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John Pumford-Green 21/12/22 23:07

We had a “weather event” on Monday December 12th 2022 - a short, sharp and vicious snow storm. Some snow fell earlier in the day, but until lunchtime it wasn't really anything to get excited about….

Then it turned nasty, and somewhat surreal.

The Shetland Power Outage of December 2022

The snow became heavier and had a peculiar “sticky wetness” about it, causing it to cover roads quickly. More significantly it started to cling to overhead power lines, building rapidly and freezing on the lines causing them to begin to fail as the strong wind began to blow the thickened and heavily weighted lines to break under the strain.

I'll ignore the specific sequence of events of my day, as I'm more interested here in the longer term consequences of the snow storm rather then the “excitement” of the day's drama.

We eventually got home after a 4 hour journey in very poor weather, with bad roads (and not a few poor drivers, unused or unable to drive in snow) to contend with, at approx 8pm to find the power at home had failed. This is not unusual, and initially the electricity company (SSEN) were estimating 23:00 for restoration. No problem, we have wood-burning stoves for heating, in two rooms, and a gas (propane) cooker for heating water and for cooking food.

One evening without power is not unusual, and nothing to worry about.

We had our Petzl headtorches on, we lit the woodstoves and we made a meal.

As the evening went on, the full severity of the power failures began to be known, and the repair estimate moved to “22:00 tomorrow”…. It moved further and further away with each successive update.

This was the start of a 6 day power outage, in sub-zero weather conditions, with snow and ice and occasional gale force winds.

The 3 mile section of single track road connecting us to the main road network, and to shops for supplies, was almost impassable by the next morning. I certainly wasn't willing to try my luck, in a 2WD van, for the next 3 days, so we were effectively trapped at home with no power, and the estimated restore time kept being extended as more and more was known of the severity of the damage to the overhead power distribution system. Many, many lines and poles were down. Crews of engineers, and materials, specialized vehicles, helicopters were mobilized from the mainland and began to arrive in the following days.

Short sharp weather event, long power failure

The damage occurred on Monday afternoon, after approx 4 hours of heavy snowfall.

Our power was reconnected at 00:20 on Sunday morning, almost 6 days later.

In that time we had managed to get new food and other supplies on Thursday and Friday, as the road became passable, and the power remained off.

  • We maintained a continuous online internet and mobile phone connection
  • we had lighting from headtorches
  • heat from multi-fuel (Morso Squirrel) stoves
  • cooking from propane gas cooker.
  • The water supply remained on throughout.
  • Food supplies were initially limited for the first few days

“Monday is shopping day” and we usually run-down the stores during the week and replenish the larder on a Monday. The “event” on Monday prevented the usual weekly shop.

  • We don't keep any emergency supplies of food.

Things that were helpful

  • a supply of pre-charged 12V Sealed Lead Acid batteries. This allows for re-charging of USB devices (phones, headtorches, USB Battery-power-banks etc) when paired with a 12V powered USB hub, or using a quickly home-made 12V → 5V regulator (7805).
  • a battery powered 4G MiFi router with an appropriate (EE) SIM card (PAYG, with plenty of Data Credit). This allows continuous connection to internet - important to keep in touch with friends, and to keep abreast of news and announcements about the progress of power repairs.
  • Petzel headtorches always close at hand. We each have Petzl “Actik Core” headtorches with USB rechargable battery packs. The batteries can be replaced with 3 x AAA batteries if necessary.
  • a supply of fuel for the Morso Squirrel stoves. This was a recent delivery of £300 worth of softwood logs. At other times of the year we may not have a stock of firewood.
  • a source of cooking and water heating that doesn't rely on electricity. Propane (Calor) gas powered kitchen cooker, common in rural areas.

Things that could have been better, with pre-planning

  • Food - have a dedicated supply of long-shelf-life food items, that can be relied on even if the normal food supply is at a low ebb. Keeping a slightly larger “normal” larder, by allowing a reserve to build up week by week, without going mad would also be of assistance, especially for items that wouldn't be suitable for the “emergency long-shelf-life” food cache.
  • Hygiene and health - have a supply of toilet paper, wet wipes, pain killers, simple first aid items, batteries, candles, matches, lighters. Keep these in one box where they will only be used “in an emergency”.
  • Water. While this event did not involve a loss of mains water for us, it did affect water supplies elsewhere. In any future event it is not unrealistic to imagine a loss of supply. It would be worthwhile having a stock of water, for drinking, cooking, hygiene etc.
  • A better form of 12V power - larger capacity batteries, that were known to be fully charged. A 100Ah Leisure battery and a number of 24Ah Sealed Lead acid battery would be longer lasting and provide more confidence, than a random group of “condition unknown” smaller (3Ah?) SLABs.
  • A pre-prepared source of fuel for the Morso stoves. Wood is useful, but in general is not likely to be kept in sufficent quantity. A better option are smokeless Ovoids. Once the stoves are lit with Ovoids they can be kept burning continuously, 24/7 for days or weeks at a time, and only require 2 daily top ups of new fuel. One bag of ovoids, with care, can fuel 2 stoves for 2 days.
  • Lighting - a supply of tea-lights and candles would have allowed background room-lighting to supplement the head torches and make the long dark winter evenings more enjoyable. Perhaps a system of 12V powered LED lighting would be even better.
  • Batteries - have a supply of AA, AAA and CR123 batteries for torches, radios etc
  • Battery powered AM/FM radio for entertainment without relying on internet/streaming.
  • Power for ADSL router to allow internet connection without relying on a 4G mobile phone signal. It is possible the ADSL connection may not be available, depending on the state of the power at the local exchange. Having a choice between 4G and ADSL would allow options, though.

