by Martha Hoch
Power outages are common. Some are very brief; others may last days. But visually impaired people need to take precautions. Know your way around your house. Have flashlights with working batteries in many places throughout the house, and a portable phone to call for help.
If an outage occurs during the day, it is not as difficult to find your way around because there is sunlight coming in through the windows. But at night, it is a different story.
I am visually impaired, but I can still see to some degree. One Friday night a week before Christmas, I decided to go to the basement to start another load of laundry. I was on my way to the stairs when the lights went out. My daughter, who lives with me, was able to get to the basement door with a flashlight. I had felt my way around the furnace and told her to stay upstairs; I could see well enough to get up the stairs as long as she stood there with the light.
My daughter said all the houses in the area were dark. She thought she had seen flashing lights and thought a cruiser might have been on the next street. Perhaps someone had had an accident and hit a light pole.
It was already getting colder in the house. We had plenty of warm clothes to put on and now we had several flashlights near us.
With so many houses dark, we did not try to call the electric company. McDonald's and Walgreens were also dark. We decided that if nothing happened in an hour or so, we would call. An hour and a half later the lights came back on. Soon the furnace was warming up. We kept the flashlights nearby all night in case something more happened.
But I realized that I should not have gone to the basement at night. If the lights had gone out, I would have had a difficult time getting to the stairs. We have a lot of things stored in all rooms of the basement, and it would have been very hard to walk without bumping into things.
I am not sure how many older people live in my area, nor how many have someone checking on them all the time. For safety's sake, we older people who are visually impaired should limit our trips to the basement to daylight hours. If you're alone during the day, it would be wise to carry a portable phone with you if you do have to go to the basement. And be sure to have the phone numbers for the electric company, police and fire departments near the phone.