Power Outages, etc

by Catherine Haug, January 5, 2010

First, A Story

I woke up this morning at 4 AM when a large limb fell from a fir tree onto my roof. It sounded like I’d been struck by a small bomb! And then I noticed my bedside clock was dark. Ah! a power outage.

I wondered, should I call the electric company? Naw, I went back to sleep. Bbut then I woke up again at 5:30 AM, when another limb struck my roof. Hmm, the power is still out. I lay there for awhile, and then the power flicked on and off. Well, at least the power company is working on it. But what if it takes days?

What will I do if the food in the fridge starts to spoil and the meat in my freezer starts to thaw? Well, I could put the fridge stuff in my root cellar; at least it’s about 42 degrees. And as long as we have snow on the ground, I could keep my frozen stuff in an insulated cooler with snow. OK, I’ll be OK. Thank goodness it’s not summer!

And I went back to sleep.

When I got up at 8 AM, the power was still out, but at least daylight was increasing enough that I could find my way to the kitchen. I flipped on the light switch over the sink. Oh, yeah, the power is out….

Brrr! It’s cold in here! I turned on my gas oven. It has a pilot light so doesn’t need electricity.

Hmm, I wondered, how will I blend my breakfast smoothie without a blender?

Hey, it’s quiet in here without the radio. Well, I could play my iPod until the battery runs out. But, I missed the morning news on NPR.

I think I’ll take a bath, to warm up. Thank goodness I have a gas water heater with pilot light. What would I do if it were electric?

After my bath, I dressed to chop wood for my wood stove. But just as I was going out the door, the power came back on.

Power outage is a real issue

This was just a short outage. But, what will we do when we have frequent and prolonged brown outs and blackouts, due to insufficient power?

Do you have enough candles and oil lamps to get by for weeks without lights? Do you know how to make candles when you can no longer buy them at the store? What can you use in your oil lamp when you can’t buy lamp oil or white gas?

Do you have a way to cook your meals or heat your water in the middle of a cold spell, if power or gas are not available?

Do you have enough batteries to power a radio during a prolonged outage, so you can keep informed?

Do you have a telephone land line, or a ham radio with enough batteries? Telephone companies have large batteries in their central offices to power land-lines for a week or so. But what will you do if the outage is longer than that?

How about water? If you have a well, how will you pump the water without electricity? Thank goodness I’m on city water. Oh, yeah. How will they pump from their wells, without electricity?  What will I do then?

Oh my gosh! I’m also on city sewer. What will happen when the lines back-up because they cannot pump? Oh yuk! my bathtub full of sewage!

If you think you’ll get by with your power generator, what will you do if there’s no fuel to power it? Or, if you have solar panels, what if they fail; or what if it’s cloudy for weeks?

Make Plans

Now is the time to answer these and all the other essential questions, and then make a plan for your household.

But don’t stop there.

  • Plan ahead with your neighbors so you can help each other out in times of emergency. For example, water supplies, transportation.
  • Neighborhoods should also meet across a community to plan for community-wide issues such as communication, security, health emergencies, etc.

And don’t panic. Humankind got by for centuries without all our modern, powered conveniences. And we can again, if we remain levelheaded and resourceful, and willing to work with our neighbors.

Why not start the ball rolling in your neighborhood. Invite the neighbors over for coffee and dessert, and to discuss emergency preparedness.

See also my post: Community Preparedness.

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