"No obstacles are insurmountable when God commands and we obey"
- - Heber J. Grant
November 19, 2014
Here Comes the Polar Vortex
by Carolyn Nicolaysen

The next few days, weeks and months are predicted to bring colder than normal temperatures across much of the Untied States and Canada. We have already seen crazy winter storms much earlier and more intense than is the norm. Are you ready?

Temperatures this low often mean downed power lines and outages. What do you need to do now to be prepared?

During a power failure, no matter what the cause, some planning is needed to keep family life somewhat normal. Remember the August 2003 power blackout? It was the largest outage in North American history, affecting 10 million people in Canada, and 40 million people in eight states of the USA.

It was dramatic because it touched so many people at once, and lasted about 30 hours, costing the nation about $6-billion in losses. Other outages, however, are more localized and can have a severe impact on individuals and families, especially when power can be out for days or weeks.

Many communities have experienced power outages due to blizzards for two or more weeks at a time. Ice storms sometimes paralyze cities as far south as the Carolinas. Your home might survive the ravages of the storm, but still be without power for extended periods. Here are some ideas for your emergency plan:

  • Stay indoors as much as possible. If you need to leave the house, open and close the door quickly, and keep it closed.

  • To prepare now stock up on items you normally run out of such as milk, bread, eggs and cheese. If you have been following our food storage plan on https://www.facebook.com/TotallyReady you have got this covered, if not stock up now.

  • A radio: You should already have one in your 72-hour kit. You will want to keep informed, so a radio is an absolute must. A hand crank/solar powered radio is a good choice, as it requires no batteries, although it will probably operate on batteries, too. These are available with a built in flashlight, which is also handy.

  • If you choose a battery-powered radio make sure you have batteries stored long term with the radio, but not in it. Also, be sure your radio has both AM and FM bands, since emergency broadcasts are limited and may be on either band for your area. You will want to keep informed, so a radio is an absolute must

  • To prepare now: If you don’t already have a radio of this type purchase one. Look for one that also has a port to charge your cell phone. Even if there is no phone service, texting may work. Even without texting, a charged phone can be used to access apps and games.

  • If you already own one of these radios, charge it now. These should always be charged using the solar option before you attempt to use it, even the crank option does not work well if the unit has not been charged.

  • Flashlights: You should have several on hand, and again I recommend a solar/crank or battery-operated flashlight. I do not recommend the flashlights that you shake. They have a very low beam of light and have to be shaken every 2-3 minutes to maintain power. Having experimented with several brands and having been dissatisfied with all of them, I have not seen one I could recommend.

  • Except for flashlights in regular service, I suggest storing batteries separate from your flashlight, because I recently had a battery explode in a flashlight, completely destroying it. It literally did a meltdown.

  • For everyday safety, store a flashlight next to every bed in the house in case of a nighttime emergency.

  • To prepare now: Gather your flashlights and place them together. Be sure you have batteries of the appropriate sizes for each and gather them into one place. If you don’t have a flashlight/lantern such as those used for camping purchase one now. If you don’t have flashlights next to each bed, do that today.

  • Glow Stick: Raid your 72-hour kit for glow sticks. They are so much safer than candles. You simply snap and shake the stick and it glows for hours. Always purchase the white or yellow varieties for the brightest light. Glow sticks come in several sizes and will glow for 30 minutes to 12 hours. Be sure to check when purchasing that you have the 12-hour variety. They can be purchased at most dollar stores. These can be hung in restrooms and used as nightlights. A few years ago we had a power outage and I was sitting in my office. I felt my way to the cupboard to find a flashlight and I now have glow sticks everywhere! I have one in my desk, one next to the bed and even one in the bathroom. You never know where you will be when the lights go out.

  • To prepare now: Check your glow sticks to be sure they are still viable (the small cartridge inside has not been broken). If you don’t have glow sticks stock up.

  • Candles: These should be available for use during a power outage but should never be used after a natural disaster. Gas leaks occur frequently after destructive disasters. Candles sold in glass jars or bottles, such as religious candles, are by far the safest to use in appropriate situations.

  • To prepare now: gather candles and matches. If you don’t already have a few, purchase some but never purchase scented candles, which will quickly nauseate you when you have several burning.

  • Solar lighting: If it is not raining or snowing, your solar outdoor lighting will charge during the day. Bring them in at night for nightlights in hallways and bathrooms.

  • To prepare now: Repair or replace any broken out damaged outdoor solar lights.

  • Battery Clock: During an emergency, time seems to crawl by. Move your clock to a common area where everyone can check the time. Every home should have at least one clock that is battery-operated.

