The Weakest Link

Today I’d like to talk about our dependence on electricity.  

We are ingrained from birth in how to use all things electronic.

light post

We take for granted that when we open the fridge it’ll be cold, or when we turn on the coffee maker we’re going to get hot coffee.  When we flip on the light we’ll be able to see when it’s dark outside.  It’s always worked, right?

How many of you have ever been in the middle of a blackout and walked into the bathroom and tried to flip on the light?  For just that brief second you’re like, “What the…?” even though you know  the power is out.  Then you feel a little silly, smile to yourself and continue on.  I’ve done it even when I was carrying a flashlight!

Electricity is the lifeblood of all our fancy doohickeys.  I’m writing this on a Microsoft Surface connected to the internet by tethering to my cell phone in the middle of a campground.  If the power suddenly went out I’d be on the ‘net for another couple of hours until the batteries on my personal electronics died out.  Then – gadget wise – I’d be back in the stone age… or at least the eighties.  (I ain’t knocking the 80’s – I had fun then.)

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But it wasn’t always that way.  Not too long ago people didn’t have electricity.  Hard to believe isn’t it?  Things change so fast and technology moves forward at dizzying speed.  Smart phones keep getting smarter and computers keep getting smaller.  Have you looked around lately at the people immersed in their own little electronic worlds using their cell phones or tablets as gateways?  Or seen how traffic accidents have increased because of distracted driving?

People are getting more and more dependent on electronics and moving further away from the things our parents and grandparents knew:  you don’t need electricity in order to survive… or even to have a good life.  I’ve heard many people over the years say, “I’d just kill myself if doomsday happened and we didn’t have power.”  Wow!  What a sign of the times!  People would rather die than not have electricity.  If that isn’t dependence I don’t know what is.

As crazy as this sounds to most of you reading this it’s something I’ve heard repeated again and again.  The question is if push came to shove and our supply of electricity was knocked out would they really not want to live or would they reach deep down and try to survive?

The Weakest Link

Thus the weakest link in the equation of American’s daily lives is our dependence on electricity.  It’s not like it’s an addiction, it’s what gives us the creature comforts we have to come to expect as part of our every day life.  It allows us to operate our civilization, to govern it and feed it and entertain it.  Think “Just In Time System” and it should make you worried.

If we lost our ability to make electricity it would be harder on our society today than it would have on our grandparents or great grandparents.  My father grew up for years without electricity.  I remember going to his house in Canada when I was very young and there were no electric lights, no plumbing,  and the house was heated by a wood stove.

Try running that by the princess/prince next door and see how it flies!

What can we do about it?  How do we guard against it?  It should be obvious at some point that someone will get the bright idea to bring the grid down.  Or maybe we’ll truly get that CME everybody’s been talking about for years, or possibly it will fail due to a lack of infrastructure  or a terrorist  attack.   Or possibly it’ll be  an attack mounted  by hackers, who knows?

One thing for sure is that when it does go down there are going to be a lot of unprepared folks out there wishing they had a way to keep their food cold, or to see at night, or to communicate or entertain themselves.lightpost5

There have been many blog posts written describing with authority what will happen if and when the grid goes down.  I think the only thing that can be said with authority is that no really knows what will happen.  A lot of it depends on where you’re located.  It’ll probably be different in the city than it is the country or the suburbs.  Maybe it will get violent.  Maybe it won’t.

Another determination on how far down the rabbit hole we go is how long it lasts.  If it’s a few days we might get away with minimal damage, but if it drags on for a week or more we – as a civilization – could be in big trouble.

Solutions

What can we do to protect ourselves?  Probably not much as an entire society, but as individuals we can take action.  Or maybe a small community could take the initiative and find a way to cut back their electrical dependence and produce their own electricity using hydro power, windmills, solar, or a combination of all three.

At one point I considered going all solar.  After looking into it at the time it was very costly and I didn’t have the money for it.

Recently I bought a camper and it has a 12 volt system.  It wouldn’t take much to convert one over to an all solar powered system.  The idea is to cut down power usage as much as possible and then provide the electricity for whatever systems remain.  A camper can be set up to run off a few solar panels and a couple of batteries for a good long time.

A house that has been converted to solar would of course be a great solution as well.  While costly to set up it would keep you and your family in the creature comforts for years.

If the power goes out you won’t be able to get gasoline and propane – at least in my area – without a major hassle.  And the price is sure to be exorbitant for what supply there is – unless the government steps in and institutes a rationing system.

Having the ability to generate your own electricity will give you some of the luxuries and hopefully enough of the necessities to survive.

