The other night I stumbled into the kitchen following a sweaty summer afternoon nap, determined to slap together a meal that would satisfy my tummy grumbles. Frozen chicken was on the menu, so I thawed the meat, oiled up the pan, and tossed the poultry down with some lemon pepper. Halfway through, the power went out. Oh well, I thought, I’ll grab a flashlight. But wait, I thought, this stove is electric.
As we discussed in a previous post about teching-down, nights without power can be very relaxing. The real issue with not having power is that you discover how utterly difficult life would be if we were all suddenly without it. Once the power was off I had to finish cooking my chicken on the grill (always have a backup, right?), which was no big deal, but the dishes I tried to wash by lamplight certainly weren’t very clean when I looked at them the next morning, and the sink got clogged because the disposal wouldn’t run.
Once I finished my meal and cleaned up I decided to read until the power came back, which was fine because I had intended to anyway. Of course, I couldn’t look up the words I didn’t know on my tablet. The tablet was charged, but with the power out, neither my modem nor my router had power, which meant I had no Internet. I had to turn pages in my Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary instead, but at least I had a backup for that as well.
I grabbed my water pitcher from the fridge to fill up a glass and couldn’t help but wonder what I’d do if the power stayed off for a few days. Certainly all the food in the fridge would spoil, but perhaps I could buy ice blocks from the gas station to keep things cool in the fridge. Thinking of possibilities can really help you understand what you’d need to do in a real emergency. The slight panic I heard from my neighbors downstairs (they all came outside, extremely concerned by the outage), made it clear to me that most of them never thought about what to do if the power went out for a few hours. My guess is these people would be completely helpless if it shut off for a few days.
I’m sure a lot of businesses are like my neighbors. If the power went out at your office, would employees know what to do or would they simply head back home? Would they be able to then work from home, or would you lose out on all those man hours?
Power goes out all the time and it might not affect a business greatly over a short term, but it doesn’t always go out for a short term. There are plenty of times when it goes out for a much longer period of time, which will really cause a business a significant amount of trouble. The big problem is that you can never know when it will go out for an extended period of time, so you’ve at least got to prepare for the possibility. I knew what I would do at home, which is buy ice to keep my food from spoiling, but you need to worry about what you’ll do to keep your business from spoiling, and that takes some more serious planning. Do you have backup power? Is it possible to get by on a generator if you have to? Do you have one or do you even know where to get one? Can you send employees home and let business continue from there?
All in all, our power was out for about six hours. For me this meant I used flashlights, for a business it means money can disappear every minute, that is, unless you know what to do. Power seems like such a basic need it’s easy to forget how essential it is until it disappears, so think now about what’s got to happen when the lights shut off for any reason. That way you aren’t left helpless in the dark.