1. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Is their a way to make a power outage look like an accident?

    Discussion in 'Research' started by Ryan Elder, Jan 17, 2016.

    For my story, I want the villain to be able to disconnect the power to his house, as part of the his crime, but I want him to make it look natural, like an Act of God, rather than deliberate human sabotage. Is that possible?

    I asked an electrician for research and he said he could not think of any way to do that, because if it's a crime that is going to get the police involved, and they are going to look over things, he says he cannot think of any way it couldn't be discovered as a set up.

    So I was wondering if anyone knew, is it possible to make a power outage to one house along, look like a natural failure?
     
  2. IlaridaArch
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    IlaridaArch Active Member

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    Well I got one (possibly).

    If your story takes place in a modern USA (or close), I think almost every single house in suburbs have their electricity coming from the power lines in the poles, right? Maybe your villain has someone to help him, a lumberjack to be precise. The lumberjack cuts down a tree on the power line that leads to his house, causing the outage.

    Obviously police will notice this caused the outage, but can they prove it was part of the crime or just mere accident?
     
  3. Wolfmaster1234
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    Wolfmaster1234 Member

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    You could have him replace the fuse with a faulty one so it just looks like the fuse blew. This would appear to be an accident and would be difficult to connect to your villain.
     
  4. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. Well the problem with blowing a fuse is, is that a blown fuse can be fixed in just a few minutes normally, by turning off the breaker, then by turning it back on.

    However, I need the power to unfixable for at least half a day in my scenario. Unless replacing a faulty fuse, would take that long?

    As for the lumberjack idea, I think that the police would take this as too much of a coincidence, that the lumberjack just so happened to ruin the power to the neighborhood, on the same night, the villain wanted to commit his crime. I don't think they would buy it is an honest coincidence, without such heavy investigative scrutiny, which of course the villain does not want.

    Plus the villain is kind of working on his own, and is in a hurry, so I don't think he has time to go out and find some henchman to pose as a lumberjack and do his favor, because he is already being watched by the police and has to do all this while the police are watching him. So maybe it's wise that he takes out the power to his own house, without having to leave the house, if that's possible.

    He can go into the backyard, where the police are not watching, but perhaps actually leaving the house will and cutting down the pole, will attract too much attention.
     
  5. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    Houses haven't been fed by a fuse in at least half a century. Magnetic breakers are what we use now, and resetting one is just as easy as throwing a switch.
    It's semantics, but again, you're talking about a breaker, not a fuse.
     
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  6. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Oh okay. I just looked it up lol. I thought maybe they went that fuse and breaker are the same thing in terminology, since people still use the term, 'blew a fuse'. I know nothing of house electricity much but to flip the switch, which is why I was asking :).

    Maybe I could use the lumberjack idea, as long as the police accept it as a coincidence, and the villain just says 'prove that it wasn't'. But again the villain is going to have to leave the house and do that, or get someone else, to, which the police are going to look at so heavily, it just seems like such a complicated fix, to a problem that may be easier to fix?

    Or is that the only way, to ensure that it goes out for half a day? I was also writing this story for a very low budget screenplay. Will the whole neighborhood have to be taken out, if the pole goes down? If I have to use special effects to knock out the power to a whole neighborhood, it will cost more. Is it possible to write it so just the power to one house, has to go out?
     
  7. Inks
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    Inks Contributing Member

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    Squirrel in the generator? Took out power to my school. They investigated and some of the professors laughed that "Fried squirrel" would be on the cafeteria menu. Though I guess in fiction it sounds bizarre.
     
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  8. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    How long did it take to restore the power back in that situation?
     
  9. Electralight
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    Electralight Member

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    If it is raining in the scene then maybe the person could blow the whole towns power (make it look like an electrical failure or something)
     
  10. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. But I think that the reader might take that as a Deux ex Machina, that the villain was able to get rain the exact night, he needed it for his plan to work. Plus wouldn't he have to go somewhere to blow the whole town's power, and be seen possibly?
     
  11. BrianIff
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    BrianIff I'm so piano, a bad punctuator. Contributor

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    The electrician might worry that he'll eventually end up talking to a cop or subpoenaed for something you'll do, so maybe try an anonymous venue like reddit or quora. Definitely reddit for a practical, building-trades perspective.
     
  12. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Oh well, the electrician I asked was my friend's husband who I hang out with all the time, and he knows I write, so I think he was all cool with it and all.
     
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  13. tonguetied
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    tonguetied Contributing Member Contributor

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    The "look natural, like an Act of God," aspect is rather difficult to get around. Some homes have emergency generators and automatic transfer switches, if you start the generator to test it and manually throw it online it would burn out the generator and probably trip the breaker at the power company transformer which would often take half a day to get restored. Not sure if your villain can run the generator and throw the transfer switch without it being obvious, such as it being in a basement or an out building that the police would not think to check.
     
  14. KhalieLa
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    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    Chainsaw, ax, cross-cut, or even a hand saw, this will get noticed as a crime. Now, if you get some college student liquored up and point their car at that power poll, that would look like an accident.
     
