Friday, October 5, 2012

Survival Is In The Details

We have become a society that depends on various forms of the power grid to give us light and heat, the ability to cook and bathe and live above the level of a caveman (apologies to the big hairy guy on the Geico commercials). To a certain extent, it doesn’t matter how far out of town you live, as long as you rely on someone else to deliver power to your dwelling. 

Case in point: Friends of ours live at the end of a dirt road that has been carved through the dense Pacific Northwest rainforest. This is a wild and beautiful part of the country but when winter storms blow through, it’s not uncommon for the power to get knocked out, leaving folks fumbling around in the dark. Being a preparedness-minded individual, our friends bought a power generator capable of keeping the refrigerator and freezer cold and the lights glowing in the house. Proud as a new mama, our friend showed me her acquisition, tucked securely in the corner of the garage just waiting for the next power outage. Time went by, and the following winter a big storm came along and knocked trees down. Unfortunately, the trees fell across power lines, tearing them to the ground. The next thing I knew, there was a knock at the door. It was our friend with a gas can in her hands. “Can I borrow some gas for the generator? The gas stations in town are without power and can’t pump.”

It was a good learning experience — which means everybody lived through it and came away smarter than before. So it served its purpose. And the lesson learned was that no matter how much you do toward preparation, if you forget the little details, you might still be without the benefit of that preparation. This applies to all aspects of emergency preparedness — success or failure is in the details.


  1. In the first place your friends should have a propane powered fridge, and some propane lights like all camp trailers had in them 30 years ago. And a propane water heater. They are much cheaper to use than a gas powered generator.

    The gas stations in town are without power and can’t pump.

    Don't know what town is implied here but guess it wasn't PA, even if the power is out in some sections I've never seen it out in all sections. And the Joyce store has a big propane generator that runs the store and pumps when the grid in down in that area.

    Frankly, for homes, I don't see the point in generators that will run high draw things, they chew up a lot of gas and if they just sit there for a few years they often won't start when you need them cuz the gas in them has gone bad.

    Makes more sense to me to have a good big inverter you can wire to your rigs for temp use, they don't go to pot just sitting around waiting to be used.

  2. I appreciate your advice about propane refrigerators, but I know people who have sailed around the world without any means of refrigeration at all. And there are parts of the world where the populace lives without refrigeration. So it's possible to learn to eat foods that don't require refrigeration, and prepare meals that won't leave leftovers that need to be refrigerated. But for those who want a reliable source of food cooling, a good solution is an electric fridge that operates on 12-volt electricity that can be stored in batteries that are charged by solar and wind generators. Engel ( makes excellent 12-volt refrigerator units that draw very little power. But the point of my post wasn't really about generators or gasoline or propane or refrigerators — it was that, even if we think we have our survival plan all put together, sometimes it's the little details that thwart the whole thing. Pay attention to the details.

  3. I appreciate your advice about propane refrigerators, but I know people who have sailed around the world without any means of refrigeration at all.

    A few years back I did a post about an old couple that have lived on sailboats for most of their lives without refrigeration. I've done without it a number of times myself. It seems that it's mostly women that think they need it.