Guest Post: This was a test, this was only a test…

Connecticut was recently hit with two power-outage storms which served as tests of our family’s assumptions about what “preparedness” means.

Hurricane Irene – lost power for a day and a half. We had a lot of advance warning, so no panic buying (as we were already “prepped”). We filled the tub with fresh water, had wood ready in case of chilly nights, candles pulled out etc.. The power went out. We shifted into “prepped mode”; filled 2 coolers with fridge stuff and ice. The family played board games—a real “coming together”—then the power came on. The kids were disappointed and asked why the power had to come on. We all were disappointed as we were geared up for a good hunker-down.

Be careful what you wish for…

Storm Alfred—surprise storm, snow + leaves-still-on trees = downed power lines everywhere and no advanced warning, as this storm was forecast to be something less. We lost power for 8+ days. So here was the test we thought we might get with Irene. We were less graceful in our transition, but hit all the critical points. We decided that filling the tub was wasteful, so “flush buckets” were filled from the bathtub tap and then from the water on the pool cover when pressure ran out. Candles were out and used responsibly, food in the coolers etc…. The only change we would have made (if we could have afforded it) was a larger generator to run critical systems (furnace, well pump and fridge). As it was, we limped by on a small generator that powered a Heatilator (firebox insert in the fireplace to more efficiently extract heat and blow it into the room) and a box fan to distribute the heat through the rest of the house.

We got through the week as we had prepared to do—gas grill and stored food, cold-weather sleeping bags on beds—with surprisingly little impatience from the kids—and no surprises due to unpreparedness. We checked on neighbors’ needs, but everyone was getting on fine with their own resources. Our needs were met and it was not very exciting. I thought I would be more proud—or smug… nope; just prepared.

When the power came back on, I had a strange feeling of regret as I “re-normalized” the house for the conspicuous consumption of electricity. I put away the generator and candles and flush buckets; undoing everything I had done to convert to “prepper-engaged” mode. I felt as if I was betraying my principles—putting them back in the closet because the “greater principle” of convenience trumped them.  Maybe because of the gulf between my “convenient life” and my “needs-based preparedness”…

For now, I will reflect on the preparations I had made and all the assumptions that were challenged or borne-out. As a prepper, one thinks about TSHTF and how to be on the proper footing to meet that. As for the past couple months, I am thankful for the small challenges which tested us without loss of life property or principles—and I’m thankful for a little time to reflect upon and refine my preparations.


-Reuben Painter

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