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By Kellene Bishop



In the event of a long-term power outage, the obvious inconveniences will unfold such as a lack of heat or air-conditioning, television, microwave, and video games.  However, many folks dangerously underestimate their need for appropriate lighting.  You may be unaware that insufficient lighting will not only be incredibly inconvenient, but dangerous on so many levels and can also quickly lead to depression.  Indeed, the lighting that surrounds you directly affects your mood.  And believe me, while candlelight is great for a brief romantic evening, you’ll soon tire and even be annoyed by it in a long-term emergency situation.

If you’re going to spend the money on lighting preparations, be sure you take the time to test it…long term, in the dark, not just turning it on in the store and feeling like it’s sufficient.  Many folks have “candles stored by the dozens” without ever testing the lighting they have on hand to ensure it’s suitable.  As I always say, never have equipment on hand that you haven’t used and become familiar with.  Let’s explore some of your lighting options.

Lantern Reflector photo c/o

Lantern Reflector photo c/o

Battery operated lanterns can be quite convenient, complete with a remote control.  However, in the event of a power outage due to a large solar flare or an EMP attack, your lantern will most likely become useless.  Be sure that you have a mix of lighting options.  Don’t rely solely on one fuel, one type of candle, or just battery operated equipment for your lighting.  Each lighting solution you elect to use is preferred if you can magnify it with a bulb like you see on a lantern, or a reflector like the ones from colonial days—a silver plate behind the candle in order to project the light.  Placing candles in front of a mirror is a great way to reflect the light as well.  You can usually get by with purchasing cheaper candles if you’re able to use this method.  This is in part why we have stored many square mirror tiles, which are great to use for signaling as well.

Next, your lighting must be portable.  While some stationary lighting in your shelter is fine, be prepared to have dependable and effective lighting for travel, even if your travel is simply to the backyard “outhouse.”

Candles for lighting are affordable, but you will find they put out very little usable light.  Lanterns, whether oil or battery powered, will usually give you more light.  However, you will need several light sources to give your family the kind of light that you will need to function. 

There are several reliable solar powered lighting options.  I’ve tried and used many of the solar powered head lamps, flashlights, and such.  Try some for yourself and don’t be afraid to send them back or return them when they just don’t cut it.  You want a piece of equipment that holds its charge for several hours, not just 30 minutes.  Make sure the light puts out sufficient power in order for you to function.

Lanterns that use white gas and propane get very hot and have an intense smell.  Use extreme caution using either of these for indoor lighting.

Many candles are poorly constructed as they allow the light to tunnel into the wax as it burns down.  Thus, the more it burns, the more the light is hidden.  Be sure that your candles continue to convey their light at the top of the candle. 

Hurricane Oil Lamp photo c/o

Hurricane Oil Lamp photo c/o

Small oil lamps are surprisingly effective in putting out light.  Care and caution must be used when using them inside your shelter of course, and around children.  This is why my one of my preferred type of lighting is oil lamps like the ones you see in antique stores.  I really like the hurricane version which runs on oil, but are also protected with a bit of metal décor around the edges, making them sturdier.  Plus, they are attractive enough to have on display everyday in my home. 

  • In a pinch you can place some canola oil in an empty tuna fish or other like shallow can, with the lid mostly attached.  
  • Press down the lid to create a slope from the side of the can in which the lid is still connected.  
  • Pour a little bit of canola oil in the can.  
  • Tightly wad a thin wick of paper towel or newspaper, and place it in the oil, on its side running up the slope of the lid.  
  • Just a small portion of the wick should be pointed up out of the can.  
  • You can also take a jar, put some sand in the bottom and then place a small votive candle on top of the sand.  The candle inside the jar will aid in providing stronger reflection.

If you’ve invested in those otherwise useless florescent glow-sticks, you’ll soon realize that they won’t give you much operable light.  However, if you heat them in a pan on low heat for a minute or two, it will dramatically enhance their lighting power.  Of course they won’t last as long this way, but they are mostly useless otherwise.  I suppose you could also string several of them up around your shelter, but it will take a lot of them to provide sufficient lighting.

The oil that you store for your lamps actually has a very long shelf life.  You can even use cooking oil that has gone rancid in some cases.  Of course olive oil is an ideal fuel because of its medicinal and cooking uses as well as its extensive shelf life.

In closing, I want to extend a Two-Day Light Challenge.  Try living solely off of your emergency lighting for two whole days.  Go ahead and live with your other luxuries during those two days.  But for two days use JUST the lighting that you have planned on using in an emergency.  See how ready you really are.  Are you game?

Copyright 2009 Preparedness Pro & Kellene Bishop.  All rights reserved.  You are welcome to repost this information so long as it is credited to Preparedness Pro & Kellene Bishop.

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