Electric Blues

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By Roberto P. Alabado III

Planning Perspectives

Wednesday, March 5, 2014


WHAT if one day we wake up with no electricity and no water in our house? Imagine the panic of the TV, text and internet addicts. Imagine all of the excuses each of us would give not to go outside the house because we still haven’t taken our morning bath. That was what happened to some of my friends last week when we experienced a region-wide blackout for some mysterious reason that the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) wouldn’t even explain.

Were you prepared for that incident? Even though the power disruption lasted for only about 8 hours but its effect on the region’s economy must have been huge.

But first, let us scrutinize on how prepared households were for that unpleasant experience. This may be just a glimpse or brief exposure on what may happen if a major catastrophe hits our region downing our main power lines.

When the power outage struck, I immediately woke up due to the eerie silence of the night. That was one of the darkest nights I ever experienced since I could not even see my hand just inches from my face. Glancing outside my window, there was no glow above the city skies then I quickly guessed that this was a city-wide blackout. On the other hand, the crisis was turned into an opportunity by my neighbors – Bryan and Rhenzal, who went outside and had a splendid time stargazing with clear skies and no light pollution coming from the city.

When morning came not a drop of water from our faucets and I realized that we did not have an emergency water storage container! We always have bottles of drinking water for times like these but water for the toilet and kitchen I had not. Good thing my landlord, Ka Greg, has a rainwater storage tank for his garden needs. He allowed us to get water from his tank for our toilet and kitchen needs so I was still able to take a bath to cool down the morning heat.

My cell phone batteries were draining fast but with a power bank at hand this was not a problem because it can give my two phones and tablet a full charge each. So there was no problem with communicating and sending emails all throughout the day.

These few hours of having no electricity and seeing the disruption in our lives should allow us to review our lifestyles and preparedness for disasters. We have to make our households and communities more disaster resilient.

If disaster struck, power disruption is inevitable. Power lines will surely be knocked down to the ground by strong winds, waves or earth shaking. We must always be prepared for such.

The powerbank may be adequate for my communication needs for merely a day. But had the power outage lasted for days then i would have no means to recharge my batteries. Maybe it would even have spelled the end of the world for the text and telenovela addicts. I will have to get solar panels to charge my communication gears aka cellphone and tablet for such emergencies – we may still be able to catch up with the telenovelas online. LOL

For emergency light, aside from an LED flashlight, I always have tea light candles that can last up to three hours. I think these tea light candles are much safer than candlesticks.

For our community, our emergency services have already prepared for this and have availed of generator sets for unhampered use of their communication equipment during emergencies. I hope that the main logistics and communication centers of the key emergency services like police stations, hospitals, armed forces and fire stations have sufficient emergency generators and also keep these in tiptop condition with adequate fuel supply.

We are thankful the DLPC has a backup power generator plant for the city, sparing us longer brownouts. With the incoming power plants coming up in the next two years, we can be assured of a more stable power supply for our region.

We can survive without electricity but without water for a day will definitely stink up our lives. I guess I will now have to buy a water storage container just to have peace in mind. The rainwater storage tank of Ka Greg is definitely a very useful part of the house – to reduce flooding in the streets as well as provide water for emergency purposes. The rainwater catchment facility ordinance of Davao City has to be implemented strictly so that every household of the city will have rain water for their everyday use and during times of emergency.

The incident exposed the limitations of relying on pumping water from our aquifers – without electricity, pumping stations will not work hence no water for our houses and offices. Having a generator for pumping stations is for emergency purposes but I think the long-term solution will be harnessing surface water in the elevated parts of the city so that we can let gravity do its work to bring water inside our houses. The DCWD has plans to harness Tamugan River for the city’s freshwater supply and with its pipelines stretching to the city pump water inside our houses with minimal power requirement – just gravity may be enough. It is also time to correct our water priorities by first harvesting water from the surface and then preserving and reserving our aquifers for some future use.

All of us must have the attitude of a prepper (person prepared for a disaster), we have to anticipate our needs to survive any eventuality. We must ensure that our households have adequate water, food and power for at least three days and for a worst case scenario needing evacuation we must have BUBs (Bug Out Bags) filled with all the needs and documents for three days.

We know the inconvenience what an 8 hour power outage can bring to our household and community, it is always worth the risk and investment to ensure power and water are always available to our people especially during times of emergency.

I hope that there will be no brownouts when we celebrate Sharkie’s birthday tomorrow. Happy Birthday Sharkie! rpalabado@gmail.com

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on March 06, 2014.

Opinion

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