• Leon Pantenburg | Survival Common Sense


Don’t be left in the dark – prepare for power outages now!

A single candle may provide enough lighting in some power outage situations. Check out thrift stores and garage sales for good deals. (Pantenburg photo)
600 400 Survival Common Sense Blog | Emergency Preparedness


If you live in the areas affected by the recent massive winter storm, let’s hope you are prepared for power outages. Here are some tips to keep you from sitting in the dark.

by Leon Pantenburg

This brings an important topic to the forefront : What happens when high winds, heavy snowfall and freezing temperatures combine to knock out the electricity in your home?

Emergency preparedness means you should have backup systems or plans for heat, lighting and water. If you’re lucky, the power won’t be off long, but batteries are gone after a few days, unless you have a way to recharge them. A generator will only work until it runs out of fuel.

Let’s hope you’ve already insulated your water pipes to keep them from freezing.

One of the more important aspects of urban survival during winter storms is lighting. Without a lighting plan, you could end up in the dark from when the sun sets at around 5:30 p.m. until dawn. The right lighting supplies can make this situation more bearable.

A survival situation can develop in your home when the power goes out. The backup plan must include emergency lighting.

A survival situation can develop in your home when the power goes out. The backup plan must include emergency lighting. (Pantenburg photos)

This scenario is familiar to Tom Dumalt, manager of Globe Lighting in Bend, OR.

Dumalt lived in the Milwaukee, OR., area from 1978 through 1981, he said, when days-long power outages were common. While various battery-operated light sources work well, Dumalt also recommends stocking up with plenty of candles and matches because emergency power only lasts so long.

For the long term, candles may be one of the best choices, he said, because they’re cheap, easily available
and easy to use safely.

And if you’re a scrounger/recycler/prepper, candles are something that is always on the “To-Buy” list. And they have a place in any urban survival kit.

When buying candles for a potential power outage, all you’re really

A single candle may provide enough lighting in some power outage situations.

A single candle may provide enough lighting in some power outage situations.

concerned about is quantity.  The aesthetics and mood of a romantic candle-lit dinner will soon wear off, and everyone will soon be more concerned about seeing what is for dinner.

Great places to find really cheap candles are garage and rummage sales and thrift stores. It doesn’t matter if the candles are outdated Christmas or novelty candles, odds-and-ends from a dinner party, or clunky art projects – all they have to do is provide light. Buy all you can find and stockpile them.

Another good lighting choice is the old-fashioned kerosene lamps our grandparents used. My urban survival kit includes several such lanterns and lamps, plus a supply of kerosene to fuel them. A standard Deitz lantern, according to the manufacturer, will burn up to eight hours on one tankful of fuel. 21st Century Inc 210-32060 Hurricane Lantern No. 30

Other garage sale treasures can include old Coleman gas lanterns. These run on Coleman camp fuel or (in some cases) unleaded gasoline, and they can be dirt cheap. I was given several once after an estate sale, when nobody would buy them. Repairing them was not difficult, and if I can fix one, so can you.

Generally, the reason gas lanterns don’t work is because of a worn-out pump or from being clogged from dirty fuel. Sometimes a good cleaning is all they need. Repair parts are dirt cheap too, so there is no reason you can’t have several. Coleman Two-Mantle Dual Fuel Lantern with Hard Case

Before you lay in a stock of lighting sources that require combustion, consider how safe they are, and if they will work for your intended purpose.

Probably the first consideration is carbon monoxide. This odorless gas is the leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in America, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association. Carbon monoxide results from the incomplete combustion of fuels such as wood, kerosene, gasoline, charcoal, propane, natural gas and oil.

This means a gas, kerosene or propane-powered lantern has the potential to be life-threatening in a closed, well-sealed space, says Gary Marshall, deputy chief with the Bend Fire Department.

The red kerosene and Coleman gasoline lanterns can provide a source of efficient lighting, but be aware of potential carbon monoxide problems.

All of these light sources must be used in a well-ventilated area only, Marshall said. Remember, if the electricity is off, so is the fan motor in your furnace, and there may not be a way to circulate air.

Both the American Red Cross and the Bend Fire Department recommend an emergency illumination source that is battery-powered.

In any emergency lighting situation, you should be prepared with battery-operated lamps or flashlights, Marshall said. Be very careful with candles or any open flame.

