Staff Editorial: Keeping yourself and community safe next blackout

Last Saturday, Feb. 13, was a day that took quite an unexpected turn. At least for the early birds, what seemingly started as just another day of gloomy weather—worthy of curling up under a knitted blanket, making a pot of coffee or other hot beverage and reading (or studying) under the lamplight—spiraled into a weekend of chaos. The rain that froze overnight on trees all over the Piedmont was causing them to fall down and cut power lines, and travel was declared “nearly impossible” by the NC National Weather Service.

At about 8:30 in the morning, an email from the Guilford Emergency Alert Group was sent out, explaining that “all buildings on the North side of campus and facilities are affected” by the power outage. Full power and the Internet didn’t come back until 36 hours later on Sunday night, so it was certainly not a period of time easily ignored, or wasted away bothering your roommates. 

Without power, there wasn’t much that anyone could get done in terms of schoolwork. As a result, many students headed to Founders Hall or Bauman to charge their devices and get an Internet connection, presumably to work on homework. 

Additionally, the South Apartment buildings, which also didn’t have power, require key cards to get in, so students found themselves unable to get to their rooms without someone letting them in. As an unsafe (but only) option, students resorted to propping all the doors open and leaving them that way so residents could get in and out. These buildings and others on campus were also left without heat during the outage.

To say the least, things did not go smoothly, And while there is no immediate and reasonable solution to power outages, if one exists at all, there are precautions one can take and guidelines you can follow. 

Above all, please remember that safety and security always come first. Do not risk your health or your safety to stay caught up on schoolwork. 

Next, there are several steps one can take to be more prepared in the event of a power outage, which minimize the need to leave the dorm/home/apartment. 

For one, if you lose septic services without power, be stocked up on water both for drinking and for use in flushing the toilet. Always keep nonperishable food around, as well as food that can be eaten without heating. Breads and crackers, nut butters, canned fruits, vegetables, beans and cereal are just a few options. Invest in a portable charger (and charge it!) if you would like, or simply be mindful of your battery usage. 

Be prepared for the cold if heating is lost. Jackets, blankets, hats and scarves are likely items you have around already, as a resident of a temperate deciduous forest region. Make sure they are easily accessible. Finally, be stocked up on candles if you live off-campus, and while open flames are not permitted in the dorms, flashlights work great as well. 

If you do have to leave your building and won’t be able to get back in, let a roommate or hallmate know and have them wait by the door for you to come back. Ideally, being prepared prevents such a dilemma, but risking security just doesn’t seem, well, worth the risk.

It may seem like the time and money spent to take these precautions is not worth five, 10, or even 36 hours without power. But the reality is that the next time the power goes out it may or may not be lost for 48, 72 or 96 hours. And while living on-campus means being near resources like Founders Hall, Bauman and the cafeteria, we can’t forget the threat beneath the threat. 

As Dean of Students Steve Mencarini puts it, “the coronavirus doesn’t care that there is an ice storm.” 

Truly being prepared means not having to leave your home or residential building, and not having to leave your home means greatly reducing risk to yourself and others.