Monday, September 16, 2019

20 Things from Today's Power Outage

We had a power outage in my city today.  Not a big deal but it definitely made me think since power outages are extremely rare here.  Here are some things to consider…
  1. Figure out why the power went out.  I looked outside, noticed no signs of power at any of the neighbors houses (no lights, no sound of their air conditioning systems) and figured the whole neighborhood was out.  I didn’t see any downed power lines (actually the lines are buried in our neighborhood but if you happen to go outside during an outage be aware that fallen lines can still be hot so don’t touch them) and there was no sign that anything was wrong, it was also blissfully quiet.
  2. Do you keep your cell phone, tablet, and laptop charged up?  You don't want to have a dead cell phone during a power outage so always keep these items reasonably charged.  Also make sure your delicate electronics are plugged into surge protectors as you don’t want them to be toast when the power surges back on.
  3. A power outage is a great time to break out an actual book, a paper book of crossword puzzles, board games for the kids, or just go outside and play/relax.  You can also take out your battery-operated radio for entertainment and to hear updates on the news.
  4. Do you have a back up battery system to charge your electronic devices?  Power banks should always be kept charged.  You can also charge your cell phone in your vehicle (make sure you have the hardware to do this), and the emergency jump starter battery I have for our vehicles also has USB charging capabilities.
  5. Do you need a gas-powered generator to provide back-up power?  In our case, not really.  Power outages are rare here, we have no medical devices that require power, etc.  On the other hand, many friends in the northeast and in rural areas have generators hard-wired to their home's electrical service since power outages can last quite a long time where they live, especially in the winter.
  6. Where are your flashlights and extra batteries?  Fortunately the outage happened during the day and there is plenty of natural light so flashlights weren’t needed.  If this had happened at night I probably would have just went to sleep, but it is always good to have several flashlights with good batteries on hand just in case.
  7. Cell phone service still worked so that was nice.  If your cell phone only works well when you are using your home wifi (which goes out during a power outage) then you may need a secondary way to communicate.  Note that HAM radios are both a fun hobby and a good way to communicate with the outside world when there is a major, long-term power outage.
  8. If your cell phone service still works, you can use it to check the local power company’s web page for outage information and report your area as being part of the outage to the company.
  9. Social media access is also great for getting more info on the problem.  Facebook, Twitter, NextDoor, Reddit, etc.  all can be used by friends, neighbors, and the public at large as well as the power company to share information about the outage.
  10. Toilets will work during a power outage.  The only time a power outage would be a concern with your sewage system is if you use certain types of septic systems.
  11. Cooking was no problem as we have a gas-fueled stove.  If it had been an electric stove it, of course, wouldn’t have worked.  As a back up, in case the gas does out, we could have used the patio grill for cooking or just ate food that didn’t need to be cooked.
  12. The air conditioning, which is powered by electricity, stopped working.  Not so much of a problem during a short outage, since it isn’t very hot today we just kept the doors and windows closed, but for a longer term outage in the desert, in the summer, we would be in trouble.
  13. The fish tanks shut down.  Apparently the fish can live for a while with no aeration of the tank.
  14. The washing machine was in the middle of a cycle when the power outage happened.  It shut off so no problem there but when the power came back on, the machine didn’t want to turn back on (so much for a fancy machine with all the bells and whistles).  Simply unplugging the machine and waiting a minute then plugging it in again rebooted the machine and it works fine now.  For a long term power outage doing laundry by hand would suck.
  15. Food in the refrigerator and freezer was fine since it was a short-term outage.  If your power outage lasts more than a few days, you will want to start eating as much refrigerated and frozen food as possible since it will go bad after a short while with no way to keep it cold or frozen.
  16. If your security system doesn’t have a battery back up, obviously it won’t work during a power outage so prepare accordingly (ditto your garage door opener, your exterior lights unless they are solar, your Ring doorbell, etc).
  17. As a last resort, evacuating, either for a few hours or a few days or longer depending on how long the outage lasts would be an option.  This is why you want a full gas tank at all times since if there is a major outage in the city, #1, gas stations need electricity to pump gas and most don’t have generators, and #2, everyone in the city will also be wanting to get gas (see also, what gas stations look like in hurricane evacuation areas).  This is a good reason to keep some cash on hand too as you may need to take the family out to eat and to a movie or something while you wait for the power to come back on.
  18. For people who can't evacuate and can't really survive in their home for a longer-term outage (either it's too hot or too cold outside), most communities will open warming/cooling shelters so that is an option.  Listen to the local news for information on these alternatives.
  19. Do you have a bug out bag packed and ready?  If you only evacuate to the nearest mall which still has electricity, this wouldn’t be a big deal but if you had to jump in your car and hit the road to stay at a friend’s house in the next state, you will want your BOB packed and ready to go.
  20. Last resort, for a long-term outage when the natives are getting restless, be able to protect you and yours.  The more dire the situation, the more desperate people become.  Have a way to protect yourself and your home from looters and the like.

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