(Survival manual/ 5. Energy/Emergency Lighting)
For Medium to Long Term Power Outages – Power Grid Failure
1. Emergency lighting
Power outages seem to be a more and more frequent occurrence. With the electrical grid in need of a lot of maintenance and upgrades and news stories of internet hackers trying to breach the grid online, being prepared for a medium to long-term power outage is a good idea. The preparations needed to have adequate lighting in any scenario are easy and affordable.
The most important thing to remember is that it is very unsettling, especially for children, to be without power for any length of time. The quiet that settles over a house with no electricity is something that we don’t often experience. While an emergency backup generator and gasoline to run it would take care of things pretty well, this requires an investment of hundreds of dollars and the hazards of gasoline storage. It is much cheaper and easier to focus on alternative lighting.
Candles are not a good idea for anything more than a romantic dinner. They present a fire hazard, especially if you have children in the house. They are not particularly economical and they are not very portable. Small oil lamps have the same drawbacks. [I disagree, feeling that candles are a very good way to provide illumination in an emergency situation. There are candle lanterns (see below) which I’ve used and are very safe. Mr Larry]
Kerosene lanterns are much better than candles, and if you don’t like the smell of kerosene, you can purchase lamp oil for most good lanterns, however it is much more expensive. A good hurricane lantern is durable, safe (they flame out if tipped over) and cost about $30 each. While campers love them, there is still a better way.
The LED flashlight/lamp
With LED flashlights, gone are the days of having to rely on bulky, D-cell flashlights that require a new set of batteries every day. Instead, a lightweight LED flashlight will serve you night after night on a couple double A or triple A batteries. So is it as easy as just making a trip to Wal-Mart to ensure your family has lighting during an extended power outage? Not quite.
First things – standardize your batteries
Trying to stock up on several different types of batteries is frustrating and expensive and inevitably someone’s flashlight will be out of batteries while others’ are not. Purchase flashlights and a table top lantern or two that all use the same batteries. The flashlights should be rugged and water-resistant, if not waterproof. Get a light color that will be easy to find in the dark – black is not what you want.
Worth Their Weight in Gold
In addition to flashlights and a table top lantern or two, get a headlamp for each adult in the family. Trying to do any tasks while holding a flashlight, which any camper will tell you, is very frustrating and difficult. On the other hand, a headlamp is lightweight and automatically illuminates whatever you are looking at.
Resist the urge to buy the smallest, lightest headlamps, as these use specialty button batteries. Get headlamps that use AA or AAA batteries to be standardized with your flashlights.
If you want the best batteries in your lights that will give you the longest light and function better than any other batteries in very cold weather, then lithium batteries are for you. They aren’t cheap – they will cost you up to $2 per battery, so if your flashlight takes 3 triple A batteries, that will cost you
more than the flashlight!
If you want to be prepared for an extended power outage, perhaps due to a terror attack or societal meltdown, then recharging your batteries is the best option. A small, solar-powered battery charger can be purchased for as little as $35, and will make you truly self-sufficient. A note of caution about rechargeables though: they do not keep a charge very well in storage. Have rechargeables on hand, but
keep good batteries in your flashlights so that they will work when you need them.
A Final Word
Outfitting yourself with at least one flashlight in each vehicle, more at home, and a headlamp for each adult, with all lights using the same batteries is a quick, easy way to be prepared for an emergency. Don’t think that if something happens you can just run to the store and get flashlights then. The store may be out of power too!
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2. Emergency lighting supplies you should have
Emergency preparedness means you should have backup systems or plans for heat, lighting and water. If you’re lucky, the power won’t be off long, but batteries are gone after a few days, unless you have a way to recharge them. A generator will only work until it runs out of fuel.
One of the more important aspects of urban survival during winter storms is lighting. Without a lighting plan, you could end up in the dark from when the sun sets at around 5:30 p.m. until dawn. The right lighting supplies can make this situation more bearable. Among your lighting back up supplies should be all the items from the following list:
• A LED headlamp for each person, this is very important since it frees both your hands for writing, reading, doing dishes, fixing things, going to the bathroom, and other activities done in the dark. When the power goes out for days, you’ll appreciate this.
• A hand-held LED flashlight for each person— can’t have too much light.
• Also a lantern per person. Hopefully one of those lights has a red filter or red LED to use at night to preserve night vision.
• A spotlight/lantern , one per group – illuminate a living space with an electric lantern. The 6V batteries last a long time. Preferably get an LED model, otherwise regular bulbs are fine if you get some spare bulbs.
