Sunday, January 28, 2007

Safety Tip #34: Staying Warm in a Power Outage

In any emergency, your threshold decision is whether to shelter in place or evacuate. If your power goes out, you'll probably want to move to an emergency shelter if you can. But sometimes the conditions are so bad you'll shelter in place rather than get lost in a blizzard and blackout.

In case your power were to go out and you couldn't leave, there are some items you'll want to assemble. First, a space blanket is a great layer. Pair it with a sleeping bad, blankets, and quilts and you've a decent little nest. In a pinch, use a trash bag as a sleeping bag. Layer it with newspaper or blankets and poke a hole or two to let out perspiration. For an emergency kit, a plastic liner for a 55-gallon drum (especially in orange) is a great choice. Some of the camping stores also sell giant orange bags as plastic groundcloths.

Chemical handwarmers are great in these situations, especially in your car. Drop one into your nest, move around a bit and you'll stay warm. Breathe into your blankets and you'll be a lot more comfortable.

If you don't have chemical handwarmers, a candle is another small source of heat and might keep you live in a blizzard. A candle is a much better choice in a house than a car. Either way you need to bring in some air, but a candle will suffocate you pretty quickly in a car...and there's always the risk of immolation. Immolation is faster than frostbite, but immolation's not the route I'd choose to go out.

You can use the plastic bags to hold snow, put them in your nest and they'll melt. That keeps you from having to eat snow for water, which chills you rapidly.

Don't neglect the water. You do have a few gallons of water tucked away somewhere, right? Maybe some in lexan bottles?

Cognac is good for a jolt of sugar and warmth if you're in dire straits (such as getting drenched in the cold). Any hard liquor will do in a pinch, but cognac or schnapps are best for a survival kit (or bug-out bag) because they're so strong it's almost impossible to just drink the whole bottle the way you can with a good bourbon.

Thanks to Sarge for the kibbitz on this post.

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