Archived Story

It doesn’t hurt to pay attention

Published 10:36pm Monday, December 31, 2012

It’s no mystery what to do when the power goes out. We’re veterans at power outages simply because we’ve experienced them aplenty, especially when a big enough hurricane rolls through and we go without electricity for several days. We’ve got long memories when it comes to storms and the hardships they heap on us and Hurricane Irene wasn’t even that long ago.

But when the power went out yesterday — that was an outage of a different stripe and the several hours much of Beaufort County spent in the dark yesterday was an eye-opening experience.

When we’ve got a storm bearing down on us, we’re prepared. We get supplies, make sure the survival kits are in order and prepare to tough it out. We’re hunkered down, as are all of our nearby friends and loved ones.

Yesterday, however, many weren’t hunkered down. There was no reason to be. People were out and about, some were at work, others running errands, when the electricity went out. Two things happened: unless workplaces had a backup generator, business largely came to a screeching stop; and every stoplight in the affected areas went out, letting many drivers prove they don’t really know quite what to do when confronted with a downed light at an intersection.

The former proves that, as a city, county, state, country, the systems we rely on are pretty good, in that they don’t randomly go out so very often. But they also make us vulnerable, because it would take so very little to bring commerce to a grinding halt. But that’s for the Homeland Security folks to worry about and we should really thank our lucky stars we do have reliable systems almost all of the time.

The latter is the issue we can address. It’s simple. If you are driving a vehicle and approach an intersection where there is a non-working traffic light, you stop. You don’t make assumptions about what people are doing around you. Stop. Treat the situation the same as you
would a four-way stop sign and stop.

It never hurts to be prepared with emergency kits and so on. But it also doesn’t hurt to pay attention and know the law.

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