Posts Tagged ‘power outage’

More Lessons from Harvey

Monday, September 25th, 2017

Hurricane, downed power lines


And now from Irma and Maria . . .

[Note: Please consider using this Advisory as the agenda for a meeting of your neighborhood emergency response team, and include this information in a neighborhood or church newsletter. Share it online. This is information we ALL need to consider!]

The last couple of weeks have been so full of stories about and from hurricane victims that I hesitate to add to the outpouring. But I feel I can’t just sit back and wait for things to settle down. So, here is a continuation of my earlier Advisory on Lessons from Harvey – The First Week.

This Advisory adds observations from Irma and Maria, too.

1. Still the most likely emergency: no power

Texas update: A week after Harvey, I checked the Entergy Texas website. The recurring language (my italics!):

“Power has been restored to all customers in the area impacted by Hurricane Harvey except for customers served by flood damaged equipment, areas that are still flooded, and areas impacted by [specific] substation outages.”

Even as late as last week – nearly 4 weeks after the storm struck —  4,000 were still without power.

Florida update: The outages in Florida from Hurricane Irma were even more widespread. At its height, the power outages affected “62% of the state’s 10.5 million households.”  News reports from five days ago (9-17-2017) say that about 20,000 homes are still dark.

Puerto Rico update: “Puerto Rico’s entire power grid was knocked offline during the storm and the island is facing months without power.”

You have got to be asking yourself,  “How would we fare without power?”

First, it’s important to realize that as an ordinary resident, even after the rain is gone YOU CAN’T FIX YOUR OWN POWER PROBLEMS. That’s why utility teams came to Florida from as far as California to help! These teams have to . . .

  • De-energize dangerous fallen power lines, remove trees from lines, put up new poles, etc. The image above is typical of the mess to be cleared up.
  • Inspect and repair or replace meters that have been flooded.
  • Wait for YOU to get repairs made to your house – repairs that pass inspections — before they can turn the power back on.

All this takes days and days, if not weeks.

Last week, we looked at how to choose battery-operated lanterns for emergency lighting. If you haven’t got your emergency lighting in place yet, head there now. Shelves will be empty if you wait until something happens.

Turning to a generator for longer-term power needs is a completely different decision. We’ve studied this option a number of times, and our neighborhood emergency team purchased a generator some years ago. Questions we had to answer:

  • What would be the limited PURPOSE of the generator? It can’t run everything in a home or office.
  • What size is best? Where would a generator be kept? (Remember in Texas that the back-up generators for the chemical plant were themselves destroyed by the flood.)
  • How much fuel would it need, and where would fuel be stored?

Get professional assistance before making this decision. Here’s an Advisory from earlier this year, with more background information.

And another Advisory focusing on preparing for a power outage in a business setting.

2. Hidden water problems?

Whenever a disaster involves water, there are additional concerns besides simply having enough water for survivors to drink.

Health care professionals are watching in the aftermath of Harvey and Irma for longer-term health issues including . . .

  • Pollution from sewage. Every image we see of people wading through flood water should make you cringe! These people may be coming directly into contact with sewage. Even the entire water system may have been contaminated. Diseases from sewage pollution can result in death.
  • Chemical pollution. In Texas we all got a powerful lesson about the dangers associated with oil and chemical pollution of water supplies. These dangers are usually not immediate, but could emerge as cancer years after the incident.
  • Mold. Again, when flood water finally withdraws, mold can grow. It’s the danger of mold that prompts people to throw out not just furniture but entire floors and walls, or to abandon their home altogether.
  • Mosquitoes. Standing water after the flood is a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes and thus increases the chance of viruses like Zika and West Nile and fevers like dengue and chikungunya. Patrol your property and neighborhood and get rid of standing water.

Emergency preparations thus include not just supplies of clean water but also knowledge to help you identify a potential health problem related to polluted water.

3. What about rebuilding after the power comes back on?

Do you have enough money to rebuild your home if it is destroyed by floods? Probably not. That’s where insurance comes in.

Check out this lengthy Advisory about flood insurance.

If there is any chance that you could be hit by heavy rains, flooding or storm surge, you should be asking:

  • What does my Homeowner’s Insurance cover?
  • Do I have to live in a flood plain to get flood insurance?
  • Where do I get flood insurance?
  • Does the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) have maximum limits? (Hint: YES)
  • What is covered by NFIP?
  • What isn’t covered?

Whether or not your flood insurance is adequate, given what we’ve seen lately, or whether you should even get insurance, depends on YOUR answers to the questions above.

Note: There’s a lot in the news lately about the flood insurance program being CUT BACK. I’ll try to keep you up to date.

If you have questions about flood insurance for your home, start with the Advisory mentioned above and then talk to your insurance agent.

4. How will businesses fare?

Even if you’re not a business owner, the impact of a huge storm on the local economy will impact you, too.

According to Scott Teel, Senior Director of Communications for Agility Recover Solutions, in most cases it takes a business about 14 days to recover from a natural disaster. FEMA ads some more, and very sobering, statistics: about 40 percent of small businesses will never reopen after a disaster.

It’s not hard to imagine why. Fourteen days is a long time . . .

First, there’s the flood or the rain that causes the business to shut down, sometimes even a couple of days before the storm actually hits. Then the storm hits; over the three-five days of these recent hurricanes we’ve seen restaurants flooded, fishing boats tossed and destroyed, hotels torn apart.

Even if the building itself isn’t damaged, any business that requires electricity to operate or accepts payment via credit card – like that restaurant, a bank, a gas station, you name it! – will lose revenue during a power outage.

During the shut-down, the business will likely lose employees unless it has funds to pay them for this down time. It will likely lose customers, who are forced to look elsewhere for suppliers to keep their own enterprises going.

What can a business do to protect itself?

