This post is going to spook some of you. I’ll admit that I hesitated to publish it, even though I believe it is important to share, because I have no expertise, credentials or special knowledge on the subject.
However, you could say I’m a bit of a “prepper”. Not one of those isolated-in-the-woods, wild-eyed, made for reality TV “preppers”, but like most military veterans, I do think about various scenarios. Basic planning and awareness are part of the military culture, and always helpful.
So…ever since I read the book “Light’s Out” by Ted Koppel, the veteran journalist and former host of ABC’s “Nightline”, I am a bit concerned about our indifference and (the government’s) lack of preparation for a potential cyber-attack on our power grid; an event that many experts deem to be inevitable.
“It’s not a question of if,” says Centcom Commander General Lloyd Austin, “it’s a question of when.” The dark nature of the topic causes a lot of people to simply dismiss the risk, avoid basic planning, or assume that the government has a plan to deal with it. They don’t.
Much of the U.S. power grid’s equipment is old (60+ years), balkanized, and not designed to defend against the unique threat posed by modern cyber-attacks and advanced computing power. Additionally, utility deregulation created a system that is accessed daily by thousands of small companies, with no central authority to protect the entire grid.
Those who remember the Northeast blackout of 2003 (cover photo), when a “software bug” plunged 55 million people into the dark, will understand the possibility of computer failure taking down the grid.
Of course, we should all have a basic plan for a temporary loss of power triggered by any of the potential causes including natural disasters or mechanical failure. It does not have to be an intentional attack.
However, the important distinction between “normal” power outages, and a large power grid failure triggered by a cyber attack, is that the damage may be difficult to repair quickly, possibly resulting in long-term loss of power.
The “Lights Out” book, as well as additional reports, highlights the substantial time required to replace the customized large transformers that are no longer produced in America, and the easily penetrated network of patched together computer systems.
If you are any level of “prepper”, you probably have already thought about these issues.
But what if you are not “good at this stuff”, or interested in making investments in time and money to prepare? What quick knowledge may be helpful…just in case?
Start by considering the basic “The Rule Of Three”: You can survive for 3 minutes without air, 3 hours without shelter in a harsh environment, 3 days without water, and 3 weeks without food.
The first two, oxygen and shelter, are not uniquely effected by the type of attack on the power grid described in “Light’s Out”, so we will skip those in this abbreviated blog.
Access to water.
If the power goes out, it may not be long before access to water, through the electricity driven municipal systems, is compromised. Additionally, we can assume that the resupply of bottled water to stores may be difficult based on past natural disasters.
How much water does your body need? It is not an exact science, and unique to the individual. However, experts estimate that a 154-pound person will need about 32 ounces of water per day, strictly for consumption. If we want a conservative estimate, add another 16 ounces for washing and sanitation to total about 48 ounces of water per day, or about 3 bottles per person.
Therefore, a family of four needs about 84 sixteen-ounce bottles per week, or about 4 cases. That is a lot of water if a power disruption lasts several weeks…or months.
Considering that most people don’t have 4 cases of water in storage to get their family through the first week, what are some additional sources of water available to the average citizen?
Hot water tank: Most homes/apartments have a water tank, with 50 to 80 gallons of potable water that can be consumed in an emergency scenario. 4 cases of water equals about 10 gallons, so right there in your home you have 5 to 8 weeks of water. Most people forget about this significant source. Here are the Simple directions.
What are some additional ideas if you have a fancy tankless system, or live in an old apartment, and don’t have your own water tank?
Draw water immediately. Upon loss of power, you may have momentary success in securing water in your extra bathtub or sinks.
Build a basic Solar Still. The solar still technique uses the general principle of the “greenhouse effect”. The sun heats up impure water, which evaporates and is collected on a surface (plastic sheet), then drips down into a collecting container (cup). Slow, but it does work.
Capture rain-water. Leave buckets outside, and hope for rain. Slow, but it does work.
Buy a portable water filter. If you want to invest a bit of money, simply search Amazon.
Keep an emergency supply of bottled water. CostCo, here I come!
Food: What’s in the cupboard?
Similar to the water calculation, it is difficult to generalize on the number of calories each person may need. Most homes have an inventory of canned goods, usually because they were purchased and nobody wants to consume them. Nonetheless, it is a source of food.
Of course, a personal garden can be a fun and rewarding hobby, as well as a very important and natural food supplement. The construction is simple, and requires very limited space and simple planting boxes.
The most prepared families prefer freeze-dried foods, which have a much longer shelf life (25 years), and are readily available from online providers.
If this post/subject leads you to the conclusion that potential social unrest requires enhanced self-defense, please read Blog Post: Considerations Before You Buy A Gun
This may be the most important step that a “non-prepper” can take, “just in case”..
For many reasons, most of them positive, you should reach out and get to know your neighbors now, so you have the relationships in place if you ever need to help each other.
I am not a survival expert, but if this post triggers your interest, I suggest consulting with survival/preparation experts. Of course I realize this is a downer of a subject, but I believe it is always best to think through all scenarios, especially one that has the potential to cause societal unrest and fear.