and also got some bagged ice. Running the generator 4 - 6 hours a day kept the freezer at 12F or less during the night, covered with quilts.
It was eerie how the whole thing played out exactly according to the disaster scenarios. Not only were we isolated - a tree blocked one road and floods another, but when people did get out, they found they had to drive a long way to find stores with power (they were lucky there were any). In town there was no gas, of course, because no power, and cash only, because no computers. The local banks were closed, of course, and grocery stores in all directions. Some people were miffed that the power wasn’t restored instantly and didn’t seem to understand that there are no guarantees. Also, the local power companies admitted on the radio that they’ve cut back on crews, partly because of government regulations, trying to ease their bottom lines. There were also people who were just plain in denial there was going to be a hurricane. It read just like a novel.
While we didn’t have any security issues, we were armed, having gotten the permits and the weapons and spent range time when the sun shone. The whole time we were grateful it was ‘only’ a hurricane and not an EMP or nuclear attack, or some other systemic meltdown. Having read the survival literature, we knew this was just a bump, a chance to test our preps.
Thanks so much for your site, and for those who write in. - An old farmer in Connecticut
Hurricane Irene taught me a valuable lesson. At 4 a.m. on Sunday morning, the alarm on my septic tank went off. The storm was raging outside and the rainwater had filled the septic tank. I went down to the basement to check things out. The laundry tub has a pump that sends the water up to the soil pipe. Water was running down to the pump from the overfull septic tank and soil pipe, and the pump would dutifully pump it back up to the soil pipe. Up, back down, up, back down. I realized that if the tank got any fuller, the pump would run continuously. If the electricity went down and the pump stopped working, the waste would have started backing up into the house. I prayed that the situation would not worsen. Eventually the rain tapered off, the tank drained off some, and at 8 am the alarm went off.
Up until now, I figured I needed backup power for the well pump and lighting. It never crossed my mind that the laundry tub pump was a weak point in my preps. I am looking at ways to solve this problem. I thank the Lord that we did not have a hurricane and a power outage. - L.C. in Pennsylvania
Dear Rawles Family,
I started reading your blog about six years ago (shortly after the birth of my first child, motherhood will do that to you) and am grateful everyday because you confirmed the mindset my Grandma gave me and helped me move forward. I hope this gives some marriages some hope.
Last Tuesday I was shopping with my three children. I got out of our vehicle, and noticed people pouring out of the store. I received a text message from my husband to call him immediately and was unable to. (Gee, those handheld radios I keep trying to get him to buy would have come in handy). People were running around saying this was another 9-11. I asked what was going on and was told “earthquake”. I have actually lived in places where earthquakes were a common occurrence so the hysteria was a bit funny, but it was dangerous because people were freaking. Kind of like when people down south can’t drive when it flurries. Accidents that should never happen do happen. I finally made contact with my husband and was able to assure him that not only were we fine, but if we were unable to make it home I had supplies with me.
This is important because he hated that I am a prepper. He took stuff out of the car that I put in. He removed supplies when I am not looking from bags I have packed and has gotten into heated arguments with me when I try to get him to buy one extra can of meat at the store. He will not, under any circumstances allow me to store water. He would rather sock money away, I would rather sock supplies away. For the first time, he was glad I was a prepper. I warned him that if he took anything out of our vehicle without telling me and we needed it on the way home that I was going to kill him. We were fine.
Less then two days later we were told the Mother of all storms was headed directly for us. This is the first time my husband has taken a storm seriously. He ran around clearing the yard of all items and what stopped him cold was when I calmly asked him what he planned to do about the whole week long, at least, power outage. He looked worried for the first time. See, we have wells powered by electricity. My pleas for a generator and solar power were ignored. My attempts for storing water were mocked and forbidden. So I just calmly reminded him of that. He freaked out.
