Doing Without Power. Scary.

July 18, 2012
A reminder of how dependent upon electrical power and electronics we really are.

I am sure you have always known how dependent we all on our electrical power and electronics.  But some recent events just made me realize how dependent we really are. We really take our power for granted.  We really are vulnerable as a nation and society. Now I am more worried now than ever before.  I suspect terrorists and our enemies know of this susceptibility as well.  It is a scary prospect. 

Just recently we had some serious thunderstorms here in central Texas.  And a truly devastating hail storm.  Marble sized hail covered the ground and pounded the daylights out of roofs, trees, plants and cars.  Lots of serious car dents and broken windshields.  Luckily my car was in the garage.  However, we were without power for a while.  This loss of power happens every now and then here in the boonies of Texas so we are generally prepared for it.  Candles, flashlights and portable radios.  The cable TV, VoIP phones and Internet access stayed on as I have uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) on the modem, computers and phones.  And the cable to the house is underground so was not affected.  The computers worked for a few hours until the batteries in the UPSs expired.  So we were OK.  Cooking is with gas so there was no problem there, but the electric coffee pot didn’t work.  Cell phones worked for a while.

It is truly a pain to be in the dark.  Can’t read or watch TV or do anything we normally do. No email or texting or Internet surfing.  How scary is that?  You begin to worry about the food in your freezer.  After about four or five hours, we got power back and all was well.  But it was a wakeup call to be prepared for something like this again.  And a warning to be ready for even longer outages.  I don’t think we will see the rolling blackouts that occasionally occur in California, but who knows for sure.  The summers are hotter than ever and we have been warned to set the A/C thermostat higher during peak hours. Anyway, there is nothing like being prepared. 

We did not have it so bad here in Texas.  But our kids who live in the Washington, D.C. area really got hammered with a bad storm a few weeks ago. My son out in rural Virginia got hit especially hard.  They were without power for nearly a week.  With big trees down they could not get out of their neighborhood.  And with no power there was no air conditioning during the heat wave.  No cooking on the electric range and no water as the pump on the well uses 220VAC.  Their cell phones lasted a while but they had no way to recharge.  Food went fast and there were no computers or TV.  They did not have a portable radio.  Total misery for almost a week.  My son eventually got out of the neighborhood and did buy a 5 KW generator that got them some refrigeration and cell phone recharges but no water or cooking or A/C.

An outage like this is a good warning.  It is bad enough to be without power for a few hours or not have your cell phone for a day, but any longer than that and most of us get antsy and even mad.  Everything we do depends on having reliable and not to mention affordable power.  Our power demands continue to grow.  Without the power infrastructure we are truly almost helpless.  So now is the time to think about what you are going to do if you lose power for a while.  Have some backup.  Buy a generator.  Keep your vehicle gas tank full.  Get a UPS for your phone, computers, chargers, and a radio.  Lots of flashlights and a battery supply.  Oh yeah, don’t forget the duct tape. Do it now as these storms and other situations come out of nowhere.

I haven’t bought a generator yet, but I did build a small solar power unit with a solar panel, a 12 V lead-acid battery, charge controller and an inverter.  It is good for several hundred watts so it will run a small TV, radio, chargers for phones and computers.  And my ham radio gear is all battery powered so I am ready with that.  I even have CB and FRS radios just in case.  Belt and suspenders.

And let’s just hope that our enemies won’t use power deprivation to bring us down.  My guess it would only take a week or so before rioting would begin.  I lived through hurricanes Andrew, Ike and Katrina and know what a nightmare those were.  Not fun.  Get ready now so you will be all set for whatever occurs December 21, 2012.

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