Power out and backup lighting

Last night I taught my children what the adage, “Two is one and one is none” means.

Yesterday afternoon, our power went out – we had strong winds and a huge tree went down into someone’s garage right opposite the back of our house, pulling down power lines with it.  It wasn’t until it was evening and I noticed that almost all of our neighbors had their lights on that I realized it didn’t affect many people more than us.  Fortunately for us, someone had called the power company earlier in the day, and as Shabbos was ending, a truck pulled up to begin the repair.

Now, a power outage shouldn’t be a big deal, right?  Last week dh noticed that all of our battery powered lanterns and flashlights have no batteries, so he bought some.  Just in time!  But as frequently happens in the busyness of a large family, he couldn’t find them on the shelf he had placed them on just a few days ago.  So none of those lights were of use.

But that’s okay, because I had purchased three lights that are powered by winding, just in case.  The problem was those is that you had to basically continually wind them for them to be of any use – not much help!  We bought the older boys headlights for their backpacking trip several months ago, and a headlight would be perfect for a situation like this, since it directs light where you need it and frees up your hands – but wouldn’t you know, a little person must have been playing with it since the one I was sure I could locate two days ago was no longer there!

On to the oil lamps.  Do you remember a couple of years ago when I mentioned that I purchased attachments that could turn a mason canning jar into a lamp?  I bought three, and although all three glass tops that channel the flame were broken, I knew the lamps would work anyway.  One jar/lamp had been filled and used a number of times since we got them, for atmospheric dinnertimes in the winter.  So I knew that was fine.  Dh pulled it down and lit it, but it wasn’t burning well.  It seems the wick was too short.  So he transferred it to a smaller jar, where it fit perfectly.  That was then burning beautifully, while he and dd10 figured out how to connect the attachments to two other jars so we’d have three lamps going at once. 

But – once again, the reality of life with lots of little kids – two of the attachments had been damaged by apparently someone stepping on them and bending them out of shape!  And just then, the one lamp that was burning ignited right under the lid – I think when dh poured the fuel from one jar to another, some spilled underneath a lid.  So that was it for the oil lamps.

By now we couldn’t use battery powered lights, manual powered lights, head lamps, and oil lamps.  But fortunately, I had one more last possible option that I had put away quite some time ago – I had bought several large candles (2 inches in diameter) at a thrift store at one point.  And this is what finally brought light to our home!  We placed each of them in a metal bread pan as a security measure, and then that gave us enough light to do what we needed to do until the very extensive power line work was completed.

Although it sounds like we were a disorganized mess, we actually did a lot of things right.  Firstly, we were very calm about not having any power for hours, even with all the little kids who were getting scared about not being able to see anything, and that reassured them.  Secondly, as soon as Shabbos was over, we were able to locate our emergency lighting supplies in the dark – we knew exactly where to find them, as well as the matches to light them.  Secondly, dh had checked our flashlights and bought new batteries for them.  Thirdly, we had plenty of fuel available for the oil lamps, that would have kept us going for a long time.  And lastly, we had several options to choose from, so when one thing didn’t work out, we just moved on to the next possibility. 

The saying above, “Two is one and one is none” is used to refer to being prepared for emergency situations.  What that means is if you only have one backup to your regular way of doing things, if something goes wrong and you need your backup, it’s like having nothing.  To be in a better position, it’s good to have two options so that if one backfires or doesn’t work out as planned (see our situation for lots of examples of that!), you still have something else. 

The main thing I’ve learned is that we have to be more careful with the things our older children take out, since when they aren’t put back in a safe place, the littles find them and play with them – and then the chance of finding it when there’s no light goes down to a very small likelihood. :)   This is what accounted for most of our lighting options not working out (lost batteries, headlamp, dented lamp attachments).  

We were lucky that we didn’t go without power for long (maybe six or seven hours), and that there was some light shining in from the street lights and then later from the trucks working on the power line, so it wasn’t pitch black in the house even after dark- we had the luxury of seeing the flaws in our backup plans when the consequence to not having them was very minor, and it really only affected our lighting, not anything else. 


4 thoughts on “Power out and backup lighting

  1. in a practical sense, how do you manage this philosophy (have an extra extra just in case) with your frugality? i find it difficult to balance wanting to feel like we have enough safety nets without overbuying or overcluttering the house. any direction you could give would be very much appreciated! thanks- julie

    1. It’s a good question, Julie, and one I’ve thought about a number of times. I think a person should stop at the point they feel they’re out of balance (though some people are so laissez faire that they don’t prepare for any contingencies and just because they’re okay with that doesn’t mean it’s okay). I’ve also had to regularly remind myself that Hashem is in charge of the world and remember that I just have to do my part and be responsible; if it feels like too much for me, then I’m doing more than what is expected of me.

  2. since we live in florida and get hurricanes we have to have back up and many options since when we do lose power it can be for 2 weeks or more. Sooo, we have a drawer with those nice big candles, backup matches and lighters in the laundry room. dh has a heavy duty flashlight usually on a charger in the garage when not in use, winder flashlights, 2 solar flashlights( these are for continued use after the blackout, not for the emergency of now), 2 oil lamps and about 3 of those ones you keep plugged in as a night light and that charges them….and we do have a generator too but that is for longer blackouts to keep our food etc;
    I laughed out loud since we have so many options and flashlights and with curious little ones and big ones who don’t put things back we could be in a similar situation as you. I do try to keep some things out of reach and sight, but at the same time I want some of the family to know where they are just in case !

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