Natural disasters. Nuclear attacks. Long-term grid collapse. Water shortages. An economic crash.
Those are the normal topics of conversation when preppers think about end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it events. But it’s entirely possible the event that we never really thought about has been quietly gearing up, right under our noses. Maybe the real SHTF event is the ultimate terror attack – a cyber attack on the grid.
The threat is real, but it’s not what you think
When thinking of a massive terrorist attack, people immediately think of events like 9/11, the shooting in San Bernadino, or the mass casualty in Paris. But as horrifying as all of those events were (again, regardless of who you believe was pulling the strings) this isn’t the type of attack you should really be worried about.
It isn’t about the influx of immigrants and refugees that everyone is arguing about. That’s really just a distraction from the real issue. It isn’t about a difference in religion or small individual attacks like the one that took place in California. It doesn’t matter if the terrorists are who you think they are, or who is being blamed, framed, or set up.
All that really matters is that the real threat would mean the end of the flippin’ world as we know it, whoever happens to be pulling the strings. Terrorists wouldn’t even have to be on American soil to pull the rug out from under our civilization in the ultimate terror attack.
Iran is hacking the power grid
Earlier this week, the AP released a chilling investigative report about the vulnerability of our power grid to foreign hacks. In fact, according to this report, the grid isn’t just vulnerable – it’s already been under attack.
Brian Wallace, a security researcher investigating the hack of California’s university housing files when he discovered something far worse than a breach of private information. The AP reports:
Cyberattackers had opened a pathway into the networks running the United States power grid.
Digital clues pointed to Iranian hackers. And Wallace found that they had already taken passwords, as well as engineering drawings of dozens of power plants, at least one with the title “Mission Critical.” The drawings were so detailed that experts say skilled attackers could have used them, along with other tools and malicious code, to knock out electricity flowing to millions of homes.
As terrifying as this is, it wasn’t an individual incident. The Associated Press researchers discovered that this has occurred a dozen times over the past 10 years, and this information has been hidden from the public. By now, so many intruders have quietly stowed away in the system that our grid could be taken down at well.
More from the AP’s report:
“If the geopolitical situation changes and Iran wants to target these facilities, if they have this kind of information it will make it a lot easier,” said Robert M. Lee, a former U.S. Air Force cyberwarfare operations officer. “It will also help them stay quiet and stealthy inside.”
In 2012 and 2013, in well-publicized attacks, Russian hackers successfully sent and received encrypted commands to U.S. public utilities and power generators; some private firms concluded this was an effort to position interlopers to act in the event of a political crisis…
…The hackers have gained access to an aging, outdated power system. Many of the substations and equipment that move power across the U.S. are decrepit and were never built with network security in mind; hooking the plants up to the Internet over the last decade has given hackers new backdoors in. Distant wind farms, home solar panels, smart meters and other networked devices must be remotely monitored and controlled, which opens up the broader system to fresh points of attack.
We’ve been warned for years
For several years now, people in the now have been beating a drum to which no one is listening. Security experts have been warning us that our vulnerable power grid is an extremely likely target.
Former top government officials who have been warning Washington about the vulnerability of the nation’s largely unprotected electric grid are raising new fears that troops from the jihadist Islamic State are poised to attack the system, leading to a power crisis that could kill millions.
“Inadequate grid security, a porous U.S.-Mexico border, and fragile transmission systems make the electric grid a target for ISIS,” said Peter Pry, one of the nation’s leading experts on the grid.
Others joining Pry at a press conference later Wednesday to draw attention to the potential threat said that if just a handful of the nation’s high voltage transformers were knocked out, blackouts would occur across the country.
“By one estimate, should the power go out and stay out for over a year, nine out of 10 Americans would likely perish,” said Frank Gaffney, founder and president of the Center for Security Policy in Washington.
At the afternoon press conference, Gaffney dubbed the potential crisis the “grid jihad.” (source)
Anyone involved in the preparedness community is well aware of the disaster that would befall our country should our power-dependent populace no longer have light, climate control, and running water with the flip of a switch or turn of a handle. In his book, One Second After, William Forstchen wrote a fictional account of an EMP attack on our country and that book is the very thing that brought many of us over to the “prepped” side. His newest book, Day of Wrath, could be likewise prescient. It was written about a devastating ISIS terror attack on American soil.
During the above-mentioned press conference, Peter Pry warned that Obama’s open border policy could be the weak point that allows the country to be infiltrated, with potentially devastating consequences.
