Category Archives: Emergency
Staying comfortable and safe when the electricity goes out.
Every year the electricity goes out in our house. In many cases it’s just for a couple of hours, but in some cases longer. Today the electricity went out at 2:30 a.m. and at 11 a.m. it’s still off.
The trick to staying comfortable and safe is to have the right backup amenities to keep things civilized.
Some of these recommendations may be expensive, but you will appreciate them in the long run.
Uninterruptible Power Supply
I use these on our computers so that when the power goes off, the computer will beep. It will also give you 30 minutes of backup power to keep your computer working for a short time. The beeping on the UPS is what woke us up, so it also serves as a warning bell that the electricity is off.
When you have bad storms, surge protectors will keep your electronics like TVs, computers etc. protected from electric surges. This is not 100% safe but better than nothing at all. Another tip is that when your electricity is off, unplug your big ticket electronics. This way when the electricity does come on it won’t burn out any electronic devices.
Flashlight with lots of batteries.
I like the inexpensive flashlights that use one AA battery. I put them on a lanyard and have them all over the house for emergencies. I also have extra large packs of batteries in case the emergency is a long one. I like to keep a flashlight on my bed stand so it’s easy to find in the dark.
Also remember that your phone has a flashlight function so learn how to use it.
Gas is a Must.
I see many houses and condos with just electricity and no gas connection. In an emergency having gas is a must.
As I write this my gas fireplace is on and is radiating heat into the living room. It’s keeping the room at a cozy 72 degrees although it is 38 degrees outside.
Gas Hot Water Heater
You still have hot water with gas.
With a BBQ lighter, it’s easy to cook and have a hot breakfast, dinner or lunch.
Percolator Coffee Pot
I have an old one from my camping days, but I’m going to upgrade to a new stainless steel model.
Sump Pump Backup
I use a water powered backup for my sump pump. It’s comforting to hear it run every few minutes and know that my basement will stay dry. If you have a battery backup, make sure you have it on your calendar to check on a regular basis. I have had neighbors on both sides of me have a water logged basement because their battery backup failed and they didn’t know it.
Garage Door Battery Backup
Buying a garage door which has a battery backup is a nice feature to have when you need to an appointment while the electricity is out. While you can open the garage door manually, it won’t be locked when you leave.
USB Backup Power
Having a usb power brick or two is handy for your phone. Without electricity, your phone is your only link to the outside world.
Car Battery Power Backup
While this is not a necessity, it will fill in as a usb power backup and a flashlight. I could have used one of these when my battery died. I now have one in my trunk.
It’s nice to have a gas BBQ you can use to cook outside when the electricity is out.
Phone Hotspot – wifi from your phone.
This is a feature that you may have on your phone so take some time to learn how to use it. On T-Mobile, the free hotspot is VERY SLOW, but it’s fast enough for email and writing this article.
Phone – keep it charged.
Have your phone charging overnight so it will be ready if you wake up without power in the middle of the night.
Computer with USB-C
While this is not strictly necessary, it’s nice to have a Chromebook which allows charging via a USB battery backup. Couple this with a fast hot spot and you can keep the kids entertained with Netflix. I’m writing this article on my computer linked to my phone’s hotspot.
Another somewhat expensive option, but it may be worth it if it keeps your pipes from freezing. The limiting factor is being able to buy gasoline to keep the generator running.
If you have any other tips to be prepared when the electricity goes out please share them with me.
Jeff Rossen Reports had some good information on the latest gas explosions and what the home owner should do if they smell gas. I will list them below, but noticed that he omitted what I would consider to be an obvious action to take.
Turn off the outside gas valve. This is something I learned in my CERT training and is fairly easy to do. There is a video below which shows how to do this. I’d recommend getting a LARGE wrench since the valve can be a bit hard to turn.
Here are the actions that are recommended by the show.
- Check the stove to make sure none of the knobs are on.
- Don’t use the light switch or any electric appliances. The spark could ignite the gas.
- Open the window/windows. They only vent one window and leave the door open.
- Don’t start your car. It might cause a spark.
