State wide black out: South Australia

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Whatwouldjackdo
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State wide black out: South Australia

Post by Whatwouldjackdo » Thu Sep 29, 2016 7:19 am

Hi folks.

Long time stalker, seldom poster here.

Just wanted to share an experience I had yesterday in relation to a State wide power black lasting approx 4.5 to 5 hours (for me at least - some areas of state are still without power).

Pretty much amateur hour compared to some of the guys on here but hopefully sharing some lessons learnt that can repay the community a little.

Apologies if long-winded.

At approx 3:50pm local time a state wide power outage occurred due to an extreme weather event. At the time I was working in my office job in the Central Business District (along with my wife who works in the same building). The building's generator failed at this time. Battery powered exit signs and some minor emergency lighting was the only available light (surprised how dark it was despite the time of day).

I called a friend who had already hit the road and was on his way home. He confirmed traffic lights were not working but he was making good time. I also called my mum to check in on her but could not get a response.

After a few minutes (peering out windows, talking to people on phones) word quickly spread that it was the entire CBD...then the whole metro area. We also learnt diesel trains were still running. At this point 4g etc connections on phones were working okay. Some people were streaming news updates and relaying information to those still around.

Lesson: Intel sharing and asking around helps build a picture. A wireless radio would have been super handy.

Many left at this stage. My wife and I had leadership roles and we stayed around for a little while, keeping morale high for staff still present as we awaited word from the firm as to next steps. Not long after I made a call and said it was okay for my staff to leave. Some had left earlier in the day due to storm warnings. Some of those remaining were in contact with family and conversing about how to best make it home. I encouraged them to stay safe and made the decision to collect my wife and leave.

At this stage 4g and mobile phone lines became congested and were not reliable.

On getting to my wife's floor she was with a group communicating with folks who they thought were stuck in the elevator - voices were muffled and difficult to understand through the doors. We did not know at the time but the voices were actually people on another floor thinking we were stuck in an elevator. We subsequently found out elevators in our shiny new building have battery back-up and in the event of power failure go straight to the ground floor.

Lesson learnt: Know you environment.

I confirmed that building management knew of the elevator issue and at that stage there was an announcement that the building was to be evacuated.

My wife was still looking after staff, working with them on how they would get home. I started to get concerned that we were eating time, that traffic was only getting worse and the building was smelling like diesel fuel. This lead to some verbal judo (not the good kind) with my wife as I wanted to go and she was still talking to staff (not realizing one was a fire warden and had to be last to leave). It was an awkward situation as I could not get too assertive as I would have undermined her in front of her staff. I eventually managed to get her to exit after some expressive body language and firmer, quiet words.

Lesson learnt: Have the conversation with significant other to set ground rules, relevant priorities prior not during an event.

On getting out to ground level it was pouring with rain and was stormy. The fact that traffic was in gridlock was obvious. We assessed for a minute (our car was in a nearby parking lot) and noted cars had not moved an inch (we later found out it took some people up to 3 hours to get home and an hour to get out of the car park itself). My back up plan was to hit the train station and commute back home. We started charging towards the train station and about half a block in I realised I had a kit bag in the car (flashlight, ponchos, among other things). We decided to push on instead of back-tracking, I was probably keen to get the relevant kit but was not ready to poke the bear as I had her moving! :)

Lesson learnt: If you are going to move, do it sooner rather than later.

Thankfully made it to train station (underground so flashlight would have been handy, but phone sufficed), station staff were on hand guiding folks to the right trains. We got on the 5:05pm train by a few minutes. I was later informed trains ceased at 5:20pm due to fumes and no air circulation.

On the way home I got a short call in from mum (dodgy line), confirmed she was okay (she was visiting a friend down the road from her place) and worked out she'd call when she got home.

We got off at our station and walked home (the ponchos I left behind would have been handy here).

Lesson learnt: All the kit in the world is no good if is not on you.

Felt a lot better getting home and broke out flashlights, dry clothes, camping light and radios (one battery, one hand crank) to get more intel. Stream of up-dates on radio was re-assuring to hear, authorities on the case etc. At this stage mobile phones were completely out, we picked up from the radio that the mobile towers battery back-up is for around 3 to 4 hours.

Hand-crank radio I could not get to work and figured it to be defective. Day after (in proper lighting) could see a small switch on bottom to turn it on. :words:

Also realised at this point we did not have a non-battery powered phone for the landline, which was also down. This was not a good feeling as it meant effective isolation from any help. I quietly went to the safe and organised some on-hand assistance if I needed it (thankfully did not).

Aside from that, here on it was pretty cruisy. I made dinner (via camping food and coleman stove) and we had a drink to relax a little. The available kit (flashlights, camping light, cookware, stove, easily prepared food, cash etc made things easy), it also calmed my wife a bit and things become somewhat fun. I later compared this to some other experiences I heard where they took hours to get home, had no real food handy and struggled with lighting and in turn have to thank you guys for getting me somewhat prepped.

Lesson learnt: all that kit is a morale booster, also fun to play with

Phones started to get some connection if you held your tongue right and I managed to get hold of mum (who tried to call earlier, but could not due to lines being down), she explained she did not have batteries for her radio, but had a couple of lights. I felt terrible and contemplated jogging or cycling to her place (as only have one car) to set her up with a radio. At that stage we heard on the radio that some suburbs were regaining power, these were nearby so gave it another hour before making the call to hit the road.

Lesson learnt: check your loved one's kit if they are not living with you. Not only for their safety, but your sanity

Thankfully lights came back on approx 8:30pmish, along with internet via home wifi - interestingly mobile phone 4g continued to falter for some time.

By next morning everything was back up and running except for a some remote areas of the state. Unfortunately a number of these areas are getting the worse of the storm I can hear outside as I type.

