When the Power Went Out

Patricia Francis-Lyon Ph.D., Assistant Professor at SONHP

There I was, typing away on my laptop, trying to reach my goals for what would be accomplished that day.  I’d had Zoom office hours earlier and was trying to knock some items off my To Do list. All of a sudden, I was sitting in the dark.

A couple of weeks earlier I had received warnings that my electric power might be turned off, but happily, there had been no interruption in my service. Being an optimistic minimalist, I had ignored the possibility of a power shutoff and instead focused on the tasks at hand.  Last time, I had prepared, including speaking to my classes to relate contingency plans and keeping my phone and laptop charged. When the lights actually went out, my phone was nearly depleted.

Now without power, I weighed the cost of benefits: I could use my phone as a light, depleting it further OR I could stumble around in the dark to feel for a flashlight.  I chose the latter. After getting to our stash of flashlights, all bought decades ago, I triumphantly returned with one that seemed to work dimly, until it went out a couple of minutes later.  Shaking the flashlight provided only momentary illumination.

Candles, I thought – didn’t we have some Halloween candles from decades ago? I decided to spend some of my phone’s battery reserves to provide light so I could locate candles and matches.

Success! For the rest of the night I graded quizzes by candle light, remembering something about how young Abraham Lincoln had studied by candle light in his frontier home.  Perhaps roughing it in this way would build some wisdom.

The next couple of days without power included trips to juice up my hungry phone and laptop. (Beware of juice jacking).

I learned:

Murphy’s Law: the time you are unprepared for a power shutoff or campus closure is the time when it will, in fact, happen. (Ok – this is tongue in cheek)

Thoughts on Emergency Preparedness:

  1. Formulate your contingency plans for class meetings and office hours in the event of a power shutoff (home/USF) or campus closure.
  2. Speak to your classes about the possibility of a power shutoff (home/USF) or campus closure, and announce your contingency plans.  I announced that I would hold class and office hours at the usual time (synchronously) over Zoom – This has worked well for me.
  3. Consider including contingency information in your syllabus in the event of a power shutoff or campus closure. Include helpful links for your students, including the Zoom link over which you plan to teach your classes in real time (synchronously).  Alternatively, point your students to the location on Canvas where you will deposit a lecture or activity that they may attend at their own timing (asynchronously).
  4. Download the Canvas phone app to facilitate communication with your classes in the event of an emergency.
  5. Have a contact person who can likely communicate to your classes for you. (My TA notified my classes of an assignment due date extension.)
  6. Have a working flashlight in your home. (Sooo basic … how did I screw up this one?)
  7. If you are warned of a possible shutoff, keep laptop and phone fully charged.

Leave a comment about your own perspective on your recent experiences with the fires and power outages.

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