- Get 350 feet away from the house.
- Call 911.
After all the devastating floods in the Houston area, I got a bit nervous and thought I’d do some research and see what my flood risk might be.
Here’s a good story on why Houston is so prone to flooding.
I found a site – http://www.whatismyelevation.com/ that allows you to enter an address and it will give you it’s elevation.
An even easier elevation map can be found at
Type in an address to start and then you can compare your elevation to surrounding areas.
Here some general elevation figures from my area.
- My house is at an elevation of 636 feet.
- The elevation is 613 feet at one end of the street
- The elevation is 607 feet in the other direction.
- The elevation at Gravois Creek is 492 feet.
- The Meramec river is 391 feet
- The Mississippi River level is 383 feet
While the above won’t give you an absolute risk assessment, it will give you an idea of what your risk might be.
I’ve had a number of acquaintances have the problem of not getting up after a fall. I’m providing this information for their use.
Another good video
How to help someone up.
One of my yearly chores is to scan the contents of my wallet and keep a copy in a secure location.
My scanner allows me to make multiple scans and save it as one PDF image.
You can then either print a copy for a safe deposit box or encrypt the file and keep it with your valuables.
Hopefully you will never need this backup, but there’s always a chance and then you will be really happy you have this backup.
After a disaster, there is a good chance that you won’t have many of the necessary papers and documents you may need to get your life back into order. One way around this is to scan your documents NOW and then use Google Drive as a way to store those documents. A Google account and Google Drive is free for up to 15 GB.
Here’s another extra step you can do to make your files even more secure.
Encrypt your files before you drag them over to Google Drive.
The program I use is Axcrypt.
I put all the files I want to encrypt in one folder and then choose them all and encrypt them all at one time.
Then drag the files or upload the files into Google Drive.
Now your files are doubly encrypted and even if your Google account is compromised, your sensitive data is safe.
To Erase files from your computer, you can use the Eraser program from SourceForge.
One of the suggestions I recently heard about is the need to secure your portable generator or it may easily be stolen. I found a number of solutions.
1. Did a deep hole, fill with concrete and a bolt attached to a chain.
2. Have an alarm by the generator to let you know if anyone approaches.
3. One suggestion was to only run the generator when you could watch it. If you can’t watch it, put it away.
I’m posting a few videos on doing CPR. Here’s a fact sheet to read.
Here are the three steps.
- Call 911
- Open the top clothes of the person who needs CPR. (I’m not quite sure why this is important except that it might interfere with step three.)
- Push hard and fast in the center of the chest until help arrives. 100 beats/minute – song Staying Alive.
One of the Doomsday scenarios that will happen at some point are Solar Flares and Cornonal Mass Ejections (CME) that will impact our electronics and the electrical grid.
- According to Wikipedia, there was such a storm in 1859.
- NASA.gov has an article about solar activity which says it would take 4 to 10 years to recover and initially cause up to 2 trillion dollars in damages.
- In 1989 Quebec had a 9 hour power outage due to solar activity.
With that as a background, I wondered what actions ordinary people could do to be proactive.
One warning I found available is from NOAA. You can signup for email alerts about solar activity. Here’s a response I received from them.
“The main space weather phenomenon that you are likely interested in is our geomagnetic alerts/watches/warnings. If you have not signed up for the Product Subscription Service yet, you can start here: https://pss.swpc.noaa.gov/LoginWebForm.aspx?ReturnUrl=%2fproductsubscriptionservice%2f
Once you have signed up, you can go in and add different products that will notify you of the potential geomagnetic activity (aurora).
First, go here:
Subscribe (add or change subscription preferences) Then go to the Geomagnetic Storm Products section. Here is where you will actually select the products you wish to receive. If you are in an above of about 40°N/S, you should probably subscribe to everything from K=4 to the G5 warnings and alerts. If you are farther south, it is less likely you will see any impacts with anything less than a G2 or more. There are always exceptions, so if you want to subscribe to everything, feel free.
