Coal stores well if kept in a dark place and
away from moving air. Air speeds deterioration and breakdown, causing
it to burn more rapidly. Coal may be stored in a plastic-lined pit
or in sheds, bags, boxes, or barrels and should be kept away from
circulating air, light, and moisture. Cover it to lend protection
from weather and sun.
Wood. Hardwoods such as apple, cherry, and other
fruit woods are slow burning and sustain coals. Hardwoods are more
difficult to burn than softer woods, thus requiring a supply of
kindling. Soft woods such as pine and cedar are light in weight
and burn very rapidly, leaving ash and few coals for cooking. If
you have a fireplace or a wood/coal burning stove, you will want
to store several cords of firewood. Firewood is usually sold by
the cord which is a neat pile that totals 128 cubic feet. This pile
is four feet wide, four feet high, and eight feet long. Some dealers
sell wood by the ton. As a general rule of thumb, a standard cord
of air dried dense hardwood weighs about two tons and provides as
much heat as one ton of coal. Be suspicious of any alleged cord
delivered in a 1/2 or 3/4 ton pickup truck.
For best results, wood should be seasoned (dried)
properly, usually at east a year. A plastic tarp, wood planks, or
other plastic or metal sheeting over the woodpile is useful in keeping
the wood dry. Other types of fuels are more practical to store and
use than wood or coal.
Newspaper logs make a good and inexpensive source
of fuel. You may prepare the logs in the following manner:
- Use about eight pages of newspaper and open
- Spread the stack, alternating the cut sides
and folded sides.
- Place a 1" wood dowel or metal rod across
one end and roll the paper around the rod very tightly. Roll it
until there are 6-8 inches left to roll, then slip another 8 pages
underneath the roll. Continue this procedure until you have a
roll 4-6 inches in diameter.
- With a fine wire, tie the roll on both ends.
Withdraw the rod. Your newspaper log is ready to use. Four of
these logs will burn about 1 hour.
Propane is another excellent fuel for indoor
use. Like kerosene, it produces carbon dioxide as it burns and is
therefore not poisonous. It does consume oxygen so be sure to crack
a window when burning propane.
Propane stores indefinitely, having no known
shelf life. Propane stoves and small portable heaters are very economical,
simple to use, and come the closest to approximating the type of
convenience most of us are accustomed to using on a daily basis.
The storage of propane is governed by strict
local laws. In this area you may store up to 1 gallon inside a building
and up to 60 gallons stored outside. If you store more than these
amounts, you will need a special permit from the fire marshal.
The primary hazard in using propane is that
it is heavier than air and if a leak occurs it may "pool"
which can create an explosive atmosphere. Furthermore, basement
natural gas heating units CANNOT be legally converted for propane
use. Again, the vapors are heavier than air and form "pockets."
Ignition sources such as water heaters and electrical sources can
cause an explosion.
White gas (Coleman fuel). Many families have
camp stoves which burn Coleman Fuel or white gasoline. These stoves
are fairly easy to use and produce a great amount of heat. However,
they, like charcoal, produce vast amounts of carbon monoxide. NEVER
use a Coleman Fuel stove indoors. It could be a fatal mistake to
your entire family.
Never store fuels in the house or near a heater.
Use a metal store cabinet which is vented on top and bottom and
can be locked.
Kerosene (also known as Range Oil No. 1) is
the cheapest of all the storage fuels and is also very forgiving
if you make a mistake. Kerosene is not as explosive as gasoline
and Coleman fuel. Kerosene stores well for long periods of time
and by introducing some fuel additives it can be made to store even
longer. However, do not store it in metal containers for extended
time periods unless they are porcelain lined because the moisture
in the kerosene will rust through the container causing the kerosene
to leak out. Most hardware stores and home improvement centers sell
kerosene in five gallon plastic containers which store for many
years. A 55 gallon drum stores in the back yard, or ten 5 gallon
plastic containers will provide fuel enough to last an entire winter
if used sparingly.
Caution: To burn kerosene you will need a kerosene
heater. There are many models and sizes to choose from but remember
that you are not trying to heat your entire home. The larger the
heater the more fuel you will have to store. Most families should
be able to get by on a heater that produces about 9,600 BTUs of
heat, though kerosene heaters are made that will produce up to 25,000
to 30,000 BTUs. If you have the storage space to store the fuel
required by these larger heaters they are excellent investments,
but for most families the smaller heaters are more than adequate.
When selecting a kerosene heater be sure to get one that can double
as a cooking surface and source of light. Then when you are forced
to use it be sure to plan your meals so that they can be cooked
when you are using the heater for heat rather than wasting fuel
used for cooking only.
