Power crews have restored electricity to much of the southwest today, a day after a freak power outage left millions in the dark throughout Southern California, Arizona and across the border in Mexico.

The authorities spent the day trying to figure out how this massive outage could have been caused by the mistake of a single Arizona Public Service Co. worker making a simple repair in Yuma. Although the heat and high electrical demand during hot days could have played part in this grid hiccup, the outage is being attributed to the electrical worker removing a piece of monitoring equipment at a power substation in southwest Arizona, according to APS officials.

“This was not a deliberate act. The employee was just switching out a piece of equipment that was problematic,” said Daniel Froetscher, an APS vice president. “That work should not have caused this,” said Damon Gross, who is a spokesperson for the Phoenix-based utility.

The regional officials have asked residents to ease the strain on the system by doing without major electrical hogs like big appliances, and even air conditioners, despite the late-summer heat. Homeowners and businesses alike were warned that the electrical grid was still fragile after this outage.
With traffic signals, airports and metros all down, travel through the region was almost at a standstill. The loss of business revenue has not yet been tallied, but when people cannot buy anything in any store, or even use the ATM to cash, most modern business grinds to a halt.

My advice for situations like this is twofold.

The first piece is preventative, and involves making your household less electrically reliant. Keep canned goods, instead of freezers full of food. Have backup heating and cooling options for you home. Have backup lighting handy throughout your home.

And the second piece of the puzzle is to make the best of the hand you are dealt. When the power goes out, eat the ice cream first. As the meats thaw, invite your neighbors for a cookout. Play some real games with the kids, instead of video games.

I don’t mean to make light of people’s suffering, or to ignore the fact that some people need electricity to run medical devices that keep them alive, I’m just saying that a day or two without power isn’t the end of the world.