Or maybe you could homestead it. There are a lot of folks who do modern homesteading, which means living close to what our ancestors did many years ago.  Grow you own food, raise your animals, keep chickens for eggs.  You could run everything off oil lamps and wood stoves.  Then if the power went you wouldn’t be as affected as others with no idea on how to live without electricity.

One thing for sure is you don’t want to leave your well being in the hands of others if you can help it.  Even a small solar generator would be useful for running lights a few small appliances.

Are you prepared for a grid down situation?

Questions?  Comments?

Sound off below!

-Jarhead Survivor

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32 comments… add one

  • Michael July 29, 2014, 12:38 am

    I was living in Spokane WA back ’96 when an ice storm nocked out power and shut down travel for a good week or so. Radio and tv transmission towers got pulled down. I think police radios weren’t working for a bit. People pulled together, everyone helped each other out, and we all made it through ok. But, I was amazed at how many people that lived out of town and didn’t have any backup power for their wells.

    Grid down I’ll be just fine. I’d just need to figure out a good way to do my laundry.

    Reply
    • smokechecktim July 29, 2014, 12:39 pm

      I actually saw a website that sold hand cranked washing machines. They kinda look like a small cement mixer

      Reply
      • Michael July 29, 2014, 2:45 pm

        The Wonder Wash! And it’s only $55. I might have to look into that.

        Reply
        • Chuck Findlay July 29, 2014, 11:46 pm

          A (new) toilet plunger in a bucket works well, I’ve used it for years when camping in remote off-grid camp sites.

          Look up “Breathing Washer” to get an idea how this works.

          Reply
    • Anonymous August 12, 2014, 10:35 am

      Pitcher pumps is the answer to get water anytime. Muscle power! Water is the most essential item for life…. and I have a huge swimming pool which will give me water for flushing stools and cleaning. Cisterns used to be a normal thing. Rain barrels for watering the garden. There are people yet today in remote areas of even yes America who don’t have electricity and survive well.
      I t’s the food thing that I keep in mind. I buy v8 juice to store because it’s fluid and food all in one bottle.
      Gardening takes a long while to produce food and takes water and know how to get it to survive and produce and then can it or dry it. Drying does not take anything but know how and the food lasts for months. As long as there is not moisture in it, it will not mold or spoil and can be stored in glass preferably -so keep those glass jars!

      Reply
  • Roseman July 29, 2014, 6:36 am

    I keep enough fuel to run my generator four hours a day for three months. Refrigeration would be my main concern. If power is out longer than that, we are in for major problems.

    Reply
  • j.r. guerra in s. tx. July 29, 2014, 7:20 am

    We are hugely dependent on electricity and ‘just in time’ deliveries of materials for us to buy. I was at the grocery store last night when the store’s computer system apparently crashed for a few minutes and most of the checkers had to stop the purchase transactions. Most of the buyers using credit cards or other electronic forms of money were given as a reason for this.

    Refrigeration and air conditioning is a major loss in many locations. Many people not only do not have canning supplies, they have no idea of how to accomplish this. Learning and practicing now (I think) is vital information.

    Good post Jarhead – thanks for posting it.

    Reply
  • JL July 29, 2014, 9:43 am

    We lost power a few years ago for 3 days, if it wasn’t 105° out it would not have been terrible. Until that happened my husband was very against prepping. Now that we are living in an apartment using a generator is out of the question. When we move back into a house ours will come back from grandma’s and we will rebuild our fuel supply.
    I think if you are strong willed then you could adjust, there would be a very steep learning curve for anyone who uses a lot of electricity.

    Reply
  • Templar July 29, 2014, 11:09 am

    For those still thinking of going solar, Grape Solar (www.grapesolar.com) has panels at $1.50/watt.
    Get ‘em from Home Depot. Photovoltaics have never been cheaper.

    Reply
  • smokechecktim July 29, 2014, 12:56 pm

    And it doesn’t need to be a major event to cause trouble. 2 weeks ago some drunk smacked into a power pole and we lost power for 4 hours. Not much of a problem but it shows how easily you can get messed with. Wife must have punched the garage dour opener ten or twelve times before she realized it was a no go. She didn’t have a house key with her so number one son had to pry a screen and climb in a window. She now agrees that she should replace her backup key that she lost over a year ago.

    Reply
  • Smokinokie12 July 29, 2014, 2:51 pm

    We had a terrible ice storm a few years ago. Our electric coop struggled with help from several states to get the power back up. We had no power for 3 weeks at my home. Was extremely thankful for my preps. Fuel propane gas generator and not having to try and get thru snow and ice for groceries was great! Note: at the two week mark the coop had to hire guards because of death threats to their crews if they didn’t restore the power that day! Anyone who doesn’t believe that the gimme gimme crowd won’t go nuts in a shtf situation should have seen what it was like around here back then. We had to do our own security as thieving was rampant! Semper Paratus!!

