Emergency Lighting


Written by Sharing Sustainable Solutions

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 a teether.

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.


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:

1. Place a narrow strip of cloth or twisted string (for a wick) on the edge of a stack of 6-10 newspapers.

2. Roll the papers very tightly, leaving about 3/4″ of wick extending at each end.

3. Tie the roll firmly with string or wire at 2-4″ intervals .

4. 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 .

5. 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.

6. Remove the candles and place on a newspaper to dry.

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 on it. 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.

Originally posted @ Sharing Sustainable Solutions


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