Now I knew I had a Berkey (my Christmas gift one year) and a swimming pool. And that equaled drinking water. I had several large bathtubs and that equaled flushing and washing water. I knew that I had stashed oil lamps (which had precipitated a massive verbal fight in Wal-Mart over me buying “clutter”) and two lanterns. I knew I had three battery powered radios and the batteries to run them. But he didn’t. He rushed out to stores and found...nothing. I let him. I wanted him to see that reality and feel that for once. Then when he got home I calmly took him through my plans. He was then called into work with only an hour to respond.
While he was upstairs dressing to spend an untold period of time away from us while during a massive storm (something he has told me I do not need to prep for—because it would never happen), I calmly pulled together a BOB kit for him. See I had already packed one for him, several times, and he removed them from his vehicle and warned me to never put them in his car again. So I waited for him to get dressed and was able to run down a list in my head and pull from various sources (you see my husband will not prep for an emergency, but he will “prep” for spontaneous hospitality...so we had junk food and drinks, extra bedding and towels, first aid kit et cetera for guests. There are ways to work with reluctant spouses :) and had his car packed in less then the 15 minutes it took for him to get dressed. He was very worried and begging me to prep away. I was praying, calm and had a plan.
I prepped as fast as I could for the storm. I made sleeping quarters in the basement. Put the children to bed after full baths, fully clothed. I was putting batteries in my radio when the power went down and the storm hit. Yes, I could have been really mad because I should have had everything in place if I didn’t have to prep in secret but I have to spread my supplies around so I don’t look like I am doing “that stupid prepping again”, but I had the stuff.
I had ten minutes before tornado warnings started blaring on the radio. I calmly woke the kids up, got them to the basement with the dogs and barricaded them down there while I ran around to all my stashes getting supplies we would need to survive the aftermath. I made it back down with one minute to spare and got us in the closet. Thank God that I had “prepped” for a birthday party with glow in the dark jewlery—which is a great way to lighten the mood for small children locked in a closet during tornados.
My formerly anti-prepper husband then spent the whole time trying to reach us through the cell phone. See he has always refused to install the land line I wanted for emergencies. So we were at the mercy of the cell phones, which didn’t work well or lost power quickly because they are “smart” phones”. He came home to us safe, but the power down for “one week to three weeks” according to the power company.
However, I had talked him into keeping extra gas on hand for all his power tools. He bartered that (because there was no gas to be found) and one of my radios and batteries to hook up to a generator. So we didn’t lose all the food. But we came close.
Needless to say, my husband just purchased our first generator, is calling about a land line and hasn’t said a word about the water bottles I have begun storing since the power came back up.
The most profound thing that happened is that it shook him from his “it will never happen” sleep. Thank God, and not a moment too soon. So for any of you spouses out there dealing with this. Pray and don’t stop. God is much better at waking people up and changing hearts then we are, And being willing to take the heat and prep within the parameters still works. Thanks for all the work you do Mr. Rawles and Family. - Mrs. L.B.
Like I always tell you? “read the comments, use the links”— first comment up?
My husband and I read SurvivalBlog regularly and want to share with other readers a way to keep insulin cool during periods without electricity. My husband has been a Type I diabetic for 43 years (44 this coming Thanksgiving) so I am always reading magazines, etc. about diabetes. A couple of years ago I came across an article about Frio insulin cooling wallets. I immediately ordered one but we had not used it until Hurricane Irene came through eastern North Carolina last weekend.
Thankfully our power was restored after 25 hours, but many people in other parts of the region may be without power for up to a week. If this had been the case, my husbands life-saving insulin would have been available without our worrying about it being denatured by high temperatures.
AT AMAZON, bestsellers in Automotive. Also, power inverters the poor mans generator.
UPDATE: Reader Bill Rickords emails:
Glenn, your readers should know that there are two kinds of output from these devices. If you have something that is delicate or needs clean current they need to get a PURE SINE WAVE inverter. Otherwise the cheaper ones put out a SQUARE WAVE and its a bit noisy and some motors may not run well with it.
