Five tips to ensure you are ready for a power cut this winter

Having experienced many a power outage in recent years, John Dolan gives some advice on how to prepare for a power cut - which could be looming this winter
Five tips to ensure you are ready for a power cut this winter

Keep the candles to the ready this winter, you might be needing them. Picture: Stock

THERE are plenty of reasons to fear the onset of winter - the cost-of-living crisis, massive energy and fuel bills, soaring inflation, England winning the World Cup... (ha, got you there).

But the one that makes me go ‘meh’ is the warning that Ireland will simply not have sufficient energy to go around, and that power cuts are likely.

Not because losing the power in your home is not a cussed inconvenience - it is. Not because you have to find alternate ways to heat and light your home and worry about how to cook meals and whether the food in your freezer will thaw. All of that is true and a huge problem.

But the reason I shrug my shoulders over threatened power cuts is that, where I live, I’ve come to expect them, they have become such a regular occurrence

In fact, even if there were no issues with supply - and even if we have a mild winter, the wind blows for the turbines and demand is low... even in that perfect non-storm, I could guarantee we would be cursed by power cuts.

Do you recall a few weeks ago when we had those fierce storms that followed the heatwave?

Well, our power didn’t go out then - but it did the next day when the ESB were clearly trying to re-set their system. It went about six or seven times - albeit very briefly - in the space of just a few hours.

It would have been just a mild inconvenience, as it was daylight and warm, except for the fact I was working from home, and each time the power went, so did my broadband - crashing my work system. Each cut sapped 15 minutes from my work day - so I lost easily an hour and a half.

Losing power is not unusual at all where I live, near the village of Carrigadrohid in mid-Cork. I guess we have an average of five or six each season, lasting from a few minutes to a few hours. 

Sometimes, it is down to a local issue, such as a tree falling on a line, but more often than not our power goes for no discernible reason that I can see.

I wrote about this on this page a year ago, explaining that we rarely ever had a power cut... until a new line was put up which we were told would SECURE supply! Myself and a group of local residents actually opposed this new line as we felt it was unnecessary, as well as being a blot on the landscape.

We lost the fight, the new line was built, and my reliability is now worse than ever. Go figure!

A year ago, I contacted Eirgrid with a list of questions as to why this should be, but they never got back. Clearly, I would say, the pressure and demand on our energy is not in a good place.

At least all of this puts me in an ideal position to advise you on how best to prepare for a power cut, so here are a few suggestions.

1. Have candles and torches in a handy easy-to-locate drawer - you might need to find them quickly in the pitch dark. The light or torch on your phone should help guide you in this scenario.

2. If you have an open fire, ensure you have a supply of wood and matches for it.

3. Find a way to cope with the boredom. If your power is out for a few hours, you will have no TV or internet. You might find you’re forced to have conversations with your family, but if that is beyond the pale, or if you live alone, a handy stash of magazines and books would be a big help.

4. Invest in a portable gas heater to use in an emergency.

5. Buy a generator. A portable one, powered by natural gas or liquid propane, could be a godsend in a power cut as you can plug them into various household sockets. Ask an electrician or another expert for advice on what to buy and how they work in an emergency. Some cost just a few hundred euro - I know, I know, times are tough - but even the most basic would enable some heat, light and entertainment to be accessed while you await the return of your power... whenever that is.

Which brings me neatly onto the biggest issue I find with power cuts - and one that the ESB and Eirgrid simply must guard against this winter: Communication - or lack thereof.

While we can all accept that a storm can cut power to your house without warning, there are certain occasions when an outage is known in advance. They must up their game in this instance and give people due warning.

Forewarned is forearmed - if a power cut is coming, people can go to work in the office, eat out or buy a takeaway, send the kids to a friend’s house after school, even temporarily transfer their freezer stock to an unaffected friend

But the warning has to be ample and widespread.

They say the first casualty of war is truth - well, the first casualty of a power outage is communication - believe me, I have had bitter experience.

A power cut means broadband is lost - so there is no way of accessing the ESB website to see how long the outage is set to last. Online, they will give a maximum time by which your power should be restored, which can be viewed by everyone except the affected parties!

When we have an outage, I have to drive to an unaffected area so I can log in and find out how long this latest inconvenience will last.

Please, can the authorities make sure we are warned in advance of power cuts as much as humanly possible? It would make a huge difference.

Oh, and another piece of advice. If your power goes and you do manage to find out how long it is gone for, let the neighbours know, especially any who are not technically savvy.

We are hearing rumblings that there may need to be unprecedented steps taken to secure our energy supply this weather. But I believe many of us would be happy to abide by them.

For one thing, if the pressure on our energy supply gets very bad in the depths of winter, I would be happy to lose power for a certain hour or two on a given day, even at peak times, so long as everyone else suffered a little too and we were guaranteed supply would be there the rest of the time.

Equally, I would be happy to abide by edicts to go easy on power at peak times when the circuit is under most pressure - I think many of us would take a communal view on this, just like we did during Covid.

There is a lot of doom and gloom around at the moment - and a lot of pressure on the Government to deliver relief on energy bills.

But we can - and will - get through this crisis, especially if the ESB and Eirgrid don’t keep us in the dark.

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