No Power – No Worries

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As many of you would be aware, a large portion of the eastern part of Queensland has endured some pretty wild weather over the past week or so.  Ex Cyclone Oswald (hurricane) has wreaked havoc over a large area.  Because the system was moving quite slowly we had plenty of time to prepare for the bad weather.

Flooding in the backyard

‘Prepare’ is the key word here and I think I did a reasonable job.  As usual, there are things that we did well and some that could be improved.  In the interests of creating a reference for the future I thought I would share what I discovered.

Firstly, here is a bit of background.  Our household consists of 2 adults in a 3 bedroom, high-set timber-framed home on a small acreage.  We are totally reliant on our tank water and have solar hot water as well as grid-connected solar panels.  We live about 8km from the nearest town and there is no public transport.  We have 2 vehicles.  Strong coastal winds do affect our property.

Apart from the risk of structural damage to our home, my main concern was losing power.  Without electricity we are unable to run the pump to get water to the house so we boiled water so that it was ready to drink.  We prepared 40 litres which we stored in a 20 litre drum from our camping equipment and the Duke’s 20 litre home brew kit.  We have a refrigerator/freezer in the kitchen as well as a small upright freezer in the study.  I filled several ice-cream containers with water to freeze in an attempt to keep the frozen goods OK for as long as possible.

Home brew

Once we lost power we were still able to access water from a tap on the tank to fill buckets.  However, it is about a 400 metre round trip to the tank.

Solar panels
Because we are connected to the grid we cannot access power directly from our solar panels.  I have heard that this can now be done so I will be investigating this possibility with the company that installed the panels.

Cooking was not a problem as we have a gas cooktop and we also had the wood-heater blazing in an attempt to keep the humidity down.  We had 2 billies of water on the heater at all times so there was plenty of warm water for a ‘shower’ using buckets of warm water.  I also cooked soup and bolognaise sauce on the heater .

Bolognaise sauce
The biggest challenge was keeping food cold.  Since the refrigerator/freezer was in the same zone of the house as the wood heater it did not stay cool for long.  The small freezer fared better as it was in another part of the house.  I ended up using it like an ice-chest.  It was lucky that we did not have a lot of meat on hand so I was able to cook and use all of it without any loss.  I did throw out a few things  but the total value would have been less than $30.  That is a small price to pay rather than getting sick from eating food that has not been stored safely.

We were without power for a total of 59 hours and in that time we had to work hard just to ensure that we had food and drink as well as water for washing dishes and bathing.  I did not even contemplate washing clothes as I knew that we had enough to last until the immediate crisis was over.

THINGS I DID WELL

Prepared plenty of drinking water
Cooked nutritious meals using ingredients we had available
Made sure that the perishable foodstuffs were used first
Wasted a minimal amount of food
Bought a lighter for the gas stove/fire when we realised that the humidity meant the matchbox was damp and striking a match was almost impossible
Having the house decluttered and organised meant that we knew where things were and they were easy to access with minimal light

THINGS I COULD DO BETTER

Start freezing water earlier to ensure that it is completely frozen before the power is lost
Consider buying a small generator
Set the camp fridge to ‘freeze’ before power is lost and fill it with frozen goods that will not need to be accessed during power outage.  This would be especially useful if I had a lot of meat.
Move the small freezer downstairs (the coolest part of the house) and use like an ice-chest
Follow up on our plans to install a rainwater tank close to the house so that water is easier to access

I also gave some thought to what we would take if the house were damaged substantially.  I had sturdy shoes and socks and a torch as well as my essential medications ready to grab if we needed to seek shelter downstairs.  This seems very minimal and I need to give a lot more thought to what we would need to take if we had to leave in a hurry for any reason.  I would love to hear if you have a ‘grab-bag’, what is in it and where you store it.

We survived quite well and were certainly not tested to the limit but the last week has given us several things to think about and priorities to consider.