When The Lights Go Out

thunderstorm

Usually we have some notice. The storm is forecast and we can expect that snow or wind will take down power lines and leave us sitting in the dark.

We get out all of our supplies, the hurricane lamps and the stick matches, the flashlights and the extra batteries. This time, we got no notice.

We were reading in the living room at 9:30 on Wednesday evening when we heard a crack, a whoosh and a crash followed by sudden darkness and silence.

It was a drizzly night, so there was no moon to help us navigate the space from sofa to hurricane lamps in the kitchen. Fortunately, I was reading on my tablet and there was enough light from the screen to make it a lot easier. I found the stick matches but the striking surface was no longer providing enough friction. I had to dig around in an upper cabinet to get a new box.

Be prepared with this outdoor match kit, built to endure severe weather. Matches burn up to 15 seconds. Store unused matches in the waterproof container. At Lehmans.com.

Be prepared with this outdoor match kit, built to endure severe weather. Matches burn up to 15 seconds. Store unused matches in the waterproof container. At Lehmans.com.

When I went to light the lamps I discovered the globes were dusty, the wicks needed trimming and the reservoirs were nearly empty. Bruce needed a flashlight to see what was happening outside. Of course, all the batteries needed changing. I tried to call 911 to report that a large maple had broken off and was lying across the road, blocking traffic but found that, as is pretty usual around here, my phone was not charged. And this is all from the family preparedness writer, lecturer and teacher. Mea culpa.

Our complete Mason Jar Lamp Kit lets you build a quick, charming emergency lamp with a few simple parts. At Lehmans.com.

Our complete Mason Jar Lamp Kit lets you build a quick, charming emergency lamp with a few simple parts. At Lehmans.com.

The lights stayed out for 8 hours. In truth, it was barely a blip as we slept through most of it. In fact, I consider the outage a gift as it made me examine my situation and make some much needed adjustments. The next morning I got busy.

First, the matches. Match boxes do absorb moisture. I got a Mason jar and cut a circle of extra fine sandpaper to fit the lid. I glued it to the lid, put a square of plastic wrap over that and then added ring. I filled the jar with matches. Presto! A moisture proof container.

Next up I took care of the lamps. I trimmed the wicks, filled the reservoirs and gave the globes a good cleaning. I also set up a couple of extras we could distribute to neighbors who might need them.

Now it was time to address the flashlight situation. That involved a trip to the store to replace some of the lights and all of the batteries. My birthday is coming up and my request this year is solar battery recharging station.

A potential lifesaver in emergencies, and a helpful light on countless other occasions. This bright LED flashlight never needs batteries, so it's always ready to use. A best-seller at Lehmans.com.

A potential lifesaver in emergencies, and a helpful light on countless other occasions. This bright LED flashlight never needs batteries, so it’s always ready to use. A best-seller at Lehmans.com.

We made one more mistake and it was a doozy. We have a very elderly and infirm neighbor. We all assumed his grandkids would run across the street to check on him. It turns out they were sleeping and had no idea the power was out. Our dear friend was alone in the dark for several hours before anyone thought to check on him. That could have been a disaster if he had needed to get to the bathroom. Bruce visited the next day and put a fresh flashlight next to his bed and a second next to his easy chair.

When the power goes out or the sun goes down, reach for this lantern. Its 24 powerful LED bulbs stay cooler, put out more usable light and last much longer than other types of bulbs. Use the keyring remote to light the room before you enter. At Lehmans.com.

When the power goes out or the sun goes down, reach for this lantern. Its 24 powerful LED bulbs stay cooler, put out more usable light and last much longer than other types of bulbs. Use the keyring remote to light the room before you enter. At Lehmans.com.

These are all such small things but they can have such big consequences. I hope you will all spend a few minutes today checking over your emergency supplies. You never know when you might be very glad you did.

A few good candles are always helpful in an emergency situation. A candle maker near our store has spent years developing a long-burning candle with an extra thick wick for more light. The result is stunning. At Lehmans.com.

A few good candles are always helpful in an emergency situation. A candle maker near our store has spent years developing a long-burning candle with an extra thick wick for more light. The result is stunning. At Lehmans.com.

Kathy Harrison

About Kathy Harrison

Kathy Harrison is the author of Just in Case, Another Place at the Table, and One Small Boat. She is a national spokesperson for both foster parenting and family preparedness and has appeared on The Today Show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and National Public Radio. She lives with her family in western Massachusetts.