Lessons from a Power Outage

by Kay Lynn

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Earlier this month, our home was one of the millions that lost power in the Southwest blackout.  I was out of town on a business trip but Mr. Boomer and I learned a lot about our emergency preparedness… or lack of it!

Communication

Mr. Boomer thought it was a localized power outage until he called his father and found out there wasn’t any electricity in his area either which is about 10 miles away.  Until I called and reported the size of the outage and estimated repair times, he had no idea it would last well into the night.

One problem is that without electricity, our home was cut off from the internet, television and radio stations. We don’t even have a radio that runs on batteries! Once he knew the outage was longer term, out came candles and flashlights.  I continued to be the source of information from 2500 miles away.

Water

Water from our  nearby water pumping station became contaminated due to backflow during the outage.  Residents in my neighborhood were advised to boil water before ingesting it.  Anyone that had an earthquake kit was ahead of the game because it should include water for three days.

Unfortunately, we’re not one of the households that has an earthquake kit so my husband boiled water for three days for himself and our pets.

Food

With the power being out only about 12 hours in San Diego, having enough food wasn’t a problem.  But we were unprepared if the outage had lasted longer and the food in our refrigerator became unsafe.

Crackers, peanut butter and trail mix would have only lasted a short time.  To be honest, we don’t always have crackers or trail mix in the pantry so couldn’t even count on those items.

An Emergency Kit

None of these items were required when we were evacuated four years ago because of fire.  But they could easily be needed in the event of an earthquake (very real possibility) and an extended power outage.  We’re going to work on our emergency kit this fall and have it ready by the end of the year.  Are you prepared for an emergency?

 

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

First Gen American September 26, 2011 at 10:53 am

I don’t have a generator, so spoiled food would probably be my biggest issue. We always have a stocked pantry though that I rotate regularly so that’s really my biggest emergency preparedness asset. We do have a fireplace too, so in the winter we could keep warm that way, plus a gas bbq grill, so I think we could survive on that for a week or so.

The reality is that we are extremely dependent on the transportation and energy infrastructure in this country. Living off the grid is almost unthinkable in most communities.

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shanendoah@Baking the Budget September 26, 2011 at 3:56 pm

We actually have around 8 gallons of water saved in old milk containers. We use the oldest one to water plants in a month and replace it.
We have a pretty stocked pantry and the gas bbq.
We also have one advantage a lot of people don’t- our car has a regular 110 volt outlet in it, so we can plug any one item in at a time as long as we have fuel for the car. And our car is diesel, so fuel is easier to come by.

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krantcents September 26, 2011 at 5:20 pm

I went through days like that after the Northridge earthquake. Ever since, we have emergency kits. A few months ago, we lost power for 10-12 hours and was grateful for our emergency kit and a battery operated radio.

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SB @ One Cent At A Time September 26, 2011 at 6:12 pm

You reminded me of Hurricane days. Once in 2005 we were without power and water for 2 days. And we weren’t stocked up either. This is a smart list of things I would say.

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Derek - BankAim September 26, 2011 at 9:17 pm

I grew up in the Pacific Northwest and we had power outages every winter. Wind storms would come through and blow a ton of trees over. The longest we were without power was 7 days. I guess if you live in areas prone to lose power you adapt. So we always have an emergency kit on hand. Flash lights and batteries are a must.

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20's Finances September 27, 2011 at 6:05 am

My wife and I had enough water for about 3 days. We also had to boil our water for about a week. We used the bottled water that we had first and then starting boiling. I keep telling my wife that we need to have a more thorough emergency kit. We have a lot of items, but they aren’t in one place. Maybe it will be a new years resolution (as I am really busy for the next 3 months) 🙂

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Kay Lynn September 27, 2011 at 6:14 am

@ First Gen American: We don’t have a generator and being in a condo am not even sure it’s an option. Fortunately, my husband kept the fridge and freezer closed and the power came back on after 9-10 hours so we didn’t lose much food.
@ Shanendoah: Great job stashing that water. That’s first on my list. We can go without food much longer than without water!
@ Krantcents, How long did it take for your power to return after the earthquake? It’s too bad we sometimes have to learn the hard way to get prepared.
@ SB: Two days would have been a financial hit as well due to losing all the food in your fridge and freezer!
@ Derek: I can’t imagine going through this often but as you say, preparedness becomes second nature then.
@20’s Finance: Don’t forget to make that resolution. Don’t forget it’s fire season still….

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Maggie@SquarePennies September 27, 2011 at 8:21 am

My husband always used to say we’d just drive to an area with power & stay at a hotel. I don’t think he reallizes how expensive that could be, not to mention the hotels could easily be full. We need to buy a generator and stock up on water. 2-liter pop bottles are good for storing water.

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Hunter @ Financially Consumed September 27, 2011 at 9:20 am

When the power goes out here, usually from hurricane force winds, the hum of generators can be heard. They’re terrible. They might save a fridge full of groceries, and let you watch TV, but people die every storm from carbon monoxide poisoning. The noise drives a me a little nuts after a few hours too. We just use candles and coolers to get by.

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Juhli September 27, 2011 at 12:24 pm

Good for you for deciding to put together emergency supplies. When we live in Los Angeles, including during the Northridge quake, we had two large rolling trash cans in our garage stocked with what we would need to survive. It included food and water, pet supplies, clothes, sleeping bags, a tent, first aid kit, cash, copies of important identifications, etc. The idea was that we could leave our house and get by for a while. That was the most prepared we have ever been but people did go live in tents in parks following earthquake damage to their homes.

Now in Atlanta there are different risks. We have a supply of bottled water in the basement and keep extra food in the pantry. Two battery operated radios (one in the basement in case of a dash down there due to a tornado), flashlights, and a first aid kit and we are prepared enough for power outages, being unable to drive due to ice/snow (this is the South), or water supply contamination.

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LC September 27, 2011 at 6:44 pm

We have to stay stocked up on water and emergency rations in hurricane season. The first 72 hours after a major storm you are pretty much on your own, even if, like after Katrina. you evacuated. We were at my mother’s home 90 miles from the coast and a huge pine tree crushed the back of her house, a transformer and another downed pine tree blocked the driveway, My brother arrived the 3rd day after the storm with a van load of food, water, gas, a generator, chainsaw and fans.

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101 Centavos October 4, 2011 at 4:57 pm

We’ve been through a couple of power outages from winter ice storms. We’re well prepared with a genset, firewood for the fireplace, lanterns and a deep pantry.

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