Rethinking Personal Preparedness

Staying cool, connected, fed and entertained during a power outage

The storm that hit Arlington on Friday night caught many residents off guard.

A fourth-generation Floridian, I weather storms well. I keep a small basket full of batteries, flashlights, candles and lighters at all times. Even so, like most Arlington residents, I was not prepared for multiple days without power.

This made me rethink my personal emergency preparedness plan.

I’m not talking about medical supplies. Let’s be real. For most of us, weathering the storm means finding ways to stay cool, connected, fed and entertained. 

Staying Connected

I own a Blackberry, Kindle Fire and a laptop. I also own a power strip that can be charged from my car. This provided plenty of power to keep my electronics charged — but not enough for my Nespresso coffee machine, which caused a fuse to blow when I tried to make an espresso in the front seat of my car.

Arlington’s public libraries are the best. County officials deemed them “cooling stations.” They looked like charging stations to me, with laptops, iPads and cell phones plugged into every available outlet. 

Keeping Cool

With blinds and curtains closed, my first-floor condo stayed surprisingly cool for days. I have lined curtains over blinds on the windows that get the most sun. I bought these lined curtains to insulate the home in the winter, keep it warm.  They have done a great job of keeping my place cool. Sunday afternoon — Day 2 without power — I managed to take a nap, under covers.  

Staying Fed

I keep a large bag of ice in my freezer all the time. Like most people in Arlington I live walking distance from a grocery store so I don’t keep my freezer stuffed with frozen goods. I buy fruits and veggies as needed. As soon as the lights went out, I moved perishables from the fridge to the freezer, where the bag of ice would keep them cool from Friday night through Sunday morning.

If it appears your power will be out longer than a day and the ice is melting in your freezer, start cooking the raw meat, which will last two to four more days cooked. I love grilling. A power outage is just a good excuse.


Radio becomes extra important during emergencies, especially to drown out the eerie silence at night. I don’t own a battery-operated radio and feel no need to buy one for the three to five disasters I will encounter for the remainder of my life. I do, however, use wireless radio, a great source for information and entertainment. 

I used apps on my cell phone to listen to ESPN radio, including a podcast of "Pardon the Interruption," one of my favorite shows. On C-SPAN radio I listened to "Meet the Press." The site tunein.com allows you to stream live radio from local stations too, such as WTOP. I downloaded some movies and television shows to watch on my Kindle Fire. 

My son used his laptop as a DVD player. We caught up on reading during the day and watched the electronics at night.

Sally July 04, 2012 at 12:49 PM
This was a wake-up call for many of us. Keep the electronic dodads charged. I let my Nook run down on Friday with the intent to charge everything on Saturday. Ooops. A battery powered radio would be helpful. The freezer idea works like a charm, and here's to grillin' even if there's no chillin'. Hurricane season is upon us. Take action, folks. This could all be a repeat before we know it.
Jason Spencer July 04, 2012 at 07:30 PM
To me, worse than the heat was the adventure of going through blacked-out intersections.... Seems like it took a couple of days for everyone to remember to treat them as four-way stops. (Fortunately, though, we were only without power for about 24 hours — so it was just starting to get uncomfortable when the lights came back on.)
Merlisa Lawrence July 04, 2012 at 07:53 PM
I agree Jason. I couldn't believe how many people just rolled through lights. Sorta scary.
Mark Blacknell July 04, 2012 at 09:55 PM
Drove out Branch Ave/5 in MD on Saturday morning, and probably saw 5 intersection crashes in 10 miles. Still, there were upsides to it all. I was up and out for a (previously scheduled) bike ride at 5am on Saturday, and rolling through the dark and silent streets of Clarendon was really quite nice. ~ Preparedness-wise, I quite recommend the handwound emergency radios. Bought one right after 9/11, and it's been handy during a number of storms. These days many models come with a USB charging port - extra smart.
A.B. July 05, 2012 at 12:29 PM
Friends visit me wanting to see the DC monuments. My dog and I are visiting them this week. Beats cranking a radio in a stifling hot condo. Plus, gas is below $3.20 here. WHY does this and other blogs talk about sticking it out in a hot as hell environment when America is on vacation and traveling? Half the people who work for my company are on vacation this week.


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