Wednesday, 7 April 2010

About That Blackout; Being Ready, Always

A few days prior to the recent power grid blackout we experienced here two days ago I had been meaning to get fresh gas for the gen set. A complete blackout brings you screaming back to reality – Be Ready and Be Prepared. This is the first blackout of the season and we usually have several out here in the country. It’s a fact of life when you live away from large cities like Ottawa.

I always stock up with gas every fall, add the appropriate gas stabilizer to my stock and mostly that’s it. I change the oil in the little Honda 2000i once a year or if it gets used during the summer months camping twice a year. I use a good quality synthetic oil, Mobil 1, and keep a couple of litres handy. generator-honda-2000i I keep a spare spark plug and clean the air filter regularly. It’s been running smoothly and without problems for 7 years now. I start it up every 3 weeks and let it run for 30 minutes and keep the gas tank topped up. I rotate the gas every spring, like I did 2 weeks ago. I dump the stabilized gas into my car and usually get new gas right away – lesson learned this time. I had to drive 15 Kms. to get gas for the generator when it should have been available and beside the generator.

I keep 2 deep cycle batteries topped up here too. One powers my sump pump and kicks in automatically during a blackout. I check the condition of the battery and keep distilled water on hand to top up the cells when needed. I also check each cell with a specific gravity wet meter just to make sure none of the cell have gone weak on me. The basement battery is kept on a trickle charge at all times and recharge is automatic when power resumes. The sump pump will run for approximately 17 hours on battery. I also have a direct connect to my generator at the pump location if run time is exceeded on the battery; I can connect the Honda generator outside on the back patio and run that with a fill up every 5 to 6 hours. The other deep cycle battery is kept in reserve or to run my ham shack. I also have 2 – 12v, 18amp/hr gel cells to run 2 meter gear or qrp (FT-817) hf. These get trickle charged every 30 days.

The Honda of course will charge 12 volt batteries; on hand too are 2 – 100 watt solar panels and a portable 15 watt panel for charging things if the grid goes down for extended periods. The great ice storm of 1998 was such an event and I don’t wish it to be repeated ever. During winter blackouts heating can be a problem. My home has 2 airtight wood stoves – a large Elmira Stove Works airtight in the basement and a BisII airtight in the living room – that heats the first and second floors. I keep a good supply of seasoned hardwood for those occasions. When the power grid goes down in the country our water source is affected – we can’t pump water from wells without power. Spring water is stored in 5 gallon containers for drinking.

In conclusion one can never be prepared for all eventualities. Being well prepared is what to strive for. Keep drinking water and food on hand; don’t depend on your neighbours as they’re in the same situation you’ll find yourself in. Know you equipment and how to repair it. Keep records of run time on your gas powered generators and change oil, filters and spark plugs when required. Keep a stock of batteries for flashlights and radios. Keep candles and kerosene or naptha on hand for lanterns or oil lamps.

Be prepared before emergencies and for when the grid goes down.

A short note about last night’s thunderstorm in Ottawa – disconnect those antennas BEFORE the storm hits. Disconnect before going to work – the spring and summer storm season is upon us and who wants to toast or damage expensive radio gear? Take precautions. Have spare antennas on hand to get back on the air quickly after the storms have passed, especially if you are a member of ARES Emergency Measures Radio Group in the National Capital Area.

Emergency Measures Radio Group – Ottawa ARES

Deep Cycle Battery FAQ

RAC ARES Operations Training Manual

The Survival Podcast Forum

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