A Timely Opportunity? No Electricity Practice

We may get an opportunity to practice our own preparedness next week. 

North America is scheduled to participate in a simulated power grid outage on November 13 and 14, 2013 (GridEx II).  U.S. utility companies and federal agencies will be able to assess and test their readiness if our nation ever experiences a large-scale power grid outage.  That is good news.  It is wonderful that a group of leaders are testing their plan to respond in an emergency. 

There is some flutter around the internet that this drill will cause a real blackout or spin into an actual emergency situation.  From what I read I do not believe any power grids will actually be “turned off” instead it appears to be a simulation using scenarios and “play exercises.”  No need for us to panic or to obsess about what might happen.  We have a preparedness and provision outlook so while our officials are simulating their response to a power outage we could do a few things to “test” our readiness. 

Here are some ideas:

  • Winter weather is pretty much upon us.  How is your home heated?  Learn about your own furnace or heating system.  If you had no electricity how would you heat your home?
  • Water, water, water.  It is unlikely that you will be able to get water through your faucets if you have no electricity.  Do you have bottled or other water on hand in your house?  See the Water section for more information and details.
  • Where in your house do you need a flashlight handy?  When we have electricity it is so easy to flip on a light switch and it is an eye-opener (pun intended) when our power is out and we can’t see inside our own home. Consciously walk through your house without turning on lights to get a good idea about where to keep a flashlight handy.
  • Speaking of flashlights….are your batteries fresh?
  • Other lighting.  Candles, kerosene lamps, battery operated lanterns may be your choice for lighting during a power outage.  One thing I learned during a recent actual stint without electricity is that my usual hobbies require light (reading, puzzles, games) or electricity (computer, television, Wii workout).  In other words think about lighting not just to see where you’re going but to illuminate what you’ll be doing.  Even if you just want to sit down and handwrite some notes candlelight is less easy to see by than most of us are used to.
  • Cooking.  Assess how you will cook without electricity.  I’ve run a couple of personal drills and my first cooking discovery was that it is much harder to boil water without a stove than I thought. 
  • What’s in your refrigerator?  Most experts tell us to discard certain perishable foods after only 4 hours with no electricity.  Check out the 3-Day Crisis Menus  for more information.
  • Do you keep gas in your car?  I implemented the discipline of always having a 1/2 tank, always. 
  • How do your toilets flush?  I know that’s an odd question but if you have no idea how your toilet works you won’t know what to do to make it work if there is no running water.  Even a day without toilet flushing has become a very unpleasant thought for many Americans.  In a nutshell, you’ll have one normal flush with the water from the toilet tank, thereafter slowly pour a bucket of water (at least a gallon) directly into the toilet bowl and let the pressure from the water push everything through the pipes. You wouldn’t want to use your drinking water for this so this is where swimming pool or lake water or bathtub water comes in handy.
  • Who are your neighbors?  Do you know if there are any elderly or disabled people who may need extra assistance during an emergency?  Would you even recognize your neighbors if they came to your door?  This week may be a good time to take over some muffins and introduce yourself.  Our neighborhood coordinated a contact booklet a few years ago.  It was a big undertaking but very helpful.
  • Print this. These ideas certainly aren’t comprehensive but it could be good practice to get into the habit of printing very critical information from your computer.  I have tons of detailed information saved which would be completely useless if I didn’t have electricity to access it.
  • Consider getting a corded telephone.  Cell phones and cordless phones will lose their charge so having a phone you connect directly into a phone jack in your home may provide you a way to communicate.
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