Friday, September 9, 2011

What To Do During a Power Outage

Sometimes we "young folks" forget how strong our elders are.

Yesterday San Diego County (and beyond) experienced the largest power outage in its history, with 1.4 million locally enduring hot temperatures and hot tempers due to a power line failure in Arizona that created a cascade effect and knocked out electricity everywhere. My grandmother, 97, lives with us and I worried that she might not be well as I inched toward home in rush hour traffic on steriods. Our cell phones didn't work, so I couldn't call to check in on her.

When I did finally make it home, I found Grandma just chillin' on our coach, staying cool and staying calm. I explained that the power was out everywhere, and her response was, "Really? What's for dinner?"

As I whined on about all of the inconveniences we had to endure, she reminded me that she grew up without electric power on a farm and that our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (with chips!) would be plenty during the Great Depression. She was miffed that I didn't risk a house fire to make her a cup of tea, but otherwise, she seemed grateful to witness yet another historic moment in a life that has seen many.

Later, sitting in our pajamas on the porch, she joked that the only thing missing from the still and dark night were air raid sirens. Then she seriously asked what we would do if terrorists did strike, gently reminded me that life now was much preferrable to life during wartime.

There are some things the CDC recommends we all do during an extended power outage:
  •  Throw away food in the fridge if the temperature gets about 45 degrees, which happens after about two hours without power.
  • Be careful of carbon monoxide poisoning when using backup devices beyond a generator or grill
  • Check with local authorities to make sure the tap water is safe. Boil it for at least 2 minutes (once power's restored) if it's not.
  • Drink plenty of liquids if it's hot and try not to move around too much to conserve energy.
  • Turn off all appliances and lights and A/C or fans so there isn't a power surge when electricity is restored.

My grandmother and I talked for a couple of hours before she said it was time for bed and headed off, promising to keep a battery-powered night light by her bedside. I checked on her about an hour later and found her sleeping soundly, her head illuminated by a hallow of light from accidentally turning on the night light beneath her pillow.

I mention this personal tale because sometimes we need to be reminded that though our parents and grandparents become more fragile with age, they remain hardy souls. They also can provide levity in serious situations and put our own problems in proper perspective. Thanks, Grandma. The next cup of tea is on me.

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