Category Archives: Extreme Weather

Extreme Weather and Preparedness for extreme weather events such as storms, heatwaves and extreme cold

Preparedness for Power Cuts, Brownouts and Blackouts

updated 09/10/2017

Power failures are common in the wake of storms (BBC) and disasters, man-made or natural; for example floods (Telegraph) and drought (Brazil dries up and blacks out, 2015, Bloomberg) even UK mini heatwaves (Ashbourne News Telegraph). Also see South Australia’s Blackout explained (09/2016 black start)

Power outages can also occur without warning because of faults or accidents.

You may need to shelter-in-place and wait it out or you may have to evacuate (Feb 2015: Liverpool One John Lewis evacuated after power cut as restaurants unable to serve food, Liverpool Echo)


Power cuts are predicted to become more frequent, not only causing damage to the economy ($180 billion in the USA) but also affect transport, security and health (Lincoln University). Concerns and discussions on the UK energy safety gap are ongoing (Guardian).

2003 – a memorable year for spectacular power cuts

Looking back, 2003 was a particularly eventful year. In the US and Canada 55 million people were affected during the Great Northeast Blackout, 14th August 2003:   Fortunately, most power cuts last only minutes, but even such short durations can have a substantial impact on you personally as well as business. The London Blackout (28 August 2003) lasted just 34 minutes (BBC) during which  

        • 400 calls were taken by the London Fire Brigade
        • 100 rescues were made
        • all main rail services stopped in London and the South East
        • 60% of London Underground was affected

 If not stranded in lifts or underground, thousands of Londoners and visitors either took to the rain soaked streets or found shelter in candle lit pubs and restaurants. Outages not only happen in summer. They happen every day (DNO live twitter list) and can affect everyone. Most spectacularly and recently again London:


What is a Brownout? What to do during a Brownout

source:, the opposite of a power surge, refer to a drop in voltage that can last for minutes or hours. Brownouts  commonly occur either by accident or intentional, for example, when used for emergency load reduction to avert a full blown a blackout.     Common signs of a brownout are      

                • flickering lights
                • rapid switching on/off of appliances
                • sudden computer and internet failure

 Usually harmless, brownouts nevertheless can damage your equipment so when you notice rapidly flickering lights, act immediately and unplug your computers, routers, TV, devices being charged, all appliances etc. During a Brownout, as soon as you notice fluctuations (i.e. when the lights start flickering badly)  

            • switch off and unplug computers, TVs, printers, routers, mobile phones, tablets or any other devices that are plugged in and/or charging
            • reduce your power consumption: switch off anything you do not need
            • be ready for a blackout in case your supply fails to stabilise source:


Preparedness for a Power Cut – follow these 10 top tips

Know your supplier and how to contact them. Suppliers often host a live power outage map and provide information and support also on twitter. The new emergency number for power cuts is 105 see guidance from your supplier; i.e. UK Power Networks’ Domestic and Business

          • make a checklist/map of all your electrical items that need turning OFF in case of a power cut
          • if you use crucial medical equipment requiring electricity, put yourself on your suppliers priority register
          • alternative communications: keep a plug-in cord telephone for emergencies that does not need electricity; stock spare batteries and power packs for mobile devices
          • alternative power: ranges from power generators to UPS devices (~ 1 hour), batteries and hand-crank or solar operated devices; more see generators


What to do during a Power Cut – NEW! CALL 105*

Is it just you? Check your fuse box to see if any have tripped – there could be a problem with your property’s wiring and you may need to call an electrician. If your neighbor is also affected, then call your local distribution company to find out if it’s a network problem. Normally, power cuts are locally or regionally based

          • switch OFF all appliances and equipment that may have been in use before the interrupt
          • leave one light switched on to know when the power is restored
          • secure your property; bells and alarms may not work during the outage (manual warning)


What to do when Power is restored

          • check all your equipment and appliances
          • only gradually turn your equipment and appliances back on, keeping an eye on possible fluctuations
          • check and and reset all timer switches; i.e. water heating, gas or oil central heating systems, electric clocks

Additional useful resources to understand what happens, the consequences of power cuts and what you must plan and prepare for and how to prepare for and cope with power outages:

      • list of major power outages wiki
      • electric safety HSE
      • will your landline work during a power cut? Ofcom

 Be prepared, not scared. Have a good week.

