Power outage

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Description or Situation

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This information is specific and directly relative to the loss of utility power due to mechanical or operational failures of service equipment or power distribution lines. Potential cause and effects are presented with the aim of providing additional clarity.

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Overview

Experiencing a power outage or blackout has an array of emotions associated with it.  When the electrical power goes off it typically puts an end to most activities that involve the use of electrical devices. For the most part we all understand that the power can be off for a matter of minutes to very long and boring hours. This certainly has an impact on many people who are in the middle of cooking dinner or finishing up on work through the computer. Travel and commutes can also be effected when street and signal lights go out and of course the video games come to an immediate halt. These are but of course a major  inconvenience for those who have grown accustom and reliant upon the presence of electrical power and service. Blackouts do not occur on a known schedule so when they do happen it is typically unexpected and spontaneous. Despite the inconveniences associated with a power outage we seem to get past the events and accept these occurrences as a normal part of living on the grid. It is often a time when many people choose to take advantage of the situation by turning it into a party event for those few hours, ... just to burn a little time while waiting fro the power to return.

However, ... what happens when the party subsides and the power is still off? On some occasions electrical power has been known to remain off for days. It is then when the party turns into something else.  The experience at this stage becomes concerning as we take inventory of our resources on hand, ... often with dissolution. At this point food may start to perish and the cupboards become depleted of their remaining can goods. Calls go out to fast food delivery services who remain in business and the local schools call it a day of rest, (no school). Someone makes a run to the market only to find the doors have closed early. That being said, ... no one panics, .... just yet. A determination has been established by many survival minded enthusiasts that the eruption of chaos and upheaval will not begin to occur until day 7 to day 10 in a modern societal environment. Compounding the issues is population density. No power for 5 or more days in a densely populated city can be volatile. Sudden and lengthy duration's of power outages and blackouts can be as disruptive to a dependent culture as would a terror attack. Be assured that enemies understand the impact  to disrupting power grids and communication networks.

The unfortunate consequences for long term power outages can be devastating for those who are not ready for it. To some degree we can often rely on a neighbor or friend to provide resources but after day 7 personalities change and so does the quest. Most people who are not self reliant run out of provision after a week. People have been acclimated to the understanding that government organizations will come in and rescue the region by providing food, water & medical supplies. It has become the normal way of thinking to expect such a rescue instead of having taken responsibility for ourselves. Modern & civilized people are no longer taught skills which are advantageous for independent survival.  We are taught to rely on a system that can be failable. Under this lifestyle we become subject to the gifts and provisions of others thus limiting our chances of survival.

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Once upon a time humans survived and thrived without the conveniences of electricity. We have evolved to depend on electricity as a means to survive.

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What is a power outage or Blackout?

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A power outage (also called a power cut, a power blackout, power failure or a blackout) is a short- or long-term loss of the electric power to an area. Power outages are categorized into three different phenomena, relating to the duration and effect of the outage.

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⇒   A permanent fault is a massive loss of power typically caused by a fault on a power line. Power is automatically restored once the fault is cleared.

  A brownout is a drop in voltage in an electrical power supply. The term brownout comes from the dimming experienced by lighting when the voltage sags. Brownouts can cause poor performance of equipment or even incorrect operation.

   A blackout is the total loss of power to an area and is the most severe form of power outage that can occur. Blackouts which result from or result in power stations tripping are particularly difficult to recover from quickly. Outages may last from a few minutes to a few weeks depending on the nature of the blackout and the configuration of the electrical network.  [Source]

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What are the causes?

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There are many causes of power failures in an electricity network. Examples of these causes include faults at power stations, damage to electric transmission lines, substations or other parts of the distribution system, a short circuit, or the overloading of electricity mains.   [Source]

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Weather-Related Causes of Outages

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Lightning

Lightning is a common cause of outages during storms. Lightning strikes can hit our electrical equipment, causing you to lose power. Lightning can also strike trees, which may fall onto power lines and cause outages.

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Ice

Ice storms create a buildup of ice on power lines and on trees. The weight of the ice can cause tree limbs and entire trees to fall onto power lines - knocking the lines and poles down and breaking them, or knocking the lines onto each other, causing an outage.