Pry provided details of recent attacks on electricity systems and said that ISIS could easily team with Mexican drug cartels to ravage America.
He told Secrets, for example, that the Knights Templar drug gang blacked out the electric grid of the Mexican state of Michoacan in 2013 to provide cover for killing those fighting the drug trade.
“The Knights Templars and other criminal gangs in Mexico will do anything for money, and ISIS, the richest terrorist organization in history, has hundreds of millions of dollars at its disposal,” said Pry.
“ISIS could hire one of the Mexican cartels, or one of their criminal gangs already in the U.S., or activate jihadist terror cells already in the U.S., and inflict a multi-state blackout immediately, within days or weeks. Perhaps even a nationwide blackout,” Pry explained to Secrets.
“I am not saying it is likely they will do so. But given the capabilities and objectives of ISIS and our obvious vulnerabilities, it would be foolish to ignore the threat to the grid, to regard the threat as unlikely. Our planning should be based on imminent asymmetrical threats, and not assume that another 9/11 large-scale attack is years away,” he added.
The Texas Department of Public Safety recently said they believe there is evidence that ISIS plans an attack. (source)
If only 9 of our 55,000 substations went down, our country could be facing up to 18 months without electricity. Many theorize that a grid failure on that level would mean the death of 90% of Americans within the first year. This is serious stuff, and one of the only ways an enemy with far weaker military might could attack us and win.
Are you ready for grid failure?
Enough about the “maybes” and the “hows”. (You can go HERE for an in-depth article about EMP attacks.) Unless you happen to be a highly placed government official reading this article, there isn’t a lot that you could do to prevent it. All you can do is be prepared to survive the aftermath, so let’s talk about the “what ifs” and the “are you readies”.
This is a topic that I’ve written about frequently, because a power outage aids and abets the chaos caused by so many different disasters. It doesn’t honestly matter HOW the grid goes down. A long-term grid collapse will result in an extremely high death toll. People will starve, freeze, perish of thirst, or die of sanitation related illnesses. Some will expire from medical causes that can’t be treated properly without power. Others will die because life-saving medication is no longer available. Civil unrest will unleash the very worst in human nature. However, we can prepare for many of these hazards.
If you are already of the preparedness mindset, you’ll fare better than the average North American. Here are the questions you need to contemplate:
- How will you get food if the grocery stores are closed?
- How will you cook food if you are able to acquire it?
- What will happen to the perishable food in your refrigerator and freezer?
- How will you heat or cool your home if you are in an area subject to extreme temperatures?
- What will you use for light once the scented candle that sits on your coffee table is gone?
- How will you transport yourself if a) your vehicle doesn’t run because the computers are fried or b) it runs but you can’t get gas because the pumps at the station run on electricity?
- What will you drink and wash with if the municipal water facilities are no longer providing water or if the pump on your well runs on electricity?
- How will you dispose of waste, human and other?
Find as many solutions as possible for the issues you would face if going for weeks (or longer) without power. You must stay warm, eat, and drink. Everything else is a bonus. You can live without the television, the video game console, the microwave in the kitchen, and the laptop.
I know that some of you are reading this with a fatalistic attitude. You are mentally making lists of why you can’t resolve these issues. Maybe you live in an apartment, you rent so you are limited to what you can do with your home, you have a limited budget, you live in the city or your mama’s basement.
Well, if that’s your mindset, then you’re probably right – you won’t survive. Survival demands a can-do attitude 0r, on occasion, the fluke of pure dumb luck. If you realize these things are necessary and you still refuse to find solutions for your particular situation, you are setting your family up to suffer, and possibly even die when it could be avoided. When I first became involved in preparedness, I lived in an urban area with a population in the millions. I rented. And I prepared to the very best of my ability because I knew I couldn’t live with myself if my children suffered because I had failed to do what was necessary beforehand.
Surviving the collapse of the power grid
So here’s my question. If you absolutely knew that the world as we know it right now was coming to an end in a week… what would you do?
Modify the following suggestions to adapt them to your particular home, family, and climate.
Everyone knows that clean drinking water is something you can’t live without. In another previously undisclosed example of hackers monkeying around with the grid, back in 2013, Iranian hackers breached the control system of a New York City area dam. A UK report said, “Hackers did not take over operation of the dam and caused no disruption, but were able to discover how its computer systems worked and examine what defences were in place against a cyber attack.”