  1. Some businesses have a disaster plan that gives owners and employees an understanding of what it will take to carry on essential functions. Naturally, these folks have a better chance of making it through.
  2. Other companies’ plans go so far as to maintain arrangements for the company to move to an alternate location to carry on these essential functions. (As you can imagine, these plans can become pricey.)
  3. Some businesses carry special Business Continuation Insurance that will help, although too great a delay in getting payments can still mean the demise of the business.

If your company doesn’t yet have a disaster plan, you can get started building one using our Guide to a Simple Business Continuation Plan. Request your free copy here.

OK, that’s enough for now.

Our first look at recent disasters talked about immediate issues – having enough water, supplies, and an evacuation kit. This second look brings up some of the longer-term issues that may arise: power outages, health concerns, insurances.

It all goes to reinforce what we have learned at Emergency Plan Guide – when the emergency hits, it’s too late to do any planning or preparing!

Do what you can now to prepare. Whatever you do will serve you better than having done nothing.

Your Emergency Plan Guide team

P.S. Again, thanks for sharing.



Cash Is King in an Emergency

Thursday, July 13th, 2017
Gold coins

Best emergency currency?

Surviving after a serious, wide-spread disaster

We’re not talking “emergency cash fund” here, the 6 months’ worth of savings we’re all supposed to have to carry us through losing our job.

Here, we’re talking about getting up after the storm has hit, shaking ourselves off, and taking stock of how we’re going to get through the next few days or weeks.

In most emergency situations like this, you’ll be at home – or you’ll get there after some effort.

Will I need cash if I’m sheltering in place at home?

If your stock of emergency supplies is complete, you won’t need much cash!

  • You’ll have food and water, even if there’s no easy way to heat it.
  • You’ll have lights, and blankets, and activities to keep you busy if not exactly entertained.
  • Your battery-operated radio will keep you up with the news.

On the other hand, if you’re like half the population, your food and water supplies will be GONE within just a day or so. You’ll join the hordes of people who realize they have already run low or run completely out of . . .

  • Batteries
  • Bread
  • Butter
  • Coffee
  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Pet food
  • Toilet paper
  • Tampons
  • Diapers
  • Baby Formula
  • ! ! !

Even more upsetting will be running out of prescription pills – the kind with the label: “Don’t stop taking this medicine.”

If you find yourself in this situation, you’re going to try to find a store to replenish your supplies. And to do that, you’ll need cash.

Think about it.  When the electricity is out your credit cards are going to be pretty much useless.  Stores – including your pharmacy or doctor’s office — may not even be open if they don’t have lights, air conditioning, etc. If they are open, they’ll only be able to deal in cash. (Maybe if you’re a particularly good customer they’ll accept your IOU.)

Moreover, to GET to a store that does have supplies, you’ll need gas. In an emergency gas pumps won’t work, so stations will be shut down until they can bring in a generator. Even then, their credit card systems won’t be operating.

Once again, cash will be the likely medium of exchange . . . and you may encounter inflated prices as business owners assess the realities of the situation.

If you’re stuck at home for a while, you may also want to pay people to help you repair damages, clear roads, etc. For sure, these neighbors or contractors won’t be accepting credit cards.

(In a big emergency, people may resort to bartering for supplies and services. The best items for bartering seem to be alcohol, commodities such as flour, rice, coffee, etc., and ammunition.)

What if I have to evacuate?

Escaping impending disaster or a disaster that’s already hit means . . . getting on the road in your car.

This puts us back to the need for gasoline.

If you’re aware of what’s happening, and you’re prepared for immediate action, you may get out ahead of the other people hitting the road.  That might put you first in line at a gas station that still has power and gasoline, and where your credit card will still work.

In the crush, however, you may find yourself competing for gas, for a motel room, even for a place to camp or park – for a week or longer! Again, you’re back to paying for these necessities, and maybe with potential bribes to get you a preferred place in line.

So how much cash do I need?

Obviously, the better prepared you are at home, the less money you need if you’re staying home. And the types of emergencies you might expect (power outage, ice storm, earthquake) will have an impact on the preparations you will have made.

On the other hand, you may live in an area where the likelihood of evacuation is high. (For example, if you live along the coasts where hurricanes threaten, where a tsunami might hit, or where flooding is common.) If so, your evacuation preparations need to be more extensive.

And, of course, ANY of us could be asked to evacuate due to a fire, explosion or other unexpected emergency.

So, the better prepared you are to evacuate QUICKLY (with supplies, maps to help you find alternative routes, etc.), the less money you need, too.

In every case, it seems as though enough to keep you fed and sheltered for a week or so would be a good idea. This could mean at least $500 and probably twice that.

What denominations should I have, and how should I carry them?

When things get frantic, people accepting money are not likely to want to make change. So, having smaller denomination bills is probably best — $5, $10, $20.

You can also assume some people will be ready to take advantage of the situation by demanding your money – or taking it. So, don’t keep it all in one place. Put some in a wallet, some in a pocket, some in the dirty clothes bag. If someone tries to rob you, they may be satisfied when they see that your wallet/pocket is empty and it looks as though you have given them all you have.

If you’re sheltering in place, follow the same suggestions. Stash your money in a variety of places in the house. Avoid the bedroom, night stands or jewelry boxes – places where thieves look first. Take some time to create effective hiding places – just don’t forget where they are!

Hiding money or valuables in plain sight

The best way to hide money in your home is in ordinary places that a casual observer wouldn’t even notice but that aren’t hard for you to get into. Some examples:

If you’re a handy-person,

  • Convert a section of your wall (between the studs) into a storage cabinet. If you have paneling, a removable section won’t show.
  • Set a fake vent into the floor or the wall. Use the space behind for storage. (The space below cabinets is particularly useful.)

If you’re not handy, or are in a hurry,

  • Put a hollowed out book right there on your shelf with the rest of the books. Some “secret storage books” are really a simple metal safe, with keys (probably not fireproof). If you intend to put a weapon in the book, be sure to get a book that is big enough. The image shows an example that would fit nicely in our library. It costs around $12. Click the image for details from Amazon:

  • Buy a camouflaged container, like a fake Clorox bottle or a can of vegetables whose bottom comes off. Here’s a picture of a fake WD-40 can! (around $17). I have several cans of WD-40 around the house so this would be totally unremarkable!)  Again, click the image for more details.


