My Blackout Lessons 

My household was caught in the midwestern regional blackout of 2021. The greater Detroit area-where we live-was especially hard hit. The day started out like any other. Meds, coffee, breakfast, scrolling through my lists of things to do, followed by some vague musing about dinner. And then we went shopping. NBD, right? Wrong.

A strong windstorm hit the store while we were there, so we sheltered in place. Their power was out for long enough that corporate told them to close the store. The weather improved quickly, so we stopped by the next store on our list. They had power, but we went home to a dark house.

At first, it didn't seem like a big deal. Our power always comes back on quickly. But it was a very big deal. We spent 6 days without power. We lost all of our perishables and ended up lugging 7 bags of rotting trash and ruined towels out to the curb.

Arthritis patients know all about disruptions, they’re the foundational concept of every chronic illness. The blackout brought life to a halt. I lost a week of work, the contents of the fridge, freezer, and all the time that went into preparing those meals. And we had to buy new things to tide us over. And then I had to clean everything up. I won’t try to describe the smell or the feelings around that whole process. 6 nights sitting in the dark gave me plenty of time to think about my life and self-care. It also reminded me how great most of our neighbors are.

Community matters

The blackout was patchy to the point that outage status varied block-by-block. Our neighbors across the street helped us feel safer by checking on us every day and setting up a charging station on their porch. This allowed us to keep everything charged (including the all-important TENS unit) without risking COVID in enclosed spaces.

My routine matters

The pandemic supply stash and relentless banking of clean clothes, towels gave us a cushion. We were down to the last two towels when the lights came on, but we made it!

I am resilient

The blackout switched on my inner Campfire Girl! She converted our freezer into an icebox and used battery-powered houses from our Christmas village and an old Kindle to light a room. And I found a way to eat the same limited number of shelf-stable GF foods over and over, along with yogurt from the icebox.

Our preparation has room for improvement

The 2014 Great Flood was horrific and traumatic, but avoiding disasters and outages for so long has made us complacent. Some people have generators. I'm not sure if that's too much, but we need to up our prep game. Here's the first draft of my list.

  • A grill or another way to heat or cook food
  • A wider variety of shelf stable food options
  • More coolers and cold packs
  • More charging capacity
  • Better water options
  • A wider selection of paper books and other unplugged activities

What's in your disaster plan?

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