We live at the foot of a mountain. Our basement often floods, and our sump pump must run at all times. We learned that the hard way when the power went out for the first time.
It seemed like it took forever for the water to recede. Not having heat and hot water for days was an ordeal. The mess, the stress, and the huge expense.
It was kind of scary, but we felt better when we got a small generator to work the pump. Weather is a powerful and unpredictable variable. Trouble often began in the middle of the night when it was quiet and we were sleeping.
Anything can happen. Though our advanced technology can predict and alert us when large-scale events are heading our way, it’s far from perfect. Devastation can still come out of nowhere. Knowing that it is headed your way is small consolation. It does not protect you.
It’s around five a.m. The power is out again. There’s a heavy freezing rain outside. The wind is going wild. Water is already rising in the basement.
The generator isn’t starting, though it started the week before. We try some parts and troubleshoot a few things. It won’t budge.
It is now after seven. The roads are terrible, and only getting worse. My husband and daughter decide to go to Kingston to buy a new generator. I try to move things around the house and dry up the wet floor.
There is a big sigh of relief from all of us when they get back home. We were able to secure one of only two generators left on the shelf. It cost much more money than we had anticipated.
There were another two trips back to Kingston, one for cords — we have plenty, but they were connected to the back of our property underneath the snow and ice — and the other for the premium gas needed for the new generator.
My husband is able to lock into gear under pressure. He did all this heavy-duty work in the freezing rain. I was exhausted.
Is our situation sustainable?
Recently I’ve done some thinking. These occurrences have forced me to look at how sustainable our situation is, and what is really necessary. When you are a mother of a medication-dependent person as I am, you never really sleep. There is always something roiling your mind.
Do we have enough of one thing or the other just in case of an emergency? Some of that stuff requires refrigeration, which requires power. Do we have at least a week’s worth of medication on hand?
It is frustrating to be at the mercy of the pharmaceutical industry. They control it all: what you need, how much you get, when, and how much you must pay.
Something unexpected can happen, and you need to have backup. It can be a struggle to get what is needed on a daily basis. Here, in this country, the majority of people need to fight for what they need to survive. It doesn’t seem right. It’s not fair.
Goods and necessities vary depending on where you live as well as on the season. A major storm can have a completely different impact from one season to another.
Most of us are connected to the power grid, which controls so many different things. The importance of that connection is completely different in many ways for those of us who don’t live in the cities than for those who do.
How much do you and your dwelling depend on electricity? How long can you go without it? Does it control your heat source? Have you recently stocked your freezer? Do you have medication that requires refrigeration? Do you have medical equipment that needs juice to work?
Time for a reappraisal
Look at all the major components electricity feeds. We’re not living oin the wilderness any more. The majority of our devices will not work when the electrical power is out, because they are hooked up through the Internet.
It’s time for a reappraisal of who’s responsible for what. The present system was fine when people would light a few candles and patiently wait for the electric power to return. In this age of interconnection, though, the social costs of being deprived of power are magnified manyfold.
Most of my neighbors also have home generators now. Immediately after the power has been interrupted, you can hear the hum of their machines throughout our neighborhood.
If I were a member of the state Public Service Commission, I’d be interested in more than standardized generator interconnection regulations. I’d be interested in making the regulated industry share responsibility for the consequences of the service outages which plague their operations.
I don’t mean we should punish the urilities for not dealing with forces beyond their control. I mean extending their control. Especially with our economy evolving the way it has, home generators – a radical form of distributed power — have become for many an increasing necessity of rural and exurban life, our decentralized lifestyle.
Not for everyone. Some people need and want them. Others prefer not to have them. That’s fine. People should have a choice.
The power companies, it seems to me, should shoulder the job of either make sure home generators work properly and reliably or hire others to make sure they work properly and reliably. The costs of the additional service should be borne by the ratepayer who chooses it and added to that ratepayer’s utility bill.
Until that day comes, I will live by my lists.
Here’s my list
I am a listmaker. I start writing things down on various pieces of paper or on the backs of envelopes. I have a mess of lists, recipes, and other things I don’t want to forget. So I started keeping track in a notebook. That means different things to different people, but for me the basics are the most important things. I’ve started to realize that so many things pop into my head that I’d need a small warehouse to store it all. As I said, it’s never a perfect storm.
Here’s my current list:
Water/buckets/manual water pump/backup sump pump/purification tabs
Rx’s, medical supplies and equipment
Food, ice packs, coolers, perishables, Rx cooler pack
Batteries, charging cords, charged power pack, perhaps solar
Fuel and wood
Candles, votives, tealights, matches
Toilet paper and towels
Band-aids, Neosporin, aspirin
Peroxide, rubbing alcohol
Aloe vera plant
Essential oils, tea tree, peppermint, eucalyptus, bergamot, lavender, chamomile
Blankets, other warmth, window coverage
Waterproof shoes, plenty of socks
Solar shower, solar fan
Grill, extra propane tank
White and apple cider vinegar, spray bottle
Baking soda, bleach, Lysol, Borax
All kinds of canned goods and non-perishables
Milk, evaporated and powdered
Beans: black, red, cannellini, garbanzo, black-eye peas
Potatoes, corn, green beans, sauerkraut, beets
Whole peeled tomatoes, tomato paste
Sundried mushrooms and tomatoes
Broth, bouillion, other soups
Fruits: peaches, pears, pineapple
Dehydrated fruit, jams
Pastas: rice, oats, quinoa, barley. flour
Vegetable seeds, soil, containers
Other garden needs
Windowsill scallions and herbs
Dried herbs with healing properties for teas
Animals and pets
Chickens feed, seeds, water
Important information, documents, papers, even passwords
I consider us to be pretty well prepared. From the numerous events that have taken place, we have already learned so many lessons when it comes to having our ducks in a row. The first time our basement flooded was a big eye-opener for us as new homeowners. It was now our responsibility to put things in order for us to avoid costly damage as much as possible.
The last ice storm didn’t mean much to some, but it left others without power for days. It meant complete displacement for an unfortunate few.
We all have different circumstances. This craziness from the pandemic entering its third year has left us with delays in shipping, food shortages, inflation, price-gouging, the worry of what could happen next, the angst of getting back to some normalcy, and now a dangerous war. A domino effect is only compounding our problems.
Somehow I hope everyone can have the means to be as prepared as possible. And most optimistically of all, I hope that the signs that we have been getting from this planet can be heard by all.
I know I’m a dreamer.