We moved into our new home two weeks ago and our first weekend in the house we had the privelege of experiencing a power outage, quite unprepared. Everyone we spoke to at the electric company told us something different, but I think what happened was that they scheduled the turn off for the previous owners after our turn on date and so turned us off thinking they were turning them off and when we called to say "Hey!" they tried to turn us back on and broke us on Friday and couldn't get a repair crew out till Monday. So we got to spend our first weekend in the house with no heat, no lights and no water because all of these things run on electricity. And of course we couldn't find any of our flashlights or camping gear because we were moving and it was dark. Oi.
So what did I learn from this experience?
1. Our well is useless without power.
The purchase of 3 2-1/2 gallon jugs of water kept us hydrated through the weekend, but we had to travel for bathing and eating. Those three jugs, now emptied, will be filled with tap water for emergency flushing and washing and four more fresh, sealed jugs will be stored in the basement for emergency drinking. They aren't in the basement yet because the repair men have only just vacated. The power outage slowed them down too.
2. Getting a generator isn't just a simple trip to the hardware store.
Oh no, we tried. And we were thoroughly confused. And there was nobody around to ask. Customer service simply doesn't exist anymore. Of course we would normally go online and look at reviews, but without electricity this was not an option. This weekend (payday is Friday) we will be buying a generator or an emergency battery to use for the well pump and/or furnace (which has an electric ignition) and I will post reviews as soon as I've had the opportunity to experiment. If you have any recommendations, pass them along!
3. My emergency food stash was largely useless.
It wasn't useless when we lived in a house with a gas stove, but this house is rigged for electric. Rice and beans do no one any good if they can't be boiled. We did eat a lot of cereal and fruit. My emergency stock will consist mostly of canned food from now on. The dry goods are still good for different types of emergencies, like money emergencies, but when you can't boil water you need something you can eat out of hand or cook up on the grill.
4. The lower level is as awesome in the cold as it is in the heat.
A major selling point for this house was the sub-level family room where we can retreat from the stifling summer heat without using the AC. I suspected that it would be just as handy in the winter and was proven right when we had our first hard frost while without electricity. The temperature downstairs barely dropped while the upstairs rooms were only bearable while snuggling.
5. The electric company sucks.
Since we don't get to choose our electric company and can't simply take our business elsewhere I guess it's no surprise that we couldn't get any decent service and nobody gave a shit that my children had to sleep three nights in an unheated house with no water because they screwed up. Apparently their repair crews don't work on weekends. This is really important information that I wish I had had before I moved in. I would have moved in with a generator.
In summary; our power outage prep list-
A generator and/or emergency battery
About a dozen flashlights, one to be placed in the top of each closet and the top drawer of each dresser for handy access
Several cans of veggies, fruit, beans
Nuts, granola bars & cereal
4 2-1/2 gallon jugs of purified water for cooking and drinking + several additional jugs of questionable tap water for washing and flushing
Several cartons of shelf stable milk/soy milk/coconut milk
Anything to add?