    Reply
    • Jarhead Survivor July 29, 2014, 4:17 pm

      Smoklnokle12 – we had the same exact thing happen here in Maine last winter! Power crews were getting death threats if they didn’t drop what they were doing and get power back for certain people. It’s absolutely crazy what people will do for their electricity!!!

      Reply
  • irishdutchuncle July 29, 2014, 5:13 pm

    … and the older I get, the more I depend on the
    Air Conditioner. my wife knows better than to show me the utility bills. we’ll just have to eat less, and keep paying.

    Reply
    • Steve suffering in nj July 30, 2014, 12:31 am

      Irish
      Life is shit without AC at anything over 75.

      Reply
      • irishdutchuncle July 30, 2014, 12:39 am

        you’ve got that right, neighbor.

        Reply
  • Duder McGruder July 29, 2014, 5:19 pm

    A couple of weeks ago, all power to the entire east half of the city was knocked out for a couple of hours. The culprit…a racoon chewing on cables at a substation.

    Reply
  • Steve suffering in nj July 30, 2014, 12:28 am

    Went 14 days with no power after a hurricane. My advice to everyone shut your breaker off for a weekend and see what’s got you by the short hairs. I was fairly well prepared, certainly room for improvement. Like more glow sticks to duct tape to the rambunctious 3 year old I order to see him at night. Shut the breaker and see how it goes.

    Reply
  • Pineslayer July 31, 2014, 2:12 pm

    Grid down is my main reason for most prepping. We are on well and septic, so as long as I can get water from my well, we will be ahead of the game. I have a couple of redundancies built in for that and lots of storage options. Refrigeration is the next creature comfort that I need to work on, at least enough for some perishable stuff. A root cellar is on the short list, I bought that book that Calamity recommended, it is awesome. I have been looking at those propane powered fridges, have a little one from an RV, that will probably be all that I really “need”.

    There are about 90 houses in my neighborhood, I know of 3 or 4 that have reliable back-up power. Scary since the rest have no way to get water from their wells. Without water people will get grumpy quick. I have a few small solar systems that would provide battery charging for some tunes, light, and comm’s. I need to get some better batteries to be more prepared for the long term.

    Thanks for making me realize that I need to spend more money Jarhead. I guess that Caribbean Cruise will have to wait.

    Reply
    • Steve suffering in nj July 31, 2014, 9:40 pm

      Pineslayer

      Building a root cellar out of a trash can this fall after potato harvest. I’ll let ya know how it turns out.

      Reply
    • TK August 2, 2014, 8:47 am

      Spot on

      Reply
  • AuricTech July 31, 2014, 2:29 pm

    For those considering any kind of solar electric system larger than what Goal Zero sells, I recommend spending some time at this solar power forum, sponsored by Northern Arizona Wind and Sun.

    Reply
  • Roger July 31, 2014, 4:53 pm

    Perhaps a major part of the problem is the ‘modern’ house; 2×4 stick construction is cheap but very poorly built! An insulated concrete dome is several times better for homes! Much more weather resistant and having a sub-surface level will help regulate internal temperatures. Dome homes have survived tornadoes with only superficial damage from debris impacts! We need (individually and nation-wide) to reduce our use of electricity and fossil fuels, properly engineered and constructed buildings and homes would be a realistic way to accomplish this goal. No, I don’t work for any company currently building these structures, and I don’t have the funds to build my own, (thank you, Obama-nomics) but I have faith that in about two years (elections are coming) the economy will start to improve despite the politician’s usual bad efforts and a dome home is definitely high on my list!

    Reply
  • Preacher July 31, 2014, 9:15 pm

    In my regular conversations with people interested in prepping and survival I often talk about your “scenario.” This post addresses my number one scenario, our complete and utter dependence on electricity. It doesn’t matter how it happens, only that it could and does (i.e. CME, EMP, solar flare, terrorists, etc). Should it happen (and it will as alluded to above) it will affect everything else. Our system is circular and dependent upon itself. People are gonna freak out and that will lead to civil unrest. And on it goes. Each piece is a domino that if tipped will affect the next. Thanks for keeping it in front of us.

    Reply
  • TK August 2, 2014, 8:44 am

    If I was a betting man, I’d put electrical failure as the most likely major calamity to come our way (and certainly the most frequent minor one). Dr Peter Pry (the co-author of the congressional EMP reports we’ve all flipped through) compares our electrical infrastructure to roman aqueducts, and I fully agree with that view.

