How to Survive when the Grid Goes Down

The vulnerability of our national power grid is probably the most serious threat to our existence, and if it goes down, it can be even deadlier than the current pandemic.

When the power goes out, and people are left without electricity for long periods of time, they will panic, and things may never turn back to normal. Can you and your family survive a grid-down event?

The life we have today is being taken for granted, and we don’t really think about how easy we have it. We are used to pressing a button, and any gadget or appliance magically starts to function. We live in an age where everything is being handed to us, and we cannot imagine living without certain “human rights” like heat, air conditioning, and readily available food.

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We seem to forget that our addiction to the power grid also makes us vulnerable. And regardless if you depend on the Eastern grid, the Western Grid, or the Texas one, you are vulnerable to all sorts of threats. We totally take these systems for granted, and people are not aware that a grid-down disaster is a matter of when not if.

How can a grid-down event occur?

There are all sorts of scenarios that can shut down our power grid for good, and entire books have been written on the subject. There are so many things that could go wrong, but three major threats are currently considered by our government. These are as follows:

Terrorist attack

A terrorist attack on vulnerable points of our power grids can halt the distribution of electricity to entire states. Such attacks can be either physical, involving all sorts of explosives and other means to cause extensive damage, or technological/digital attacks.

Nowadays, terrorists are using hackers to cripple down entire networks, and they no longer need to use traditional weapons to cause chaos. A recent cyber-attack on a German hospital managed to shut down the entire hospital, and a patient that was undergoing surgery died.  This is just an example, but it helps us understand the bigger picture.

Solar storms

NASA has been making noise for years about solar storms and how a coronal mass ejection (CME) can cause irreversible damage to our power grids. However, although this subject has been debated, and it was explained in so many details that even a five-year-old could understand it, nobody seems to be paying attention. This is not something new, and such events have occurred before in our history.

EMP weapons

An EMP attack is the most probable scenario for our government, and they have been preparing for it since 2010. The government has admitted that they have taken precautionary measures to protect the military installation and other strategic objectives. At some point, there was even a documentary going on online showing people how an EMP device no bigger than a suitcase can shut the power down in a city like NY without nobody suspecting anything.

Another potential problem that seems nobody is thinking about is people. More precisely, the staff working to keep the power grid operator. During a major SHTF event, there’s a chance that most of these folks will abandon their post to be with their families.  If you think about the level of interconnectivity and the level of dependency of our power grid that has grown exponentially since the 70s, you can imagine that once the power grid goes down, it will be hard to bring it back up without the right manpower.  

The grid goes down, now what?

When the electricity stops, the world stops. It is as simple as that, and everything that runs on electricity (water, heating, communication, fuel, etc.) will stop functioning.

In two to three days, you will be left without water. And while you might have enough water stored to lasts you for a few months, you’re probably missing the big picture. How about the sewage, the thing we take for granted that keeps our world clean? Problems with sewage are likely to occur practically immediately, and it will become a public health nightmare in no time. People will wind up fouling the creeks and rivers, and eventually fouling all the water supply that others could be drawing from.

And considering those water sources that still remain unpolluted, people will not only have to figure out ways to transport water from such areas, but they also have to figure out ways to filter it and make it potable. This shouldn’t become a problem for a family or two, but if you think about it on a larger scale, you will soon understand how such a task is almost impossible to achieve.

As time goes by, things will get worse

You go past day three to one week, and a cascade of events will start to unfold since our advanced society dependent on technology can no longer function and sustain itself.

Another issue besides water and sewage will rise in homes that use natural gas for heating, cooling, or cooking. It goes without saying that those using electricity for such needs are out of luck, but even those dependent on gas, won’t be any luckier.

First of all, we have to acknowledge that natural gas is electrically pumped and just a small percentage of the population has natural gas being sent to their homes by natural pressure. The vast majority of Americans depend on some sort of pressure station to pump their gas, and those stations won’t work without electricity.

And second, even if you are one of the lucky ones depending on natural pressure to have gas delivered, the pressure in those gas lines will drop, and domestic residences will be out of natural gas in a matter of weeks.

