Imagine the dead of winter, snow outside along with freezing temperatures, and all of a sudden the power goes out. You scramble around the house, find your flashlight and candles, and get everything setup. It’s now starting to get cold since your oil fired boiler isn’t running anymore. You grab a blanket from the bedroom, and try to warm up. Eventually, you get fed up sitting doing nothing, and call it an early night and head to bed.
Hopefully the power is restored by morning. When you wake, there is still no power. It’s time to get the battery radio out and tune into the new to see what is going on. You hear there has been some kind of attack on the nations power grid, and there is no estimated time of a fix. What do you do now? Good thing you are a prepper, right?
In todays modern society, we are very reliant on the power grid, from cooking, heating, to simple things like making a cup of tea or coffee, it’s becoming an ever increasingly important aspect of our daily lives, living in a world without power would be a real test for any prepper.
What is a Power Grid Failure?
A power grid failure, or grid down situation is a disaster every prepper should be prepared for. This is one of the most realistic threats we face in todays world, and among the most likely to occur within our lifetime. When a power grid fails, a substantial geographic area can be without power for hour, days, even weeks or months!
What Can Cause a Grid Down Event?
The two most common causes of a power grid failure are system failures, and failures of equipment. In the UK, and USA, the power grid is growing ever more fragile and dated, and this has been noted by both governments. Systems are out of date, and use old technology which is vulnerable.
A system failure can occur can occur at power stations, where things such as cooling systems may fail, computer systems crash, or something as simple as the wrong switch being hit.
An equipment failure can happen anywhere on the grid, from a substation issue, to a downed power line during a storm. Any number of factors can cause equipment failures. An equipment failure can even be caused by a system failure.
There are other factors that can cause a power grid to fail, such as a terrorist attack on a physical location, a cyber attack, which is one of the most feared by governments, and an EMP attack, which could disable a massive part of a nations power grid in seconds.
You also have a threat, which lurks above our heads everyday, and that is the sun. A CME (Coronal Mass Ejection) is a significant release of plasma and magnetic field from the solar corona. They often follow solar flares and are normally present during a solar prominence eruption. These CME are sent out from the sun, and although they may not produce the same power as an EMP, they have enough power to take down a power grid.
Check out my article here about prepping for a solar flare.
Whilst events like these have the potential to shut down nations power grids for an indefinite amount of time, the likelihood of their occurrence, and the extent of the damage has been widely debated.
What to Expect During a Power Grid Failure
Days 1 and 2
The immediate effect of a power grid failure is, you guessed it, loss of power, which means modern day forms of communication, cooking, sanitation, refrigeration and transportation will be unavailable. You may not be able to access money in the bank, or use debit or credit cards, as banking systems will also be effected, so if you do not have cash on hand, you have no way to purchase last minute supplies.
- Limited Access to water
- Sanitation systems may shut down and cease to work (See this article for using the toilet in a grid down)
- Banking Systems Down
- Shops taking only cash payments, with supplies running out, fast
- Home electronics will not have power to operate (Fridges, freezers, TV, oven, Microwave…)
- Limited access to food once your fridge and freezer food goes bad
- You will have 4-12 hours to use the food in your fridge
- You will have up to 2 days to use freezer food, depending on how often you open the freezer
- Restaurants, shops and other public services will begin to close down once food runs dry (This will happen fast!)
- Mobile phones may not work
- Internet may be down
Days 3 and 4
If power is not restored within a few days, deliveries of fuel will be disrupted, which will lead to shortages in other areas, such as supermarkets not being restocked, medical centres not receiving deliveries and filling stations running dry. Many people who are unprepared may wait days before heading to the supermarket to stock up on vital supplies, but will be greeted with empty shelves. Emergency services will be overwhelmed with calls, meaning that access to these services will be unavailable, or available only to high priority emergencies.
If the outage continues for a week or more, people are going to get desperate, and civil unrest will begin to grow as food and water supplies begin to run dry. People will no longer be able to run their generators or cars, as they will have depleted their fuel supplies, and many will experience huge disruptions in their lives.
- Television and radio will continue broadcasting until their backup power supply runs out of fuel
- Fuel deliveries will not be made, which will cause widespread fuel shortages
- Food shortages will follow once fuel stops at the pumps
- Most local government offices will be closed
- Hospitals will soon run out of fuel for reserve power
- Nuclear power plants will continue to function, and will use backup power. This will become a problem once backup power runs out, and people in the area will be under threat of a nuclear meltdown
- State and government will be running on backup power, and will be priority for fuel deliveries. The same goes for the military
- There will be a lot of car accidents due to traffic lights not functioning
- Busses and ferries will continue to run, until either their fuel runs dry, or government officials seize the fuel for their own use
- Flights will be canceled, but airports will remain operational on a low level using backup power
- Widespread Civil unrest in towns and cities
- People may be trapped in elevators, theme park rides and ski lifts
- The Stock market will be closed, and may crash, causing an economic collapse
- The transfer of money will not be available, causing cash flow problems for any businesses
- Obtaining items for survival will become increasingly hard, as everyone will be fighting for the same basic items
Supplies for a Power Grid Failure
The best thing you can have during a grid down event is a positive mindset. Make sure you can do whatever you can to keep spirits high.
In addition to this, there are some basics you can have on hand to assist you in a grid down event.
- Gas Cooker or Gas Camp Stove/BBQ or Fire Pit
- Fuel for Your Stove
- Solar Charger
- Power Bank
For a more detailed list, see this post.
Considering 55% for most Americans only have enough food to last 3 days, food will become a problem for many families. If you have access to canned food supplies and other non perishable foods, you will be in a better position than most. Plan how to use the remaining food in your fridge, and freezer, prioritising the items that will expire quickest.