How would three days without electricity, internet and mobile phone coverage impact your household?

Would it throw everything into turmoil? Stress you out? Or would it be an opportunity to come up for air and reflect on your lifestyle?

A few weeks ago, on Wednesday 28 September, the State of South Australia, where I live, was smashed by a massive 1 in 50 year storm that destroyed three elements of critical infrastructure and plunged the state, and its 1.7 million residents into darkness….some for a few hours, others (like my household) a few days.

Due to the scale of this event there’s not surprisingly been much finger-pointing and questions asked by the power-players (ooh love the pun!), and many, many lessons learned for the State and the main power providers.

But I also learned some lessons too.

Three days without electricity, internet and mobile phone coverage is enough to rattle any household or business in our modern fast-paced society…and my household and business were no exception.

However, I very quickly discovered that in my case, the inconvenience of the prolonged power outage was far out shined by the learnings and opportunities that came out of it……

In this post I’ll share these learnings with you and in doing so, they might help you reflect a little on your current lifestyle.
 

 
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Spring can be wild in my part of the world…. a remote town in Outback South Australia.

Dust and thunder storms are common and more often than not, they’re accompanied by a power outage.

So, when the power went out on Wednesday 28th September it was no surprise. The weather that day had been particularly disgusting.

While my town was spared the deluge of rain that hit coastal South Australian communities, we did cop the winds. I fought gale-forced winds and dust to collect Master 6 from school, and counted my blessings that we were north of the “eye” of the storm.

The power went out late afternoon just as I was preparing the evening meal and it didn’t really cause much bother. I just used the gas stove-top to cook and pulled a selection of candles out from their cupboards.

Dishes were hand washed quickly to beat the sunset and the kids were bathed and in their PJs all ready and excited for an hour of board games before bed.

The modem was off, so there was no temptation to jump on the computer to work and I turned my mobile off to conserve the battery and be fully present with my family.

We were all in bed asleep not long after 8pm. Thanks in part to the early night and the perfectly dark room (the street lights weren’t working) I enjoyed a solid 10 hours sleep and woke up the next morning with more energy than I’d felt in months.

School was cancelled due to the power outage, so the boys and I headed out to our local community library to see what everyone else was up to.

By now the battery in the mobile phone tower had run flat so my mobile phone had no connection, which was an absolute blessing in disguise…..

Everyone was talking to each other.

Don’t get me wrong, we do all talk to each other normally, but we’re distracted and are never too far away from checking our phones. Or in the very least, we feel the presence of our phones and have that subconscious dread that with any beep or ring, we can be interrupted.

I know I’m not alone in this feeling. So many of my friends said the same.

Conversations went longer, people weren’t rushed, parents were more engaged with their children. How and when did we lose this?

And I felt relaxed. The most relaxed I’d felt in ages.

Which is strange really, because I had a freezer and fridge chock-full of fresh food (that Thursday morning I’d also collected my weekly organics fruit and vegetable delivery and a few days prior I’d received my six-monthly meat order from an organic farm…. like $500 worth!). In addition, I was just days out from my launch webinar to swing open the doors to my new membership club, Self Sufficiency in the Suburbs.

But I knew there was nothing I could do to change the fact the power was out. My to-do list shrunk along with my anxiety levels.

And these levels dropped again after a local business, after hearing that the power could be out for up to two weeks, set up a refrigerated truck to store food – so I didn’t need to worry about my organic meat thawing!

Sure the cold showers weren’t fun (the booster switch on the solar / gas hot water is powered by mains electricity), dinner took longer to prepare, dishes longer to wash and our pile of dirty laundry was threatening to take over the house, but I was calm.

The entire family was calm.

Friday came and went, and the boys stopped asking to play games on the computer or watch TV. They were too busy with their jig saw puzzles and make-believe games. And besides, we had our third evening of Yahtzee by candlelight to look forward to!!

Saturday arrived and with the power still out I made alternate arrangements to watch the AFL Grand Final (priorities.…. I am Victorian after all!). The local library’s generators were still working thanks to an overnight delivery of diesel, and a town screening of the big game was organised by the awesome staff there.

Sometime during the Grand Final the town’s power was restored….52 hours after it went out.

I returned home with the boys and cleaned out my fridge and chest freezer and thanked my lucky stars the power outage occurred on days with temperatures in the mid-twenties, rather than the high-thirties and low-forties that are common this time of year! It was like Christmas for our chickens but thankfully I could salvage much of our food.

So what’s changed since the power outage?

Well, governments are still arguing over who’s at fault, businesses are still adding up their losses and hospitals are apologizing for some sad consequences of backup power not kicking in fast enough for some patients.

But me?

I’ve made a pact with myself to leave the phone at home more often, get to bed earlier on a more regular basis, cut back the amount of work I do in the evenings and have more games nights with the kids. Basically I’m looking to have better boundaries around technology in my life.

Seems we can all learn something from a power outage!

Next week on Eco Chat I’ll be joined by Dr Kristy Goodwin, mum and author of Raising Your Child In a Digital World. Kristy takes the guesswork and guilt out of raising kids in the digital age by arming parents, educators and health professionals with facts, not fears about how ‘digitalised childhoods’ are impacting on children’s health, well-being and development. Kristy’s on a mission to eradicate the myths and misinformation about raising ‘screenagers’ by arming parents with essential information and tips for raising balanced and healthy kids in the digital world (without telling parents to ban the iPad, or unplug the TV).

I’m really looking forward to this chat! Be sure you don’t miss it by subscribing in iTunes here.

Were you impacted by the September SA Power Outage or something similar recently? What was your experience? Like me, did you enjoy the peace and break from technology? Feel free to share below!

Laura

Laura

Laura Trotta is one of Australia’s leading home sustainability experts. Fusing her professional expertise as an environmental engineer with the down-to-earth pragmatism that comes from being a busy mum, Laura is an eco thought leader who’s not afraid to challenge the status quo.
Laura

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