I have some medical issues and have to use an oxygen concentrator to provide additional oxygen to help breathing. The device manufacturer said if I use it in the car to get a PURE SINE WAVE version. Anything delicate or electronic controlled will likely need such.
I have a 1000 watt one in my car to power various 110 volt devices while traveling etc. Works great.
Yeah, weve discussed that here before but it bears repeating.
Here’s the inverter link:
Each of your vehicles should have one, so you can have AC power where you go. Yes, they drain the battery, so run the numbers.
A GENERATOR BLEG: Reader Russell Sayre emails: Have you posted in the past on home generators? Im in the market, but the selection on Amazon is fairly bewildering. Do you or your readers have tips or suggestions? A bit, but Ive never bought one. They can be dangerous, both electrically and from carbon monoxide. (Storing gas is dangerous, too). And my powers pretty reliable. So even though my house has a transfer box and a generator inlet, Ive never gotten the generator to go with it.
That said, you can go with a small inverter-based machine like this Yamaha
for powering electronics, etc. Or you can get a whole-house standby generator.
The key is figuring out what you want it for in advance, and then working backward. As Ive said before, if I were building a house from scratch Id put in a big underground propane tank and have a propane-powered backup generator. Then Id be nearly independent except for getting my tank filled once or twice a year.
UPDATE: Reader Tom Fenton writes: Please remind folks that they just cant plug the generator into a convenient plug without an isolation box as power then also flows out into the network. Generators that power the neighborhood slow down restoration as utility crews often go door to door asking to shut off generators before repairing broken power lines. Yes, thats why you need a transfer box or you can just run an extension cord from the generator, of course.
Heres some generator safety advice.
And with any kind of backup power or heat, a battery powered carbon monoxide detector is an excellent idea.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Dave Tulka writes:
“We have a 5500 watt Diesel and have yet to install the transfer switch. We have a Coleman dual-fuel camp lantern and two Aladdin kerosene lamps. For winter heat, we have been using our Toyotomi/Kerosun kerosene heaters as an almost primary heat source. Even if the gas stays on, there is no heat without the electric blower fan.
When we updated the kitchen, we converted from an electric stove to gas and have a dual-fuel Coleman camp stove as backup. We purchased the Coleman lantern and stove for family camping when our kids were younger.
The cool thing about Coleman dual-fuel units is they run on Coleman fuel or gasoline. Both fuels are far more energy-dense than propane resulting in less space for each BTU stored.
When we first started using kerosene for winter heat about ten years ago, our friends and families looked at us like we each had a third eye. Now, not so much. Weve had two friends lose their gas furnaces in the winter that were thrilled to borrow one of our kerosene heaters for a few days until they could get their furnaces repaired or replaced.
Our story is about reducing the absolute need for electricity. The remaining critical-path items are the fridge, washing machine and internet access. Assuming the internet stays up, each machine and the network gear has pretty respectable battery backup in place.”
Kerosene heaters are remarkably good if used properly, and kerosene like diesel fuel is comparatively safe to store. Gasoline is somewhat more dangerous.
IN RESPONSE TO YESTERDAYS BACKUP-POWER BLEG, a lengthy email from reader Harry Lenchitz:
“Having enjoyed about one-third of our lives on generator power, we decided to enter the discussion.
I have more than 40 years experience in electric power generation for prime power applications (seagoing vessels, forward operating bases, field hospitals) and critical standby power (healthcare facilities, emergency services, credit card transactions).
My wife has invested a similar amount of time performing research at sea, and in remote locations, on generator power.
We met shortly after 9-11, and we watched the Pentagon smolder for several weeks.
Note to deniers: It really happened!
This e-mail is my contribution to the generator discussion.
First, to all those who want a cheap, convenient way to charge their cell phones and other portable electronics: every motor vehicle includes a one kilowatt (1kw) alternator for battery charging.
