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What If The Lights Stay Out?

July 4, 2012 by  

What If The Lights Stay Out?
A mangled mess of tree limbs and wires are seen in the aftermath of last week's storms in Takoma Park, Md.

Massive storms left nearly 2 million people in the United States without power, and some without basic emergency services, last weekend and early this week.

People scattered from Washington, D.C., through 10 States from Indiana to Delaware — including about 410,000 in West Virginia; 400,000 in Ohio; and 340,000 in Virginia — had no electricity by Monday evening after storms last Friday and Saturday devastated power infrastructure.

In Northern Virginia, a commercial power failure at Verizon, the company that operates the area’s 911 call systems, left residents unable to report emergencies over the weekend. While no deaths or serious injuries were reported, the incident highlights the importance of being prepared for a disaster that causes the power grid to fail.

Here are some basic things that everyone should have on hand for an emergency (from Bob Livingston’s How to Survive the Collapse of Civilization):

  • Weapons and plenty of ammunition (A handgun, 12-gauge shotgun, .22 rifle and larger caliber rifle  — .308 or 30-06 — would be excellent choices for whatever comes your way in defense or hunting needs.)
  • Good hunting knife and sharpening stone
  • Extra clothing, hats and boots
  • Fire starter kit
  • Candles, lanterns, matches, lighters
  • Extra fuel for your cook stove
  • Compass
  • Bear pepper spray (Even if you don’t live in bear territory this can be useful to help you deter looters or someone wishing to do harm.)
  • Rain gear
  • Tarpaulin
  • Fishing gear (rod, reel, stocked tackle box)
  • Chain saw and extra fuel
  • An axe and a hatchet or hand axe
  • File for sharpening axe and chain saw
  • Gas masks and extra filters
  • Vegetable seeds for planting a garden
  • Tools for tilling the ground and digging
  • A bicycle (It would give you alternate mode of transportation as long as the streets are safe to travel on.)

While many of the above preparations are for a long-term grid-down scenario and may seem excessive for a power outage, it is better to be prepared for the lights to stay off forever than to have to go about gathering these items after the fact.

It is also a good idea to have a store of clean water and non-perishable food on hand for the short term along with batteries, flashlights, medical kits and other “no-brainer” emergency supplies.

To brush up on your prepper skills, check out Personal Liberty’s “Survival and Self-sufficiency” section and Bob Livingston’s survival handbooks for practical survival advice.

Sam Rolley

Staff writer Sam Rolley began a career in journalism working for a small town newspaper while seeking a B.A. in English. After learning about many of the biases present in most modern newsrooms, Rolley became determined to find a position in journalism that would allow him to combat the unsavory image that the news industry has gained. He is dedicated to seeking the truth and exposing the lies disseminated by the mainstream media at the behest of their corporate masters, special interest groups and information gatekeepers.

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  • Wyatt

    Good thought here . I might add that individuals take a firearms safety course and learn to shoot . Also learn and practice how to use an axe and chainsaw . as well as take some sort of survival training or emergency preparedness training to add to their safety and stock an emergency supply of food for at least a weeks duration

    • Robert Smith

      Parts of New England were without power for over a week last fall. There was plenty of finger pointing but it all boiled down to one thing: The infrastructure wasn’t taken care of so rather than being slight outages it became a catastrophy. Why wasn’t it take care of?


      The utilities were once one of the most highly regulated of industries. Now greed has taken over and only minimal upkeep is taking place when something actually breaks rather than on a schedule.

      For some things in America it’s OK for society to take responsibility for takign care of things. It’s with the unleashed greed that our great American society is sliding. We need to stop it and get back to controlling SOME things so we are all better off.

      Otherwise with greed running things it’s guaranteed the guns and knives are going to be needed. Which is really better for your family? A crash of society or parts of it being regulated so a fall doesn’t occur?


      • SJJolly

        To deal with the greatly increased work load of a major disaster, power companies — and hospitals — need to maintain capacity in excess of normal needs. In the anti-government mood of our times, this is seen as government waste, if not fraud.

      • Charles Johnson

        Governments forced integration of power systems is the actual cause of wide spread failures. When on section of this stupid grid overloads it trips other sections into failure.

      • Robert Smith

        “When on section of this stupid grid overloads it trips other sections into failure.”

        That has always been the case. The huge East Coast Blackout of 65 or 66 proves that.

        The difference is that then by the end of the night almost everything was back on line and most folks had power. They didn’t have to move massive bunches of equipment and people in. It was simply logistical and cooridnating getting thigns back to normal. Then they did it over the phone with minimal computer usage.

        Today the grid goes down and it stays down, not because of a point source failure but because of a systemic failure, Because it gets to the bottom line to maintain (things as simple as clearing trees) the equipment is actually quite schetchy.

