It is no longer a secret that our government is preparing for a grid down event. Such event is currently one of the most probable crises that would impact every area of our lives. A power grid down event doesn’t mean the same thing as losing power for a few hours. There are many critical things that most people are not aware of.
While power outages can be local or regional, a grid down event is national. It basically means living in a world without power. There are currently a few probable scenarios that are considered to be the most likely to cause the grid to go down:
- A physical terrorist attack
- A cyber terrorist attack
- A Solar flare or EMP
- An operator/maintenance error
The scenarios listed above are not theoretical and in fact, each scenario has happened at least once in the past. They lead to the loss of the entire electrical grid in certain regions and each scenario had different consequences.
Recommended article: EMP survival guide
A national grid down event will cause immediate and short term impacts. However, it can also have long-term impacts that will change the world as we know it. In this article, we will look at the immediate impacts of a grid down event and at what it means to live in a world without electricity, even for a few days.
The short term impacts of a grid down event – Days 1 and 2 to One Week
Limited or no access to running water
- If you have city or town water you may or may not have access to it. If the water treatment and pumping facilities are designed to have a backup power system and if that system still functions as expected after the power grid down event, you may be in luck. Even with the backup system you have to understand that you will not be provided with the same water pumping capacity. Everyone will try to gather as much water as possible.
- If you get water from a well, you won’t have access to it unless it’s an open-well. However, you will still have water in your toilets, tanks and pipes for a short period of time.
- No power means no toilets, no showers and no tap water and you will race against time to gather as much water as possible before the pipes run dry
Suggested reading: Emergency water storage solutions
No access to light or home appliances
- All the systems used for heating or cooling will not function without electricity. Unless you have an off-grid power system that was not affected by the event that triggered the power outage, you will have to find alternatives for heating or cooling your home during a grid down event.
- You will not be able to use any electrical lighting in your home. Like most preppers, you will rely only on solar power for your portable light sources.
- All the appliances you are accustomed to use on a daily basis will not function and things like the stove, washer, radio, television, etc. will require an alternative power source.
Limited access to food
- Considering that 55% of the Americans have food supplies that can last for a maximum of 3 days, food will become a problem for many families. You will have access to whatever non-perishable food items you have on hand and you need to find alternatives methods to cook these foods.
- You will have to plan how to use the food from your refrigerator. Basically, you have between 4 to 12 hours before it goes bad. The food in your freezer can last for up to 2 days if you don’t open the freezer too often.
- There will be no restaurants open since many of these establishments have no backup power. Even if there will be some, you will have to fight a high competition for the foods they sell.
Limited access to commerce
- If you don’t have a cash reserve you won’t be able to do a last minute shopping for the items you desperately need (like medicine or baby food).
- ATMs will not work and you won’t be able to obtain money. Credit cards and debit cards will be useless.
- Only certain gas stations have back-up power and most of them will not be able to pump the gas out in order to sell it.
- Stores may close and will remain closed until everything gets back to normal (if ever). The stores that have limited back-up power and will stay open for business will require cash for any transaction.
Limited access to information
- Depending on the type of the grid down event, certain cell phone services may be available, but they may not be accessible do to the high volume of traffic.
- Certain landline phone services will remain operational since these systems have backup power, but the same problems may be experienced in terms of line traffic.
- Television or radio broadcasts may be able to continue broadcasting for a limited amount of time in order to inform the general public. However, many people will not have electricity to see or hear what’s going on. A solar or hand crank radio will be required in order to stay informed.
- Internet access will not be available since many of the servers that host the content will be offline.
Suggested article: Know your region before disaster strikes
Limited access to local government, services and infrastructure
- Schools will closed or turned into emergency shelters if they have backup power
- Most local government offices will be closed
- Emergency services like police, fire and medical facilities will be operating on back-up power and respond only to emergencies. They will have a limited range of operation and if you are not in their range, you will be on your own.
- Nuclear power plants will remain online and will use their backup power for operation. However, this will become a problem during a long-term power outage and everyone living in the vicinity of such facility will be affected.
- State and national government offices and departments will be operating on emergency power generators. The same goes for the military and National Guard bases.
Limited access to transportation
- There will be a lot of accidents due to traffic lights and street lights not working. Driving will be dangerous, regardless how good of a driver you are.
- Subway and trains will stop on tracks. People will be stranded in tunnels and along the route.
- Some taxis will continue to operate until they figure out the nature of the grid down event and its future consequences. Those who will operate will require cash up front and will most certainly charge additional fees.
- Buses and ferries will continue to run as long as they have fuel, unless the service is stopped by the local government.
- Airports will operate on emergency back-up power and only for a limited amount of time to assure the landing of planes already in the air. All departing flights will be canceled and many people will not be able to return home.
- There will be a high number of people being trapped in elevators, on amusements park rides, ski lifts and in other locations that will become dangerous during a grid down event. They will become a priority for the rescue teams although many will not be able to transmit the rescue signal.
- There are many people connected to various electronic devices that keep them alive, at home or at the hospital. Some have power generators while others are totally dependent on the grid. There will be a lot of effort trying to maintain these devices operational.
- Electronic security systems will not be operational and you can get trapped in certain locations that have a high security risk (like banks).
- The stock market will shut down.
- Electronic money transfer and access will become unavailable and you will have to rely on your cash cache for every transaction you need to make
- Obtaining certain items required for survival will become almost impossible because everyone will need them and there will be high competition. Certain items disappear first in a crisis and you should prepare in advance.
A last word
The immediate impacts listed above were experienced by many people in these modern times. The blackout of 2003 was a clear example of what a general power outage can cause. During that time, at least 12 people died, thousands were stranded in elevators, subway cars, airports and on city streets. In New York alone, about 3,000 fire calls were reported and emergency services responded to more than 80,000 calls for help(source).
For anyone who has lived through a power outage, the treat of a grid down event is more real than for those who have no idea what living without electricity for a few days means. In our modern times a grid down event is more real than ever. We don’t think about this, but it can bring our modern world to a standstill. Make sure you and your family have the knowledge, skills and the supplies needed so survive in a world without power.
Stay Safe and God Bless!
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