Some vehicles are slightly less (a skinny kilowatt) others are quite a bit more (2kw) but all vehicles have a battery charging alternator.
The best way to charge portable electronics is to idle your vehicle and use 12 volt DC chargers.
To charge your cell phone, you do not even need to start your vehicle. Just plug the cell phone charger into your vehicle and let it charge.
To charge larger items, start your vehicle and let it idle.
To operate larger items which require 120 volt AC power, such as your computer UPS, a drip coffee maker, or a small microwave, use a 1200 watt (1.2kw) inverter available everywhere for less than $100.
Most vehicles today will run a 1200 watt inverter indefinitely while idling, but you may need to turn on the air conditioner (which increases the engine idle) or turn up the idle speed (not legal do not do this) to make sure the alternator is putting out full power.
Also, the family minivan (or coupe, pickup truck, or SUV) is the best survival pod ever invented heat, air conditioning, lights, etc. You already own it, and the fuel to run it is negligible compared to buying, maintaining, and feeding a generator.
Even more important, you can drive the vehicle to a fuel point to refuel it, and charge the battery while driving to and from the fuel point.
If you need more power than your vehicle produces, then and only then, consider a generator.
We can discuss how to size a genset for home use, based on how many items you desire to run during a power outage, and how much fuel you are willing to store and consume.
You can use a portable generator, or install a standby generator.
Whatever you do, please follow all safety precautions with respect to electrical hazards, thermal hazards, and fume hazards.
If you use a portable generator, please use extension cords to power your loads do not energize your home wiring unless you have installed an Underwriters Laboratory (UL) listed transfer switch!
I will discuss transfer switches later in this article.
If you choose to install a standby generator, and you live in an urban, or dense suburban area, a propane (bottle gas) or natural gas (city gas) powered system is the most popular and cost effective way to go. It is also the quietest.
Note well: City gas is often shut off during natural disasters. Propane is stored on your property, and can be stored indefinitely.
If you live in a rural area, you can go with a propane or a diesel unit, or if you have a tractor, a pto-driven genset.
For almost all tractor owners, I recommend a pto-driven genset. If you buy a Winco, Onan, or similar high-quality pto-driven genset, you can pass it on to your grandchildren. It will never wear out.
The beauty of a pto-driven genset is that many tractor owners are already adept at maintaining their tractors. Also, you can always find someone to repair a tractor, or, if you really need to, you can buy another tractor, new or used, almost any time.
It is extremely important to have a generator big enough to start and run your rotating loads, and to hold frequency and voltage as near constant as possible.
All rotating loads well pump, pool pump, air conditioner/heat pump compressor and fan motor, refrigerator and freezer compressors and fan motors require 60 hz alternating current (AC) to operate at the correct, constant speed, and require full voltage (120 or 240 depending on the motor) to operate at the correct current under load.
Incorrect voltage, and incorrect or varying frequency, can lead to failure of rotating equipment.
Let me put that more plainly a badly regulated generator will burn up expensive motors!
Home electronics (tv, computer, etc.) are not as sensitive to voltage, and are relatively insensitive to frequency (they all have power supplies that convert AC to regulated DC) but they can be damaged by very low or high voltage.
Most important is your transfer switch.
After the transfer switch is installed, and inspected by your county building inspector, send a copy of the electrical inspection to your insurance agent 2 reasons:
1. Liability If anyone is ever injured or killed while working to restore power on your distribution grid, you will have proof that there is no way it was a backfeed from your generator.
2. Risk Reduction If you ever have an electrical fire in your house, you will have proof that the transfer switch was properly installed and inspected.
My advice is to install a 200 amp (or whatever size your home electrical service is) manual transfer switch.
That way you will be able to use any lights, anywhere in your house, including in your basement, regardless of whether you power your house with a 5kw or a 50kw genset.
I do not recommend an automatic transfer switch for home use.
You want to determine that the power really is out, and will be out for more than a few minutes (or hours).