• Rechargeable batteries and both a regular & solar battery charger — another critical item. Get two to three packs each of AA and AAA batteries, depending on the items you
have. Ebay has solar chargers for $25 that look like lunch boxes It takes one or two days to charge a set of four batteries, depending on sunlight availability. Leave the lid open a little, otherwise it gets so hot inside that the batteries are reduced in their lifespan. The most compact chargers are flat ones that roll up into a pouch, used by the military, but they are quite expensive.
3. The LED Advantage
Red LEDs have been available for decades. Cheap and powerful white LEDs now make LED flashlights clearly superior to traditional incandescent flashlights.
LED bulbs hardly ever need to be replaced. LED design and integration company LED dynamics says that LEDs can sustain up to 100,000 hours (eleven years) of use.
LED flashlights (known as torches in some countries) last longer between battery changes. LED versions are over twenty percent brighter, yet lasts eleven hours on a pair of CR123A lithium batteries versus one hour for the incandescent.
LED Brightness: Lumens versus Watts
More LEDs doesn’t mean brighter. A one led flashlight can be brighter than a flashlight with 3, 4, 9 or even 100 LEDs.
Total flashlight brightness is measured in lumens, with 10 to 100 lumens being common:
• 10 lumens is about the minimum practical brightness.
• 30 lumens will be bright enough for most purposes: lighting up trails when walking,fixing car engines, searching for lost items under the sofa.
• “Tactical” super bright police/military flashlights start at 90 lumens and can reach a few hundred lumens. They are good for lighting up more distant objects.
• One of today’s brightest LEDs is the SSC P7. It’s a 10 watt, 900 lumen LED. It is used in a variety of flashlights from different brands.
As a comparison, a list of light bulb brightness from Energy Federation Incorporated
- A 15 watt incandescent bulb gives off 122 lumens of light
- A 100 watt incandescent bulb gives off 1750 lumens of light
- A 90 lumen led flashlight looks brighter than a 15 watt (122 lumen) incandescent bulb because its light is focused into a narrow beam.
- LEDs are also measured in watts. This is the input power, not the brightness output.
Most general-use flashlights top out at 1 watt, while 90 lumen tactical flashlights are typically 3 watts.
- It is difficult to compare lumens with watts. Manufacturers claim anything from 10 to 90 lumens per watt. Average claim is about 30 lumens per watt. So, brightness is best compared using lumens, not watts. However 30 lumens per watt can be assumed if lumens are not stated.
- Lux is another measure of brightness. Lux is lumens per square meter, which is less useful for comparing flashlights.
Dimmer can be better
• The lowest brightness of a flashlight is important. Dim light is
• good for conserving battery life (super bright also means super battery-eater), especially useful in emergencies,
• more comfortable for reading at night,
• less likely to wake up companions when rummaging around in a tent.
• Premium flashlights have a low and high power setting. Some have more than two levels of brightness. Others have a separate red LED that not only conserves the battery but also protects night vision.
• An alternative is to carry two flashlights, one dim and another bright (much like carrying a pocket knife and a machete). This is practical with today’s lightweight flashlights. A backup flashlight can be a lifesaver.
LED flashlight batteries
• AA batteries are best.
• Small, bright LED flashlights can be powered by one or two AA batteries. These are the best all round performers (cost, capacity, availability) for general portable use. A single AA alkaline can power a flashlight for hours.
• AA batteries have wide market support. Battery types are:
___ Lithium (lightweight, last longer than alkalines, work well in the cold, expensive)
___ NiMH rechargeables
• AAA batteries are the next best. Flashlights with three AAAs are a popular configuration.
• Specialized batteries such as button cells or CR123A lithiums should be avoided. CR123A batteries may give good performance, but replacements can be difficult to obtain in remote areas.
• Batteries are part of an overall portable or emergency power supply plan. Equipment that use the same battery type (GPS, camera, flashlight, MP3 player, radio, walkie-talkie) can share batteries in a pinch. Solar chargers for AA and AAA batteries are available, making these batteries even more attractive.
Brightness and batteries are the most important issues when choosing a flashlight. Additional features include:
• Regulated power or voltage, to maximize and even-out battery power. Instead of being too bright when the battery is new and too dim later, a more constant level of brightness is maintained.
- Flashing feature, to attract attention in an emergency.
- Focusing head to adjust the width of the beam. These are normally available only on single-LED flashlights.
- Safety switch to prevent accidental switching-on of the flashlight, draining the battery. End-twist switches and recessed push-button switches are also good.
- Additional red LED for protecting night sight.
