Have you ever spent a night in your city when ALL the lights were out? I have! It's kind of eerie, isn't it?
One night in the dark can be kind of fun - an adventure, but several nights, or longer, can be very difficult unless you are prepared.
So let's look at the kinds of emergency lighting we can and should put in our storage.
FLASHLIGHTS: Flashlights are one of the easiest emergency lights to store — there are so many sizes and types. One that holds two batteries will run continuously for 6 hours, although it is seldom used continuously for 6 hours. Batteries need to be stored in a cool area - not cold - just cool. Cold temperatures can ruin or shorten the life of batteries.
There are combination solar-powered AM/FM/NOAA weather radios that include a flashlight and a USB cell phone charger.
LIGHT STICKS (CYALUME): This small item has come to be associated with emergency lighting situations. They were first seen at outdoor nighttime events such as on the 4th of July. They give off a nice glow but are not a bright light. They could be kept in various places around the home for instant light to help find other sources of light in an emergency. They are great for storage as they cost little and need no other fuel. The only disadvantage is that they are a one-time use item. You shake to light them up, they burn for 8-12 hours, and they're done. Kids love them!
EMERGENCY CANDLES: The best kind of candles to put into storage are those that come in a container, usually glass. They are safer and will burn longer with less mess. Store candles in a cool area. Conservatively, probably one of those candles is all you will need for an evening. Candles are inexpensive but than can be dangerous. Make sure they are out of any drafts and not close to anything that will burn. A quick draft can make the flame jump to any flammable object.
Candles can also be made from cooking oil. Take a piece of string, lay one end in cooking oil in a dish and allow the other end to hang over the edge. Light the dry end. Use 7 to 8 strings for more light. These are very smoky and should be used only when nothing else is available.
CANDLE LANTERNS: Small candle "lanterns" are available in many sporting goods sections that combine the safety features of candle, base, glass chimney, and carrying/hanging handle in one. Some brass or stainless steel versions are designed to hold the standard white emergency candles (3 inches tall by 1 inch in diameter). Others hold tea lights, which will burn for two to four hours, as compared to nine hours for the emergency candles.
LIQUID-FUEL CANDLES: These are similar to the oil lamps used back in biblical times. Using lamp oil, they will burn from sixty to one hundred hours. However, there is only a small, single flame so don't count on them lighting up a room. They give off about as much light as a dinner candle. They would be a good choice for a nightlight since they burn for so long. Just be sure and put them in a safe place.
OIL LAMPS and KEROSENE LANTERNS: Old-fashioned, standard oil lamps are a tried-and-true option. Light up your campsite or use for ambience at outdoor parties. They are perfect for emergencies when there is a power outage.
Some lanterns burn lamp oils, citronella oil (for mosquito protection), and others burn kerosene. If improperly lit, kerosene creates more and darker smoke than lamp oil, as well as having a definite odor. Some will burn any of the three types of oil. Fuels may be available in drugstores and/or the larger K-Mart or Walmart-type outlets.
Learn the best way to fill and use an oil lamp - step-by-step and easy.
SOLAR GARDEN LIGHTS: Yes, that's right - bring your solar-powered garden lights inside to use as nightlight. The bright-white LED lights are brighter than the amber lights. Though neither is bright enough to light up an entire room, the bright-white ones do a pretty good job of lighting a small area. Their value lies in their renewable light source - no batteries, no oil, no dangerous fuel. During the day, just put them outside or in a sunny window to soak up the sun's rays. Even in cloudy winter gloom, most will recharge enough to create a comforting glow that will last for eight to 10 hours.
MIRRORS: Mirrors can be used to double the lighting capacity of a temporary light source without doubling the consumption of emergency fuel. An ordinary mirror (or use aluminum foil if no mirror is available) can more efficiently light any area and stretch a small amount of fuel or battery power.
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