Survival without pain

November 10, 2010

By Drs. Robert & Sonia Vogl
President and Vice President Illinois Renewable Energy Association

We didn’t expect to be without electricity for three days when we visited the far north, but we were. A storm struck over an extremely wide area, leaving many without power. Eventually, it was restored to all but three homes on our side of the road.

It was inconvenient, but there was an element of fun. It was something out of the ordinary. We coped and discussed coping.

Let’s begin with what we notice first—lights that can be used for reading. Most people have candles that don’t provide enough light, but let us see where we’re going. They’re not safe on standard candlesticks, especially for those accustomed to night lights who might forget to blow them out. A glass baking pan is safer.

Kerosene lanterns are available from Lehman’s non-electric catalog. When using candles or lanterns, be aware of anything flammable nearby. Have a fire extinguisher in every room.

Lamps that use DC bulbs and eight D-cell batteries can be purchased at Wal-Mart. Remember to remove the batteries when done so they don’t drain. Have plenty of them.

Then, there’s heat. Anything wood burning—a fireplace or small stove—is useful. Layer clothes. Use silk underwear, vests, sweaters and jackets.

It may be necessary to change sleeping arrangements—use wool blankets or a featherbed, or sleep where it’s warm(er).

We expect the water will always flow, but it might not, especially for those in the country or on a well. A supply of filled jugs can serve many needs. At the very least, a stock pot of water with a small dipping cup on the kitchen counter will allow brushing teeth and washing hands. Handy wipes allow the supply to last longer. A morning shower is a thing of the past.

Another pot of water on the wood stove or barbecue grill for those who have them will provide for coffee. Use an old-fashioned drip pot with a filter.

Food can be cooked on a barbecue grill. Even if prepared food is available at the grocery, store some food and household supplies.

If refrigeration fails in winter, food can remain fresh on attic steps or a cool porch.

The bathroom is a more delicate problem. Those with stored water can fill the tank for an occasional flush. Guys can go outdoors. A composting toilet in the garage or shed might work. Old farmsteads often have an outhouse. Not comfortable, but usable. Pets need water. Our hosts and we have livestock to consider. An old-fashioned pump, also sold by Lehman’s, helps.

A cell phone dead zone and a fiber optic system with three-hour batteries prohibited communication with the outside world.

For entertainment, there’s always the option of conversation or a candle-lit card game.

We have had many of these experiences recently and in the past, and know that preparation is always the best solution. An extended outage of a week or more would call for additional adjustments.

Of course, those who have their own reliable renewable energy source won’t experience these problems.

Drs. Robert and Sonia Vogl are founders and officers of the Illinois Renewable Energy Association (IREA) and coordinate the annual Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair. The Vogls and the IREA are members of the Environmental Hall of Fame. Dr. Robert Vogl is vice president of Freedom Field, and Dr. Sonia Vogl is a member of Freedom Field’s Executive Committee. The Vogls consult on energy efficiency, renewable energy and green building. They have 3.2 kW of PV and a 1 kW wind generator at their home. Forty acres of their 180-acre home farm are in ecological restorations. They are active in preserving natural areas and are retired professors from Northern Illinois University. E-mail sonia@-essex1.com.

From the Nov. 10-16, 2010 issue

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