It is impossible to overstate how much we take electricity and light in our homes for granted. With a flick of the switch when we enter a room, we have light.
A wise person will plan ahead for the times when that light switch does not work. Emergency lights and lighting are an essential part of any emergency preparedness plan.
The simplest and easiest source of light is the common flashlight. The purpose of the flashlight should be for use in finding and lighting your lanterns. In this way you save your flashlight batteries which are sure to be in high demand as the blackout days go by.
Your house should have several survival flashlights throughout your home, with many batteries to go with each one. You cannot have too many flashlight batteries.
Keep them in the back of your refrigerator to extend their storage life, but always rotate them, using the oldest ones first.
A commonly overlooked but necessary flashlight item to store with your flashlights is extra bulbs. They are easy to install and they are inexpensive.
Choosing an emergency flashlight
With flashlights, you always get what you pay for. Pay the extra money for the more expensive flashlights. When the lights go out you will be glad you did.
We have wasted countless dollars on cheap flashlights that didn’t work when we needed them, which is frustrating in a crisis to say the very least. We will not make that mistake again.
If you buy rechargeable batteries for your flashlights, you should consider a Solar Battery Charger. You can also choose to buy wind-up flashlights that work very well and solve the battery problem. The problem with wind-up flashlights is that they are a little more expensive.
Always keep a flashlight where it is easy to find in total darkness, because that is usually when you are looking for it. Locations such as nightstand, the top of the TV, and the top of the refrigerator are ideal.
Emergency light sticks
Another item we recommend is an emergency light stick (also commonly referred as glow sticks). It is a small plastic tube that is easily activated and emits a steady glowing light for up to 12 hours, then is discarded.
There is no heat associated with the light because the glow comes from a chemical reaction when hydrogen peroxide is mixed with a phenyl oxalate ester and a fluorescent dye.
The light stick merely holds the chemicals separate until you are ready to mix them together. To activate it, you just bend the stick. When you bend the stick a small glass vial inside containing the hydrogen peroxide snaps open, mixing the solutions together.
The resulting chemical reaction causes the fluorescent dye to emit light.
Putting them in a pan of hot water will make them glow very brightly, but this will shorten the life expectancy very significantly because it uses up the chemicals faster. If you cool the stick down, the reaction slows quite a bit and the light gets dim. This will make it last considerably longer.
Once the emergency light stick is activated, there is no stopping the chemical reaction or the light emission. If you want to save it for later, you can put it in the freezer. That won’t stop the reaction, but it will slow it down significantly.
You can buy them for less than two bucks apiece at a hardware store and they are worth every cent, especially if you have children. Power outages can sometimes frighten children, and glow sticks replace the scariness with something fun to do.
Glow sticks are also handy for use while hunting up the flashlights, batteries, and lanterns when the lights go out unexpectedly.
Emergency lighting tips
- Items like emergency light sticks, as well as candles and Bic lighters, are inexpensive and are good to have on hand to give to your neighbors when the lights go out.
- Matches are great, but butane lighters and trigger-type igniters are not as affected by humidity and moisture.
- Matches should be stored in airtight containers such as Mason jars to keep the humidity from ruining them. It would be a good idea to buy extra boxes of items such as these- they don‘t expire and they will eventually get used.
- Lamps, lanterns, and candles are great for emergency lighting, but use them inside your home or shelter with common sense. Houses are lost every year due to these open flame items getting knocked over or setting them too close to flammable materials such as curtains. The slight amounts of carbon monoxide they emit can cause headaches if they are used in small rooms with no ventilation, so in that instance use them sparingly.
- Bright red lips and faintness are signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. If this occurs, get outside in the fresh air immediately.
What about kerosene lamps?
Kerosene lamps are a good option too. You can buy good inexpensive ones at hardware stores, or stores such as Wal-Mart.
These lamps will burn either kerosene or lamp oil, and they put out about as much light as a 40-watt bulb.
Lamp oil is merely refined kerosene. It is not as smelly as kerosene and burns cleaner, but it costs a little more. The extra cost of lamp oil is well worth it, but make sure it is approved for use in your lamp.
We recommend buying several of these kerosene lanterns for your home, as well as extra globes and extra wicks.
Be careful when using kerosene lamps. The globe gets really hot while the lantern is in use, and they seem to break easily.
It never hurts to have some extra lamp oil in storage as well. A quart of kerosene or lamp oil in a regular kerosene lamp will give about 45 hours of light. At three hours per day, that is about two weeks, on one quart of fuel!
Aladdin kerosene oil lamps are very popular because of their dependability and the generous amount of light that they provide.
Aladdin oil lamps tend to be expensive, but they are totally worth it.
A gallon of kerosene in an Aladdin lamp will give 48 hours of light, with brightness roughly equivalent to that of a 60-watt light bulb.
However, the mantles are extremely delicate and have to be replaced often, so buy extras. You should also stock extra wicks and chimneys.
Candles are a good choice; they are a cheap efficient source of light and can be used to heat small containers of food and water, making double use of the flame.
Emergency candles also have no expiration date- they last forever in storage.
Candles are relatively safe. If a candle gets knocked over, it tends to go out. If a gas or kerosene lantern gets knocked off a table, a house fire will be the likely and immediate result.
It is a great idea to store candles in the freezer because “frozen” candles do not drip as much and they burn slower, extending their usage.
Wax candles will do just fine in a crisis, but tallow candles are better. They last longer (longest burning candles), give off a brighter light, and they don’t give off as much smoke.
Emergency candles are a great idea because they have an indefinite shelf life, can burn for 120 hours, and give off strong light. This is another great item to have on hand to give to your neighbors in extended power outages.
Candles also give off enough heat to warm food and boil water. Since they are so inexpensive and so dependable, survival candles should be stored in large quantities in both your home and remote shelter.
N:B Decorative candles are not suitable for emergency purposes because they burn far too quickly.
Our favorite emergency lantern is the Coleman propane two-mantle lantern. Though the fuel doesn’t go as far as kerosene, the light emitted is much brighter.
Small one-pound bottles are clean and easy to use and can be interchangeably used with the propane cooking stove.
Additionally, A one-pound bottle will last about five hours if you moderate the intensity. With an accessory called a propane tree, you can use a 20 lb. bottle from your cooking grill to fuel your lantern and your propane camp stove at the same time, which is very nice when the power is out at mealtime.
Coleman lanterns put out a lot of light, almost equal to what you will get from a 200-watt bulb, and the heat which accompanies it can be welcome on a cool night.
You can also stockpile a large number of small or large propane bottles and store them indefinitely.
Coleman also makes a similar model that runs on white or unleaded gasoline, but the gas is messy and possibly dangerous if the fuel is spilled while refueling the lantern. It also doesn’t seem to burn as clean or as well, and the generator in the lantern clogs up and has to be replaced more often.
(The generator is a small tubular part in a lantern. It is a genuine pain in the ass to disassemble the lantern and change this part, especially in the dark.)
You also have to frequently pump air pressure into the fuel tank with a small plunger on the dual fuel model, which can be unhandy. White gas has to be rotated often or it goes bad so you cannot stockpile fuel for this lantern as easily as propane bottles.
A major advantage of the dual fuel lantern, though, is fuel availability, since it can utilize unleaded gas.
Another advantage is that a gallon of gas will give at least thirty hours of light. At three hours per day, one gallon of fuel will last at least ten days, if not more.
You will need to store a lot of mantles and a couple of extra globes for either model of Coleman lantern. The mantels are extremely delicate and have to be replaced often.
Be careful, the globe gets really hot while the lantern is in use. It is a good idea to have several different types of lighting equipment so that you are not solely dependent on any one system.