In any type of an emergency, preparation is the key to remaining calm and keeping one’s wits about them. In order to keep children in that same frame of mind during an emergency, it is essential to prepare them, as well. One of the easiest things to prepare for is a short term power outage. In fact, with some preparation, a power outage can become one of your family’s fondest memories.
Learn To Cook Outside
Start by cooking dinner outside – maybe hot dogs over a bonfire, or hamburgers on a grill. The lesson here is to learn, and get comfortable with, cooking without electricity. Whatever you learn to cook outside, always have a supply on hand. Hamburger patties, whether store bought or homemade, and a package of buns, will be fine in the freezer for several months.
The same can be said for hot dogs and hot dog buns. If you are concerned about refrigerator life for open condiments, keep the smallest container possible in the pantry for a power outage. Don’t forget the marshmallows and chocolate bars! And always be sure you have the proper fuel to cook your chosen meal – either dry wood for a bonfire, or charcoal for a grill. If your emergency cooking plan is to rely on your propane grill, that will work, too . . . as long as you have a supply of propane.
Learn To Play the Old Fashioned Way (Without Electronics)
When the power goes out, the first thing I notice is the quiet. It never ceases to amaze me how noisy all of the hums are — the computer, the refrigerator, furnace or air conditioning. I love that peace and quiet. But after a little while, I start wondering what to do with myself since I can’t access the internet or the television or my Kindle. And if I think I’m bored, it is much harder for children to be entertained these days without electricity.
Have a board game or two that is brand new and has never been opened. This will ensure a new and exciting game for the family to play. Be sure it is a game that will include the whole family. One way to discourage contention is to buy “cooperative games.” These games are designed for the group to work together to accomplish the end goal. It would not hurt to have a few old faithful games on hand, as well — like card games or a chess board — and you can never go wrong with a Monopoly board! This might also be a good time to introduce new games. Have the instructions for chess, for example, available in print form (remember, the internet is down!), and make this a learning opportunity.
Read, Read, Read!
Read aloud, learn to read, read individually. With no electricity, you will suddenly have the time you’ve been lacking to read, read, and read some more. Have a read aloud book ready to go that is brand new to the family. Little Britches, by Ralph Moody, The Little House Series, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and All About Sam, by Lois Lowry, are some titles to get you started. All of these are entertaining for all ages, which is an important detail when reading aloud to an entire family. This might also afford the time for family members to peruse an old encyclopedia set or other how-to books. Never underestimate what will capture children’s attention when the options are limited.
To Read, You Need Light
Definitely be certain that you have adequate alternative lighting. If the power is out in the winter, night time comes very early — way earlier than anyone is going to want to go to sleep. Have sturdy kerosene lanterns on hand, suitable for young children to handle, along with the oil and wicks. These are very inexpensive and provide a surprisingly good amount of light for reading and playing games.
A terrific alternative to kerosene lanterns is the new Brooklyn Lantern. It uses an LED light, lasts for up to 100,000 hours and is less than $15. But plan ahead – how many will you need to read and play games comfortably? It wouldn’t hurt to also have one in the bathroom and a couple to be carried around as needed by various family members.
After you have some of the basics ready to go, make a game of it! Plan ahead to turn the power off for twenty-four hours next weekend. Plan what the food will be, what the book will be, and what games your family wants to play. Then, take a deep breath, and turn off the breaker! Do this once a month for a few months. Then, expand the play to three days. Spend a whole weekend, or several days during the week, without electricity. Get ready for school without a hair dryer (shocking, I know!). Cook eggs on the fireplace. Do homework by candle light, and maybe read aloud about Abraham Lincoln. (You should probably alert the teachers about what you are doing – you wouldn’t want them to turn you into DHS for lack of electricity!) Camp out in the back yard, just for fun.
When you practice for an “emergency” in this way, you will discover what you need and don’t need for your family. You will also discover new things that neither you nor I have thought about yet, and then make preparations for it. And that is the true value of planning ahead for emergencies.