This post is by Bernie Carr,
You may have heard about that large scale power grid failure in three countries Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay last week. Around 48 million people lost electricity. While the incident was blamed on design flaws of their interconnected power grid, the real cause is still under investigation.
Can it happen here?
We already know major disasters can cause extended power outages in regional areas. Hurricane Sandy caused 48 million to lose power. It took 18 months for power to be fully restored to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria destroyed their underwater cables.
In addition to natural disasters, there are also man made threats such as cyber attacks. A couple of years ago, I read Lights Out by Ted Koppel. It tells of the threats to the U.S. power grid such as the aforementioned cyber threats, the danger of an EMP (electromagnetic pulse), and the difficulties of getting repairs done should a large scale power grid failure occur.
What happens in a large scale power grid failure?
Think about what happens when stop lights stop working all at once. It could take hours just to go a few blocks during rush hour. Public transportation such as trains may stop running and you may have trouble just getting home from work.
Gas pumps may stop working.
I was once in a supermarket when electricity went out. The store manager announced they were closing all the checkout registers, except for one: the cash only register. When power goes out, most stores cannot process credit or debit transactions.
If cell towers keep working you may be able to pay using cell phone apps if you have the vendor’s app downloaded to your phone or tablet.
I was at work when the downtown area lost power in the middle of summer. There were generators for lighting but the elevators stopped running and the building quickly got very warm.
If power is out and internet is down, and you rely on these connections for work, you may not be able to earn money.
Water companies rely on electricity for water treatment. The water from the tap will become unsafe to drink
Nuclear power plants need electricity to cool their reactors. U.S. nuclear power plants are required to have backup systems to deal with power outages, but there is always a risk of lack of failure. We can still recall the disaster from Fukushima after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan back in 2011.
Lack of electricity would be a major problem for anyone relying on medical devices that require power such as breathing machines, dialysis, infusion pumps, etc. Diabetics who use insulin need refrigeration so they are at risk as well.
What you should do
Get prepared for a power outage. It does take a large disaster to lose power. We sometimes lose power due to extreme heat, when the power grid is overburdened.
1. Have at least two weeks or more worth of water, food, first aid and supplies. In case it’s not safe or feasible to go out, have an emergency power outage kit including plenty of water, food, lighting, a way to cook food, disposable plates and utensils, trash bags, first aid, your prescription medicines, personal care and activities to occupy your time.
2. You need a way to deal with waste – You’ll need a makeshift toilet, lots of heavy duty trash bags, cat litter, baking soda and bleach.
3. Don’t neglect fire safety Apartment dwellers are vulnerable to fire, due to proximity between units.
4. Have a way to defend yourself – Without power, security doors and alarms will fail. Find a way to make your apartment doors and windows more secure.
5. Find your escape routes – 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.
If you live within 50 miles of a nuclear power plant, you may need to evacuate if there is a nuclear disaster. You’ll need to plan your evacuation route as well. Stock up on potassium iodide pills for thyroid protection in the event of a nuclear emergency.
6. Communication 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.
8. Learn about food preservation. – Learn to dehydrate foods (even without a food dehydrator), preserve eggs, as well as what foods can last without a fridge.
9. Emergency cash – Without debit and credit transactions, cash is king. Keep a cash stash in a safe place.
10. Check your power outage supplies. If someone in your family is reliant on power for health reasons, get a generator if possible. You may also want to consider a portable refrigerator that can keep essential items cold. Solar garden lights can be left out all day and provide lighting indoors at night. Replace old batteries, get a solar charger, and portable power charges.
These are just beginning tips on preparing for a long term power outage. Ideally, we’d all have a bug out retreat that we can get to but not everyone has one. We all have to start somewhere and we can only to our best to prepare in our own circumstances.
About the author:
Bernie Carr is the founder of Apartment Prepper. She has written several books including the best-selling Prepper’s Pocket Guide, Jake and Miller’s Big Adventure, The Penny-Pinching Prepper and How to Prepare for Most Emergencies on a $50 a Month Budget. Her work appears in sites such as the Allstate Blog and Clark.com, as well as print magazines such as Backwoods Survival Guide and Prepper Survival Guide. She has been featured in national publications such as Fox Business and Popular Mechanics. Learn more about Bernie here.