Children and money

Obviously, giving children money to carry can be dangerous. Be sure they understand how much they have and how to protect it. Small children who normally manage their own allowance may become vulnerable targets in a widespread emergency.

What about precious metals?

We’ve all heard the investment world talk about the value of precious metals in times of uncertainly.

As an investment, gold and silver can make sense as part of a portfolio. However, as emergency currency, they may not be so effective. Consider:

Who would accept an ounce of gold in return for supplies? Would they be able to make change? How would they (or you!) even establish its value? (Quick quiz. What’s an ounce of gold worth today?  See below for the answer!)

What about a gold coin with the stated value of $1, like in the image at the top of this article? Here, the answer is probably a lot more positive. In fact, some people might prefer the metal to paper. (These coins might also be able to be used in a dispensing machine . . . if you come across one!)

Again, your preparations depend on your own circumstances. But, as always, you want to put the thought into the preparations well before the disaster hits!

Until next time,

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S. The value of an ounce of gold today, July 14, 2017, is $2,012.  Care to make change for that?





5 Ways to Create Your Own Home-Grown Disaster

Tuesday, March 1st, 2016
Danger, Not a Step.

Look familiar? See #4 below.

Not knowing is one thing. Just not thinking is another.

Here are five really dumb things that people do that lead to emergencies and even disaster.

Don’t do any of them, please.

 Dumb Act #1: Mix household cleaners.

The classic mistake is to mix household ammonia (like window cleaner spray) with liquid bleach — “because two cleaners ought to work better than just one.”

The result: a gas that can cause nausea, eye irritation, sore throat, headache, cough, and difficulty breathing.

In fact, the chloramine gas that’s released could even send you to the hospital for an emergency tracheostomy — surgery to create a hole through the neck into the trachea (windpipe) to allow you to breathe.

OK, so you know about not mixing.

Did you know that you can create the same noxious gas by simply using two cleaning agents one after another on the same surface?

Every cleaning agent should be suspect:

  • liquid cleaners for the toilet bowl
  • gel for unclogging drains
  • powdered cleansers for counter tops and grout
  • spray foams for the shower.

Check the label for ingredients (look for sodium hypochlorite) and warnings.

If you smell or feel ANY strange or strong fumes, get out of there immediately and allow the space to air out thoroughly before allowing anyone into the area. Rinse everything completely with water and let it dry out some more before you attempt to finish your cleaning job.

Dumb Act #2: Work alone.

Most of us are happy to work alone for some time during the day!

But most of us are not engaged in high risk activities like using dangerous tools, working around machinery, electrical wires, scaffolding, trenches, high pressure materials, hazardous substances, at height or in closed spaces like grain elevators or tanks, etc.

For the 15% of people who do find themselves in these situations it’s important to have some sort of check-in procedure.

This isn’t just for construction or agricultural or other special industries. Office workers like receptionists or parking attendants who work alone may face potential violence from the public. They need a check-in procedure, too.

If your workplace doesn’t have a policy about working alone, get one.

Dumb Act #3: Underestimate a portable generator.

We’ve talked a lot lately about how a portable generator can be a great emergency preparedness tool if the power goes out. We’ve even made some recommendations about which kind to consider, how much to expect to pay, etc. (See footnotes for links.)

We have certainly talked about the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning from setting up a generator indoors. That extends to having it in the garage or even locating it too close to an open window.

There are other dangers associated with generators that you would know if you thought about it – but sometimes, people just don’t think.

Consider these possibilities:

  • Fire. Like any motor, your generator can get overheated. Don’t spill gas on or around it!
  • Electrocution.  A generator produces – electricity! If your power cords are too light, frayed or kinked, or not properly grounded, you could get the shock of your life. Electricity can kill.
  • Electrocuting someone else. The fifth leading cause of occupational deaths is what is termed “back-feeding.” This occurs when a power company worker touches a wire that should be inert but isn’t because it is carrying power from an unanticipated source – like YOUR generator.

This is why you don’t plug your generator into a wall outlet in your house. The power goes into the house and right through the house into the power grid where the unsuspecting worker is busy trying to fix the outage!

Yes, there is a way to power your house with your generator, but it requires a special “power transfer switch” installed in advance by a qualified electrician.  (A solar array with battery backup requires the very same type of switch.)

Dumb Act #4: Disrespect a ladder.

We are all pretty familiar with ladders, and have probably used at least a couple of different types — step ladder, extension ladder, etc.  (There are many types. Wikipedia lists 21 different ones!)

But for all its familiarity, a ladder can be very dangerous.

If its feet aren’t solidly placed, the ladder can tip over backwards or slide down frontwards. You come down right with it, flat on your back or your face or tangled between the rungs.

Second, a ladder can break. Like any other piece of equipment, ladders simply wear out.  Got an old one in your truck or garage? Before you use it the next time, check out the rungs, the rails, the spreader bars and locks and the feet to be sure they all function as designed.

Finally, can you read? I’ll bet your ladder has a sign somewhere that reads, “Not a step.” (I took the photo above of my own well-used step ladder.)

In simple English, that means “Do not stand on this.” Get up too high on a ladder and you will overbalance the whole thing. Stand on a paint can shelf instead of a step, and the shelf will break.

Every year, more than 90,000 people end up being treated in the emergency room from ladder-related injuries!

Dumb Act #5: Disconnect smoke alarms.

This is simple. Once again, the statistics tell you everything you need to know.

Half of U.S. fire deaths occur in houses where a smoke detector is installed but has been disabled because it beeps.

Of course, nuisance chirping from a smoke alarm is awful. And yes, it always seems to happen in the middle of the night.

