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Facing a cold, dark winter with potential power cuts

Do you remember the power cuts of the 1970s? I was at university and we used to gather in the kitchen with our duvets and sit the darkness out. It started out as novelty, but soon got pretty boring, not to say inconvenient.

Now, with the possible threat of power cuts again this winter, what can we advise our older family and friends to do to stay safe, warm and comfortable?

Make advance preparations

There are steps you can take to prepare for an energy crisis, including making utility companies aware of your older family member or friend, as they will take special steps to protect the vulnerable.

Light when it’s dark outside

In the case of a temporary blackout, torches are far safer and more efficient than candles. The advice with candles these days is to blow them out every time you leave the room to minimise the fire hazard, and that is hard works. A powerful working torch would in any case give a much better light. But make sure the batteries in the torches are working, and that there are easily accessible spares if needed.

Head torches are a good option, leaving both hands available to complete tasks. Our milkman has one to make his deliveries, and the younger people in our family seem to feel they’re quite the normal thing to do.

Good light tends to be essential to reading as we get older. A good torch may help, but even better might be a fully-charged e-book with a backlight that makes it easy to read in the dark. It’s a good way to pass the time until the lights come on again.

Staying warm if the heating goes off

When we know what time the cut is coming, we can prepare before the event. Electric hot water bottles can be warmed up, as well as useful gadgets like the hand warmers you can heat up in a microwave.

You can suggest keeping extra clothes and blankets in the room where your relative or friends be spending the time during the power cut, so they’re easy to pull on if they need them.

Something to eat and drink

If we know when the power cut is likely to take place, then people can prepare with flasks of hot water, soup or tea/coffee without the milk. It’s a good idea to keep milk separately in a jug or it will cool the drink down too early. And keep the jug out of the fridge so you don’t have to open the fridge door during the power cut more than absolutely necessary.

Keeping ready snacks close to hand rather than in the back of a dark cupboard or fridge is a good idea too.

Staying in touch

Being isolated during a power cut can be frightening, and it’s important to be able to make emergency calls if necessary. For these reasons it’s advisable to keep mobile phones charged up as much as possible. Turning off services like Bluetooth for the duration of the power cut can slow down drain on batteries.

Although the home wifi may not be working, phones will still work on mobile networks. Just make sure there’s enough credit on the phone to be able to use it at such times.

With televisions, Alexa, mains-controlled radio and other entertainment depending on electricity, it’s a good idea to have a battery-operated radio to hand. That will provide entertainment and an often much-needed link to the world outside.

Getting back to normal

Leave a light switched on so you know when the power is back. You may have to reset clocks on cookers, microwaves and so on, and check timers on boilers and other heating controls.


Photo by Alexandra Lee on Unsplash

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