Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Lights in the Darkness

September is National Disaster Preparedness Month. Are you ready for a natural, or manmade, disaster?

When the power goes out, the first thing you'll probably notice is the darkness. Maybe your computer screen is dark, or your TV. Or maybe all those electric lights we take for granted have switched off. Whichever it was, darkness is something we just aren't used to in the modern era, spoiled as we are by the power grid. 

Thankfully, when the power does go out, it's not something you're probably familiar with, since storms can routinely knock out the power. You've probably got flashlights and candles in your home already for those emergencies. But what about when the power is going to be out for days, or weeks, or even months? What are you going to do to bring back the light to reassure your family that everything is okay?

Long before Edison, people relied on candles for illumination at night. Today, candles are often scent-makers, coming in decorative jars and festooned with fancy bows or ribbons. But what about candles for emergencies?

The best option for an emergency is the tea candle. 

Being short, there's little danger of a tea candle tipping over and starting a fire. Tea candles also come in a handy metal tin, meaning you don't need a fancy holder for it. Best of all, tea candles are very inexpensive. You can get a hundred or more for under $20.00.

If you want to be able to carry these tiny candles around, there are a variety of lamps and lanterns made to fit them. 

The one drawback with a candle is the need for an igniter--matches, or maybe a butane lighter. It won't do much good to have a few hundred tea candles stockpiled if your matches get wet, or you've misplaced them. 

Propane lanterns are considerably more dangerous than candles--they can put out fumes that in an enclosed space (like your fallout shelter) could prove fatal--but they put out a lot more light, and a bit of comforting heat. Growing up, my family all loved kerosene lamps. 

Of course, kerosene fumes can build up over time, or just lain stink you out. There are alternative, cleaner burning fuels you can use, but like candles, but wick-and-fuel lamps do require igniters.

A modern convenience for illumination is the chemstick, or glowstick, once known as cyalumes. Simple plastic tubes, you just bend and shake and a chemical reaction produces light for hours. 

We tend to order these in bulk, buying a box of ten each spring to restock our storm closet. I'm not sure what the shelf life is, but we tend to rarely use them--although they are great to amuse kids with for late night events like trick or treating or trips to the drive in. 

The safest bet for disaster preparedness is an electric lantern. And not just the kind that use batteries. There are now lanterns with handcranks built in, so you can recharge them without use of a generator. 

The best bet for any disaster preparation is to combine all of the above light sources--giving yourself a variety of choices in the event one of the technologies above fails. 

Know of another emergency lighting choice not mentioned above? Add it with a link in the comments below...

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