Saturday evening we were going through our daily bedtime routine, when suddenly, it was interrupted. The lights began to flicker; they went on and off maybe five times in a row and then… nothing but darkness.
Well, it was not really darkness. A few months ago I had decided to purchase some motion sensing emergency lights, at the recommendation of a podcast I listen to regularly; thanks Jack, you’re a jerk (listen to the podcast and you will get it). I purchased two pairs of these; we put one in the basement and the other three are spread around the main floor. They took a little while to get used to because as you walk into a room containing one, if it is dark, they sense your motion and turn on. They stay on for about 15 seconds after the movement stops and then turn off again just waiting for the next time someone walks by. Once you get used to the fact that the dog walking through the hall in the middle of the night causes a brief bit of light they turn out to be very useful. I have not tripped or stubbed my toe on anything getting up for work so early in the morning, since we put these in.
These lights also have other features. When they detect the power has gone out they illuminate automatically. As soon as the power went off we found ourselves not in the dark, but in a fairly well lit situation thanks to these lights. A quick look outside revealed a completely dark landscape. It is not very bright out here to begin with, but the level of darkness was stark. The power outage was more widespread than just us, good to know. We were able to remove one of the emergency lights from its wall socket and use the flashlight feature to locate the phone. A quick text to the next door neighbor confirmed that the power outage was more widespread than just our little house on the hill. We located the phone number for the power company.and reported the outage. They indicated we could expect the power to be back on by around 1:00 am, a little over 4 hours away.
Since we now expected this to be more than simply an hour without power we gathered up some blankets and wrapped them around our basement freezers to help hold the cold in as long as possible. If the power stayed off for too long this would only delay the inevitable but the longer we can keep the freezers cold the better. I already was beginning to think about what I would do with all the meat in the freezers if this went on longer than anticipated. I was grateful I had made another recent purchase, a wireless freezer alarm, which would alert me if it was time to really get concerned about the freezer contents. I purchased this as protection against the possible failure of a freezer but as it turns out it is completely battery powered so it can help with monitoring the freezers during a power outage as well. Lucky!
Since we still had to get ready for bed we pulled out some small LED lanterns we recently purchased specifically for use in the event of a power outage. These allowed us to have both hands free rather than holding a flashlight. The lanterns were another recommendation from Jack at The Survival Podcast and they worked out great. I don’t think you could beat these things for the price.
Now that the excitement of the event had died down, we began to talk about what had just happened and how useful some of the simple things we had put in place had been in this unexpected situation. Soon the discussion turned to what we would do if the power remained out for more than the predicted four hours. Sean had some useful thoughts on things we might need to keep ourselves living relatively comfortably, although he might put Wifi on the top of his list of needs as opposed to food and water. I already had plans in mind for further preparations like a backup power solution for the freezers but had not put them all in place yet. Life sometimes happens and plans get put off. This was a good chance to see that the simple things we purchased paid off. We decided this was a good opportunity to make a list of items that we would want to have ready for the next power outage.
We learned a couple things from this event. Lesson Learned #4: It is good to be prepared for the unexpected. There is no need to worry excessively about unforeseen events, but putting some simple tools and procedures in place can really make things less disruptive in the event of the unexpected. Don’t worry about being prepared for everything, having some things in place is better than none. You don’t have to be perfect and you can learn as you go, which brings me to Lesson Learned #5: Practicing the use of your tools and procedures can make the unexpected less stressful and help you identify areas where you can improve. We have some work to do to improve but overall it was actually a good experience and even a little fun. The power was only out until around 3:00 am and we were not very inconvenienced by this event but we could have been more familiar with our gear. For example, I was unaware how to use the flashlight mode on the emergency lights and fumbled a bit until Sean set me straight. We also were able to identify a number of improvements in both gear and procedures that would help us to be better prepared in the event of a longer outage. What would we do if it was very cold and we needed to remain warm during an outage? We need to implement a backup power solution for the freezers so we don’t lose all our meat. These are just a few of the things we came up with and none of them are difficult but until something like this happens they are easy to put on the back burner. Time to move them to the front burner.