Sunday 12/02/17 was a day everyone living on the east coast of Australia will remember. The temperature at my house was 46.5 degrees Celsius, the wind was blowing at 25km/h with regular gusts of 33km/h, and the relative humidity was barely reaching 15%. In addition to the heat, nearly half of New South Wales had a Fire Danger Rating of either Extreme, or Catastrophic. In other words; welcome to the inside of your oven.
Everyone has a tale of how they spent the day. Some selflessly fought bushfires or cared for heat-stressed wildlife. Others did their best to hide from the sun and keep cool. The less intelligent spent all day at the beach then complained about how badly they got sunburnt. Fans and air conditioners were tested to their limits. Unfortunately; so was the electricity grid. At 1900hrs, a little after sunset, just as people turned on lights and started cooking dinner, the power grid failed, plunging more than half the town into darkness.
We quickly grabbed the nearest torches, then collected the candles and wind-up lantern from our emergency supply box. After we were safely set-up, I went outside to make sure nothing on my property required my attention, and to check on my neighbours.
I was greeted by darkness and silence. Other than my house, only my neighbours and one room in an apartment building up the road had any lighting. Every other building remained in darkness. Blackouts aren’t a difficult situation to prepare for, but almost nobody on my block had bothered. Curiosity forced me to wait outside to watch how people coped without electricity. Eventually, people resorted to using the torch app on their mobile phone to provide them with emergency lighting. Using your mobile phone as a torch isn’t a problem if you’re only going to use it for a couple of minutes. ; but it chews through your battery very quickly. If you rely on your mobile phone as your only source of light you could find yourself with a dead battery and no way to call 000 if you need the police, ambulance, or fire brigade.
Chemical glow-sticks are an ideal emergency lighting alternative for those of you who are pyrophobic (or live with people who can’t be trusted with a naked flame). The down side is they can only be used once, but the positives aspects include: a longer shelf-life than batteries (for your torch), and they won’t burn the house down if they’re left unattended.
How would you cope if your house were plunged into darkness right now? Do you have some way to produce light for you and your family? Do you at least own a decent torch? (A good quality torch doesn’t have to cost you $200, but you shouldn’t entrust your safety to a $2 torch).
The next time the power grid in your suburb fails I hope you took my advice and purchased a few basic supplies for your house. As always, please share this information with your friends and family on social media.