Power Outages ~Contingency Plans

Given the frequency of power outages due to load shedding, poor maintenance of electric sub-stations (and the main ones of course), theft of copper cabling, corruption within the departments resulting in a shortage of taxpayers’ money in the coffers to instal critically required and vital upgrades to power stations, I was researching contingency plans in an effort that we might be better prepared for when this happens, which is almost a daily occurence.  The difficulty with being prepared however comes with not knowing when the power is going to be cut, the duration of the loadshedding or in fact whether it is loadshedding or just merely electric sub-stations that are so poorly maintaned and monitored that they just cannot handle even the very basic electricity consumptions.

Last week was pleasant – really pleasant.. 6 hours off, 6 hours on, 6 hours off.. It was interesting to note that the 6 hours on occurred from around Midnight to 6 a.m. in the morning – a time when the country should be sleeping… Power was again disconnected for whatever reason they want to suck out of their thumbs this time from early hours in the morning, just in time for people getting up not to have a hot breakfast or a cup of tea before going to work.  (Work? Well how many businesses actually close shop during outages? No point in paying salaries to people who are sitting there picking their noses because of course they cannot work.)

It’s also a matter of record that the crime rate, already at an all time high in South Africa, escalates during these periods of no power.  Violent crime increases, looting in the CBD has become commonplace lately, and it was reported in the Natal Witness last week, that it is likely to increase even more. 

Of course it makes an awful lot of sense to have power after midnight and before people get up in the mornings, and not during the day or business hours.  This makes good sense to me.  Particularly during winter – this being one of the harshest winters South Africa has experienced in something like 40 years.  Thumbs up to the powers that be for that little bit of genius there!

Here is a plan I found on a US website – THEY actually teach in their schools and universities contingency plans in the event of emergencies, be they natural disasters like earthquakes, volcanoes – they even go as far as helping a family devise a contingency plan in the event of inclement weather – yes, it’s true… The US actually makes a point of educating its citizens on how minimise the devastation and how best to cope if and when it does happen.

In South Africa natural distaters do occur, floods, extreme heat, extreme cold, earthquakes in Gauteng… the Government does not educate its citizens on how to minimise the effects and how best to be prepared for these disasters.  When of course the “disaster” is in fact as a direct result of the Government or one of its organisations such as power outages etc, one realises then that 15 years down the line, South Africa is being run by the people the world demanded it to be run by – and while they wash their hands off of the country, the citizens, law-abiding tax-paying citizens have to live with the chaos… ( it’s all a monopoly anyway – we know this, Telkom, Eskom, all charge exhorbitant fees for services that we may or may not have for periods of up to 2 weeks at a time… no, no discounts are given and no apologies for the inconvenience or losses that can occur and do occur – in fact when they demand yet another increase of 53% which no one can afford, regardless of how affluent the person or the business, when there is opposition to fruther increases, they simply respond with a threat of increased load-shedding, by way of more frequent outages for longer periods.) 

It should be borne in mind that even the most affluent of people in this country ( I don’t refer to certain State employees because they are hardly affected at all, what they lose on the swings they gain on the roundabouts) suffer losses to their businesses, their families, their livelihood.  No work no pay – unless of course you go on strike as a State employee or one of the State-run Unions.. then you’re just having a paid holiday.

Here is some information gleaned from a Contingency Plan Devised by the US Govt in the event of power outages… I would assume they refer to natural disasters or difficulties that arise out of circussmtances beyond the control of the institutions in charge of these utilities.. I don’t think – well I have never heard – that the USA has loadshedding on the scale that South Africa has.

I hasten to add that the Preparation Plans In Case Of Emergency that are made available to the public in the US, the education, the publications, the interest, care and concern shown towards educating the masses, although the basis of my post, is in no way shape or form being minimised, ridiculed or knocked in any manner whatsoever. I am just wishing that the PTB in the 3rd World would sit up and take notice of how things are done and should be done… I thank the US Fed Govt  for its hundreds of brilliant resources, printed and otherwise.

Register life-sustaining equipment with your utility.  (This of course will mean absolutely nothing to Eskom, so it will be a futile exercise, but do it anyway.  When the time comes to sue them you’ll have something to fall back on.  Things get LOST easily in these organisations.)


Consider purchasing a small generator or know where to rent one if you use life sustaining equipment that requires electrical power.  (This has its downfalls. Although you will have power for a limited period of time, you need to ascertain that there is no Fuel Strike again, the last one was to last 2 weeks and went on for 9 – many areas just ran out of fuel.  When generator is not in use hide it well – it WILL get nicked.)