Just take the time to fix it. Either put in a new battery or replace the whole thing, preferably with a photoelectric alarm (instead of the cheaper ionization model). If you’re not sure how to do it, go online to YouTube and search for “How to change the battery in a smoke alarm” or “How to install a smoke alarm.” Some videos are boring and some are better; any of them will guide you in making the fix!

As you read this, I hope you are saying to yourself, “Heck, I knew that!”

The key thing is, not everyone does know it! When you have the chance, share this information with children, co-workers, members of your club or church — anyone, in fact, who might have missed it. These are NOT emergencies you want people to learn about from experience.

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team


Looking for more info on some of these topics? Here are other Advisories we’ve written over the past year or so.

The Best Generator for Emergencies

Portable Generator for Power Outage — Safety Update

Carbon Monoxide Alarms and Detectors

What you didn’t know about Smoke Alarms


Don’t miss the NEXT safety Advisory. Sign up below to get them all.


Smartest Emergency Purchase I’ve Made Lately

Tuesday, February 9th, 2016

When it comes right down to it, having a simple phone plugged into a traditional landline simply makes sense. And when it costs so little . . .!

Corded phone for emergencyFive reasons to go out today and buy a corded phone.


1 – It works when other phones are knocked out or overwhelmed in an emergency.

How many times have we talked about what happens to regular phone communications in a widespread emergency? Power can disable cordless phones; cell phone towers can fall; systems can be overwhelmed. Ultimately, any device powered by a battery will stop working.

Landlines are the most reliable of all the options.

2 – Emergency Services will pinpoint where the call is coming from.

When you call 911 from a landline, emergency services know just where you are. When you call from a cell phone, they have to go through extra steps (using GPS) to find you. And if you’re on the tenth floor, and the only ID the emergency services get is the address of the building . . . When seconds count, a landline wins hands down.

3 – Your kids (visiting grandmother, babysitter) can operate a simple corded phone.

My granddaughters play with their parents’ cell phones all the time. That doesn’t mean they know how to actually turn a phone on, get past the password, find the phone app, and use the phone to make a call.

EVERY kid above the age of about 2 can be taught how to dial 911 from a simple phone.

Not every adult carries a phone, either. Consider elderly relatives. They, too, would easily be able to make an emergency call using a phone like the one in the photo.

4 – Yes, someone could tap the line – but not a random hacker.

Privacy is a concern whenever you’re using wireless communications. A landline is secure unless someone has actually installed wiretap equipment onto your line.

5 – You won’t misplace or lose it.

Your emergency phone is tethered to the wall. It will always be in that place so you will always be able to get to it immediately.

What will it cost?

A neighbor told me he’d bought a simple phone recently for “around $10.”

Frankly, I found that hard to believe. Still, when Joe went shopping for a phone yesterday, he came home from Walmart with the one in the photo. And it had cost him $5.95!

Naturally, you can get fancier ones, with a bigger price tag. (Check out our friends at Amazon. Use the search words: “corded phone.”) But we were looking for the simplest model possible.

Joe opened the box, pulled out the phone, and . . .

We plugged it into a wall jack — instant dial tone.

No registering, no passwords, no set-up, no waiting for a battery to charge, no software upgrades.

(What a relief after we had spent hours over the past week getting our over-the-air antenna to work with our TV and our Amazon Fire Stick. That’s another story, of course . . .)

Now, since the phone doesn’t store names or numbers, you’ll have to dig out an address book to go along with it. Or simply type up and print out a one-page sheet of emergency numbers as part of your family communications plan. (If you have children, you are likely to have this page already prepared for babysitters.)

Fasten this page to the phone itself, or tape it to the wall next to the phone, so it doesn’t get misplaced.

That’s it! It has taken me longer to write this Advisory than it did to get the phone set up.

Action Item: Do yourself a favor and get your own corded phone today.

You will definitely feel smarter and you and your family will definitely be safer!

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team


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Power Outage At Work

Sunday, December 20th, 2015

Some statistics for small business.

No Business PlanYou’ve seen the stats here before. Check out numbers from a June 2015 Nationwide Insurance survey:

  • 75% of small business owners say they don’t have a disaster plan. (This is UP from the 72% we’ve quoted before!)
  • 38% don’t even think a disaster plan is important.
  • Unfortunately, a business without a plan has a poor chance of recovery after a disaster. FEMA reports that 43% of them will never reopen, and another 25% will close their doors after one year. That means that after a disaster, nearly three-quarters of businesses without a plan will be gone.

Who knows what the numbers will tell us after the recent one-two-three punch from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria!

No matter what the exact numbers are, operating without a plan leaves your customers in the cold, your employees without a job, and your investment down the tubes.

If you don’t already have a plan, what might spur you to action? Consider this . . .

Let’s take a look at just one risk that you are surely familiar with.

One company we follow is Agility Recovery. As its name suggests the company offers recovery solutions – four main ones (office space, power, communications, computer systems).

In its 25 years of business, Agility has responded to one type of emergency more than twice as often as any other —

Loss of power!

Further, according to Agility Recovery,

  • Nearly 70% of businesses will lose power sometime in the next 12 months.

So, where does your company stand on being ready to withstand a power outage?

“Well, I think we have a back-up generator on premises!”

That’s a start. Again, thanks to some resources offered by Agility Recovery, Popular Mechanics and The Home Depot, here are

Ten questions for your next conversation about power outages at work.

  1. Do employees have emergency kits with flashlights? Are the batteries fresh? Are the flashlights hand-crank?
  2. Do you have emergency radios so you can get the news and weather? Again, fresh batteries, hand-crank or solar?
  3. Are electronics protected by a power strip surge protector?
  4. Do employees know what should be turned off in a power outage, and what should be left on?
  5. Are desktop electronics connected to a functioning UPS device so they can be powered down in a controlled fashion?
  6. Do you have a back-up generator for essential equipment?
  7. Do you know what equipment is considered “essential” and are you confident the generator can both START and RUN that equipment? (It takes 3 to 5 times more power to start up a motor than to run it.)
  8. Have you trained on where to place the generator when it is needed?
  9. Do you have the appropriate electrical cords and plugs for your needs? How long do cables need to be?
  10. Do you have fuel for the generator? How long will it last, and what are the plans for getting more?