Monika | @MonikaAlMufti 

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Resilience – drawing on Faith for Strength

June marks the beginning of increased emergency preparedness in many parts of the world. Here in the UK and Europe we move to level 1 summer preparedness for heat waves while in the US the Atlantic Hurricane season starts. In addition this year there seems to be a very high chance of another El Nino which will have wide-reaching effects across the globe. See today’s article in The Guardian: How El Nino will change the weather in 2014. It is no wonder then that the web is full of campaigns that aim to raise public awareness for Disaster Preparedness and Resilience. What struck me particularly, however, is a report by Dana Bartholomew from the Los Angeles Daily News.

Faith-based Community Organization to host Disaster Preparedness Events

Source week, she reports that the LA County Office of Emergency Management launches a campaign asking faith-based community organizations to host disaster-preparedness events. US Churches, synagogues and mosques may soon help residents to prepare for what they call ‘the big one’ – an earthquake, tsunami or other major incidents.

I was impressed for it seems that now things are developing in new and promising ways. The relationship between religious or spiritual faith and resilience is supported by scientific research as well as by countless personal stories of amazing perseverance that attest how such practises can provide strength. Now, before I go any further let me state that I’m not religious. Rather, my point of view is humanistic and as such this new and much more open, preventative approach to community resilience by faith based organizations is a brilliant step in the right direction. Rather than being confined to provide support in the aftermath of a disaster there now is the possibility of a real shift in…

  • moving from Faith and Recovery to Faith and Preparedness

This constitutes a tangible power shift that can benefit millions. It has the potential to open the disaster preparedness conversation to a much wider audience, broadening and bridging social understandings. Done sensitively it can inform, support and enable individuals to acquire the understandings, tools and skills necessary to be better prepared for disasters at all levels: as individuals, as families, in their neighbourhoods and wider communities.

Generosity; source

The word ‘religion’ comes from Latin ‘religare’ meaning to bind. One aspect of the relationship between resilience and religion lies in exactly that quality – the particular strength-giving cohesion of a special social group with a particular outlook. The nature and quality of that outlook, however, is crucial. Religious coping is not automatically associated with well-being or resilience and researchers distinguish between positive and negative patterns1. People who see God as punitive and judgemental may feel they ‘deserve’ their troubles, that their fate is controlled by an unsympathetic all-powerful being. This can leave some people with a limited sense of control – a form of learnt helplessness that is difficult to overcome. On the other hand, the associations of faith with positive physical and mental health as well as resilience are well documented 2, particularly in patients suffering from medical conditions. Yet, interestingly, the reasons why this should be so are much less clear. There are a number of factors to consider:

  • regular attendance may foster resilience factors, i.e. optimism, altruism and a search for meaning and purpose
  • interaction with positive and resilient role models that encourage adopting meaningful social roles
  • experience of generosity and tolerance which may trigger reciprocity
  • protection against destructive habits

But of course it’s much more complex than that. The support that practitioners receive may come from their beliefs as well as from their fellow human companions. Most formal religions focus on the practitioner’s personal relationship with a supreme being who, on the positive side, provides guidance, strength and protection. For some people, this relationship boosts their own feelings of inner strength and self-efficacy and helps them to realize what Dante Allighieri described as “Be bold and the mighty shall protect you”– believing that God is at your side may give you the confidence to tackle challenges that otherwise may seem too daunting.

What if you are not religious?

