Power Outage — Another Chance to Practice


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The power went out tonight at 7:16 p.m.

It was still pretty light outside, but the house was instantly, shockingly dark except for the hall, where the emergency lights glowed.

Lantern for power outage

Lantern in the bathroom

Grab flashlight from cupboard. Track down phone number for electric company. Regular phone doesn’t work, so punch through six different choices on cell phone to get recorded message: “Widespread outage. Estimated time to service restoral — one hour.”

Turn on walkie-talkie, request check-in from emergency team members.

“Division One, do you read?”

“Division Three, do you read?”

“Division Five, do you read?”

Finally, some answers trickle in. Somewhere somebody from outside our network is using the same channels, so they annoyingly insert themselves into our conversations.

Getting darker quickly, now. We pull out two of our lanterns. They work great!

A friend comes by in his new golf cart, and he and I make a circle of the neighborhood. People are leaning out on their porches, gathering in little groups on the street. Much laughter. Doug and I check the front gates: they’re open, as they should be. We meet a couple of stray people who are scrounging up and down the street for flashlights or batteries from their neighbors.

Overall, the feeling of a block party!

Full dark. The new golf cart has no lights (!) so we creep along. I have my trusty flashlight, of course, and use it to alert people that we’re approaching. As we pass house after house, Doug and I discuss people who we know have oxygen or CPAP machines, and wonder how they are coping.

We totally miss the people straggling out from the community center. As it turns out, the automatic doors there shut down tight, and the emergency bars were difficult to figure out. Fortunately, a number of the exit doors have push bars.

Back home. Another call to the utility. “Restoral in 10 minutes,” they say. We’re dubious. I pass along the latest via the radio. Streets are now empty, dim lights visible in most of them. Over the fence out on the main street, we see the flashing lights of the utility trucks and hear the workers calling to one another.

“Street lights up on our street,” comes the report from Division Four. Nothing here. Suddenly, rather like a Christmas scene, lights start popping on. Yellow street lights, red and blue TV screens, white porch lights. It’s over! Only ten minutes after they said it would be!

Such a relatively benign “emergency.”

Yet some people found it more than just an inconvenience. One woman described how it brought back shocking memories of war for her. One friend had just had surgery, and she woke suddenly to a blackout. Very frightening.

So, another day passes and we have the chance to “test” our readiness. I’m betting and trusting that everyone will be more prepared next time! How would you have fared?

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

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