Just In Case . . . .

The stories we’ve been hearing from Texas over the past two weeks have been truly horrific. People went without heat during an unprecedented cold snap, without electricity, and without water for days, and many shifted to a survivalist mode. Obviously, the Texas authorities responsible for the power grid have a lot to answer for, and talking about a winter storm of the century doesn’t fully explain how completely the system failed.

Now that the worst of it is over, Texans have been talking on social media about what they learned from this experience–and what they can do to prepare for the next devastating winter storm, or hurricane, or other natural disaster. It’s an interesting topic, and one that those of us in other parts of the country would do well to think about, too. You never know when the weather might wreak havoc with expected utility services and food supplies and leave you to go into survivalist mode. And the unsettling question is: if that were to happen to you, would you be reasonably well prepared?

So what are our friends in Texas saying?

  • Lay in a supply of bottled water, and if a storm is bearing down, fill bathtubs and sinks. Humans need water, and if disaster strikes you just can’t have too much of it.
  • If you live in a standalone structure, buy a generator. People in Texas who had generators that they could rely on during this period say they’ve never made a better use of their money.
  • Know how to shut off your water and drain your pipes, and remember to turn off your water heater when you do.
  • Be sure you’ve got flashlights and batteries.
  • When your plumbing is inoperative, disposable plates, cups and utensils are essential.
  • Get a propane-powered space heater and don’t forget the propane for it.
  • Keep a supply of instant coffee and canned food in the garage.
  • Did I mention bottled water and a generator?

You never know when a crisis might hit. Being prepared for the worst isn’t a bad idea.

Grateful For Our Grid

In India, more than half the country has lost power as three different electrical grids have failed.

More than 600 million people — 600 million! — have been affected by the power outages.  That’s about two times the entire population of the United States.  Imagine the chaos if our entire country were suddenly to lose power.  Then, imagine that occurring in a smaller geographic region, where the density of people is much, much greater than is found here.  Then, think of thousands of cars trying to navigate through crowds of hundreds of thousands of pedestrians without traffic lights, subways and trains that have stopped running, hospitals without power, and food spoiling in withering heat.  Successfully imagine all that, and you still probably couldn’t grasp the current conditions in Delhi.

Interestingly, India has one of the lowest per capita rates of electricity usage in the world, and significant parts of the country are not wholly electrified.  Even so, its power grid simply is not capable of supporting the growing demand.

It makes me appreciate our power grid in this country, where outages usually occur only after devastating storms and service is typically restored within hours.  It also makes me wish that some of that stimulus money the federal government shelled out a few years ago had been spent on our power systems, rather than on unnecessary road improvements or other make-work, “shovel ready” projects.