Last week our small area of the world experienced a power outage which lasted just an hour and 55 minutes. The power went out at 5:55 pm. Not a big deal, right? I’m prepared, I have batteries, I have flashlights, I have candles, I have lanterns, I have kerosene, I have…….! Yep, I pretty much have it all. Now if I could only find it all.
I write about this very simple inconvenience for the simple fact that although I had everything I needed to get through it, I did not have all I needed very handy. Sometimes it’s the very small things, like this power outage, that show some major flaws in our preparedness.
So, it’s 5:55 pm and since it is late November it is already dark. The power goes off while I’m on the computer in the front part of the house. My wife is in the living room in the back part of the house. I don’t know why this came as a surprise to me but, it did…. it is pitch black in my house with no lights!
For the first few seconds, I just sat there waiting to see if the power would come back on. After about a minute I decided it wasn’t coming back real soon and I figured I needed to do something to get some light in the house.
The problem was I could hardly see to get out of my chair much less out of the room and down the hall to the living room. Luckily I had my cell phone with me and I used it as a flash light to get to the living room to make sure my wife was alright.
She used hers to get to the kitchen to get a flashlight and I took mine to another room to get a second flashlight. Once we both had a light source the first hurdle was jumped. This took no more than 5 minutes so we waited another 5 minutes or so just in case the power should come back on, which it has some times in the past.
But, after 10 minutes or so we were still in the dark. Now we start thinking of having more light than just the flashlight. I have that covered because a few months back we were without power for almost 4 hours. It was during the day so we didn’t need much extra light but, I decided to get two of my lanterns out of storage and fill the tanks and store them in a reachable location inside the house.
I also put 3 of the quart bottles of kerosene and a small funnel and a box of kitchen matches with the lanterns. That foresight worked out well for us and they really were in a good location and easy to get to, once I found the flashlight.
Now, here is an embarrassing admission, I have never in my life lit, used or otherwise depended on a lantern for light. Come on be honest, how many of you have never used a lantern? My knowledge of lantern use comes from watching Little House On The Prairie and I know enough to never leave one unattended in the barn!
Well, I raised the mantle and the wick, struck the match, placed it on the wick and just like that we had light, a very poor light but it was still light. I adjusted the wick a bit and I was so proud of myself that I was just a beaming. Since I did so well with the first one I grabbed the second one and got it going so each of us would have our own light source.
After a few moments of patting myself on the back, we became aware of just how little light the two lanterns were putting out. It was nothing like the light on Little House! I think they may have used a little trickery on the set.
My wife and I both like to read and since there was nothing else to do we picked up our books and started to read. OK, we tried to read and found out real quick that the only way to do so was to get right up to the lantern with the book pretty much touching the lantern. I swear I got a couple of nose hairs singed! We did manage to do some reading but it was accomplished by twisting the body in too many ways for me to describe.
After a few minutes of reading, we decided we needed a smoke break. We never smoke in the house and we couldn’t just flick the switch for the outside lights so we each took our lantern and went out back to the patio. Now that was the only nice thing about the outage. It was kinda like mood lighting and not too bad.
That was over all too soon and we had to return to the dark house. We picked up the books again and read until the lights finally came back on. That was the longest hour and 55 minutes we have spent in a long time. We were happy to have the use of electricity again.
Now to the lessons learned from this minor yet very instructional time period. The first thing I plan on correcting is the number of flashlights in the house. I want at least 1 in every room plus extra batteries in each room. Secondly, I will learn the number of steps to get to and from each room in the house.
Thirdly I will purchase several more lanterns and more quart bottles of kerosene. My storage location for the lanterns and kerosene is a good location and doesn’t need to be altered. From this experience, I would like to be able to get more light in the living area.
I don’t know if more lanterns is the answer or something else, any suggestions?
With very little light we noticed it to be very depressing and somewhat stressful which was something we did not count on. During a prolonged period like months or more that could be a real problem, for us anyway. Since my only knowledge of lanterns comes from Little House On The Prairie, as noted above, I have a question.
I know by extending the wick(turning it up) the flame burns higher and brighter. The higher it goes the more smoke it emits and darkens the mantel. Is there a ROT for how high the wick should be? My lanterns are cheap ones, do more expensive ones work better(I think I know the answer to that)?
To sum up our little outage, I know that light is good. I know that some light is better than no light. I know a small amount of light in a living area is depressing. I’m sure one could get used to it but at my age, I may not have enough time.
I know now that having everything one needs to survive most anything that comes along is worthless unless it can be retrieved quickly and put to use easily. I know that preparing for the unknown future is a lot more fun than it will be living it.
Well, that is a description of my little survival moment. I hope it may serve in some small way to assist some of you in your preparations. At the very least it should tell you not to depend on Little House On The Prairie for your survival needs.