What Will You Do When the Lights Go Out?
Some people believe that we are hurtling towards physical disaster with our delicate electrical grid. Just how that disaster might occur is open for debate, but we need only look at major power outages over the last few years to see how precarious our grasp on electricity is. It isn’t a matter of “if” the lights will go out, but a matter of “when”.
Severe weather has given the grid a walloping over the past few years. For example, three years ago, parts of Kentucky, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Indiana, Illinois, West Virginia and Missouri suffered through 3 weeks sans power after a record-setting ice storm. Last summer, people in the Washington, DC metropolitan area were without power for a week during a heat wave as the result of a severe thunderstorm accompanied by high winds. And most recently, of course, we have witnessed the plight of the victims of Hurricane Sandy as they have struggled to function in the most populated area in the United States without electricity and running water, all while attempting to clean up the detritus of the massive storm.
Mother Nature could have other tricks up her sleeve with the possibility of a solar flare-related coronal mass ejection that could cause not only outages but irreparable damage to items powered by electricity. Many countries have developed EMP (electromagnetic pulse) weapons that could perpetrate the same type of damage.
Yet another grim possibility is that as the economy continues to degrade, more and more people simply won’t be able to afford to keep the electricity on in their homes.
However it happens, whether it’s for 3 weeks or for the long haul, we need to learn to function differently than we do right now. We need to reduce our dependency on municipally delivered power and either create our own power or simplify to the extent that we need less power.
Many preppers spend hundreds to even thousands of dollars on generators. Most of these are powered by gasoline, although some are fueled by propane. These investments would certainly be handy during a short term outage but are they really worth the money? This really depends on two things: your ability to store fuel and your budget.
- If you live in surburbia, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to have hundreds of gallons of gasoline stored in a shed in the back yard – not only will regulations prohibit this, but there simply won’t be the space on a typical in-town property.
- Will purchasing a generator mean that you have to sacrifice other things in your prepping budget? Will you still have enough food to get through an extended supply emergency? Will you be able to afford a water filtration system? What about first aid supplies, seeds, books and home defense items?
The next consideration is the probable length of the emergency. Many people in New York and New Jersey had generators, but only enough gasoline for 2-3 days. Who can forget the long lines where people waited for hours to only be allowed to purchase 5 gallons of gasoline? Depending on the generator and what appliances are being powered, 5 gallons will supply 3-8 hours of electricity. When you do the math, in the event of a long-term emergency complete with fuel shortages, a gasoline generator is not going to be a long-term solution for most.
Other options (I have not researched these methods because they are currently out of reach for me, so I can’t go into detail on the pros and cons) are solar power, wind power and harnessing the energy of nearby running water. Consider your environment before investing in these systems in order to purchase the one that will be most in line with the area in which you live.
So what can you do? If you can’t afford to have an off-grid electrical system installed at your home, does this mean that you are destined for an over-crowded shelter, or worse, doomed to failure in the event of a down-grid situation?
NOT AT ALL.
This just means you have to adapt your requirements.
First, check things out at your home or retreat. Make a list of the items that you use every day that require electrical power.
Then, look at your list and scratch off the items that are absolutely unnecessary – the television, the video game console, the microwave in the kitchen, etc. (If you have those things – we downsized a great deal before relocating here.)
See what you have left. Of these items, how can you supply your needs without electrical power? Here are some examples from my family’s list and the solutions that we either have or have planned:
- Lights: Solar garden lights, candles, kerosene lights
- Heat: Wood stove, small propane heater for the bathroom or kitchen for the coldest days, 2 large canisters of propane
- Cooking: Wood stove, nutritious home-canned meals that only require reheating, small and large cast-iron dutch ovens to use on wood stove, sun oven, outdoor fireplace, meals that don’t require any cooking
- Refrigeration: Large cooler to be packed with snow in the winter and used indoors, a plastic storage bench that is lockable to be used outdoors in the winter (the lock is to keep 4 legged critters out of it), root cellar for summer, change of eating habits in summer
- Water: (our well runs on an electric pump and we rent, so unfortunately we can’t modify this) 1 month supply of drinking water stored, Berkey water filtration system, buckets along with a sled or wheel barrow depending on the season, for bringing up water from the lake for flushing, filtration and cleaning.
Anything else, we can really live without. These are the things which are vital, and the solutions are all long-term.
Now, apply this to your own situation. 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.
Some people like to give arguments as to why they can’t resolve these issues. They live in an apartment, they rent, they have a limited budget….the list is as long as indefinite detention. The fact is, by realizing these things are necessary and refusing to face them and find solutions for your particular situation, you are setting your family up to suffer, and possibly even die, when it could be avoided.
I like electricity. I like the convenience of turning on a light at the switch, of putting ice cubes in my water in the summer and watching a movie after making popcorn on the stove. But will I die without those things? No. Anything electrical that is vital to life has a back-up.
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Daisy Luther is a freelance writer and editor. Her website, The Organic Prepper, offers information on healthy prepping, including premium nutritional choices, general wellness and non-tech solutions. You can follow Daisy on Facebook and Twitter, and you can email her at email@example.com