Emergency preparedness kit. | Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

Blackout Preparation

Our first PSPS was a wakeup call, now it's time to go into the next blackout more ready than ever.

Our first PSPS was a wakeup call, now it’s time to go into the next blackout more ready than ever

In early October, Humboldt County residents trailed around the block at gas stations hoping to fill up their tanks and stripped local grocery stores of food, water and battery operated lights. The Public Safety Power Shutoff made us realize how often we take electricity for granted, and how we use power for most of our daily activities. Simple tasks like cooking, cleaning, eating, working and watching television all require some form of electricity.

Some locals were fortunate enough to have gas-operated stoves to make and warm food, but most of the LJ staff didn’t. Many of us rent apartments or live on campus and have electric stoves, so something as simple as warming a can of beans was nearly impossible.

With the lights out, it felt like we time traveled back to the 1800s. The usual ways of entertainment were off the table, and when we went shopping in preparation most of us didn’t consider buying board games or downloading movies to a laptop. When it came down to sitting in a dark room with nothing to do we made a pact that the next time we would be better prepared.

Having a bag prepped for extreme situations could be lifesaving, and with a little forward thinking, your bag could be ready in minutes.

Here some items we think you should grab from the store or make sure you have before the power outage:

  • Flashlights and batteries. An obvious choice, but oil or battery-operated lanterns work great, too.
  • Candles and matches/lighters. This is Humboldt, so we wouldn’t be surprised if most people had a lighter on hand or nearby, but if you don’t you should look into easy means of lighting candles (or that oil lamp) to have some light once the sun goes down.
  • Cash and gasoline. When the electricity is down, systems are down. This generally means that stores –if open– can’t take cards because they have no way of charging them. This can also include gas stations. We recommend filling up and taking out some cash just in case you need to buy something or drive during the blackout.
  • Water. You need a minimum of one gallon of water per day per person. We recommend having even more and making an effort to conserve. During the initial PSPS, the City of Arcata urged residents to minimize sewer use and conserve water to the best of their ability. That’s a good rule of thumb, and especially smart if the power outage last longer than before. 
  • Ice. You’ll need lots of ice if you’re interested in trying to save any of the food that was already in your fridge or freezer. We also recommend moving expensive perishables to the freezer and using gallon baggies filled with water as makeshift ice packs to help keep food cold. A cooler filled with ice is also a great option. If you have the money and the storage space, buying a cooler for emergencies like these and any future camping trips could really come in handy.
  • First Aid kit. You may already have one hanging around. If so, check the the kit to make sure it’s well-stocked and move it to a central place in your home. Communicate the new location with any family or roommates so it’s accessible for any who may need it.
  • Canned goods. Think of foods you wouldn’t mind eating cold. There’s no need to buy something that will make you gag when you’re trying to stay fed.
  • Fruit. Apples, bananas and oranges are just a few options. Fruit doesn’t need to be refrigerated and it can help keep your blood sugar up as well as making sure you have some daily fiber, potassium and vitamin C.
  • Non-perishable snacks. Crackers and chips make an easy snacks but they don’t replace an actual meal. If you have means of warming up water, we recommend grabbing some potato flakes and pasta to keep that stomach from grumbling.
  • A French press and some pre-ground coffee. If you’re a coffee drinker then we would highly recommend grinding some coffee today. Your future self will thank you. Thankfully a French press doesn’t require electricity, but it does require hot water. If you have an electric stove, instant coffee may be your best bet to get that caffeine fix.
  • Beef jerky and granola bars. For all you meat eaters, jerky is a great way to keep your protein levels up if you despise cold beans. Granola bars are also great. They’re convenient and versatile, and depending on the bar, they can be a good source of fiber and protein.
  • Applesauce, puddings and fruit cups. Your pick. But if the power’s out for a while you might get sick of Saltines and canned corn. To keep your mood up, give yourself a treat with a chocolate pudding, or enjoy a sweet, but semi-healthy snack with an applesauce or fruit cup.
  • Playing cards and boardgames. Whether it’s just you or a group, a deck of cards could most definitely come in handy. Playing cards or boardgames is a great way to pass the time. We recommend a regular deck of cards to start before moving into heavier, emotional games like Uno or Monopoly that could take a toll on your relationships.
  • Sleeping bags and blankets. It may not be the coldest time of the year, but if you’re used to having your electric heat on, then you’re in for a wake up call. Sleeping bags and blankets, as well as sweats, long socks, hoodies and beanies will help you stay warm while your heater can’t. It’s also good practice if you’re looking for ways to lower that pesky PG&E bill.
  • An emergency radio. If you’re lucky, you’ll never need to use one, but having a weather radio on hand can be lifesaving. Radios can help you find hot coffee, hot food, shelter or even a place to charge your phone. Some weather radios even double-up as lights and backup chargers.
  • Portable chargers. These are a great investment. We recommend having one fully charged at all times. If anything happens you can make sure your phone doesn’t lose its battery. If cell towers are active or have backup generators during a blackout, having enough phone battery to call family or friends to keep them updated or ask for updates can be essential.

While all of these items are helpful and important, it’s vital to try and stay calm when the outage hits. Extreme situations can cause mass chaos, and it often becomes more dangerous and stressful than it needs to be. Check our website for updates, sign up for Humboldt County alerts to stay in the know and remember to only call 9-1-1 in emergency situations.

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