Imagine this: You're working on your computer, and the power unexpectedly goes out. You grab your phone to turn on the flashlight but realize it's almost dead because you forgot to charge it. No lights, no refrigerator, no AC. You have no idea how long this blackout will last. This is the harsh reality of a rolling blackout.
As climate change leads to more extreme weather and strains on outdated electric grids, rolling blackouts are becoming more common across the United States. Power companies institute these planned, controlled outages to prevent the entire grid from crashing during times of high electricity demand. But whether it's planned or unplanned, losing power presents dangerous and difficult situations for households and businesses.
In this article, we'll explain what rolling blackouts are, how they work, and, most importantly-how to prepare for them. With the right gear and some advanced planning, you can stay safe and comfortable when the lights go out.
What Is a Rolling Blackout?
A rolling blackout, also called a rotating outage or load shedding, is an intentionally engineered power outage where electricity delivery is halted to certain areas in a region. This is done by power companies to decrease demand on the electric grid during periods of excessive energy usage.
Rolling blackouts are more likely to occur during intense heat waves or cold snaps when many people crank up their air conditioning or blast electric heaters. High demand plus limitations in electricity generation, transmission infrastructure, and grid maintenance can strain the system.
Rather than allow an entire grid to crash from overload, utilities will black out selected distribution lines and circuits for a period of time. After one area's power has been restored, another outage is triggered elsewhere. This intentional, controlled rotating of outages is meant to keep the overall grid from a catastrophic failure.
How Long Does a Blackout Last?
Outages typically last from 60 to 90 minutes per affected neighborhood. However, a series of factors play into how long blackouts persist, such as the severity of electricity demand, infrastructure limitations, aging and overloaded electrical systems and weather conditions. In dire situations like heat waves, outages may happen multiple times per day over several days for some households and businesses. While utilities try to spread the burden, blackouts can still last for many unpleasant hours.
Impact of a Rolling Blackout on Human Activities
Losing electricity, even briefly, disrupts many facets of everyday life. Here are some of the major impacts rolling blackouts have on homes, workplaces, and community functions:
How Rolling Blackouts Affect Home Life?
- Loss of lighting, appliances, heating and cooling systems. Food spoilage if refrigerators and freezers lose power.
- Inability to cook or use electric pumps if you rely on an electric stove or well water.
- Loss of internet, TV, and other entertainment without a backup power source. Difficulty staying informed without TV news.
- Home security systems and garage doors disabled without a battery backup.
- Cell phones and other small electronics lose charge over extended outages.
How Rolling Blackouts Influence Work Life?
- Businesses, offices, factories, and stores forced to completely shut down during blackouts. Loss of inventory if refrigeration is disrupted.
- Production halted on assembly lines, project delays without computers, losses from food service businesses and more.
- Lack of lighting creates safety issues. Elevators and electronic doors may fail.
- Telecom systems, cash registers, payment processing and other tech rendered useless.
How Rolling Blackouts Do Bad to Public Services?
- Traffic signals without backup batteries will go dark, increasing accidents. Rail services like subways may shut down.
- Water services may fail without electricity to run pumps and filtration. Sewage systems may also be affected.
- Emergency response times will increase without traffic lights. Lack of communication channels may worsen response.
- Hospitals in blackout zones forced to rely on backup generators for all operations.
As you can see, every facet of modern life depends on reliable electricity. Even small disruptions can have cascading effects. Planning ahead is absolutely vital to stay safe and comfortable when the grid fails.
How to Deal with Rolling Blackouts?
No amount of personal preparedness can fully prevent the disruptions of a utility-mandated blackout. But you can take steps to reduce the impact and stay safe if the lights do go off. Here are tips to survive a rolling blackout:
Before a Blackout
- Be aware of alerts. Monitor weather forecasts and sign up for power company warning emails or texts about possible outages.
- Fully charge all devices and backup batteries once bad weather is forecast.
- Stock up on non-perishable foods, water, medications, flashlights, batteries, and other essentials. Withdraw extra cash too, since electronic payments may not work.
- Install surge protectors and ensure critical medical devices have backup power sources.
- If on municipal water, fill bathtubs and spare containers with water ahead of shutoffs.
During a Blackout
- Unplug major appliances like TVs and AC units to avoid damage when power surges back. Leave one lamp or socket unplugged to check when the electricity returns.