When kerosene burns it requires very little
oxygen, compared to charcoal. You must crack a window about 1/4
inch to allow enough oxygen to enter the room to prevent asphyxiation.
During combustion, kerosene is not poisonous and is safe to use
indoors. To prevent possible fires you should always fill it outside.
The momentary incomplete combustion during lighting and extinguishing
of kerosene heaters can cause some unpleasant odors. To prevent
these odors from lingering in your home always light and extinguish
the heater out of doors. During normal operation a kerosene heater
is practically odorless.
Charcoal. Never use a charcoal burning device
indoors. When charcoal burns it is a voracious consumer of oxygen
and will quickly deplete the oxygen supply in your little "home
within a home." Furthermore, as it burns it produces vast amounts
of carbon monoxide which is a deadly poison. If you make the mistake
of trying to heat your home by burning charcoal it could prove fatal
to your entire family. Never burn charcoal indoors.
To conserve your cooking fuel storage needs
always do your emergency cooking in the most efficient manner possible.
Don't boil more water than you need, extinguish the fire as soon
as you finished, plan your meals ahead of time to consolidate as
much cooking as possible, during the winter cook on top of your
heating unit while heating your home, and cook in a pressure cooker
or other fuel efficient container as much as possible. Keep enough
fuel to provide outdoor cooking for at least 7-10 days.
It is even possible to cook without using fuel
at all. For example, to cook dry beans you can place them inside
a pressure cooker with the proper amount of water and other ingredients
needed and place it on your heat source until it comes up to pressure.
Then turn off the heat, remove the pressure cooker and place inside
a large box filled with newspapers, blankets, or other insulating
materials. Leave it for two and a half hours and then open it, your
meal will be done, having cooked for two and a half hours with no
heat. If you don't have a large box in which to place the pressure
cooker, simply wrap it in several blankets and place it in the corner.
Store matches in waterproof airtight tin with
each piece of equipment that must be lit with a flame.
Sterno fuel, a jellied petroleum product, is
an excellent source of fuel for inclusion in your back pack as part
of your 72 hour kit. Sterno is very light weight and easily ignited
with a match or a spark from flint and steel but is not explosive.
It is also safe for use indoors.
A Sterno stove can be purchased at any sporting
goods store and will retail between $3 and $8, depending upon the
model you choose. They fold up into a very small, compact unit ideal
for carrying in a pack. The fuel is readily available at all sporting
goods stores and many drug stores. One can of Sterno fuel, about
the diameter of a can of tuna fish and twice as high, will allow
you to cook six meals if used frugally. Chafing dishes and fondue
pots can also be used with Sterno.
Sterno is not without some problems. It will
evaporate very easily, even when the lid is securely fastened. If
you use Sterno in your 72 hour kit you should check it every six
to eight months to insure that it has not evaporated beyond the
point of usage. Because of this problem it is not a good fuel for
long-term storage. It is a very expensive fuel to use compared to
others fuel available, but is extremely convenient and portable.
Coleman fuel (white gas), when used with a Coleman
stove is another excellent and convenient fuel for cooking. It is
not as portable nor as lightweight as Sterno, but produces a much
greater BTU value. Like Sterno, Coleman fuel has a tendency to evaporate
even when the container is tightly sealed so it is not a good fuel
for long-term storage. Unlike Sterno, however, it is highly volatile;
it will explode under the right conditions and should therefore
never be stored in the home. Because of its highly flammable nature
great care should always be exercised when lighting stoves and lanterns
that use Coleman fuel. Many serious burns have been caused by carelessness
with this product. Always store Coleman fuel in the garage or shed,
out of doors.
Charcoal is the least expensive fuel per BTU
that the average family can store. Remember that it must always
be used out of doors because of the vast amounts of poisonous carbon
monoxide it produces. Charcoal will store for extended period of
time if it is stored in air tight containers. It readily absorbs
moisture from the surrounding air so do not store it in the paper
bags it comes in for more than a few months or it may be difficult
to light. Transfer it to airtight metal or plastic containers and
it will keep almost forever.
Fifty or sixty dollars worth of charcoal will
provide all the cooking fuel a family will need for an entire year
if used sparingly. The best time to buy briquettes inexpensively
is at the end of the summer. Broken or torn bags of briquettes are
usually sold at a big discount. You will also want to store a small
amount of charcoal lighter
fluid (or kerosene). Newspapers will also provide
an excellent ignition source for charcoal when used in a funnel
type of lighting device.