The food is gone

The logistic systems, the core of all supermarkets across our country, will fail one by one, and readily available food from your area could be gone in less than a week (depending on how quickly the people wake up).

Most of our modern grocery stores are not stocked like in the old days, and what you see on the shelf is probably most of the stuff they have. They may have additional supplies in the back, but they don’t have warehouse-like storage. They are dependent on an inventory system controlled by both man and machine that schedules deliveries and updates the inventory almost in real-time. Once the system fails, the shelves will go empty. No auto-reordering, no scheduled deliveries, and eventually, orders will stop coming in.

The list can go one, and there will be a vast amount of issues that will occur when the power grid goes down. There just isn’t enough space to cover all of them in a single article. However, we can look at a few things we can do to prepare for such an event.

How to prepare for a grid-down event

There are a few things to consider for such a scenario:

  1. Making enough physical room in your living space to store water and food long-term.
  2. Practice cooking and preparing the food you are storing so that you can be used to it. In certain cases, it will be quite different than the food you are currently eating. Since ordering food is out of the question, you will have to make do with what you’ve stored.
  3. Learn about self-defense and participate in weapons training.
  4. Learn and figure out ways to deal with medical needs. Some of these methods may be improvised alternatives to what we are used to (similar to what they are doing in 3rd world countries).
  5. Understand the value of your health and the shape you’re in.
  6. Invest time and patience in your projects.

Take some time and think about this and wrap your hand around the “why” and “how” to prepare for a grid down event. You first have to start by preparing your mind because it is not a simple process envisioning such a scenario.

Where to start?

By this time, as a reader of Survivopedia, you should know that there are a vast amount of resources available both here and out there on the internet. There are basic survival needs to be broken down to the basics by various survival experts. Let’s go with the obvious top priorities:

Water

This is the number one priority for most people out there, and potable water will be hard to find after a grid-down event. Even if you are storing just a few containers with tap water, you will be way more prepared than the vast majority of your neighbors.

The limitations you will have to face are strictly related to where and how you live. For example, how you can acquire water depends a lot on where you live. If you live in an apartment, your water collection projects may be limited compared to someone living in a suburban home. Once your supply runs out, you have to figure out ways how to collect rainwater and tap into various other water sources inside or outside your apartment.

Having a few water filtration methods on hand will not hurt, but not being able to identify a water source in your vicinity will make them useless. Take the necessary time to figure things like this out since you won’t be able to rely so much on water storage if you have limited living space.

Food

Food becomes your second priority, and this will always be a constant concern, no matter how well prepared you are. There is a vast amount of information and videos on the internet covering everything from what to store, to how to do it properly and how to prepare what you’ve stored.

However, the main thing you have to figure out first is how and what your budget can handle. You need to work with the money you have without neglecting other priorities (rent, bills, etc.). Also, the storing space once again may work against you. When it comes to food storage, you have to be creative and figure out ways to store your food properly, plan last-minute shopping trips when it hits the fan, and even plan caches if you have to. Once you get started with this, all sorts of ingenious ideas will start to pop out.

Security

No matter how you look at things from a prepping perspective, the human element will always become the main concern regarding your safety. You’ve seen how people are acting during “protests” and when things begin to unfold (how they emptied shelves in supermarkets when the pandemic started).

If you happen to live in a city or large suburb and you are trying to get back home from the last-minute shopping trip, the chances are that someone will walk up to you, pull out a weapon of some sort and claim what you just bought as his. This is a simple example, but the point here is that security and self-defense become a priority in a grid-down event or any SHTF event for that matter.

In a survival situation, owning a few guns and knowing how to use them will be much more practical than trying to reason with unreasonable people. You’ve got to practice with the tools you have, and the training should be more extensive than the classical shooting stances.  

Training is mandatory with every tool you have, every vehicle, and whatnot, because in times of need, everything around you may be used to assure the safety of you and yours.

Fuel needs

When the grid goes down, obviously, the fuel logistics will soon follow. When that happens, people will need to rely on their fuel supply, and if you don’t know how to stock up fuel properly, you will have to find alternative ways of traveling.

