Living Without Electricity: lessons from Lancaster in 2015
Over the first weekend of December 2015, Storm Desmond brought unprecedented flooding to parts of Cumbria and North Lancashire.
The flood affected one of Lancaster’s main electrical substations, with the damage causing a city-wide power failure that took almost a week to fully resolve.
Supplies were cut to 61,000 properties with more than 100,000 people left without electricity. It took the commandeering of 75 sizeable diesel generators, many sourced from Northern Ireland and the south west of England, to get on top of the problem and slowly start to restore power.
At the time, the incident was described as a ‘1 in a 100’ event.
Looking at the trend for more extreme and unpredictable weather, that description is rather questionable. What isn’t in doubt, however, is how the fallout to the Lancaster power cut offers us an insight into how our systems cope with such adversity.
Following the incident, the Royal Academy of Engineering in partnership with the Institution of Engineering and Technology and Lancaster University undertook a series of fact-finding workshops to highlight possible areas for improvement.
Its ‘Living Without Electricity’ report catalogues the city’s experience and outlines several key recommendations.
The review found a community bound together by the stereotypical ‘Blitz Spirit’ and camaraderie forged in times of hardship.
Local shops and supermarkets distributed free food and other essentials, while volunteers from Christ Church continued running their overnight shelter for homeless people.
They used head torches and gas cookers to provide food, while the chef at a care home for the elderly built a barbeque so residents could eat hot meals.
But recovery efforts were hindered by what in isolation would appear to be a few relatively trivial issues.
The combined knock-on effects, however, resulted in a population cut-off from modern society and not really knowing what was happening.
Please read the linked article, and the full report. And reject BT Digital Voice, and all its evil brethren.