Surviving An Extended Power Outage


Ironically, as my story about surviving a power outage got posted just as the Pacific Northwest was getting hammered by a fierce windstorm that knocked out power and caused widespread damage. The tips I provided in my previous article assume a relatively minor power outage. A more drastic outage like the one I just went through call for more drastic measures.

Assuming you don’t flee for a location with power and heat, your only realistic option is to get a generator. A number of companies make them and they come in a variety of shapes and sizes. They run on gas, diesel, or natural gas. Depending on how much stuff you want to run during a power outage, you could be looking at anywhere from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars.  The more watts the generator generates, the more expensive it is. You will need to add up the wattage rating of every lightbulb, appliance, and other device you will run in order to determine the right size of generator.

Your generator should be on a flat surface in a well-ventilated area outside your home and/or garage. You can either run an extension cord from your generator into your house to power the few things you want powered or you can hook the generator into your electrical system. This will require special wiring and you should consult a local electrician for assistance with this. If your generator requires natural gas, you will also need a hook up into your natural gas supply.

Even if you have a source of power during an outage, you may still have phone and Internet access problems. My phone service with Qwest was spotty due to the fact the pair gain to the central office was being kept alive by a generator truck parked in the neighborhood. DSL was unavailable as the remote terminal was not getting power. Several mobile phone towers were damaged during the storm, making both data and voice services weaker and less reliable. I didn’t try the cable modem service during the power outage, but it too could have very well been out.

Even if you have the means to continue working under less than ideal conditions, should you? No work is that important that you have to jeopardize your safety to get it done. Your safety is your top priority. Most people will forgive you if you miss a deadline or can’t make an appointment as a result of an act of nature.


Laura Martin

A couple months back I was looking for some survival kits just in case of something like the big storm that we are experiencing. I found these great kits at Their Deluxe Kits are perfect for any type of disaster. Thanks to them I was ready for the worst. Laura Martin


I’m pretty sure that idling a Toyota is less polluting than most of the gas generators that the author suggests are necessary. I used about 1/2 tank of gas in the three days we were without power. We joked that we get great milage when the car isn’t moving!

Are you suggesting I sit in the dark during a power outage? We charged our cell phones and laptops and lived an almost normal life while most of our neighbors had to leave their homes and stay in hotels or with friends and family. I imagine just the additional driving they had to do burned more gas than we did.

Justino Mayle

What about the pollution you’re generating so you can watch a few DVDs?


Instead of investing in a generator I bought an 800 watt inverter from Fry’s Electronics for about $50.00. When the power went out I clipped the leads to my car battery and let the car idle outside. I ran an extension cord into the house and we had enough power to watch DVD’s and run some Christmas lights – the only lights in our neighborhood. It worked great – no gas to go bad, no fouled spark plugs, and a lot quieter than a generator too.

Comments are closed.