Well there you go. Thanks again guys, and hopefully this helps, even just a little.
Last edited by Whatwouldjackdo on Sat Oct 01, 2016 9:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: State wide black out: South Australia

Post by Sun Yeti » Thu Sep 29, 2016 11:11 am

They say a picture is worth 1000 words.

I would say similarly, one personal narrative describing the reality of dealing with a down grid or disaster is worth 1000 posts by armchair survivalists. Thank you for posting your experience!

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Re: State wide black out: South Australia

Post by LowKey » Thu Sep 29, 2016 1:35 pm

Good on you, mate.
Sounds like this has given you a good test run of your set up and you've identified the few short comings, which it is evident you intend to remedy.
Likewise it seems as if this has also gotten your wife further on board with being prepared.

Overall I think you handled things exceptionally well, used good judgment, and were able to adapt on the fly...that last bit being a surprisingly rare ability with many people.

Make the corrections you've already noted that are needed, then just increase the depth (how long you can self-sustain).

Really, congratulate yourself on this one. Truly a job well done.
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Re: State wide black out: South Australia

Post by TheWarriorMax » Thu Sep 29, 2016 6:30 pm

G'day from Sydney. Sounds like everyone learned a few lessons this week...

One tip I learned years ago - an inverter and a jerry can of fuel means you can run your freezer and electronics for half an hour every few hours - charge phones, play DVDs for kids etc

Haven't had to use mine yet but just an idea to consider.
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Re: State wide black out: South Australia

Post by TacAir » Thu Sep 29, 2016 7:45 pm

The OP was both cogent and on point - written in easy to understand Australian.

The format - main point and additional detail was a treat to read - this from a professional technical writer.

Thanks, Mate - good-o read that.
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Superstorm unleashes havoc across Australia

Post by TacAir » Thu Sep 29, 2016 7:49 pm

TacAir - I'd rather be a disappointed pessimist than a horrified optimist
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Re: State wide black out: South Australia

Post by Stercutus » Thu Sep 29, 2016 8:50 pm

That is a good and helpful write up thanks.
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Re: State wide black out: South Australia

Post by teotwaki » Fri Sep 30, 2016 12:45 pm

Thanks for the good detail! Not long winded at all. I did have to Google "CBD" :mrgreen:
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Re: State wide black out: South Australia

Post by raptor » Fri Sep 30, 2016 8:15 pm

That is a great write up! Thank you!

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Re: State wide black out: South Australia

Post by taipan821 » Sat Oct 01, 2016 5:29 am

glad you and your family were ok and ready for the unusual conditions :awesome:

excellent write up, thanks for the report and hope the weather is improving down there
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Re: State wide black out: South Australia

Post by Whatwouldjackdo » Sat Oct 01, 2016 9:57 pm

Thanks for everyone's positive feedback. Much appreciated.

Certainly some stuff to work on, but could have been a whole lot worse.

Couple of interesting points post blackout:
- went out to replace mum's radio at a electronics dealer - sold out. Their lighting section also hit hard.

- wife's folks asking me advice on generator back-up options. Was happy to oblige.

- mate checked in from another state asking how I was doing. In response I made reference to my "emergency kit" and he was interested in more info. Sent him a link to the State Emergency Service (SES) list (shared below), good as any place to start. Knowing him like i do he'd be googling like grazy and would have found this place by now! :)

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Re: State wide black out: South Australia

Post by BloodLust » Fri Oct 21, 2016 2:34 pm

This is why I have a travel EDC which is plane and destination legal besides my local EDC.
I'm in different countries a few times a month. US, Hong Kong, Japan, Canada, etc. Australia every few months. Was just in Sydney 2 weeks ago.
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Re: State wide black out: South Australia

Post by shillard » Sat Oct 29, 2016 6:55 am

Good post mate.

A few things of note:

1. ABC AM radio is the default "emergency broadcaster" - so you need an AM band radio. During the 1997 Pasha Bulka storm in Newcastle and its aftermath (the one where the bulk carrier ship was washed onto a city beach), ABC AM proved to be the only remotely useful and accurate source of information. Road closures, evacuation centres (i.e.: places to avoid), etc.


2. When the mobile network is jammed and you can't get a call through, SMS usually functions well. We used this effectively to communicate when the phone network was beyond peak.


3. If you have an NBN connection, it will go down with the power. Ancient phones that draw power from the line won't work.


4. SA is a perfect case study in poor disaster preparation - the entire State relies on an extension cord from Victoria when the wind doesn't blow, or (in your case) blows too strongly for the windmills to keep up...
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Re: State wide black out: South Australia

Post by MPMalloy » Wed Nov 02, 2016 12:38 am

Jack:

Very good post. Thank you very much!

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Re: State wide black out: South Australia

Post by Whatwouldjackdo » Sun Jan 01, 2017 5:00 am

Thanks for those tips too Shillard. ABC was super useful.

The issue we had with SMS was the delay. Seemed to get held up and then all come at once. Certainly better than nothing though.

Just a quick post-script.

So after our chat post blackout my father-in-law picked up a generator - a Honda EU2000i no less.

I had generator envy on that purchase. Mother-in-law and my wife perhaps not so enthusiastic.

Anyway fast forward to the past few days and we got hit by another blackout - this time isolated areas hit, but still substantial residential areas without power (for up to 60+ hours in some areas). In-laws were without power for two days.

Dropped in during the outage to see if we could help and drop a camp lantern off. There was the father-in-law, generator running and powering fridge, charging phones, lights etc and best of all proud as punch with a smile on his face.

we shared a knowing nod and I mentioned next step might be a respectable battery bank...

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Re: State wide black out: South Australia

Post by teotwaki » Sun Jan 01, 2017 11:32 am

Huzzah!! For your Father-In-Law! :clap:
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