Tag: generator

Emergency Tools are Critical to Survival


Bare hands won’t work.

Emergency tools require heavy work gloves
But do they fit?

Clearing roads, walkways and corridors, prying open locked or distorted doorways, freeing victims pinned beneath fallen debris — just a few of the scenarios you might experience in an emergency. You’ll want the right emergency tools in your hands — and you’ll want to protect those hands!

So the solution? Heavy, well-fitting gloves!

This is particularly important for women, because most off-the-shelf gloves — even those provided via a CERT class — are JUST TOO BIG. If you’ve been visiting here a while, you’ll have seen some of our gloves. They make for good photos, but the extra space across the palm and at the end of my fingers means I just can’t wear them. In the presence of tools they are just plain dangerous!

The image at the left shows some of the gloves I do like for myself. Heavy-duty construction. Leather. Separation between fingers. Elastic at wrist. And you can select SMALL.

Whatever size you wear, find good ones and get several pairs. In wet or heavy work, you can damage them or even just wear them out. Here’s the link to Amazon so you can take a look for yourself.

OZERO Leather Work Gloves Flex Grip Tough Cowhide Gardening Glove for Wood Cutting/Construction/Truck Driving/Garden/Yard Working for Men and Women 1 Pair (Gold,Medium)

Essential emergency tools for turning off utilities.

Water shut-off.

In an earthquake or storm, you may face broken pipes — somewhere in the system or even inside your house. (Remember those terrible photos from the ice storm in Texas?) If you don’t know where or how to shut the water off, every minute increases the chance of damage or even danger.

Do you know where ALL THREE water supply shut-offs are located?

An Individual appliance may have its own shut-off valve. Check the water lines leading to the toilet, for example. Easy enough to shut off.

Turning off water to the whole house can keep water in your tank from becoming contaminated! Your home has a master shut-off valve. It’s usually in the basement, crawl space or maybe in the garage. It may be located outside by the foundation. These valves usually can be shut off by hand — just turn the faucet handle (clockwise) or the lever (until it’s crosswise to the pipe).

You may also want to turn off water at the street. This valve is probably buried in a concrete box some distance from the house. Use a big screw driver to pry off the cover. (Gloves, here!) Then use a special water shut-off tool that has a sort of hook at the bottom. (You may have used one for your irrigation system.)

Here’s an article with a number of illustrations that may be useful.

ACTION STEP: Plan a time for a family tour to find all your water shut-off valves! Do you need an emergency tool to turn any of them off? (See below for a suggestion.)

Natural gas shut-off.

Here where I live our scariest danger is fire after an earthquake. Fire fueled by gas leaking from broken gas lines! So on a regular basis our neighborhood group puts out information about where and how to turn off the gas if you smell that rotten egg smell!

Just like water, there are a variety of valves to shut off the gas. At the street (distribution pipe), in the neighborhood (smaller pipes) and directly to your home (low pressure pipe). Generally, you can only control the line that leads into your home.

You’ll need a sturdy wrench or specialty tool to turn off the gas! And you’ll need to know HOW to turn if off. (See below for a gas wrench suggestion.)

ACTION STEP: Find your gas shut-off valve. Store a gas shut-off wrench permanently near the valve.

DO NOT PRACTICE shutting off the gas! Once it’s off, you’ll need the gas company to come turn it on again! (All pilot lights will have gone out, remember . . .)

A convenient, all-in-one tool for shutting off water and gas.

Get at least one, have a permanent place for it so it doesn’t go missing. Know you’ll be ready when you need to use it!

4 in 1 Emergency Tool: Gas & Water Shut Off, Pry Bar, 4 in 1, Non Sparking, Emergency earthquake Gas Shut Off Valve – Fireman Tools – Tool Emergency – Emergency Tools – Gas Turn Off Wrench – Tern Tool

Will you be able to use your power tools?

The image at the top of the page shows a standard power tool. But when you’re planning for an emergency, you have to assume that power will be out. So what are your options?

Battery-driven tools (power drills, chain saws) will have a limited useful life span if they can’t be re-charged. These days, many tools come with multiple change-out battery packs, which gives the tools a lot longer useful life span. And there are small Power Banks for small devices. Still, at some point, batteries will run out. So to be useful, they’ll have to be recharged.

What are your recharge options for emergency tools?

