What is a National Power Outage (NPO)?

This article contains information & advice regarding risks that do not appear on the Risk Register.

What is a National Power Outage (NPO)?  Many of us have heard this phrase but do know what it is or means.

“A power outage is when the electrical power goes out unexpectedly. A power outage may: Disrupt communications, water, and transportation. Close retail businesses, grocery stores, petrol stations, cash machines, banks and other services. Cause food spoilage and water contamination.” 

The definition of an NPO is the loss of power that will affect the whole Country for a prolonged period. It would far exceed the normal period of a few hours that you would normally experience in a power cut.  There could be several causes of an NPO, the main one could be severe weather that knock out parts of the Power Grid. The Power Grid operates the distribution of electricity across the UK; put simply it is like a big jigsaw that by removing parts of it, the entire system can be knocked out. This said, the UK’s grid network is one of the most robust in the world.     

We are so dependent on power because it affects almost every aspect of our lives. An NPO event is an extremely unusual occurrence and for this reason it is sensible to give it some consideration when you have a quiet moment.

What about the impacts on water?

If your water goes off due to an NPO, it’s important to remember that it may not come back on for a day or even longer. It’s good to hold a small amount of bottled water in your home, but just make sure it’s not past its expiry date. It is also important to understand that electricity drives the whole water network, so dependant on where you live water may slowly stop coming into your home after some time.

What about the impacts on Communications?

Mobile phone masts will not be able work so this means that you can’t make phones calls.  Wi-Fi will stop working as there is no signal, computers will not work without this and the power.  Think about who you would need to contact and what you would need to do. Think about how you would get to a vulnerable relative. Better still, how you could help them prepare and be safe?

What about the impacts on Fuel?

Fuel would not be available as all filling stations are all operated by electricity. Again, it is always wise to make sure you have a level of fuel in your vehicle for emergencies which in turn would be very helpful in an NPO situation.

What about the impacts on other services?

Many services would close down due to either the loss of power or staff not being able to get to work.  It’s wise to think about how much food you have in your fridge or cupboard and pose yourself a question, could I last a day or two without having to go out to the shops?  The food you have does not need to be fresh or perishable, in fact it is better to avoid these and keep some longer lasting products such as tinned food to keep for emergencies.  

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