To light charcoal using newspapers use two or
three sheets, crumpled up, and a #10 tin can. Cut both ends out
of the can. Punch holes every two inches around the lower edge of
the can with a punch-type can opener (for opening juice cans). Set
the can down so the punches holes are on the bottom. Place the crumpled
newspaper in the bottom of the can and place the charcoal briquettes
on top of the newspaper. Lift the can slightly and light the newspaper.
Prop a small rock under the bottom edge of the can to create a a
good draft. The briquettes will be ready to use in about 20-30 minutes.
When the coals are ready remove the chimney and place them in your
cooker. Never place burning charcoal directly on concrete or cement
because the heat will crack it. A wheelbarrow or old metal garbage
can lid makes an excellent container for this type of fire.
One of the nice things about charcoal is that
you can regulate the heat you will receive from them. Each briquette
will produce about 40 degrees of heat. If you are baking bread,
for example, and need 400 degrees of heat for your oven, simply
use ten briquettes.
To conserve heat and thereby get the maximum
heat value from your charcoal you must learn to funnel the heat
where you want it rather than letting it dissipate into the air
around you. One excellent way to do this is to cook inside a cardboard
oven. Take a cardboard box, about the size of an orange crate, and
cover it with aluminum foil inside and out. Be sure that the shiny
side is visible so that maximum reflectivity is achieved. Turn the
box on its side so that the opening is no longer on the top but
is on the side. Place some small bricks or other noncombustible
material inside upon which you can rest a cookie sheet about two
or three inches above the bottom of the box. Place ten burning charcoal
briquettes between the bricks (if you need 400 degrees), place the
support for your cooking vessels, and then place your bread pans
or whatever else you are using on top of the cookie sheet. Prop
a foil-covered cardboard lid over the open side, leaving a large
crack for air to get in (charcoal needs a lot of air to burn) and
bake your bread, cake, cookies, etc. just like you would in your
regular oven. Your results will amaze you.
To make your own charcoal, select twigs, limbs,
and branches of fruit, nut and other hardwood trees; black walnuts
and peach or apricot pits may also be used. Cut wood into desired
size, place in a large can which has a few holes punched in it,
put a lid on the can and place the can in a hot fire. When the flames
from the holes in the can turn yellow-red, remove the can from the
fire and allow it to cool. Store the briquettes in a moisture-proof
container. Burn charcoal only in a well-ventilated area.
Wood and Coal. Many wood and coal burning stoves
are made with cooking surface. These are excellent to use indoors
during the winter because you may already be using it to heat the
home. In the summer, however, they are unbearably hot and are simply
not practical cooking appliances for indoor use. If you choose to
build a campfire on the ground outside be sure to use caution and
follow all the rules for safety. Little children, and even many
adults, are not aware of the tremendous dangers that open fires
Kerosene. Many kerosene heaters will also double
as a cooking unit. In fact, it is probably a good idea to not purchase
a kerosene heater that cannot be used to cook on as well. Follow
the same precautions for cooking over kerosene as was discussed
under the section on heating your home with kerosene.
Propane. Many families have propane camp stoves.
These are the most convenient and easy to use of all emergency cooking
appliances available. They may be used indoors or out. As with other
emergency fuel sources, cook with a pressure cooker whenever possible
to conserve fuel.
Most of the alternatives require a fire or flame,
so use caution. More home fires are caused by improper usage of
fires used for light than for any other purpose. Especially use
extra caution with children and flame. Teach them the proper safety
procedures to follow under emergency conditions. Allow them to practice
these skills under proper adult supervision now, rather than waiting
until an emergency strikes.
Cyalume sticks are the safest form of indoor
lighting available but very few people even know what they are.
Cyalume sticks can be purchased at most sporting goods stores for
about $2 per stick. They are a plastic stick about four inches in
length and a half inch in diameter. To activate them, simply bend
them until the glass tube inside them breaks, then shake to mix
the chemicals inside and it will glow a bright green light for up
to eight hours. Cyalume is the only form of light that is safe to
turn on inside a home after an earthquake. One of the great dangers
after a serious earthquake is caused by ruptured natural gas lines.
If you flip on a light switch or even turn on a flashlight you run
the risk of causing an explosion. Cyalume will not ignite natural
gas. Cyalume sticks are so safe that a baby can even use them for
Flashlights are excellent for most types of
emergencies except in situations where ruptured natural gas lines
may be present. Never turn a flashlight on or off if there is any
possibility of ruptured gas lines. Go outside first, turn it on
or off, then enter the building.
