Resilience in Patterdale
I have put together some notes and thoughts which may help you prepare for winter and very bad weather events. Do note you are responsible for your own safety! I hope the following is of interest but I must stress I accept no responsibility for loss, damage or anything else following my suggestions!!!! Hopefully you will suffer less after considering the following.... Graeme Connacher October 2018
Flood Snow Wind and Winter
Be Prepared Help yourself and others!
1. You and Your Health
2. House and Home
3. Car and Travel
4. Communication and Internet
With some thought and a little preparation you can help yourself to ride out our more severe weather events. If you look after yourself and your family first, you will not need to rely on others to help you. You may also be able to help others! So be prepared!
Many events can result in our community being cut off from the outside world for several days. Floods can block our access routes. Heavy snow can make any travel, even in the community, difficult. Wind can bring down many trees, blocking roads and damaging power lines.
Thank you to Andrew at Catstycam for the links to some of the useful products. He also offers a 20% discount to local folk on these items if you pop into the shop with proof you live or work in the dale. Local advice is far better than buying ‘blind’ on the internet. HE’S HERE TO HELP SO DO GO AND ASK! I am always keen to support our local shops where I can!
1. Your health is the first priority. You need to keep warm and have access to fresh water and food. I cover these basics in ‘House and Home’
Remember our doctor may not be able to get here so if you are on medication ask if you can have an extra week or two’s supplies to keep at home.
If you need to chat to the doctor more often, ask at the health centre about the possibility of using the internet for remote consultation.
Take much more care when moving about in and out of your home. Try not to take any risks which may result in injury, because medical attention may not be easy to access.
Slips and falls, especially on ice, can be fatal if you cannot summon help. A simple attachment for your shoes / boots makes walking on ice and snow much safer. Catstycam our village outdoor shop stock these:
They are not mountain walking crampons but perfect for pavements and light use.
2. Your house is your best refuge - if you are elderly or infirm try and prepare for a few days when you may have to stay indoors.
WATER – Drinking. Remember our water supply can’t be relied upon as much as in the past. Many properties now have water pumped to them and failure of the electricity supply can result in no tap water available. The simple solution is to rinse out a few 2 litre lemonade bottles or similar and fill with water while you have a supply. Keep in a dark cool place. Change the water every few weeks. Sorted.
Again Catstycam can help with a larger water container:
You can drink water from the stream but normally you have to boil it to be safe. Naturally this assumes you have the fuel to do so. If in doubt its worth keeping some water purification tablets in stock.
WATER – Toilet and Washing. Many folk have forgotten that a toilet can be ‘flushed’ by quickly pouring a 2 gallon bucket of water into the pan. That’s all your cistern does when you flush the loo. So do keep a couple of clean buckets handy. You can use rain water or water from a stream for this purpose. You may want to keep a plastic bin full of water in an outbuilding for filling the buckets. Make sure your reserve supply can’t freeze! If you know you lose water supply often, and think it likely, fill the bath with cold water for loo use.
FOOD – Don’t rely on your freezer unless you have backup power. Freezers will keep food generally safe for up to 24 hours if you don’t open the door. It’s well worth filling excess space in the freezer with plastic lemonade bottles filled 80% with fresh water and laid on their side. Not only will this make your stored food last much longer but finally the defrosted water can be drunk. If you fill up empty space you do not affect the temperature when you do open the door because warm air has nowhere to ‘fit’ in the freezer. The cold water ‘reserve’ at -18c will support the freezer for much longer.
Keep plenty of tined food in stock including some fruit. Warm soup is easy to prepare. Potatoes keep well all winter if in a paper sack somewhere cool and dry. Pasta is also simple to store long term. Butter too has a long shelf life.
It’s worth having a few pints of long life milk or milk powder to hand for the all important Tea!
‘I’m OK I have a gas cooker’ ...... well maybe not. Many gas cookers now require mains power to work at all. Modern safety features often mean you cannot use your gas cooker without power. It’s well worth having a backup gas stove with plenty of spare gas cartridges. Again Catstycam have an inexpensive and very stable bench top unit perfect for a pan or kettle. Keep spare cartridges in a safe place preferably an outbuilding.
‘I have an oil boiler....’ Again useless without some power, we’ll get to that.
