Public Safety Power Shutoff. This is when the power companies turn off power in certain areas to reduce the risk of fire. In our case, Oregon is in a ten-year drought and strong east winds are dropping the humidity even further. So the power companies are shutting off the power in the highest risk areas of our state for 3-4 days. I live in a high-risk area and I have a medically fragile child. C-Bear has many electric medical devices he needs every day. A pulse oximeter, suction machine, feeding pump, nebulizer, humidifier, cool air compressor, and ventilator. And what are we doing? Preparing for an emergency!
When you have a child that uses these and/or other devices what do you do when you are faced with a loss of power? Like everything else we do…prepare!
We love to boondock camp which is camping where there is no water or electricity whether it’s in a tent or our travel trailer. This type of camping has really enabled us to be more prepared for the loss of power and other types of emergency situations.
Here is what we do
To-Go bags for everyone
I especially always have a To-Go bag freshly prepared because I have to take C-Bear to the emergency room frequently and usually end up in-patient. So C-Bear and I are always ready to go and have ‘bug out’ down to a fine art.
My husband can create a To-Go bag in a matter of minutes (I am jealous!). But M-Bear, let’s just say if he had to bug out, he would forget to bring anything but his computer. Having a bag packed for him makes sure that he will have all the important things in the case of an emergency.
M-Bear recently attended a community event where the kids were given a survival backpack filled with emergency supplies. I need to schedule time with him to sit down and update his To-Go bag with his new equipment.
Food & water
While we do have enough food in our To-Go bags for 3 days, we also keep our trailer stocked with canned foods and cases of water. In an evacuation type of emergency if we have enough time (and our truck was working…ugghh… money pit!) our plan is to grab our trailer and go. So we like to keep it stocked with non-perishable food and water.
In our To-Go bags, we have protein bars, jerky, pepperoni sticks & cheese, dried fruit & nuts, and water flavoring packets.
My husband and M-Bear both have Lifestraws but I haven’t purchased one for me yet and I need to figure out some way for C-Bear to have access to clean water since he can’t use a straw and needs a lot of distilled water each day for his formula and other medical devices.
I go through my To-Go bag every 3 months and update or swap out the clothing as needed for the season and wash them so they stay fresh. Since I am usually packing with hospitals in mind and I am always hot in hospitals, I tend to pack t-shirts or tank tops and leggings. They are small, lightweight, and don’t take up much room.
If I am in an emergency evacuation situation, I would have to add some jeans and a coat.
Those of us that take daily medications, use a pill tray. It’s hard to pack medication bottles in a To-Go bag ahead of time because we usually don’t have extras that we can keep in there. Medication bottles also take up a lot of room!
If they are in a pill tray, it’s easy to just grab them and go. Don’t forget to grab those medications that may be in your refrigerator!
Medical equipment isn’t something that you can usually pack ahead of time so have a plan or checklist in place. Decide ahead of time who is going to grab what so something important doesn’t get forgotten.
I keep a laminated checklist taped to C-Bear’s bedroom door. We use this checklist for going to the hospital, going camping, or for an emergency situation. Having this checklist ensures that we will have everything we need and that nothing important is missed.
Electronic devices & chargers
When packing your To-Go bag, don’t forget electronic devices such as phone(s), tablets, power banks, charging cords, and wall adapters. Yes, if I have the time and space I do like to pack my iPad as it is smaller and lighter than my laptop and can fit in my backpack instead of its separate carrying case. Also, make sure you have a flashlight and spare batteries.
Pack some form of entertainment, especially if you have kids. Nothing is worse than an emergency situation with scared bored kids. Bring cards or variety puzzle magazines, and bring handheld electronic games or art supplies. I also carry a set of workout bands in my backpack because that can be a great way to burn off stress and nervous energy.
When faced with a loss of power at home
When emergency planning for a loss of power at home, here are some key points to consider:
This is key especially if you have a power outage in the middle of a cold winter.
You need electricity for:
- Heating (or cooling if in the summer)
- Running medical equipment
- Charging phones
- Preserving your refrigerator and/or freezer food
Having a way to cook a hot meal, even in summer, can help to reduce stress in a power loss situation. It gives you a sense of normalcy. Having a camping stove on hand is very useful! Beware though! If your camping stove is propane or white gas, you are going to want to use them outside for safety reasons.
But being able to cook meals and have a hot cup of coffee is worth cooking outside. Pretend you are camping!
If you don’t have a camping stove but do have a barbeque, use that instead.
Saving the food in your refrigerator and/or freezer
If you are to be without power for an extended period of time, and if you have coolers, put your fridge food in the cooler. Anything that you can transfer to the freezer, do that first. For everything else, put it in a cooler with ice or ice packs. Don’t open the cooler unless you have to because all that cold air will escape and the food will go bad faster.
