Whether you believe man climbed down out of the trees and traded poop slinging for insults, or accept Adam and Eve’s eviction from Eden, one thing you have to agree with is that early man relied on Fire. It’s a wonderful tool. It provides us heat. It cooks our food. We can make tools with it. We can keep wild animals at bay. And it gives us a sense of security by driving away the darkness.
In our modern homes, fire has been replaced with electric light. It’s something most of us- including our kids- take for granted. But what happens when the lights go out? Imagine being in your windowless dadcave and the power goes out due to a storm or some drunk driver hitting a utility pole. The first thing you might think is “now I can’t watch the rest of the game!”. But your kids are going to have a more immediate concern. IT’S DARK!
When there’s an emergency, you’ve got a lot of options on how to provide this simple luxury item your kids can’t do without out. Modern light comes from four main sources: The Sun (through your windows), from Fire, from Electricity, or from chemical sources. How many of these have you thought about, or prepared with?
Power outages by day aren’t so bad. You just leave the darkened dadcave and open the curtains or blinds through out the house. If it’s cold, you grab a blanket. If it’s hot you open a window. But when it’s night time, or maybe during a thunderstorm or other overcast weather, you have to bust out some illumination assistance.
Fire is great if you have a fireplace, unless it’s a really hot summer. If not, you might resort to candles. The technology’s been around for thousands of years. A more modern twist on the candle you might choose is the kerosene lantern. But these all have some major safety issues- especially when mixed with pets or children. Take kerosene- how many western movies feature a lantern being broken by sabotage or negligence, thereby consuming barns full of straw? Candles can be tipped over by curious children. If you can, keep the fire outside. There are much safer alternatives.
And what about ignition sources? How many non-smokers keep matches or lighters ready for all those tea candles the wife bought from co-workers’ candle parties? Even if you don’t prescribe to candling, it’s a great idea to keep a simple Bic-type disposable lighter in the house. It can be submerged under water, allowed to dry, and it’ll still work. Just make sure the kids can’t get to it.
Maybe fire isn’t for you. The power might be off in your home, but that doesn’t mean electricity can’t come to your aid. Flashlights are the darkness-battling weapon of choice in modern America. But flashlights require batteries in most cases. And where is the flashlight? Do you remember that in a pinch? You could keep a flashlight in every room of the house, in a universal location- say, the left hand side of whatever drawer you put it in.
There’s also the bulb issue. Kids drop stuff, and a dropped incandescent bulb, even a super-bright krypton bulb, will break on impact. LED is much better. Resists impacts and uses far less electricity. And many LED flashlights are capable of changing color, or switching to a blinking mode. Useful for emergencies, or just amusing the kids.
Battery powered flashlights are so old-school, though. Instead of raiding the remote controls in an emergency to find batteries, today you can turn to crank-powered and even solar-powered flashlights . Crank lights are great for kids, who always forget to turn flashlights off anyway. Not only can your neanderkid have their own source of light, they can be amused for some time cranking and cranking on it every couple of minutes to recharge. Just make sure you get enough crank lights for all the kids, and that you make sure they put them back where they belong. Like hanging from a wrist strap on a wall hook or door knob.
Flashlights are swell, until you have to go potty. For us dads, we need our hands for other than light holding. It’s instances like that where an electric lantern is a life saver. And unlike flashlights, you only need one for the family. It can light up a room, is free-standing and there’s simply no need for each kid to have their own. Although you can get AA powered lanterns for under $10 so each kiddo can carry light around with them. And, like flashlights, there are now crank-powered lanterns. Many have built in radios and ports for charging cell phones.
Finally, there’s one truly awesome light source that I highly recommend for emergencies. Cyalumes, or “glowsticks”. These simple plastic tubes, filled with chemicals separated by a glass ampule, create a whole night’s worth of cold light, simply by bending (breaking the ampule inside) and shaking (mixing the chemicals up). They can light up a room fairly well, with no fire hazard. Most even have hooks which fit quite nicely on ceiling fan pull cords. Or you can put them on string and make each of the kids their very own glow necklace. Put one in a jar or glass and now you’ve got a table top glow lantern. They work under water. They come in different colors. They also range in price from cheap up to as much as $4 a stick. Every camping section carries them.
And don’t forget that glowsticks come in different shapes and sizes. I prefer the 6″ camping kind. They can be kept in drawers and are often found in first aid kits. You can also find glowstick bracelets and necklaces that are designed to be kid friendly. Our local Target sells tubes of bracelets- fifteen for $1. Not much light to read or pee by, but the kids love the novelty of them.
Glowsticks do have some safety concerns though. For one, if you let your neanderkid bend it back and forth, over and over, it won’t get brighter. In fact, the plastic will crack and spray glowing liquid out. Sometimes into your kid’s eyes. As long as no glass gets in, it isn’t very serious. Maybe just a trip to the hospital E.R. to have the eye flushed. And the expelled glowstick liquid fades to invisibility on carpet and curtains after just a few days.
Glowsticks are also temperature sensitive. Leave one in the hot glovebox of your car and the plastic starts to break down. So that when you go to bend and crack one to life, it bursts open and sprays glowing chemicals all over the carpet. Better to keep your glowsticks in a cool, dark place. In fact, once activated, you can put them in the freezer to extend their life span an extra day or two.
There are other emergency light sources you can have around the dadcave and house. Expensive battery packs or battery powered emergency lighting. Flashlights that stay plugged into the wall until needed. Just remember that anything fancy is going to get broken once your kids get their hands on them. Stick to the cheap glowsticks and crank lights and you’ll stay out of the darkness.