- Floating (buoyant) body. This prevents the flashlight from getting lost if dropped into water, but increases the size of the flashlight.
- Hole to attach a lanyard.
- Flat sides to stop the flashlight from rolling when placed on an even surface.
4. Suggested emergency lighting options:
Left to right:
• Black Diamond Apollo lantern, 3 watt LED, 50 lumen output, 9-1/2 in tall extended, 4 AA batteries, 60 hr. illumination per set batteries. Plenty illumination to work around the kitchen; can read by it if your up close.
• Black and Decker FSL18 18 Volt Firestorm Light, adjustable beam, shares 18v batteries with other of my tools. Lights up a room but has pretty straight on focusing beam, more for outdoors or close up work in a dark area.
• Coleman 8D Square Pack-Away Lantern. 15-watt fluorescent spiral U-tube, 390 lumens on High. Runs 24 hours on Low, 12 hours on High, 8 D batteries. This older technology lantern is something I’ve had for a while, works great. There are newer lanterns available for those who that want to use fewer batteries, ie., see Black Diamond above.
Left to right:
• Petzl E99 PG Tikka XP 2, LEDs Headlamp, 60 lumens,, 3 brightness settings, a red light, uses 3 AAA batteries: 160 hrs low, 80 hrs high, lighting out to 60 meters. A really great headlamp that free’s up both hands allowing you to dig around looking for things or pull emergency equipment out of storage.
• Similar to my Black and Decker wall light/rechargeable emergency flashlight. Looks kind of like the pic above, has the same plug in the wall and nightlight features. When the household power goes off, the flashlight immediately lights up and is fully charged, ready for use. Great indoors flashlight.
• Eneloop rechargeable batteries stocked for small personal electronics; buy a couple dozen each AA, a nd AAA, also a few plastic C&D adaptors so you can use the AAA to power C& D battery devices; also, La Crosse Technology BC-9009 Alpha Power Battery Charger..
Left to right:
• LED Lenzer #7736 tactical power flashlight, 110 lumens, beam distance 590 feet., (dangerously bright, focused beam), tooled aluminum, 4-1/2 “ long, uses 3 AAA batteries. Best used outdoors.
• Energizer, 1 watt, LED flashlight, 7” long, rubberized grip, uses 2 AA batteries. Right brightness
for ‘in the house’, 45 lumens.
• Mini LED keychain flashlights, have just a few in supply. Very handy & small, not very bright, internal battery, disposable unit. About 10 lumen light output.
5. Emergency Candles
In a disaster, it is not uncommon for electricity to be unavailable, sometimes for days or even weeks. Flashlights are an important component of a disaster kit, but flashlights are not meant for long-term use. Emergency candles are an excellent way to generate light when the electrical power goes out.
Candles for use in emergency situations come in a variety of styles and sizes, many of which are similar to ordinary candles. Some of the ways in which emergency candles differ from conventional candles include length of burn time, adjustability of the wicks and wind resistance. There are emergency candles available which can burn for 30 to 120 hours or more.
My candles and propane lighting options
Left to right:
• UCO single candle lantern, closed and open, 6.5 in. tall & 2 in wide. UCO candle lanterns use 9 hour (non decorative) candles, candle is spring fed to maintain appropriate height in globe, see candles below.
• UCO, 3 candle lantern, has a top surface for heating, with all three candles burning, you can heat a cup of liquid in 5 minutes, not to a boil, but useful for instant soup or coffee, spring fed candles.
• UCO 9 hour candles, each measures 3-1/2” long x 1-1/8”diameter. Wouldn’t hurt to have at least a dozen in supply.
Left to right:
• Coleman Quick Pack InstaStart Lantern, 967 lumens, runs 13 hours on low and 7.75 hours on high using one 16 ounce propane cylinder. Light up the yard for outdoor cooking, dish washing, etc.
• 1 pound propane cylinder, stock a few for light and cooking.
6. Candle making, (traditional candles, primarily for illumination)
The best candle wax is Petroleum Paraffin wax like used in home canning. It’s very cheap, comes in pre-cut blocks and stores indefinitely. You can also use crayons or pieces of old decorative candle found around the house.
The first step in candle making is to prepare the wax. You do this by melting it in a double boiler. A double boiler is simply one large pot filled with water and placed on the stove top. Another smaller pot that contains the un-melted wax is sat inside the larger pot. Wax will burn when you try to melt it so using a double boiler makes it easy.