Get the rest of the questions and answers.

These ten questions are really just a start. Any business other than a home office needs more information in order to do a good job of managing a power outage. You can get a more detailed checklist, plus see some of the case histories offered by Agility Recovery, at their resource library:

Power outages are on the horizon, it’s just a matter of when.

Good luck!

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

Power Outage in the Workplace

Friday, September 4th, 2015

It’s Friday morning, you arrive at work and are greeted with . . .

“Guess what.! Power is out!”

Power Outage in the Workplace

Emergency, or Disaster?

If this happened at YOUR workplace, which of the following would apply?

  • Automatic gates frozen open = no security.
  • All interior lights out – halls, closets, bathrooms, stairwells – with the exception of emergency lighting.
  • Communications down entirely – no phones, no computers.
  • No operational bathrooms.
  • UPS systems pinging, pinging, pinging. (How long will they last?)
  • No power to the kitchen = no coffee, no microwave.
  • Time clocks and timers aren’t working.
  • A/C, air handlers off, same with pumps in the basement.


As staff members and employees pull in and start to crowd around the front office . . .

Questions ring out.

  • Who’s in charge?
  • Don’t we have a generator somewhere?
  • What about our neighbors, is their power out, too?
  • Has the outage been reported?
  • How long will it last?
  • Does management know?
  • Shouldn’t we turn stuff off so it doesn’t all go on when the power comes back? What was on?
  • What about the deliveries we’re expecting?
  • I have appointments today. Should I cancel them? Can we meet somewhere else?
  • Who’s in charge?


Enough! Enough!

As you can see immediately, a power outage at work can be very different from one at home. And the big difference is YOU NEED TO HAVE PREPARED IN ADVANCE to be able to respond!

Fortunately, there are some excellent resources to help out in this regard. One of the best: Agility Recovery Solutions. Started 25 years ago, now serving businesses of all sizes in 44 states, Agility’s  small business “ideal client” is a company with 15-20 employees. (Compare that to most Disaster Recovery companies that provide services only for very large firms — at hefty price tags.) The Agility website’s library is a treasure trove of videos and checklists for every business. The case histories of specific industries (banks, healthcare) are particularly valuable.

Agility has been on my radar for a couple of years now. I’ve attended their training webinars online and talked to several of the sales people, with very useful results.

Three Suggestions for Your Business

Today, I’d like to suggest three things with regards to power outages at work.

  1. If the questions at the beginning of the blog post hit any nerve at all, head over to Agility and grab their free Power and Generator Checklist. You’ll see a complete list of things to do BEFORE an outage, with specific questions to ask your electrician or electrical contractor. The checklist adds safety recommendations as well as steps to increase security during an outage.
  2. If you want to learn more about Agility’s service, contact Agility. In just a few minutes you can hear about their services and how they might work for your company. (Be ready with how many locations you have and what recovery arrangements you already have in place.)
  3. In any case, consider assigning someone from your company to attend the upcoming webinar series being offered by Agility. The webinars are in honor of National Preparedness Month (September, of course!) and will be held on Wednesdays starting next week. Topics: Communications, Power Outage, Prepare your Employees, If you do nothing else . . .Here’s the direct link for info, and to sign up: .

In case you’re wondering if I have any particular affiliation with Agility Recovery, I don’t. As you know, I am constantly researching resources, and I simply feel very comfortable recommending them.

With 70% of businesses anticipated to lose power sometime in the next 12 months, this is an important topic for all of us at Emergency Plan Guide.

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team




Power Outage — Another Chance to Practice

Friday, August 21st, 2015

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?

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S. We’ve talked a lot about emergency items. Here are a couple of our most popular posts:



Portable Generator Safety Update!

Saturday, January 31st, 2015

The recent blizzard in the Northeast may not have been as bad for New Yorkers as anticipated, but it was bad enough to cause power outages to thousands.

When we hear power outage, we naturally think “generator.”

Generator safety Emergency Plan GuideHere at Emergency Plan Guide, we have looked several times at the pros and cons of generators while we considered purchasing one for our own neighborhood. And we have told the story of what happened AFTER we purchased it, too!

Today, as we head into National Severe Weather Preparedness Week (February 3 – 7), it seems a good time to add one more piece of information to the discussion.

Generators can be dangerous!

Here are three things to keep in mind as you consider the purchase of a new generator and/or get ready to turn yours on.

1. Location. The most important safety alert has to do with where you place your generator. You know that the off-the-shelf, standard generator kicks out significant quantities of carbon monoxide (resulting from the burning of fuel). Too much CO in the air can render you unconscious and kill you. In fact, According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), unintentional CO poisoning claims more than 400 lives a year, and about half of those are due to generators.

To protect yourself from the dangers of CO, run your generator outside and place it at least 20 ft. from the building, further if there are any doors, windows or vents. In particular, never run your generator in the garage, even if you keep the door open.

2. Connection. When the generator is running, it can power a number of appliances (as long as its fuel lasts). Use a heavy-duty outdoor electrical cord (10 gauge or better) with grounded plug (the three-prong one) to run from the generator outside to the appliances inside. Adding a heavy-duty power strip at the end in the house will make it easier to plug in the appliances.

Do the math!  Add up the wattage of the appliances you intend to plug in to make sure the generator can support that load.

3. Protection. NEVER NEVER NEVER plug the generator into a wall socket in the house! First, a generator cannot power your whole house so from a power standpoint, that’s useless. Second, and more important, the power from the generator flows through the house and into the power grid. Workers working on repairs to the grid could be electrocuted because of YOUR generator!

For more about generators,

check out these Emergency Plan Guide posts:

And if you are thinking “generator” you also need to be thinking “carbon monoxide alarm.”

