1. Turn your car into a generator: Buy a power inverter, which turns DC current from your car into AC current for electric gadgets. It’s the next best thing to a generator when it comes to surviving a blackout. An inverter to power a tablet or laptop will cost you about $25, but there are much bigger models ($100 and up) that can run power tools and appliances.
2. Get cash: In a blackout, cash is king and an essential part of your survival kit. Some stores may stay open, but they probably won’t be able to process credit card purchases. And all the cash machines will be on strike. Keep an emergency cash stash on hand.
3. Conserve batteries with LEDs: During a power outage, LED flashlights and lanterns have a huge advantage over incandescent models: They allow batteries to last much longer (typically about six to ten times as long).
4. Fill the tub: When the power grid goes down, your city water system may soon follow. So fill up buckets and bottles for washing, flushing and drinking.
5. Fill the grill tank: A blackout limits many of life’s little pleasures, but you can still enjoy a hot meal if you have a gas grill with a full tank.
6. Have a backup plan handy: If a blackout lasts long enough, even a well-prepared family will want to give up and get out. So make just-in-case arrangements with friends or relatives who are willing take you in. If you wait, you might find that phone and Internet communication becomes a lot more difficult.
7. Ice saves money: A couple of days without power can cost you a few hundred bucks as food spoils in fridges and freezers. Fill locking freezer bags with water and keep them in the freezer. During a blackout, they’ll help the freezer stay cold longer. Or you can transfer them to the fridge or a cooler. When they thaw, you’ve got drinking water.
8. A CO detector is essential: Blackouts often lead to carbon monoxide deaths. To get heat during outages, people crank up fireplaces, gas stoves and all types of heaters—and anything that burns produces carbon monoxide. It’s OK to use these heat sources, but place a battery-operated CO detector in the room to warn you if the deadly gas becomes a hazard. You can buy a detector for about $25 at any home center.
9. Gas up: Even if you don’t plan to go anywhere, your car is a critical part of your survival kit. It’s your emergency transport, your charging system for cell phones and maybe even the only heated space you’ll have. So don’t wait until the blackout hits to fill your tank.
10. Get a radio: If phone and Internet systems go down along with the power grid, a battery-powered radio may be your only source of weather and emergency information. You could listen in your car, but a portable radio lets you listen anywhere. Battery-powered radios cost as little as $20 at discount stores.
For those of you who've survived an extended blackout, do you have any hints to add?
Blackout Survival Guide [The Family Handyman]