With preperation people can avoid unnecessary suffering in the cold during a power outage
With a recent power outage comes a reminder to prepare for more that may happen, especially for those people new to the north, who haven’t experienced an extended power outage in the winter season.
The key is to maintain comfort without electricity for heat, appliances, cooking, entertainment, lighting and running water; requiring other methods, until power is reconnected. Families and roommates should discuss what needs to be done to survive without electricity for hours, in order to maintain comfort. There needs to be preparation for babies, children, the elderly and those who are medically vulnerable. Without electric heat, it is important to keep warm, (especially the head, hands, lower back and feet), be well-fed and hydrated with water, occupied with activities or have the ability to keep warm and sleep well, getting rest.
To help keep the cold out and warmth in against drafty windows or doors, one can cut insulation or cardboard to fit using tape or tack up bed sheets or blankets to cover them. Tape can also cover over any gaps or cracks leaking cold air in, knowing that two or more layers gives thicker, stronger protection. To keep the body warm, two or more pairs of socks for the feet (wool suggested), long john bottoms, long john tops and a toque will help a lot. A person does not need to be cold in the cold, using multiple layers to hold the heat in, with the outside layer fending off the cold, (especially for people with bad circulation). Note: Adding cayenne and black pepper to one’s diet will improve their blood circulation and help them feel warmer. Garlic and ginger are also warming spices, good for soups, teas or food.
Physically moving the body around will also warm it up, be it with push ups, sit ups, jumping, pacing or walking. Simple stretches will increase circulation and keep the body from contracting in the cold. A tighter fitting vest keeps the body’s core warmer, not needing to bulk up the arms and it is worth it to have an extra blanket or two and/or a good sleeping bag (to sleep in, or spread open as a duvet), in case of a power outage. People who get cold feet or hands can sleep with boot liners, mitts or gloves on; and a scarf can prevent a sore throat. There are also those hand warmer packets and a selection of rechargeable battery heated socks, gloves, toques, pants and vests. It is important to keep the feet warm, as having cold feet leads to feeling depressed and lethargic, not wanting to move around. Feet can be warmed with friction or other sources (when having power), including near a heater or soaking in hot water.
Without electricity to cook, a good backup tool is a one burner propane stove that fits on top of the smaller green propane tanks. With that system, food can be cooked and water can be boiled (use a lid to hold the heat in, boiling quicker), to drink and cook with. There are also butane stoves and two-burner propane stoves if the household is larger. Please note that propane or butane stoves and heaters should not be used inside without proper ventilation. Each person should have a large thermos that keeps fluids hot for 12 to 24 hours and a soup thermos is a good idea. Drinking, just sipping hot water or soup broth is very effective at warming the body from the inside out.
It is good to store away some extra drinking water, food and snacks that do not need to be cooked or that can be cooked with the back up systems, like a propane stove. Having food that is enjoyed helps keep morale and spirits up. To conserve fuel, boiling water once can provide portions for a hot cloth to warm and wash with, hot water, coffee or tea to drink and then cook with the remainder. If fuel is low, for more efficiency, cut veggies super thin, place in pot with cold water, bring to boil, shut off, skim off a cup of hot water to drink, then add instant noodle soup and warming spices with the veggies. Then cover and leave for five minutes or more.
If unable to sleep, activities will help pass the time can board games, cards, puzzles, reading, colouring, journaling or art. It is important to keep rechargeable batteries in phones and flashlights fully charged. Having at least one good flashlight, separate from your phone, is important to see in the dark.
Those with the budget can consider a fuel generator to provide backup power and/or a small wood stove for the deck or back yard to warm themselves, heat water and cook on. Candles can provide heat and light.
Lastly, many thanks to the men and women (supporting staff and families), who rush out at the different times of day or night to restore electricity and its comforts to the citizens of the community. Safe passage, undisturbed power and good health to you all.