In the wake of Hurricane Irma last year, millions of Floridians were left without power. For thousands, the power outages lasted for more than a week. Thousands of residents of Puerto Rico still had no electricity when Christmas arrived, more than three months after Hurricane Maria wreaked havoc on the island.
The result was a national conversation: about infrastructure, about disaster relief, and about the sometimes agonizingly slow recovery process after an emergency of this size. But it also prompted a fair bit of introspection. The reality of so many Americans going without made us wonder: how long could we really go without power?
How long could you go without air conditioning?
According to the Centers for Disease Control, an average of 658 people die of heat-related illness each year, and the greatest impact is on children under the age of 4, and adults over 65. The greatest protective factor against heat-related illness? Access to air conditioning, either at home or somewhere easily accessible in the community.
A month without air conditioning is, of course, possible. Staying hydrated, keeping shades drawn during the hottest parts of the day, wearing light, loose-fitting clothing, and doing any intense physical activity in the evening or early morning hours can all help keep heat-related illness at bay. But with Florida high temperatures averaging in the low 90s during the summer months, the idea of going without air conditioning for weeks at a time is a chilling one, to say the least.
How long could you go without refrigeration?
During a power outage, a full, unopened refrigerator will keep food at safe temperatures for four hours. A full freezer, left unopened, will do the same for 48 hours. After that? Consuming perishable food might be tempting, but you put yourself at risk of foodborne illness.
What does this mean for families left without power for days or weeks? There are non-perishable foods, of course, and everyone should keep some on hand in case of an emergency. Depending on whether your stove is gas or electric (and whether you have access to other cooking methods, such as a charcoal grill), it may be difficult to heat and cook some shelf-stable foods, such as pasta and dried beans, and leftovers will need to be discarded after each meal, regardless of their source.
And for individuals who rely on refrigeration to keep insulin or other life-saving medicines at their peak levels of effectiveness, finding a good cooler and a reliable source of ice could mean the difference between life and death.
How long could you go without laundry?
Although most of us have had the experience of hand-washing a few delicate items or rinsing an item of clothing in a public restroom after a spill, generations have gone by since Americans typically washed all of their clothing by hand. And for good reason. The average American household does 1-2 loads of laundry per member per week, and hand-washing can take not only a serious investment of time, it also requires strength and energy.
If you’re a homesteader already, you might have access to a good-sized tub, a washboard, cold-water soap, and a clothesline hung in a well-ventilated area or outdoors. If not, you might be relegated to a bathtub, whatever detergent you have on hand, and some hangers on your shower curtain rod.
If illness strikes and you need to wash out contaminated clothes or linens, hand washing (especially in cold water if your heater is electric) can end up spreading the illness, rather than keeping it under control. And for families with infants in cloth diapers … laundry can quickly go from being merely a dull chore to being a truly terrible one.
How long could you go without connectivity?
If the internet plays a large part in your life, it can be difficult to imagine life without it. Long winter nights without Netflix (or lights, for that matter), the inability to check work or personal email, no access to updates from friends and family … it means a huge shift in how we function. Even if mobile networks are up, it’s difficult to make use of them without any way of charging your phone from home, or possibly from anywhere in the area.
It’s a best practice to have a battery-operated radio with fresh batteries (and a solar-powered method for charging them) in case of a natural disaster. But while we all lived without constant electronic communication only two decades ago, it can add yet another level of stress to an already difficult situation.
Could you survive a month or more without power?
Absolutely. Humans are remarkably resilient, after all. But would you want to, if you could avoid it?
A little bit of preparedness can go a long way. A generator can mean the difference between spoiled food and three good meals a day. It can mean clean laundry, hot water, working lights, and knowing what’s happening in the world. A generator can help to keep the most vulnerable among us safe through all kinds of storms.
And Southwest Florida Electric can help. Take charge of your future and get in touch today.