We love our technology . . . when it works. If not, why then it is downright frustrating. A recent 2+ day power outage due to a minor windstorm made me realize how dependent we are. Everything stops. It was still early fall and warm enough outside that the furnace wasn’t missed. But looking around our home, it became apparent that even though the furnace, the gas fireplace and the stove were natural gas powered, they were useless without electrical power because they required an electronic ignition to start. Similarly, our cordless landline did not work without electrical power nor did cell phones because the cell phone towers were somehow not functioning either.
At least the toilets still flushed. Candles provided a modest amount of light, just enough to avoid tripping over the furniture but not sufficient to read or do many tasks. Obtaining any news or information required a trip out to the car to listen to the radio. A trip to a nearby gas station to purchase a block of ice was made in an attempt to deal with the thawing refrigerator full of food. Cash only—debit and credit card machines weren’t working either. Traffic lights were out and driving felt hazardous with some vehicles ignoring the required four way stop provisions. No lights working seemed to some to mean go ahead green.
By the next morning, the annoyance that we were attempting to face with good grace deteriorated to downright annoyance. Playing pioneer days was wearing thin. We didn’t have the skills, we didn’t have the tools. We had lots of time for conversation, sitting in the near dark. Conversations ranged from the ineptitude of the local power company—it wasn’t like it had been a hurricane or tornado—to commitments to invest in solar or battery operated radios, flashlights or a generator or at least a cooler.
Emergency preparedness advisers, both government and private, suggest that households arrange to be able to manage for 72 hours—3 days—without outside help. After the almost three day power outage from a windstorm, I don’t like to consider what a major earthquake, something that is overdue in the Pacific Northwest, would do to local officials and government service providers.
It’s unpleasant to feel helpless but it’s a situation that we’ve allowed to happen. Pa Ingalls on the Prairie needed no one and nothing but his skills, ingenuity and hand tools. When my computer starts working I’m going to order some survival tools. For sure.