- Avoid opening refrigerators and freezers to retain cold air. Perishables may be temporarily relocated to outdoor winter air if needed.
- Use surge protectors, generators, and backup batteries sparingly for minimal required lighting, heating or medical needs only. Devices and gasoline for generators may remain in short supply if outages persist.
- If possible, switch off circuit breakers during a blackout to prevent surges when electricity is restored.
- Turn off and unplug home electronics and appliances to prevent power spikes from damaging them when service resumes.
- In a multi-day outage, consider relocating food and refrigerated medicine to a friend's house unaffected by the blackout.
- Check on vulnerable neighbors to ensure they have necessities. Work together with community members when possible.
- Stay informed with a wind-up or battery-powered radio, and car radio if needed. Follow directions from emergency officials.
- Use a flashlight when moving around indoors. Never use candles due to fire risk; use battery-powered lighting only.
- If using a portable gas generator, place it outdoors and plug devices directly into it. Never wire a generator directly into your home's electrical system.
- Avoid driving during the outage. Traffic lights will be disabled without battery backups. If travel is essential, treat intersections as four-way stops.
After a Blackout
- Check food supplies and medical equipment for spoilage after extended outages. Restock medicines and provisions.
- Consider purchasing additional backup batteries, coolers, and other equipment to prepare for the next outage.
- Gradually power devices back on over several hours to avoid overwhelming the restored grid.
- Reset tripped breakers, appliances, and equipment before turning them on again. Contact professionals if needed.
- Update power company account information to prevent billing issues. File insurance claims or apply for reimbursement if eligible.
- Review what worked and what could be improved in your blackout preparations. Adjust your emergency plan accordingly.
By following these tips, you can stay safe and comfortable even when the lights go off. But backup generators and batteries only go so far. For reliable electricity through extended outages, a renewable power station is essential.
Benefits of Portable Power Stations During Rolling Blackouts
Gasoline generators are noisy, high-maintenance, and require constant fuel replenishment. Battery-powered solar generators offer a silent, renewable solution for electricity self-sufficiency when the grid fails. Also called solar power stations, these devices allow you to harness limitless energy from the sun.
Here are the advantages of using a solar generator during utility blackouts:
- Silent operation, zero emissions, and lower fire risk unlike gasoline generators. Safe for indoor use.
- Can be continually recharged from sunlight using foldable backup solar panels. Never run out of fuel.
- Provide multiple high-watt AC outlets, USB ports, 12V car ports to run essentials. Some support home wiring.
- Advanced LCD displays show wattage consumption and remaining runtime. Easy for anyone to operate.
- Stores hundreds of hours of standby power with fast recharge times under 2.5 hours. Maintains charge when not in use.
- Stable, clean electricity protects sensitive electronics like phones and medical devices. Avoid damage from dirty generator power.
- Extremely portable at under 30 pounds. Bring renewable energy anywhere you need it during prolonged grid failures.
With a good solar generator, you'll be able to run amenities like lights, small appliances, mobile devices, fans, televisions, and even your refrigerator for days on end. Just a couple hours of sun exposure per day provides limitless off-grid power through the blackout. It's a smart investment for reliable energy no matter what happens to the grid.
What Size Portable Power Station Should I Consider for Rolling Blackouts?
When selecting a portable power station for rolling blackouts, focus on choosing a model with sufficient capacity in watt-hours. Look for a lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) battery with 1000-1500 watt-hours to meet your essential electricity needs for at least 24 hours. The higher the capacity, the more devices and appliances you'll be able to run throughout an extended outage. Compare different capacity options to find the best solar-powered station within your budget. Investing in a LiFePO4 portable power station with adequate watt-hour capacity will provide reliable, renewable electricity to keep your critical loads running during rolling blackouts.
Rolling blackouts are a new reality as climate change and aging infrastructure collide. But with the right preparations, you can stay resilient no matter what the power company must do to keep the grid intact for all. Follow the tips above to minimize disruption from utility-mandated outages. Consider investing in a silent, renewable solar generator for electricity self-sufficiency when the lights go out. With smart planning and gear, your household will stay comfortable and secure through the next rolling blackout and beyond. Just remember - darkness is only temporary, but self-reliance lasts forever.