A strange thing happened at work today. At about 11.30 we had a power cut. It's not something that happens very often because not only are we a school but we are only about half a mile from the local hospital, so we're kind of on a protected circuit. When the power hadn't come back 5 minutes later, the guys in the IT network office started to get a bit twitchy. Because the backup computer generator only lasts 10 mins and they only had 5 minutes to close everything down safely or there would be mega problems with loss of data.
After about half an hour, rumours started to fly. Parents started coming into school. They were 'just passing' and wondered if we would be closing early. Because of course, our whole telephone system crashed and no one could ring up to check.
Delivery drivers came in with tales of the whole town being without power. Shops closing as their electronic tills couldn't work. Traffic lights being out of action, roads being gridlocked. The train station couldn't sell tickets as they are all automated. The mobile phone networks must have been deluged with extra demand as it was hard to get a signal. The school manager managed to use the payphone and talk to National Grid. It could be out for up to four hours. The canteen manager came to ask how she was expected to cook dinners for over 1000 people.
Soon the rumours were stating a 24 hour shut down and it was not only our town but 'the whole of the South East of England.' I guess it's a form of 'Chinese whispers'!
Now it's fairly easy for a teacher to carry on as normal, although any interactive whiteboards etc. were useless, but imagine being a secretary. How much work can you do with no electricity? No computer so no typing, no letters, no labels. Can't get on the school's database so can't do any reports, can't add any admission applications, can't even track down students if their parent's turn up with a PE kit that got left at home as we can't check their timetables. So we tidied. We sorted paperwork. We filed. By lunchtime our desks were pristine. Never has my desk been so tidy. And at half past 2 I was sent home!!! Even once power is resumed it takes an hour and a half to reboot the network which took us past my going home time.
And the even better news? When I got home, expecting defrosting freezers and warm fridge - the power had just come back on my side of town. But it really makes you realize how dependent we are on electricity because whilst we were smugly saying how we could use our mobile phones, what would happen once the batteries ran down? Those of us who grew up in the late 70s reminisced about the way things were during the power cuts back then and how we all soldiered on.
So whilst it was nice to have an early end to my day, I've got a heck of a lot of work left to get through tomorrow!