While a direct attack on the water system would be regional, a scenario that took down the power grid could affect water on a national level. In the event of a disaster, the water may not run from the taps, and if it does, it might not be safe to drink, depending on the situation. If there is a boil order in place, remember that if the power is out, boiling your water may not be as easy as turning on your stove.
Each family should store, at the bare minimum, a two week supply of water. The rule of thumb for drinking water is 1 gallon per day, per person. Don’t forget to stock water for your pets, also. This does not include water for hygiene purposes. You’ll want to store additional water for that as well.
You can create your water supply very inexpensively. (Check out my book, The Prepper’s Water Survival Guide, for detailed information.) Many people use clean 2 liter soda pop bottles to store tap water. Others purchase the large 5 gallon water bottles and either a top-loading water dispenser or a manual pump for the top of the jug. Consider a gravity fed water filtration device and Water Purification Tablets as well.
Food and a Way to Prepare It
There are two schools of thought regarding food during a power outage. One: you need a cooking method that does not require the grid to be functioning. Two: you can store food that doesn’t require cooking.
Not only should you build your pantry to get you through a long period of time during which you can’t make it to the store, I strongly recommend the storage of emergency food buckets for situations like this. My favorite brand is Numanna foods, which are non-GMO, free of aspartame and MSG, and have gluten-free options. These meals only require the ability to boil water and come prepackaged in Mylar and buckets, keeping them fresh for decades.
If you opt for a secondary cooking method, be sure that you have enough fuel to last for a while. Store foods that do not require long cooking times – for example, dried beans would use a great deal of fuel, but canned beans could be warmed up, or even eaten cold. A rocket stove that can use many different types of fuel is an excellent and flexible choice.
Click HERE to learn about building your pantry.
Click HERE for non-GMO, MSG-free emergency food.
Click HERE for a short term food storage list
Click HERE to find a list of foods that require no cooking.
Heat (Depending on Your Climate)
If your power outage takes place in the winter and you live in a colder climate, heat is another necessity. During the first 24 hours after a power outage, you can stay fairly warm if you block off one room of the house for everyone to group together in. Keep the door closed and keep a towel or blanket folded along the bottom of the door to conserve warmth. You can safely burn a couple of candles also, and in the enclosed space, your body heat will keep it relatively warm. As well, dress in layers and keep everything covered – wear a hat, gloves (fingerless ones allow you to still function), and a scarf.
Click HERE to learn how to stay warm with less heat. Click HERE to learn about alternate heat sources
However, after about 48 hours, that’s not going to be enough in very cold weather. You will require back-up heat at this point in certain climates. If you are lucky enough to have a source of heat like a fireplace or woodstove, you’ll be just fine as long as you have a supply of wood.
Consider a portable indoor-safe propane heater (and propane) or an oil heater. You have to be very careful what type of backup heat you plan on using, as many of them can cause carbon monoxide poisoning if used in a poorly ventilated area. Make sure to have CO monitors that will work without electrical power.
Learn more about off-grid heat options HERE.
Learn more about staying warm in a winter power outage HERE.
A common cause of illness, and even death, during a down-grid situation is lack of sanitation. We’ve discussed the importance of clean drinking water, but you won’t want to use your drinking water to keep things clean or to flush the toilet.
To conserve precious water, reduce your need to wash things. Stock up on paper plates, paper towels, and disposable cups and flatware. Keep some disinfecting cleaning wipes and sprays. I don’t recommend using antibacterial products on a regular basis, however in the event of an emergency they can help to keep you healthy. Use hand sanitizerafter using the bathroom and before handing food or beverages – there can be a lot more germs afoot in a disaster.
Look at your options for sanitation. Does your toilet still flush when the electricity is out? Many people discovered the hard way that the toilets didn’t work when the sewage backed up in the highrises in New York City in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. When we lived in our cabin in Ontario, the toilet wouldn’t flush without power because the pump is electric. If you are on a septic system, you can safely flush by pouring water into the tank. However, if you use city sanitation, you run the risk of sewage backing up into your home.
If flushing is not an option, another solution is to stock up on extremely heavy duty garbage bags (like the kind that contractors use at construction sites) and kitty litter. Place a bag either in your drained toilet or in a bucket. Sprinkle some kitty litter in the bottom of the bag. Each time someone uses the bathroom, add another handful of litter. Be very careful that the bag doesn’t get too heavy for you to handle it. Tie it up very securely and store it outside until services are restored. If services are not restored in a reasonable amount of time, make plans to bury or dispose of the waste safely. (Learn about making a kitty litter potty in detail HERE.)