Post the telephone number of the New Construction, Repairs and Power Outage listing of your local utility.  (Again this should be done, but will do you no good in the event of loadshedding.  In the remote event that you have a difficulty unrelated to poor maintenance and load shedding, you will need to have this information handy.)


If you own an electric garage door opener, learn how to open the door without power. (Something we should all learn anyway, the override. I have over the years learned to override the electric garage doors, the electric gate and the electric razor fencing.)


Prepare a power outage kit. For short duration outages consider having glow light sticks, flashlights, batterypowered radio, extra batteries and a wind-up clock on hand. (This is an excellent idea and I think most families in South Africa do have items like this in an emergency kit.  Candles, matches, battery operated lamps, spare charged cell phone batteries all become necessary during these outages.)


Make sure you have an alternate heat source and a supply of fuel.  (This is a great concept.  It would work if it were not illegal to make a fire on your own property.  Gas heaters and oil burners are also a great addition to the survival kit, hellish expensive but well worth having.  Hide them well when not in use.)


Report power outages to the utility company. (This of course would do absolutely no good at all.  Even with power you can’t get them to answer the phone.  The utility companies are responsible for the outages, right from Eskom the main supplier to the local municipalities.)


Have a corded telephone available.  Cordless telephones do not work during outages. (Make sure your phone bill is not paid a day late because you will get disconnected… you will not be able to access emergency numbers if your phone is disconnected due to late payment… well you may be lucky enough to have had uninterrupted telephone service due to poor maintanance installations and outdated servers.)


When installing generators, follow the manufacturer’s instructions and have it inspected by the utility company and the state electrical inspector. (Then hide it)



If your house is the only one without power, check your fuse box or circuit breaker panel.  Turn off large appliances before replacing fuses or resetting circuits. (Excellent advice, and something millions of South Africans do daily, because they never know whether it is load shedding, a natural outage, an outage due to poor maintenance or whether the treasured copper cable has been nicked from the poles down the road… Of course try and report it to the Utility Company.  If they answer, you may or may not understand what they are waffling on about before putting you on hold for an hour or simply disconnecting you because you have interrupted their tea time/lunch time/break time/snooze time << Yes, tis true, they snooze in their offices.  Check to see that your account was not a day overdue – because then you have merely been disconnected and will have enormous penalities to pay – sometimes more than 100% of what was outstanding.)


If power is out in the neighbourhood, disconnect all electrical heaters and appliances to reduce the initial demand and protect the motors from possible low voltage damage. (Again exceptional advice. If you are living in South Africa, once you have disconnected the applicances etc, hide them well…)


If you leave home, turn off or unplug heat producing appliances.  (This should be done in any event whether there is load shedding or not…)


Unplug computers and other voltage sensitive equipment to protect them against possible surges when power is restored. (This is exceptional advice and advice which any computer savvy person would take and adhere to…. sadly the power surges come with the switching off of the power as well as when it gets restored. If we do not know when the power is going we don’t know to switch off the computer. )


Conserve water, especially if you are on a well.  (this should be done wherever in the world a person lives.)


Keep doors, windows and draperies closed to retain heat in your home. (This becomes difficult when one is experiencing a  bitterly cold spell, there is NO standard heating in homes, the cold cannot be kept out. Very good idea just as an additional deterrent to those uninvited visitors who might see a darkened house as an easy pick…)

Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed. If the door remains closed, a fully loaded freezer can keep foods frozen for two days.  (Mine defrosted within 18 hours during a May outage ~ contents lost)


Be extremely careful of fire hazards caused by candles or other flammable light source (this is something that should be observed anywhere in the world under any conditions.)


When using kerosene heaters, gas lanterns or stoves inside the house, maintain ventilation to avoid a build-up of toxic fumes. Never use charcoal or gas barbeques inside; they produce carbon monoxide.


Connect lights and appliances directly to a generator, not to an existing electrical system. (If you can afford a generator – and if you still have it by the following morning…)

NOTE: Leave one light switch in the on position to alert you when service is restored.

3 Responses to “Power Outages ~Contingency Plans”

  1. […] Power Outages ~Contingency Plans « Donnette E Davis ~ My Other Blog […]

  2. […] Power Outages ~Contingency Plans « Donnette E Davis ~ My Other Blog […]

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