Although the risk of a national power blackout in South Africa is slight, the government and the US embassy have emergency plans in place if it happens (see How a total blackout in South Africa could happen).
Eskom previously said that the possibility of a total blackout was slight, after CEO Tshediso Matona’s comments about a possible total collapse of the power grid were “misinterpreted”.
However, a recent City Press report quoting Eskom sources said that a total power grid collapse was a “very significant possibility for the foreseeable future”.
According to the report, cabinet has been briefed by Eskom about the risk of a total national electricity blackout.
Preparations for a total power blackout
A total electricity blackout can leave South Africans without power for 2 to 4 weeks, which holds many risks.
Some of these risks include an increase in crime and problems in getting basic services and food.
It is therefore not surprising that the government, the US embassy, and many companies have plans in place to protect themselves if the power goes off for an extended period of time.
The City Press reported that the US embassy in Pretoria “has drawn up an evacuation plan partly designed to get its staff out safely if the lights go off in South Africa once and for all”.
South Africa’s top leaders will also be moved to safety. Reuters reported that president Jacob Zuma and his cabinet would be taken to a secret location if a blackout occurred.
The report further stated that “soldiers would be deployed at key sites such as the central bank and South African Broadcasting Corporation”.
The deployment of the military to maintain law and order is also part of the plan, a government source said.
It is not only governments who are preparing for the worst. City Press quoted a CEO in the telecommunications industry who said companies that do not draw up plans for a worst-case scenario were being “daft”.
How you can prepare for a total power blackout
While most South Africans do not have the resources of the government or large companies to prepare for a power blackout, there are things which you can do to make life easier if it occurs.
Basic power backup solutions – like a generator, battery backups/UPSs, or solar power – will be valuable. Having alternative energy sources like wood, candles, and gas is also good.
A basic “survival kit” is also advised. This should include adequate water, food, a battery-powered radio, a torch with batteries (LED if possible), and personal sanitation items.
Other items which are always welcome include a first aid kit, a whistle to signal for help, and a wrench or pliers for turning off utilities.
Having some cash around can be a life saver, as ATMs, cash registers, and credit card machines don’t work during a prolonged blackout.