The three main problems with relying upon flashlights
is that they give light to very small areas, the batteries run down
fairly quickly during use, and batteries do not store well for extended
time periods. Alkaline batteries store the best if stored in a cool
location and in an airtight container. These batteries should be
expected to store for three to five years. Many manufacturers are
now printing a date on the package indicating the date through which
the batteries should be good. When stored under ideal conditions
the shelf life will be much longer than that indicated. Lithium
batteries will store for about twice as long as alkaline batteries
(about ten years).
If you use flashlights be sure to use krypton
or halogen light bulbs in them because they last much longer and
give off several times more light than regular flashlight bulbs
on the same energy consumption. Store at least two or three extra
bulbs in a place where they will not be crushed or broken.
Candles. Every family should have a large supply
of candles. Three hundred sixty-five candles, or one per day is
not too many. The larger the better. Fifty-hour candles are available
in both solid and liquid form. White or light colored candles burn
brighter than dark candles. Tallow candles burn brighter, longer,
and are fairly smoke free when compared to wax candles. Their lighting
ability can be increased by placing an aluminum foil reflector behind
them or by placing them in front of a mirror. However, candles are
extremely dangerous indoors because of the high fire danger--especially
around children. For this reason be sure to store several candle
lanterns or broad-based candle holders. Be sure to store a goodly
supply of wooden matches
Save your candle ends for emergency use. Votive
candles set in empty jars will burn for up to 15 hours. Non-candles
(plastic dish and paper wicks) and a bottle of salad oil will provide
hundreds of hours of candle light.
Trench candles can be used as fireplace fuel
or as a candle for light. To make trench candles:
- Place a narrow strip of cloth or twisted
string (for a wick) on the edge of a stack of 6-10 newspapers.
- Roll the papers very tightly, leaving about
3/4" of wick extending at each end.
- Tie the roll firmly with string or wire at
- With a small saw, cut about 1" above
each tie and pull the cut sections into cone shapes. Pull the
center string in each piece toward the top of the cone to serve
as a wick.
- Melt paraffin in a large saucepan set inside
a larger pan of hot water. Soak the pieces of candle in the paraffin
for about 2 minutes.
- Remove the candles and place on a newspaper
Kerosene lamps are excellent sources of light
and will burn for approximately 45 hours on a quart of fuel. They
burn bright and are inexpensive to operate. The main problem with
using them is failure to properly trim the wicks and using the wrong
size chimney. Wicks should be trimmed in an arch, a "V,"
an "A" or straight across the top. Failure to properly
trim and maintain wicks will result in smoke and poor light.
Aladdin type lamps that use a circular wick
and mantle do not need trimming and produce much more light (and
heat) than conventional kerosene lamps. These lamps, however, produce
a great amount of heat, getting up to 750 degrees F. If placed within
36 inches of any combustible object such as wooden cabinets, walls,
etc. charring can occur. Great caution should therefore be exercised
to prevent accidental fires.
The higher the elevation the taller the chimney
should be. Most chimneys that come with kerosene lamps are made
for use at sea level. At about 4500 feet above sea level the chimney
should be about 18-20 inches high. If your chimney is not as tall
as it should be you can improvise by wrapping aluminum foil around
the top of it and extending it above the top. This will enable the
light to still come out of the bottom portion and yet provide proper
drawing of air for complete combustion. If the chimney is too short
it will result in smoke and poor light. Be sure to store extra wicks,
chimneys and mantles.
Propane and Coleman lanterns. Camp lanterns
burning Coleman fuel or propane make excellent sources of light.
Caution should be used in filling and lighting Coleman lanterns
because the fuel is highly volatile and a flash type fire is easy
to set off. Always fill them outside. Propane, on the other hand,
is much safer. It is not as explosive and does not burn quite as
hot. A double mantle lantern gives off as much light as two 100-watt
light bulbs. Either propane or Coleman fuel type lanterns are very
reliable and should be an integral part of your preparedness program.
Be sure to store plenty of extra mantles and matches.
Store lots of wooden matches (1,000-2,000 is
not too many). Also store butane cigarette lighters to light candles,
lanterns and fireplaces. It would be a good idea for everyone to
have a personal fire building kit with at least six different ways
to start a fire.
Above all, your home and family must be protected
from the ravages of fire by your actions. Study the instructions
for any appliance used for heating, cooking, or lighting and understand
their features as well as their limitations.
Don't go to sleep with any unvented burning
device in your home. Your family might not wake up.
Whatever you store, store it safely and legally.
In an emergency, survival may cause you to make decisions that are
questionable with regard to safety. Become educated to the inherent
hazards of your choices and make a decision based on as much verifiable
information as possible. You and your family's lives will depend
Consider carefully how you will provide fuel
for your family for heating, cooking, and lighting during times
of emergencies. Next to food, water, and shelter, energy is the
most important item you can store.