We ran out of oil at home last weekend. On Friday, we noticed that the heating was not coming on. It happens to the best of us; you’re busy getting on with life, you forget the routine jobs and then you’ve missed a deadline, a date or in my case, the level of boiler juice.
So, we moved to Plan B. We lit a fire to keep one room warm and used the electric immersion for hot water. Then I did the maths. It would take around five or six hours each day to heat up a tank of water for washing, cooking and the like. That’s a couple of pounds a day which could easily become more than five quid a day if we were in more demanding circumstances. Plus, it’s the worry of trying to remember if you’ve left the immersion on.
Our short-term heating hiatus was resolved early the next week, albeit I had to re-learn some basic engineering skills when it became apparent that air had got in the oil supply line. So, for us a little discomfort reminded us to be more attentive. But it also made me realise how it must be day-in, day-out for those without adequate heat or power. Not a short-term hassle, more a constant worry about about whether the kids or the frail mum or dad are warm enough; having to balance the family budget to be able to afford something that most of take for granted.
On a slightly different tack, I attended a session with UK Power Networks just after Storm Doris had visited the UK. I recall driving home from work the night she blew across Suffolk, having to take detours along country lanes because my normal routes home had been blocked by fallen trees. Although Doris was a feisty lady, luckily we did not experience the number of power cuts compared to previous storms or her ferocity. Even so I was reminded of a very useful service offered by UKPN. If someone in your household is vulnerable, whether it’s because they rely on medical equipment, are chronically ill or just out of hospital and recuperating, a power cut could be life-threatening. In these circumstances, it’s well worth registering with the Priority Services Register to get extra tailored support to your household’s personal circumstances. It’s free and could save a power cut becoming a crisis.
For more details on the Priority Services Register, call 0800 31 63 105 or simply 105.
-- Peter Gudde is environment manager for St Edmundsbury and Forest Heath councils