Just as with other storage situations, there will be some limitations you will have to face. There are a few points you need to learn regarding storing fuel (where, how much, until when, etc.) because you can’t just cram a few gasoline canisters in your home and hope for the best.

The main thing you have to acknowledge is that shelf-life plays an important role when planning a gas cache or storage. Gasoline is quite problematic since it doesn’t have a very long shelf-life. You can go with diesel since it has a fairly high flash point and isn’t as dangerous as gasoline if a gunman attacks your home. Not to mention that if bugging out is your main plan, fuel will become a top priority.

Medical supplies

At a minimum, every prepper should look into taking all the American Red Cross courses. This would include a CPR class, basic first aid classes, advanced first aid classes, etc. These are essential lessons for survivalists, not only for a grid-down disaster but for any scenario that can cause a medical emergency.

Enroll yourself and inspire relatives to enroll in the local volunteer fire department or rescue/EMT service. This will help you to get some amazing training that will be invaluable during an SHTF event.

Another thing to think about (far ahead of time) is what will happen if you or someone you know is on a CPAP machine or suffers diabetes or kidney dialysis. Regrettably, if the grid fails, some folks are going to be put in a very hard place.

Not everyone is equipped with a battery-powered CPAP machine. Between kidney dialysis and other chronic medical conditions, if we have a major disturbance, we are going to be looking at a very high die-off rate. The numbers will be boggling.

The main point here is that your health plays an important role during a crisis, and not only do you have to get all the medicine you require, but you will also need to be in shape. Living properly and creating a vigorous lifestyle should be done now before the time comes, and you will be put to the test.

No matter what you do to get your life on track, understand, that good physical condition is crucial during an emergency. We have become a soft society that is used to spend more and work less. Rather than always paying for help, try to do things yourself, even if it involves a lot of sweating.

Communication

Having the means to communicate will be crucial since you will be able to coordinate with friends, family, and neighbors. Getting  MURS ban radio is a smart thing because such devices are multiple user radio systems. Most people will cover the CB channel, while the MURS band will be lightly used. Another advantage of owning such a radio is that the MURS frequency is right next to the National Weather Service Alert frequency.

It’s not only about the gear

While some of the priorities listed above will make your life easier if the grid goes down, it’s not always about hoarding stuff. More than 80% of your survival depends on the skills and knowledge you’ve obtained and how you’ve managed to practice what you’ve learned.

When people make lists with stuff to buy, I tell them to first figure out the mess between their ears. There’s no point in acquiring gear if you don’t know how it should be used and if you cannot use it to its full extent. There is a learning curve to each thing you obtain, and the gear you bought will not use itself, and it most certainly will not coach you during an SHTF event.

Concluding

Getting supplies is a smart thing to do. Learning how to use those supplies and every piece of gear you have is mandatory, but that’s not all. I would advise you to learn as much as you can about “old-time” technology and figure out alternatives to your modern appliances and anything else that offers comfort during a grid-down event. This could be what it takes to save your family during a grid-down event.

Written by

Bob Rodgers is an experienced prepper and he strives to teach people about emergency preparedness. He quit the corporate world and the rat race 6 years ago and now he dedicates all his time and effort to provide a self-sufficient life for his family. He loves the great outdoors and never misses a chance to go camping. For more preparedness related articles, you can visit him at Prepper’s Will

Latest comments
  • Good article, thanks. I have been at it for 25 years now and learned a lot, many times by mistakes. On the topic of fuel, I have used gas 5 years old. The thing to do is treat it with Pri-G gas stabilizer, retreat it every year until you use it. DO NOT use STABIL! It doesn’t last near as long and is 50X more expensive per gallon treated. A quart of Pri-G treats 520 gallons for 1 year… A quart of Stabil treats 90 gallons for 3 months.

    On the topic of power, solar is dirt cheap right now. Don’t buy those “backup solar generator” type thing they are virtually useless and EXTREMELY overpriced. Check out Craigslist for great deals on new or used panels. Ebay has cheap panels with free shipping too and cheap charge controllers and inverters. Making your own system is a LOT cheaper and you can add batteries/panels/ controllers to match what you will really need. Be sure to use the correct size wiring…. DC uses much bigger wire than 110 house power does. If you fail to wire it right you will have poor performance and my start a fire. Buy batteries locally, 6 volt golf cart batteries are better than 12 volt marine batteries for longevity and performance.

