When the Grid Goes Down, You Better Be Ready!

It is a fact that our country is more reliant on electrical power today than at any time in its history. Our way of life – from everyday conveniences and the security of local emergency services to commerce and communications – is contingent upon an always on, always available flow of electricity. But an aging infrastructure coupled with a rise in natural and man-made disasters threatens our entire modern day digital infrastructure. According to many experts from the private and public sector, we’re just one major catastrophic event away from a complete meltdown of life in America as we know it today.

So, what happens if and when the grid goes down for an extended period of time? Aside from the aggravation of not being able to determine what is happening through traditional media channels, for the Average Joe, his problems have only just begun. Our dependency to the grid doesn’t just stop at lack of electricity in our homes to power our appliances or an inability to charge our cell phones; it is much broader and affects every aspect of our lives.

We are regularly inundated with news reports covering outages that last several days or weeks resulting from inclement weather like snow storms or hurricanes, or heat waves in southern states that threaten to overload the system. During those times, when entire metropolitan areas or regions experience black outs, we get a glimpse into what a truly widespread emergency might look like. It is often the case that the first thing residents of affected areas do is rush to grocery and hardware stores hoping to acquire critical supplies like food, water, batteries, flashlights and generators. And while these supplies acquired at the onset of crisis may provide short term sustenance, any long-term grid-down situation that lasts for many weeks or months will prove dangerous, and perhaps fatal, to the unprepared.

Consider, for a moment, how drastically your life would change without the continuous flow of energy the grid delivers. While manageable during a short-term disaster, losing access to the following critical elements of our just-in-time society would wreak havoc on the system.

  • Challenges or shut downs of business commerce
  • Breakdown of our basic infrastructure: communications, mass transportation, supply chains
  • Inability to access money via atm machines
  • Payroll service interruptions
  • Interruptions in public facilities – schools, workplaces may close, and public gatherings.
  • Inability to have access to clean drinking water

Neil Swidey, in his article What If The Lights Go Out?,  indicates that the grid may be ill-equipped to meet all the enormous challenges it faces in this day and age.

The last widespread outage in the Northeast, the great blackout of August 2003, showed how intimately interconnected and alarmingly fragile our power grid is. How else to explain the way a problem starting in northeastern Ohio quickly cascaded into a blackout affecting 50 million people  across the northeastern United States and parts of Canada? How quickly? Between the moment a power surge came rushing out of Ohio and the moment Manhattan began to go dark, exactly 10 seconds had passed.

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If our society is more reliant on power than at any time in history – without it, we’ve got no commerce, no communications, no clean water – and if power becomes less reliable in the future, the big question is: Will we be able to hack it?

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THE TROUBLE with the future of power isn’t that there is one big problem that could croak us. It’s that there are a host of them, any one of which could croak us.

Neil Swidey has grouped these potential grid-down antagonizers into three categories:

1. Extreme Natural Disasters

This includes earthquakes, hurricanes, snow storms, thunderstorms as well as massive solar storms that have the potential to seriously damage the electrical grid. You don’t think it could happen? In the article provided above, the author states, “It took just 90 seconds for a 1989 solar storm to cause the collapse of the Hydro-Quebec power grid, leaving 6 million Canadians without power for up to nine hours. A 2008 NASA-funded report noted the risk of significant damage to our interconnected grid in light of the forecast for increased solar activity. The 11-year solar cycle is expected to peak in 2013, and just two weeks ago we saw one of the biggest solar-radiation storms in years.

2. Acts of Terrorists

This category includes, but is not limited to a physical attack on the bulk power system, either at its source of generation or somewhere along its transmission route, cyber attack on the computers controlling our interconnected grid, electro-magnetic pulse, or EMP, weapon. Have you read One Second After by William R. Forstchen? EMP’s will create long-lasting damage that would incapacitate electronic systems across the country and forever change our way of life. Cyber-threats are another concern and someone with serious hacking skills could easily take out computers, networks or information stored therein to cause lasting damage to our way of life.

3. The Ailing Grid

Our ailing power grid is almost as sick as our failing economy. With one malicious event, be it man made or by natural means, it is down. Swidey compares the grid infrastructure  to being as old and stooped as a pensioner. As it is upgraded and its capacity is expanded, our rapacious need for more electrical power races to max it out once again.

