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Which Emergency Light Sources are Best for Your Family?

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When the lights go out, it’s more than an inconvenience; it’s a safety hazard and source of anxiety for adults and children alike. This guide will help you choose suitable emergency lights by covering reliable options, addressing common questions, and providing expert tips.

children playing with toys on the floor in the dark with a lantern for illumination

Emergency lighting plays a critical role in safety, security, and psychological well-being during power outages. Beyond providing a range of reliable lighting options—battery-powered, solar-powered, and crank-powered—it emphasizes the need for redundancy and versatility in preparedness. Emergency lighting is another key element in a holistic approach to self-reliance and preparedness, enhancing your family’s resilience in the face of unexpected challenges.

Importance of Lighting in Emergency Preparedness

Lighting is critical to ensuring your home is prepared for any emergency involving a power outage.

  • Safety: Light helps you navigate your surroundings safely, avoiding potential hazards like tripping or falling. 
  • Deterrence: A darkened home and property are more inviting to criminals when the lights go out. Emergency light sources are a deterrence since committing crimes in the dark is easier!
  • Security: Light provides security and comfort in a stressful situation. It can help you feel less vulnerable and more in control.
  • Psychological impact: Darkness can be unsettling and exacerbate anxiety. Having emergency lighting can help to reduce stress and allay fears.
  • Redundancy: More than one light source is needed! Multiple lights using different types of power sources help ensure you have the correct type of lighting and the power is ready at a moment’s notice.


Battery-powered lights are a classic and reliable choice for emergencies. Here is what I have in my own home’s emergency supply.


These come in different sizes for different purposes and spaces. They’re portable and versatile, making them ideal for individual use. You can’t go wrong with one that is rechargeable, and look for flashlights with at least 500 lumens.

I keep a small LED flashlight on my keychain, have a smaller one in my glove box, and an LED flashlight with at least 800 lumens for outdoor use.

I would put headlamps in the flashlights category- a flashlight you wear on your head! These leave your hands free, which is invaluable in many scenarios, such as if your vehicle breaks down at night. Choose a headlamp with at least 500 lumens. Even better, opt for one with multiple-lumen settings.

Power-failure Nightlights

Whoever thought of these is genius. Power-failure lights plug into outlets and have built-in batteries, automatically illuminating when the power goes out. Their seamless transition to battery mode makes them ideal for emergencies, providing a reassuring glow for children, aiding the elderly in safely moving around in the dark, and helping you locate your other emergency lights.


Lanterns offer more ambient light than flashlights, making them suitable for illuminating larger areas. A flashlight or headlamp will give you focused lighting you can direct toward a particular area or a specific task. Still, you’ll also need to light up larger areas or even an entire room.

Lanterns powered by a battery, a USB charger, and even a solar panel give you plenty of backups.


When the last battery dies, but the power outage continues, you’ll be grateful for solar-powered lighting! These charge during the day and provide light at night, and there’s no need to rely on batteries that can leak or a USB charger when there’s no power. Here are options I use:

The Luci Lantern

One of my favorites is the collapsible Luci lantern, which I reviewed here. Not only does it have a tiny solar panel, but it also has multiple settings for different types of lights. It can be deflated so it stores flat, which is perfect for a backpack emergency kit. (It could even be strapped to the outside of the backpack to charge during the day while wearing the pack.) One intrepid Survival Mom reader hangs one of these, deflated, from her vehicle’s grab handle so she always has a source of light at night. Clever!

Solar Tube Light from Survival Frog

This tube style solar light is an outstanding choice for ambient lighting over a much larger space. Quick and easy to inflate and deflate, you get a lot of solar-powered light. It has a carabiner and magnetic attachments for a whole lot of options for where to place it. Bonus: Inflating it keeps the kids temporarily occupied–just watch for the moment when they realize they can use it as a light saber!


Crank-powered lights require a lot of physical energy and upper body strength. Still, if you have no other power available, you need at least one light source with a crank! This is another one that can keep the kids busy; they can take turns.

Crank Flashlights

A crank flashlight allows you to generate power manually, making them ideal for extended outages. Choose between hand-crank or dynamo models with USB charging.

Crank Lanterns

These provide a larger area of light and can also charge other devices if they come with a USB charging port. A crank-powered lantern should have at least one other way to be powered, such as a solar panel or batteries.

Other Types of Emergency Lights

Here are some additional options to consider that are more old-school but still provide light in an emergency. Learn about homemade sources of light here.

  • Candles: These offer a warm glow and can be used for both light and ambiance. Choose tealights for a smaller light source. Both tealights and larger candles come in battery-powered versions, which is much safer than having an open flame, especially with young children.
  • Oil Lamps: These offer a classic and rustic look and are relatively inexpensive. Be sure to stock up on plenty of fuel.
  • Lightsticks: These are lightweight, disposable, and provide long-lasting light. Keep two or three of them in each child’s room and a few in the glovebox. They’re safe, fun, and provide just enough comforting light for a dark night.

Considerations for Choosing Emergency Lights

When choosing emergency lights, consider the following factors:

  • Size of area to fill: Choose lights that provide enough ambient light for at least one room. If that’s your only light, it can easily be moved from room to room.
  • Power source availability: Ensure you have the necessary batteries, solar panels, or cranking mechanisms.
  • Durability and weather resistance: Choose lights that can withstand bumps, drops, and harsh weather conditions. If you’ll be using a light source outdoors, make sure it’s waterproof. 
  • Versatility and multi-functionality: Some lights offer additional features like radios, USB chargers, or sirens.

Remember to test your lights regularly and keep them readily accessible in emergencies. I keep flashlights and lanterns in each room of the house and bedside tables as well as in my vehicles and emergency kits. Consider key locations in your home–bedrooms, hallways, exits–and place emergency lights there.

Expert Tip

Do you own a smart home? Verify if your smart home system has a battery backup and assess its runtime. Keep alternative emergency lighting options on hand in case the outage extends beyond the battery backup duration.


Why is emergency lighting important?

Emergency lighting helps you navigate your surroundings safely, provides a sense of security and comfort, and can reduce stress and promote calm in a crisis.

What are some additional tips for using emergency lighting?

Place lights in key locations, keep spare batteries on hand, invest in a battery-powered lantern for outdoor activities, teach family members how to use the lights, and consider a solar-powered generator for extended outages. Grab my FREE Family Power Outage Survival Handbook here. It’s got everything you need to survive a power outage for virtually any length of time, in any kind of weather. cover page of The Survival Mom's Family Power Outage Survival Handbookcover page of The Survival Mom's Family Power Outage Survival Handbook

What are the best types of emergency lighting?

The best options are reliable, portable, and versatile. Battery-powered lights, solar-powered lights, and crank-powered lights are all popular types.

What should I consider when choosing emergency lights?

When choosing emergency lights, consider factors like the longevity and area to fill, portability and size, power source availability, durability and weather resistance, and versatility and multi-functionality.

Final Thoughts

Having different emergency lights and putting them in smart spots is key for staying safe during power outages. This information makes sure you’re ready (and calm) when the lights go out unexpectedly.

What emergency light sources do you prefer?

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