It also requires fuel to keep running, with all the associated hassles and hazards of keeping/obtaining fuel, refueling, fume hazards, etc.
Mind you - they ARE an excellent thing and one of many options but I’d caution against relying too much on one. If you do have one, though, you can keep a refrigerator going, or a well pump, or … well, as noted, a lot of things.
Powerless Options for Food
We have three, large foam coolers. Normally they live nested/stacked in a closet, but in case of power loss they can be deployed, filled with ice, and used to keep perishables cool/edible, especially if one can keep the ice replenished. My advice is to get ice as soon as possible. Get dry ice if you can for a freezer, but if you can’t keep the freezer closed, it will take awhile for it to warm up if you keep it closed but opening the door lets the cold out and the warm in.
Consider medications - while some such as insulin are well known to require cool temperatures, there are prescription tablets and such which should be kept under 80 or 85 degrees if possible and if they’re important medications you might prioritize them over some other items.
Of course, dry and canned goods last a long time. Eat after you get done with the perishables.
Powerless Options for Water
If you rely on a well like we do this is important. You’ll need fluids, especially in hot weather. Remember, though, that all fluids “count” outside of alcohol. Drink stuff like milk first, the stuff that will go off first, then juices, then sealed containers of things like pop. If you’re really prepared you’ll have water stored in advance. If you don’t do that at least have clean containers. There’s been much hoopla about the dangers of re-using plastic containers but that most applies to continual re-use. Wash out some plastic containers, rinse with bleach (instructions for dish sanitation is usually on the product label), allow to dry THOROUGHLY, cap, and store. If they’re dry inside they won’t grow bacteria. They’ll be safe enough to store water for a couple days if kept in a dark place. Even if your tap isn’t working it’s not unusual for places like local fire and police stations to have emergency water available, or to have it trucked in, and while more and more such reserves seem to be pre-bottled they aren’t always. Even if you don’t need them for drinking water, they might be useful for catching rainwater for bucket baths, or for the next category…
Powerless Options for Body Waste Disposal
We have the issue that we’re on well and septic and without electricity we have no working well pump. People with “city water” may not have that issue… except… with prolonged or widespread power outages city water pressure might fall and/or the water become unpotable. We keep a couple of 5 gallon buckets around to collect water for toilet flushing as there’s no reason you can’t use drainage ditch water, or rain gutter water for the purpose. Don’t flush for piss, just for poo, which limits needed water hauling.
For ultimate waste plumbing back up you need one of those 5 gallon buckets, a heavy-duty garbage bag, a bag of cheap kitty litter, and something to use as a seat, like a board or an old toilet seat. Use the garbage bag to line the bucket, which you use to catch the poo. The seat goes on top of the bucket so you don’t fall in. Sprinkle a layer of kitty litter on top to keep the odor down, tie bag shut securely until next bowel event or until you can put it outside.
Powerless Options for Cooking
As noted, gas stoves usually keep working. If not, charcoal grills, campfires (assuming you can light them safely in your area/conditions), various camp and “hobo” stoves can all be used in a pinch.
Powerless Options for Lighting
There are so many options these days! I suggest keeping multiple ones around. We still have an oil lamp and candles, but they are potential fire hazards so use them with caution. The last thing you want to do is add a house fire to the crisis! In addition to old battery power standbys there are both handcrank and solar-charged options. I hadn’t thought of the solar lawn lights but thanks for mentioning them, TruCelt! I’ll happily pull up the lights around the driveway and garden for lighting the house in an emergency.
Powerless Options for Cooling
A couple years ago my spouse found battery-powered LED lights that also incorporated a fan, with the option to run either fan or light or both. I highly recommend them, along with an ample supply of batteries.
The other options – cool cloth on the neck, feet in cool water, restricting activity during the hottest part of the day, lots of fluids, wiping off the sweat, etc. have all been covered already.
Keep certain supplies on hand at all times:
- Lots of bags – garbage bags, all sizes of ziplock bags, etc. Look upthread for uses.
- Toilet paper and paper towels. You can never have too much toilet paper.
- Coolers for storing food.
- AMPLE first aid supplies – between darkness at night and the usual chaos of severe weather/natural disasters accidents will become more common.
- LOTS of batteries for anything battery-powered
- Unpowered entertainment
- Stash of cash – how much is debatable but a couple hundred dollars isn’t unreasonable.
I also suggest keeping at least a 1/2 tank of gas in vehicles at all times, and a PAPER map of your local area as with this sort of thing some streets may be impassible due to downed trees/debris and require detours. Keep car chargers for things like cellphones in the car so if you have a reason to drive somewhere you can recharge 'em at the same time.