Re: emergency preparedness
From: Chuck Harrison (
Date: Tue, 16 Jan 2018 15:44:36 -0800 (PST)
Our 23-unit community in Seattle is reviewing emergency preparedness  (last
review was about 5 years ago, before I moved in).

At that time a professional standby generator installation looked way too
expensive and complex. In the intervening years we have installed a large
solar panel on the Common House (covers about 120% of annual load). We
haven't yet determined whether battery storage would make any sense.

I think it's worth observing that an emergency generator doesn't have to be
a huge commitment if you are willing to make compromises. 20 years ago I
was living in a rural area with unreliable power and most people had a
consumer grade portable gasoline generator. I tested my generator a couple
of times a year. It handled my fridge and well pump thru a 6 day outage
once. Noisy, but cheap (about $500 IIRC).

Duwamish Cohousing

On Jan 16, 2018 10:02 AM, "Sharon Villines" <sharon [at]>

> On Jan 16, 2018, at 12:16 PM, Lynn Nadeau / Maraiah <welcome [at]>
> wrote:
> >
> > We haven't gotten a generator, though the possibility gets raised from
> time to time. It would need to be propane or gas. Gas goes bad and is
> hazardous. Equipment needs to be maintained and stored some place.... In a
> power outage we still have a gas cookstove and a propane heater at the
> common house.
> We had a member’s generator for a 5 day outage in DC a number of years
> ago. It was very helpful to have electricity in the CH where people could
> gather for dinner — we had a lot of food that had to be cooked before it
> spoiled. (Gas stove.) The generator powered lamps in the dining room, the
> CH refrigerator, and a charging station for phones and computers. It was
> summer so there was no AC, which was marginally better than if it had been
> winter and we had no heat. The CH refrigerator was used to store bags of
> ice that the city was distributing. We did ice runs once or twice a day.
> The generator was very loud and constant. Not pleasant.
> We investigated keeping the generator for the community but it proved to
> be too expensive and too dangerous. A gas generator has to be drained for
> storage, but then has to be filled and tested once a month. There are
> services that do this. I don’t remember the price but it was ridiculous for
> us. Someone offered to have the generator stored on their porch and another
> offered to fill, check, and drain it every month. That was unworkable
> because we can’t store hazardous materials next to the building and how
> could we guarantee that it was properly drained. In the event of a fire,
> would the insurance company believe it was?
> We also haven’t needed a generator since then — the child who was then 2
> and helped me watch candles just turned 16. So 14 years of monthly filling
> and draining would have been too much work for a situation in which no one
> would die or business would be lost if we had no electricity.
> DC isn’t known for weather emergencies like earthquakes, blizzards, or
> hurricanes. We are on the edge of them and things get unpleasant but even a
> blizzard a few years ago had melted a week or so later. A hurricane didn’t
> even blow the dirt off my balcony that had been spilled when I brought my
> plants in. The worst effect of the blizzard is that DC and the utility
> companies were totally unprepared for even a half inch of snow. When the
> power lines were down they didn’t even know where they were.
> When they shut down the federal government, those things changed. As you
> may not know DC is limited by the federal government who runs our affairs
> and vetos any legislation we pass that they don’t like. That means all
> budget issues too. Money to dig them out has to be budgeted for DC if DC is
> to do anything about it. When the weather closed them down and someone
> raised the issue that this was a security threat to the nation and the
> entire free world, the budget was increased.
> I’ve lived in Iowa and upstate New York, and in Florida, so I realize
> weather is very different in other locations.
> There was a suggestion of figuring out how to hook up the batteries in the
> several Prius’s we have as an electric generator. I don’t know if this is
> realistic or not. It hasn’t been explored at the operational level.
> Sharon
> ----
> Sharon Villines
> Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC
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