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Power Outages = Unplanned Sensory Deprivation

power outage in a float tank centerIt only took a day since the publishing of my last blog post before I would have to put my knowledge of unconventional ways of waking up floaters to the test.

The incident did not involve “sinkers”  those individuals who for whatever reason do not leave the tank once you have given them the cue to do so – no, the situation I walked into last week was much more harrowing, a full blown power outage rendering all of our tools for waking up our floaters (lights and music) totally useless!

What a quandary! The floaters didn’t know what was going on, they were already lying on their backs in pitch black, soundproof tanks blissfully unaware that the rest of the world, or at least our shop and a few surrounding buildings, had reverted to the dark ages.

They were literally, “in the dark.” … Heh heh heh… get it?

Be Prepared

Well, as is the case in most emergency situations, the best offense is a good defense. Power outages are a fairly common occurrence, so its obviously a good idea to have a plan in place beforehand to deal with them.

You’ll want to be stocked up on flashlights, headlamps, lanterns, and batteries, just like you would at home, except you’ll want one for every member of your staff and possibly every floater as well.

Know where your circuit breakers are, how to reset them, and have them well labelled so it’s easy to tell what areas or devices the breakers are connected to.

power outage flashlightThere are emergency power outage lights that you can plug into an outlet and that will turn on only during loss of power. It might be a good idea to install one of these in each of your rooms. If you do not, you’ll have to have some other method of getting your floaters the light they need to climb out of the tanks, shower off, get dressed, and head out the door into whatever post-apocalyptic nightmare awaits them outside.

One cool feature of our shop that became unexpectedly handy was our light up LED shower heads. They emit groovy colored lights when water passes through them and do not require electricity. So even with in a full blown power outage, our floaters can have light if they turn the shower on.

What To Do First

So the power goes out, what do you do next? First, you’ll want to determine the extent of the outage. Is it located in just one spot in your shop, is it your entire shop, is it your entire street? If the whole block or city goes dark, it’s unlikely that there is anything you personally can do to get the power back on.

GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) outlets are a must have safety feature whenever water and electricity are in close proximity, and are obviously recommended for float rooms. These are outlets that have sensors and built in circuit breakers that will trip when the sensors detect a problem or abnormality. If your power outage is limited to one room or outlet, it is quite possible that your GFCI has tripped and you need to reset it, usually by pushing a button.

If it is just your shop that is blacked out, go check the breakers and make sure nothing is tripped. If resetting the breakers fails to turn the power back on, you might need to get on the phone with your landlord, electrician, or electrical utility provider.

Next you should unplug or cut power to all appliances except for one to let you know that the power is back on. In a float center, rather than entering a room to unplug the tanks and wall heaters, you might want to just turn off all the breakers to your float rooms. We’ve found that some pump systems turn on automatically for a few seconds when power is restored to them. Turning off the breakers that control those pumps ensures that they won’t suddenly turn on if the power is restored mid-float and startle your floaters.

In one wild case during our most recent power outage, something exploded in the electrical grid behind the shop (apparently one of our neighbors was pulling a little too much juice) and power was cut off for the entire block – there was nothing we could do ourselves to get it back on. In fact, the power company (and fire department) had to come out and handle the issue and put out a small electrical fire in the neighborhood.

In attempting to determine the cause, extent and proper corrective action for a power outage, always remember to keep safety first! Electricity can kill you. Do not attempt to fix or change anything without knowing exactly what you are doing. When in doubt, leave it to the pros.

Wake the Floaters, or Let Them Float?

Now we were faced with a real conundrum. The electrician the electric company sent told us he could “probably” get the electricity back on before the music was scheduled to come on to signal the end of that round of floating. But he also couldn’t make any guarantees – maybe the power wouldn’t come back on at all – and we were left to consider whether to let the floaters continue to float or pull them out early.

If we left them in, we faced the possibility of someone trying to get out early and panicking, becoming distressed or confused, or maybe even injuring themselves because they had no light to see with. If we pulled them out early, we would be cutting their floats short (and we usually give a full refund and sometimes an additional free float when we are forced to do this sort of thing), possibly making them uncomfortable by having to enter their room to wake them up or startling them awake, and giving first timers a bad impression (someone forgot to pay the bill eh?).

There was also the off-chance that the electrician would actually pull through and get the power on in time, we could turn the lights and music on at the appointed time, the floaters would get out, and we would all be none-the-wiser.

For good or ill, we opted to keep the floaters in the tanks in hopes that the electrician would pull it off in time. He didn’t.

Canceling Appointments

We also had to decide whether we were going to cancel our later appointments. We obviously couldn’t put in a new round of floaters without electricity. We did not know how long the electricity would be out for. Perhaps it would turn on before the next round of floaters showed up, and then we wouldn’t have to cancel anyone’s floats.

But if we bet on that outcome, and the electricity failed to turn on, we would have to turn our floaters away when they arrived at the shop.

Some of our customers travel quite a lengthy distance to float in our tanks, and they might not take to kindly to making that journey for nothing. We decided, rather than outright canceling floats, to notify our floaters that our power was out, that they could still come in and try to float, but they risked being turned away if the power had not come back on.

Since none of our computers were working, my cohorts used their smartphones to pull up our schedule and contact the floaters. Since the electrician told us there was a very good chance the electricity would be on “real soon,” we decided to hold off on canceling any appointments beyond the next round.

How We Got Them Out

power outage in sensory deprivation tank centerAs soon as the electricity went out, we started listening at the doors to the float rooms at regular intervals, checking for the sounds of floaters getting out of the tanks. We gathered one flashlight or headlamp for each floater. The time came for us to get all of the floaters out, and the electricity still had not turned back on.

My colleague and I then proceed to wake the floaters up ourselves going to door to door. First we knocked, and then opened the doors of each room and stuck in her phone, which was cranked up to full volume (still pretty quiet) and playing classical music.

We let the music play for a few seconds, then called to our floaters – “Hey (floater), your float is over. Unfortunately, we have also had a power outage. Everything is fine, but we are going to leave a lit flashlight right inside your room so that you can have some light to see with when you get out.”

Just a few minutes after knocking on all of the doors and waking everybody up, the power popped back on, and the rest of the day proceeded as if nothing had happened.

So, did we do the right thing?

In the end, everyone was happy and satisfied. But we were taking a risk not getting the floaters out immediately. It might be the least fun solution, but it also might be the be the safest and smartest in terms of eliminating any possibility of injury.

Ultimately, the best way to reduce the risks associated with power outages is to be prepared. Emergency lights in all float rooms might be a simple, relatively cheap, and highly effective way of making sure your floaters are safe during a power outage.

-Marshall Hammond