    Even if rooftop solar panels are out of your budget (and they’re definitely out of my NCO’s pay) there’s a lot you can do to stay prepared for small emergencies and The Big One. Besides, jury’s still out whether they’ll survive EMP and solar events. First on my list is a small propane camping grill with regulator to hook up to tanks (refillable ones, not those disposable ones). I have a 200lb tank on my house it can tap into, and a few tanks for my BBQ grill. Tanked propane is fragile, explosive, and non-renewable, yes, but very common and doesn’t go bad like gasoline and diesel does. Tanks will rust through first. A small grill is portable, provides heat for cooking and purifying water, a little bit of light, and in a ***well ventilated*** area can warm up a living area in the winter.

    More to say, but this is a comment not a post lol. Thanks for keeping this hazard at the forefront.

    Reply
  • Robert August 2, 2014, 1:58 pm

    TK,
    Here is a good combo stove/oven. This what I would like to pick up in the near future.

    http://www.amazon.com/Camp-Chef-Camping-Outdoor-Burner/dp/B0013LLSZG/ref=sr_1_12?ie=UTF8&qid=1407002223&sr=8-12&keywords=camp+stove

    Reply
  • Mike the Gardener August 5, 2014, 10:26 am

    We were without power after Hurricane Sandy hit … it wasn’t for long, but you definitely have an adjustment without electricity.

    With that said, a friend of mine was without power for a lot longer than me. He needed to borrow my generator … and in turn, i asked him, “so, how crazy is being prepared now?” … Luckily we have a good joking relationship. He now has a generator and stocks supplies.

    Sometimes being without the basics is all someone needs to have their eyes opened for them.

    Reply
  • Anonymous August 11, 2014, 5:08 pm

    I live in Houston, and am quite accustomed to power outages; after hurricane Ike hit the coast, I was lights out for 14-15 days. It wasn’t too bad the first few days, until that cool air that came after the storm left. Then my only complaint was just being a bit hot. Actually very hot!
    But, I’ve been camping all my life and do a lot of camping 4-7 trips out of a canoe, and back country in my jeep, so I’m pretty used to roughing it. Anytime I see a tropical storm on the news I fill all 4 jerry cans with gas and then just rotate them back into my jeep if nothing happens. Keep a small 2k watt honda generator to run a light or two, a fan for sleeping, and my fridge, and just take a lot of cold showers.
    The worst part for me was having to cook all my deer meat and hog because my deep freeze was full! My neighbors ate good!
    But all around here, people were going nuts over gas, there were several altercations within just a few miles. I never had to worry, my little generator runs all day on a few gallons, so my neighbors asked to borrow fuel- “no problem, but you have to fill it up…” It worked out great for me. I never hit the gas station once.
    I was amazed at some of my neighbors; I showed 3 different ones how to light their gas stoves! They didn’t work! (Well the gas came out fine, but the piezo ignighters don’t spark without power… ) one of my neighbors had his house so full of gas it scared the hell out of me, he’d just left the burners open several times!
    And people just threw their trash out in the driveway, expecting everything to be business as usual. Another neighbor and I had to use his trailer and take everyone’s garbage to the dump, because we couldn’t stand the smell anymore!
    I’m saying another week or two and this place would’ve been crazy! I’ll stay at my home in a suburb as long as I can, but I’m ready to hit the woods if it ever goes too crazy, or I should say when it does. I’ve got enough crap to hold up here for a good while and a very organized closet, full of very organized bags that I can fit in my jeep and be rolling in less than an hour, and I can live in the woods for as long as necessary…
    And to be honest, when my daughter is grown, I’m getting the hell out of city life for good! I’ve been saving up for a piece of property up northwest someplace, and I want off the grid entirely!