  • Some people and businesses keep gasoline or butane-powered generators to supply emergency power. They can be really useful — but generally, they’re big, heavy and noisy. And they can be dangerous.
  • If you live in the right location, and can afford it, you may want to consider using a solar system to charge your tools. Solar works well for small-ish devices and lighting, but it takes a big system to actually drive anything with a motor.
  • Power inverters can take the output of a 12-volt battery and convert it to 110 volt AC, but in an emergency you’ll probably want more power than your inverter can give you. Still, worth another look.

Here’s an updated discussion of generators and inverters.

What about emergency lighting?

And let’s not overlook lights as emergency tools! Without them, you won’t be able to do much with the other tools you may have that still work!

Small flashlights are appropriate for getting around in the dark but may not provide adequate lighting for working in an emergency situation. Some newer flashlights offer more options, fortunately. Some have a side panel of lights, not just the main light. Some have magnets that can stabilize the light so you have both hands free. Flashlights are essential emergency tools — as long as their batteries hold out.

Lanterns can be even more useful, since you can set them down while you work. Low-level lighting is adequate for moving around in a space, and many lanterns adjust to meet that purpose. Other lanterns even have red or blinking emergency signals. From an emergency standpoint, it makes sense to have a couple of solar-powered lanterns, too, since batteries will ultimately fail.

Headlights from cars or trucks often suffice, but they may not be able to maneuver into position to be of help in all situations. There are large battery-operated candlepower spotlights available that can overcome this challenge, but most people don’t have these on hand. And again, they ultimately run out of juice.

Emergency lights keep getting better and better. Here’s our latest review of heavy duty lanterns. And for power tools that will last, take a look at this Advisory about solar-powered lights and tools.

What tools do you need to add to your emergency supplies?

ACTION STEP: Start now to put together an inventory of what emergency tools you have on hand, and what tools are available in the neighborhood.  Make sure you have the essentials. Consider whether an auxiliary power source will be required for tools to be effective.

Joe Krueger
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

Power Outage in the Workplace


Updated March, 2019

Power Outage in the Workplace

A Common Emergency Than Can Turn Into a Disaster

It’s Friday morning, you arrive at work and are greeted with . . .

“Guess what! Power is out!”

As people pull in and start to crowd around the front door, questions ring out. . .

  • “Who’s in charge?”
  • “Don’t we have a generator somewhere?”
  • “What about next door, is their power out, too?”
  • “Has the outage been reported?”
  • “How long will it last?”
  • “Does the boss know?”
  • “Shouldn’t we turn stuff off so it doesn’t all go on when the power comes back?”
  • “What was on?”
  • “What about the deliveries we’re expecting?”
  • “I have appointments today. Should I cancel them? Can we meet somewhere else?”
  • “Who’s in charge?”

Power outages are happening more often and lasting longer.

Inside Energy reported that in 2014 in the United States, the five-year annual average number of outages doubled every five years from 2000 to 2014.

Three years later, according to the US Energy Information Administration, the length of the average power outage nearly doubled from 2016 to 2017 – to almost 8 hours. Then came this addition: “. . .and the total duration of interruptions caused by major events was longer.”

Why the increase? Most notable: more and stronger hurricanes, massive winter storms, raging wildfires.  And lurking behind it all, the vulnerability of the grid itself.

We’ll be watching for statistics from 2018, and later for 2019, which has started out as bad or worse than ever before.

Note: Are you familiar with Allianz, the global insurance company? Their 2019 Allianz Risk Barometer now adds cyber incidents to the list of top business interruption risks.

A power outage in the workplace is a lot more problematical than one at home.

You may be able to get along at home because you have immediate access to extra food, clothing, etc. But to respond to a power outage in the workplace YOU NEED TO HAVE PREPARED IN ADVANCE!

Here are three simple questions you can use to start the preparedness conversation.

  1. What equipment will go off? Will it be damaged or dangerous if it shuts off suddenly?
  2. Who needs to know about the power outage? How quickly do they need to know?
  3. How will we communicate with employees, customers, suppliers, regulators and the news media when the power is out!? Who will do the talking?

Resources for planning for workplace outages.

Fortunately, there are some super resources out there to help out in this regard. One of the best is: Agility Recovery. Started 30 years ago, Agility is now serving businesses of all sizes in 44 states. While you may or may not be a candidate for their services, be aware that their website’s library has excellent videos and checklists for every business. The case histories of specific industries (banks, healthcare) are particularly interesting.