A wide-spread emergency, such as a massive power surge, solar flare or rogue electromagnetic pulse (EMP) detonation have the capacity to render our entire power infrastructure useless. Transformers and other key elements on which the grid depends could be permanently damaged as a result of massive electric surges.

In an event such as this our immediate problem will be finding a way to order, manufacture and take delivery of the components needed to replace the faulty ones. Most of the parts made for our electrical grid are made in China – and many are decades old. According to Congressman Roscoe Bartlett, who recently warned people to get their families out of major cities because of concerns about the stability of the grid, it would take months to get the parts shipped to this country and replaced.

During the outage, millions would be adversely affected, with some like Frank Gaffney, president of the Center for Security Policy, suggesting that within a year 9 out of 10 Americans would be dead from starvation, disease and violence.

Ladies and gentleman, if there’s one thing that can cause the veritable “S” to hit the fan, this is it.

So how do we remedy and/or prepare for a grid down scenario? Think retro – like pioneer retro- and by that we have to go way back to when we were not so dependent on the luxury of on-demand energy in its various forms. When preparing for a grid-down scenario, we must comprise different contingency plans for short-term and longer-term issues. That being the case, we have to admit to ourselves that it could last longer than we expect and much more than just a minor inconvenience. Therefore, the best way to prepare is to start with your basic needs. That is the need for light, heat, water, and food. Some preparedness items to stock up on are:

  • Alternative fuel sources such as solar and diesel, wood for burning.
  • Food preservation supplies – dehydrators, canners, smokers, fermenting/pickling supplies. To learn more, click here.
  • Bulk food – Canned, freeze-dried, dehydrated or dry goods.
  • Water filtration supplies, rain harvesting supplies and large quantities of stored water.
  • Light sources: Lanterns, flashlights, candles and matches and alternative light sources
  • Batteries and chargers
  • Emergency stove – solar oven, rocket stove, camping stoves, etc.
  • Wood burning fire place – Central air heating systems, even if they use natural gas or propane, depend on electricity for the blower that will circulate the heated air. When the grid is down, this system will not work. Having a wood burning fire place is an alternative to central heating systems.
  • Cash money and/or silver or gold currency.

The vulnerability of our grid is nothing new to preppers. Some have seen this problem coming for a long time and changed their entire ways of life by going off-grid. They have found alternative sources such as solar, wind and diesel to power their homes and machinery. A majority of us, who have not gone off-grid, are making a concerted effort to avoid dependence on this ailing infrastructure and preparing for life without it. That being said, all we can do is stay the course, prepare accordingly and continue on.

Prepper's Cookbook

Tess Pennington is the author of The Prepper’s Cookbook: 300 Recipes to Turn Your Emergency Food into Nutritious, Delicious, Life-Saving Meals. When a catastrophic collapse cripples society, grocery store shelves will empty within days. But if you follow this book’s plan for stocking, organizing and maintaining a proper emergency food supply, your family will have plenty to eat for weeks, months or even years. Visit her web site at ReadyNutrition.com.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Originally published October 28th, 2013
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  • Mike

    Well said Tess; in my article that I am preparing for you, I’ll discuss the ways we live off grid.  Solar and wind!

    • http://www.readynutrition.com Tess Pennington

      Thanks Mike. Looking forward to reading your finished article.

  • http://www.prepperwebsite.com Todd

    My dad and I were talking about this today.  He mentioned that he read that in Texas this last summer, we were short 12% worth of electricity.  This summer, they are expecting 14-16%.  So, even if the grid holds, we can expect more rolling blackouts.  Summer in Texas sucks! ;-)

  • Joe Myrick

    It just now dawned on me that this is going to be the method our government, our hijacked government is intending to use as their cataclysmic event to usher in Martial Law. I believe the Spirit of God revealed this to me.

  • Joe Myrick

    Tess as you wrote this do you find yourself knowing of the Smart Grid efforts, & just how far they intend to take this? Can I send you a link to a site where you can listen to very technical minded discuss these high tech. plans?