Lighting is absolutely vital, especially if there are children in the house. Nothing is more frightening than being completely in the dark during a stressful situation. Fortunately, it’s one of the easiest things to plan for, as well as one of the least expensive.
Some lighting solutions are:
- Garden stake solar lights
- Kerosene lamps
- Flashlights (don’t forget batteries)
- Hand crank camping lantern (This one is bright and inexpensive)
- Don’t forget matches or lighters
- Glow sticks (you’d be surprised how many uses there are for these inexpensive little gadgets!)
Tools and Supplies
Some basic items will make your life much easier during an emergency. Here are some things that are essential in the event of a power outage:
- Lighter/waterproof matches
- Batteries in various sizes
- Manual can opener
- Basic tools: Pliers, screwdriver, wrench, hammer
- Duct tape
- Crazy glue
- Sewing supplies
- Bungee cords
- WD40 or other lubricant
If you’d like to expand on the basic supplies, a more detailed list of tools and hardware can be found HERE.
First Aid Kit
It’s important to have a basic first aid kit on hand at all times, but particularly in the event of an emergency. Your kit should include basic wound care items like bandages, antibiotic ointments, and sprays. As well, if you use them, keep on hand a supply of basic over-the-counter medications, like pain relief capsules, cold medicine, cough syrup, anti-nausea pills, and allergy medication. Particularly important if sanitation is a problem are anti-diarheal medications.
This is something that will be unique to every family. Consider the things that are needed on a daily basis in your household. It might be prescription medications, diapers, or special foods. If you have pets, you’ll need supplies for them too. The best way to figure out what you need is to jot things down as you use them over the course of a couple of days or so.
If you can’t protect it, it isn’t really yours. This adage is doubly true in the event of civil unrest. We only have to look back a few short weeks at the chaos in Ferguson, Missouri to confirm that the businesses that were not looted by rioters run amok were the ones in which the owners stood, armed and ready, prepared to defend their property.
The lessons we learned from Ferguson can easily be applied to a grid-down scenario, and we can multiply the desperation by about a thousand times, because it won’t merely be thugs romping through the streets and reveling in the chaos. It will be the parents of hungry children. It will be criminals who no longer fear being caught. It will be people who can no longer access psychiatric medications upon which they are dependent. It will be utter and complete lawlessness, driven by fear.
The best advice is to lay low, but if the fight comes to you, you absolutely must be prepared to defend your home and family by any means necessary. Read this article to learn more about the necessity of being armed in a conflict.
The Nuclear Threat
A dire concern that is often overlooked in discussions of EMP or grid-down preparedness is the threat of our nuclear power plants going full-out Fukushima on us. I guess part of the reason that I don’t write much about it is because there is honestly a limit to what we can do to be prepared for this. If all of our plants melted down simultaneously, the lack of refrigeration or firewood would be the least of our worries. We, the average folks, cannot control anything about these facilities, so our options are to control what we can – our personal environments.
Tess Pennington of Ready Nutrition shared the following very viable suggestions of what to do if you are exposed to nuclear radiation:
Radioactive ionic particles attach themselves to dust floating in the air. Therefore, it can be ingested, inhaled or absorbed through the skin. If you are told to evacuate or bug in due to a nuclear disaster, keep the following points in mind:
- If you are driving, keep the car windows and vents closed, and use recirculating air.
- Due to the fear of panic and gridlock that will ensue from mass evacuations, most governments will delay mandatory evacuations until the last minute. This will only cause mass confusion and chaos at gas stations, grocery stores and on the streets. The best way to prevent this, is to stay ahead of the crowd and prepare ahead of time.
- If told to stay indoors, turn off the air conditioner and other air intakes and go to a basement. Seal basement windows and entrances to prevent fallout from getting inside. If you go outside, you will need to remove your outer clothing before coming inside the shelter.
- Likewise, creating a sealed area near the entrance of the shelter will prevent fallout dust from entering. Seal the entryway with blankets, bubble wrap or plastic sheeting to prevent the dust from coming in. Have water and baby shampoo near the entrance to wash and thoroughly rinse any exposed skin and hair. Exposure to fallout radiation does not make you radioactive, but you need to assure that you don’t bring any inside. Some experts suggest having a rain poncho to take on and off when you go outside.
- To go a step further, covering the windows wood, then sandbags followed by masonry bricks will create a multi-layered protection against you and radioactive particles.
