Monday, September 15, 2008

Temporary Outage Due to Hurricane Ike

Even though I am hundreds of miles away from Galveston, Texas, the remnants of Hurricane Ike caused a temporary disruption of electric power in our area. Although we were only without electricity for 24 hours, I became aware of how truly unprepared I am for a "real" emergency.

Here were my insights:
  • High dependence on media and Internet. With electricity, we didn't have access to local TV broadcasts and the Internet. It was difficult to get any information about the situation in our area since radio mostly continued their regular programming. I finally found a portable TV with a DC cord for the car outlet and we used it to get information.

    In addition, I was not able to make posts to My Wealth Builder :-) and missed my first day of publishing an article over 21 months.

  • Emergency equipment took time to locate. While we had flashlights, candles and batteries, the batteries were the only items we found quickly were batteries. It took us a couple hours to find the six flashlights and candle supplies. Luckily, the power outage occurred during daylight hours.

  • Unprepared for lack of electricity. Although we have had outages for a few hours in the past, we were not prepared for 24 hours or more lack of power. We had no backup power, e.g. small gas powered generator, to keep our refrigerator running. While the freezer was doing well, we probably would have lost the food in our refrigerator after another 12 hours. My spouse's training in food science saved the perishable food since we didn't open the freezer and only opened the refrigerator once during the outage.

    Another unexpected impact was the inability to get gasoline for our vehicles from local gas stations, due to pumps requiring electricity to function. Fortunately, our family car tank was full and I had a class in an area with power this morning.

  • Well prepared with food and water. We had enough canned food, dry goods and water to last a week or more. Fortunately, we have a gas grill and gas stove top which can be used without electric power. In addition, we have a gas hot water heater, which keeps functioning during a power outage.
  • While the power outage was widespread, there were pockets with service and some down areas were brought up quickly. As a result, we were able to still buy food and gasoline from other areas, some of which were within a couple miles. However, I can only imagine the challenges if the entire area was without power, telephone and water, as in the hurricane areas.

    For the future, we will do the following

  • Have power backup for critical items. I have a 12 volt battery that can be charged for use with DC power outlets. If it is charged before potential outage events, we can use it to power the portable TV. We will keep a better inventory of emergency flashlights. I will also consider whether a portable gas powered generator is worth the cost.

  • Maintain our current supplies of non-perishable food and water. We had a comfortable level of food and water for a longer power outage.

  • Develop an emergency plan. While our area relatively free from major natural disasters such as hurricanes, wild fires and earthquakes, we probably need a plan in case of an emergency of large magnitude happens.
  • Of course, we hope to never use an emergency plan or back ups. However, the relatively minor power outage of the last day has convinced me we need to be more ready than we currently are.

    For more on Strategies and Plans, check back every Monday for a new segment.

    This is not financial advice. Please consult a professional advisor.

    Copyright © 2008 Achievement Catalyst, LLC

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