Friday, April 06, 2012

Back to the Dark Ages

The other day, due to severe snowstorms (for the UK), we ended up snowed in and without power or heating for days. During this time I discovered a few things. For a start, having gas central heating that is initiated with an electric started is a major flaw in the design! Next, laptop batteries really don't last long. And a 3G phone without access to 3G (even the phone masts were without power!) is a great brick.

But I think the most surprising thing for me was how ill prepared I was to deal with the lack of electricity. Now don't get me wrong - we've had power outages before, so had a good stock of candles, blankets, torches and batteries. But previous outages have been infrequent and lasted only a few hours, maybe up to a day. And fortunately they've tended to be in the summer months (not sure why). So going without wasn't too bad.

However, not this time and I've been trying to understand why. I think it's a combination of things. The duration for one, but also the fact that it happened during the week when I had a lot to do at work. Missing a few hours connectivity is OK because there are always things I can do (do better) when there are no interruptions from email or the phone. But extend that into days and it becomes an issue, especially when alternative solutions don't work, such as using my 3G phone for connectivity or to read backup emails.

What is interesting is that coincidentally we're doing a check of our processes for coping with catastrophic events. Now whilst I think that this power outage hardly counts as such an event, it does drive home that my own personal ability to cope is lacking. After spending a few hours thinking about this (I did have plenty of time, after all!) I'm sure there are things I can do better in the future, but probably the one place that remains beyond my control is lack of network (3G as a backup has shown itself to be limiting). I'm not sure I can justify a satellite link! So maybe I just take this as a weak link and hope it doesn't happen again. But we may be investing in a generator if this happens again.

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