We had a power cut last night. It was quite full-on and came off the back of two other brief power cuts last week. On top of this, over the summer the other side of the street was without power for a whole day and then the West End had a four hour power cut over the weekend. So when the lights just cut out, blammo, at 7pm, I did sort of think “Christ… is this is? Is this how it’s going to be? Is this the beginning of the end?”
In fact I might have rather enjoyed the cut if it hadn’t been for our bastard burglar alarm going haywire going NEEEEEEEEEP NOP NEEEEEEEEP NOP at top goddamn volume every five minutes. This was to tell me that it was unable to connect to mains power – yes thank you I know there’s a power cut you stupid stupid bastard plastic piece of shrieking shit.
My children were hysterical (“What’s the bad sound mummy?? Are we going to die mummy?”) and the alarm people were unable to instruct me on how to silence the fucking thing. They got a rocket off me, I tell you.
Anyway I eventually managed to make the alarm emit a regular but much quieter neeep noise, muffled the alarm unit with loads of cushions, shut the living room door and went upstairs.
But the whole alarm/apocalypse thing didn’t half leave me a bit jangled and I realised, as I peered in the dim candlelight at my iPhone battery standing at 31% how woefully underprepared in this house for any power cut lasting longer then a few minutes.
So the next day (the power having come back on after three hours) I went to the shops and bought:
1. More pillar candles
2. 2 x battery operated camping lanterns. I was really after cool oil-powered hurricane lanterns but Homebase didn’t stock them
3 An ENORMOUS flashlight
4 More hot water bottles. Our boiler goes off during a power cut and we only have 1 hot water bottle, so I got more to keep our spirits up if it happens again on a chilly night.
5 A landline phone that doesn’t need to be plugged in. Because you feel like an absolute tool during a power cut when you cannot use your landline because it’s a stupid cordless set that needs an electricity source.
I was insanely grateful to find that I had an extra battery for my mobile, which was in my house from sheer dumb luck. It’s a fob thingy that I got free in a goodie bag over the summer. I had charged it up, intending to keep it in the car, but in fact found it lying in my bedside table drawer looking like a cross between a flashlight and an executive sex toy.
There are many extra battery options for mobiles available, from charging cases to devices in the manner of the executive sex-toy design and I recommend that you get one for emergencies such as these.
While we’re on the subject of “prepping”, *wipes foam off chin*, I also keep in my kitchen an empty plastic 4-pint milk tank. On a chilly morning such as the one I woke up to this morning you fill it with luke warm water (it doesn’t need to be at all hot) and a dash of screen wash, which contains anti-freeze, and glug it over your windows to clear them fast. Make sure you clear the driver’s side last otherwise it will have started to re-freeze by the time you’ve done the rest of the car and by the time you get in to drive away, you won’t be able to see out.
Once again, don’t forget that if you experience a power cut you dial 105 from any mobile or landline and it will connect you to your local national grid.
If you have any brilliant tips on shopping for the apocalypse, please leave them as a comment in the handy box below.
I live in an old cottage in the countryside. Our family experience power cuts regularly and for prolonged amounts of time. If your country based best tip is but a generator. Expensive but worth every penny in the moments of need. A Kelly Kettle is fun for a hot drink. Hot choc boiled on top. We have only just purchased ours but plan on using at the beach & powe cuts.
Angela O'Donovan says
Top Topical Tips! Definitely going to find those (at least two!) mobile charger things wherever they are and put them somewhere useful…
Sorry to be a dick but how will you fill your hot water bottles if there’s no power? Otherwise top marks for panic preparations.
we’ve got a gas stove so boil water on the top
Re cuts, we had no water (and therefore no heating) for the whole of Sunday due to massive burst water main. Poor folk of Blackheath were having to parboil their Sunday spuds in Evian. Had to stop my husband from using the same to flush the loo. Local shops ran out of bottled water in a nano second and Thames Water didn’t deliver more supplies until late afternoon. Fortunately our fridge was full of beer #firstworldproblems
Heather Allison says
We lost our water supply in October due to a burst mains pipe, the whole street was affected. We woke up blissfully ignorant of the situation, but it quickly became a nightmare. Luckily I remembered my husband had bought some bottled water the day before. We were without water all in all for about 12 hours. Now we keep two really massive water bottles in the garage for emergencies and I also fill up the kettle before going to bed.
This may sound obvious, but keep all your torches batteries and candles and matches in the same place, so that during the powercut you are not stumbling from room to room trying to locate the sodding things individually. Those little glow sticks that you snap are good for the children, I always have a bag of those, they also got wind up torches in their Christmas stocking so that keeps them occupied and makes them less panicky.
Batteries! Have LOADS of batteries in the drawer for the torches.
Make sure you know how to change the batteries in the torch. You’ll be doing it in the dark.
Tinned and jarred food! I stockpile this like a nutter as I cant help myself. However every 2 (10) years I throw out tins of rhubarb, grapefruit, sauerkraut etc etc as I realise not even in a near death situation will we ever eat this stuff. More worrying is the melting ice and rising sea levels which on breakfast news on Saturday had a two minute slot unlike slack Friday which was talked about for what seemed like hours. So surely we should be stockpiling life jackets, things to float on etc? I find this all very worrying but not sure what to do about it all??? Vote Green at the next election? In my fantasy life Im hugely involved in politics but the reality is Im too knackered.
We are all-electric so have a little camping gas stove, just big enough to boil a kettle or heat a pan of soup.
We once had a power cut when our kids were teens. We got out the sherry, cheese and crackers and lit the candles. A while later, kids came in to say power back on. By that time we didn’t care, we carried on with our candle-lit party! Teens shook heads and wandered off. Can’t wait for the next power cut 😉
A small camping gaz burner for us country folk with only electricity. To heat soup/ beans/ water for tea and the hot water bottles .
