Saturday, January 17, 2009

It's Winter in Canada, Folks

I was watching the news last night and was amazed, yet again, by people who refuse to be aware of, and prepared for, emergencies in winter. A community in Quebec has been suffering "rolling blackouts" due to the equipment having to run at near capacity due to the recent cold weather. In Toronto, a water main break flooded a power station and caused it to shut down plunging a section of town into darkness and leaving them without water.

It wasn't a surprise that these emergencies are occurring. It has been proven time and time again that the corporations in charge of power and water, in all provinces, do not have the safety, comfort, or well being of it customers at heart. All corporations take the risk management approach to upgrading their equipment. Risk Management, in a nutshell, is don't fix it until it breaks.

Who cares that we have water mains from the 1800's running under power stations? If it doesn't leak just ignore it. Who cares that the power generators run at capacity if the weather gets down to true Canadian winter temperatures? Don't upgrade the equipment and be prepared for the likely extreme weather that is to be expected in Canada. Who Cares? Well the consumers care, of course, but they can't force the corporations to be timely with upgrades. At least not since the Government chose to privatize all the power companies and let them regulate themselves as they see fit.

What was surprising to me was the number of people who went on the air and essentially admitted that they were incapable of thinking for themselves and taking measures to be prepared for power outages in the middle of winter. It isn't rocket science folks. If you live in a country that sees at least one week a year with temperatures at the "body parts freeze and break off" levels and you know the corporations care more about their bottoms lines and CEO bonuses than they do about you, then you prepare.

It's really easy if you own your home. Install a backup heat source of come kind. Wood, oil, propane, solar, gas, or even a kerosene space heater will keep you and your family warm, if only in a single room. Even an oil lamp or candles, if used safely, can keep a single small room warm enough to take the edge off. Extra blankets, sleeping bags, and long underwear and sweaters will let you sleep comfortably and conserve body heat when you are awake. Check out the camping isle at any Canadian tire and you will find all kinds of ideas for staying warm in the cold and for cooking when the power is out, if you aren't lucky enough to have a gas stove.

If you rent an apartment it may not be as simple as installing a backup heat source. Many landlords are pretty uptight about kerosene heaters and you can't just install wood, oil, or gas into an apartment. But, there are other options. Again, check out the camping section at your local Canadian Tire. Buy a couple of solar panels and an inverter to run one of those little electric room heaters. You may have to educate yourself on power requirements and basic electronics but it can be done.

Being prepared for common emergencies isn't hard to do. It takes some money which can be saved up. It takes some time. It takes some imagination and probably some research. It can be done and it should be done. It could make the difference between life and death, or simply the difference between comfort and frostbite. Just don't go on national TV and complain about the weather and how cold it is. I mean, really folks, this is Canada after all.

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