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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

EMP or Solar Storm, no electricity, What about lighting?

Every day we walk into a room, flip a switch and in an instant there is light. We push a button and are spending a “Wonderful Life” with Jimmy Stewart. We move a little device on our desk and can be sharing news around the world. We place clothes or dishes in a box and a half hour later they are clean. We expect all of these things to be at our fingertips every day but within mili-seconds of an EMP attack or solar storm we can be transported back to 1850 and living like Abraham Lincoln, chopping wood for warmth and reading by candle light. But it may not be an EMP or solar storm that leaves us in the dark, an earthquake, hurricane, blizzard, terrorist attack, or even a wild fire in the right place could propel us back in time.
There are days when that life sounds really good to me. It would be so nice to have the peace and quiet with just the sound of a crackling fire. It would be great to have an excuse to read a book I have been putting off because of a lack of time. It would be wonderful to lay on the lawn and look at the stars. For those in the city you would actually be able to see the stars again. Not everything about the lack of electricity is a bad thing.
There are things I would miss and those are the things I will plan to replace, just like our great grandparents lived without them. In 2008 we spent the year preparing using our Seven Steps program. Every Monday I posted seven things to do that week to be better prepared. We accomplished so much that year. It was amazing. One of the first things we did was to list all of the things we do that require electricity. For those of you who went through the Seven Steps those lists should be in your binder. Let’s consider several over the next few weeks.
First light: Today it is pouring here, really pouring, a real winter storm, I know it’s spring. It hasn’t really been very light all day but now it is actually dark outside, two hours earlier than usual. What did our forefathers do to provide light for their family? There are many solutions to this problem but as we consider an EMP or solar storm as the source of the outage we need to prepare a little differently. These outages could last for weeks or months. It is not just a matter of storing a few candles or a few batteries.
We may want to use kerosene lanterns. These are great and produce plenty of light to read by. They are good for use in common areas where they can be monitored and children can be kept away from them. Lamps can be lit and the wick adjusted so you have a dim or bright light. After a few days or several hours the wick will become hardened at the end and will need to be trimmed. If you should choose to make kerosene lamps the source of your lighting you will need plenty of kerosene and plenty of extra wicks.
Glow sticks are a great addition to your stash as they provide plenty of light to read by if they are yellow or white. Colored sticks will provide plenty of lumination in a hallway or a bathroom as a night light. They are safe around children and can be used in the rain or snow if you need to venture outside at night to collect wood or to use your sanitation facility, more about that later. They will last eight hours. If you know you want one for each bathroom at night it is easy to calculate how many you would need for two weeks or six months. These do have a shelf life but you will be the hit of the neighborhood if you rotate them by passing them out for Halloween. We took some to Disneyland and had the kids where them after dark. It made them very easy to spot and they loved it!
Flashlights are also a consideration for lighting. These are perfect when you are trying to find a lost item at the back of a cupboard or when you are trying to adjust the generator at night. Batteries will last only a few days, three to five, if you are leaving them on for extended periods each day. Develop a plan now and calculate the number of batteries you will need to store.
Solar lighting is an easily renewable lighting source. Garden lighting can be placed outside each morning to recharge and brought in at night to light your home. You can place these in indoor potted plants, in an outdoor umbrella stand or just supported between a couple of stacks of book. These will last a very long time if you have new batteries to replace the old at the beginning of the crisis. Our Solar lamps have been working now for three years on their original batteries. The only drawback to relying on these is the inability to charge them during winter storm seasons when there may be days without sunlight.
I guess we can’t overlook candles. These are my least favorite option but my favorite type of lighting. I love candle light but it is not bright enough to read by and it is dangerous to have an open flame around children. You will need to have a plan for keeping your candles safe. Glass canning jars are great for a candle holder as they can with stand the heat and allow all the light to shine through.
Finally there are crank/solar powered lights. As with outdoor lighting these can be charged when the sun shines or they can be cranked to provide light. A good light will hold a charge for two to three hours without rewinding. They are a great option is you fear you may fall asleep and don’t want to leave a flame burning or run down batteries. With just a few cranks and a few seconds you can have light again when you awaken. You should also consider the light from a fire in the fireplace. This can supplement your other lighting preparations; saving kerosene, batteries, candles and glow sticks for later use.
You may also want to consider natural light in your planning. If you have wooden shutters in your home that cannot be opened you may want to consider replacing or modifying them. I was amazed when I helped a friend move last year that those pretty wooden shutters in the living areas could not be opened. The slats were movable but you could not open the entire unit to clean the windows or sills. It provided a great place for dust and spiders, not a good idea for any family with allergies. Definitely not a great idea for emergency lighting options.
I have not forgotten about generators but that is a topic all of it’s own. This week consider just how long you could provide lighting if your power were to fail this week and leave you in the dark for a month or more.
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