You can also subscribe to our Radio alerts/watches/warnings as well. This will let you know if we have a good sized x-ray flare, which has the potential to send a coronal mass ejection towards earth and possibly creating aurora and have potential impacts on Earth (i.e. power grids/communications)”
Here’s a picture of the subscriptions for Geomagnetic Storms. I you look at a Geomagnetic Storm of Category G4 – it says “Grid system can collapse.” That’s about as bad as it gets.
I sent an email to NOAA to find out how much time there is between the Warning and the Solar Event…. Here’s their response –
Here are some thoughts on “Actions To Take.”
- I’m going to assume you already have your regular Emergency Supplies and Food. – see my list.
- Money – go to the bank and withdraw almost all your money. You can always put it back in, if things turn out OK. Obviously smaller bills are better. This is one reason to deal with a local bank. Just drive over and get your money. There may be a run on the banks – so be one of the first to get there. They won’t have enough money for everyone.
- Water – start filling up every thing you have with water – bathtubs, pools, containers etc. Buy new containers like trash cans to fill up while the water is still flowing. Buy extra bleach for cleaning bad water.
- Food – make a run to Costco or any store where you can buy large quantities of food. That 7 day supply of food in the basement is not going to last very long.
- Gas – fill your car. Buy and fill as many gas cans as you can get your hand on.
- Protection – you may need to protect your house and family – have adequate protection.
Question – what else needs to be on the list?
I was doing some research on Living Wills, Medical Directives and Power of Attorney for Health Care and here’s a site I found which seems to have forms for all states.
Here is the Missouri PDF form.
It looks like Missouri requires a Notary for the Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care – so plan ahead.
I also have a form I can email you I got from my doctors office.
Here are some condensed material from FEMA on how to prepare for an electrical outage.
Here’s the link if you want it:
Important Phone Numbers – put these into your cell phone ahead of time. Phone numbers listed are for St. Louis MO.
• Electric company phone number/Website: Ameren MO – 800.552.7583.
• Natural gas company phone number/Web site: 314-342-0800
• Water company phone number/Website 866.430.0820
• Plumbing company phone number/Web site:
• Oil/gas heat service phone number/Web site:
• Telephone company phone number/Web site:
If you use medical equipment that requires electricity to operate, register with your power company and health care provider to learn about alternatives.
Assess Your Neighborhood
• If there is a utility outage, who may need extra support because of their functional or medical needs?
• Does anyone in the neighborhood have special skills who can help others?
Locate and label utility shutoff (see diagram at the end of this handout).
Post instructions next to fuse box or circuit breaker.
Are there enough flashlights on hand (at least one for each person in the house)? Are the
batteries working? (Tip: Store batteries in the refrigerator for longer life.)
Do not use candles. They are a fire hazard.
Keep on hand ready-to-eat meals that don’t require cooking or cooling.
Freeze water in plastic water bottles or old milk containers, leaving about an inch at the top for frozen water to expand. When placed in a refrigerator and freezer, they will keep food cold for several hours.
Know where to get dry ice to keep food cold as necessary.
Are there cordless phones that need electricity to run? If so, what can be used as a
backup? (Standard telephone with cord, cell phone, etc.)
Find a new or used battery-operated radio to get updates on information, shelters, etc.
Is there an alternate heating source? Make sure it is properly vented and in good working
order. Make sure all chimneys are clean and all flues are operational. Do you have enough
wood, pellets, or heating fuel?
If heating system involves an electronic ignition or fan, know who to call for service/restarting
If there is an electric garage door opener, where is the manual release? Post instructions
on how to use it and practice!
When possible, keep car gas tanks at least half full. Gas stations need electricity to power
When the power goes out . . .
• Are all the pots and pans off the stove? Are the stove range and oven turned off?
• If you have a space heater, make sure it’s at least 3 feet away from furniture or other
flammable objects. Keep it unplugged when not in use.
• In cold weather, maximize heat coming from the sun. Open shades, curtains, or louvers so
that sun may heat the glass. Close them when the sun is no longer shining directly to hold
in the heat. In hot weather, minimize heat by closing shades, curtains, and louvers.