Once the wax is melted, hold the wick in place in the middle of the mold and pour in the wax. Allow the wax to cool for about four to six hours before you attempt to remove it from the mold. You can also spray non-stick cooking spray into the mold before you pour the wax into it so it is easier to remove the finished candle.
A. How to Make Emergency Cooking Candles (for light and heat)
These candles differ from the traditional candle when the mold is preloaded with a stack of cardboard wicks embedded and held in place by wood chips or by a tightly wound coil of cardboard. With the following two procedures, you can make a much more heavy-duty candle than discussed above.
Emergency cooking candles provide both light and heat, allowing you to cook food in a difficult situation. Make several emergency candles and put them in your long-term storage.
Procedure #1: Cooking candle, Tall can/mold
Things you’ll need:
- Tin can
- Candlewick (see wick making, below)
- Double boiler
- Slotted spoon (optional)
- Paraffin wax, old candles, wax crayons
- Matchbook (optional)
- Corrugated cardboard
- Duct tape (optional)
- Wood chips
- Hot glue gun (optional)
Place the broken up paraffin, old candles or crayons in a double boiler, or melt enough paraffin wax to fill the tin can. If you melt too much wax, you can always store it for later once it hardens. Watch the wax as it melts, and stir it to encourage the melting. You should use the double boiler method to prevent the wax from catching fire as is melts.
Cut the corrugated cardboard into thin strips. The strips only need to be as tall as the can. Roll the strips into a tight coil.
Pack wood chips into the tin can. Compress the wood chips tightly around the candlewicks. Fill in the holes and saturate the cardboard to fill the tin can completely with the melted wax.
Pour the candle wax to cover the cardboard and wood chips. Lay a candlewick horizontally across the candle wax. The candlewick needs to be as long as the tin. Light the candlewick in an emergency, and the flame will spread across the top of the tin can.
Optional, so that you’ll have matches, if and when the emergency candle is needed. Cut the top off a matchbook. Cut the strikers off the box, and then tape the matchbook inside the lid of the tin can. Glue the strikers next to the matches on the lid with a hot glue gun.
Procedure #2: Cooking candle, Short can/mold
Things you’ll need:
- washed out tuna can, make several
- corrugated cardboard hot pads
- Paraffin wax, old candles, wax crayons
- primed candle wick
- scissors or sharp knife
- small sauce pan and old heat proof glass jar (for double boiler)
1. Using your scissors or knife, cut strips of the corrugated cardboard that are the same height as the tuna can. It is beneficial for one or two strips to be slightly taller than the rest to make the candle easier to light after the first time it is used.
2. Roll a cardboard strip around the pencil. While keeping the cardboard coiled up, slide it off of the pencil.
3. Place the coiled cardboard into the tuna can, and allow it to uncoil. Repeat steps 2 and 3 until the whole can is filled and the cardboard strips are fairly snug against each other.
4. Cut a piece of candle wick that is about 1/2 inch taller than the tuna can. Place the wick in the hole at the center of the cardboard coils.
5. Fill the small sauce pan half way with water and put it on the stove over medium heat. Place the wax into the jar and put the jar in the water. The water will slowly begin to boil and will melt the wax in the jar.
6. When the wax is melted, use the hot pads to remove the jar from the water. Pour the melted wax into the tuna can filled with the cardboard coils. Start at the center near the candle wick and work toward the outer edges. Fill just to the top edge of the can. Do not over fill the can or it will spill all over when the candle is lit.
Allow the cooking candle to cool completely. Store in a Ziploc bag with waterproof candles and tuck the bag into your emergency survival kit or 72 hour kit.
B. Homemade candle wicks
To make wicks the colonial way, soak heavy cotton yarn for 12 hours in one of these solutions:
• 1 tbsp salt combined with 2 tbsp boric acid and 1 cup of water, OR
• a mixture of turpentine, lime water and vinegar.
When the yarn is dry, braid 2 or 3 strands together to form the wick. or as another person suggested just, use cotton string/cord/rope soaked in liquid wax, the larger the candle diameter
the thicker or more numerous the wick(s).
 The LaCrosse charger includes individual LCD displays for each charging compartment, and
three function keys at the bottom–Current, Display, and Mode. Push the Mode button to choose from four categories: Charge mode to charge the rechargeable battery (automatically switches to trickle charge after the battery is full); Discharge mode to discharge then charge the rechargeable battery to minimize the memory effect; Refresh mode to refresh the rechargeable battery to maximum
capacity by charging and discharging it repeatedly; and Test mode to check the rechargeable battery capacity in mAh/Ah. Also features a heat monitor to prevents overcharging.