When the Lights Go Out …

“When the Lights Go Out …” Ensign, June 1992, 71

When the Lights Go Out …

Because we live in an area that experiences frequent power outages, our family has learned that knowing what to do when the lights go out begins with what we do before the storm. Perhaps some of our ideas can help you prepare for similar emergencies.

Our emergency candle box is our first secret for weathering a blackout successfully. In this box we have matches, candles, extra wicks for kerosene lanterns, and a small flashlight. We keep kerosene lamps and extra bottles of kerosene nearby. When the lights go out, we can go straight to the box and light our first candle.

We never use an unshielded candle beyond the first few minutes, though. Fires are a major hazard during power failures, because people try to light their homes with candles. Kerosene lanterns or camping lanterns, placed securely on level surfaces out of children’s reach, provide more light with less risk. We keep our lanterns filled and trimmed, ready for use. If you must use candles, put them in a secure place out of the reach of children.

We have a wood stove that provides heat during power outages. If you don’t have an alternative heat source, conserve the heat already in your house by hanging blankets or large towels over doors and windows. Close doors leading upstairs, downstairs, or into unused rooms. Fill hot-water bottles or plastic jugs with hot water to warm feet or beds. If you live in an area with cold winter temperatures, consider investing in a nonelectric space heater to use during emergencies.

Keep the ingredients for an emergency dinner on hand. A simple hot meal, prepared on a camp stove, barbecue grill, or wood stove, can make everyone feel better. Our family’s favorite “blackout meal” is hot dogs roasted over the coals in our wood stove. Sometimes we heat soup or beans on top of the stove. Once we even baked an apple pie in a Dutch oven. If you use a camp stove or a barbecue for cooking, be sure that you do so outside, on a porch, or in a well ventilated area.

Open your refrigerator and freezer as seldom as possible. They are well insulated and should keep food safe for several days if the air inside them is cold. Evaluate your needs before you open the door so that you can remove everything for a meal at one time. If it looks as though the power is going to be out for more than two or three days—which is rare in these days of buried wires—cover freezers with layers of blankets to further insulate them.

Sometimes, power returns with a stronger-than-usual surge of electricity. To prevent damage to delicate and costly appliances such as computers, televisions, and videocassette recorders, unplug them during the power outage.

If you have prepared adequately, you can settle in and read or play games together by lantern light. Instead of a disaster, the blackout could become a time that your children will remember all of their lives.—Kathleen J. Hanna, Raymond, Washington