Have you ever realized how helpless we become once the power fails? The great blackout of 2003 taught millions of residents in Ontario and several U.S. states just how dependent we all have become on electricity. Elevators suddenly stopped working, forcing people to use the stairs. Traffic lights stopped shining, causing chaos on the streets. I saw a news report on TV of one Toronto woman who had no battery-powered radios in her apartment except for a toy poodle radio. Even then, it had no nine-volt battery in it.
I’ve come to appreciate having a steady flow of current from my electrical outlets since moving to the hamlet of Radway in 2000. When I lived in Edmonton, I rarely was without electricity. Whenever the power failed, service was swiftly restored. Even in my childhood town of Fort Saskatchewan, there was only one time when the power was out for about four hours. That happened during a snow storm in October of 1970. Our neighbours from across the sidewalk actually had to come over to our home and cook their dinner on our gas stove as their electric range was rendered useless by the blackout. Since moving to Radway, I’ve found that power failures happen on an average of several times per year.
After the wind storm of October 25th, 2008, I made up my mind about the purchase of a gas range and heater. During that day, I was without electricity for eleven and a half hours. My electric range was useless and the furnace wouldn’t run because it requires power for the fan. I called a friend who is an appliance repair man after the outage and asked him about acquiring a gas range and heater. He drove me to Edmonton where we purchased the appliances and a local gas fitter connected them up.
I had a chance to use both the range and the heater a few weeks after they were installed. Another wind storm knocked out the power at about nine o’clock that evening. While I waited for the service to be restored, I turned on the heater. It kept the basement warm and the heat rising from the stairwell moderated the temperature of the main floor. I also sat at the kitchen table, sipping a hot cup of Postum, and listening to my dynamo-powered AM/FM/weather radio.
The electricity failed again recently for no apparent reason. After phoning Atco Electric about the failure, using my old rotary dial telephone, I tidied up my house while listening to CDs on a battery-powered portable player. Had the outage lasted longer than two hours, I could have made a hot cup of coffee and relaxed in my warm basement instead of growing colder by the minute.
The reality of blackouts must always be taken into account, particularly for rural residents. I’m glad that I was prepared for emergencies such as last month’s power failure. With my LED lanterns, gas appliances, and dynamo-powered radios, waiting for service to be restored isn’t the hardship it once was.