07 July, 2011

When the Power Dies ...

You can see the scorch marks as the lines snapped.  The tree very effectively 
blocked all through traffic between Wingello and Penrose.

On Tuesday at around 1:00pm a tree along the road between Penrose and Wingello (just South of the Railway Overpass) fell down in the high winds.
Unfortunately it fell straight across the road and onto the power lines, snapping the lines and bringing down about 500 metres of lines. Luckily the old power poles had been recently replaced with new poles which remained in place.
So began the 28 hour blackout for central Wingello with some outer areas out of power for much longer.
When we get a blackout you need to consider a number of problems.
Protect your electrical equipment.
When power stops suddenly, your electrical equipment - especially computers - may be damaged. At the very least, you may lose whatever you were working on when the computer suddenly stops. The best way to protect your electronic gear is a UPS - Uninterruptible Power Supply.  This not only protects from a power spike or surge, but also filters the power to acceptable limits AND provides some battery backup allowing you to safely turn off your equipment.  When the lights went out on Tuesday, all of our computers at the shop remained on.  The UPS’s allowed us around 20 minutes to safely turn them all off.  No lost data and no damaged equipment.
No Power = No Water
Our water comes from water tanks and/or bores.  Either way requires a pump to supply water to the taps.  Water is needed for cooking, cleaning, showers and toilets.
It is a good idea to have a tap attached to the tank allowing for gravity fed water to be used in a bucket.  If necessary you could climb up to the tank opening and lower a bucket attached to a rope into the water.  Or borrow some water from a neighbour who has a tap.
With a bucket of water next to the toilet, you can replenish the cistern allowing for flushing.
Another bucket can be in the kitchen, allowing you to dip in clean cups for drinking, cleaning or cooking.
One of the many trampolines and other outdoor equipment
that took flight during the winds.
What about Freezers & Fridges?
Being so far from larger shopping areas, we all have fridges and freezers full of food.  You don’t want to have this thaw out and be ruined.  Keeping the freezer closed will allow the temperature to stay low enough, but as the power outage increases to more than a day (or less in hot weather) you will need a generator.

On Wednesday, the Generator store in Goulburn commented to one local, “You’re the 8th Wingello customer today!”
Check out the power requirements for your main power needs and match this to the generator capacity.  As Generators run using Petrol, you will also need a suitable container to store enough fuel to keep the generator going.  And don’t forget extension leads to bring the power from the generator to the equipment.
Heat, cooking and lighting
Lighting can be achieved by candles or battery powered lights.  Where are yours?  If the blackout occurs at night it is hard to find the lights if you can’t see.  You can even use your mobile phone to provide emergency lighting.
If you have all electric heating and cooking, do you have a little gas stove?  There is always the barbeque too.  One pot meals are pretty easy on the gas cooktop.
Our children have a new favourite dinner “Blackout Dinner” - a combination of fried chopped onions, mashed potatoes, grated carrots and bacon.  This is a Dutch meal called “Hutspot”
Typically the phone-lines still work during a blackout.  But hands free handsets won’t work as the base station requires power.  Do you have a non powered handset to plug in when the power dies?
What about the shop?
The Wingello Village Store has gas cooking and generator power to keep our refrigeration and basic lights working.  If you want someone else to cook, you can always go to the shop until 6pm Monday to Thursday, 9pm on Fridays or 2:30pm on weekends.  Our fire was providing much loved warmth on Tuesday and Wednesday when many of the locals popped over to see what was happening and enjoying some local company.