Last week I’d heard about a story of three family members who died during Hurricane Irma because they ran a generator inside their home. Although I couldn’t find more details, I did find this article about the incident.
Sadly, such a tragedy was entirely preventable by understanding what carbon monoxide (CO) is, how it can kill you, and perhaps most importantly: what items produce CO.
Here’s some good articles about carbon monoxide and safety:
- The Hidden Dangers Of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
- CDC Carbon Monoxide FAQ
- Carbon Monoxide Facts And Myths
And here’s a good article about running generators safely: How To Safely Operate A Backup Generator.
Anyway, what that tragedy really got me to thinking about was those things (or actions) you don’t actually need to have (or do) to survive in a disaster, such as with the recent hurricanes.
Now, I’m assuming that this family was running a generator to power an air conditioner because it was relatively warm weather at the time, but that’s pure speculation on my part. If they were running a generator for any other reason then it’s even worse because there are honestly very few reasons why you’d need electricity after a disaster.
Now I can hear you saying, “But, wait! I need to keep my refrigerator and freezer food from spoiling!”
No you don’t.
You SHOULD be able to do so… but you don’t HAVE to, especially if it means doing something ignorant like running a generator inside your home.
Regardless, you don’t need to have or do many things, such as:
- You don’t need power to keep the lights on if you have other light sources such as candles (not my first choice) or battery-powered lanterns (a better option). Heck, you could just sit in the dark but that sucks.
- You don’t need power to run a stove or oven or even a microwave if you have alternative cook sources like a BBQ grill or even makeshift stoves. (Note: BBQ grills can also produce carbon monoxide if charcoal-based and even propane grills can put off CO as well).
- Heck, you don’t even NEED to heat most foods so long as it’s been precooked, such as with canned foods. That said, some foods just need to be boiled to make them edible like rice, beans, pasta etc.
- You probably don’t need hot water either for any reason (except as noted in #3); this makes for cold showers and cold teas but it still works.
- Like I said above, food can be allowed to go bad and so the refrigerator doesn’t need to be kept cool. That said, I understand there are some cases where you’d hate to lose many hundreds of dollars worth of food and so you should be able to keep them running but it doesn’t have to be a generator that does it (hint: your car works pretty well for this purpose) and, besides, coolers and ice work well enough for a few to several days.
- You probably won’t need to do laundry in most cases since most of us have plenty of clothes in the closet which can be dusted off.
- You don’t need to bathe for weeks or longer in most cases (but I’m sure it would be appreciated by most people around you, lol). Even a simple washcloth rinse off is better than nothing.
- You sure don’t need WiFi or the internet or television… except then you couldn’t read this. 🙁
- I’d suggest that you don’t need your cell phone but it is our primary means of communication these days and so you really should try to keep it powered… and, of course, learn to text during and after disasters since they’re FAR more likely to get through jammed cell towers.
- You probably don’t need to go anywhere in your car if you’re hunkering down but I sure would prefer you had the option and so storing some extra gasoline with fuel stabilizer is a good idea.
- You don’t need almost ANY beverage (such as soda or beer) besides water to survive; sorry, you’ll live without either.
- You don’t need water to flush toilets or for most common household activities; keep water for the most necessary activities such as drinking, cooking, and minimal personal hygiene including brushing your teeth and the washcloth bath… and for pets too.
- In many cases you don’t need to air condition your home. Granted, there are some locations and times of the year where you’ll be miserable but so long as you can stay hydrated, in the shade, with a breeze,an so on then you’ll live. Of course, there are some folks who simply cannot tolerate the heat such as the elderly and so must be planned for.
- In some cases you don’t have to heat your home either. Yes, there are locations and times of the year where you’ll literally freeze to death if you don’t (and you know who you are) but most of us will survive by putting on more clothes and huddling under lots of blankets.
- You won’t need to do any dishes for weeks if you bother to stockpile some disposable supplies. Even if you want to use your dishes then items like cups, for instance, could be labeled with names and reused for quite a long time. I’d assume you could get creative too with your other dishes.
I’m sure I could go on listing items and actions you could likely do without in a relatively short term survival situation, but I’m sure you get the idea.
That said, there are some items/actions that you really shouldn’t go without. For example, any life-necessary medications or other medical equipment that literally keeps you alive come to mind. As such, it behooves you to have plenty of these medications on hand as well as the ability to power medical equipment for several days or longer if the power goes out.
Similarly, it would be silly to not be able to care for your basic needs, such as being able to heat your home if you live somewhere that you could truly freeze to death (as mentioned previously) and, of course, at least some minimal amounts of food and water. I still can’t believe people run out at the last minute to grab bottled water before a hurricane… ugh.
I’d encourage you to prepare yourself properly so that you don’t HAVE to go without… it’s not hard to do and I can show you how to get it done in only 5 minutes a day but you have to take action to make it happen.