        It wasn’t the government that forced deregulation. It was big business who wanted it so they could make a killing. And, so they have. People do die in outages.

        For myself I keep a deep cycle 12 v. battery and an inverter for my CPAP. Last fall I run for 4 days on the battery. I charged it while I was at work (we had power there) and went for another three days when the grid came back.


      • Robert Smith

        Jolly says: “To deal with the greatly increased work load of a major disaster, power companies — and hospitals — need to maintain capacity in excess of normal needs.”

        In sentiment and partially in fact (because of the way the electric grid is set up) you are correct.

        For electrical needs the idea is to move large amounts of electricity generated at huge facilities great distances figuring that not all will have a peak at the same time. When the demand stresses supply with something like the universal heat wave we currently have it can result in the rolling brown-outs and outages.

        This particular problem can be solved with local generation with capacity built in that doesn’t cost a lot to be in stand-by mode. There is an inital cost but long term it will be way cheaper.

        But the current problem in DC, etc. isn’t a capacity issue. The equipment was destroyed. Part of it was that the huge winds tore stuff down, but a lot more was damaged than otherwise wouuld have been it the equipment had been properly taken care of.

        For hospitals it’s different. We actually do have the capacity to help in a high casualty event without having to build huge reserves in local areas. The NDMS ( was set up in the mid 1970s.

        This is an excellent example where no private entity could ever set such a thing up. ONLY the government can do it. Don’t believe it? Imagine some guy out on the tarmac swiping credit cards as folks are getting onto ambulances. No card, no treatment.


  • Sirian

    We suffered through several days without power about five years ago. But our power outage happened in the winter due to an ice storm that ravaged Oklahoma and surrounding states. Between all of the ice and snow it really slowed the crews from getting to and bringing the downed lines back up. Directly afterwards we got a 17kw emergency generator that will carry the entire house – well worth the expense. No, they aren’t cheap but again, well worth the time, trouble and cost. If you can get one, do! It’s never good in any sense of the word to not have a power backup. We learned our lesson the hard way. I just hope no one else will have to learn that lesson too.

    • Robert Smith

      That’s why the grid must be taken care of. It will never be perfect but it will cut the problems greatly. The only way we can do that is to get back to regulating the utilities like they were for almost a century before greed took over.


      • Sirian

        Regulations? Please, you must truly be a Cass Sunstein groupie.

      • An Individual

        This country is way over regulated as it is and it’s not about GREED (eeek, heaven forbid!) it is about POWER AND CONTROL…

      • phideaux

        Robert Smith you obviously have absolutely NO idea of what a major ice storm can do to the power grid. All the absolute best maintaince in the world won’t keep 2-3 inches of ice from bringing down miles of power lines both directly and by causing trees to fall on them. All the maintaince in the world will also not prevent major and lengthy power outages when a class 5 tornado goes through an area.

      • Robert Smith


        New England had massive outages for over a week last fall and now just over 6 months later DC and a bunch of geography around it is suffering.

        Please, show us any other such massive outages on such a scale for such a duragion that have occurred before.

        Yes, the NY outage of over 50 years ago took out much of the Northeast. That was in all the papers, but it wasn’t much more than over night for most.

        Any others of such a scale?

        It’s taken decades for the system to degrade as far as it has from neglect. There are more problems on the way unless America wakes up and realizes that letting greedy folks run things just doesn’t get the job done.


      • phideaux

        “New England had massive outages for over a week last fall …”

        Only a little over a week, that is nothing. The southern half of Arkansas was hit by a massive ice storm in 2000 and before they could even get started good on repairs another massive ice storm hit. Many people were without power for several weeks. As I said perfect maintaince would not and could not prevent that kind of damage and lack of maintaince would have little or no effect on the seriousness of the situation. Also, the presence or lack of maintaince would and could not prevent the kind of damage that occured from the straight line hurricane force winds that occured in the east recently.

      • Marten The Canadian Libertarian

        That’s why power lines should run underground, period….

      • Robert Smith

        Posted: “Also, the presence or lack of maintaince would and could not prevent the kind of damage that occured from the straight line hurricane force winds that occured in the east recently.”

        Actually it would. As you can see from the picture in the article, and common sense, if the trees had been properly removed as a threat to the lines there would have been less damage.

        During the NE storm last fall I only had to look out my window to see the trees that had fallen on the lines. That is the usual cause of a line falling. It is actually rare for a line to come down just because of ice. It does occur, but not as often as tree damage.


  • Tim Gabz

    I lived in Zimbabwe a Socialist melt down. You also need a really good 1st aid kit with 3 months supply of your essential daily medicine. Water purification system (Harare’s water is very toxic) and spare glasses/contact lenses. My bicycle was a Godsend as there was precious little fuel and I would do some 25miles in a working day earning a living as a Project Manager. It meant that others were laid off earlier because they discounted their value as they couldn’t move around.