Natural Gas Outages
Locate and label gas shutoff valve(s). There may be more than one (see diagram at the end
of this handout).
Post shutoff instructions near the meter and make sure a nonsparking wrench is stored
If your gas meter is located inside your home, you should only shut off gas flow when
instructed to by local authorities.
Also see “Electricity Outages” above for more tips.
Locate and label main water cutoff. Make sure any special tools needed are stored nearby.
(Tip: The main water cutoff is usually on the outside wall of the house where the water
meter is. With a well, the cutoff is usually on the well pump.)
Have 3 days ( I’d recommend having at least a weeks worth of water) of drinking water stored (1 gallon of water per person per day).
If pipes may freeze . . .
• Wrap insulation, tape, newspapers, or rags around them.
• Store water in buckets or bathtubs to flush toilets.
• Leave water trickling out of the faucets.
If pipes do freeze . . .
• Remove any insulation or newspaper and wrap them in rags.
• Completely open all the faucets. If you can still heat water, pour hot water over the pipes,
starting with where they are most cold. If you have electricity, try using a blow dryer.
If pipes burst . . .
• Know where circuit breakers and fuses are and how to shut off the power. See “Electricity
• Never enter a flooded basement or walk through standing water to shut off electrical supply
because water conducts electricity.
Have on hand a backup way to communicate (cell phone, computer via cable connection,
Shutting Off Electricity
Unscrew individual fuses or switch off smaller breakers first, then pull the main switch or
breaker. When restoring power, turn on main switch or breaker, then screw in smaller fuses or
turn on smaller breakers, one at a time.
Circuit Breaker Box With Shutoff
Step 1: Shut off individual breakers.
Step 2: Shut off main breaker.
Fuse Box With Shutoff
Step 1: Pull out individual fuses.
Step 2: Pull out main fuse.
Shutting Off Gas
The gas meter shutoff diagram indicates the shutoff valve location on the pipe that comes out of
the ground. To turn off the valve, use a nonsparking wrench to turn the valve clockwise onequarter turn. Remember that, in all cases, natural gas flow should only be turned on by a
Please note: Some gas meters have automatic shutoff valves that restrict the flow of gas during
an earthquake or other emergency. These are installed by a licensed plumber, downstream of
the utility point of delivery. If you are unsure whether your home has this shutoff device, contact
your gas service company. If this shutoff device is closed, only a qualified professional should
Gas Meter in the Home
If you smell gas or see the dials on your meter showing gas is flowing even though appliances
are turned off, you should evacuate the premises and call 911. Do not attempt to shut off the
gas from inside the building if gas may be in the air.
Gas Meter Outside the Home
You should turn off the meter from outside the building if you smell gas or you see dials on the
meter showing gas is flowing even though appliances are turned off. If there is a fire that you
cannot extinguish, call 911 and turn off the gas only if it is safe to do so.
Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed. Food should be okay for around 4 hours. Refer
to the chart below to know when to save food and when to throw it out.
FOOD IN REFRIGERATOR
Held above 40 °F for over 2 hours
MEAT, POULTRY, SEAFOOD: Any raw, leftover, or thawing.
Also includes soy meat substitutes, salads, lunch meats, pizza,
cans that have been opened, fish, or meat sauces.
