This past Thursday San Diego County experienced a power outage like no other in my lifetime. The massive blackout lasted 15 hours and plunged 1.4 million San Diego residents into darkness. The outage knocked out power in a region of almost 6 million people in the Southwest including those to the north, east and south of San Diego.

We found out the next day that the outage occurred after an electrical worker removed a piece of monitoring equipment at a power substation in southwest Arizona. It was unclear why that mishap, which normally would have been isolated locally, sparked such a widespread outage. But the reason behind the outage wasn't too important to me and my family. What was important was how having no power brought people together.

Since I had cell service (thanks Verizon!) I was able to hop onto Facebook for a bit on my smartphone and just about every status update I saw from friends was related in one way or another to getting together with neighbors or family and hanging out and spending the black out together. Those who didn't have food for dinner that night didn't have to worry because they could just go over to a neighbor's house. Others who might not have had beer in the fridge could borrow one from a neighbor because, hey, it wasn't going to last long anyway!

Our family was lucky. We seemed to be quite prepared for a blackout. Candles, flashlights, lanterns, food and water were all in great supply. We even found the first aid kit just in case. You never know with kids... always be prepared. I started to realize that my full pantry and my husband's camping gear were a good thing. 12 cans of tomatoes? Why would I ever need that?

Well... in case of an emergency you're going to need food that lasts. In addition to food there are a few key things that a household should have as well. I found a disaster supplies checklist from FEMA that would be handy to have printed out. But there are also a few things we can do to be extra sure that we're prepared should disaster strike.

Stock up on water
A minimum of one gallon of water per person per day. Buy bottled water or store tap water in washed plastic, fiberglass or enamel-lined metal containers. Sanitize containers with a solution of one part bleach to ten parts water before using.

Be prepared with food supplies
Use a permanent marker to date foods and replace items every six months. Pack foods in watertight bags or sturdy plastic containers. Canned foods are a good choice. Buy ready-to-eat meats, fruits, and vegetables. Buy canned or boxed juices, milk, soup, and powdered milk and keep in a pantry or cool area so they're less likely to spoil.

Peanut butter is a good source of protein and crackers, granola bars, cereals, and trail mix are great for kids to snack on and have a long shelf life. Don't forget a manual can opener! Keep one handy by the canned goods just in case.

Double check the first aid box
Its a great idea to invest in a first aid box anyway but the things you want to make sure you have in the house are the following:
  • First aid manual, scissors, sterile bandages, gauze pads, cotton balls, safety pins, latex gloves.
  • Antibiotic ointment, cleansing agents such as isopropyl alcohol and hydrogen peroxide, germicidal soaps, moistened towelettes.
  • Needles, tweezers, scissors, thermometer.
  • Aspirin, anti-diarrhea medication, antacids, syrup of ipecac (to induce vomiting), vitamins.
And if you are on any type of prescription medication please talk to your doctor or pharmacist about stocking up on your prescription as well as the best way to store your medication.

The essentials and emergency supplies
Have flashlights, a battery or crank operated radio and extra batteries ready to go.
I heard that many neighbors didn't know what was going on because their cell has no service and they didn't have a battery operated radio so they had to rely on others (or sit in their car) to find out what was going on.

Matches should be stored in a waterproof case.
Matches will be used for not only lighting candles but your gas stove and barbeque as well. You don't want them getting ruined because they aren't properly stored. Candles are a great way to light up the house but they can also prove to be dangerous especially around children. Consider investing in solar lights for your yard. Then in the event of an emergency you can just bring the solar lights inside. My aunt and uncle did this and they said that their house looked just like normal once they brought their solar garden lights inside.

Make sure that you are able to grab a few changes of clothes quickly. 
Each member of the house should have 1-3 pairs of underwear, socks, shirts, bottoms and one pair of shoes easily accessible. Also make sure to have diapers available to grab if needed. I have an extra set of pre-fold diapers that I can grab in an emergency that will last me up to 3 days.

Another important thing to stock up on is food for your pets.
Always keep an extra bag of food in the house and just cycle it in after the current bag is used up. Then when you go out to buy food, place the new bag in storage. That way you are assured that if you do have an emergency, your pets will have fresh food available. 

For more information on disaster readiness please check out the Red Cross and FEMA.

Oh, and my family had a wonderful time during the blackout. After we busted out the Coleman camp gear and ate under moonlight, my son and husband watched Tangled on what was left of the charge on the tablet and I put my daughter to sleep while I read by flashlight. It was all very relaxing and enjoyable. Especially because a breeze started up and could be felt throughout the house. Had that breeze not been there we might not have had as good of a time as we did.

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