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An Ounce of Prevention

By Maggie Turner

December 13, 1999

An Ounce of Prevention

He laughed at me! Well, I can't blame him really. It all started when Attila and I headed for the nearest Home Depot to do the last of our millennium shopping.

We are prepared for Y2K at our house. The bios' have been checked; the OS' have been patched. Hardcopies have been made of address books and bank statements. We have plenty of empty plastic bottles that could harbor a temporary water supply. We have candles and batteries and rice and beans. We have reserves of old cloths and our appliances all check out as Y2K compliant, right down to the flour sifter.

Where we live the weather is cold from December to March. If we lose our power we lose our heat. If we lose our heat I am out of here, I will migrate towards warmth. I would be willing to abandon hearth and home to find warmth. We made the decision that, should the elements (human or natural) interfere with public services, we want to remain in our own home. That means that in a winter emergency we would need a source of heat.

Several options have been under consideration for alternative home heating resources. We considered the practicality of fireplaces: natural gas, wood and electric. We considered wood burning stoves. What we decided upon was a small electric generator and a ceramic electric heater capable of providing heat to a small area of the house.

This choice is practical for several reasons. The first is that this system is completely independent of the public utility system; it is completely under our control. The second is that it is much cheaper than installing either a fireplace or a stove. Another advantage is that, in addition to heat, it can provide light and run a radio. Also the generator is portable and will be useful for other purposes.

Having finally made the decision to buy a generator the next step was to find one. A series of telephone calls revealed that Home Depot not only offered competitive prices; they had quite a few in stock. So off we went to the store, credit card in hand.

We found a generator, a gas can, an extension cord and a ceramic electric heater. As the cashier checked us through I began to explain that this equipment would enable us to stay in our home in case of an ice storm. Attila started to smile. The cashier smiled. I smiled. Finally alone in the van driving home Attila allowed himself to laugh out loud. "Ice storm! As if anyone believed that! Y2K, why not just admit it!" he roared. I had to smile too.

But you see, if I'd said that these items would be used for Y2K it would probably be a lie. I don't really expect that our purchases will be needed for a Y2K emergency; I don't think there will be a Y2K emergency at all. It seems more likely to me that we might face an emergency like an ice storm. Last winter people in Ontario and Quebec were evacuated from their homes when electricity services were interrupted by a severe ice storm. It could happen here. Y2K provided me with the perfect excuse to justify purchasing an alternative heat source. An ice storm is a more likely emergency.

It seems to me that I am the center of the known universe. I believe that since I now have a generator there will never be a need to use one. That's the way things work out in my life. If I have not worried and prepared for possibilities, then anything might happen. If I am prepared for situations, they don't seem to develop. For instance, ever since I insisted we install a sump pump in the basement we have had near drought conditions. So by slapping my credit card down on the counter and dragging a generator home, I am performing a public service.

The weather reports predicted freezing rain and wet snow today. The sun shone brightly all day. I don't usually enjoy the mistakes of others, but in this case I admit to a little enjoyment at the expense of the Weather Network. In spite of the beautiful weather I didn't manage to get out for a walk. My day was spent researching fireplaces and generators. Now that our micro-millennium concerns have been addressed I can once again focus on the business of living. I just tuned in to the Weather Network, it seems that tomorrow will bring freezing rain and snow. If the reports are accurate this time, the business of living will have to be conducted indoors.


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