    There are a lot of resources online on how to setup a solar system. Many companies offer advice and or have pages on setup. One thing that is nice to have is an inverter that also charges batteries. If it is cloudy and you need power you can charge your batteries through the inverter with a generator. You can pretty well charge a 1200ah bank in around an hour. If you don’t have the money for a whole system you can get the inverter/charger and batteries and charge them with a generator. This way you cut way back on the use of the generator and you can add solar panels as you have the funds. Hope this helps.

    • While I can’t speak for the cost difference because I’ve never seen or used Pri-G, looking online, Sta-Bil is advertised as keeping fuel good for up to 24 months, not 3 months like you said. And that’s twice as long as your claim of a 1 year lifespan using Pri-G. And according to the instructions (both online and on the bottle), at one ounce per 2.5 gallon, a quart of Sta-Bil is actually good for 80 gallons, so although not quite as good as your 90 gallon claim, when considering your other claims about Sta-Bil, it’s still better than you claim Sta-Bil is.

      I’ve had fuel treated by Sta-Bil actually last a bit longer than 2 years. So while I can’t speak for Pri-G, I can speak for Sta-Bil.

      When I lived in Florida and owned the two different boats I owned, I had a few boat mechanics highly recommend Sta-Bil. Not just to keep fuel fresh because boats tend to sit a lot, but to also keep the fuel system clean. I was told it works better than most fuel additives that advertise cleaning the fuel system, so given that AND the ability to keep fuel fresh, I’d say that adds to the value of Sta-Bil. I don’t know if Pri-G is also a fuel system cleaner, but the fact that more Sta-Bil is required for a given amount of gasoline compared to Pri-G could give an advantage to keeping the fuel system clean..

    • I have found that STABIL will work just as long as Pro-G. The real challenge is to NEVER pour ANY Alcohol Mix into your storage tank. 10% Gasohol is Bad News – no matter how you test it. Use low octane (Say 87) and keep it clean ( I filter thru chamoix ) and moisture Free.

  • Good Stuff, Bob. You do Good Work.

  • FLASHLIGHTS. I posted, some while ago, a YouTube video displaying by brand and part number flashlights that require just one battery — one D, one AAA, etc. It’s good blackout info. It allows you to stretch out your lighting capability by using whatever batteries you can scrounge from the kid’s toys and the toothbrush. Go to YouTube and search for “Cheap Emergency Lighting” by Ron Brown. The listing starts at 2:18.

    • Even better are flashlights like a few I have, that are rechargeable using a micro-USB port, and have a USB part to charge other devices with. All of those can also be charged with the built-in solar panel. One of them has the micro-USB port and USB port, solar panel, AND a hand crank generator built in. I also have a couple of tiny flashlights, a brand called Munkees that only cost $9 at Sportsman’s Warehouse, that don’t have a USB or Micro-USB port, but do have a small solar panel and hand crank. The Munkees brand flashlights are so compact that I can comfortably fit several in one pocket.

  • Really, Great Work! Please keep it up.

  • Good article, overall. Know your equipment, how to store it and how and when to use it. Have a buddy over in New Mexico I visited about 5 years ago. Didn’t know he was a prepper. We got talking and he showed me his ‘stash’ of equipment and gizmos. All brand new, purchased over several years and nothing had been opened. I looked at a number of items and asked him how they worked. The blank look on his face told me all I needed to know. He admitted he didn’t know ‘if’ they even worked at all…and some he really didn’t know exactly how to use, but he would ‘figure it out’ when the time came to use them. He showed me his ‘food stash’. Freeze dried, dehydrated and about 20 cases of MREs. Had it all in a very old shed that looked as if it hadn’t been used since Noah built the Ark. It was sitting out in the hot sun (no a/c) and he said it was so old no one would probably look at it. Found out he had purchased the MREs about 6-7 years prior and had kept them out there “cause MREs last forever and don’t go bad”. After a few days it was time for me to leave. Told him he needed to know if all his equipment worked or not and that he should ‘know’ how to use everything. Also told him he ‘really’ needed to check his food supply cause storage out in the heat would probably ruin everything. Gave him an idea for building a root-cellar’ under the shed because it would help keep the food cooler. Got a call about a month later, from him. Said ‘all’ his food had spoiled except for a couple buckets of freeze dried food. They had been at the bottom of the ‘pile’. Total food ruined…approximately $4000 to $5000 worth. He wound up having to buy some new equipment, too. Know how to use, store everything and make sure it all works. Make sure you know how long your food stores will be good for and rotate if needed.Toss anything that is ‘questionable’.

