hFamilies across the UK have begun preparing after warnings that the national grid could impose a series of three-hour blackouts this winter if gas supplies to power stations drop dramatically.
Some set up blackout boxes and buy candles, camping stoves, and radios. Others purchase batteries and generators to keep vital equipment running, including a home aquarium and sensory equipment for an autistic family member.
Six people discuss how they have been preparing for a possible power outage.
‘I made a dark box for lamps and biscuits for my elderly parents’
Jennifer Poland, 64, lives a two-hour drive from her parents, aged 85 and 93, and is concerned about how to deal with a blackout. I’ve spoken to them about it since September to prepare them: “I don’t know if they were optimistic or not. They thought the hard times were long gone.”
Boland made them a blackout box containing “two torches, biscuits, and fruitcake” as well as “tea lights hung properly in aluminum foil trays so they could grab and hold them.” “We practiced using little straws and ripping off the top of the milk,” she says. “We practiced putting in the straw – the squash jumps all over the place but it doesn’t matter as long as they have something to drink.”
Boland explains that the couple relies on an elevator to get to bed. “If there was a power outage, they would have to sleep wherever they were. I put blankets and folded fleece on the dining chairs.” Poland visits them once a month for 10 days. “It’s a state of being ready for what I can and hoping for the best.”
“I bought warm pajamas for my children.”
Vanessa Linden, 46, started collecting “All Classic Dark Items” in September. “We have a battery-powered flashlight and a radio, stocked up on candles, and bought thermal base layers, and wool boots,” she says. Linden, who works in learning and development in Chiswick, also has a supply of dried and canned foods.
With two children aged two and four, she fears for her safety if she has to rely on candles. She’s bought thick pajamas for her kids and is concerned about them all staying warm too, saying there’s a “high chance the four of us will sleep in a Super King just to keep warm.”
“I showed my young children how dark it is without only lamplight and candles,” she says. “[But] How long can you realistically keep up with the “This is an adventure, let’s read with a torch in the tent” story? “
I have a radio and a camping stove.
In September, Joanna Young purchased a wind radio, wind lamps, and a lantern in order to prepare for the possibility of a power outage. “The radio has a solar panel, can hold AA batteries, has a flashlight, and a USB port to charge your phone.” Young made sure there were plenty of matches in case the electric ignition on the kitchen gas stove didn’t work.
Then the 60-year-old from Eastbourne ramped up her preparations, entering what she called “phase two” with a camping stove. “We ordered the single round gas stove from Amazon and a supply of gas canisters after reading about Yarrow and after becoming aware of incidents around Nord Stream. Being of a pessimistic/realistic nature, I started thinking that gas might switch to what is electric.”
“I wonder what I should do about drinking water, but I’m wondering if I’d go overboard at this point,” she adds.
“I bought a 12v battery to keep my aquarium alive’
Mike Wharton, 37, is the owner of a rare marine saltwater aquarium, which is home to a variety of species, including fish, corals, and invertebrates. “There is a lot of machinery and equipment needed to keep it alive,” he says. “All of this requires power. I have some spare emergency equipment that will keep it going with the power outage for an hour – but then the system needs power.”
Wharton, the co-founder of digital consulting firm Dundee, recently bought a 12-volt battery that he hopes can undo his wife’s Nissan Leaf car. “It should last about a week,” he says. “This worries me but I live in a part of the city where there is no electricity, it comes through the ground cables, so it has never happened here before.”
“We keep dry emergency rations on hand.”
Lewis, 73, of Bexhill-on-Sea in East Sussex, says he and his husband have been prepared for any blackouts for some time, given their backgrounds. “We have [supplies] On hand all the time.” “My husband is from Japan, and I am from San Francisco, so we are both used to being prepared for earthquakes.
“The big difference is that the San Francisco Bay Area doesn’t get as cold as it is here, so heat will still be an issue. But we do keep week-long emergency dry rations on hand. I always make sure I have enough medication for a week. I have water bottles stocked, Plus chemicals to disinfect if we need to. It’s like a church with all the candles we’ve spread around the place for the dark hours.”
The couple also keep their emergency documents in bags that can withstand water and fire. However, Lewis says he’s never had to deal with frequent blackouts before.
He says, “I’ve never had to last more than a day. For example, the 1989 earthquake in the Bay Area or shortly thereafter was the bushfires in Auckland. Not terribly long but probably longer than two to three hours they talk about in the evening Here. Longer than that but not repeated.”
“We bought a generator to power my brother’s lifesaving technology.”
Hannah, who is in her early thirties and lives near Glasgow, is an unpaid family caregiver for her brother, in his twenties, who has autism. He has learning disabilities, is unable to speak and relies on digital technology to communicate with those around him. “My brother doesn’t communicate verbally, he relies on technology to convey basic needs, whether he needs to go to the bathroom or if he has cut himself,” she says.
“Because he has epilepsy, we also have sensors all over the house in case he has seizures. One in particular is a kind of rug that is put under his bed and it will set off alarms if he has seizures and we can support him. All of this needs to be plugged in or charged with electricity. “.
Concerned about the possibility of a power outage this winter, Hana and her family invested in a small £300 generator for emergency use. “I hope it just sits in the back of the cupboard and doesn’t need to be used, but it’s a fair indication of the impact of the power outage on a family like us. It will last three or four hours.”
Hannah adds that she feels that people with disabilities are often overlooked when politicians make decisions that will affect them.