  • Steve Barnes

    I live in the marsh. I have access to  muskrats, crabs, deer, oysters, nutria and clams. I could get by a long time time with only these for food. I’m sure if worse came to worse a person could cook marsh grass. People have said to move to the moutains, but if there were a lot of people in the area they could easily deplete the animal wild life in a few weeks. I can get plenty to eat and don’t see people being able to use up this resource. City people they could starve real fast. The grocery stores would run out of food in a week. IN the frigid North their only hope for food would be to catch fish or wildlife. They could drive South where they could catch fish, but it could get serious real fast. Billions could starve if the food ran out in the Winter in the Northern hemisphere.

    • Highspeedloafer

      Steve, are you from Dallas, NC?

  • Steve Barnes

    If you were smart you would have a fireplace and plenty of wood to get through the Winter. With all the advancements when times get tough we have to go back to the way they lived 150 years ago. You will need a hand pumping water source. If you have any decent water like a river you can buy something that will turn pond water into pure clean drinking water. You will need plenty of shotgun shells and rifle bullets. I would also invest in large supplies of reading material. Actually getting off the grid would be beneficial for country folks. They can get by. But city people the roads can be blocked and gqngs of people looking for food. A dog is tame, because you feed him. But put him in a pen and don’t feed him for a week and walk into the pen and set down some food and then try to take it away. People will become the same way. You can become wild and kill and you will maybe have no choice.

    • TnAndy

      If you were REALLY smart, you’d have a wood stove that you can cook on and heat with, instead of a fireplace, and be using it today to get the experience of wood as a fuel.  Then stock a couple years worth of wood.
      As for water, we selected a property 30+ years ago that lets us use a gravity fed spring ( no pump ) for the house supply, and built a 3,000 gallon storage tank.  If you can avoid power to begin with for your water, you’re ahead of the curve.

  • Thomas

    Joe. I would like to have that link to the website you were talking to Tess about. T1jellema@gmail.com  Thanks Joe.

  • John

    I moved from Montreal, Canada, where I experienced power outages when it was 20 below or less, to coastal Florida, where I and my family have gone 18 days with no electricity at about 98 degrees and over 90% humidity when two hurricanes passed by. I have two suggestions: for those who live in cold climes, have plenty of wool blankets, and clothes appropriate for the COLDEST weather you can EVER expect. The coldest it ever got in Montreal when I was there was minus 49F. I still have the clothes for that weather in my closet here in FL! For anywhere – stuff to keep from getting bored – especially if you have kids! Most entertainment today is electronic. Cards, books, board games, etc. will all help keep your morale up – and you WILL find your morale is as important as any other factor in surviving a disaster.

    • http://www.readynutrition.com Tess Pennington

      Thanks, John. Living in Houston, TX, I completely agree with your suggestions. We tend to forget that with the absence of electricity, none of our modern conveniences will work and that means a lot of bored people. For those of you prepping the small children, keep their needs in mind, (and attention spans) and get some books, puzzles, art supplies, or anything non-electric that your kids enjoy.

  • lissht

    Anything could happen.  It is nice to be prepared.  So, it is just another ‘what if’.  Like so many others.  It’s all the same.  When something really BBB  III  GGG  !!!   happens then warn me.

  • Phyllis Mudgett

    Re: Water purification.  One-fourth teaspoon (that’s not a misprint) of pool shock treatment will purify a 55 gallon barrel of water. Put it in, cover the barrel for 24 hours. Remove and smell to see if there is any chlorine odor. If not, repeat until it does. It is now safe to use or seal up for storage.

