Have you ever stopped to consider what your life might look like without electricity? Have you ever lost power in the middle of the winter and had to keep your family warm? A power grid fail is a real possibility, and everyone needs to be ready.
Each year, we see small examples of this. It’s not unusual for large storm systems to knock out power for a day or two. Those in the path of a hurricane might lose their power for a week or longer. Being prepared for such an event is key to survival and thriving; those prepared handle the situation much better than those ill-prepared.
What happens if the power grid failure lasts for longer than anticipated? You’ll be in trouble, unless your home is sustainable. Modern society relies heavily on electricity, and a loss of power leads to chaos and riots. Prepare for it now so that your family is ready and doesn’t have to scramble.
In this article we’ll talk about what causes a power grid failure, and the 13 things you can start doing TODAY to prepare. So let’s get to it.
What Causes a Power Grid Failure?
A power grid failure is one of the most realistic SHTF situations that could occur; small examples happen every day. A power outage typically affects a geographic area, leading to the loss of power for several hours, days, or even weeks, depending on the situation.
There are two leading causes of a power grid failure, but other events can cause a loss.
- System Failure
The power grid is a delicate balance, and any disruption to the equilibrium of the power supplied and drawn might cause the line to trip. If a line trips, it cuts off the supply of energy.
One of the largest examples of a system failure was in 2007 when Indonesia had a severe grid failure that affected nearly 100 million people for over seven hours!
Extreme weather changes also cause system failures. A heatwave is an example; it causes an increase in the power used as more people crank up their AC units to stay cool.
- Equipment Failure
Equipment failures occur either at the station, transmission line, or transformer level. There are dozens of reasons for one to happen, but one of the most common causes is physical damage due to an accident or weather.
Hurricanes cause massive equipment failures. Some people lost power for over two weeks after Hurricane Katrina. Power outages after a hurricane are to be expected.
- Other Causes
There are other causes of power grid failures that are more uncommon but still a potential problem. Here are some examples
- Criminal Behavior
Modern society revolves around the cyberworld, but cyber attacks or terrorism is a genuine threat to our power grid. Cyber attacks happen all over the world. Countries like China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea could easily launch an attack against the United States.
- Aging Power Grid
The power grid experiences nearly triple the number of power outages than in the 1980s. The power grid is aging, which leads to serious line failures, substation failures, and other problems as they face the need to upgrade.
- EMP – Electromagnetic Pulse
In the prepping world, an EMP is a hot-debated topic. A large-scale electromagnetic pulse, or storm, might cause a reversal in the Earth’s magnetic field. That would cause a temporary or permanent disruption in the power grid.
What Would Happen if The Power Grid Failed?
Extended power outages impact entire communities, as well as the economy. Think about what happens when the power goes down in your town for the day. Some examples of things you might face include:
- Retail businesses, such as grocery stores, close.
- Banks and ATMs shut down, as well as credit card machines.
- Some medical devices might not work.
- Food spoils easier and faster without refrigerators and freezers.
These are just a few examples. Thinking about what would happen if the power grid failed showcases how much our lives are tied to electricity. Life without it is nearly impossible to imagine.
Here are some things that would happen if the power grid failed during a long-term situation.
- Modern Day Conveniences End
At first, people would face the end of modern-day conveniences. Refrigerators and freezers stop working, and everyone scrambles to eat their food (or preserve it for those who know how to do that) before it goes bad.
If the power grid fails in the middle of the winter, alternative heating sources would need to be found ASAP. There will be no lights or communication devices. If the cause of the failure is an EMP, some modes of transportation might not be available either.
At this point, people still stick together and feel optimistic about the future. It’s a game of survival, and everyone feels positive. The power will come on within the next few days.
- Shortages of Food and Medication
An EMP knocks out most modern-day vehicles. Soon, everyone notices the disruption in the supply of fuel, which leads to shortages of food and medication. Supermarket shelves will be empty, similar to what we experienced at the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Unfortunately, delivery trucks will not restock the shelves and supplies. What you have is what you get, and if the entire grid is down, then the ability to make medications and manufacturer and process food might also be closed.
- Loss of Emergency Services
Many hospitals have generators, but those generators are only designed to run for so long. An EMP or even a large hurricane might knock out the entire system.
Medical facilities and first responders will no longer be available. People start to die due to related or unrelated medical emergencies that are typically treatable with medical intervention.
- Civil Unrest
After a week or two, civil unrest begins, bringing a new source of danger to everyone. You then have to consider how to protect your home from rioters.
As resources such as food become scarce, desperation sets in, and people start to scavenge and threaten each other. Without extra fuel, generators begin to shut off.
A long-term power grid failure leads to life-as-we-know-it changing. Access to everything we take for granted now would be gone, and modern society lost the necessary skills to live without electricity.
