Lessons from the power outages

It is easy to become complacent about the possibility of disaster. Most Carlisleans have been through multiple snow storms and other weather events without serious trouble. But a hard winter with several power outages underlines Carlisle’s dependence on the infrastructure of modern living. In the aftermath of local storms, it can be useful to take a moment for lessons learned.

In spite of missives from town boards posted on many refrigerators, how many local residents filled bath tubs before the storm? What about stocking up on non-perishable food, water and medications? Were flashlights, lanterns, blankets and battery-powered radios available and at hand? Cell phones powered? Gas in the car? Wood by the fireplace? For many, a few days without power were a reminder that preparation has to happen well ahead of time—not when groping in the dark.

Was everyone registered for updates from Chief Flannery? These phone messages provided information on the status of power restoration, where to go for heat and electricity, and cautioned residents to shelter in place, stay off roads, and avoid unvented generators. In a major disaster, they could be essential. To sign up for notifications go to carlislema.gov “quick links” and click on “Blackboard Connect.”

Did many think to check on neighbors who might be in trouble? An interview with emergency personnel in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma in the Naples (Florida) News noted one surprise was how many people who needed to evacuate did not have anywhere to go. The police can be overwhelmed with well-being checks during storms, and it is helpful and possibly life-saving to have neighbors and friends look in.

Thankfully, our recent outages were for days, not weeks. For some the experience was not wholly negative, giving lessons in entertainment without electricity—printed books, playing cards and board games were suddenly useful again. And neighbors who hadn’t seen each other in months chatted as the storm passed and everyone appeared on the roads to cut tree limbs and shovel snow. 

Soon enough it was back to cell phones and Netflix, and relief at being on the grid. But perhaps the final lesson of the storm is a generous dose of empathy for the poorer residents of Florida, Texas and the Caribbean, some of whom are still struggling with homelessness and power outages months after the hurricanes of September. ∆