Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Musings On Power.

Woke up to silence this morning - yep, the wild stormy weather (and a few flickers last night) should have warned us. Power was out. Again. Must have been out for at least 20 minutes because the UPS had run out of beeps.

First coherent thought: (right after "ah crap! power's out again!") "Bloody hell, Abbott's gone to Indonesia on a diplomatic visit, maybe we're at war as of overnight and we missed the news! How long would it take them to wake up sleepers in the country and sabotage our power before attacking?"

But then I decided to call the power outages line and found out that restoration time was estimated to be ten hours away, my survival instincts kicked in. I lit the gas, boiled a saucepan of water (no externally heated kettle you see) and made a coffee.

(For those wanting the Condensed version, power came on at 3:05PM in the afternoon, making this a seven to eight hour blackout as far as I can guess. Anyone wanting the ramblings, please feel free to read on.)

Maybe preppers aren't so strange after all. That thought came while I was writing on a paper exercise book with a pencil, trying to get my ideas down before coffee and the day's events wiped them all out of mind. (Anyone that knows me will know that writing as opposed to typing is not a common practice of mine. Times were desperate...)

But the ideas are all there. What if, came the thought, what if this happens one day and doesn't stop happening? What then?

I took stock. I'm probably a bit more prepared for this than many people, because of living out bush so long. But what would happen if the power did stay out? Well, for an average urban / near urban place, the water in the header tanks would last about a day or two. Then, there might be a backup generator or pump with fuel enough to keep up the pressure head for another few days to maybe a week. After that, the water stops flowing.

Given the same amount of emergency preparedness by the gas company, the pumps at the gas works might keep going for a similar length of time. After that - not even a bad smell...

And that's not the worst of it. Deep sewage is designed with a certain amount of continuous flow in mind. No water = no toilets flushing. You had thought about that, hadn't you? No water also means not so much dish washing or laundry being done. The ratio of liquid to solid sewage changes, next thing there are solid blockages everywhere and you can kiss that goodbye.

So you can say that within two or three days you'll be unable to use any electrical appliances, the fridge and freezer will be beginning to stink and the food will be spoiled, the toilet (if you used a bucket to flush) will now no longer flush, and whether you use electric or gas for cooking, you won't have a warm meal that day...

So now how do Kerina and I cope? was my next thought. And I realised that we're lucky. We still have the Super Magic Bus and it has a solar panel, solar battery, a small gas cartridge cooker, and would probably stay warmer than any room in the house with body heat.

But the thought wouldn't lie down and stay still. If it's longer? What then Mr Smarty-Pants? Huh? Huh?

I realised that we had quite a few resources here. Two vehicles with decent batteries, a solar battery, and some cordless rechargeable tools that would happily run off a 12V battery so I could make a reasonable cooking fireplace for when the gas ran out. Materials laying around that could allow us to pump water from the creek and up far enough that we'd have static water pressure. Enough water barrels and so forth that we could store water for a week at a time.

We had compost bins that could be half buried out the back and have a seat placed over them so our toilet needs wouldn't stink up the house and cause disease. I realised that with a bit of engineering, I could have a wood fired hot water system online in a week.

In the end, I think we'd survive, not because I'm particularly clever, but because I've read prepper websites, seen survivalist blogs, and somewhere in the back of my mind, retained some of the ideas there.

Now ask yourself if you'd fare well or fold out. Because this last week has been bullshit as far as electricity is concerned, two days with outages lasting over six hours, plus multiple flickers and outages lasting a few minutes.

You'd think that the electricity suppliers would have worked out by now that trees fall over, and actually used some of the "service fee" to clear trees away from lines to prevent them falling on the lines.

You'd think that the electricity suppliers would have worked out by now that power lines blow around and touch in high winds, and taken action to put spreaders on lines, to add in a few extra poles where the wire needed extra support.

You'd think, in short, that all these problems that happen year after year after year would have sunk in with these people by now and been acted on. The fact that they haven't done so just shows that we need to plan for one of those unthinkable long term blackouts, it's practically inevitable given the track record.

Once more with feeling then: Are YOU prepared for a many day power outage? I know I'll be thinking about it a lot more...

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