    Reply
  • Canoeman71 August 11, 2014, 5:09 pm

    I live in Houston, and am quite accustomed to power outages; after hurricane Ike hit the coast, I was lights out for 14-15 days. It wasn’t too bad the first few days, until that cool air that came after the storm left. Then my only complaint was just being a bit hot. Actually very hot!
    But, I’ve been camping all my life and do a lot of camping 4-7 trips out of a canoe, and back country in my jeep, so I’m pretty used to roughing it. Anytime I see a tropical storm on the news I fill all 4 jerry cans with gas and then just rotate them back into my jeep if nothing happens. Keep a small 2k watt honda generator to run a light or two, a fan for sleeping, and my fridge, and just take a lot of cold showers.
    The worst part for me was having to cook all my deer meat and hog because my deep freeze was full! My neighbors ate good!
    But all around here, people were going nuts over gas, there were several altercations within just a few miles. I never had to worry, my little generator runs all day on a few gallons, so my neighbors asked to borrow fuel- “no problem, but you have to fill it up…” It worked out great for me. I never hit the gas station once.
    I was amazed at some of my neighbors; I showed 3 different ones how to light their gas stoves! They didn’t work! (Well the gas came out fine, but the piezo ignighters don’t spark without power… ) one of my neighbors had his house so full of gas it scared the hell out of me, he’d just left the burners open several times!
    And people just threw their trash out in the driveway, expecting everything to be business as usual. Another neighbor and I had to use his trailer and take everyone’s garbage to the dump, because we couldn’t stand the smell anymore!
    I’m saying another week or two and this place would’ve been crazy! I’ll stay at my home in a suburb as long as I can, but I’m ready to hit the woods if it ever goes too crazy, or I should say when it does. I’ve got enough crap to hold up here for a good while and a very organized closet, full of very organized bags that I can fit in my jeep and be rolling in less than an hour, and I can live in the woods for as long as necessary…
    And to be honest, when my daughter is grown, I’m getting the hell out of city life for good! I’ve been saving up for a piece of property up northwest someplace, and I want off the grid entirely!

    Reply
  • Joecardio August 12, 2014, 6:57 pm

    Hi folks, I first want to say how much I enjoy reading the information that is shared on this blog. Educational and enlightening for ‘the most part’. As much as I enjoyed reading this article on the grid, I have a particular problem with a part of it. First I’d like to know how old the author of this blog is? Reason being, the author asserts he visited his father up in Canada, where they had no electricity and heated the house with a wood stove. Where did your father live, sir or ma’am?? I have lived in Canada for 45 years and I have travelled this country from sea to shining sea, from the 49th parallel to Iqualuit and Tuktoyuktuk, some of the most northernly isolated communities in Canada. Unless you visited your father pre-WW1 (c1914) or travelled into a cabin in the middle of our great Boreal Forest, or perhaps a member of a mennonite or other religious community pre-1940′s, Canada is not a barren wasteland of seal eating Innu who still trade furs for beads with the white man. We are an industrialized nation. Some of our communities have had electricity for over 110 years. Mind you I do not want to take the benefit of the doubt away from our author’s story of roughing it up in Canada as there were certain people of low income that could not afford electricity, and still had outhouses (mostly their own choice) up until the mid 50′s. My father’s family was one of these. Had power but still had no plumbing. So I would enjoy a little clarification on your statement as to not paint one of the greatest, innovative and industrial countries in the world as a third world nation. Sorry but I couldn’t let that statement ride. It is possible, but come clarification to your statement would be greatly appreciated to enlighten some of your readers that know very little of their neighbour to the north that no the majority of us don’t go to school by dog team. Other than that your article was great. Be well.

    Reply
    • nanabee August 30, 2014, 1:42 pm

      Joecardio: Relax. It was plain to me as I was reading that the author was simply referring to a time (such as when our oldest generation were growing up) when there was still areas, regardless of the nation being industrialized, that some people still lived without certain amenities. My father and mother, for instance, grew up in the late 1940s in the industrialized nation of the United Sates and they both still used an outhouse during their younger years. It happened that both grew up out in the country, a good 7-10 miles from town. In reading the statement you are referring to in the article, I did not get the impression that Canada was backwoods and behind-the-times. So relax. I did not get a negative impression from that statement, as your comment fears would happen to the article’s readers.

      Reply
  • teabag August 27, 2014, 2:39 am

    when (not if) the grid goes down, for whatever reason, there’s something that scares me more than anything you said. i read recently that our nuclear plants are only required to keep a week’s worth of diesel fuel on hand for their backup generators! some of them have more, but many don’t. and, of course, once the generators stop running, we have fukishima. here on long island we’re downwind of about half a dozen plants, and that scares the bejesus out of me.

    Reply
  • armsdealer September 11, 2014, 6:11 am

    Just In Time has cut food supply to 3-5 days. Cold War days we had warehouses full of food, 3-5 months in reserves. Now we have big boxes full of home improvement products and Swiss cheese security POS systems. Water systems are questionable. WV, Toledo and Detroit water crisis with more to come. Fracking consuming large amounts to exploit gas with sand and chemicals. California facing drought. Entire southern USA has good grape growing potential. Could be new Napa. Run shine and wine. Can be used as currency since all the rest is going to Iraq and Syrian rat holes or the Afghan project.

    Reply

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