Thoughts for the future

Having experienced a 6-day power outage following a single afternoon of heavy snow, it's now easy to imagine a much longer storm, causing much more widespread damage, and leading to a much longer period without power, and without access to the “outside world”.

I am tending to the opinion that it is worthwhile planning for a period of 14 days. Being self-sufficient, at home, with no external assistance, for 2 weeks might never be needed, but the security and confidence of building up this level of preparedness, is liberating. It also means that we won't be a burden on any support services, allowing them to concentrate on the more vulnerable and less well prepared. We can also provide assistance to others if we have a surplus of stores, supplies, tools, batteries, etc.

Becoming a Prepper

I've often read online prepper websites and watched Prepper You Tube videos. Many of them have a few sensible points, but often are aimed at a level of “disaster survival” that seemed of little relevance.

Now, after, a simple snow storm (admittedly of a peculiar type of very wet, very heavy , icy snow) led to being isolated at home for 6 days with no power, it is EASY to imagine a much worse, or longer lasting, event requiring off-grid living, at home, for a longer time period.

I see the benefit of making some simple pre-preperations. Not to survive “the Zombie Apocalypse” or “TEOTWAWKI”, but just a failure of our utility supplies - Electricity, Water or the blockage of transport routes by snow, ice, landslide etc.

If you are going to lay in stores of materials, consumables, food and water, then it's probably worth trying to aim for 14 days of self-sufficiency. Even if not for “natural disaster” - perhaps sudden unforseen job loss, lack of accessible cash/online payment - having enough at home to live for 2 weeks relieves some of the stress.

COVID, with the orders to stay at home, for shops to either be told to close, or for panic buying to rapidly empty the shelves has also shown that unusual situations can occur without warning, and the ability to sit-tight for 2 weeks allows time for a degree of normality to be restored, and shops to be restocked.

More examples come to mind as I think of scenarios to prepare for. Until recently they would appear fanciful, but now, post COVID with climate change starting to impact even the temperate UK weather systems, it's perhaps not hysterical to start planning and prepping for future events.

I'll start adding more pages to the WiKi as I explore Prepping as a project, with the aim of achieving a 14 day autonomy over the course of the next few months.

First Ideas

Some initial thoughts on what might be useful to gather in preparation

Based on the experience from December 2022 6-day power failure.

Some items are already available, other things are newly listed after considering the experience and the intention to extend the autonomy period to 14 days, and including water to the requirement.

Hygiene / Consumables / Household

  • Toilet Rolls → 9 pack
  • Candles → 4 per day → 56 → 6 x 10 pack
  • Tea Lights → 4 per day → 56 → 2 x 50 pack = 100
  • Batteries
    • AA → 2 x 12
    • AAA → 2 x 16
    • CR123 → 2 x 4
  • Matches → 4 boxes “Cooks Matches”
  • Lighters → 4 x BIC/Clipper
  • Medication
    • Paracetamol
    • Ibuprofen
    • Aspirin
    • Prescription?
  • First Aid - plasters/dressings etc
  • Wet wipes / hand sanitzer


In addition to normal household supplies

  • Stoves : Ovoids → 7 bags
  • Firelighters → 4 boxes
  • Propane → 1 x 13kg
  • Jet Boil → camping gas

12V batteries and USB power

  • 100Ah Leisure Battery x 1
  • 24Ah SLAB x 3
  • 3Ah & 7Ah & 18Ah SLAB - various
  • 12V → USB Charging device(s)
  • Solar Panel for recharging batteries
  • USB Power Banks


  • personal headtorches
  • personal pocket torches
  • candle-lantern(s)
  • 12V LED lighting


  • Pasta → 3 x 1kg (75g per person per meal → 2 x 14 x 75g → 2.1kg)
  • Rice → 3 x 1kg
    • Rice and Pasta combined, and with pulses, makes a meal with complete protein
  • Dried Noodles
  • Porrige Oats (can be made with plain water if milk not available, or dried milk powder?)
  • Tins
    • Soup x 28
    • Pulses x 14
    • Fish x 7
  • Jars
    • Pesto x 4
    • Curry Paste x 4
  • Baking Goods
    • Bread Flour
    • Dried Yeast
  • Drinks
    • Coffee
    • Tea Bags
    • Dried Milk
  • Sundries
    • Olive Oil
    • Stock Cubes
    • Marmite

Shelf Life esitmate

  • Tins
    • Pulses : 4 year
    • Soup : 2 year
    • Fish : 3 year
  • Jars
    • Pesto : 3 year
    • Curry Paste : 3 year
  • Dried Goods
    • Pasta : 2 years
    • Rice : 2 years


Aim for 1 gallon per person per day

  • 2 persons x 14 day x 1 gallon → 28 gallons → 6 x 5 gallon jerry cans.


  • Dog food → 15kg bag


  • Mobile Phones with choice of SIM cards → EE or Vodafone
  • 4G battery powered MiFi router
  • 12V DC powered ADSL router/Wifi Access point
  • Old DTMF manual dial telephone
  • Investigate Ham Radio HF Email
  • Marine Band VHF radio for Coastguard

John Pumford-Green 22/12/22 09:42

Further Information

public/musings/prepping.txt · Last modified: 08/04/24 14:47 BST by john