Power blip, lighting musings

Minor ( to me) power outage yesterday, I was in the shop minding my own business when *pop* everything died. No prob..I grabbed the big MagLite from its rack and started out the door to see if my neighbors, who have a cabinet factory in an underground garage, needed some illumination to get out of their dark little cave. As I walked out the door the lights came back on. Total downtime? 30 seconds, tops. Called the girlfriend to see if it affected her side of town. Turns out that the power was off on her side of town alot longer earlier in the day. Rumour was that a car accident involving a power pole/line was the culprit. Her building lost partial power. They still had some lights but elevators were offline. The stairwell, apparently, kept its lights. (When she started working there one of the first things I did was ask her to accompany me on locating the stairwell and walking it to familiarize ourselves with it…just in case.) She’s got a handful of lightsticks and a Streamlight LED flashlight that I gave her that she keeps in her desk for just such emergencies but as it turns out it was unneeded.

For me, the power going out is always big excitement. Not necessarily because of the event itself, but rather because I wonder why it happened. Someone nuke something? Terrorist attack? That sort of thing. My first response is to look around and see , if I can, how widespread the outage is. Sometimes I can look down the street and see traffic lights and whatnot are unaffected..then I know its localized to just a few blocks – no sweat. Sometimes everything everywhere is dark…more dramatic.

What was it? Two years ago NYC went dark for a few days…I bet that was big excitement.

Back at Casa Zero we are quite prepared for emergency illumination. We’ve got Aladdin lamps, propane lanterns, Coleman lanterns, MagLites, Baygen lights and the ubiquitous chemlights. The chemlights are for immediate use…like finding your way to a flashlight or to the bunker. On the top ledge of each bedroom doorway, closet doorway, and basement doorway theres a lightstick in its foil wrapper. This way, in the dark all you have to do is find a doorway, reach up, and youre good to go. Lightsticks get changed out every year around Halloween when they go on sale. The old ones are rotated into ‘secondary’ status or used for testing, etc, etc.

I also keep A Streamlight LED flashlight, a lightstick and a Photon LED light in my Tactical Tailor bag which accompanies me to most places.

Summertime has its own risks of blackout…mostly from overtaxed power grids and forest fires eating the lines. Winter has ice on the lines and that sort of thing. So theres always the risk of a prolonged power outage around here. And then, theres the totally unpredictable person-in-a-car-hitting-a-power-pole event.

Moral: it can happen anytime, anywhere – be prepared.
Especially. At. Work.

13 thoughts on “Power blip, lighting musings

  1. We’re in the middle of another outage right now, by the way. Power went at 1:30pm. Still out. Our building has emergency generators, which is why we have some computers that are still working, and why the stairwells are illuminated.

    There was nothing in the paper about it, by the way. The building manager said it was a brownout. But I’m not sure I buy that – it hasn’t been THAT hot around here lately.

  2. Commander Zero, you will be pleased to know that i have taken your advice on that subject (ALWAYS carries a LED flashlight in his left hand front jeans pocket at work, or anywhere else for that matter)

  3. You know, they’re cheap, tiny, and work great. Why wouldn’t a person keep one on their keyring or bag at all times? I think theyre an incredible value…and, of course, Im a huge fan of LED lighting technology.

  4. I think I saw a transformer blow up yesterday. I was sitting in a Wendy’s having lunch and heard a muffled “boom.” I looked up and could see smoke rising from several hundred yards away. One of the people at the table next to me said to her companion, “Did you see that? There was a bright flash that looked like an explosion.” The power didn’t even flicker where I was, but I think it was out across the street. The most dangerous thing was there was busy intersection right where the transformer was and I think the stop light went out.

  5. I saw a power transformer get hit by lightning once. It was like a huge flashbulb suddenly went off. Loud too. Naturally, all the immediate traffic lights went out and I thought “Time to get home. Now.”

  6. I’m surprised there you don’t have an automated “Power Outage Hotline” number to call. We have one for PG&E, and while the information isn’t always reliable, they often do manage to report the cause of the outage.

  7. For me, the power going out is always big excitement. Not necessarily because of the event itself, but rather because I wonder why it happened. Someone nuke something?

    I went to college about 30 miles south of Cape Canaveral and Patrick’s Air Force base back during the Cold War years. Occasionally something would blow up on the launch pad or weird glows would fill the sky. Made for lots of exciting speculation among all of us young survivalists on campus!

    I always keep a flashlight and LED with me at work (yay for those mini-BOBs known as pocketbooks). One night a transformer blew, and we lost power. Ten minutes later, the emergency light at one end of the hall went out; five minutes after that, the ones on the stairways and the other end of the hall went out. I was the only one on the floor with a flashlight (though folks were doing a pretty good job of using those new picture cell phones for backup lighting). You can’t count on the batteries in those emergency lights. Now we have a huge generator at work, so we have hours before we need to worry. At home, well, hubby and I are both cavers. When the power goes out, I think our house actually gets brighter. If you don’t have any of the lights designed to be worn on the head, I highly recommend them. They keep your hands free and beat holding a minimag in your teeth.

  8. I too am a huge fan of the headlight. My wife gave me one a few years ago for Valentine’s Day. I still talk it up as the best V-day gift ever. The only problem I have with it is that I only have one. Gotta fix that.

  9. I was shopping at Target [at night] a few weeks ago, when the store lost power. Complete, pitch-black, can’t-see-your-hand-in-front-of-your-face darkness. While everyone else is going “what do we do, what do we do?”, I’m pulling the LED light [that I use as a key chain out] out of my pocket, and calmly walking toward the exit. I made it 3/4th the way there before the store’s backup generator kicked in; it turns out several people were using me as a guild to get themselves out as well.

    Besides my handy little LED, I always take my MagLite with me to work, plus I have a similar, heavy-duty flashlight (but with an LED array) in the BOB I keep in the trunk of my car.

  10. I keep a Photon brand LED light on my keychain and it hasn’t failed to be useful.

    USAF instructs their pilots to carry one as an emergency ground signal, where the light is placed in ‘constant on’ mode and then the entire light is attached to string and whirled in a circular fashion. At distance, it appears as a disk of light.

  11. I generally give the automatic rerouting 45 seconds to cut in before declaring a blackout.

    Chemlights…neat, I hadn’t thought of that storage location.

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