Agility has been on my radar for a couple of years now. I’ve attended their training webinars online and talked to several of the sales people, with very useful results.

Four suggestions for taking action to prepare for power outages in the workplace.

1- If the questions in this Advisory have hit any nerve at all, head over to Agility and grab Agility’s free Power and Generator Checklist. You’ll see a complete list of things to do BEFORE an outage, with specific questions to ask your electrician. The checklist adds safety recommendations as well as steps to increase security during an outage.

2- If you’re concerned about having some basic equipment available to help you through the outage — like lighting, power for computers, or a generator — check out our Emergency Plan Advisory: Fire related power outage

3- If it’s time your company considered the bigger picture, I recommend our own book: Emergency Preparedness for Small Business

It too has checklists – many of them! They start at the very beginning to help you get over procrastinating, identify ALL the possible risks (not just power outage), and get you started on pulling together a real business continuity plan step by step. (We describe Joe’s secret weapon that he discovered and developed when he was in military intelligence.)

4- In any case, consider assigning someone from your company to attend the upcoming webinar being offered by Agility on May 15, 2019, 12 – 1 p.m. MT. These webinars last just one hour, and are crammed with interesting info. May’s topic:  Ask the Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery experts. You can reserve your spot here: https://www.agilityrecovery.com/event/free-webinar-ask-the-bcdr-experts/ 

(In case you’re wondering if I have any particular affiliation with Agility Recovery, I don’t. As you know, I am constantly researching resources, and I simply feel very comfortable recommending them.)

With 70% of businesses anticipated to lose power sometime in the next 12 months, this is an important topic for all of us at Emergency Plan Guide. I urge you to take steps now to protect yourself and to keep an outage from becoming a disaster.,

Before you leave, please read the P.S. for just a few more examples of what happens when power goes out at work!

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S. We all have a good idea of what happens when the power goes out. At least, what we notice immediately. BOOM!  No lights! Meeting rooms, offices, halls, closets, bathrooms, stairwells – all dark except for emergency lighting.

But look a little further, and you may discover . . . .

  • Automatic gates and doors are frozen open, so you have no security.
  • Communications are down.  No landlines, no internet access, and the heightened potential for increased cyber vulnerability.
  • Bathrooms don’t work if you have power assisted toilets or water faucets.
  • UPS systems everywhere are pinging, pinging, pinging. (How long will they last?)
  • There’s no power to the kitchen = no coffee, no microwave, no refrigerator. (Medicines may be compromised, food starts spoiling immediately.)
  • Time clocks and timers may shut off.  (How to track employee time, industrial processes, scheduled communications?)
  • A/C and air handlers go off, same with pumps in the basement and any electricity-driven medical devices (Environment may become uncomfortable, even unsafe.)
  • Your out-of-gas vehicles can’t refill their gas tanks or recharge their batteries.
  • The only tools or pieces of equipment that work are those with battery backup or that run with rechargeable batteries. (What about dental drills? Auto repair tools? Restaurant stoves and freezers?)

What will happen in YOUR workplace when the power goes out? You need to know, so you can be prepared. Otherwise, this outage could truly become a disaster for the business.

Financing Neighborhood Emergency Equipment Purchases – Updated

heavy emergency equipment
Something your group needs???

Emergency equipment can be expensive!

Considering an equipment purchase for your neighborhood group?  Something BIG, like in the image above?

Not that you’re considering purchasing a log mover — I used the picture because it makes the point.  This probably isn’t something you could afford by yourself.  You certainly wouldn’t want to buy it and have it sitting around “just in case.”

But what if your group does need neighborhood emergency equipment?

On one hand, buying as a group makes it easier.

If you are part of a group, you can look at buying big items from a different perspective.

  • You and your neighbors can get access to items you wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford.
  • Your neighborhood can achieve a whole new level of resilience.
  • Sharing in the purchase decision automatically creates a stronger network of neighborhood first responders!

However, big purchases are not all about big benefits.

Neighborhood emergency equipment decisions take a lot more thought.

For example, here are some of the decisions you’ll have to make about that purchase:

  • Who will be the named owner – for tax purposes, for registration purposes, etc.?
  • Which neighbor/s will be responsible for maintenance and repairs?
  • Where will the equipment be stored and who will have access?