How to Prepare for a Power Grid Failure
Prepping for a long-term power grid failure is a daunting task, so starting small is recommended. Start by preparing for a short power outage that might last two to three days due to a storm. The chances of a power grid failure due to weather are high; nearly everyone experiences a power outage from a storm once a year.
Here is what you need to do to prepare for a power grid failure.
- Stockpile Two Weeks Worth of Supplies
Everyone should have at least two weeks’ worth of supplies; it’s necessary. It’s best to have enough food and water to last two weeks.
- Think about Alternative Sources of Power and Heat
If you have the budget to buy a generator, then it’s a smart idea to do so. Generators supply your home with a source of power, even if it’s enough to keep your refrigerator and freezer running so that you don’t lose food. Larger generators are a source of heat, capable of heating at least part of your house.
If you have a generator, you need to store fuel. Prepare to have 20 gallons per day that you want to run your generator.
Think about an alternative source of heat as well. A wood-burning stove is an excellent investment; they heat portions of your house. Another option is to use a propane heater, but you need to have extra propane bottles available.
- Learn How to Store Survival Food During an Outage
Your refrigerator and freezer last 24-36 hours, keeping the food at the appropriate temperature. After that, it’s time to figure out how to store food if you don’t have back-up power. Make sure you know which survival foods are the best, in terms of nutrition and cost.
Chest freezers hold the cold three times more efficiently than door freezers, so if you have a chest freezer, worry about your refrigerator first. Full freezers stay cold longer than an empty freezer. Try keeping frozen jugs of water in the extra space.
Here are some suggestions.
- Don’t open the freezer door if you can avoid it. A freezer safely holds food for 48-72 hours.
- Put all dairy, meat, eggs, and spoilable food into a cooler surrounded by ice. Keep extra styrofoam coolers on hand for this purpose.
- Buy a food thermometer so that you can check the temperature of the food before you cook it. Nothing should be warmer than 40℉.
- Make Sure You Have Alternative Light Sources
Keep a flashlight or lantern in each bedroom. Consider oil lamps for your walls as well; they’re an excellent investment that looks wonderful as decor as well.
Make sure you store extra flashlights for each person in your family, along with several batteries. LED flashlights are preferred because they are brighter and tend to burn through batteries slower than other types.
- Find a Storage Space You Can Easily Access
The storage space where you store your supplies needs to be easily accessed, even in the dark. Putting it in your basement might not be the best place to keep all of your food; fighting spiders and the boogie-man is probably the last thing you want to do when you have no electricity.
- Fill Up Water Containers Immediately
When the power goes out, start filling up all of the five-gallon buckets you have available. Make sure you have a Water BOB for each bathtub that you have as well. Store water in every container possible.
- Have Security Measures Setup
Unfortunately, as a power outage continues, people will become desperate and start to search for resources. Be prepared to defend what you have.
Ideally, you’ll be with a group of people who are prepared for such an event, and you can defend each other. If not, know how to hide your preps and have firearms and other defense measures prepared to keep unwanted visitors away.
Top 13 Items You Need for a Power Grid Failure
What you need to store for a power grid failure depends on how long the power outage lasts. A long-term situation requires further thinking about alternative food sources and learning how to live without electricity.
Until then, prepare for a failure that lasts no longer than a week or two. Here are 13 things that you should stockpile.
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If you haven’t started storing water for an emergency, what are you waiting for? The recommendation is that you store one gallon of water per day for each member in your house. A family of four needs 56 gallons of water to last two weeks.
If you have pets, consider their needs as well. Pets need one ounce of water per day. For example, a 20lb dog needs 20 ounces of water each day.
Aside from having stored water, make sure you have water filters available and water purification tablets. If the power outage lasts for several days or weeks, your water supply might run out, so these take questionable water and make it safe to drink.
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Plan to stockpile three meals per day along with snacks for each member of your house. You also need to have food for your pets as well.
In the beginning, focus on eating the perishable foods that you have before they go bad. After that, you want an abundance of non-perishable food. Focus on foods that provide the most calories and fill your family.
Things you should stockpile include:
- Protein bars and powder
- Canned vegetables
- Peanut butter
- Oatmeal packets
- White rice
- Canned meats
- Off-Grid Cooking Supplies
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If you have a gas stove, it might work for several days, but over time, that will stop as well. Preparing for a power grid failure means considering how to cook when the power is down for weeks or even months.
Practice off-grid cooking regularly so that you’re confident when the time comes. Here are some options that work.
- Outdoor Grills
Most people have an outdoor grill, but make sure you have a charcoal grill rather than a propane one. Make sure you stockpile extra charcoal or learn how to make charcoal.
Depending on the size of your grill, it’s possible to use pots and pans to boil water as well.
- Fire Pits
Think about the fire pits at campgrounds with a grill over the top. They’re cheap and easy to create at home. If you have cast iron pots and pans, cooking over a fire pit is easy.
- Portable Gas Stoves
Having a portable gas stove helps if you cannot or don’t want to go outside to cook. Smoke attracts unwanted visitors. Small stoves cook simple meals and store well; most are the size of a briefcase.
