I was looking through the many pictures on my computer and one just about jumped out at me. It was a picture that my wife took of our fireplace providing the only heat we had during the ice storm of December 14, 2016.
I told of our trials and tribulations in dealing with a winter power outage. I explained what we experienced in my column article:
The picture triggered a thought concerning how many things in life we take for granted. We all expect to have electricity flowing continuously through the wires in our house providing all of the comforts of home. Until that flow stops we really don’t think of all of the things that we normally do that suddenly become much more difficult and often impossible.
How many times a day do we unconsciously flip on a light switch as we enter a room? I’m sure you have done that multiple times even though you know there is no power. It has become such a habit that it is ingrained in our brain and the muscle memory takes over and oops we tried to turn on the light once again.
While thinking of all of the things I couldn’t do I realized that we don’t think about them until we have no power. The simple things we do daily and even multiple times a day now can’t be done. When we have a power failure heating or cooling the house becomes nearly impossible. If it’s winter my first instinct is to build a fire in the fireplace and bundle up with heavier coats, gloves, etc. In the summer keeping cool is impossible without electricity. If you have air conditioning it doesn’t work. If you are like me and don’t have air conditioning those fans that keep the air circulating are as useless as “a screen door in a submarine” as the old saying goes.
To replace electric lights we start with flashlights and in our house graduate to oil lamps in the darkness of night. Not knowing how long the power outage will last we try not to use the flashlights too much so we don’t run down the batteries. When the power goes out late at night or very early in the morning it is a tough decision whether or not to try taking a shower hoping the hot water doesn’t run out before you are done. Successfully showering before the hot water runs out also presents another problem. Blow dryers need electricity to dry your hair. That means letting it dry naturally. In the winter that means you are chilly until it does finally dry out.
Many electric razors have rechargeable battery power so they can be used anytime. That is if you remembered to make sure it was charged recently. At least once I got caught shaving in a blackout and having the razor battery die when I was about half shaved. If you use a manual razor with conventional blades your two problems are shaving in low light and possibly with cold water. By definition electric toothbrushes are also rendered useless.
There is no television to watch without power and desktop computers are useless. We do have battery operated transistor radios so we can listen to music and get storm news. Laptops or pads will function until their batteries give up, but without out WiFi we can’t get on line. Hardwired telephones that are wireless with a base station won’t work without electricity. Old style hardwired telephones will usually work because they are powered by the electricity in the telephone line, as long as the line hasn’t come down. Cell phones will work as long as the battery lasts, but if cell towers are downed by a storm they may not connect.
Now we get to more of the things that we can’t do without power. How easy it is to pop some food into the microwave to prepare a quick meal. That’s out. Same goes for the oven and stove top. That’s where having a fireplace comes in handy. You get heat and you can cook on it. Just remember never to use charcoal in your fireplace or bring a charcoal grill indoors. They produce poisonous carbon monoxide which can render you unconscious and even kill you.
Where do you keep your food? Most of it is in the refrigerator. It has no power so you have to open it and quickly remove what you need and close it to keep things as cold as possible so they don’t spoil. The experts have said that the upright or horizontal freezer unit should keep food from defrosting for up to 48 hours or more as long as they are kept closed.
My wife and I both use CPAP machines for sleep apnea to assist breathing at night. They also need electricity, so they won’t work either. I understand there are some specialized battery units that you can purchase to keep the machines working when the power is out. Portable generators can be expensive, but they can allow you to use limited electrical appliances, etc.
I’m sure if you think about it for a while you can think of some more things that are useless when the power goes out. The best way to be prepared is to survey your house and decide what will and what won’t work during a power failure and find alternatives now before they are really needed. A Red Cross emergency backpack full of supplies is an excellent way to be prepared for any emergency or disaster.
Let me know what you would like me to talk about or explain. You can comment below or email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.