Here’s some of what we’ve experienced when we started buying materials for the group.

Some people don’t want to play.

People may be willing to show up to meetings. But being a member of the group isn’t enough to make everyone volunteer to spend money for the group’s welfare.

Honestly, we have found nothing that will change a “me” focus to an “us” focus. It’s either there, or it isn’t. So, if some of your group members seem unwilling to participate in group purchases, after appealing a couple of times to the concepts of cooperation and mutual support, you’ll have to let them go their own way.

Others are willing to buy for themselves and share when necessary.

The shared ladder

In our local neighborhood, when we began to organize our group, it just so happened that we were already “sharing” a number of items. For example, Joe and I had a tall extension ladder that was left behind (too tough to pack) when a neighbor moved. The ladder ended up behind our house (see the photo!), and was used by any of a handful of people on the street. They just came and got it and brought it back when they were done.

After our first neighborhood emergency equipment inventory, we discovered that one contractor neighbor stores a heavy duty pry bar (six feet long) that he would be willing to share. Another neighbor has a pair of giant shears, good for breaking open chained gates. We have solar battery chargers.

We all learned about these items, and where they are located, and in an emergency we plan to share for the benefit of the group.

Getting money for “REALLY BIG” purchases.

When it comes to more expensive items, you may have to look at other options for financing them. Whatever you decide on, start now to put together your “wish list” of equipment your group could use effectively. Your list will be different from other groups’ lists. Just the action of making the list will involve more people and likely uncover creative ways to turn it into reality.

Option One – Funding from within the local community.

In our case, thanks to a committed and enlightened homeowners’ association board, our emergency team gets money every month via association dues. Emergency Plan Guide readers who are renters have told us their groups have received financial support from their property owners.

Some of our readers are members of groups incorporated as non-profits – and they have been the recipients of donations from local stores and local insurance companies. One group buys and resells radios at a profit.

Option Two – Funding from local or national grants.

Naturally we have looked for grant money. As a community we’ve been the grateful recipient of a grant co-sponsored by the Fire Department and First Alert. Three years ago, over a 2-day period, our team helped install donated smoke alarms in every single residence in the neighborhood!

As for getting grants on our own, we have had no luck so far. We have researched — and here’s some of what we have discovered.

  • It helps,  and often is required, that you be an established group, with an official non-profit status, ID number, etc. Federal (FEMA) grants usually go only to official government agencies – fire departments, etc.
  • Private foundations usually have a specific focus (which may change from year to year) and may have a minimum award that is higher than you can justify asking for.
  • Your request for money to solve a particular need with a one-time purchase of equipment — for example, communications equipment for handicapped or senior members – may be more positively received than a request for money for operations.
  • Many grants are announced on a specific date. The organizations involved have a strict application procedure that may take months, so you need to start your investigation now. (See this Advisory about the grants from State Farm.)
  • Your city may offer grants for specific activities. And, of course, your city or county may offer CERT training to all your group members, with no real strings attached.

Remember that grants, unlike donations, always come with strings attached. You have to meet the grant’s requirements and then show that you spent the money the way you promised you would.

Option Three — Sponsoring a fundraiser for your group.

This is the tried and true way for any community group to raise money – money they can spend any way they like. There are SO MANY ideas of how to put on a good fundraiser!  You could probably write this section of the Advisory yourself!

Here are a few questions to get the conversation started . . .

What’s the purpose for the fundraiser?  Sometimes it’s easier to have one specific goal (“$450 for walkie-talkies for our group”) rather than a generic “support our group” message.

Who would be a natural partner for the fundraiser?  Usually, this means a commercial entity that would benefit from the exposure, or from direct sales. We have had good luck getting support from emergency equipment manufacturers and local hardware stores. If the commercial group is going to sell their products, you’ll have to figure out how your group will benefit!

What will attract visitors and make them want to pull money out of their pockets!

  1. Fun fair! If your audience has kids, parents will bring them along if there is plenty for kids to do! (“Oh, a good Saturday afternoon outing for the family.”) In all the years I’ve done events, the ONE MOST POPULAR ACTIVITY has always been “Spin the wheel and win!”  Obviously this requires a wheel, lots of little prizes, and a few big ones!
  2. Bake sale – always popular in a venue where there’s lots of foot traffic
  3. Ice cream social – Get donated supplies!
  4. Yard sale with proceeds to benefit the group. (Combine with other community event or annual sale?)
  5. Speaker/local band willing to perform for the publicity
  6. Raffle for a great prize (Be sure you know the GAMBLING RULES for your state!)

