How to Power Your Home IT and Work After A Hurricane

Hurricane season in Florida begins on June 1st. Remember Hurricane Charley that roared through here in 2004, with 105 mile-per-hour winds that left a path of destruction and sliced Internet access for two weeks?

It’s easy to forget how disruptive a power outage can be, until the loss of Internet access brings your productivity to a screeching halt. As a consultant and writer, if I’m not turning out products and services, I don’t get paid.

That’s a problem.

With this in mind, it’s important to plan ahead and secure sources for power and network connectivity in the advent of a hurricane whips your way.

How Much Juice Do You Use?

Here’s a quick example to see how much power (in watts) you might need:

      1 Apache web server – 200 watts
      2 Linux notebooks – 100 watts
      1 Android tablet – 30 watts
      1 Consumer wireless/router – 50 watts
      1 Cable modem – 50 watts
      1 Laser printer – 450 watts
      1 Monitor – 100 watts
      5 100-watt CFL equiv. lights – 125 watts
      1 Incidental powered devices – 100 watts
         Total watts: 1205

You could get a little 3000 or 4000 watt consumer gasoline generator from one of the big retail home improvement stores. You better plan ahead, because I can tell you, after a disaster of any size, you simply won’t be able to buy one. Don’t forget the extension cords (of correct capacity) and all those gallons of gas. Those compact generator gas tanks hold 3 or 4 gallons and might be good for 4 hours. Multiply that by 6 days (without electrical power), like we had here in Orlando and you’ll have to do 12 fill-ups and handle 48 gallons of gas. My big gas cans hold 6 gallons and are quite awkward to lift. That’s also about $170, at today’s gas prices. Providing your own power is complicated and labor intensive.

Networking runs a close second to power issues, in importance, during and after a disaster.

Back in 2004, my broadband was down for 14 days. That meant I had NO information conduit other than the portable AM/FM radio. My cable provider couldn’t fix my line (it was ripped off the house by a falling tree) until the downed trees were clear off of the power poles and power lines. You’ll be amazed at how isolated you feel without cable tv and broadband.

DSL is an option that you might want to consider. My regular phone line stayed up through the whole storm, probably because it’s underground.

Today, I could also WiFi-tether my laptop or tablet through my cell phone. The bad thing is that I have a 2 GB per month data limit. Even a moderate amount of work, online, could burn that up in a hurry.

On the good side, WiFi is much more common at restaurants, malls, cafes, and so on, than back in 2004. I frequently work at Panera Bread because they have free WiFi and pretty good coffee.

Are you ready for a disaster? Please share your experiences and suggestions in the comments.

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