This is the most important and first step for any type of emergency prep. Remember those safety checks we hear every time we board a plane? "In the event of an emergency, put the oxygen mask on your face first then help your family, friend, or neighbor.
Help Your Community
Your community is your second life line. Its human-nature to help each other out. We prefer to focus on the best-side of people, vs the worst. If you are prepared, you can be the Block Captain helping those in need, and who doesn't want to be a Hero?
We hear this often enough. Whether its Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, Superstorm Sandy in the NE, Super Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. What can we do to help out? Sending money doesn't alwasy feel as personal as delivering goods and supplies to your local Red Cross or Shelter.
Whatever the weather, its tough to loose electricity. Its especially difficult when its freezing cold or boiling hot.
Half of all Carbon Monoxide (CO) deaths occur from people incorrectly using their emergency generators too close to their home and/or having nearby windows, doors, and vents open.
Reading so many stories of people running them in their garage (HINT: it doesn’t matter if the garage door open), made me wonder what the safe distance is from your home. I found a good video and included a report from The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) titled Modeling the Effects of Outdoor Gasoline Powered Generator Use on Indoor CO Exposures. The NIST ran an experiment to try and decide the best the placement of an emergency gasoline generator. Here’s a helpful video discussing their experiment with a single floor 3 bedroom home. Its a good short video talking about emergency generator safety.
Alot of people have bought generators in the last decade either from a local hardware store or from an online retailer. Online retail works for for big heavy equipment too. About three years ago I bought a Yardman 357cc snowblower with heated handles and a headlight from Northern Tools. It was a tough winter and all the local stores were sold of snowblowers. The one issue with buying from an online retailer is dealing with any operational issues as you start using the generator or snow blower.
I had a couple of tech calls for something that was as simply as just overfilling the snow blower with oil. If I bought one locally I could simply gone back to the store and asked someone more knowledgeable.
The Conclusion from the NIST:
“Through a series of simulations on a one-story manufactured house, this study found that positioning a generator 4.6 m (15 feet) from open windows may not be far enough for the house modeled to avoid excessive CO entry. Ideally, the generator should be positioned outside of airflow recirculation regions near the open window. As for human non-controllable factors, a perpendicular wind to the open window often led to more house CO entry than wind with an angle. Lower wind speed generally caused more entry of CO when the outdoor-indoor temperature difference was relatively small so that the CO entry by buoyancy effect could be neglected. When the buoyancy effect was significant, the infiltration of airflow and CO were determined by the combined forces of wind and buoyancy. Major CO entry into the house occurred primarily when the generator was placed inside the airflow recirculation zone, the size of which was found to be related to the dimensions of the house. General guidance for the safe operating distance of a generator could be developed considering the size of the airflow recirculation zone and the house dimensions.”
How long will my home stay warm if we loose electricity?
That’s a question you’ve probably found an answer to after Winter storm Nika, the hard way. My unofficial poll, the average is about 24 hours. If you have hot air heat and your home was built more than 20 years ago, it’s probably less than 24 hours.
If you live in an area that gets cold in the Winter, having an alternative heat source for when the power goes out is critical!
Many of our friends and family live further out of the city and loose electricity multiple times a year. That’s fine if its not below 50 degrees, but when we’ve had as cold a Winter as we’ve had with high temps barely breaking out of the 20s, loosing electricity becomes dangerous.
Best type of heating systems during an emergency:
Wood burning masonry heater/fireplace (that’s been professionally cleaned and maintained.) The type of heater has masonry channels that circulate the heat internally warming a large mass of brick or stone that radiates the heat for hours after the fire is out.
Natural gas or propane “catalytic” heater. Also called those blue flame heaters. These are the most efficient gas heater and safer than having an open flame like you’d have with option number 3.
Vent free natural gas or propane fireplace (if you aren’t an allergy or asthma sufferer). Yep, I know what a lot of people will say about this choice. Its not healthy to run long term and may create breathing problems for people with allergies and asthma over the long-term. this may be It might be an option for you if a choice between freezing and having all the pipes in your home burst.
Kerosene – I can’t really say much about this one. I’ve never used one and considering how easy it is to spill gasoline wen filling up the snow blower, the last thing I would want is spilling kerosene in the living room.
Do you have a small area that could use some extra heat? After some research, I bought this Charmglow vent free fireplace from Home Depot to heat up the front porch. Its rated for 1,000+ square feet and is overkill for the front porch, but can turn a 40 degree room to 65 in about 20 minutes! When I had it installed I asked the gasman to set it up so that I could move it to basement during a power outage and swap it out with the gas dryer. A heat source in the basement will allow convection heat to work its way up to the second and third floors, preventing a hard freeze if the power goes out for a few days. This unit comes with a built-in CO (carbon monoxide) sensor and I have a separate CO alarm just in case.
Worst types of heating systems from a preppers stand-point;
Electric – once the power is out so is all your heat
Hot -air; whether its electric or natural gas, this type of heating is draftier than the hot water radiator systems and has nothing to radiate heat back into your living space.
If you have either type of heat your home and the electricity goes out during a cold Winter, your home (Castle) will be uninhabitable in about 24 hours. If have hot water or steam radiator heating systems they will continue to radiate heat for a few hours after the power is out, but even those systems need electricity to pump the heated water or steam through a hot water radiator based system.
Another good prep is setting up a warm room or even a tent inside your home. I recently had a lot of co-workers who lost power for 5 days which is dangerous when the outside temps aren’t getting above the 20s! I really liked the tent idea and using sleeping bags to stay in your home. Those “space blankets” or “rescue blankets” made of aluminized Mylar is a great heat reflector and just reflects your own body heat back at you. This material was first invented by NASA for the Lunar Excursion Module that landed on the moon. While not insulation, this material reflects heat from both sides, doing an amazing job of helping maintain temperature.
I used one of those emergency $5 mylar sleeps bags during a Winter excursion to a darksky site and watched the Geminid meteor shower without feeling the cold on a 21 degree night. I couldn’t believe how well that $5 sleeping bag from EMS worked!
You could also buy a few of these blankets to coat the inside of your survival room . You don’t have to do this ahead of time, as you can easily tape or staple the material in place. Don’t forget the ceiling, either. This will help keep the heat you are producing in the room, reducing overall heat requirements and adding to your family’s survivability.