What sort of location do we need, and where can we find it?

Do we have the equipment we’ll need? Tents, tables, chairs, microphone

How will we manage publicity?

What and how many volunteers do we need, what skills, with what schedule?

You’ll find many more resources online or at the library. If you would like a copy of my own well-tested Master List for Event Planning, just drop me a line!

How we’ve made neighborhood emergency equipment purchases for our own group.

Over the years we’ve held events like the ones suggested above. Some were really profitable — like when we sold a bunch of donated furniture at a yard sale. Others were barely profitable. But with the help of fund raisers plus budget from our HOA, our group has purchased medical supplies, walkie-talkies and their batteries, and pop-up tents. Our group also owns two natural gas “sniffers,” two refrigerators, a generator,  a portable loud-speaker, three loud-hailers and some big floodlights. (We have chosen not to store food or water. We encourage our families to manage their own supplies for sheltering in place.)

Naturally, it takes an organized campaign to get a financial commitment of ANY SORT. In our case,

  • We apply professional marketing planning and presentations. (Joe’s and my background is in direct marketing!)
  • Fortunately, we have a couple of neighbors who love the challenge of coming up with donated gift cards!
  • A couple of our members have jumped in to take on money management.
  • Other members are enthusiastic HAM radio operators, and they provide guidance and training for the rest of us.
  • Working with the fire department makes it possible for us to get a ladder truck and fire engine once in a while for “show and tell!”

Working together, we have been able to get financing for the big equipment we’ve needed so far for our group. It will take another Advisory to discuss how we set the priorities for using the equipment!

Virginia Nicols
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S. What sorts of fund-raisers have you been successful with?  Let us all know by jumping down below the subscribe info and leaving a comment!

5 Ways to Create Your Own Home-Grown Disaster


Danger, Not a Step.

Look familiar? See #4 below.

Not knowing is one thing. Just not thinking is another.

Here are five really dumb things that people do that lead to emergencies and even disaster.

Don’t do any of them, please.

 Dumb Act #1: Mix household cleaners.

The classic mistake is to mix household ammonia (like window cleaner spray) with liquid bleach — “because two cleaners ought to work better than just one.”

The result: a gas that can cause nausea, eye irritation, sore throat, headache, cough, and difficulty breathing.

In fact, the chloramine gas that’s released could even send you to the hospital for an emergency tracheostomy — surgery to create a hole through the neck into the trachea (windpipe) to allow you to breathe.

OK, so you know about not mixing.

Did you know that you can create the same noxious gas by simply using two cleaning agents one after another on the same surface?

Every cleaning agent should be suspect:

  • liquid cleaners for the toilet bowl
  • gel for unclogging drains
  • powdered cleansers for counter tops and grout
  • spray foams for the shower.

Check the label for ingredients (look for sodium hypochlorite) and warnings.

If you smell or feel ANY strange or strong fumes, get out of there immediately and allow the space to air out thoroughly before allowing anyone into the area. Rinse everything completely with water and let it dry out some more before you attempt to finish your cleaning job.

Dumb Act #2: Work alone.

Most of us are happy to work alone for some time during the day!

But most of us are not engaged in high risk activities like using dangerous tools, working around machinery, electrical wires, scaffolding, trenches, high pressure materials, hazardous substances, at height or in closed spaces like grain elevators or tanks, etc.

For the 15% of people who do find themselves in these situations it’s important to have some sort of check-in procedure.

This isn’t just for construction or agricultural or other special industries. Office workers like receptionists or parking attendants who work alone may face potential violence from the public. They need a check-in procedure, too.

If your workplace doesn’t have a policy about working alone, get one.

Dumb Act #3: Underestimate a portable generator.

We’ve talked a lot lately about how a portable generator can be a great emergency preparedness tool if the power goes out. We’ve even made some recommendations about which kind to consider, how much to expect to pay, etc. (See footnotes for links.)

We have certainly talked about the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning from setting up a generator indoors. That extends to having it in the garage or even locating it too close to an open window.

