Power outages can occur unexpectedly and last for an extended period, disrupting daily routines and posing safety risks. Being prepared for such situations is crucial for maintaining comfort, safety, and effective communication during these challenging times.
One essential step in preparedness is assembling an emergency box stocked with items that can help you manage the various challenges that arise during a power outage – this is your Lights Out Box! Because while sometimes you might have a feeling the power might go out due to a storm or know that rolling blackouts might be a possibility and can get your flashlights and candles ready, other times the power can go out without warning, and in those times, you will want everything you need ready to go.
There will be some duplicates between your Lights Out Box and your Go Bag – this is because you don’t ever want to remove items from your Go Bag and possibly forget to replace them after the power comes back on. And if you are bugging out for whatever reason, grabbing your Lights Out Box too, if you are travelling by vehicle, will give you extra supplies you wouldn’t have otherwise.
Here are some critical items you should include in an emergency box and explain why each item is important for addressing different needs during a power outage.
This is the box you keep everything in. Ideally, put reflective tape on the outside of the box, that way in an emergency, the reflective tape will catch the beam of your flashlight or phone light to make finding it easier. Don’t make the mistake of using glow in the dark paint or tape – it requires charging from light and if it is stored in the bottom of a closet or cupboard, it won’t usually get light to charge it enough to be seen.
You should use a box with a lid, to make sure everything is secure (and makes it less likely for your family to rummage around in it!) but also because with a lid, it would be an easy thing to grab and go if you are bugging out and need to quickly grab your go bags and supplies.
Flashlight and/or lanterns
Definitely the first thing in your box, you ideally should have at least one flashlight per family member and a couple of lanterns you can place around the house if you do not feel comfortable using candles.
Ensures that battery-powered flashlights and radios remain functional throughout the power outage. Don’t forget that batteries can expire, so it is a good rule of thumb to check your batteries every year.
Battery-powered or hand-crank radio
Keeps you informed of news, weather updates, and emergency announcements without relying on electricity. If you live in an area of extreme weather, a weather radio would be useful to include.
Your other way of providing light in your house so you do not use all your batteries, especially if you suspect the electricity outage might be longer term than you have batteries for.
While you normally will have a larger first aid kit in your regular emergency supplies, a smaller essential first aid kit in your lights out box is a good idea.
Non-perishable food / MREs
Include some snacks or meals that are high calorie and with long term storage to keep in the box for emergencies.
Manual can opener
Allows you to access canned foods if your main can opener for the house is electric, and will save you hunting around your regular preps for one.
Ensures you have a safe and clean source of hydration, especially if water treatment facilities are affected by the power outage. Keeping a few bottles of water (again remembering to check for expiry dates) in the box is a good idea, but also keeping a larger jug of water in the same area where you store your Lights Out Box is a good idea.
The same shiny emergency blankets you see for hikers and campers, these can really help when it is cold out when you are no power for eating. These blankets are help maintain body warmth when you wrap them around your body since it reflects your body heat back onto you.
If you live in a colder climate, tossing some wool socks, hats and gloves can really help – and saves you from hunting around the house for them in the dark.
Portable power bank
You should always have a charged up power bank in your house at all times, but having a spare one in your Lights Out Box can be helpful so you always have a backup one you can charge if you get access to electricity. It will allow you to charge essential electronic devices like cell phones, ensuring you can maintain communication with family and emergency services, as well as any crucial medical apps etc that your family needs.
Keep a stash of cash in your Lights Out Box in case you need to purchase emergency supplies from a business without power – they will seldom turn away cash customers in an emergency.
Helps alert others to your location in case you need assistance or rescue.
Multi-tool or Swiss Army knife
An all around handy tool to have in all situations that can be used for a wide variety of situations.
Matches or lighter
Enables you to start fires for cooking or warmth when other heating sources are unavailable. You should also make sure some of the matches are waterproof incase you need to bug out and have your box.
Personal hygiene items
Include small travel size items like toothpaste, toothbrush, soap, wet wipes and toilet paper to maintain cleanliness and comfort during the outage. Other items depending on your family might include diapers, tampons/pads/menstrual cup, etc
Depending on the type, you might want to have a small supply in your Lights Out Box too. Also, ensure you have an adequate supply of any necessary medications to maintain your health during an emergency situation – try and renew your prescriptions as early as possible, so you aren’t facing an emergency with only a days worth of daily medication because you leave it until the last minute.
Using for garbage, storage and even as makeshift ponchos or tarps in a pinch.
If your entire box isn’t waterpoof, including a waterproof container that is big enough to fit important documents and devices would be a good addition, especially if you live in an area of flooding. Keep copies of those important documents at all times in the box to protect important documents (e.g., identification, insurance policies) and electronic devices from water damage during floods or heavy rain.
List of emergency contacts
In today’s world of phone contacts, many people do not know the phone numbers of many important family and friends. Keep a written list of your most important phone numbers for family, friends, and local emergency services, ensuring you can reach them if necessary. This is especially crucial when your own phone has died, but a neighbor or emergency services has offered you a phone to make a quick phone call to let family know you are okay.
Preparing an emergency Lights Out Box with these essential items can significantly improve your ability to cope during power outages – especially when you have family or even neighbors and friends relying on you. From providing sources of light and warmth to ensuring communication and medical care, these items address a wide range of needs that may arise during such emergencies.
By assembling your Lights Out Box ahead of time and periodically checking expiry datesand updating its contents, you can ensure that you are well-equipped to handle power outages and minimize their impact on your safety and well-being.