Logs for the fire
This is so inane that I’m almost ashamed to be posting, but along the lines of the windscreen stuff, my life in winter has been transformed by buying one of those windscreen scrapers that has an integral mitten. I used to stand there scraping away with a credit card while my fingers turned to ice. Mitten thing makes it a positive pleasure!
Not inane at all – have just ordered one for my husband, thank you (I like to treat him) Also, I love the phrase “integral mitten”.
My husband thinks I am barking mad but for years living in London I rambled on about the need to stockpile lentils and batteries and dried goods in case the wheels fell off and although the size of our crappy, tiny terrace prevented me from stockpiling nuclear bunker-style I did have a modest collection of dried goods stashed away. I also had two large water butts in the garden; ostensibly to water the plants in the event of a hosepipe ban, but really to prevent us all from dying of thirst within 24 hours come the apocalypse. Overall, we were probably good for two weeks before we started robbing our neighbours and eating one another.
However, we have recently been forced to move to the country (middle of nowhere) as we we’re one of those dreary twats who “can’t afford London any more” (Zzzzzz!) and so I have embraced the silver lining that is more space to horde and grow. I have stockpiled lentils and other dried goods and am in the process of getting a water diviner person thingie out with his or her dowsing rod so I can plumb a well. We have a rainwater underground storage reservoir too so if we were really fucked we can drink that. We have several vegetable beds, fruit trees, two wood burning stoves in the house, candles, camping lights, etc. and really all manner of Ray Mears type crap that helps me sleep easier at night knowing that, if we’re all fucked, we’re less fucked than some and I can make sure my children don’t starve to death in front of me.
Obviously this is all a huge source of amusement to my friends and family as I am perceived to be the glamorous, stiletto-wearing moron amongst us. Should the shit truly hit the fan I shall refrain from saying “I told you so” as they hike up the M5, and will instead welcome their sceptic selves into my tinned goods stockade!
Caveat: In all other aspects of my life I am normal.
Tess I love this so much
You mean Torch. Twice. Unless you are recommending a hand held strobe?? 😉
My electricity company (Scottish Hydro) have a special service where if you have kids under 5 you are the priority to get your leccy put back on after a power cut (presumably after the people who are dependent on oxygen pumping machines and the like). You just have to ask to be put on their register. Other providers may do the same.
Re the windscreen clearing – where I live it really does have to be hot (it was minus 8 last week). I boil the kettle before walking my kid to nursery then it’s still hot but not boiling when I get back and need to drive to work. Alternatively, you can take your make up to the car and put it on while the car heater does its thing.
If you have old-fashioned ceramic fuses, keep a torch in the fuse cupboard that is small enough to hold in your mouth while you rethread the fuse with two hands (or a head torch).
And finally….dogs and small children make excellent, long-lasting hot water bottles.
My grandmother always had 37 packets of UHT milk, eight dozen loo rolls and many jars of peanut butter and tunafish, ‘just in case’. I exaggerate, but only mildly, and these days I no longer mock.
Tinned food: buy in France if you go. The big tins of sausage and lentil, cassoulet, petit salé and lentil etc are extremely good and v. comforting in a crisis (our #firstworldproblem was repeated AGA breakdowns, always winter, no other cooker, great idea, that landlord) and it is satisfying to knock up a proper meal from a tin, rather than just a constituent part. And yes, I second the camping stove. We invested in – see above – a two-ring-with-grill stove and it was super.
For true peace of mind, Calor gas heater. They are a bit niffy but trust me, you overlook that quite quickly if it’s your only source of heat … but do keep a spare cannister if you have room.
We too had a power cut Saturday afternoon/evening. I had four torches, 2 had no batteries & I couldn’t manage to open the cursed battery cases. I lit every candle I had, all of them scented , all of them differently scented of course, most of them relics from the back of the cupboard. Teenage son asked if we could have a seance. Just what I fancied obviously.
The smoke alarms went off when I blew them out. Hurrah for battery back-up.
Hate to bore everyone with National Grid issues but there’s a hefty chance of power cuts this winter. I’m stocking up on torches. And some Wolford tights. Just because.
Ruth, how do they prioritise you? How can your power be put back on any quicker? You’ve just reminded me I once phoned up to report a power cut in the middle of the night. The woman asked if I had any vulnerable people in my household and I said ‘no, no, it’s not an emergency or anything, I’m just calling in case you didn’t know yet. I’d have slept through it if the baby alarm hadn’t beeped to alert me it had no power.’ And the woman asked how old my baby was- a few months- and she said we would be classified as vulnerable and took a few more details from me, talked me through some power cut safety measures and followed up with me when the power was back. I was a bit baffled, and felt like a slightly bad mother. Elaine x
Ruth Fry says
Elaine,I think they can do certain streets before others, depending on the cause of the cut. If you’re fairly rural like us it’s literally a case of one house sorted at a time.
I was the same – on the phone asking about a smart meter and the guy heard my daughter wailing in the background and offered this service. I never considered us ‘vulnerable’!
The landline phone without requiring mains power is the number one as with candles and matches. We also so have a kettle to put on the gas hob when the power goes – so useful. The phone has been essential for my grandmother (I do tend to specialise in disaster planning 😫) just so we know we can contact her and she can contact us.
During one power cut our alarm did something stupid and Dad ripped it off the wall ( it did continue to make a noise until I turned it off).
Dads are mostly there to rip things off the wall when all else fails
Very true. It was like something from the Incredible Hulk