CHEESE: Any soft cheeses, shredded cheeses, or low-fat
Hard cheeses such as cheddar, colby, swiss, parmesan,
provolone, romano, or hard cheeses grated in can or jar Safe
DAIRY: Milk, cream, sour cream, buttermilk, evaporated milk,
yogurt, eggnog, soy milk, opened baby formula Discard
Butter, margarine Safe
EGGS: All eggs and egg products, such as puddings Discard
CASSEROLES, SOUPS, STEWS Discard
FRUITS: Fresh fruits, cut Discard
Opened fruit juices or canned fruits, along with fresh fruits,
coconut, raisins, dried fruits, candied fruits, dates Safe
SAUCES, SPREADS, JAMS: Opened mayonnaise, tartar
Discard if above 50 °F
for over 8 hours
Other sauces, including soy, barbecue, taco. Also peanut butter,
jelly, relish, mustard, catsup, olives, pickles, and vinegar-based
Opened creamy-based dressings and opened spaghetti sauce Discard
BREAD, CAKES, COOKIES, PASTA, GRAINS, PASTRY:
Bread, rolls, cakes, muffins, quick breads, tortillas, waffles,
pancakes, bagels, fruit pies
All other rolls, dough, cooked pasta, rice, potatoes, pasta salads,
fresh pasta, cheesecake, cream-filled pastries or pie Discard
VEGETABLES: Fresh raw vegetables or mushrooms, herbs,
All other pre-cut, pre-washed, cooked vegetables, tofu, opened
vegetable juice, garlic in oil, potato salad Discard
FOOD IN FREEZER
Still contains ice crystals and feels as cold as if refrigerated
Thawed; held above 40 °F for over 2 hours
MEAT, POULTRY, SEAFOOD
Refreeze. However, seafood will have some texture and flavor loss.Discard
DAIRY: Milk and soft or semisoft cheeseRefreeze. May lose some texture. Discard
Eggs (out of shell) and egg products Refreeze Discard
Ice cream, frozen yogurt Discard Discard
Hard and shredded cheeses, casseroles with dairy products, cheesecakeRefreeze Refreeze
FRUITS: Juices, packaged fruitsRefreeze. However, home or commercially packaged fruits will have texture and flavor change.Refreeze. Discard if mold, yeasty smell, or sliminess develops.
VEGETABLES: Juices, packaged vegetables Refreeze. Vegetables may suffer texture and flavor loss.Discard after held above 40 °F for 6 hours
BREADS, PASTRIES: Breads, rolls, muffins, cakes (without custard fillings)Refreeze Refreeze
Cakes, pies, pastries with custard or cheese filling Refreeze Discard
Pie crusts, commercial and homemade bread dough Refreeze. Some quality loss may occur. Refreeze. Quality loss is considerable.
OTHER: Casseroles – pasta, rice based Refreeze Discard
Flour, cornmeal, nuts, waffles, pancakes, bagels Refreeze Refreeze
Frozen meals Refreeze Discard
For more information, see http://www.foodsafety.gov/keep/emergency/index.html
I received an email from FEMA about a webinar they held on Financial Preparation for Disasters and Emergencies. Below are the relevant links on this topic. This has a lots of great information. take the time to go through it and make sure you are prepared financially when a disaster/emergency strikes.
On many emergency type sites, they recommend keeping copies of your passport, drivers license etc. While paper copies are certainly acceptable, there is another option you can use if you’re careful – online. The question is where online since you want this sensitive data to be secure.
One solution which was shown to me, via the Security Now Podcast. was LastPass. I use LastPass as a way to remember the hundreds of my many and varied passwords. One of the other great features they have is that they also have what is called Secure Notes. With Secure Notes you can keep other sensitive data and attach scans of important documents either in pdf or jpg format.
One limitation is that a single note can hold up to 10MB of attachments, so depending on the size of your scans, you may need to create more than one secure note for your valuables.
Currently, free users have up to 50 MB of encrypted file storage, and Premium users have up to 1GB encrypted file storage.
LastPass Premium only cost $12/year so it’s a good way to support the company and protect your data.
LastPass seems like a great solution for backup of sensitive data.
According to Consumer Reports, I should be flushing my water heater twice a year. I haven’t done that in the past and so when I tried it, no water would come out of the drain. Even though the water heater says that it is self-cleaning – obviously it is not.
If you are counting on this water in an emergency, flushing the water heater twice a year will be a good way to ensure that the water will be available when needed.
Consumer Reports has a nice article about he whole process here.
Here are the basics:
- Turn off the heater or put in on a vacation setting to keep it from going on. You could also put it on a Pilot setting. Relighting the pilot light can be a pain., so I would suggest not turning the pilot light off.
- Attach a hose to the water heater drain and bring the hose to a nearby drain. Watch out – the water will be extremely hot coming out of the tank.
