Real Life Survival Story: How to Survive When the Grid Goes Down

Often times, readers will ask me why I am such a stickler when it comes to preparedness. Well, folks, it’s because I’ve lived through extended off-grid events and I know first-hand how quickly supplies can be depleted, how infrastructure can be damaged and how a relatively peaceful community can quickly descend into chaos.

If you haven’t prepared for hurricanes, get the step-by-step guide and make it a priority!

Keep these facts in mind before you continue reading my personal account:

  • Over 80% of people on this planet live within 100 miles of a coastline. Despite attempts at getting the population better prepared, according to FEMA, only 40% of the U.S. population actively prepares.
  • It has been a decade since the last major hurricane causing some residents living in hurricane-prone areas to be lax in their preparedness efforts.
  •  Food, water, gasoline and medications are just a few of the items restocked weekly in order for our dependent society to maintain a steady flow.  When supply trucks cannot get through to meet the needs of the people in a timely manner, those dependent on the supplies will become desperate and breakdowns can occur within the community.
  • Infrastructure repairs can take anywhere from days to weeks.
  • Hurricanes have the capacity to bring about large-scale flooding, wind damage, and tornadoes.

This is my personal account of living through the aftermath of a hurricane and just how quickly a society can break down and descend into chaos following a disaster

In September of 2008, Hurricane Ike wreaked havoc on the coastline of Texas. We were living north of Houston, TX at the time and aside from losing power, all in all, my family was ok. We were lucky and hadn’t sustained any damage to our home. I thought that we would be without our modern-day conveniences for maybe a week at the most. Little did I know that things don’t easily go back to normal following natural disasters and this emergency would set me on a life-altering course.

Week 1: At this point, we were ok. We had supplies for our basic needs. September is still relatively warm in Houston, so aside from not having air conditioning, we could get through it. I considered it an uncomfortable indoor camping trip. We had to ration our light sources because batteries in the area had been sold out from all the hurricane preparations. As well, the use of the generator had to be rationed because of the gasoline it used. We would run it for a few hours to get the temperature back to where it should be and then turn it off. I remember how hot it was that year and it took a lot of self-control not to open the refrigerator door to get a brief reprieve from the heat and humidity.

A few days after the hurricane hit, the city announced that the municipal water had been treated and the water should be safe to drink. I turned the water faucet on and it had a profound smell of bleach. With three small children, I didn’t want to chance it, so we continued drinking our bottled water supply. Nighttime was the hardest. My children were 5, 3 and 2 at the time, so it was hard to explain to them why we were in the dark. The sound of generators was always in the background and because we lived in a neighborhood, it was hard to sleep.

Week 2: This “uncomfortable camping trip” was getting to be a nuisance. One aspect of this event we hadn’t prepared for were the mosquitos. They were everywhere! The moment you stepped outside, they were swarming you. I realized then that this is how diseases start up after hurricanes and we stayed inside as much as possible. As well, my small children were getting restless, but because of the mosquitoes outside and the concern of tainted flood water still in puddles around our home, it wasn’t a good idea to let them play in the yard.

Grocery stores were unable to keep bottled water and shelf stable food on the shelves, so you had to go very early in the morning before the supplies had been picked through. I was concerned that we wouldn’t have enough water and our children would get dehydrated because of the suffocating heat. Opening windows only did so much at this point. I will say, that our neighbors were very helpful. If you didn’t have something, they would be happy to share.

Week 3: Let’s be honest, no one likes this type of change. We had been off the grid for the better part of a month and everyone was ready for things to get back to normal. As much as we wanted that change, we would have to continue waiting and from the constant bombardment of heat, mosquitos and not having our modern-day conveniences the community was teetering on the edge. At this point, gas shortages began occurring throughout the city. Because of the debris in the roads, gas stations couldn’t get a fresh supply, and as a result, fights began to break out at the local gas stations to get the remaining gasoline.

I also began smelling a pungent odor from the ravine behind my house. It turns out, that my friendly neighbors hadn’t emptied their septic tanks before the storm and were running a hose out to the ravine and dumping their septic waste behind our home. This coupled with the swarming mosquitoes could only mean a disease waiting to happen.

To get power back to the city, officials had broken Houston and surrounding cities into zones and we were the last zone to have infrastructure repaired. This was my breaking point. While we had supplies, we were running low and I didn’t know how much longer we could continue. I felt like I had let my children down because we were not as prepared as we should and I vowed to never put them in that position again.