However, many are unsafe for indoor use. Remember to stockpile bottles of propane.
- A Light Source
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When the power grid goes down, electrical lighting is unavailable, so it’s wise to have several sources of lighting. A small flashlight makes a big difference when all of the power is off. Keeping flashlights throughout your house, vehicle, or get home bag is a necessity.
Examples of lighting sources include:
Candles are a popular choice but don’t forget that they have an increased fire risk. However, candles and hurricane lamps provide heat, so they help those who live in cold climates.
Select a lantern that is bright enough to light the whole room. Lanterns are powered by batteries, propane, oil, or hand-cranked; it depends on your preferences.
- A Heat Source
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A heat source is a key to survival for those who live in a cold climate. It’s best to have an alternative source of heat that lasts until the power is restored.
A fireplace or a wood stove are two excellent options for a heat source. If you opt for these, make sure you have plenty of dry wood stored. After all, you don’t want to have to chop wood in the middle of the power outage. And definitely make sure you have matches and a ferro rod that you know how to use.
A portable propane heater is another option, but propane carries an increased risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Make sure you have proper ventilation and keep a carbon monoxide monitor close to monitor safety. You should also have a fire extinguisher available, no matter what heat source you select.
If you lose power in the middle of the winter, keep everyone in your house in one room, and make sure to lay towels along the bottom of the door to keep the cold air out. It’s also a good idea to do this for any windows to limit drafts.
- Blankets and Sleeping Bags
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Staying warm with a heat source matters, but you also need to have blankets and sleeping bags to keep your family warm. Keep them in an accessible location, somewhere that you can easily retrieve them in the dark.
- Communication Forms
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Having a communication form is helpful in an emergency. A hand-crank radio is invaluable when you don’t have the power to charge it. Hand-crank radios also charge other electronic devices, such as cell phones and tablets, and many have included flashlights.
- Sanitation Supplies
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Proper sanitation is necessary; diseases and bacteria breed with improper hygiene. Having supplies to deal with sanitation issues is essential during a prolonged power outage.
Throughout history, lack of sanitation led to severe problems. Bacteria lead to infections that kill people without antibiotics. Lack of dental hygiene causes tooth infections that can lead to excruciating pain and kill.
Some examples of sanitation supplies you should stockpile include:
- Disposable plates and cutlery
- Antibacterial wipes
- Hand sanitizer
- Toothpaste and toothbrush
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Nature calls even if the power is out, but as time continues after the power grid fails, you’ll realize that a fresh supply of water dwindles when the power goes out. Sewers often rely on power to pump the sewage.
For a short-term situation, buckets filled with water can help flush the toilet, but eventually, you’ll need to save every drop of water possible.
Consider using five-gallon buckets with large, black trash bags and kitty litter as a DIY toilet. It’s not ideal, but it keeps down the odor. Make sure not to fill the trash bags too much, or they’ll rip when you remove them from the bucket.
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No matter the emergency, having a fully stocked first aid kit is crucial. Whether it’s due to a hurricane, winter storm, or an EMP, accidents seem to happen at the worst time.
Be prepared to handle as much as possible at home. It’s wise to have a few medical books on hand to help identify problems and fix them.
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A short term power outage feels fun initially, but quickly, everyone gets bored, especially kids. Have card games, board games, books, and whatever else possible on hand to keep everyone happy.
The last thing you want is your children trying to kill each other when the power is out, and the roads are treacherous due to a winter storm.
If a power outage continues, forms of entertainment keep the morale high. It will be a stressful situation, so sitting down to play cards with your family helps to give everyone a bit of a boost.
- Survival Books
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- Back-Up Power
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Having a back-up power source is the ultimate prep for a power grid failure. You have two options: a generator or solar panels. Let’s look at each one.
If you have the funds, a generator is a great purchase. You’ll need a heavy-duty extension cord to connect the generator to your house, or hire an electrician to hard-wire the electrical system to the generator.
Don’t forget to stockpile fuel for your generator. An average generator burns 0.75 gallons of fuel per hour. That means you need around 18 gallons for one day.
Running a generator 24 hours per day during a crisis drains fuel fast; consider using it at set periods throughout the day to keep your house at a comfortable temperature and to keep food preserved in the freezer and refrigerator.
- Solar Panels
Solar panels are expensive compared to generators, but they eliminate the need to stockpile gas. Some solar inverter systems only work when the grid is available, so consider investing in an advanced inverter that runs without the power grid’s need.
It’s also worth considering a battery back-up or a generator if you have solar panels.
A power grid fail might happen at any time, and it’s far more likely than other potential SHTF scenarios. People lose power all the time for a day or two due to weather or equipment failure. Add in the risk of a terrorist attack, and it would be unwise not to prepare for the worst.
If you haven’t started already, NOW is the time to prepare for a long-term power grid failure; life without electricity will be harder than imagined.