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Power cut: brief AAR

Posted: Tue Dec 22, 2015 4:37 pm
by sheddi
We has the first power cut (outage) for *years* this evening. I thought I'd post a brief after-action report.

Signs of a power outage:
1. It suddenly gets dark. (Twilight here is around 1600, the outage started around 1730.)
2. The UPS alarm goes off. (An intermittent beeping, not too alarming but definitely noticeable.)
3. My children complain that the internet has stopped working. (Their laptops have batteries, the router doesn't.)

First problem: I'm sitting on the couch wearing sweats, and I don't have a flashlight (since the pockets in my sweats won't retain anything if I sit down). Fortunately I can find my way around my own house in the dark just fine and know where the flashlights are. After the event I realised my cellphone was right beside me and has a handy flashlight app but I'd forgotten all about it in the excitement.

Soon everyone has a light, and a glance out of the window shows that it's not just us; the whole street is in darkness, including the street lamps, plus at least one street over in each direction (we later learned ~950 properties were affected). Fortunately the cell towers weren't affected (or had battery backup) so I could check with the local power co. They were reporting that they hoped to get the lights back on by 2000, roughly two hours time, and this gave me a good measure for the scale of response required.

I turned the main incoming power off so that any spikes or surges produced while the power co were reinstating things wouldn't upset my appliances.

I used my CampinGaz lantern at Halloween, so I got that out again and lit it. Unfortunately the mantle had taken a knock along the way and the light output was a little underwhelming, but good enough to light up the kitchen (where we had been preparing dinner when the power went out). At the same time my wife went and lit the various seasonal candles; these gave a moderate level of background illumination throughout the lounge and dining room.

I then found that the kerosene in my hurricane lamps had mostly evaporated in the (long) period since I last topped them up. And the kero was in my shed at the bottom of the garden.

So I went out to the shed, had a ferret around and fired up the generator :)

Lacking a proper transfer switch and not wanting to mess with "suicide cables" I settled for feeding my 25-metre extension cable through a window (it's unseasonably mind here, ~10 deg. C / ~50 deg. F) and to the middle of the lounge. From there I ran other, shorter cables to lamps in the kitchen, stairs and landing. A motley collection of incandescent, fluorescent and LED desk and inspection lamps then lit my house from top to bottom 8-)

Around 1900, just as dinner was being served, the power came back on. Once my wife and children were settled and eating dinner I went and undid everything; first I turned the main incomer back on, then we blew out the candles, switched off flashlights, disconnected the generator-powered lamps, shut down the generator and re-coiled the extension cables.

The outage was short but I managed to play most of my cards. If it had been expected to go on for longer I'd have had to mix more 2-cycle fuel for my generator, but it only needs around a litre (quart) per hour and even at this time of year where the nights are long a couple of gallons a day would be enough. The fridge & freezer are pretty full (it's Christmas!) so a long outage would see a lot of cooking and eating; I have a little LPG-powered camping fridge but it has less than 20% of the capacity of the main one.

1. No-one was hurt, nothing was damaged.
2. We had some light within a minute or so, and after 30 minutes the whole house was lit (although not quite as comprehensively as usual).
3. Dinner was only slightly delayed.

Learning points / to-do:
1. I had my cellphone with me and should've remembered the flashlight app!
2. Check the lamp mantles.
3. Put some kerosene in the hurricane lamps.
4. Re-fill my can of 2-stroke mix (I poured it all into the genny tank, where much of it still lurks).

Al told it worked well, I think!

Re: Power cut: brief AAR

Posted: Tue Dec 29, 2015 3:22 am
by K9medic
God lord, you were wearing sweats, you mean you don't dress for dinner :D

Could you fit a battery system to your router to improve comms if you lose power for an extended period?

I have one of those car jump packs (with a power take off) that I use for charging mobiles, radio and lights when we go camping. With the weather we are seeing south and west of me I have it fully charged, just in case.