If you have a wood burning stove or an open fire and you use these regularly you’ll know what you are doing. If you have these and never use them do NOT decide to light them in an emergency. You could create a chimney fire or fill the house with carbon monoxide just at the time when emergency services cannot reach you. Be very vigilant with your fire guard! When preparing for winter make sure you get your chimney swept. Old systems need to be checked out by a professional and you need to get used to using them before you have to. Remember coal and logs do not ‘go off’ if stored properly. Get plenty of stock in before it become impossible to take delivery. We can’t expect our coal merchant to make it up steep and icy roads. Do ask them about having a reserve supply in sacks or similar.
Always fit smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in your home wherever you have fuel burning appliances. Change the batteries yearly. I do this in the week before Christmas so I don’t forget.
Oil and Gas supplies. Keep your tanks as full as you can. In the case of oil a full tank will not suffer from condensation in the winter. Best to keep it in the top 50% and you know you have the reserve when you need it.
Oil and gas boilers require electricity to function not a lot of power, but without electricity you can’t access all the stored heat in your tanks. See the power section at the end for possible ways to address this.
Many folk will rely on a torch or candles in the event of a power cut. Candles come with the risk of fire just when you can’t get the fire brigade out so they are best avoided. Old torches are also heavy on battery use. You may wish to consider a modern LED torch and maybe a lantern. These often have in excess of 60 hours use on a battery. A head torch (one you wear with a band around your head or hat) is brilliant as it points the light where you look. Keep both hands free for working or steadying yourself when walking outside. Great for reading in bed too.
Again Catsycam have a range of inexpensive LED torches and lanterns:
Keep plenty of spare batteries handy and if bad weather is forecast keep your torch next to you in bed or in your pocket. In a sudden power cut you’ll not have to look for it!
3. Car and Travel
Before winter make sure you have your car checked out and serviced. If the battery is more than 4 years old it may fail in cold weather. Have a new one fitted. This is especially important with diesel cars which take a lot more starting.
Tyres are vital for safety, ensure there is plenty of tread and check the pressure often as the temperatures drop. Consider a set of winter tyres. Sometimes you can buy a cheap set of pressed steel wheels and have winter tyres fitted to them. Apart from safety this can protect your expensive alloy wheels from the effects of salt.
Make sure your screen wash bottle is full of frost safe fluid and operate the squirters front and back to get this through the pipes before they freeze.
Don’t use your car, unless you have to, in very bad weather. It may be difficult to summon help if you have an accident and your broken down car can block routes for emergency services.
Never park your car on a hill on top of ice or snow. The weight of the car will slowly melt the ice under the tyres and the car will ‘creep’ slowly down hill. Sometimes for tens of metres overnight. If you must park on a hill dig down to sound road in front of each wheel and then drive the car onto the bare road patches.
If flooding is possible park on high ground and away from known flood overflow channels. Even if you have to walk home it’s best to have the car a few days later, unharmed.
Keep you fuel tank full. Sadly in Patterdale we no longer have a filling station so plan ahead. Refill before it reaches ½ way. Store a sleeping bag, shovel, some water and long life food in the boot if travelling. You could get stuck overnight even a short distance from home. With a full fuel tank, you can keep warm. Out of the wind inside the car you will survive if you have a sleeping bag. Don’t run the engine if you end up in a snow drift or in very still air, as fumes can fill the car and kill you.
Try and park your car where trees are unlikely to fall on it. Flying roof slates can also cause damage so parking the car up-wind of a structure is a good idea.
4. Communication and Internet
We all now rely so much on our mobile phones and the internet. As technology has progressed it’s ability to survive in a severe weather event has reduced. You cannot rely on it. A few hours into a power cut we can expect to loose the mobile phone mast. Similar is true of the new superfast broadband street cabinets whose battery backup is limited. If you have the old slow internet connection you can expect many days but even so with no router at home because of power loss, you may still have no connectivity.
All of the above assumes the telephone lines and optic fibre connections have not been damaged. So, as you can see, many factors will affect your ability to reach information and the outside world.
You landline telephone is about the most resilient. In the floods of 2015 we found that although we could not dial outside the dale we could ring each other. If you have a dial tone try 482xxx (the 4 in front allowed us to chat dale-wide) or dial the full code 01768482xxx.
