This post is by Bernie Carr, apartmentprepper.com
I got a chance to see “American Blackout” on Nat Geo a few days ago. If you have not heard of the program, here’s a quick summary from their website:
American Blackout imagines the story of a national power failure in the United States caused by a cyber attack told in real time, over 10 days, by those who kept filming on cameras and phones. You’ll learn what it means to be absolutely powerless. Gritty, visceral and totally immersive, see what it might take to survive from day one, and who would be left standing when the lights come back on.
The show followed five sets of characters: a prepper family who bugged out to their wilderness retreat, a yuppy couple living in a high rise, a teen home alone when his mom went to work, a suburban family with the wife ready to give birth, and a group of college students trapped in an elevator. The blackout lasted for 10 days, and the story chronicled what happened to these characters throughout the crisis.
This is not actually a show review, rather, based on the events, I wanted to conclude how an apartment dweller living in the city could have fared under the circumstances as they happened.
How to survive a blackout while living in an apartment in a large city
- Hunker down – Unless you had a predetermined bugout location you can quickly run to like the “prepper family” you will need to weather the blackout right where you live.
- Have at least two weeks or more worth of water, food and supplies – The blackout in the show lasted for 10 days; they were lucky it did not stretch out much longer. In reality, it may last longer so have as much as you are able to store.
- You need a way to deal with waste – After the power grid went down, the tap stopped running soon after. There would be no way to flush the toilets. You’ll need a makeshift toilet, lots of heavy duty trash bags, cat litter, baking soda and bleach.
- The “normalcy bias” will get you killed – In the show, several characters knew there was blackout, but still went about thinking things would operate the same as before. The pregnant lady expected to be able to drive to the hospital to deliver her baby, the high rise couple expected their credit cards would still work, and the teen boy did not expect widespread violence in the city.
- Don’t neglect fire safety – The family in the suburbs in the show found their house burned down. Apartment dwellers are vulnerable to fire, due to proximity between units.
- Security will be crucial – The high rise couple found that criminals were going door to door, breaking in and stealing everything in sight. Even if you live in a security building, the lack of electricity will cause security doors and alarms to fail. Find a way to make your apartment doors and windows more secure.
- Find your escape routes – First figure out how to get home in an emergency. You need to know every entrance and exit to your building so you have an escape route out of your building.
- Have ways to defend yourself –You can guess what happened to the woman in the high rise after the criminals caught up to her. If all else fails and you are not able to run out, as your doors get breached, you’ll need to be able to fight off your attackers. Know what weapons you can use and how they work.
- You may lose contact with loved ones – This is one of the things I fear about a long term blackout: losing contact with loved ones. With no phones or computers working, you have no way to contact each other. Before anything happens, designate a meeting place in an emergency. Have backup communications, such as ham radio, two way radios.
- Make your everyday carry count – The college students who were stuck in the elevator managed to climb out by combining items they had with them. Check your purse or pockets and see what can be useful in an emergency. Start carrying items you can use – Swiss army knife, paracord bracelet, LED flashlight etc.
You don’t know where you’ll be if or when it happens, so make sure you have an emergency plan for each location your family frequents and have supplies at work and in your car.
A long blackout is very feasible, and has happened in recent natural disasters. Whether you live in a city apartment, a suburban home or a rural retreat, you’ll have some challenges to overcome. Surviving a long blackout won’t be easy, and it won’t be pleasant, but being prepared will improve your family’s survival and well-being.
© Apartment Prepper 2013
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