With blackouts making the headlines once again due to severe winter weather, it is a good time to be reminded of a very important blackout safety tip:
Over 15,000 residential fires and 150 deaths occur each year in the United states due to fires started by candles. In a blackout, the use of candles to provide light significantly increases the chances of starting a house fire. The irony is that the same conditions that caused the blackout in the first place (severe storms) can often delay firefighters in responding to a house fire.
While there are safety tips for use of candles in the home, it is better to avoid them altogether when planning for any emergency, including a blackout. Some emergency kit manufacturers include candles in their emergency kits, but we do not use them as we think there are better alternatives that do not pose a fire risk. We have also been guided by the fact that the Amerian Red Cross discourages their use in a blackout because of the fire hazard.
When I was growing up overseas in the Philippines, we had a lot of blackouts. We typically responded with a combination of candles, kerosene lanterns, and flashlights. While flashlights remain a good solution and battery or crank driven lanterns are another alternative with no associated fire risk, I never use candles or fuel burning lanterns indoors today in the case of an emergency. There is really no reason to use candles if one is prepared with appropriate alternatives.
If you have a hard time keeping batteries on hand or you don't want to have to "crank" for your light, the best alternative to candles is to use glowing light sticks. One can find good quality light sticks that will last for up to 12 hours in any camping supply store or on-line from any emergency preparedness company. Avoid the toy-grade light sticks often sold around Halloween time.
At LifeSecure.com we sell military-grade 12-hour light sticks and pack them in most of our emergency kits because they are:
non-flammable (generate no heat or spark) non-toxic (so they are safe for children to use) waterproof (so they can be used in any weather conditions)
non-flammable (generate no heat or spark)
non-toxic (so they are safe for children to use)
waterproof (so they can be used in any weather conditions)
We also like the fact that they have a long shelf life - certified to last for 4 years - and are extremely easy to use. Just bend them in half and the non-toxic chemicals mix and you have instant light. Most military or emergency grade glowing light sticks put out about as much light as a typical candle. I have read with them in the dark as well as moved around a dark house with ease.
In a blackout you can easily put one in each room or move them with you for light. There is no need to shield a flame as you move, keep children and pets away from them, worry about leaving them unattended, or to remember to blow them out when you go to sleep. I have found that the green (or yellow) glow is actually comforting to children and it is easy for each child to have their own light in a blackout situation.
I also like that they are very thin and compact and many are designed to be worn on a lanyard or hung from a hook or nail if desired. They are compact enough to stick an extra few just about anywhere you might need them.
I keep several on hand in the house, in my car, and in each of my 72 hour emergency kits. I always feel better prepared with a combination of a flashlight and some light sticks to provide an instant, reliable source of light. I have picked up many flashlights in my life only to be disappointed that the batteries were dead, but I have never had this issue with a light stick. As long as it is within its dating, you don't have to worry about whether its power will be drained when you need it most.
At about $1.50 or so each, they really are a great and affordable emergency lighting solution for a blackout or any other emergency at home, at work, at school or on-the-go.
Every Life Secure
An Emergency Preparedness Blog helping to make "Every Life Secure" in any emergency or disaster... at home, work, school, or on-the-go