If you have knowledge of the power outage far enough in advance, fill a milk jug, pop bottles, or water bottles with water and put them in the freezer. They will help to keep the freezer cold. Also, the more space you can fill up in the freezer, the better off you will be. Once again, don’t open the freezer unless you absolutely have to.
Find a way to insulate the outside of the freezer. Use blankets, sleeping bags, or foam mattress pads to wrap around it and keep it cool.
According to the CDC, food in a full freezer will remain safe for 48 hours if it is not opened. 24 hours if the freezer isn’t full. For a refrigerator, it’s only 4 hours, so plan ahead!
If you have a propane heater, make sure that it is designed for indoor use, otherwise, it will not be safe to use. Make sure to use it properly according to the manufacturer’s directions and keep it out of the reach of kids.
For cooling, get neck fans for everyone. Use battery-powered fans. Use an exercise bike with a fan or find a cooling center, mall, or movie theatre you all can hang out in during the hot part of the day.
Depending on where you live, having a backup generator or two may be an option, especially when you have medical equipment. We purchased 2 generators after we got our travel trailer to make sure that we would be able to recharge and/or run C-Bear’s medical equipment when we were camping.
We also purchased a larger generator that we keep at home that we can use to run the freezers and refrigerators as needed.
What to do with animals when you have to evacuate?
It depends on what type of animal you have, what size they are, and how many you have.
We have 3 goats, 20 chickens, and 8 rabbits in the barn and 2 dogs and 2 cats in the house.
In a level 1 evacuation emergency ‘go now’ type situation, I would just turn my barn animals loose. It’s not a great plan but maybe they would have a fighting chance. My second option would be, if we had time, to round up our animals and take them to a safe place such as the county fairgrounds where they could stay and be cared for until we were cleared to return home.
My third option would be to reach out to a wonderful volunteer organization on Facebook called Cowgirl 911. They operate nationwide and are volunteer farmers and ranchers who will come in trucks and stock trailers to pick up your animals and take them to a safe place. Sometimes that safe place is the farm or ranch of other volunteers who will take care of your livestock until you can move back home. They can then return your animals to you.
As for the cats and dogs, we would put the cats in their carrier, throw the dogs in the car with the kids and head out. We keep the trailer stocked with dog food, leashes, and extra food bowls.
Know your exit points
Until the wildfire season of 2020, when we had fires burning on both sides of us, I hadn’t realized that there are only 2 ways off our property. One takes us to the highway, and one takes us to the hills. Not many choices. Ideally, we would head for the highway, which will be the way that everyone else is taking and will be backed up.
The hills are filled with logging roads which I personally don’t know my way through but my husband does. However, I know from personal experience, that there are a lot of roads up there that I wouldn’t want to take our trailer through but we probably could make it to the next town and hopefully be able to get on the highway easier there.
Know your meet-up points
If we have to evacuate the property, my husband will take our youngest son, the dogs, and the cats and hitch up the travel trailer. They will each have their To-Go bags.
I will be in our wheelchair minivan with our oldest and my mother and father-in-law. I will have all of C-Bear’s medical equipment, his To-Go bag, and mine.
My in-laws have not created To-Go bags so they will probably just be grabbing their meds, CPAP machines, their dog, and purse/wallet.
The plan would be for us to follow my husband, whether he went for the highway or the hills. But in case we get separated, 1. We will have fully charged phones and 2. We have picked a meeting place two towns over where we should be able to stay in safety until the other vehicle shows up.
If we are unable to meet up or connect by phone, we have a family friend and my dad as emergency contacts that we could use to try to reconnect.
Plan moving forward
Once we were back together, it would be important to remain in contact with our local authorities and to find a safe place to stay, hopefully, temporarily. That’s where our trailer will come in handy.
We haven’t had to use our emergency plans yet, thankfully, but it helps to know that we have made them and made preparations so that if we did have to implement them, we could do it fairly quickly.
Whether you live in a big city, or in the middle of nowhere above the Arctic Circle, make sure that you and your family have an emergency plan in place. Make sure that all your family members know the plan and what their responsibilities are. If you have kids, it can be helpful for them to have some practice drills so they know what to do, what to grab, and where to go. If they practice beforehand, they will be less likely to be panicked if there ever is a true emergency.
I hope this was helpful and that you have some emergency plans of your own in place. At least have some To-Go bags ready and easily accessible, even if it’s just to be prepared for an emergency room visit.
If you have additional tips that you use, leave them below; we’d love to hear them!