Last Tuesday when the power went out at 10 in the morning, Sophia and Lily packed their emergency bags. When I checked what was inside, they had mostly toys, books and lots of Dewberry cookies. No towel, no underwear, no flashlight (not even her new Moleskine reading lamp), no water or real food. So we made a new check list – a whistle, light source, a towel that can double as a blankie, one change of clothes including underwear, water and canned goods. “But I don’t eat canned goods,” Lily said. “You will in an emergency,” is what I said.
My friend Carlo Tadiar, editor in chief of Metro Home magazine, tweeted yesterday, “We really must come up with a brownout lifestyle guide.” We both lost power and were going nuts. So we began this exchange of experiences and advice. He said,”Well, to begin with, it’s essential to have hurricane lamps. That whole candles flickering in the wind business is just nasty.” And to that I replied, “we have no hurricane lamps. We used a lampara, of the antique kind.” Lamparas are oil lamps. Then he says “DaphneOP uses lamparas. Chic!” Anything with live fire scares me though, so we never kept those unattended. For our campout room (we all slept together) we switched to the rechargeable emergency light, but I used the warm bulb and not the white fluorescent side.
While worrying about spending the night with no power (should we evacuate or what), I had to keep all 3 girls entertained. As most parents of young children will tell you, it isn’t always easy. So I resorted to things my parents did with us during storms.
Here’s my lifestyle guide to brown outs -
1. Have your alternative light source ready. Our lamparas always have a bit of oil in it. And our battery operated lamps (luckily) were fully recharged. But this is the best gadget we have. LED flash lights that are powered by friction. Just wind it up and it lights. No need for batteries. My dad gave us a few of these from Toronto.
2. Allow air to circulate through your home. Open windows on opposite sides to allow a healthy flow of air – cross-ventillation. But if there’s deadly howling wind, then use your judgement. Key is to allow air to flow. Opening just one window won’t cut it.
3. Do not open your freezer EVER. As soon as power died, I ran to the freezer and took out some chicken & pork. Then instructed everyone to NOT open the fridge and freezer. The chicken was made into Tinola. And the pork was allowed to thaw til dinner and turned into adobo. The freezer stayed shut for 24 hours. I was very strict about that. Everything remained frozen stiff. Nothing went bad. (This is not my kitchen. But it could very well be… sigh. Hello peg! Sorry, I don’t know where I got this photo from. Could be Dwell or Elle Decor).
7. Bring out the board games for the kids. Resist letting play with your iPad as you’ll need that for your own sanity. We also played Monopoly, Snakes & Ladders and Operation. But this puzzle was most unforgettable to them. Our backs hurt after working in the floor. Then we played “massage” on each other’s back. At night, we played shadow puppets using our toes. I’m sure they’ll remember that.
11. If you know a storm is coming, charge all your electronics right away. By the time the power went out, all my gadgets were fully charged. I used my iPhone 4 with 3G. When the battery of the iPhone drained, I charged it on my laptop which I didn’t plan on using anyway. When the phone had 20% battery left, I stopped using it and switched to the iPad and that’s where I was tweeting from all night. The iPad stayed on forever. Have a battery adaptor for your car ready just in case. But don’t run your car in an enclosed garage, ever!
12. Never underestimate these rechargeable fans. We got this in True Value during the last brown out in 2010 and didn’t get to use it ’til now. It remained charged for over a year. Mind you I only turned it on once the kids were in bed. And we kept it on the lowest speed – just for a constant air flow. I don’t know the brand.
14. If all else fails, pack up and leave. I must admit, this had always been my first instinct – to go to a hotel or my cousin’s house. Thanks to the goodwill from my work, we’ve done Hyatt, Marriott and Alabang hotels during past brownouts . This time I didn’t have it in me to think of leaving. The roads were unsafe. And I kept thinking of all the people that had to be evacuated from Sofitel & other Manila Bay hotels and moved to other hotels. Sofitel, sigh… On the 24th hour, we went to our club to recharge our batteries and ourselves.
Other must-haves and must-dos:
15. Always have cash. I’ve been caught in the situation with only P200 cash. And all the ATMs were dead (last July 2010 storm). I had to go as far as Baclaran to find a working ATM.
16. Spend the day rearranging your living room. Move furniture around. Redecorate. (Most of my single non-parent friends did this. I would do this… but I had three kids who were pulling me in every direction.)
17. Make sure your car/cars have gas. My dad, being the military guy always reminds us of this – together with canned goods, crackers, bottled water.
18. Clean your gutters/eaves regularly. Also the canals in front of your house. Stop the use of plastic bags.
19. Make sure you have stored water. I don’t know the logic, but there have been many times when they’ve cut off our water supply even during storms.
20. Be very careful about candles. Personally I’m terrified of them. I do have beautiful scented ones. But I only light them while I’m writing… and blow them out right away. I just hate the idea of possibly leaving a candle on.
21. I have to include this. My husband read my post and said, “You didn’t include my iPod shuffle? We used it to monitor the news.” Ok, so a transistor radio is a must. One of our lamps has a transistor radio but I kept it off in fear of losing battery for light. So I monitored the news via Twitter. By habit, I listen to DZMM (AM radio) for news everyday in the car. But there is 92.3 FM that’s the only all-news radio station on the FM band. This makes it accessible by cellphone and gadgets like the iPod shuffle. The hubby works for TV5 and 92.3FM is their baby. We had this hooked on a small “hamburger” speaker (but it’s so beat up, Patrick won’t allow me to post a photo of it.)
Please feel free to add your tips…