Yesterday, as the temperature in central Florida soared to 96 degrees (36 C), our local power company experienced a serious glitch and 6,000 people (including myself) found themselves without power until well after dark.
While not exactly an extreme emergency, my day proved less miserable than many of my neighbor’s because of the preparedness steps I’d already taken.
When the power went off, I was able to power down my computer normally because I keep everything on an uninterruptible power supply (UPS).
It’s battery reserve can power my desktop computer for about 15 minutes, and can double as an emergency charger for my cell phone, iPod, temporary use of any 110v appliance.
My battery operated emergency radio quickly informed me that the outage was local, since radio stations were operating normally in my vicinity. Although my Skype telephone access was down, my cell phone still worked and was fully charged.
Like many Floridians, I live in what is euphemistically called `manufactured housing’, usually a trailer, but in my case a 36 foot RV on an un-shaded lot. During the summer, these `tin cans’ can become sweltering hot boxes without the A/C running.
As a former live aboard boater, I know the value of an electric fan on a hot day, so after opening the windows, I set up a 12 volt fan and kept it trained on me the whole afternoon.
I keep a couple of 105 amp deep cycle 12 volt batteries on hand – trickle charged – for just such an emergency. With the aid of an inverter, I can also produce a limited amount of 110 volt power as well.
Had the outage lasted more than a day or two, I could have deployed my two solar panels to the roof and kept the batteries charged.
Over the next six hours I consumed more than a gallon of ice-tea, cooked a meal on my propane stove, and made a fresh gallon of tea using part of my bottled water supply (we are on a well here, and when the power is off, so is the water).
For a long-term problem, I have a ceramic water filter and a fair sized lake a half mile away.
To help pass the time, I had my beloved iPod Touch, which I keep loaded up with a variety of music and OTR (Old Time Radio) shows, which I enjoy (and write about in my other blog).
And when the sun went down, I had a couple of LED lanterns at the ready to illuminate my surroundings.
Happily (after 6 1/2 hours) the power came on a little after 8pm.
But had it stayed off overnight, or for several days, I’d have been able to cope fairly well given my level of preparedness.
While deep cycle batteries, inverters, and solar panels may be overkill for most people, the basics; a battery operated emergency radio, bottled water, emergency lanterns, extra batteries, and some easily prepared food are things that all households should keep on hand at all times.
Creature comforts shouldn’t be underestimated, however. The 12 volt fan made a heck of a difference, as did having an MP3 player and the ability to cook with propane.
Over the years I’ve endured several prolonged power outages that lasted more than 48 hours. Hurricanes in Florida and ice storms in Missouri have shown me how dependent we are on the power company, and how fragile that resource can be.
As you can see, a little bit of preparedness can go a long way towards converting misery (or worse) into simple inconvenience.
For more information on how to prepare, you may wish to consult:
AMERICAN RED CROSS http://www.redcross.org/
And a few of my (many) preparedness essays include: