Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Yesterday We Had Canaries In The Coalmines - Today It's Hamsters In The Hurricanes

From my personal experience, in the 14 years I've been in Canada, I've experienced five supposed “lifetime” events; 

  • the 2003 blackout, 
  • two storms with “100 yr” rainfalls, 
  • snowfall big enough to call in the army, 
  • and the SARS breakout that shut down many essential services.  
There's also been more power outages than you can shake a stick at, caused by everything from raccoons holding impromptu BBQ sessions in the local substation to microbursts blowing over trees onto power lines. 

Doing the math (14 years divided by 5 "lifetime" events = 2.8yrs), when the news mentions that a "lifetime event" is about to occur, I can only conclude that they're measuring timelines using hamster lifespans.

Most people I know in Toronto have been here for as long, if not longer, than I have.  Despite this, the night after hurricane Sandy I had nearly all my emergency equipment at other people's homes, including backup batteries, generators, flashlights, LED lamps, etc, because they had none.

The neighbour who I carried my generator to in order to save the contents of their freezer and quickly power up their sump pump asked me how much something like this cost.  Upon hearing I'd paid $350 for mine, she was shocked at how expensive it was.  When I asked her to tally up how much replacing the contents of her freezer was, she realised that whilst my generator sits idle for 99% of the time, it was now in the process of paying for itself the tenth time over on the food alone, never mind the thousands of dollars in flood damage avoided by emptying out her nearly-full sump.  Thankfully the water system to the taps was working as that house had no backup water either.

In the old days, people used to heed warnings.  They used to use canaries in coalmines to detect gas, look into the embers of fires to predict coming frosts, watch the behaviours of animals to detect weather.  Now, most people sit back in awe and wonder at the events which happen about once every three years whilst the news tells us this is a "once in a lifetime" event, and most still don't prepare for these events that are now pretty regular...

...and people think I'm crazy for having backup equipment?