Lessons Learned

We're Back Up

We were at a friend's for burgers and illegal fireworks last night when our neighbor called and said the power was back on.  They came on up and flipped our breakers for us.  It ended up being 95.5 hours for this outage for us.  I've got some observations from the past few days that might be of help to you in your preps.  Some things I did right, some I did wrong, and some that I saw others do.

When we were in DC on Friday, I couldn't even carry a knife because we rode the subway in from Virginia and got screened by metal detector at the Marine Barracks when we arrived for the parade.  I did have a backpack with some basic emergency gear and we dressed appropriately for a potential long hike.  Not willing to go defenseless, I carried my Cold Steel Blackthorne walking stick.  For most of the trip, it gave me a convenient thing to lean on and get a little weight off of my feet, but at 10:30 p.m., walking through southeast DC from the barracks to the subway, I felt a whole lot better having it with me as we walked past the closed business that had quite a few unsavory looking characters hanging around in front of them.  Having the emergency backpack and good, sturdy shoes, gave us options to consider when the subway system was delayed due to the storm.  I would have hated to have to hike out, but we could have done something.

Driving home from DC/Northern Va. at 2 in the morning and not seeing any lights along the interstate was kind of creepy.  It is very densely populated and it is never completely dark up there.  Newt Gingrich compared the DC outage to a preview of an EMP attack.

Fast forward to Saturday evening and the tornado warning.  I learned that in a crisis situation you really can't bellow and bark orders at young kids and expect the same reactions that you might get from Marines and police officers.  Apparently I kind of freaked out our young nephew.  If you are a parent, you probably already know this.  If you have not spent a huge amount of time around youngsters, this may be new to you as it was to me.

Weather extremes really suck in an off grid situation.  We've been power down with temps in the teens, and now in the 100s.  In both cases, we were able to cocoon up in a small controlled environment, but doing simple chores outside, or even living anything close to a normal life inside is very difficult.  If I had my druthers, I'd prefer to lose power when it is about 75 during the day and in the upper 50s at night.  I don't think I have much say in the matter.  But, being able to make that controlled environment cocoon allowed us to stay in our house and not have to evacuate.

If you are going to depend on generators, make sure you have gas on hand in sufficient quantities.  If you don't have power, your local gas station might not either.  We keep adequate gas stores, and now need to replenish.

I've always hated the idea of text messaging.  It's one of my last Luddite ideals that I've held out on.  In the past, when I've told the cell phone store to disable my text message capabilities, and they've tried to sell me on it, I've actually said, "do I look like a 14 year old girl?"  My wife and I are probably two of the only people who bought iPhones but had texting disabled.  Intellectually, I've always known that text messages can get through even if phone calls can't, but I've never taken the leap.  Last week I had to break down and get my texting turned on because I needed to get a code from YouTube to post videos longer than 15 minutes.  Turned out to be a good idea.  After Saturday's storm passed and we were trying to get the kids back to their parents, cell phone traffic could not get through reliably.  I was able to use my new found text messaging to communicate updates to my sister-in-law.  I'm now a believer in the texting for emergency uses.  (For any of my friends that read this, don't send me stupid messages, just call me if you want to tell me something - I got the minimum level of texting each month, so if you send me stupid stuff that runs up my bill, I'm charging you back for it.)

Don't forget the old ways if you lose power.  A clothesline, cooking on the grill, and using frozen water bottles to maintain refrigerator temps are all simple, electricity-free ways to keep going.  On a side note, during a winter power outage, don't forget that outside is Mother Nature's refrigerator.  I'm always puzzled when I hear about people losing the food in their Frigidaire when it is 25 degrees outside.


  1. I thought I was the only one who made phone calls. I don't mind a text with a little info but I don't want a conversation with my phone. Even with Siri or whatever I can talk to my phone with.

    I'm glad things are back to 'normal', that's a long time without power. I would actually enjoy it at home but not so much being unemployed for a week.

  2. Max - I much prefer talking on the phone! We ended up ok with work... we lost power Saturday, Monday I went in a little late and came home a little early so the house was off generator for only about 7 hours and we had ice bottles in the fridge and freezer. On Tuesday my wife went in late. Wednesday we were off for the holiday and then it came back on.

    I'm fortunate to have personal leave days at work and an understanding boss for sure.


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