“I bought extra power banks to charge the phone and a lamp that can be charged with sunlight but also works with regular batteries. Of course I also bought a lot of candles. I brought sleeping bags and a gas bottle with me from my weekend house in the country so that food can be prepared,” says Lyudmila Rosik from Kyiv about her life since Russia attacked Ukraine. “But if there’s a total blackout, I’ll drive to the country, where I can also heat my house with wood.”
The Russian army has been increasingly targeting the Ukrainian energy infrastructure for the past month. According to the Ukrainian authorities, around 40 percent of the facilities have already been destroyed. Due to the lack of electricity in numerous cities, especially in Kyiv, there are power cuts. Thousands of homes will be affected.
Oleksandr Dyachenko, also from Kyiv, has prepared thoroughly for this situation. After the first massive attacks on the energy supply in October, he bought a voltage converter for his car.
“With this device you can charge your laptop from the car. I also bought a gas stove and a gas heater, also flashlights and a table lamp for the room,” he says. But above all he thought of thick felt boots. “Warm clothes are the most important thing. After all, you might have to stay in a cold basement during the air raid alert,” he explains.
A problem that Oleksandr cannot solve is the lack of access to the Internet during a power outage. “If my WiFi was connected to a fiber optic cable, then connecting the router to a power bank would solve this problem. But unfortunately we don’t have a provider with fiber optic cable in-house. And the mobile internet keeps dropping out. Then we go to a neighborhood where there is electricity. You can then sit down in a café and use the internet,” he says.
Ukrainian cell phone operators told DW that their base stations would have batteries that guarantee continued operation for several hours in the event of a power cut.
The companies assure that they are trying to increase the number of batteries and generators in order to prevent mobile Internet outages as much as possible.
At the same time, the Ukrainian authorities want to set up autonomous Wi-Fi points that will work even during power outages. “We are considering the use of Tesla Powerwall batteries and Starlink terminals to enable such public communication points in Ukraine to function independently of the electricity grid,” said Ukraine’s Minister for Digital Transformation Mykhailo Fedorov in an interview for the Ukrainian edition of forbes
According to him, such public Wi-Fi points will be operational in the coming month, but he did not specify in which cities. But there will probably be some in Kyiv.
Meanwhile, the administration of the capital Kyiv is preparing to set up about 1,000 warm-up stations for citizens. They are to be provided with the essentials – with heaters, lamps, washing facilities, dining rooms, resting places, warm clothing and blankets.
In addition, the premises should have power generators and rescue workers should be in the vicinity just in case. Mayor Vitali Klitschko said the city has already stockpiled fuel, generators, food and water.
However, Klitschko conceded that these measures may not be enough if the city is left completely without electricity and water supplies due to further Russian attacks. So he urged people to be prepared for the worst-case scenario.
“If you have relatives and acquaintances in the suburbs of Kyiv, where there is their own water supply, stove, heating, then temporarily stay there. Please make emergency arrangements so that you can spend some time with friends or acquaintances,” he said on Ukrainian television.
Kiev’s administration is also working on an evacuation plan for three million city dwellers in the event of a total blackout. The New York Times recently reported this, citing Roman Tkatschuk, head of the city government’s security department. He himself later confirmed this information, but stressed that there was no reason for an evacuation yet.
An evacuation involving three million people at once is unlikely, says Ihor Molodan, head of the Autonom Klub, a survival training school. “You have to take care of yourself. You can’t rely on the authorities,” he says. Above all, you should stock up on warm clothing, but also buy tents and sleeping bags. “Camping stoves and gas cartridges and gas ceramic heaters are also useful,” he adds.
Volodymyr Omelchenko, an energy expert at the Razumkov Research Center, also says it’s better to rely on yourself. “In the event of a blackout in Kyiv, the generators will not be able to supply the city of three million with electricity. They are mainly needed for hospitals, old people’s homes, authorities and the military,” he says.
The thousands of warm-up stations are only designed for around 200,000 people, Omelchenko notes. However, he emphasizes that the measures taken by the Kiev authorities are correct. Nothing more could be done. “The administration of no city in the world can cope with the consequences of a total blackout,” he emphasizes.
In the event of an emergency, Oleksandr Dyachenko wants to leave the capital and go to his country house. “I have already doubled my stock of firewood, bought a gas stove and gas bottles. I will be able to heat and cook there,” he says.
Adaptation from the Ukrainian: Markian Ostapchuk
Author: Oleksandr Kunyzkyj
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The original of this article “How Kyiv prepares for a blackout” comes from Deutsche Welle.