A few days later, my prayers were answered. I saw men working outside my home to restore power. There are no words for how that first breeze of cool air from our air conditioner felt. It truly set my soul at ease because I knew things would get back to normal again. Emotions would go back to normal again.

In retrospect, I was naïve in my preparedness planning. I was planning for the best-case scenario rather than the latter, as well, there were many aspects of preparedness that I hadn’t considered and paid the price for it. I took this situation and decided to learn from it. Since that fateful day, I equipped my home with more preparedness supplies, studied emergency planning to have a better understanding of what to expect and started my website, Ready Nutrition. I didn’t want anyone to go through an emergency under prepared like I did.

Moreover, when I saw my neighbors dumping their waste, I made it a goal to educate the public on how communicable diseases can exacerbate following emergencies. The greatest lesson I learned from this is to know ahead of time what to expect and plan for the worst-case scenario. The more prepared we are to live through these minor inconveniences the better off we will be.

Some of the supplies I added to my home were:

Many items I was able to frugally purchase because they were found at my local Dollar Store. I made a checklist and started adding to my supplies any opportunity that I had.

 Here are a collection of articles you may find useful in your own preparedness planning

Preparation

Supplies

Medical Needs

Communication

Sanitation

Evacuation

Make your hurricane preparedness a priority this year

Hopefully, you can learn from my mistakes. The time to prepare for this natural disaster is now before any storms are on the horizon. Using this approach is also easier on the pocketbook and will help you prepare with a clear head rather than a panicked one. The best place to start is to find resources, checklists, and advice from experienced professionals. Even asking friends and family what their personal stories of surviving hurricanes are can better prepare you.

Now that I have enough supplies to get through an extended off-grid emergency and the skills that go along with it, I feel more confident. Although my children are older, I know they have the skills and understanding to get through a disaster as well. Keep in mind that pre-season planning is always better as it will give you time to think out exactly what you will need, what your plan should be and how to live through an off-grid event.

 

The Prepper's Blueprint

Tess Pennington is the author of The Prepper’s Blueprint, a comprehensive guide that uses real-life scenarios to help you prepare for any disaster. Because a crisis rarely stops with a triggering event the aftermath can spiral, having the capacity to cripple our normal ways of life. The well-rounded, multi-layered approach outlined in the Blueprint helps you make sense of a wide array of preparedness concepts through easily digestible action items and supply lists.

Tess is also the author of the highly rated Prepper’s Cookbook, which helps you to create a plan for stocking, organizing and maintaining a proper emergency food supply and includes over 300 recipes for nutritious, delicious, life-saving meals. 

Visit her web site at ReadyNutrition.com for an extensive compilation of free information on preparedness, homesteading, and healthy living.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Originally published May 1st, 2017
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  • Shannon Perley

    Interesting story of hurricane survival in Houston, living with no electricity for a month and it’s hot. What the author this story did not elaborate on, as to why he simply didn’t just get in the car and drive to say Austin? It sounds to me, that a camping trip further north would have been more comfortable.

    • Tess

      Good point! After hurricanes, all the hotels are booked and it’s virtually impossible to find one close to home. Also, there is the financial aspect of this – we were a young family and didn’t have the money to stay in a hotel for three weeks. We also kept hearing on the news that it would “only be a few more days.”

  • GRAMPA

    Many will try to bug out only to be left in gridlock and on foot. many dont think of the rail system. it doesnttake rocket science to devise an addon device to ride the rails using a motercycle or bike. I devised one from the four dollar wheels used for the heavy duty wagons at Harbor Freight. I took off the rubber tires and the hubs provide an ideal way to keep your wheels aligned on the rails. if you are blocked by traffic you just lift the guides and walk around them. the rails go in a very straight line and go over the major roads and will provide a very fast path out of the city. with so many ingenious people many designs should be available. with the whole family on the rails a lot of supplies can be carried.
    Grampa

  • Steve LaFontaine

    we got ICED IN for 21 days a few years ago. our mountains are steep and roads winding. you dont go ANYWHERE or do ANYTHING. unless you have cleats 😉 being a cajun whose birth place has been blown away four times in my lifespan, i was raised with a axe in the attic. so it wasnt nothing to us. unless i am watching TV, i dont even know when the electricity goes off. we didnt even lose anything in the refrig/freezer.

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