By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine
In May of 2018 the government agencies of 7 Wisconsin counties underwent asimulation of a massive power outage. The public was told not to be concerned by a greater presence of emergency responders, military personnel or drones during the exercise. Over a 3 day period there were more than 1,000 people from the federal, state, county and municipal branches participating in the exercise.
The simulation was to test the abilities of the responders to handle a long-term power outage across the state. One interesting thing that occurred was the National Guard going door to door to interview residents about their preparedness for an extended power outage. What was found was the residents on the average were not prepared. Many thought preparedness for a blackout was an extra set of batteries for their flashlight. Very few thought about an extended outage of 30 days or more and the need for food, water, heat, medical care and other basic necessities. They seem to be of the mindset of an outage lasting a few hours or a day or two at most. After the simulation more people were aware of the need to be prepared and the agencies were better prepared to cooperate and assist the citizens.
I feel we too are under the impression of an outage being a short inconvenience. I watched today as a thunderstorm passed through our area and our lights blinked off for just a second. No concern. This is common and they come right back on. But if they hadn’t we would have been dealing with 100% humidity and 95 degree temp which means a heat index of near 110 degrees. We would be uncomfortable to say the least. But a few days of that would be vicious. The truth is the loss of power for extended periods of time is more of a reality than ever. With the threat of a cyber-attack on our systems coming on a weekly basis it is just a matter of time before a power plant or a large grid is shut down. In many cases we are told the only thing standing between a terrorist bomb and our substations are chain link fences which can easily be breached. Maybe we should be more prepared.
As writers we encounter inconveniences of some sort every day. It can come in the form of a lost document, internet outage, computer programs not preforming or just a time crunch. Of course a power outage would mean all of these things. How can we prepare for this? As far as the computer there are several ways. Documents can be shared with other devices through email, saved on zip drives, or by the use of an online service or the cloud that backs up your work on a regular basis. Most of us know the internet comes and goes and can deal with that. We also assume it will be back up shortly but what if it didn’t? I can only hope the internet is such a priority with our government that we would not be without it very long but if we were what would we do? It could possibly mean getting back to old school basics. By that I mean a typewriter, reams of paper, inked ribbons and sent through the mail. That is not only an inconvenience but scary to think we would need to return to this.
I hope we can enjoy and be thankful for our conveniences and not dwell on our inconveniences when they come. We should expect there will be times of inconveniences and we should be prepared for them the best we can. The question is are we prepared or do we also have only an extra set of batteries for our flashlight?