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Wind, Tornadoes and Hurricanes

High winds or fallen trees may cause power lines to touch and short out, causing an outage. Wind may also blow tree limbs or entire trees onto the power lines, causing the lines to fall to the ground and possibly even break the lines and poles.

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Rain and Flooding

Heavy rains can cause flooding in certain areas. Floods can cause damage to both above-ground and underground electrical equipment. To prevent major damage to electrical equipment, local Energy plant technicians may need to shut down power, affecting service to customers.

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Other Causes of Outages

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Vehicle and Construction Accidents

Vehicle accidents are a common cause of power outages. They can result in broken poles, causing power lines to break or touch. Accidental contact with underground or overhead power lines at construction sites can also cause power outages.

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Animals

Small animals can also cause power outages. These animals climb on certain pieces of equipment, such as transformers and fuses, causing the equipment to shut down. By shutting down, the equipment protects the rest of the system.

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Additional causes for power outages have been determined to occur as a result of an extreme EMP, (Electro-magnetic-pulse) event or from the results of a massive explosion such as with a nuclear bomb. Other concerns for triggering long term power outages is related to cosmic factors such as with solar flares etc. [More]

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What are the effects?

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The effects of a power outage or blackout vary based on the severity of the cause as well as the duration without electrical power. Those who live off the grid or have become self reliant are not typically impacted by short term events, ... however those who rely upon public utility grids are subject to the waiting process until power has been  restored by repair crews. High profile businesses and establishments such as hospitals, schools and jails tend to have back up sources of electrical power. Many survival minded enthusiasts also prepare for power losses by installing gas powered generators and/or solar panels. These methods of preparedness are great until the fuel runs out or the sky remains cloudy for long periods of time. Preparations at this level is certainly smart but has its limitations. Hospitals for instance, are required to carry only 4 to 5 days of fuel for their generators. Before the fuel is gone they must place an order to have more delivered. During times of disruption this situation can become a disaster, ... especially when the trucks stop rolling and fuel does not get delivered. Hospitals have disaster plans which are exercised regularly. Many healthcare organizations have plans which specify shutting down their facility if services for power & water become unavailable or disruptive for more than a week. At this point they begin diverting new patients to alternate facilities. Following this stage is is a complete evacuation of the hospital. Many large super markets have small generators or backup systems but they typically do not last for long periods of time, ... just long enough for those who are in the store to finish purchasing and get out. Many states have contingency plans for posting local police or national guard at each door to prevent an attempted run on the store during these situations. People get irate when they cant have something they want or need, ... especially when others are counting on them. From this, ...  comes a degree of angry and outraged citizens which often prompts the need for added security at the doors. Traffic lights can really mess up a good day of commuting causing gridlock and angry travelers. Now days, ... most everything electrical has a back up system such as with communication and cell towers but even those back up systems are failable and have a limited duration. It's not forever. The typical time frame for useful back up systems does not extend beyond 5 to 10 days. After that time, .... chaos can erupt, people can perish by one means or another. Dependency upon public utility services is an "Achilles heel". A weak and vulnerable condition or attribute of long term power outages.

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Blackouts in history

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Below is a list of notable wide-scale power outages. To be included, ... the power outage must conform to all of the following criteria.

1).  The outage must not be planned by the service provider.

2).  The outage must affect at least 1,000 people and last at least one hour.

3).  There must be at least 1,000,000 person-hours of disruption.

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In other words ...

   1,000 people affected for 1,000 hours (42 days) minimum, but if fewer than 1,000 people, event would not be included (regardless of duration).

  One million people affected for a minimum of one hour, but if duration is less than one hour, event would not be included (regardless of number of people).

   For example, 10,000 people affected for 100 hours or 100,000 for 10 hours would be included.

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wikipedia.

See a list of "Blackouts" here

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Blackouts in History

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  Find "Solutions to power outage & blackouts" 

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Videos

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Consequences of a cyber-attack on a nation's power grid?

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References:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Power_outage

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_major_power_outages

https://www.duke-energy.com/indiana/outages/outage-causes.asp

http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/american-blackout/articles/blackouts-a-history/

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