  • Thomas

    Been expecting trouble and preparing for it for many years. After the lights go out for whatever reason, your local heathens are going to start prowling. First they will loot all the liquor and beer stores and the jewelry stores. After they eat all of the available Slim Jims, Freetos and Cheetos, they will come looking for your stash of stuff and, if you have a generator running, they will follow their ears straight to your place. You need to keep a very low profile and expect trouble at all hours. A bright fire for heat and cooking is another thing that will draw them in. There is a way to build a fire in a pit in the ground that will hav less smoke by feeding air to it from the bottom via a buried 4″ metal vent pipe that connects to another hole. Always remember that it is not good to let your neighbors know about your secret things and stashes. If they get hungry enough they might give you a surprise visit at 0 dark 30. In a desperate survival situation trust no one.
    Some other necessary items: 1. Baby wipes for cleaning your body. Look for them on sale. 2. Ascorbic Acid tablets (Vitamin C – a steady diet of game can bring on Scurvy). 3. A large quanity of Cod Liver Oil – not capsules – must be kept in a cool place. 4. Mega vitamins cannot be depended on. 4. Pool Shock to mix with water for disinfecting of cooking utensils. 5. A shovel for digging a deep “latrine”. 6. Lime for the latrine. 7. A case or more of toilet paper. 6. Food that does not depend on heating – canned goods. 8. An American made can opener that will go the distance – it’s a “Swing-A-Way” and it can be found on Amazon. All the others I have found are cheap Chinese junk. 9. Don’t forget pet food, Front Line for fleas, and parasite tablets. 10. A free outside “alarm” system can be made from empty cans stacked up that are connected to a trip wire made from fishing line. 11. “Wait a minute” vines can be made from fishing hooks strung and tied at intervals to high test fishing line (I have 4/0 treble hooks for that purpose). String these between trees and bushes on your perimeter. 12. Junk 1x lumber with 16 penny nails driven in it and concealed under leaves or pine needles is also good perimeter defense. 13. A .22 semi-auto rifle is a very effective close in defense weapon if you practice shots to the eyes. This would probably be a quicker stop than a .357 mag in the chest and a small .22 is so easy to be accurate with compared to a handgun. A .410 face shot is also good. Forget about birdshot, that will just make them madder.

    • http://www.readynutrition.com Tess Pennington

      @ Thomas,

      Great list! Thanks for sharing with everyone; it will definately help a lot of new preppers get better prepared for what is to come and help the experienced preppers ensure they have these items.

  • http://wwrutland.wordpress.com WW Rutland

    Lots of good ideas here- I’m ready with the guns, dogs, and 2 or 3 weeks of can food. It’s too bad I have no idea how to farm. I do hunt a little and went to several survival schools in the army. Florida is nice in the winter but horrible in the summer so the only good thing is snowbirds will die off quick or not come down. 90% will die in the first year is right and a few kids and a few 20 to 40 year olds will might it if they start prepping now.  I know  plenty of verterans who could but none are prepping at the moment.  All this prepping is only good for a few weeks then you have to form a village to defend what you have or it will be taken from you. I can stalk so I’ll probably be the one trying to steal your food after a few weeks. 

  • Jay

    Any of you who think that you will not have to leave are mistaken. How many guns can you shoot at once? Unless you have some large numbers of people, or a very, very well hidden location your stuff will be pillaged. No cops, (well the cops will have their own team that looks out for each other, with weapons, dogs, and all the needed goods) so the motorcycle gangs will run stuff, in tandem with the local thug street gangs. They are highly organized, and I know that I cannot defend from a small army by myself. How about you?

  • http://leesforgeryii@yahoo.com lee

    Defending your stash,  Such as the “wait a minute”  using fish hooks on a line or nails in a board hiden under la
    leaves is effective.  However devices such as that are called  “man traps”  and are not leagel in most places at this time. 
    there are maney more such devices that can be made such as claymors, exploding devices, pipe boms, nitric acid sprays,  and much more.  They can be comand activated, or intruder activated using trip wires or electri sensers.  All are illigal and can get you in big trouble if inployed now.  I would suggest making them, storing them. and putin them out when the systen breakes down.  I suggest making a verry accurate map of the location of each device.  At some time you will need to enter that mine field,  or a child may enter and you will need to know how to proceed.  I am 70 years old and live alone with my stash.  Bugging out is not realistic for me.  So I have many of thies type of items, but will only deploy them when nessasary.  I am a 20 year army vet, a welder, blacksmith, EMT and much more.  so fabricating such items is sort of a hobby of mine, as loony as that may sound.  I’m new to the net and just learning how to do this.  This is the second time I have ever replied.  The first time my effort was not puplished.  I think because I didnt think it out verry well.  I hope you all make it through the times ahead of us.

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