There are other dangers associated with generators that you would know if you thought about it – but sometimes, people just don’t think.

Consider these possibilities:

  • Fire. Like any motor, your generator can get overheated. Don’t spill gas on or around it!
  • Electrocution.  A generator produces – electricity! If your power cords are too light, frayed or kinked, or not properly grounded, you could get the shock of your life. Electricity can kill.
  • Electrocuting someone else. The fifth leading cause of occupational deaths is what is termed “back-feeding.” This occurs when a power company worker touches a wire that should be inert but isn’t because it is carrying power from an unanticipated source – like YOUR generator.

This is why you don’t plug your generator into a wall outlet in your house. The power goes into the house and right through the house into the power grid where the unsuspecting worker is busy trying to fix the outage!

Yes, there is a way to power your house with your generator, but it requires a special “power transfer switch” installed in advance by a qualified electrician.  (A solar array with battery backup requires the very same type of switch.)

Dumb Act #4: Disrespect a ladder.

We are all pretty familiar with ladders, and have probably used at least a couple of different types — step ladder, extension ladder, etc.  (There are many types. Wikipedia lists 21 different ones!)

But for all its familiarity, a ladder can be very dangerous.

If its feet aren’t solidly placed, the ladder can tip over backwards or slide down frontwards. You come down right with it, flat on your back or your face or tangled between the rungs.

Second, a ladder can break. Like any other piece of equipment, ladders simply wear out.  Got an old one in your truck or garage? Before you use it the next time, check out the rungs, the rails, the spreader bars and locks and the feet to be sure they all function as designed.

Finally, can you read? I’ll bet your ladder has a sign somewhere that reads, “Not a step.” (I took the photo above of my own well-used step ladder.)

In simple English, that means “Do not stand on this.” Get up too high on a ladder and you will overbalance the whole thing. Stand on a paint can shelf instead of a step, and the shelf will break.

Every year, more than 90,000 people end up being treated in the emergency room from ladder-related injuries!

Dumb Act #5: Disconnect smoke alarms.

This is simple. Once again, the statistics tell you everything you need to know.

Half of U.S. fire deaths occur in houses where a smoke detector is installed but has been disabled because it beeps.

Of course, nuisance chirping from a smoke alarm is awful. And yes, it always seems to happen in the middle of the night.

Just take the time to fix it. Either put in a new battery or replace the whole thing, preferably with a photoelectric alarm (instead of the cheaper ionization model). If you’re not sure how to do it, go online to YouTube and search for “How to change the battery in a smoke alarm” or “How to install a smoke alarm.” Some videos are boring and some are better; any of them will guide you in making the fix!

As you read this, I hope you are saying to yourself, “Heck, I knew that!”

The key thing is, not everyone does know it! When you have the chance, share this information with children, co-workers, members of your club or church — anyone, in fact, who might have missed it. These are NOT emergencies you want people to learn about from experience.

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team


Looking for more info on some of these topics? Here are other Advisories we’ve written over the past year or so.

The Best Generator for Emergencies

Portable Generator for Power Outage — Safety Update

Carbon Monoxide Alarms and Detectors

What you didn’t know about Smoke Alarms


Don’t miss the NEXT safety Advisory. Sign up below to get them all.


When Less is More


Let’s face it. We are spoiled. We enjoy our creature comforts and we’ve come to expect them. From ambient lighting, ever-present refrigerator and freezer to air conditioning and the convenience of cable TV, wall-to-wall wi-fi and, oh yes, let’s not forget the electric toothbrush and hairdryer – we assume they’ll be there when we turn to them.

But when the lights go out . . .

and the power company says it will be 5-7 days before power can be restored, what now?

In our CERT community, the logical answer seemed to be to go out and buy a generator. A 6-8,000 Watt model would power a whole house; it seemed like a reasonable action to take. We voted on it at our monthly CERT-Leadership Team meeting and decided to purchase one generator as a pilot project. If, after testing over a 90-day period, the generator performed as well as we anticipated, we would put forth a plan to acquire additional units to be rotated among the more critical homes in the community.

Sounds like a rational plan, right?

Generator to power a whole house

Large enought to power a whole house

The generator we purchased came in a large box. There were images showing wheels and handles, but the thing required assembly.

I thought two of us could handle it. I was wrong. We managed with the help of a third person . . . barely!