  • Thank you for the information.
    Have a question. My solar battery controller will instantly shut off the grid if the grid blips.
    Watched it happen last summer, nary a flicker of lights. Got a text, grid down now on batteries.
    I’ve been thru this in other places. Went around the house, turning off computers, TV,
    Then I hunkered down. Was concerned for my “out buildings” but knew I could do nothing for my animals.
    We were only out about an hour.

    So, my question, with an EMP, could I still have my solar?
    If the solar works, will probably manage OK until the mob comes.

  • Flashlights that recharge via solar energy (including batteries that recharge by USB ports) are only so-so. I find that they run out of power FAST. A better option is the LuminAID line of products. They are cheap and work incredibly well. They charge from a built-in solar panel in a few hours, so there’s no need to deal with a separate bank of solar panels. I have left them on all night as a test, and they were still burning bright in the morning. They are practically weightless, so they can be carried around easily, and they throw light out over a large area instead of the small, concentrated, beam of a flashlight. I’ve used them continuously for over five years and they still work as well as the day I bought them. I got mine on Amazon.

  • We used to feel that the grid was down when the house wet silent. Your controller seems to think that as soon as a peak in the cycle goes missing then the grid is gone. There are 2 peaks in a 60 Hz grid cycle, so your system is Very Sensitive.

    Ananswer:: nobody realy knows what will happen with an EMP. Some assume that eerytng even relotely classed as eectrical will be dead. Others say that items predoinately mechaical will survive. Its all talk. We dont really know.

    • Ye, we pretty much do know what will happen. It`s very well researched, and based on quite elementary physics. Machinery, not dependent on circuitry, will have no reason to stop working. It`s function is based on mechanics. In fact, not sure what your comment here is based on at all. Seems to be a very uninformed view. Also, please check your script before posting, the unintelligible wording is offensive and seems to reflect your inability to check facts.

  • what if the grid went down do to weather?

    • Hello Carolyn,

      FYI, it’s not “…’do’ to weather”, it’s “…’due’ to weather”. You’re welcome.
      Don

  • what if the weather made all the energy go off line and stop?

  • Then there’s always the old natural solarflare possible EMP problem! We had that occur back in the 18 hundreds and it burnt out the telegraph lines at the time but we weren’t so depending on the whole computers and electrical grid like we are today. However if we had that same issue occur today it would screw us pretty heavily, almost as bad as an EMP would!
    And yes food water and all that other crap mentioned are all major problems, one of the most severe issues that hasn’t even been mentioned is the fact that all of the nuclear power plants in the United States all rely on heavily on electricity to keep them from melting down and obviously once the power goes out while they may have some backup generator action happening that’s very temporary and it would just be a matter of time before all of them all melted down and whatever earlier there in and I believe there’s well over a hundred and hundred of them at least in the country so that would be a major issue as well as everything else but like government predicts, nine out of 10 people will be dying if the grid goes down!
    And you better believe that every government building Alder secret bunkers and military installations and all that stuff is very well-insulated from the power of EMP or whatever recurring to them but they are just going to leave the rest of us all at Pier to fry while they’re all underground in some luxurious bunker systems way underground all across the country so they don’t give a crap about us and in many cases they may even be counting on such a thing to occur just too decrease the population! Can I guess all of that is pretty much irrelevant unless you’re in the group that were in that I’ll have to deal with all the crap and try to survive! Oh God bless us all and good luck to those that don’t want to be blessed!

  • So what about a storm potentially caused by a storm most likely made worse by climate change? Not all disasters are caused by terrorists or random solar events.

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