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Electricity outages

We've all been through temporary black-outs right? But what if the power company couldn't get things fixed in just a few hours? Terror attacks & EMPs may be considered a low-probability, but since Iowa winters can be harsh it just seems wise to make a few simple preparations that could help you go weeks without power if necessary.

No power means NO LIGHTS
No matter what the season we depend on being able to do things after dark. We pay bills, play games, do homework, and read the Telegraph Herald. You can still do those things if you just plan ahead a little.

- Most folks have a few scented candles around the house, they would give enough light to keep you from tripping over furniture. They may last for several days even, but they don't give the light you need for reading, but it's a start.

- A vintage oil lamp, with that tall glass chimney, can give a lot of light and be an attractive part of your home decor at the same time. Just a few gallons of fuel on-hand can keep a lamp lit nights for weeks if you are careful.

- Those old-time lanterns like you see in the westerns are as good as an oil lamp and can burn the same fuel. You can pick them up at Wal-Mart for about $5 anytime in the camping isle. Don't forget about your camping lantern, consider keeping it (and all your camping equipment) in a place where it's easily accessible if you need it in a pinch.

- Flashlights and battery operated lanterns are great, and potentially safer than flamed lamps, but batteries only last so long, so keep a good store of batteries on hand. Also consider spending $30 dollars on a simple solar charger (ebay is a great source for such things, but consider buying locally if you can, O'Reilly's on JFK has some neat options).

No power means NO HEAT
The blower fan on your furnace doesn't spin if there's no electricity, but the same holds true for for cooking and cleaning as well, we have come to rely on appliances.

- If you have a fireplace then make sure its in working condition and keep a supply of wood on hand. If you don't have one then consider installing one, this can be done on a low budget using craigslist or other sources. Another option would be to install a wood stove, answering heating and cooking solutions at the same time.

- Kerosene heaters are another great choice for heat, they're safe and efficient, plus they use the same fuel as your Wal-Mart lanterns. Similarly, you can find camping heaters that operate on a variety of fuels including kerosene, white gas, and propane.

- If your cooking options revolve around electricity then again consider a visit to your favorite sporting goods department. There are a wide variety of camping stoves that make cooking a breeze. A multi-burner range will serve your needs and be a nice help in the great outdoors, but if you'd rather keep it cheap then look at some of the single burner stoves that simply screw onto the top of a small propane tank. Don't forget about the grille on your deck either, it's not safe to bring it indoors, but it can certainly be useful for more than a weekend barbeque.

No Power also means "No power"
This might seem terribly obvious, but sometimes we take for granted how many of things we've become dependent upon that are actually powered electrically.

- Are you prepared to keep the food in your refrigerator & freezer from spoiling? Do you have enough Ice stored in your freezer to keep the food from spoiling till you can eat it? If you own a chest freezer you can temporarily convert it into a cooler for the contents of your fridge. An upright fridge will dump cold every time you open the door, but if you're careful the frozen foods in your chest freezer will take quite a while to thaw and can serve as "ice" till power is restored or you eat it.

- Your computer won't be working, do you have information stored there that isn't backed-up on hard-copy? You should keep a printed copy of account numbers, family contact information, etc.; remember you can't access your back-up drives if there's no power. Walk around the house, and consider what other things need your preparation attention.

Most of these options are inexpensive, easy to acquire, and simple to store for a time of need, so why not consider your options?

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