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Power Failures

Posted by Mary Mac on

Power Failure scenarios
Preppers often are dismissed by the general population as paranoid. We get a bad name because people think we all are convinced that there are nefarious forces out there conspiring against us to create political, financial, and social unrest.
Sometimes that is true- there certainly seem to be many forces at work that may destabilize our society. However, there are other compelling reasons that disaster preparedness is necessary. 
My husband, Joe, and I were recently discussing power failures. He reminded me about the massive power failure in the North East US and Canada in 2003. It really was a cascade of events that led to millions of people losing power for several hours to several days. It affected 8 states and went all the way up into Toronto. Think about it- without power, transportation became problematic. Planes were grounded because the control towers computer systems were down. Trains and subways (which primarily run on electricity) shut down. People at work had a hard time getting home without public transportation. Even if they had cars and gas, many bridges and tunnels were closed.
As a result of the power failure, retail businesses closed. Restaurants tried to stay open to use their perishable food, and many people who were stranded (due to transportation issues) were trying to pass the time in bars and restaurants. But if you do not have cash on hand, and cannot use credit cards, and cannot get cash from an ATM, you are up the creek without a paddle. Everything computerized was off line- grocery stores, pharmacies, gas pumps. Air conditioning was not working on one of the hottest days of the year. Even businesses with emergency generators (like Hospitals) can only operate for as long as they have fuel to power the generators. Hospitals became overrun with people who were being overcome with heat exhaustion in the absence of air conditioning. 
People at home were not out of the woods either. Without power you have no hot water in the tap, no air conditioning or fans. If you use a well, you need electricity for your water pump to bring water to your home. You cannot cook if you have an electric stove or rely on a microwave. There is no TV, no video games, no charging you cell phone. If you did not have kerosene lamps or batteries, you were dead in the water.
So what caused this? According to what I read on the Intranet, it was simply a software failure of ONE alarm system at ONE Power Station in Ohio. When the power goes down in one area, the system operators redistribute the electrical load to other areas and other power stations so outages are limited in size and scope. In this case, because the alarm failed, they did not know they had to redistribute the load, so other lines became overloaded and failed as well. This domino effect caused overload after overload which spread to 7 states and up into Canada. As power supplies became more strained, the computer systems slowed down considerably, which compounded the issue because the overloads were happening faster than the system operators could become aware of them and act on them. Eventually, 100 power stations went down in the North East and Canada. 
So why am I telling you this? Primarily so you will know that we cannot predict when these things will happen, and how serious they will get. This was not political and it was not terrorist activity. It was simply an unfortunate situation that happened without warning. The people who were prepared had food and alternate fuel sources so they could cook and eat that food. They had water and spare fuel for their cars, they had flashlights and spare batteries. They had prepared their families so that they would not panic. Children, especially, can become alarmed at changes in routine. The people who were prepared had practiced with their families. They had planned routes from work to home to avoid bridges and toll roads. They had a full tank of gas in their car, and spare gas at home. They had a alternative source of cooking and fuel to do it. They had bottled water. They had games and coloring books, and snacks for the kids.  
We and our fellow preppers can take pride in knowing we are able to cope with these emergencies without breaking a sweat! How can we convince others to prepare for emergencies? We can talk about it with family and friends in such a way that we are not sounding like fanatics, or people who fear societal collapse. Let's talk to our co-workers, church groups, women's societies, garden clubs and poker buddies, not as "Survivalists", but as realists. Emergencies happen, and if you want to take care of your family, you get ready for unexpected occurrences. Whether it is a power failure, a tornado, a flood, or a race riot, we owe it to our family to get ready and avoid panic. We can survive anything if we work together.