An important part of any emergency preparations is The Plan. Come up with a plausible lighting scenario for your area, then decide how you will handle it.

Think about your lighting needs when there is no electricity, Dumalt advises. When the sun comes up, will you need a light source to work? If so, can you move the work area to take advantage of sunlight?

Look at window placement as it relates to lighting, he added. Would the best idea be to shut down other areas of the house, and move into a central area that is more easily lighted and heated?

Another consideration is what the lighting needs are when the sun goes down. Decide what area you’ll be in when it becomes dark, Dumalt said, then think about the most effective way to light it for different activities. A single candle might be enough to light one area for certain activities, while more light might be needed later for cooking, bathing or washing clothes.

In some cases, such as two people reading together, a single candle will be enough, Dumalt said. In situations where it can be done safely, you can use a candle or lamp to save batteries.

While you’re picking up candles, stock up on extra batteries, too, and be sure to check your flashlights or electric lanterns to determine which batteries they require.

Here are some emergency power outage tips from the American Red Cross:

Please click here to check out and subscribe to the SurvivalCommonSense.com YouTube channel – thanks!

  • Elaine

    How about using solar lights? I have several that I use to light my steps outside. Pull them off of the stake and they are like little lanterns. We had a scout that decorated his tent with solar white Christmas lights. The lights last several hours.

  • hawkeyes


    This a subject I really like to get into. Being am engineering-ish type I like/prefer to make my own electrical/electronic stuff. In the area of lighting I have learned a few things the hard way. (Don’t we all?) My “test bed” has been my travel trailer. The efforts I have gone through would apply to a residence also.

    The first thing I learned was buying LED lighting on the open market (Lowes, Home Depot, etc.) is not the most economical way to go. There are a multitude of web sites that will sell you LED products. Quite a few at decent prices. BUT, read the technical information very closely. The vast majority of LED strips, tape, or modules of 3 or 4 LEDs are 12 volt. Vehicle batteries are not 12 volt. They are 13.78 +/-. The 1.75 volts over 12 volt can, and has, caused components on the modules/strips/tape to burn out. I have had on one occasion a module came very close to catching fire. If you go this route, you must do the following:

    1. Measure the current with the LEDs hooked up to a vehicle battery. Do not leave them connected too long.
    2. Use Ohms Law to figure out what value of resister is needed to “drop” the 1.75 volts. R=E/I. R is resistance, E is voltage, and I is current. Divide 1.75 volts by the current measured and that will equal the size (in Ohms) of the resister. Multiply I*E to get the wattage of resister. Example: 1.75 volts / .25 Amps = 7 Ohms. A 10 Ohm resister is what I generally use since it is easier to find and works quite well. .25 Amps x 1.75 volts = .4375 Watts. 1/2 Watt is close, a 1 Watt resister is better and is not that much more in cost. I do not prefer R-Shack parts. Digikey is better.

    I currently have two “12V” AGM batteries in my travel trailer. They are rated at 96 Amps for 20 hours each. Extrapolating I have around 24 Amps for 160 hours. There are also two 100 Watt solar panels on top of the trailer. Keeps the batteries nice and “topped off”. I have rebuilt all the lights in the trailer. The incandescent lamps that were in the trailer when I got it would draw around 9 amps when all were turned on. The LED lights draw about 3.5 amps with all turned on and there are a few more fixtures that have been added since I bought it. In total, I have 441 LEDs in the trailer.

    One note about when the power comes back on. Don’t assume that all is well when the AC returns. Wait a while. Possibly a half hour. Getting the power back up and staying up can sometimes be a trick. You can find yourself back in the dark if you blow out all the candles or turn all the battery powered stuff off. When the power returns there are going to be a lot of people turning things back on and creating an unbelievable load on the “grid”.

  • Pete M

    Love it Leon! One of the first things to fail in any disaster is the power… Shortly after hygiene and food safety suffer leading to sickness and disease. However, a family without any preps could go broke trying to get up to speed. A simple way to start is to think about providing enough power and light for one day (24 hours). Candles are cheap, wood is free, good batteries are most economical in bulk. Then set up a savings plan to buy:
    – small generator (should have enough juice to power your refrigerator)
    – gas (enough for at least a week)
    – deep cycle batteries (at least 2)
    – power inverter (enough wattage to power your refrigerator)
    – solar panels to recharge your batteries
    – compact high output LED bulbs (cost more but use less power)
    – long extension cords

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.