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  15. Inks
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    Inks Contributing Member

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    Well, for the school it was a day. Though it was a high priority job for obvious reasons.
     
  16. Matt E
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    Matt E Stormblessed Supporter

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    Depending on the nature of the crime, he could wait until the power naturally goes out by random chance, and then commit the crime when it does. That way, it would really be an accident. He would be prepared to commit the crime on any night with severe weather.

    Or, alternatively, he could wait for a night with severe weather and provide a little bit of "help" in getting the power to go out. I doubt the police would bother checking to see whether a tree that went down on a stormy night was cut down. They'd just assume it was the wind. They'd just assume that the criminal committed the crime because it was a stormy night, and not that the criminal caused the power outage themselves.
     
  17. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    I would definitely watch a suspense thriller where the hero of the story just waited for months on end for the weather to cooperate with his plans. That would be an excellent movie!
     
  18. Matt E
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    Matt E Stormblessed Supporter

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    Depends on the context. It would work best if it were the opening scene, and the opening scene happened to be the night he was lucky. But for a good plan to work, you sometimes do have to wait for the stars to align properly.
     
  19. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Oh okay, well this scene is in the second act, and he doesn't come up with it, until a few hours before it has to happen, cause he is in a hurry.
     
  20. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    Easy peasy, nice an greasy! (Assuming the fuse box is on the outside of the house.) Wear rubber soled shoes - gumbies? Rubber gloves. Carry jug of water. Open fuse box. Hurl water at it. Run like hell!

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  21. SethLoki
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    SethLoki Unemployed Autodidact Contributor

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    ....needed the power disconnected—Joe had to think on his feet, he knew he had only a little time to sort this. So think he did. Some minutes of deliberation later he had it: there'd been a pair of old boots dangling by their laces from the overhead cables for a good while now, the pranks of teenagers he surmised. Could the boots' weight be used as the reason for the line break? Plausible? It had to be. Yes, he'd use this as cover; the cause for the power failure. It was only ten minutes later that up and over the house's supply line went a hammer attached to some 80lb fishing line; this was the oddest grappling hook he'd seen but it accomplished the trick. All there was to do now was pull. So pull he did. And pull and pull, till the overhead cable broke free of its ceramic coupling bringing itself and boots back to terra firma. Something had shorted somewhere, job done, and the boots could be blamed for it. After extricating his hammer and fishing line (with great care) he left the mess as it was and made for next stage of his plan...
     
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2016
  22. IlaridaArch
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    IlaridaArch Active Member

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    You don't get the major point. Of course they notice the markings. Point is, they cant prove that the tree was intentionally cut down to fall on the powerline. The lumberjack can say he made a mistake in the angle of his chainsaw. At this point, police can not claim any rockhard evidence of it being part of the plan, it can only reach a status of plausible theory.
     
  23. KhalieLa
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    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    No lumberjack would accidently fall a tree across a power line.
    I live in Idaho where such people still exist. I had a tree leaning over my house and we used ropes and chains to pull it away and took it out in sections. Tree came down just fine, no lumber jacks required.

    Now, give a chainsaw to a liquored-up college student and they still get charged with a crime, but if they are drunk enough, they won't remember who paid them to cut down the tree while drunk.

     
  24. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    But would big coincidence, be enough to get police to concentrate their investigations a lot more on the villain when he does not want that? Even though they cannot prove THAT particularly, why have all the cops on the case think you are the bad guy, rather than someone else, which is the point?
     
  25. IlaridaArch
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    IlaridaArch Active Member

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    If that is the point in your story, then it is. You are the storyteller here, asking for solutions to making power outage look like a random occurrance. I don't even know what is the crime he is conducting. Obviously big bunch of crime stories out there have a cop, who is just too smart and pedantic to realise that this very odd thing was somehow carefully planned part of the crime. Therefore they get the bad guy. It goes like that in every single episode of Bones, CSI or NCIS. Every episode has its own crime, but then every single season has its own major villain, who pops up everynow and then. It's so widely used that many don't even enjoy these shows, because they already know how it works out. Be whatever crime, whatever crook - it's not enjoyable because the formula is the same.

    You know all the characters. You know all the twists. It's your art to put the words in a such form that reader doesn't caught on you. That is the sauce of crime stories, the reader didn't figure it out before you revealed it. Again, I don't know your setting, the characters, the full plot so all I say might not apply to your story.

    Do mind that if you are unable to explain it in a reasonable and believable way, it's time to re-evaluate your plot.

    Be you how good at something, mistakes and errors do happen. Equipment might fail, you get distracted etc. You have gotten arrogant towards basic safety measures, because you are 'so experienced'. That kind of thinking is extremely common among more experienced in their own profession. The best example is people driving. Experienced drivers build up bad habits and say, "I've been doing this for long I got it."

    So you are saying that lumberjacks don't make mistakes and therefore this certain accident is something you don't buy? Then why these things happen in real life?
     

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