Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Night the Lights Went Out in… Comox?

OK - so not as lyrical sounding as The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia, I admit… and also for a totally different reason - to the best of my knowledge, Comox doesn't have an electric chair… It was clear and windy yesterday and the lights here were out due to a tree having come down across a BC Hydro line.

Needing to kill some time, since it was dark and I was missing House, Castle AND Mike & Molly, I figured I would putter around on my Net Book. Here is the result of that:

What to do? Well, first things first - find out how long they were estimating we would be without power. Thanks, in part, to my disaster recovery training and also in part to my having lived through the blackout in Toronto back in 2003, I know to have a telephone somewhere in the house that has a cord & is plugged into a wall socket. Do you have one?

When I got home from work I called BC Hydro and the estimated return to power time was 8:00 PM. That done, dinner became the next great mission. I got changed and loaded Jasmine into the car - Little Caesar's Pizza being the destination. Good thing I had $15 in my wallet!!

Home, light candles, feed dog and have my own dinner. Hm. What now? Only 7:00 PM, WAY too early to consider going to bed, I leashed up Herself and we went out for a walk. Home again, check with BC Hydro again - yup… 8:00 is still their estimated time.

Light bulb! I have a Net book - I can still be productive - likely unable to surf the net (confirmed - I can’t hack into any of my neighbours) but I CAN open it up and play solitaire or type out a blog post until the power comes back on or I give up and go to bed - whichever comes first.

It’s now five minutes to 8:00 and it’s still dark in here, and starting to cool off... and yes, for the record, the power is still off - the fridge and fish tank are still silent and I DID remember to flip on a couple of light switches for when the power comes back on.

It’s now after 8:00 PM… maybe I’ll play a little solitaire…

That was it. I played Solitaire until about 8:45 and then packed it in for bed. Power resumed around quarter to ten last night so I quickly went around the house & shut off the lights I'd missed on the "walk about & shut the lights out" before bed. My stop at the computer to check my email allowed me the opportunity to publish a post I had waiting and I figured (in my tired and bleary way) that this one could wait a little while because I wanted to add more to it... Namely, a discussion about personal “disaster recovery” plans.

In a previous work life I was a Disaster Recovery / Business Continuity Planner and spent a LOT of time focusing on making certain business could be maintained if one of the groups I “looked after” was struck by disaster. In the business world disasters come in three main flavours – Technology, Premises and People (or a combination of a couple of these items) and have the general threat of stopping a business in its tracks. Thankfully, the financial services industry is considered a critical service and works hard to ensure it can maintain client service no matter what the issue at hand.

More to this point, though, people don’t generally have personal continuity plans and this is what I’m thinking on at this point. I live on Vancouver Island and, if the so-called experts are right, we’re teetering on the edge of “the big one” (earthquake) and should this happen the island we live on will be radically impacted and we can plan to be without “critical services” for at the very least, three days. Probably more.

So what do we need and what should we have on hand? Well, the first thing that comes to mind is the first thing that I realized I would need when I was in Toronto in 2003 during the black-out. Cash. If there is no power, there will be no access to ATM’s, VISA, MasterCard or American Express. A supply of cash, hidden in an easy to access location (that will not be raided for pizza money by hungry teenagers) is an absolute must. Count on the need for at least $100 per day, per person who lives in your home.

Other things to have on hand include, but are not limited to:
  • Special need items – meaning, your medications and prescriptions
  • Bottled water
  • Food – dried and canned for people *and* dried and canned for your pets too.
  • A can opener (yes, sounds silly, but have on in your “kit”)
  • Camp stove with a couple of mini-propane tanks & pots and pans
  • Foil blankets (sleeping bags are bulkier and not everyone has them – foil blankets won’t cushion anything, but they WILL keep you warm.
  • First aid kit
  • Flashlights
  • Radio
  • Batteries (for the flashlights and radio)
  • Candles and water-proofed matches
  • Toothbrushes and tooth paste
  • Feminine hygiene products (yes, you read that right)
If your home has a fireplace, then a supply of wood laid up is also a good idea. You can also consider cooking in the fireplace, if need be.

This can be a space consuming collection of items, and yes, you may need to store things in a couple of locations, but if they are in those big rubber-maid tubs they will be easy to find in the garage or wherever else you store them.

Now, do I have all of this stuff? No - to be perfectly honest, I don’t, but I DO have most of it, and I can access it easily if I need it. The Government of Canada has a great "Get Prepared" website available – take some time to check it out and start giving thought to your own family’s personal disaster plan.

With love across the waters,


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