Friday, December 11, 2009

This is Only a Test....Another Life Lesson

Tuesday, the announcement came across the scanner that within thirty hours, all emergency personnel should expect high winds, up to sixty miles per hour, in the area.  Since we had had a couple of days of rain, dispatcher said to expect downed trees and power lines due to the saturated ground.

The day dawned with ominous clouds in the sky giving way to sunshine.  It was odd.  The weather couldn't decide if it wanted to sunshine or cloud up.  However, true to predictions, the day was blustery.  It was hard to keep my laundry off the ground.  

Of course, my firefighter husband was called out to a fire.  A blue spruce pine had taken out the two top high tension lines and caught the tree on fire.  He was gone for a couple of hours dealing with that.

Around 12:00 noon, the power went out at home, and according to reports, there were over 1,000 homes without power in our area.  It wasn't a terribly cold day, and the warmth of the sun penetrated the back of the house, so we were okay as far as heat during the day.  But we knew that once daylight was gone, temperatures would drop and we might be in for a cold night.   Sure, we have our 0 degree sleeping bags, but I prefer a warm house.

To make matters worse, a cell tower went down in our area and our cell phones were useless.  No electricity, no heat, no house phone, no cellphone.  I knew somewhere in the house was a phone that you plug into the wall, but I couldn't find it.

We have a backup kerosene heater, but no fuel.  However, we have a camper, that we actually lived in for a while when we were working temporarily away from home.  The furnace is LP, but does require electricity for the blower.  So, we loaded up all the spare gas jugs to get fuel for the generator we had just purchased this summer.

When we got to the pumps, all the regular gas was out.  I don't know if there was a run on gas or what, but the only thing available was super unleaded and they were selling it at the regular unleaded price.  I guess we got a deal on that.  We filled our jugs and topped off the tank, grabbed some lunch meat and bread and headed back to "camp out" for the night.

Just prior to our leaving our neighborhood, we had seen a lot of electric company trucks, so we felt like when we got back, there would be electricity.  Sure enough, houses and businesses that had been dark before, were now lit and open for business.  But when we got to our subdivision, it was still dark.  The houses around were lit up, so we were still hopeful.  We would prepare for the worst and hope for the best. 

When we got home, we could hear the hum of a generator in our neighborhood.  It was comforting to know that at least one of my neighbors was prepared for such an emergency.  His house was dark, so we assumed that he had already moved his family into his fifth wheel camper.  My daughter was there at the house and she had our three oil lamps going full blast and a couple of candles.  My husband began the preparations to set up the camper.  He hooked up the generator, turned on the heat and left it going to warm the camper up a bit.  Meanwhile, I stayed in the house and actually washed the dishes from earlier in the day by lamp light. 

Just as my husband got everything ready, but before we could move out to the camper, the electricity came back on.  My son was very disappointed, because he wanted to camp out.  However, with school the next day, I talked him into staying inside and watching a video we had rented. 

This life lesson helped us run a test on our preparedness measures.  My husband and I discussed things through the day and realized what was lacking in our plans.

Sure, we can run the generator and go out in the camper and be toasty warm should the electricity go off again; but our food storage, which includes items in glass jars and water in jugs, may freeze and burst in the cold.  Our house is well insulated, so it may be okay, but we need to perfect a plan that will allow us to stay in the house.  We do have a wood stove, but we don't have it hooked up yet (finances) and we don't have wood.  With a wood stove installed and wood to burn, we could stay warm in the house and keep our food from getting damaged. 

If this had happened in the middle of the a cold night, it might have been a bad situation.  What if it had happened in the middle of a bad snow storm?  Sure, we have a truck with four-wheel drive, but why get out on bad roads.  Be prepared.  Be prepared.  Be prepared.

We should have already had a plan in place that was workable.  Our plan was not because we didn't have gas for the generator.  Now, our generator is full and we have a small reserve of gas that we can use in our vehicles or in the generator, should another storm come and shut down our power.  Getting power to our camper will allow us to cook food, stay warm and should we need to move it somewhere else, it is mobile.

Lessons learned:  Have a workable winter emergency plan.  Test it out to make sure it works.  Have contingencies.  Prepare every needful thing before you need it.

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