- If you find yourself outdoors when a nuclear blast occurs, duck and cover for 2 minutes. You will first see a blinding light followed by tornado force winds and dangerous. When all danger is gone, seek shelter immediately. Remove your clothing at the door and place in a sealed plastic bag. You can remove 80% of the particles by removing your clothing. Showering immediately following exposure is another way to remove the remaining particles.
- If you have signs of radiation on skin soak in a tub of equal parts baking soda, apple cider vinegar and epsom salt. Skin brushing can be very beneficial, because the skin is a primary avenue for toxins to reach organs such as the lungs, kidneys, liver and colon. An unused vegetable brush would be very helpful with this process.
- Getting caught out in the rain can also cause you to have more exposure to radioactive particles. If you do have to go out in the rain, completely cover yourself. Experts are suggesting that if your clothes get wet to take them off and seal them in a plastic bag, immediately shower and change clothing. (The detox bath solution and skin brushing would be good here. If radioactive materials get on your skin, burns and blistering can occur.Note: If you are exposed to radioactive particles, you will also need to get your urine tested for traces of cessium at your local medical center.
- When fallout is first anticipated, but has not yet arrived, anyone not already sheltered should begin using their N95 particulate respirator masks and hooded rain ponchos. Everyone should begin taking Potassium Iodide (KI) or Potassium Iodate (KIO3) tablets for thyroid protection against cancer causing radioactive iodine, a major product of nuclear weapons explosions. If no tablets are available, you can topically (on the skin) apply an iodine solution, such as a tincture of iodine or Betadine, for a similar protective effect. (WARNING: Iodine solutions are NEVER to be ingested or swallowed.) Absorption through the skin is not as reliable a dosing method as using the tablets, but tests show that it will still be very effective for most. Do not use if allergic to iodine. If at all possible, inquire of your doctor NOW if there is any reason why anybody in your household should not use KI or KIO3 tablets, or iodine solutions on their skin, in a future nuclear emergency, just to be sure.For adults, paint 8 ml of a 2 percent tincture of Iodine on the abdomen or forearm each day, ideally at least 2 hours prior to possible exposure.
- For children 3 to 18, but under 150 pounds, only half that amount painted on daily, or 4 ml. For children under 3 but older than a month, half again, or 2 ml.
- For newborns to 1 month old, half it again, or just 1 ml. (One measuring teaspoon is about 5 ml, if you don’t have a medicine dropper graduated in ml.) If your iodine is stronger than 2%, reduce the dosage accordingly.
- When you know that the time to take protective action is approaching, turn off all the utilities into the house, check that everything is sealed up and locked down, and head for the shelter. You should also have near your shelter fire extinguishers and additional tools, building supplies, sheet plastic, staple guns, etc. for sealing any holes from damage. Your basement should already be very well sealed against fallout drifting inside. Now, you’ll need to seal around the last door you use to enter with duct tape all around the edges, especially if it’s a direct to the outside door.
- Do not use the telephone unless absolutely necessary. Staying on the phone will congest phone lines making it impossible for others in your area to make or receive calls.
Read the rest of her very thorough article on the topic HERE.
Get Started Today
It may feel very overwhelming, the thought that the world as we know it could end. So overwhelming that we push it to the back of our minds and focus on other things. Pleasant things. Maybe you’re busy with the holidays. Perhaps you are heading out on a family vacation. It could be that you’re waiting until you have the extra money. Besides, this “grid jihad” business is probably nothing more than a scare tactic, a way to prey upon our fears.
But what if it isn’t? How would you feel, having been warned, if you did nothing to prepare for it and it happened?
You can start right now – this very minute – all you have to do is grab a pad of paper and a pen.
- Begin by personalizing the suggestions above to fit your family’s needs and make a list of your requirements.
- Next, do a quick inventory – as I mentioned above, you may be surprised to see that you already have quite a few of the supplies that are recommended.
- Make a shopping list and acquire the rest of the items you need. If you can’t afford everything right now, prioritize the most important things first.
- Organize your supplies so that they are easily accessible when you need them. It’s hard to find seldom-used items in the dark.
You can go far more in-depth on the topic with a good book. I strongly recommend Tess Pennington’s comprehensive guide, The Prepper’s Blueprint. It will be the best $24 you ever spent on your family’s survival.
If the lights go out due to a terrorist action, will you be prepared?
The Volcano 3 rocket stove