Read our review questions before you purchase anything.

Carbon Monoxide Alarms and Detectors

You may not be anticipating any severe weather, but please forward this information to friends who are right in the path of these winter storms. Thanks.

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team



Whew, I’m alive! Now what?!

Sunday, October 26th, 2014

Questions for SurvivalI admit, the word “preparedness” is pretty dull. Besides, it has too many syllables.

On the other hand, “alive” is exciting! Easy to say, easy to grasp!

How do we convert “dull and boring” into “interesting” if not actually into “fun and exciting?”

The answer: “Questions for Survival!”

If you’ve been reading our Advisories, you know that for the past dozen years Joe and I have worked closely with our community emergency response team.

And for 12 years, we’ve done our best to convert staid old “preparedness,” and its cousins “advance planning” and “disaster prevention” into bits and pieces of information that will help keep people interested – and alive.

I just counted: we’ve published 109 Advisories on these topics!

  1. We’ve tried guilt. “How will you feel when your children turn to you and ask why you don’t have any food for them?”
  2. We’ve used cynicism. “Oh sure, the authorities will come to rescue us . . .some day!”
  3. We’ve appealed to the universal love of gadgetry. “The best single tool you have ever balanced in your hand!”
  4. Competition works sometimes. “Don’t let someone else take credit for the work you’ve put in.”
  5. Then there’s plain old fear. “Buried under a pile of rubble, will you be able to signal where you are? Will people even be looking for you there?”

All these approaches work to a certain extent. When we see that people have been looking at our equipment reviews, or commenting on our blog posts, or actually buying emergency supplies, we know it’s all worth it!

But, of course, we can’t stop.

Awareness is a perpetual mindset.

If preparedness is important to you, YOU can’t stop reminding other people about its importance, either.

So here’s another tool for you to use to turn a preparedness conversation from something boring into something that could be really interesting!

Questions for Survival – Series One

Whew2This is a series of simple “problems” that you are likely to face if, for example, the electrical power goes out.  Some ways to use the list:

  • At home.

Bring up one or a group of related problems at the dinner table. Spend 5 minutes, or twice that, coming up with solutions. You’ll be amazed at what family members will come up with (or maybe WON’T come up with) – and having once talked about it, they’ll be ready to respond when the problem really occurs.

  • In a group.

Use a few of the questions to stimulate discussion at work, or in a group setting at your church, your child care center, your AA meeting, wherever. You may uncover some things that people have completely overlooked BECAUSE IT WASN’T THEIR JOB! Interesting how disasters don’t discriminate . . .!

  • Forward to others.

Our goal is simple: to make people aware of potential risks, give them a sense of confidence that they will know what to do and thus have the best possible chance of surviving whatever emergency arises!

Click here to get your free copy of “Whew. I’m alive! Now what?! — Questions for Survival”

And share it!  Simply forward this email to friends, or via Facebook. We’re busy putting the finishing touches on Series Two, and will have it out soon.

Don’t miss any of them!

Joe and Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

Bam! Power Outage in Southern California

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

Emergency LightAt about 4:30 p.m. last Saturday, with temperatures hovering around 92 degrees, I was working at my desk when WHAM!, the power went off.

Before I could even get up from the chair a few things happened:

• My computer battery back-up started beeping.
• Our home alarm system started beeping.
• All our emergency wall lights went on.  (See the photo!)

I went into Emergency Response mode.

Step One: Size up the situation

1. My home assessment: nothing damaged, no danger.
2. I checked on the neighborhood: outage in all directions for several blocks; community gates automatically locked in open position; some traffic lights blinking red, others out altogether. Sounds of sirens in the distance.
3. I tested: cell phones were working, but not all home phones. (If people answered the phone, we could talk, but if there was no answer I was unable to leave a message.)

Step Two: Shift to full Community Emergency Response Team mode

1. As Division Leader I got on the radio and maintained walkie-talkie contact with our other local CERT divisions, shifting to Central Command frequency to make reports.
2. I reported the outage to the power company on their automated phone system; later, we got an automated report on that same number.
3. Joe monitored official city emergency response on his HAM radio. (Four of us have HAM radio licenses and radios.)
4. We kept neighborhood CERT members up-dated.
5. We contacted neighbors with news and recommendations, by phone and by face-to-face visit.

As it turned out, a fire in an electrical substation took out power for some 27,000 residents. (The fire engines we heard were responding to the fire itself.) Power was restored in phases; we got ours back about 7:30 p.m., others got theirs as late as midnight.

So here’s what we learned from the outage.

Something as simple as a power outage creates excitement.

At first, people were annoyed because they missed their air conditioning.

Then, they realized that they shouldn’t be opening their refrigerator if power was going to be off for several hours.

Then, some figured the thing to do was to go out for dinner – not realizing that traffic was jammed in nearly every direction.

Finally, as evening fell, people realized they had better come up with a flashlight or lantern because after dark they’d have no way to get around! Some of these people then decided to get into the car and drive somewhere to find batteries . . .

So once again, an “incident” serves as a reminder that emergencies WILL happen. This one didn’t develop into any kind of a disaster, but. . .

If it had continued for 24 hours

. . . imagine what would have taken place!

  • People would have spent a night in the dark.
  • Food in refrigerators would have started to spoil; after 24 hours some food would have spoiled completely.
  • Frozen food would likely have thawed and had to be thrown out.
  • Most cell phones would have run out of battery.
  • Most computers would have run out of battery. Internet would have been unavailable anyway, since home networks were all down.
  • Motorized wheelchairs might have run out of battery power.
  • Back-up plans would have to be implemented for people using breathing apparatus, sleeping machines or dialysis equipment.
  • The water supply may have become compromised. (See last week’s blog post on Boil Water Alert.)

Our U.S. grid is aging (like everything else) and while attempts go on to get the right balance between public and private ownership, the grid is increasingly outdated and increasingly vulnerable. Ever-growing demand and climate change add even more stress to the system.

