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losing power at home

Losing Power at Home: A Personal Struggle

Losing Power at Home

We recently experienced losing power at home, specifically our gas-powered heat,  for a few days while away on vacation. In the aftermath, I got to thinking about how I could have been better prepared.

A backup generator wouldn’t have helped in this instance because we didn’t lose electricity. Rather, it was our gas-fueled heating system that stopped working. And, because it was very cold, several of our water pipes burst once the temperature rose. The ensuing flooding caused a lot of damage.

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What could we have done differently? Well, our pipes certainly could have been better insulated. We could have had a neighbor come and check on the house while we were away. We could have monitored the temperature of the house remotely.

What did we do right? We had very good insurance (at least we think we did; I’ll be sure to write a future installment that reports on how our insurance claims were handled).

What if It’s Not Just YOUR Home?

If a summer storm knocks out your power, then you can say goodbye to the air conditioner for a while. Writing as I am from Chicagoland, this is not that big of a deal. However, in hotter climates losing power at home can certainly be more than just a modern inconvenience; it can actually be deadly. But regardless of where you are, not having power for an extended period of time can cascade into a parade of horribles, starting with your food rotting and extending to a lack of potable water if the power outage impacts your area’s water purification plant. Just ask the people of Puerto Rico.

Not having power for an extended period of time can cascade into a parade of horribles

A local power outage is just one type of what I’ll refer to as an “infrastructure risk” (not a new term but one generally used in a slightly different context). We live in a hyper-connected world where political turmoil halfway across the globe can impact whether the local gas station has gas in its tanks and where a pandemic can travel as quickly as the fastest commercial airliner.

So, while I’m not about to build a bunker, the question of how much time and money to spend preparing for the unknown is a legitimate one. After all, I suspect you have an alarm system installed at your home. Is it likely your house will be the one targeted by the burglar? No. Yet, you have an alarm because, when measured against the consequence of not having one, your cost/benefit analysis told you that the small investment was the right choice.

The Basics of Preparing Ahead

  • Have an emergency kit stocked and stored in a safe, easily accessible place – Your kit should include batteries of various sizes, flashlights, a first aid kit and a portable radio in the event that losing power at home becomes a reality. Our family has hand-cranked flashlights and radios at our home, and I’m thinking about buying a stationary bike that can be used to charge a larger battery which, in turn, can be used to charge a variety of electronics. I’ve actually looked to see if I can find one that works out of the proverbial box, but have yet to locate one.
  • Don’t put all your eggs in one basket – I like having a kit, as noted above, with supplies in a single place. On the other hand, if your power goes out and you can’t get to your kit without bumping into walls or falling down the stairs, that might be a problem. So, in addition to the kit, we also have flashlights stashed in all sorts of places throughout the house.
  • Avoid using candles due to the risk of fire – Although we use candles, it’s safer not to do so for obvious reasons. (However, we never left our candles unattended and you shouldn’t either.) When you do use candles, use  a candle holder designed to house the flame safely and keep the candle from tipping over.
  • Keep bottled water on hand – Although the water in your home likely doesn’t require your home to have electricity in order to work, the systems that pump clean water to your home do. So, be sure to keep bottled water on hand. A common rule of thumb is to have one gallon per day per person and to keep enough around for at least five days. And, if you see a problem coming ahead of time, fill your bathtubs and plan to use that water for cooking.
  • Refill your gas tank when your car’s gauge reaches the halfway point – Keep your gas tanks as full as you can at all times. In very cold weather, this can help  ensure that your car works. And, because gas pumps need electricity to function, a blackout in your area can make it impossible to refuel.

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  • Keep a landline (that does not need electricity) available, even if you have a cell phone – We have one very old rotary phone, remember those? Many people tend to forget that any phone that needs to be plugged in will not work in a power outage.
  • Get the right insurance – Though stated above, I believe it is worth reiterating: Make sure your insurance covers the things you want it to cover. Work with an excellent insurance professional whom you can trust to make sure you understand what your policy protects and what it does not protect. Most risks can be insured against if you are willing to pay for it.

Preparing Like a Prepper

A long-standing tenet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is to have a supply of food and water on hand to survive the coming world-wide apocalypse. Not a bad idea (and you do not have to convert to follow suit).

I’ve been thinking about investing in solar panels and likely would’ve already done so if I lived in a sunnier place. If I lived in the right location, I would also consider a wind turbine. And, while I’m not planning to move into a missile silo when I retire, living in an area that is not too far away from fresh water and farms is always a good idea. For more information, visit Prepper Website and Tips for Suvivalists.

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About Jonathan Friedland

Jonathan Friedland is a senior partner in Sugar Felsenthal Grais & Helsinger LLP’s Chicago office. He is ranked AV® Preeminent™ by, has been repeatedly recognized as a “SuperLawyer”, by Leading Lawyers Magazine, is rated 10/10 by AVVO, and has received numerous other accolades. He has been profiled, interviewed, and/or quoted in publications such as Buyouts…

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