I'm going on 5 days without power at this point after the ridiculous ice storm that hit southern New England last Thursday and Friday. It's no longer an adventure. I have broadband courtesy of a little generator that a friend loaned us (they had an extra) to pump the water out of our basement. I think what makes it worse is that our neighbors across the street have power. They have their Christmas lights on just to taunt us.
I'm not actually whining, though, believe it or not. I'm a bit tired, but as I finally write my post for the day now that I've fired up the generator, gotten the kids to bed in front of a roaring fire, and made sure the basement is relatively dry, I have a new appreciation for disaster preparedness.
Disasters (and the folks who survived Katrina will hardly call this a disaster, but it's certainly been a bit, well, disruptive) don't happen every day, but when they do, it becomes very clear just how unprepared we are. We have a couple big bins of emergency supplies: water, cans of beans, dog and cat food, batteries, first aid, etc. What we lacked was a generator. I'm not sure if anyone noticed, but we tend to rely quite a bit on electricity these days. Sure, I fired off a post from my BlackBerry (car chargers are a gift from God, by the way) last Friday, but electricity allows to stay connected, safe, and warm.
It entertains the kids, too, of course. They got to watch a movie tonight courtesy of the magical generator. However, they were also content reading, playing board games, and otherwise disengaging, to a point.
Yet as my wife pointed out, pioneers lived on a daily basis without electricity; it was a hard life, but they were prepared for it and hadn't adapted to a warm, connected existence. As I was splitting extra wood at 3:00 in the morning to keep the fire burning, I couldn't help but remember Laura Ingalls-Wilder's The Long Winter. This book chronicled the "Little House on the Prairie" family's daily struggle to simply stay warm for a winter. Again, I know it's only been five days, but I was hardly able to be productive when I spent time clearing fallen trees, cutting and splitting wood, and trying to cook without an oven (the stove was propane, at least).
Basic tasks like cleaning took on whole new levels of difficulty without vacuums, running water, or washing machines. My actual job went by the wayside, let alone blogging (notice how late this post is actually going up).
Does this mean that every home needs a week of gasoline, a high-powered generator, and a bunker? Does every school or business need the same to ensure that systems stay online no matter what? No, of course not. However, some well-placed backup systems (cable and T1 Internet or a generator appropriate to keep key administrative machines and systems required for Internet access up, for example) make a lot of sense in a school to which a community will turn for news, information, and updates.
It doesn't hurt to make sure the kids can watch a movie once in a while either.