Whether manmade, naturally occurring or merely the result of a freak accident, power loss can disrupt your daily routines and activities and, at its worst, change life as you know it. Mother Nature has the ability to wreak havoc through tornados, hurricanes, blizzards and other extreme weather conditions, causing power lines, transformers and entire city grids to falter. In addition, terrorist organizations and rogue nations throughout the world would like nothing more than to plunge our major cities into darkness with strategic blackouts aimed at creating chaos and disrupting our national supply chain.

When municipal utilities fail, there is no other choice than to create your own electrical power. This is where a generator takes over. But which one should you choose? What size do you need? And what type of fuel source should you use to power it? These are all very important questions to answer well before a crises hits your hometown.

Powering Up

Basically speaking, there are two main types of generators to consider: portable and household. Portable generators can be transported from one location to the other either by carrying them (if small enough) or by rolling them. Household generators are stationary. They usually are placed on a concrete slab and hard-wired into your house’s electrical panel. However, the operation of both types of generators is practically the same. They both use an outside fuel source, such as gasoline, diesel, propane or natural gas, to run an engine that turns an alternator and ultimately produces electricity. There is, however, a modern version of the portable generator that is becoming more abundant on the market today, the inverter generator.

An inverter generator has several benefits over the more traditional designs. They are lightweight, much quieter than the lawn-mower-sounding versions, can be connected to like models for increased power and, best of all, they can apply the correct amount of electricity needed for your delicate electronics. This prevents your computer, tablet or cell phone from overloading from a direct surge of unregulated power. The downsides of inverter generators are their cost, which far surpass traditional generators, their limited fuel tanks and their complex circuitry, which is almost impossible to fix “on the fly” during a survival situation.

Your decision as to which generator is right for you depends strictly upon the amount of appliances, electronics, lights or other electrical devices you need to keep powered at the same time. This means you have to take a long, hard look at your needs, and any possible unexpected needs in the future if long-term power loss occurs.

Finding Fuel

By far the most prevalent form of fuel for generators is normal gasoline. It’s found at nearly every street corner and works with a wide variety of generators. However, if disaster strikes, gas stations can quickly run out of fuel, or the wait times for fuel can be overwhelming. You may have no other choice but to store a reserve of gasoline far in advance.

This may seem like an easy task, yet gasoline has a very limited shelf life and deteriorates quickly over time (about a year). The life of gasoline can be extended, however, with stabilizer additives. These should be mixed with the gasoline within the first year to allow for an additional year of useable fuel. The rotation of gasoline is an additional option. As shelf-life time comes near, begin using the gasoline for your vehicle and then replace your storage jugs with fresh fuel. Once you keep this cycle going, you should never have to worry about the deterioration of fuel.

Propane fuel lasts much longer than traditional gasoline. The exact shelf life is difficult to pinpoint, though it has been known to perform properly after several years and perhaps up to a full decade. The variance of time depends upon the way it’s stored and maintained. The container must be free from any minor cracks and damage on or around the valves. It must be stored inside, away from the damaging effects of rain, snow and the constant pounding of wind, which can ultimately compromise the integrity of the tank.

No matter which fuel you use to power your generator, you need to properly store your reserves. All fuel should be far from your living area, though not too far that you cannot access it in a quick manner or protect it from looters. Having it stored away from your home, bug-out location or camp ensures that you won’t become a victim of an accidental fire or explosion due to possible leakage of
fuel or fumes.

Secure Your Cache

When times go bad, people get very desperate. Good people can resort to theft or worse in order to preserve their family and their way of life. Because of this fact, your generator and backup fuel supply will be at constant risk of being taken, and preventive measures must be implemented immediately to keep them secure. Your generator, if portable, should be locked up when not in use, and when running, a thick, heavy chain secured to a nearby tree should stop most theft attempts. You will also need to hide your fuel-storage unit.

Whether it’s a shed or other small building, you need to make it the least noticeable to prying eyes. Use a camouflage tarp to cover the entire area of your containment building. This will help it blend into the surrounding area and make it virtually “invisible” from the skies. Add leaves, tree limbs and other natural debris around the structure to further the illusion. You also should invest in a very strong type of padlock for the structure’s entrance door, one that would give a thief a very difficult time to get through.

The addition of a simple door alarm system or even a remote camera that you can view in your home or bug-out bunker would help to alert you to possible theft and allow you the time to stop it before it’s too late.

If you find yourself bugged-out in a barren location without the benefit of tree cover, consider digging partially underground and creating a “pit” to store your contained fuel canisters. You can construct a containment box with simple 2×4 wooden beams and thick contractors’ plastic to keep out moisture, dirt and small critters. Cover the lid with dirt and various materials nearby to create the needed camouflage effect. Be sure to allow for ventilation of gasoline fumes to avoid a preventable accident.

The decisions that are involved in choosing a generator are numerous and can’t be made while under stress or while you’re on the move. Think today about your power needs if the electrical grid was to suddenly fall. Take into consideration what appliances or electrical devices are critical to your ongoing survival.

Only when you make an educated and thought-out decision can you rest easier. That way, you’ll know that when the worst happens, you will be one step closer to keeping your life on track and somewhat comparable to what it once was.

This article was originally published in the SURVIVOR’S EDGE™ Spring 2016 issue. Subscription is available in print and digital editions here.

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