Finally your smart phone won’t last much more than a day without charging so a lot needs to be addressed. One option for your smart phone is a ‘USB power bank’ which will give you a number of charges.
For longer lasting and versatile options See POWER below.
If you live remotely but can see a neighbours house at a distance do consider a simple signal system indicating you need help. A lamp in a window for example. You can buy cheap 2 way radios if you feel you’d need to chat with an elderly or infirm person.
If internet connectivity is important to you then you’ll need some form of backup power. Also, in extreme cases, a backup IT system independent of the landlines. An example of this is satellite broadband and we do have some ‘nodes’ within the dale working now.
TV and Radio. Always keep a small battery radio in the house. If you can receive 198KHz radio 4 Long Wave you’ll always have some outside news. LW penetrates the hills everywhere but remember you have to rotate the whole radio for best signal. A very good little radio to consider is:
At around £20 it has the all important LW (Long Wave) band and you can use it every day – using batteries it’s safe in the bathroom to for morning news. As with any emergency kit if it’s used anyway it’s good value and you know it works!
TV - if you only use terrestrial ‘free view’ then you rely on all the land relay stations down the lake. This service is the most vulnerable to weather events because power and all the links have to work.
Satellite TV should be fine as long as you can power your equipment and of course keep snow off the dish and LNB (The bit in the middle of the dish)
All of this requires some power. Read on.
Backup power options for your home range from very cheap and basic to a total resilience automatic generator system costing several thousand pounds. So what do you think you need?
Most basic is to buy a small inverter:
This will plug into the cigarette lighter in your car or clip onto a stand-by battery in the house. It’s good to run a laptop / smart phone charger and your broadband router at the same time. OR your satellite box and a small TV. Don’t exceed the total wattage allowed. Higher wattages are available but will drain your battery faster. Remember it will drain your car battery so you’ll need to start the car to keep a good charge in the battery. If running an extension lead from the car to the house take care as you would with the mains. Electricity from an inverter is just as lethal as the mains. If you start your car to charge the battery remember you’ll need at least 1500rpm engine speed to ‘kick in’ the alternator. Some cars will not charge the battery at idle speed.
What about a small stand by generator? There are many small ‘portable’ petrol models available mostly pull cord start. Make sure they are suitable for IT equipment if you intend to use them for that. Prices depend on power output and noise levels and you pay for what you get. The ‘Rolls-Royce’ is:
This would power all of your IT and your central heating boiler as well. Very quiet operation but at a high price.
A much cheaper and higher output unit is something like:
which would potentially run your IT, freezer and central heating at the same time. More noise though.
Remember you’ll need to look at how to connect your equipment. You can simply run some extension leads to the various appliances. If going for a higher output system you can have your house wiring altered to include sensitive circuits and a proper change over switch.
Your central heating system is more complex as usually these are hard-wired (No plug) however have a word with your electrician as the total electricity needed to run a central heating system is usually well under 1Kw. The system can be modified fairly cheaply to allow the supply from your generator.
Each house is different and your needs will vary (as will your budget!) beware though because temporary power systems, unless fitted properly and cared for, can be lethal. A sound earth system and RCD protection are vital for safety. If in any doubt always employ a qualified electrician and properly maintain your system.
You’ll also need to store and rotate fuel. Petrol will keep for a number of months if in a cool dry place and in proper containers. If you have a petrol car you can rotate your fuel supply by filling the car with the cans every few months and then re-filling the cans with fresh fuel. Never keep petrol in the house (use an outbuilding) and never re-fuel a hot engine. In times of need you don’t want to injure yourself when help is difficult to come by. Generators not used for some time should be totally drained of fuel because, as the petrol evaporates, it will leave deposits in the fuel system. During winter keep the generator in a warm and dry space. Run it for 15 mins or so every few weeks. When you need it you’ll probably do so in the dark and rain! And in a hurry. So plan ahead as to how you are going to use it. Practice deployment and use.
I suggest you go to our local suppliers in Penrith and ask for advice. I would always go for a 4-stroke engine and I personally prefer Honda as the build quality is excellent.
I hope the above is of use to you. If you have any questions do feel free to ring me. I am not including my number because internet search engines would pick up on it. If you live in Patterdale I am sure you can find out and give me a call!