Sunday, July 14, 2019

Power Outages

Power outages may well be the next big disaster to prepare for.  Between recent country-wide outages like the one that took down power in several South American countries, planned power outages to avoid wild fire which were recently announced, and the major power outage that hit New York City last night, it's a good time to plan for what you would do if there was a major power outage in your city.  Fortunately in these instances power was quickly restored (unlike the 11 MONTHS it took to restore power to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico) but if you are planning, you might as well make a few plans for both short and long-term outages.  Here's what to do:

  • For short-term outages, having a battery back-up system is a good option.  From power banks that charge your cell phone, to battery banks to power an entire house, battery power systems have a place in preparedness.
  • One of the main go-to's for power back-up during a disaster is a generator.  The plus side--one adequately-sized generator can power an entire house, the length of time which depends on how much fuel you have.  The down-side is that you need to somehow procure copious amounts of fuel to keep your generator going.  In places where short-term power outages are common, stored fuel and generators that are hard-wired into your home's electrical system are common.
  • An off-grid, solar-powered home is an ideal solution for today's power woes.  Although solar systems and battery storage systems are expensive and require ongoing maintenance (and a goodly amount of sun), having your own home-generated power will make you say "what power outage?"
  • A smaller solar power system may be another option.  Solar power systems have been brought down to such a small size that backpackers can carry them to keep their cell phones and camera gear easily charged.  These systems are much, much smaller than whole-home solar systems and can supply a little bit of power (although nothing near large enough to power a refrigerator, for example).
  • Doing without.  This is, unfortunately, the long-term plan for most people.  If power will be out for a considerable length of time, reverting back to the Dark (literally) Ages may be most people's only option.  When you think about how much power is required for your everyday life--literally from the moment you wake up until you turn the lights off at night--doing without power for the long-term sounds like a difficult option to even consider.  The Amish seem to do well with this and most people can figure out short-term solutions like candles and oil lamps, but for long-term planning, check out power-less options for your daily needs.
  • Finally there is the "cobble together a solution" option.  I've seen one (very long) extension cord power an entire block in some poor countries (this is also how one fire can wipe out an entire village but that's another post).  Backpackers are used to doing without power; the old timers literally only had a camp fire for their cooking/reading/protection needs but today's hikers at least use battery-powered headlamps and flashlights.  Most people have a hand-cranked radio on hand for emergency use during a power outage, and many people in Puerto Rico would power up devices while they were at work (where there was power) to use at home (where they didn't have power).

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