Utahns have been advised for years to have their homes stocked with certain necessities in case of emergencies. Fortunately, major natural disasters have not hit the state, but even small misfortunes can illustrate how ill-prepared a great many people really are.

The high winds and accompanying power failures that hit the northern Wasatch Front this week offer an example. Modern society depends so heavily on electricity that a power outage leaves a feeling of helplessness - particularly if the outage strikes in darkness and in the cold of winter.The loss of electric power for several hours during the night and early morning meant furnaces were off and houses cold. People were trying to get ready for work or for school, and wondering if school would be held.

Yet even in various homes where families had food storage and other emergency supplies stacked away, there were aggravating moments.

People couldn't find flashlights in the dark, or if they did, the batteries were dead. Where were the candles they put away? On finding the candles, some couldn't locate any matches. Information was needed on schools, but the phones were busy. Trying to find a battery-operated radio was another problem for some. A fireplace, unused for years, offered warmth - but only after a sometimes difficult search to find wood for it.

The lessons ought to be clear. Emergency supplies should include the things needed when there's no electric power: Flashlights, batteries, candles, matches, a battery-operated radio, fuel, extra blankets, and some food that can be eaten without cooking. And all these things ought to be kept in a well-defined place where they can easily be retrieved.

It doesn't take much to put together such a package, and to keep the batteries up-to-date. Yet such a few basic supplies - in addition to more substantial things such as food storage - can make a big difference, even for such a small disturbance as a few hours without electricity.