When we got the wheels on we were at least able to move it, but still, only slowly. Much to our disappointment it was becoming apparent that our original plan was lacking. Actually it was turning out to be downright unrealistic.

To compound the challenge . . .

As it turns out, these generators cannot sit idle for long periods. Once fired up, they must be run at least every 30-45 days. To store or sit idle longer than 30 days, it is recommended that you follow specific storage procedures to prevent damage to the machine.

The warnings also make it clear that the 8kW generator can be dangerous to run if you don’t follow safety instructions. It can, for example kill you in a matter of minutes if you run it inside! Or it can start a fire if you turn it on with appliances improperly connected.

And, since most modern homes include a wide array of appliances, it’s really questionable that even an 8kW generator will be able to power an entire home.

Here, for example, are some typical running wattage requirements for a number of common appliances:

Appliance Req’d. Watts Appliance Req’d. Watts
Ceiling Fans 750+ Radio/Stereo system 75 – 450
Computer & Monitor 275 Television (color), 27 inch 115
Computer, Laptop 60-75 Television (color), 36 inch 140
Dishwasher 1,200 – 2,400 Television (color), Flat Screen 125
Furnace 750 Toaster 750 – 1,500
Hair Dryer 1,200 – 1,850 Toaster Oven 1,250
Heater (Portable) 750 – 1,500 VCR/DVD 17-20/20-25
Microwave 750 – 1,000 Vacuum Cleaner 1,000 – 1,500
Refrigerator (18 cu. ft.) 750 Water Heater (Electric) 4,500 – 5,500

So maybe a smaller generator makes more sense.

If you look at this list of appliances a number of things become clear:

  • A smaller generator/inverter can handle most critical tasks, just not all at once.
  • If you run a high-output generator just to power a refrigerator/freezer for half an hour a couple of times a day, you’re wasting precious energy and using up fuel . . . fuel that’s expensive as well as difficult and even dangerous to store.
  • Smaller, lightweight units are far more portable and economical to run.

What about price?

Now, many will argue that the initial purchase price isn’t all that different. While you will likely pay $400 – $600 for a quality unit putting out 2,000 – 3,000 watts and $600 – $800 for a unit that produces 6,000 – 8,000 Watts of power, it seems like the larger output machine is a better bargain.

Whatever “savings” you might enjoy, however, will quickly disappear and be overshadowed by the large quantity of fuel you are required to store, and the rate it is consumed by the larger unit. Those, compounded by the maintenance requirements and lack of real portability, make the smaller units far more flexible and economical to operate.

In our estimation, this is an excellent example of where less is more.

Interested in more on Generators?

Let us know YOUR experiences.

Joe Krueger
Your Emergency Plan Guide team

Nothing Like a Good Cup of Latte Following an Earthquake


If you read our posts regularly, you know we’re all about stocking up on food, water and medicines to tide us over in the case of a major disaster or emergency event until over-taxed emergency services can arrive.

 A Small Generator and a Camping Stove Can Be a World of Luxury in an Emergency!

If you have a small generator (say, 3,000 watts ) that you can run for an hour or so a day, you can probably continue to utilize your refrigerator and freezer. (This is particularly good since I don’t like being without my sour cream herring!) And, since we enjoy our coffee and are big latté drinkers in our house, we began experimenting with packets of instant latté. Most were pretty dismal . . . but, one turned out to be exquisite . . . exceeding our hopes.

Vinacafe 3 in 1 Instant Coffee Mix, 20 Sachets (Pack of 3)T

The surprise was that the brand, Vinacafé®, is actually a Vietnamese brand.

And then I remembered that The Vietnam of today used to be “French Indo-China.” (Yes some of us are old enough to remember ancient history.) And, if anyone knows how to make a good cup of latté (or should I say Café au Lait) it’s the French (no slight to the Italians intended).

It’s now all we drink. We’ve packed up the latté machine and forsaken Starbucks except when we are on the road.

Not All of Us “Up-Scale Survivalists” are Ready to Grab the Knife Between Our Teeth and Stalk Wild Animals for Dinner!

If there are any cool-headed, luxury-inclined “survivalists” within earshot, (wordshot?), I warmly recommend you try Vinacafé®. It only costs about 20-30 cents a packet, depending on where you buy it. (Compare that to $3.00+ a cup) So far, the only places that carry it are some Vietnamese grocery stores and Amazon.com. (Go back and click on the image to get current price at Amazon.)