So power outages are not rare, and their frequency is growing. They can last for a few minutes or for days, depending on the cause. A serious solar flare episode could cause whole sections of the grid to fail and be down for 60 to 90 days!

Quick poll:

1. Have YOU experienced a power outage in the past 12 months?
2. How long did it last?
3. What was the cause?
4. What did you take away from the experience?

Let us know. We’re all in this together, so the more we know, the better off we’ll all be!

Virginia Nicols
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team


Walkie-Talkies for Emergency Neighborhood Communications

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

“I read you loud and clear.”

Every month, on the second Wednesday at 6 p.m., our neighborhood CERT group clicks on their two-way radios and gets ready to participate in the radio drill.

Radios or Walkie=talkies

Compare sizes of these walkie-talkies to the smart phone in the center of the collection; read about them on our REVIEW page.

The first check-in takes place at the Division level, when the Division Leader checks with 10 or so Block Captains. It’s a quick call: “Division 5 Leader calling Block Captain 5 Alpha. Do you read?” and a quick answer, “Five Alpha reads loud and clear.” Takes less than 7 minutes.

After the Block Captains check in, the Division Leaders and Special Teams (Search and Rescue, First Aid, etc.) switch to the Community Channel and participate in their own roll-call. Another 7 minutes.

What we accomplish with these radio drills is three-fold:

  1. Radios are checked to be sure they are functioning. (If someone forgets to turn the radio off, then when the next month rolls around that radio’s batteries are dead!)
  2. Everyone gets practice using the radios, the channel assignments, and the lingo. (It seems easy to say “Five Leader” or “Five Delta” but non-native English speakers, in particular, need to practice.)
  3. We get reassurance that our community is intact and participating!

Just about a month ago Southern California experienced a 5.3 quake at about 8 p.m. On that evening, CERT group participants grabbed their radios and ran outside to check how neighbors had fared. I stood there in the dark, and soon came the voice of one of my team members, “This is Cheryl, Five Charlie. Is anyone there?” (Protocol slips a bit when there’s a real emergency.)

Cheryl and I were able to discuss our block and ascertain that all was well. I then switched to the Community Channel to check in, and sure enough, other Division Leaders were doing the same thing.

The point is, this simple communications plan worked, worked well, and worked fast. No dialing, no waiting, no ringing, no busy signals, no leaving of messages. Just push to talk.

“I read you loud and clear.”

Take a look at our new review of Walkie-Talkies, just published yesterday. I think you’ll find it interesting and valuable. And let me know if YOU have Walkie-Talkie stories to share. Til then, “Over and Out.”

Virginia Nicols
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team


Camp Stoves in a Disaster

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

Cooking in an Emergency

I wrote last week about having an earthquake expert as a guest speaker at our recent neighborhood meeting. Part of his presentation was a map showing the major earthquake faults in Southern California. Naturally, we traced the famous San Andreas Fault – and saw how our water supply lines cross it 32 times coming from Northern California!

When the “big one” hits, we are going to be without water and likely without power (Both electric and gas lines also crisscross the fault.) for weeks.

No power? That makes cooking tough.

I pulled out our emergency stoves. We have two of them, collected over the years.

Three burner camp stoveThe first is the trusty Coleman stove. We have a three-burner which makes it really convenient. The photo shows how my small pot fits on the stove; with those three burners, we can use a large frying pan or even a griddle. Sometimes adjusting the flame takes some careful effort.

One, two or three burners?

One burner camp stoveOur second stove is a one-burner model that we purchased across the street at an Asian market. It is smaller than the three-burner (Note the pot and the gallon of water that appear in each photo for comparison.) and it weighs half as much, making it easier to pack and carry.

Still, with just one burner, I’m juggling pots and having to be creative with one-dish meals. The gas canister doesn’t last as long, either.

With either stove, we can accomplish the essentials: boil water for coffee, cook ramen noodles with dried vegetables (from the same Asian market), and have enough water left over for some washing up.

Which model stove is best?

When you really start cooking outdoors, of course, you have to consider more than size or number of burners. Consider these features:

  1. How stable is the stove? Will it slip, tilt, bend?
  2. How much fuel do I need to store? (Test to measure how fast you go through the canister.) Does the stove have an automatic ignition, or do I need matches?
  3. What kinds/size pots can I use? Do I need special utensils? What about a hot pad?
  4. Do I have bowls and silverware? (Remember the spork – combo spoon and fork, extremely convenient.)
  5. How about cooking oil? Are non-stick pans really non-stick?

Check out our Emergency Plan Guide store to see some typical stoves and learn more about comparing cooking equipment.

The most important part is the reminder to TEST YOUR STOVE before the emergency hits! Of course, remember that camping stoves need to be used outdoors and not inside.

Don’t wait until the next earthquake, or the next big electrical outage to get your cooking arranged, because by then stores may be closed or empty. How about buying a camp stove as an early Father’s Day or Mother’s Day present?

Let me know your experience with your OWN stove/s and we’ll share it here.

your Emergency Plan Guide team


How Are People With Special Needs Faring?

Friday, February 14th, 2014

As I write this, headlines say that over 700,000 people in the southeast are without power. Hundreds of thousands of people were told to stay home, power or no power. So I’m thinking about a particular subset of people who are at home and are going to be more than inconvenienced. These are folks who may be in real danger if somebody hasn’t made arrangements for them ahead of time.

Two Groups in Real Danger


Special needs in emergency

Who’s monitoring food and medicines?

1. People with special medical needs. What about people who need a ventilator? Sleep-apnea equipment? Oxygen? People who are on a feeding tube or a negative-pressure wound vacuum? What about people who simply need an elevator to get into or out of their building? Are all these people getting the care they need right now with the electricity out and driving restricted? 2. Home-bound seniors. What about seniors who can’t get out and who depend on a program like Meals on Wheels for their main food source or on a home-health care agency for help with daily activities such as bathing or eating or getting the proper dose of medicine? If drivers who provide these services can’t safely travel, what is happening to their clients?