Non-believers like me can and should reclaim the most useful bits of religion that, according to Alain de Botton, have been annexed by the godly. I really recommend his book ‘Religion for Atheists’ (not that I would categorize myself as one) that takes as a starting point the assumption that God is a human creation. See Philosophy now for a book review. The 26th March 2014 issue of New Scientist also has a number of very interesting articles on the topic. On the more practical side, any kind of regular practice that is positively empowering is beneficial. Examples include yoga, t’ai chi ch’uan, qigong, aikido, tantric rituals, sufi mysticism, sadhana, native healing traditions etc. Research testing the effectiveness of these approaches for trauma and survivors is expanding rapidly.

Albert Bandura (Professor Emeritus of Social Science in Psychology at Stanford University): “In order to succeed, people need a sense of self-efficacy, struggle together with resilience to meet the inevitable obstacles and inequities of life”



Wishing you a great week.


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  • 1Pargament et al, 1998; Patterns of positive and negative religious coping with major life stressors. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 37 (4), 710-724
  • 2McCullough et al, 2000; Religious involvement and mortality: A meta-analytic review. Health Psychlogy; 19 (3), 211-222
  • 3Streeter et al, 2010; Effects of Yoga versus Walking on mood anxiety and brain GABA levels: a randomized controlled MRS study; Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 16 (11), 1145-1152
  • De Botton, Alain, 2012, Religion for Atheists: A Non-believer’s Guide to the Uses of Religion, Pantheon Books
  • Lawton, Graham, 2014, Religion without God – and other related articles in New Scientist Magazine issue 9900
  • Cheema, A.R., Scheyvens, R., Glavovic, B., Imran, M. (2014) Unnoticed but important: revealing the hidden contribution of community-based religious institutions of the mosque in disasters. Natural Hazards, 71(3), 2207-229


More Extreme Weather – heatwave at Australia Open, arctic deep freeze in the US, continued floods in the UK

Dancevic is treated in the extreme heat of Melbourne Park / source

Dancevic is treated in the extreme heat of Melbourne Park; source

There I thought I was done talking about crazy weather for a while – not so! Extreme weather events seem to come hard and fast as we head into this new year.

While the UK flooded and the US froze, Argentina baked but ‘heat’ seemed to have slipped the limelight until the Australian Open was disrupted by record breaking temperatures.

On Monday, the average maximum temperature across the country reached a new record of 40.33C. Forecasting that temperatures might reach 54C the Bureau of Meteorology added two new shades of purple to the top of their temperature scale map, New Scientist reported. Thankfully, those predictions were not borne out; else the country would have had to deal with a lot worse than ‘just’ thousands of tennis fans suffering heat exhaustion, as a local newspaper said. As it was, it was bad enough: large numbers of EMS had to be mobilized to respond to heat-related injuries (see heatstroke info i.e. SJA). Heart attacks surged by 300%. Authorities expected an increase of 50% in mortalities caused by the extreme heat mainly affecting the vulnerable (the elderly, infirm and children). The Guardian reported: ‘Australian heat waves are getting hotter and longer says the Climate Council’.

Not a great start to 2014… however, we cannot take these events to simply predict what this summer might bring for us in the UK. We can only remember our own heat waves, how they have affected us in the past and prepare to stay cool. So, here is some context:

– the highest recorded UK temperature was 38.5C on 10/08/2003 Faversham Kent (METoffice); this is only marginally different from Australia’s record last week. Somehow I don’t think here in the UK we’re as adapted and resilient (yet) to heat as the Aussies are, although that is of course a matter of personal tolerance.

– the most recent heat wave (19 days) was last year in July 2013, 33.5C recorded in west London. On 18 July, the Telegraph reports London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine figures that the first 9 days of the heat wave had caused up to an additional 760 deaths. The heat wave ended on 23 July with heavy thunderstorms, bringing flooding and lightning strikes that caused transport disruption, power cuts and fires. One week later temperatures rose again, recording the warmest August temperature since 2003.

Let us hope for a perfectly ‘average’ spring.

