Sunday, September 6, 2009

Power Outage

The power was out for a few hours yesterday due to a wind storm. This is a sure sign that fall is here and a good reminder to get ready for outages of longer duration which are likely to occur in the fall and winter. Here's some things to consider (which I wrote out via pen and paper because like I said, there was no power to blog about it!):
  • No TV. When the power goes out, your first inclination is to turn on the TV to see what is going on. However without power, you have no TV. I do have a small battery operated TV which we use for just these types of outages however it is an older TV and will not receive a signal now that TV broadcasting has switched to digital. On my "to buy" list is a small battery-operated TV which picks up digitally broadcast television signals.
  • No internet. When the power is out, there is no internet either. I can access the internet on my cell phone but it isn't like I would surf the web this way.
  • No computer. Actually all of my computers these days are laptops so I can still use the computer (sans internet) however if you have kids that are ALWAYS on the computer, losing power then running out of batteries on your laptop may be an issue.
  • No phone. Since my phone service runs through the internet, I had no phone available when the power went out either. I used my cell phone to call and report the outage (always keep your cell phone charged up). Of course if you have a land line telephone (the wired phone type, not the wireless phone) you should still be able to plug it into the wall and get a phone signal even without electricity.
  • No news. Being an affirmed news junkie, it is spookily quiet when the power goes out. I do have a battery operated radio in our stores of emergency supplies but was too lazy to dig it out for what I thought would be a short-duration outage. Note to self, get a small, battery operated radio and keep it in the house.
  • No chores. Saturday is usually chore day when laundry, vacuuming, cleaning the car, and other house work gets done. Without power, these chores didn't get done.
  • No fridge or freezer. Actually the food kept just fine, but I had to remind myself to not open the doors and peruse the contents of the fridge looking for a snack so that the cold air would stay inside. This wasn't a problem today but for a long-term outage, food preservation options would need to be kept in mind (and/or breaking out all of the coolers and finding ice then transferring the contents of the fridge to them.
  • No cooking. No stove, oven, microwave, blender for my morning smoothie, or toaster. An excellent reason to make sure your stored emergency food doesn't need to be baked, cooked, or microwaved. We do have a gas grill that would have sufficed for cooking but again, this was a short term outage.
  • No iron, electric razor, or hair dryer. Funny how you use these things automatically each morning when getting ready for work but never really think about what you would do without them. Fortunately, it wasn't a work day today.
  • The hard-wired smoke detectors switched over to battery power then chirped every so often to let me know this. Note, make sure there are fresh batteries in the smoke detectors even if the units are hardwired into the house's electrical system.
  • No treadmill. Since it wasn't a week day, this was a non-issue but I generally rely on my treadmill for a hour's worth of exercise each morning. Obviously I could have went outside for a walk, which I actually considered, but rule number one during a windstorm is to stay inside--downed power lines and falling trees are not something to risk by going outside.
  • No lights. Actually since the outage happened early in the day and it was sunny outside, this was a non-issue but if it would have happened in the evening, we would have been eating dinner by candlelight. Also, we would not have had working outside safety lights/motion detectors, and each of us would have been carrying around flashlight).
  • No heat. Actually this was a non-issue too because the weather, other than being windy, was warm, however if the outage would have happened in the dead of winter, our gas furnace would not have worked because it requires power for the fans. Note to self, get some firewood stored up for winter for use in the fireplace. Also check to make sure that our back-up kerosene heater is in good working order and has plenty of fuel.
  • Hot water. Because we have a gas hot water system, showers were still possible. If we would have had an electric hot water system, this would have been an issue during a longer outage.

Obviously none of these problems are insurmountable. The Amish have got along quite well for centuries without electricity, but when it is something that you take for granted as always being available, it can be kind of disconcerting when it isn't available.

I noticed that the generator at the neighbor's house up the road went on almost immediately. They run some type of adult care home which seems to require that their residents have electricity 24/7. No one else in the neighborhood turned on their generators, probably figuring that it would be a short outage, however this is a good reminder to 1) consider getting a generator now, before winter begins and there is a run at the hardware store for these items, 2) be sure that you have plenty of safely stored fuel for your generator, and 3) you know how to safely use your generator.


  1. Plan on some of your emergency equipment doing double duty. Can you set a saucepan on the kerosene heater to heat up a meal, how about having some cookware that you could use in the fireplace. My gang could manage pretty well for several days with no lights, little heat, no entertainment, but no hot meals! Disaster! Fun Fact: I once cooked for 5 days using a shallow casserole, tea light candles, and a baking rack. You could boil a frying pan of water in 4 minutes!

  2. My family is well versed in the life without electric power. We lived on Jmes Island for hurricane Hugo and were without power for 6 weeks and we have gone through Hurricane Jorge 5 weeks now power and Hurricane Katrina 9 weeks no power. Generators are nice but the gas stations were unble to recieve shipments and even if they had Gas they were unable to pump until they were able to hook up generators. I recommend keeping as much fuel as you feeel comfortable storing as well as keeping vehcles full. Buy a good quality power inverter that you can hook to the vehicle battery. We were able to run a couple of fans and table lamps TV etc and charge the cell phones in the vehicles. we saved the generators to run washer and wahatever else we needed for short periods of time. You would be amazed at how much fuel you can run through using a geneator.