You want to start your genset and make sure it is running right all engine gauges (oil pressure, battery voltage, coolant or cylinder temperature) and generator gauges (voltage, FREQUENCY, current) registering correctly, and then and only then transfer the load.
If the engine parameters are incorrect, you run the risk of destroying the engine. If the generator parameters are incorrect, you run the risk of destroying expensive items in your home.
Even if you never have a power outage, throw your transfer switch once a year to make sure it moves.
Also, open it once a year and blow out the insects. Leave a piece of no-pest strip or a livestock ear tag with pyrethrins in there to keep it insect free.
I recommend testing a home generator twice each month.
Just connect an electric stove or similar load to it, and run it under load for 30 minutes.
If you can start it and run it every 2 weeks, and it takes a full load, you can depend on it for a power outage when you transfer the house load using your manual transfer switch.
Takeaway Generating your own power during an outage requires serious investment in time and money, and significant fuel and maintenance expenses.
At present prices, we spend about $90/day for fuel and oil changes during extended power outages.
We can discuss this stuff further if you like.
We have a 200 amp transfer switch to transfer our house between the electric grid and generator power, and a second 100 amp transfer switch to transfer between main generator and auxiliaries. Main generator is a 15kw 1800 rpm diesel. Auxiliaries are 25kw Winco pto unit (more power than either of our tractors can provide, but superior motor starting capability), 8.5kw 3600 rpm gasoline powered welder, 3.5kw 3600 rpm gasoline powered welder, 2kw 1800 rpm continuous rated gasoline powered genset (perfect for overnight refrigeration and entertainment loads, if we dont need heat or air conditioning).”
Well, thats going big. The small-scale way is with the inverters. The maintenance load for a generator is why I havent bought one. The more expensive ones start themselves every month. But theyre more expensive. . .
A personal note from The Heavy Equipment Guy?
When Irene brushed by us, I went through the usual it won’t hit us but let’s act like it will drill— gassed truck & car, cranked both generators, made sure I had plenty of water, food, and lights.
Going through my truck and The Dead Miss Emily’s car, I found a 200 Watt inverter under each seat.
Dead Worlds- I bought them years ago so we each could have a little 110VAC power in out vehicles if we needed it. Computers, handhelds, small appliances.
Well, Miss Emily is beyond all that now- but Miss MaryAnn is not- the details are here:
“Letters to Miss Emily...”
So I bought her a 400 Watt inverter with USB ports- a new thing— and gave it to her. And we sat on her porch and talked a while of dogs & cats & dead spouses. It was a good thing.
The future? What’s that?
FOLLOWING UP ON SOME EARLIER POSTS, a Generator Buying Guide.
This link takes you to Amazon- FWIW during the Irene crisis, Glenn reported that people unable to buy generators locally got them next day via Amazon.
With that in mind, I’m reposting my own contribution to the subject of staying warm, originally titled “How To Survive Living In A New England Igloo”.
For my larger readership?
( And I’m usung this format so I can copy it over to my FR post
Hurricane Preparedness ( and general “bad times” links )
without reformatting it- Via Insty:
IN LIGHT OF YESTERDAYS POST ON POWER SYSTEM / CELLPHONE VULNERABILITY,
I should also link back to earlier posts on low-budget disaster preparation
and on generators.
And remember, with any kind of generator or backup heat system its good to have a battery-powered carbon monoxide detector.
THEG notes: Amazon can overnight ship a lot of things including some generators.
Don’t forget inverters:
I keep a 2KW in my car, an 800 Watt in my truck. MaryAnn has a 400W in her car and a 750W at home. Keep the battery topped up.
More disaster prep via Insty:
96 HOURS TO THE STONE AGE: How Our Connected Lives Crumble When The Power Goes Out.
A few points. First, you dont necessarily lose wi-fi and Internet when the power goes out if youve got a backup source of power for your cable/dsl modem and router. I use a big honking UPS
thats enough to keep those two low-consumption items going for days. An inverter is another possibility. Also, have some flashlights
and plenty of spare batteries. One of those LED room lamps
might be nice, too.