  • To prepare now: check to be sure you have batteries of the appropriate size. If you need to, purchase a clock and batteries.

  • Your Emergency Kitchen: You will want to plan for your cooking needs. This may include a barbecue grill, fire pit, camp stove, solar oven or your gas range. Each method will need additional preparation and caution. You will need charcoal, propane tanks, wood, aluminum foil, and special pots, pans and griddles. Remember to never use a barbecue in the house either for heat or for cooking.

  • To prepare now: Check your supplies and if necessary purchase items you still need. Teach family members how to operate camp stoves or other methods you intend to use.

  • Generators: If you can afford to purchase a generator, do it now. They will be gone in about 10 minutes after the power goes out during a storm. If you cannot afford a generator, consider purchasing one with a relative or neighbor. The key here is that someone will have to house it, and of course, that is where neighbors, family, and friends will evacuate to in an emergency.

  • To prepare now: Test your generator and stock up on fuel. Be careful to store fuel properly.

  • Firewood: To produce heat effectively, wood must be seasoned. This means it has dried for at least a year after being cut. These stockpiles of wood will disappear quickly. Acquire a supply of firewood now. Hardwoods such as madrone, eucalyptus, almond, oak, and so on, are the best for heating. Pines, firs, spruce, and redwoods are soft woods and will burn cooler and more quickly, providing fewer coals and less heat.

  • To prepare now: Inspect your chimney to make sure it is cleaned and ready for fires. Stack a supply of wood near your house so you don’t need to be outside too long when replenishing the wood in your fireplace. If you don’t already have wood, now is the time to purchase a cord or two.

  • Manual can opener: All the food in the world is no good if you can’t get into it. To prepare now: purchase one if you are in need.

  • Detergent: Liquid laundry and dish detergent and a large tub or bucket for washing. Remember, good hygiene still counts in an emergency. To prepare now: check your supplies of liquid detergents. Purchase more as needed.

  • Matches or lighters: Long wooden matches are the best to store as they are easier to use and they burn longer. To prepare now: check your supply and add more if needed. Remember, if the power is out for very long you may be lighting a stove or barbecue many times. Have plenty.

  • Extra Blankets and Sleeping Bags: These will not only be useful at night for sleeping but also to keep warm during the daylight hours. They also have many other uses. To prepare now: Wash all blankets and air out sleeping bags.

  • Water: If you have a well that supplies your water, it is extremely important that you have ample water stored. Even if you are on a water system you should be storing extra water. Water pipes can freeze, and if they do, turn off your water and do not attempt to unfreeze the pipes. Keep jugs of water stored for flushing toilets. You will also need water to prepare meals, have water for pets, and for cleaning. Most importantly, remember you will want to drink warm drinks so make sure you have water stored that can be used for hot cocoa and other hot drinks. To prepare now: Learn how to properly store water and begin now. If you have water stored check it and rotate if it has been more than a year. Store wet wipes and liquid hand sanitizer for cleaning hands and conserving water.

  • Games: As we discussed when considering a quarantine, boredom sets in quickly when our routines are changed and we are stuck at home. To prepare now: Make sure games, books, and puzzles are easily accessible, to use in helping pass the time. Purchase a few books, games and crafts to help pass the time.

This is going to be a very cold winter. Now is the time to prepare.

Next time we will talk about what to do and how to use all of the items above when the power fails.

Be sure to share this article to help others prepare. Like Carolyn’s facebook page, ask questions and make comments there.


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About Carolyn Nicolaysen

Carolyn Nicolaysen grew up in New Jersey and joined the Church while attending Central College in Pella, Iowa. With a degree in Home Economics, she later worked as a high school teacher, and served as an elected trustee of her local school board. Carolyn has taught personal and family preparedness to all who will listen. Having lived in areas that were threatened by winter storms, hurricanes and tornadoes, and now living in an earthquake prone area, she has developed a passion for preparedness. Carolyn started her own business, TotallyReady, when she saw the need for higher quality emergency information that could truly sustain families in a disaster.

Carolyn is FEMA trained and is an Amateur Radio first responder. She serves as Relief Society president of her California ward.

Carolyn is the author of three ebooks, Mother Hubbard, What She's Doing Now (food storage for the 21st century), Prep Not Panic (preparing for a pandemic of medical emergency) and That Won't Happen to Me (a discussion of disaster preparations). She has also authored a glove box book, Totally Ready for the Road and writes a monthly newsletter and the Totally Ready facebook page.

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