Last Sunday we were out of the house for a while and on the way back home we passed through a junction with the lights out. Oh, that’s unusual I thought. Then we got to the traffic lights outside our estate and they were out too. Darnit, there was a power cut. Actually it was quite a big one as most of the town was without power thanks to a fault. I hadn’t turned the heat on in the house that day before we left as it was fairly mild, but of course it had gotten colder while we were out. The 4 year old was sick, I was really looking forward to a hot cup of tea and a snuggle on the sofa.
Ever since the power went one Christmas Day when I was growing up, I’ve compiled a contingency plan so that I always have particular supplies in the house, just in case. This can apply in times of bad weather, snow or just when there are supply problems so it’s a good idea to prepare now – you never know when these tips will come in handy, we weren’t all that put out by the power cut as a result!
Mobile phones, DECT phones and many housephones with peripherals like answering machines depend on power to operate. Your housephone plug doesn’t depend on the mains electricity though. I have a cheap plug-in push-button phone that will work in the event of a power cut. We keep a number of portable boost packs in the house, fully charged, for times like this. Some are small and will charge a smartphone once, and others are bigger and can even power a laptop or a few phones. They’re inexpensive to pick and well worth the investment. I use them when I’m out and about for work anyway, as does my husband because he can sometimes be away from a conventional charging point for long periods of time.
If the power goes at night you’ll need some form of light. Candles are a good idea but many households won’t have matches to light them. We only ever used matches for lighting fires! I have a couple of click-fire gas fuelled lighters in the house. I use candles only in the main living area away from soft furnishings, paper and toddlers. I also have some LED candles which are great for the kids’ bedrooms as they don’t get hot, and a few windup torches so that we can save batteries for important things.
Look if all else fails, cook outside on a disposable barbeque or your fancy gas operated thingy. If you’re lucky enough to have a gas stove in the kitchen it’s likely it’ll still work. Do bear in mind though that the electrical switches won’t and you’ll possibly need something to light a ring with. I have a small two ring camping stove that will happily boil a pot of water for all important tea and I can lash a dinner together on it too. I picked it up in my local hardware shop for about €15 which included 2 tiny canisters of cooking gas. If you have an electric AGA or similar you more than likely will get plenty of residual heat to cook and to heat your kitchen.
Fridges & Freezers
These will keep your food cool providing you don’t keep on opening and closing them! The less you open and close your appliances, the less they will lose the temperature balance. If you’re stuck in a prolonged powercut this could mean the difference between being able to re-chill your food and having to throw the contents out. As a rule of thumb, food in a sealed freezer will last for up to 24 hours in cold weather, providing you don’t open it – even once. Check your household insurance policy to see if you’re covered for loss of food if you lose power by the way.
In some areas, your water will be dependant on a pump to get water to the house. Try to at the very least have some drinking water in containers in your house. It might be as simple as a couple of refilled bottles in the back of the press. Only flush the toilets when absolutely necessary and keep showers/baths to a minimum. If you have a water butt, use the water from the butt to flush toilets and to boil for washing up purposes. If you have a baby or need to sterilise items, a cap of milton and a large bucket along with fresh water is an acceptable alternative.
Do you have an open fireplace? You lucky thing! Make sure your fireplace is well cleaned and your chimney is spotless. Santa doesn’t like getting his suit dirty so maybe the next few weeks would be a good idea to get the chimney sorted. Extra blankets and sheets for bedtime will keep you toasty and a few hot water bottles in the house wouldn’t go astray either.
If you depend on a boiler for heating, most oil and gas boilers require some sort of power to ignite the flame. If the power goes, you won’t be able to use your boiler. Nor will you be able to use plugin heaters. Extra layers worn in the house will keep you warm. There’s no shame in lashing on a fleecy dressing gown over your clothes and don’t forget to try to keep active. At night-time, if need be, get all the family together in a well ventilated room to sleep.
Don’t forget that just because you might have had the foresight to pull together some form of plan, that your neighbours might not have. I know that some of my neighbours have special needs, some require oxygen, extra heat, have mobility issues etc. Pool together your resources and don’t be afraid to knock on their doors and offer support and assistance.
This isn’t an exhaustive list, it’s just a few tips that might help you in the future. Have a think about them anyway, it’s worth being prepared in the event of any emergency.
Do you have a disabled family member? Looking For Blue Sky has a great blogpost on how to prepare
Don’t forget to have a fully stocked and up to date first aid kit. 😉
ESB Networks have an excellent website (and app) which helps you monitor the progress of power cuts and repairs in your area, so it’s well worth installing it on your mobile phone or bookmarking it for future reference. https://www.esb.ie/esb-networks/powercheck/