When Crisis Hits Home – Derachos and Disaster

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East Coast Power Outages impact business and home

Commentary by Firestorm Principal Guy Higgins

Many of us have recently learned a new word — Deracho– a Spanish word meaning straight-line or arrow. It is applied to violent  storms in which the wind is not a vortex, such as in a tornado, but rather straight-line and hurricane strength.  We’ve learned the word because of the storms that thrashed the east coast of the US last week, felling trees and interrupting electrical power to more than three million homes.

My son was one of those people in crisis and without power; he faced the day after the storms with no refrigeration, no air-conditioning, no fans in 100+ degree heat, and no way to recharge phones, laptops, etc.  My son lives in Maryland, right outside of Washington, DC, and saw the temperatures in his house climb into the high nineties — but at least it was humid.  (See our related article on Cooling Centers and Strategies for Keeping Cool)

His photos show the tree limb that took out his power.  Another limb completed what the first one started, also slicing through one of his eave troughs — he was thrilled it wasn’t another foot closer to his house.

The morning after the storm, he called several of the local building supply stores looking for an emergency generator, but they were sold out.  Fortunately, he got power back on by Tuesday, unlike many that are still waiting for power restoration.  Something to note — his power company targeted repairs to critical infrastructure first — hospitals, water filtration plants, etc.  Next, the focus shifted to commercial and business enterprises, and only then to restoring residential power.

The power company also decided that they would complete emergency repairs to restore power and then make the rounds a second time to convert the emergency repairs to complete, long-term fixes, something I think is a good approach, but it means that people throughout an affected area must make sure they keep themselves out of harm’s way during the entire week-long process.

As of this writing, two thirds of the people affected by the power loss crisis have electricity again — but that means there are still one million homes sweltering in record July heat.

This was a full scale disaster, but it was one for which people can and should be prepared.  Every year, there are dozens of major, long lasting power outages due to thunder storms, tornadoes, hurricanes, blizzards, wildfires — the list goes on.

It makes sense to have plans for your business and your home — plans that include what to do when faced with a long term power outage.


    • What about heating or cooling?


    • What about the livability of your home?


    • Will your basement flood without power to your sump pump?


  • How will you communicate?

Many of us have VOIP phones as our land lines and when those batteries run down, there will be no phone service.


    • What about your pets — tropical fish won’t handle cold temperatures in the winter if your home heating goes out for a week (you probably won’t like it either).


    • If you don’t have a gas stove, will you be able to prepare food?


  • What’s your plan?

Businesses need to think about whether or not their employees will be able to work if residential power is interrupted.  Business  continuity plans need to incorporate the human focus — Every Crisis is a Human Crisis.

Disaster Ready People for a Disaster Ready America provides a great outline for putting together your personal plan.  Some disasters are going to overwhelm the best plans, but a good plan will help in even the worst situations.

Visit our Partner Nexis Preparedness Systems to learn more about dealing with Blackouts and Power Losses, and to make sure your home and business have the necessary supplies to safely wait out an emergency.

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