- Turn off the cold water supply to the water heater.
- Open up a hot water tap in the house.
- Open the water heater drain and let it run until the water is clear. Turn off the drain and wait a few minutes and try this again. When it’s always clear then you can close the drain.
- Turn on the cold water inlet.
- Go to your upstairs faucet that is on – let the air out and then close when the water come out.
I thought I’d do a few calculations here to figure out how much food one person needs to store for emergency situations.
1/4 cup uncooked rice = 160 calories.
Figuring that one person would eat 2000 calories/day – that’s an average obviously.
2000 calories/160 calories = 12.5 (1/4 cup) servings
A 50 pound bag of rice = 500 servings.(From the bags nutrition information)
Therefore 500 servings/12.5 servings a day = 40 days one person could survive on rice alone.
You also need other foods to fill in and supplement, but rice does seem to be a cheap and long lasting emergency food.
When the lights go out, even though you have a generator, the question remains – how am I going to get the power from the generator to the house? Obviously you could use a lot of extension cords, but your furnace won’t plug into an extension cord. One solution is to install a Transfer Switch.
The thing that greatly impresses me about this product are the great videos which are available online. You can find them on YouTube (holisticplanthealth)or the RelianceControls website.
I did have an electrician do the connection to the main fusebox, but I did a lot of the other work.
The only suggestion I have is that instead of cutting the wires short, keep them long so that during a loss of power if you decide you want to change your mind about the circuits, you can just move the wires around. Right now I have the two furnaces wired up, but during mid-July I might want to run an air conditioner.
I also had trouble drilling into my concrete. If you rent a hammer drill, not a cheap one, it will be worth the cost. I put up a piece of 3/4″ plywood and screwed my box into it.
I also connected my outside plug to the transfer switch before connecting it to the main box. The video connects the main box first and then the outside connector box.
You will also have to do your homework and figure out which circuits are critical and balance your load.
My wife and I got on our phones and turned off each circuit to figure out what each controlled.
I was listening to a law officer talk about five actions that could save your life if there was a shooter in your house/building etc.
1. Don’t cower – act – run – take action.
2. Run across the line of fire. You want the shooter to have to move and constantly change aim.
3. Distract. If possible throw something at the shooter.
4. Distance – get as far away as possible.
5. Cover – get a brick wall/concrete between you and the bad guy.
I saw a recent news item saying that 41 kids this year were killed by TVs and heavy furniture falling on them. I decided to see if I could make my own device to secure my TV’s.
Here’s my end result – now I’ll tell you what it involves.
The first thing I noticed was that my Samsung TV had four large bolt holes – the question was, “What size bolt do I need?” After doing a bit of googling, I decided on an M8 bolt. I went to the hardware store, bought four and tried to install them – no luck. They would not screw into the back of my TV.
I went back to the store and found out that there are two different types of M8 bolts – 1.00 or 1.25. The difference is the type of thread on each bolt. I tried M8-1.25 and it was perfect.
My next consideration was how to attach something to the TV. I found some nice webbing on Amazon and bought two kinds to test each out. The thinner and less expensive webbing works just fine.
I also bought a 3/8 inch grommet kit to make grommets for the webbing. I heated up the grommet cutter and used it to melt the hole for the grommet.
To attach the webbing to the cabinet, I heated a nail and punched a hole in the webbing where it would attach to the cabinet. I then drilled a small pilot hole in the cabinet and used a 1 1/8″ drywall screw and a washer to secure the webbing to the cabinet.
I did leave a little slack in the webbing just in case I needed to turn the TV slightly.
This solution is only meant from keeping kids from pulling the TV over onto themselves. It is not meant as an earthquake solution.
Note – I’ve found a product on Amazon which will do basically the same thing. It’s the Kidco Anti-Tip-TV-Strap-Pack.
Another more simple option is to buy a TV Mounting kit and attach it to the wall. Even if you don’t plan on using the kit to hold the TV, it will keep it from falling over. Here’s a kit I ordered from Amazon for only $28. This particular kit is for smaller TV’s. I’m using this solution for the basement TV.