Find out more about how to be prepared for a heatwave.

And of interest might be the standardised physiological heat tolerance test (HTT) which evaluates athletes’ tolerance to exercising in the heat. It differentiates between a temporary and permanent state of heat susceptibility (Journal Sport Rehabil. 2007 Aug;16(3):215-21.) HTT is also used by some armed forces to test the heat tolerance of their personnel.


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Resilience – what it is and how it connects to crazy weather

Resilience - thriving despite difficulties; Resilient Self - Resilienct Relationships - Resilient Problem Solving

Resilience – thriving despite difficulties; Resilient Self – Resilienct Relationships – Resilient Problem Solving

Another crazy weather week! Amazing pictures from the US throughout the week, especially the frozen Niagara Falls and headlines of – literally – Hell freezing over; Hell Michigan that is. Meanwhile more flood misery with heavy rains and violent tidal surges affected thousands here in the UK, causing widespread damage and much personal pain… and more is yet to come we’re being told.

With all this gloom and controversies around flood prevention measures running high it is interesting to note that the Guardian ran an article on how floods are not all uniformly bad, how there is a silver lining (even if somewhat thin) to be had in all of this. I’d like to pick up on this at the close of this week.

Finding the positive side in any situation, no matter how grim and hopeless it might at first appear, is a huge skill and a massively important part of what resilience means. And that, increasingly, is what it’s all about. But what exactly does ‘resilience’ mean? One definition holds that ‘resilience’ is the capacity to cope effectively in stressful situations or adversity. There are a number of core capacities that play role and these are, according to the APA1:

  • (a) self-awareness: identifying one’s thoughts, emotions, and behaviours, and patterns in each that are counterproductive
  • (b) self-regulation: the ability to regulate impulses, thinking, emotions, and behaviours to achieve goals, as well as the willingness and ability to express emotions;
  • (c) optimism: noticing the goodness in self and others, identifying what is controllable, remaining wedded to reality, and challenging counterproductive beliefs
  • (d) mental agility: thinking flexibly and accurately, perspective taking, and willingness to try new strategies
  • (e) character strengths: identifying the top strengths in oneself and others, relying on one’s strengths to overcome challenges and meet goals, and cultivating a strength approach in one’s group; and
  • (f) connection: building strong relationships through positive and effective communication, empathy, willingness to ask for help, and willingness to offer help

That’s a lot – complex and interesting stuff! Plenty of material there for me to write about in small doses as we go into this near year talking about Emergency Preparedness and Resilience.
You will have noticed that I’ve highlighted ‘OPTIMISM’ in the above list and will have read its description – a very far cry from the rose-tinted and rather blind optimism you might have come across elsewhere. The aim here is not to gloss over reality but rather a bit of a case of thorough #SherlockLives -style analysis and a much wider appraisal that eventually will help towards finding new strength and direction.

So, back to the Guardian and the good side of our #UKFloods. I encourage you read the full article but in a nutshell, here it is:

  • UK wind industry had its best-ever period, setting daily, weekly and monthly records
  • heavy rains across Britain have left the water supply industry smiling, reservoirs are full
  • environment: floods and storms are important natural phenomena that help the natural environment, i.e. clear clean river gravels of silt, encouraging fish migration; some plants depend on strong winds to spread their seeds further afield…
  • wildlife: burrowing animals breed best when soggy ground makes their holes easy to dig; record numbers of wading birds..

And for us? The wild weather has been an excellent stick for environment groups and scientists to beat government with as well as raise awareness generally. Charles Tucker, chair of the National Flood Forum, nicely summed it up: “With joined-up thinking, you invest in communities to develop resilience and prepare for future flooding. You invest in a national effort, requiring the agencies responsible for flood risk management to work with local people, equipping them to tackle local flooding problems. You give local communities the tools to find solutions themselves.” Highlights by me.

In the end, it’s also all up to us – individually as well as part of a community! Have a great weekend.


1APA – American Psychological Association

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