Cheney Free Press -

Power failures should remind us of our vulnerabilities

In Our Opinion


The power outage that hit both Cheney and Medical Lake last Wednesday was only momentary.

However what lingered was pause for thought on how strongly we are connected to the grid and how high our expectations are when we flick the switch on the wall for that instant illumination.

Less than 60 seconds in the dark was somewhat of productivity killer because it took time — albeit brief — to get the Internet running again. We were probably not at all alone.

That was unlike months ago when service was down for a few days. It made us resort to a backup plan, nothing really in the “play book” but more akin to the audible a quarterback barks out to change the designed play when he senses a blitz is coming.

As a business that — magically to some — receives entire newspaper files practically through thin air from miles and miles or potentially hours away, we had to resort to some old means to keep the presses running, and readers reading.

A driver was dispatched to Davenport, and the Spokane Valley, among other locations, to retrieve the files.

Amazing as the technology is in the first place, perhaps more so are the fixes that providers of Internet, cable television and electricity can provide with a call or a mouse click when their service stops.

While the brief outage was not much more than an inconvenience for some, others were faced with possible life and death consequences with the loss of power for life-saving oxygen for instance.

Or when a tree knocked out power to a transmitter and thousands of television viewers missed seeing Seattle’s winning touchdown in the NFC championship. Some probably thought that to be a life and death deal when the flat screens went black.

We’re moving, or have moved in large part out of the Industrial Age and into a new era ruled in large part by the microchip. Did anyone notice the last time the fire went out in a steel furnace?

Bottom line is we take this technology and all the things it does for us and makes life — in large part for most — easier.

Electricity and the ease we have in accessing it means the difference between we in the United States residing in the equivalent of a third world country. It makes one wonder if those who like to insist on us abandoning fossil fuels without anything to replace them think about those consequences?

Remember, electric cars have to get their batteries charged from some power source and nationally nearly 70 percent of electricity generated in the United States is coming from fossil fuels.

Hardly considered a blackout, such as those in the Northeast United States in 1965 that affected an estimated 30 million people, or a second one in 2003 that plunged 55 million people into darkness in a swath that extended into eastern portions of Canada, any time the power goes out one wonders how long it will last.

Many of us have vivid memories of more notable times spent without electricity, usually the result of storms like those on Columbus Day 1962, Inauguration Day 1993 and Ice Storm 1996. Their aftermath left those of us in the Northwest in the cold and dark for days.

As we often find, the power grid is vulnerable to both punches from Mother Nature and man alike.

Maybe a brief outage like the one that occurred last week will make a few people plan ahead and be ready with a backup strategy when it might be needed for a longer term in the future?


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