A lot of us learned some important lessons when we had the tornado's and severe weather recently. I had always pushed back on buying a generator. I figured when I finally needed one it wouldn’t work or I wouldn’t have fresh gasoline. After several days without power I changed my mind and now own a 5500 watt gas generator. I ran extension cords all over the house. It served the purpose except for the refrigerator which had no access to the plug. The food was long gone by then anyway. My son Mike KF4BOG was really happy to be the first to get power for his 2 meter base station.
I decided since I now had the generator I would take the next step and install a transfer switch. The one I selected was a manual Reliance unit that would accommodate 6 circuits. I have two 200 Amp panels from which I wanted to use 3 circuits from each panel. That made things a little more complicated but was solved with a junction box. You can buy the transfer switches with an outdoor outlet. I thought that I would not need it enough to warrant the extra cost and effort. You can also purchase transfer switches that have automatic switchover and will start your generator. I am going to try to run our generator once every other month. As mentioned at a recent club meeting fuel stabilizer use is a must. I installed the transfer switch myself. Please be careful if you do this yourself and double check that the power is off when you hook the thing up. Just like working on a linear amplifier you have to do it right every time. The transfer switch works great and the generator can now be in place and in operation in less than 5 minutes.
One of my main concerns is that I probably am not prepared for the next event. As with the military that prepares to fight the next battle just like the last one and gets surprised when it is different, I believe many plan for disasters based on our last experience. The one thing that didn’t go wrong the last time was that water was always available. If water was disrupted the last time I expect things would have been much worse. I have a pool so that becomes a readily available source of water. Others should think through the water issue because you can live without power much more easily than without water. The next disaster could eliminate water and power and add extreme cold or heat with no gasoline availability. Now leaving town is not an option for those without gas on hand. One of the circuits I hooked up to the transfer switch was the fan for the propane fireplace. Frozen pipes is another problem I experienced up north. Others have encouraged me to convert the generator to propane. I have a large buried tank in the yard. One other area people fall short on is food. How long can your family last and not go to the store? Another thing many people didn’t have was cash. Many of the places could not take a credit or debit card so you needed to have cash to buy food or gas.
What the last storm did prove was with all the new infrastructure of cell phones, smart phones, tablets, cable TV, and land lines it all fails after a very short period of power interruption. I was surprised to see the landlines fail. Ham radio sure does a great job when serious disaster strikes. I believe portable repeaters for UHF/VHF and HF capability on emergency power could be needed some day if we have a very large scale emergency. My hope is the better prepared we get the less chance we will ever get to use it.