‘Contingency Plan’ for your home

                “Everyone talks about the weather, but no one does anything about it!”

– Mark Twain.

                Those of us in software industry have all heard of Disaster Recovery, Resiliency Management, Contingency Plan, Business Continuity and all such hi-fi sounding words at some point in our career. I suspect these are practised in one form or the other in other professions too. Basically, it loosely means having the ability to have a normal life or the ability to bounce back to normal during and after a man-made or natural disaster. But I remained oblivious to the importance of having a contingency plan for our home until we were actually struck by one!

                It was about 10:30 at night on June 29 and we were ready for a good night’s sleep on a Friday when the power went off.  It is just a storm, we thought, and it will pass for good in a few hours. But we were wrong. Howling of the wind (later reported to be as high as 140 km/h), incessant lightning and rain accompanied by really strong gusts of wind continued for most of the night. Our phone and internet connections were knocked off as well. We were fortunate to have our gas and water connections intact. But people with electric ovens in their kitchen couldn’t cook anything at all those few days. The situation continued for a week in some parts of USA. Millions of people like us were affected. We were without power for almost 3 days in a heat-wave of 105 F. Not a pleasant situation to be in with a toddler and a four-and-half year old! What had hit us was a derecho – a kind of storm that gathers strength as it moves along. This perhaps explained why there were no adequate warnings from the weather department nor any preparedness. You can read more about it here.

               We all know the basics of what to do during an emergency situation, don’t we? Like unplugging electrical appliances, closing window-shutters during a storm, not going near water-bodies when there’s lightning and so on…Below are a few things I found useful on how to cope best when you are stranded at home without power and with small kids:

Power Outage Essentials for your home

  • Battery operated portable fan heater – This is one device that we sorely missed. Since it has both fan and heater, this would be very handy during both summer and winter power-outages.
  • Flashlights / Candles / Matchbox – This one is a no-brainer…..at least, that’s what one would think! But you would be surprised at how little kids have the uncanny ability to get into even the most secured places and misplace things just when you need them the most! Also, the frequency of powercuts in the USA (which is like once in a blue moon) kind of spoils us and leaves us unprepared.
  • Mist sprayer – We use this when we go outdoors in high temperatures. But this proved very useful and fun during the power-outage as well. The kids had a blast with this – spraying each other and us!

                 Here are a few things you can do to make life easier while waiting for power being restored in your area:

  • Refrigerator cleanup – We had almost no food spoilt in the refrigerator. The trick is not to open the door unless absolutely needed. That way the cool temperature inside was maintained. We just had some water dripping off the freezer and had to mop that up. Also, I cooked off the perishable food items everyday, starting with the most perishable ones first.
  • Daytime fun – In the afternoon, it was unbearably hot with temperatures soaring in the 90s. We took the kids to the mall play-area one day and to the Chuck-e-cheese the next. That way, we got to stay in the A.C. and the kids got to play with their peers.
  • Pools – We converted the bath-tubs into mini kiddie-pools and let our kids splash and play around with their toys. This you can do only when the temperatures are comfortable and in absence of thunderstorm (It is advised to stay away from water/metal during lightning). Many local clubs had thrown open their swimming pools for people affected by the power-outages around this time.
  • Games/Music – When the temperature is good enough to be at home and when you have enough light, this would be a good time to play many games as a family – Scrabble, Antakshari (a game where a player has to sing a song beginning with the same sound with which the previous player ends hers), Cards, Monopoly, Carrom, Chess – whatever suits your mood at that moment. Or just hit the notes on your favorite musical instrument.
  • Moonlight dinners – How many times in life do you have candlelight dinner right in your home? Power-outages are definitely the time to have those! We went a step ahead to have moonlight dinners on our porch. That reminded me of the times in childhood when we had similar times at our terrace, back in India.
  • Sleepovers – We had friends who either didn’t suffer from the power-outage or had their power restored within a few hours. They kindly invited us over for sleepovers at nights. Of course, we would’ve checked into some hotel for the nights if we didn’t have good friends around. Again, it was a good experience especially for the kids.My son was actually begging for more sleepovers even after the power came back! 🙂

             So next time when the power outage occurs, will I crave for the silence that is there when all electrical and electronic machinery shuts down? Yes! Will I crave for the welcome facebook/gmail/blackberry break? You bet, yes! Will I take my kids out to watch the fireflies dance and listen to the crickets chirp? For sure, yes! In today’s fast-paced world when time is at a premium, power-outages can be a welcome break – of course, only when they aren’t frequent! 🙂 I guess, like most things in life, depends on the way you take it!