Hidden Misery, Hidden Disaster

According to U.S. census figures, approximately 20% of the population is disabled. That figure rises to nearly 80% of people over 80.  That’s at least 140,000 in the storm-covered southeast today who have special emergency preparedness needs. Those who are prepared – with generators or batteries or hand-driven equipment, and with extra food and personal supplies – will probably make it through this storm OK. But some percentage of these people will NOT be prepared. I’m wondering just how well they are doing, and if they know who to call for help, or if they CAN call if their phone service is disrupted. We’ve seen on the news the traffic jams, the accidents, and cars stranded in the snow.

Stories Yet To Emerge

We haven’t heard yet about isolated individuals trapped in their homes. Those stories will be slow to emerge – but those people are in the middle of their emergencies right now!

Do you have friends or family that belong to one of these special groups, or who serve them?

  1. Can you offer any assistance right now?
  2. Do you have plans for them as you and your family or CERT group make preparations for future emergencies?

These special  groups will always need extra consideration.

The Best Generator for Emergencies

Tuesday, January 1st, 2013

More on electricity?

Emphatically, Yes!  Why do we dwell so much on electrical power? It’s simple.  We depend so much on electricity for just about everything we do that electricity becomes a major concern in an emergency. And, if you think that a gasoline generator will solve your problems . . . well let’s take a closer look at your circumstances.

Where do you live? 

If you live in a multi-family unit (an apartment, for example), it’s unlikely that a generator will work for you. Why not?  Mostly, it has to do with logistics.

A standard generator is about as big as a stove, and weighs twice as much.  And you can’t run it inside the building due to emissions, noise, and perhaps fire danger.  But, if your apartment is on the ground floor, and you have a large enough patio area with storage, you might be able to count on a generator to power your home appliances in an emergency.

If you live in an average American house (3 Br., 2 Ba.), your power consumption needs will probably be 8-10,000 Watts. An average 8 kW gasoline-powered generator will supply most of your needs if you conserve power by not running all your appliances at once. But, there are other issues to consider.

Can you handle the weight?

First off, is the weight of the machine, typically over 200 lbs. Even with handles and wheels this is one hefty piece of machinery to move around. Can family members move it without your help?  Can you move it even with everyone helping?

How much gas can you store, and where?

The real issue here is how long will you be without power and how much gasoline can you store and how much gasoline can you store safely?

Using a Stanley 8,000 Watt Generator as a typical example . . .

  • 8,000 continuous Watts, 10,000 Watt surge capacity
  • At full load, gas consumption is ¾ gallons per hr.
  • 12 gallon tank = 18 hrs. run time at 50% load
  • Once broken in, should be run for 15-20 minutes every couple of months.

Let’s say you run the generator at half load for 6 hours a day and are without power for twelve days. You will consume 48 gallons!  Where will you store a dozen five-gallon red gas cans?

How much can you afford?

The cost for the Stanley generator is between $1,350 and $1,500. Other units can be purchased for as little as $675 – $900, depending on where you live. (Different states have different emission requirements, which change the prices.)

What are better options? 

A better solution might be a smaller generator, say 2,500 Watts.  (Some can run in series, adding the output.)  These smaller units weigh less and are more portable.  They can be run for shorter periods to power only the refrigerator/freezer and charge up a laptop computer, etc.

The real solution will be a personal one and require some advance planning.

If you’re ready to do more research, you can skip over to Serious Survival Equipment and start there. It will give you a better idea of costs, safety features to consider, etc.

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team


Portable Power: Generator or Inverter

Friday, May 18th, 2012

Power for when the power goes out

Before you run out and invest in a portable generator (or two) “just in case,” it’s a good idea to figure out what you think you will need in the way of electric power. The operative word here is “need.”

This is NOT a casual purchase decision. The size and nature of your home, any special medical needs, your finances — all have to be taken into consideration when shopping for portable power. Your personal experience and level of knowledge about electrical circuits is also a factor.

Some portable power rules of thumb 

Because of the wide range of applications, variations in needs and technical considerations, we cover this subject in greater detail in our Personal Plan section. Basically, however, here are a few sample estimates as simple guidelines to a complex equation:


When there’s no power . . .?

  • The average refrigerator will require up to 2kW (2,000 watts) to run by itself . . . but, you don’t need to run it consistently to preserve the contents.
    That depends on the age, size, contents, frequency of door opening and time door is kept open, etc.
  • Any heating device — microwave oven, coffee pot, hot plate —  will require higher wattage than lighting or computer needs.  Blow dryers, toasters and toaster ovens require at least 1 kW to operate.  Mechanical items like clocks or breathing devices that connect to oxygen tanks require far less power to operate.
  • Any generator over 2kW is not likely to be truly portable. An 8-9 kW generator had better have wheels and sturdy handles and will be about the size of a dishwasher, requiring real muscle power to move. And, if you live in California, a gasoline-powered generator must meet the California Air Resources Board (CARB) standards for emission in order to be legally sold or operated.

Inverters are a different technology.  They typically change the direct current from your automobile (or other 12 volt) battery into alternating current (115 volt AC) like the output of the portable generator. While they don’t require gasoline (or propane) to operate, the size and life of the battery sources will determine their usefulness.

How large a unit do you need?

Obviously, if you live in an apartment or condominium complex, emergency power is more problematic than if you live in a single-family home. Where will you store it?  How will you move it?

Businesses have widely varying degrees of emergency power needs — and the widespread inventory of laptop computers and handheld devices have to be factored into the business equation.

The bottom line is really dependent upon your personal, neighborhood and/or business needs balanced against your physical situation and financial resources. You should analyze all of the contributing factors – including the technical and practicality of operating instructions – before purchasing any alternative power device/s.

Joe Krueger
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

If this topic interests you, you may also want to take a look at these Advisories:

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