Monday, March 10, 2008

Power Outages

The current situation weather-wise in the UK is an interesting storm that is moving east across southern England.  Last night we had phase 1 with winds up to 80 mph and rain.  A lull as the front went through and now phase 2 is giving us rain and 50 mph winds.

Needless to say there have been some disruptions to our electric supply.  An hour long outage makes you begin to think about preparing for the worst.  No, not quite the hurricane party atmosphere - where you cook everything that is in your freezer and invite the neighbors over - but a concern that the contents of the freezer might not survive the outage.

And then there's the light.  It was getting dark so we began to unearth our supply of candles (mostly imported with our effects from Houston) and readied for the evening ahead.  The lights came back on shortly afterward, even though a call to the emergency telephone line told us to expect 12 hours of delay.

Life in the modern technology-heavy world takes a bit of a knock during an outage.  However, the following tips are offered to anyone in similar circumstances.  Though of course, if you are in similar circumstances you won't be able to read this.

1.  The phone still works, but only if you have a phone that doesn't need a power supply.  We have one old-fashioned tethered phone.  It worked when we needed it.  The modern wireless units failed.

2.  The best way to call the light company (I am not sure what they call them in the UK) is to find an old bill.  This always worked in the States and it worked here.  Rather than speak to a person the light company had already recorded a useful message.  Impressive in the UK, normal in the US.

3.  The cell/mobile phone may still work if the mast is in a different area to the one affected.  Always worth a try.

4.  No TV, mains radio or internet.  I could not help but recall the 1982 Hurricane Alicia in Houston when we were without electricity for over a week.  The only utility that worked was the phone, so we got lots of calls from out of state friends - "My god, it looks awful on TV!"  Except we had no idea what they were talking about, being marooned behind fallen pine trees and other problems.

5.  No generator.  Half the time I am in Africa I am aware that we are actually not running off the power supply but the office/hotel/staff house back up generator.  Every desktop computer has a PSU.  If this happens more often in the UK a small generator might be worth the expense.

6.  We still have to eat.  Our kitchen design included a gas hob that is independent of electricity.  A sound philosophy in that gas hobs also create warmth as well as provide hot soup!

7.  Although we have solar heating (a ground source heat pump) it doesn't work without power.  But at least the floors retain warmth for a considerable period.  And we also have a log burner that is rated at 7 kilowatts.  We won't freeze!