Second, whats this about being one of the rare people who owns a battery-powered radio? Everybody should have a hand-cranked / battery/solar radio for emergencies.
Third, running out of gas? If you own a gas station, you should really have a generator so you can keep at least one pump going in emergencies. (This is likely to pay off financially, and in long-term goodwill, too.) Also, for those who dont own gas stations, its a good idea to keep your car tank at least half-full.
Fourth, running out of cash because ATMs dont work? Keep a couple of hundred bucks around in small bills. (And some change, too).
And you should have extra blankets, and maybe an alternate source of heat,
this time of year. Plus more warm clothes, and some wool socks put away against long-term chill.
Aside from the quibbles above, heres the key point in the piece: This is a serious threat, and we need to take it seriously. s Ive thought about our reliance on pervasive connectivity over the last year, Ive spoken with C-level executives from both the tech side and the utility side. They get it. But they have businesses to run, customers to serve, business targets to achieve to keep their jobs. It is critical to recognize that the pace of our reliance on pervasive connectivity via our wireless devices is rapidly outstripping our ability to deal with the absence of those services. We need to recognize the extent that our wireless infrastructure is increasingly core to our personal, family, and societal existence. For now, it is a fragile core.
Yes, it is. It needs to be toughened up.
Posted at 10:02 pm by Glenn Reynolds
DAN RIEHL: So thats a derecho.
“Three days was enough, though. I had pretty much what I needed to get by, or you could get it by then. This was not a catastrophic event, as some homes, public buildings and stores of all stripes within driving distance were spared. Had this been truly catastrophic, say like an EMP attack? Im fairly convinced the whole thing would have started to come apart pretty fast. You could tell by how many people reacted. . . .
An event like this does focus you, somehow gives you a certain perspective its easy to lose sight of day-to-day. It also reinforced an old Clint Eastwood line from Magnum Force, believe it, or not: a mans got to know his limitations.
Strange, perhaps. But I guess it was a teachable moment, or held a few of them, in some ways. Im simply not altogether sure what else, if anything, I learned for now. I guess over time, maybe Ill find out. It was an interesting three days.
Maybe gratitude has something to do with it. It almost sounds silly, now. But if youre sitting there suffering somehow, large or small and trust me, people were and still are from this . The minute it all came back on, when you heard and felt that air conditioning kick on and you knew you could take a hot shower, again or just go to the refrigerator for a cold drink, or something you wanted to eat? Strange as it may sound to you, theres a gratitude, a beauty in that moment you can only hope to never forget. Imagine that? Hmm. What can I say? It was an experience. Leave it at that.”
Heres a post on low-budget disaster preparation,
and some bug-out bag recommendations.
Also, stuff to keep in your car or SUV.
And you might want to check out Bill Quicks disaster-preparedness forum.
ADVICE ON HURRICANE PREPARATION.
Also, Hurricane Irene: Some Lessons Learned.
And: List: Hurricane Preparation.
A useful tip from one of those hurricane links above?
You need a copy of a utility bill with your name & address on it to get back home if you are forced out- your DL will not pass. I discovered not all the copies of mine had all that info. Several had Emily’s name ( Damn it... ) so when I found the right ones I placed a copy in both gloveboxes.
Two kilowatts for $100... Amazon...
Good to see you posting, backhoe.
Kartographer, here’s an old thread you might want to ping the list to, given what appears to be about to happen to the NE. backhoe was one of the original FR preppers.
It appears I won't have to evacuate my sometimes boss-lady...
( I guess we're "seeing each other," too. God Almighty, I never dreamed I have to do this man-woman stuff all over again at my age- but? It's kind of fun, hassles & all. )
...& her cats off the Island this time. But I'm standing by... just in case.
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