If you don’t have an outside barbecue, you’ll probably want to pick up a one or two-burner camping stove (we chose a Coleman out of loyalty ) that runs on butane. In addition to boiling water for your coffee, you can also cook some of that food you have stored up.

The point to this dissertation is simply that there are some things in life you don’t have to give up, even in difficult times! 🙂

What are your favorite “luxury” items that you’ve stashed in your survival kit or among your emergency supplies?


Joe Krueger
Your Emergency Plan Guide team

Retrofit Your Home to Prevent Earthquake Damage


Are you a homeowner, property owner, remodeler or home builder, or home energy specialist? Take three and one-half minutes to watch this video showing retrofit steps for protecting a home against damage from earthquake and winter storms.

Remodel home for earthquake

Click image to see 3 minute video on home remodel

The video was posted on YouTube by the Canadian Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction (ICLR) in partnership with Desjardins Insurance.

Most of the steps are simple and would apply to ALL homes, no matter where they are located. As an owner, you could consider having these changes made to your home or rental properties.  As a member of the construction industry, you might want to recommend these changes to customers.

Some of the work you could do yourself, like installing a fire extinguisher. (The video recommends “at least one in every home.” We think you probably need more than one: in the kitchen, for sure, but in the garage, too, or in the laundry room area.)

You would need a licensed professional’s help for some of the other items, like installing a generator or snow melting system along the roof edge.

Even if you aren’t in an area prone to earthquakes, a number of the suggestions in the video will apply, enhancing your home’s security and safety as well as your ability to function in a number of emergency situations. In some cases, making these improvements might even give you a discount on home insurance costs.

If this video is of interest to you, you may also want to review these more detailed home improvement advisories. Whatever you can do to protect your home will help you sleep better at night. Plus, it may help with the resale value!

What other improvements do you think people should consider? Drop your suggestions into the comments box below!


Virginia Nicols
Emergency Plan Guide Team

Portable Power: Generator or Inverter


Power for when the power goes out

Before you run out and invest in a portable generator (or two) “just in case,” it’s a good idea to figure out what you think you will need in the way of electric power. The operative word here is “need.”

This is NOT a casual purchase decision. The size and nature of your home, any special medical needs, your finances — all have to be taken into consideration when shopping for portable power. Your personal experience and level of knowledge about electrical circuits is also a factor.

Some portable power rules of thumb 

Because of the wide range of applications, variations in needs and technical considerations, we cover this subject in greater detail in our Personal Plan section. Basically, however, here are a few sample estimates as simple guidelines to a complex equation:


When there’s no power . . .?

  • The average refrigerator will require up to 2kW (2,000 watts) to run by itself . . . but, you don’t need to run it consistently to preserve the contents.
    That depends on the age, size, contents, frequency of door opening and time door is kept open, etc.
  • Any heating device — microwave oven, coffee pot, hot plate —  will require higher wattage than lighting or computer needs.  Blow dryers, toasters and toaster ovens require at least 1 kW to operate.  Mechanical items like clocks or breathing devices that connect to oxygen tanks require far less power to operate.
  • Any generator over 2kW is not likely to be truly portable. An 8-9 kW generator had better have wheels and sturdy handles and will be about the size of a dishwasher, requiring real muscle power to move. And, if you live in California, a gasoline-powered generator must meet the California Air Resources Board (CARB) standards for emission in order to be legally sold or operated.

Inverters are a different technology.  They typically change the direct current from your automobile (or other 12 volt) battery into alternating current (115 volt AC) like the output of the portable generator. While they don’t require gasoline (or propane) to operate, the size and life of the battery sources will determine their usefulness.

How large a unit do you need?

Obviously, if you live in an apartment or condominium complex, emergency power is more problematic than if you live in a single-family home. Where will you store it?  How will you move it?

Businesses have widely varying degrees of emergency power needs — and the widespread inventory of laptop computers and handheld devices have to be factored into the business equation.

The bottom line is really dependent upon your personal, neighborhood and/or business needs balanced against your physical situation and financial resources. You should analyze all of the contributing factors – including the technical and practicality of operating instructions – before purchasing any alternative power device/s.

Joe Krueger
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

If this topic interests you, you may also want to take a look at these Advisories:

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