Stage 6 loadshedding, once the basis of a joke about Eskom blowing out your candles, is now a South African reality.
Whatever the reasons behind Eskom's failures and resulting power outages, we're all facing a long, hot summer without electricity.
When exactly our power supply will become stable again is a mystery, so it's best to brace ourselves and get prepared.
We've gathered our top tips to lessen the blow of load-shedding for your family this Christmas.
1. Preparing for an unexpected power outage:
- Ensure that your cell phone is always fully charged when power is available, and get a power bank as back-up (remember to keep it charged). If you need to get some work done, charge your laptop battery too.
- Try to keep some fuel in the car's tank since during power outages, petrol stations cannot pump fuel.
- Ensure that you have adequate cash as auto tellers cannot operate without electricity.
- Keep temporary lighting, such as candles and electric torches, readily available.
- Keep a torch (with fresh batteries) by your bedside at all times, since your cellphone battery may run flat.
- Obtain a small LP gas lamp, as they provide good quality lighting for a large area.
- An LED battery-operated night light will provide a warm, comforting glow in your child's room.
- Obtain a stand-by bottled LP gas heating ring for essential cooking and to boil water for hot beverages.
- Get some sterilising liquid or tablets or have a gas stove and pot to hand so you can sterilise your baby's bottles.
- Keep adequate stocks of essential foodstuffs and snacks that do not need to be refrigerated.
- Place plastic containers with water in your freezer or freezer compartment. This frozen water will act like ice bricks to help keep food cold during a power outage. It also helps your fridge to save electricity otherwise. When you fill the bottles or tubs with water, leave some space so the water can expand.
- Most medication requiring refrigeration can be kept in a closed fridge for several hours without spoiling. To be sure about this, check with your doctor or pharmacist.
- Regularly check your alarm system's battery. During outages, the battery may die and it won't be active in the dark.
2. Just before scheduled load-shedding:
- Release automatic electric garage door mechanisms to allow you to gain access to your property during a power outage.
- Release electric security gates and switch to manual operation to avoid either being locked out or locked into your home.
- Boil water and keep in hot water flasks for hot drinks.
- Use a thermal cover on tea pots and other pots and pans to keep hot drinks, soup and other hot meals warm.
- Prepare meals beforehand so your kids won't have to eat peanut butter sandwiches for dinner (again).
- Homework by candlelight can be potentially hazardous, so make sure you have a bright gas or LED lamp ready.
- Buy glow-in-the-dark stickers and allow your children to decorate their rooms. Little stars or planets on the ceiling will brighten their night!
- Teach your children about fire safety! Keep candles in safe containers out of reach, and don't leave them on overnight.
- Always ensure there are no gas leaks (ask an expert to install your gas if you're not 100% confident) and switch all gas appliances off the moment you're done with them.
- Remind your neighbours of the same.
- Have a fire extinguisher on hand.
3. During a power outage:
- Switch it off! If the power goes off, it is safer to turn off or disconnect any electrical appliances that you were using, since a power surge may occur when the electricity is restored.
- It is always useful to keep one light switched 'on' to alert you when the power returns.
- Keep refrigerator doors closed. This will keep your food colder for longer. A power outage of up to 4 hours should not cause food spoilage, and a freezer should keep frozen food safe for at least a day.
- Do not burn refuse, unwanted furniture, copper wire or any other materials to cook or for heat. This emits toxic fumes.
- If you arrive home in the dark, and you have armed response service, check if they will wait for you at your house and accompany you into your home.
- Have old-fashioned fun with the kids with games, or listen to a podcast or audio book that you downloaded before.
- Go outside in the dark and gaze at the stars.
Sources: http://www.capetown.gov.za, PowerAlert
How do you prepare your family and home for load-shedding? What does your family eat when the power goes out? What about homework? Your baby? Tell us and share your tips and we may publish them.