Editor’s note: Ohio-based author Scott Wagner recently experienced a power outage from the powerful storms that have swept across America in recent days. Here is his journal during the blackout.
I am writing this post on laptop battery power by the light of a propane lamp. This past Friday, as many of you also personally experienced, the eastern states were hit by a sudden and powerful group of thunderstorms propelled by straight-line winds (known as a derecho). Straight-line winds are akin to a tornado without the rotation, and the main difference in a straight-line wind event is that large and small debris isn’t sucked up into a vortex and deposited elsewhere as in a tornado and the swath of destruction is much larger. The straight-line winds in this storm were clocked at 90 mph leaving power lines down everywhere.
There are hundreds of thousands of people without power in day three and 22 dead across multiple states. There is not a generator to be found as far as I can search on the Internet, which I did at my in-laws home, since they had power. Today is July 1st. In my area, we may not have power back on in until July 8th.
I was prepared for something like this, but not prepared enough. My weapons status was fine. An AR-15 or M1A1 Paratrooper carbine was in the car; depending on which one I drove, as was an ample ammo supply. I upgraded my “on-the-body gun” from my Smith and Wesson 642 .38 to my Beretta 92 9mm in a fanny pack, just in case since the basic necessities such as gasoline, ice and in some locales, food, were getting hard to come by.
I had my lighting needs taken care of. I have three rechargeable heavy-duty flashlights, a Streamlight SL20, a Streamlight LED Polystinger, and a 5.11 Light for Life light that contains a capacitor instead of a battery and recharges fully in 90 seconds. When they get low, I just pop them on a car charger.
In addition, I have a new Maglite 3-cell LED flashlight that is rated at 131 lumens and runs on common D batteries (although in my area, those aren’t so common now), with an Intelligent Energy Source Management run time of an incredible 79 hours with progressively descending brightness. There is something to be said for good old-fashioned D-cell alkaline batteries combined with modern technology.
In addition I have an assortment of tactical lights, oil lamps, and a double-mantle propane lamp. There is also an emergency supply of food on hand for up to a week for both my wife and I, and a propane camp stove for other cooking needs.
As the event unfolded, I realized I had a large gap in my basic plans (this blog is about weapons for defending oneself in these times, not the entire preparation gamut, so I am not ashamed to admit where I made mistakes on the rest of the plan) that I needed to address.
We have a well at our house with three pressure tanks, to allow the water to keep flowing in outages. I stored 30 gallons of treated water in the basement for general use including flushing toilets. The faucets and toilets worked from Friday night until Sunday. In years past it was no big deal. But, I will be 55 in August. When the faucets stopped, I reached and exceeded my fun threshold. I am getting a generator once they become available again. I put it off since we are trying to sell our house. Big mistake.
Further, while my wife is more of a tomboy than anything else, she doesn’t like this new “no running water” aspect of country living. A portable LP generator is in our future and the wife is all for it now.
Fortunately, this dress rehearsal came without civil disorder. Use any dress rehearsal to sharpen your game and make ready. Be honest with yourself. Find the chinks in your armor and fix them. Long-term disaster preparation is new to most folks. The last time people prepared at anywhere near this level was in the days of the Cuban missile crisis. This storm was a minor event. Once the electricity comes back on, things will be back to normal. Learn from minor events, because a major event won’t be so forgiving.
For more survival tips, check out Stay Alive! Survival Skills You Need.
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About the Author: Scott Wagner is a 32-year law enforcement veteran. Currently a police sergeant in Baltimore, Ohio, he spent 20 years with the Union County Ohio Sheriff's Office as a Reserve Deputy where he worked patrol, training and SWAT, and was the assistant SWAT team leader and a team sniper. Wagner has been a state-certified police firearms, fitness and defensive tactics instructor for 26 years, and has been a criminal justice professor and police academy commander for 20 years at a community college in the Midwest.He is the author of the Gun Digest books, "Tactical Shotguns,", "Own the Night—A Guide to Tactical Lights and Laser Sights," and Survival Guns.
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