Do You Need a Generator?

When people think of preparing for a disaster, getting a generator seems to come up as one of the first things they should get.

But before you shell out serious money buying a generator, you should sit back and really consider your need for one. There are many other important preparedness supplies that you should focus on first, like food, drinking water and adequate medical supplies. A generator should never be your first concern, though there are some significant reasons to consider one.

Electricity is important, but most people can get on just fine without it, provided they are prepared for such a situation. Make a realistic assessment of your emergency needs when it comes to having electricity. Lights are very important, but you can provide lighting in your home with candles, oil lamps, battery-powered lights or even solar lights. Running a refrigerator or freezer is a big plus for food storage, but most large appliances are more luxuries than necessities in a disaster scenario.

One exception might be for people who have a well as a water source. Having a generator to keep your pump running is a more valid reason than most others. Hand-powered pumps are another option you can consider, though they can be quite expensive too if you have a very deep well.

After considering your needs, the next question should be “what kind of disaster or situation are you preparing for”? Weather-related scenarios do often include short-term (or long-term) power outages where a generator would be a handy tool. But what about preparing for gasoline or oil shortages? Remember that buying a generator is only half the battle. You’ll need to have access to the right fuel for it, too. Preparing for fuel shortages isn’t the easiest thing to do. Gas or diesel takes up quite a bit of space to store, can be dangerous and it doesn’t last forever.

A disaster that would require you to leave your home, like a flood or forest fire would also make a generator useless. Well, not completely useless. In the aftermath of such a disaster, you may find yourself back at home and yet without power. What about a pandemic quarantine? Such a scenarios would mean you are stuck at home without access to supplies, but the power is still safely running.

Which brings me to yet another thing to consider. Do any of your neighbors have generators? If everyone in the area is blacked out, and your house is lit up like a Christmas parade, you may attract more attention to yourself than you really want. People can do desperate things during a crisis, and you don’t want to make a target of yourself. Keeping a low profile is crucial when preparing for a disaster and generators can make that difficult. Even if you take care to block the light from your windows, the noise is a dead give-away. Don’t consider running it indoors either. The exhaust fumes are very dangerous.

And one last thing to think about is whether or not you have the skills to use a generator. It’s a large piece of equipment and there are always safety concerns when using electricity. That doesn’t mean you can’t learn how to properly use a generator, of course. It’s just not a “use right out of the box” kind of appliance.

Just like with any major purchase, there are many aspects to consider when thinking about getting an emergency generator. Don’t just take it for granted that a generator is a “must have” when preparing for an emergency. It depends on you and your situation, so take the time to think about it.