    A whole load of tinned food. I keep water for the family as 5liters a day for cooking eating 3 days minimum. Your family needs 4pints water a day per person for a week mimimum reserve. Candels are essential as are good torches. I have mini and 3Dcell Maglites that are over 10yrs. My cheap ones failed inside a year and they didn’t have back up bulbs.

    Spare batteries and bulbs, rechargebles (solar) – matches ………..

    • granny mae

      Tim finally someone with some common sense on here. Most of these people loose track of the subject here and go off on some other rant ! The subject here is not who or what caused the crisis the subject is the crisis and what to do about it to make your life better till the crisis id over. Being prepared is what this whole blog is all about and if people have been on here for any length of time they should know by now that all of us on here have encouraged everyone to get and be prepared for anything that may come your way. We will be going through a lot of crisis in the future months so stop complaining about who’s fault it is and concentrate on getting prepared. You did well to have yourself prepared Tim so good for you.

  • SJJolly

    Don’t forget equipment to rig up solar water distillers, for when even water purification chemicals won’t do the job. On the most basic level, this consists of a waste basket, a plastic trash bag, a coin, and a cup.

  • FreedomFighter

    What If The Lights Stay Out?

    Within 6 months more than 100 million would die, or be close to death. Society would be in Mad Max mode, the world would probably be at war, Obama would be dictator of America

    BTW those 100 million that died, were the same people laughing at/ignoring prepers.

    Laus Deo
    Semper Fi

    • Robert Smith

      “BTW those 100 million that died, were the same people laughing at/ignoring prepers.”

      Or folks who don’t have the disposible income because they live in poverty and just can’t do anything about it.

      As a society do you want to just watch them die? Is that what America is about?


      • Nadzieja Batki

        You argue and pose stupid questions just to hear the keyboard strokes.

      • Robert Smith

        No answeres, huh?


      • phideaux

        Nadzieja gave you a clear answer you are just to dense to recognize it.

      • Deerinwater

        Nadzieja is always good for a 7 word cynical sentence. ~

        That seem to be the extent of his usefulness here to date.

        If he’s load with something worth sharing, I wish he’d laid it down for review instead of his childish Nanny Nanny Poo Poo games.

      • Liberty4Me

        Robert Smith,

        I don’t want to watch anyone die. I don’t have much disposable income but that income I do have is used to prepare for what may come to include solar EMP, hurricane, earthquake or financial meltdown. Just because I choose to prepare does not mean I have the responsibility to take care of strangers who chose not to prepare.
        Government and society is not there to take care of you. We have over time accepted that false premise but the only person who is in position to know what you need and how to take care of you is you. Government, on the other hand, is full of lazy, corrupt and inept politicians and bureaucrats who are more interested in gaining promotion, power and padding their retirement.
        I would rather teach people how to be self-sufficient in a disaster and help them think on ways they can prepare within their own budget rather than buying the latest IPAD, IPHONE, XBOX or going out to see the latest Batman, Spiderman or what have you.

    • former walmart person

      I agree about a Mad Max style AMerica, but how could Obama be dictator when he has to use technology of the late 1800s? Local police could be dictators of their little communitites, but in addition to losing out video games, food production capacity, and ability to watch American Idol, that also means the mainstream media propaganda is offline, and the technocracy used by the technocratic elite to track and trace us is also offline. Anarchy will reign and you will have local warlord dictators not unlike MAd Max at all, except the gasoline would run out WAY SOONER than bullets.

  • Renée

    To all those that do nothing but complain, if you have better advice, write it down for all of us to see. No one will be able to afford everything, that’s a given BUT, I see people on a regular basis..on welfare for instance that have the most expensive phones, eat out all the time and waste the money they do have. I can’t afford luxuries but I choose to spend my money on necessities and not on a $200 a month phone bill. It comes down to choice and what is immportant to an individual and at this point isn’t that their right. People are told daily to prepare for an emergency and if they don’t it’s their choice. When you go to the store and buy canned spaghetti sauce, buy two and put one away even those that don’t have a lot of money can do simple things like that. Ask neighbors if they have empty water bottles and fill them and put them away for a few months. After a few months use that water in your toilet or to water your plants and refill them. Even the poor can do something small that will help them out in the long run. Rather than buy McDonalds everyday, which many people do, buy something that can be stored and food from the grocery store, prepare your own food, it’s a lot less expensive in the long run than eating out, use that extra money to buy a box of matches and a candle! I don’t have disposable income by any means, we are on a VERY fixed income but I read, I learn, I try, and I do the best I can. it’s a choice. For those that can’t afford weapons, wasp spray is an affordable non lethal weapon, it shoots up to 22 feet and will cost about $4.00.
    Here is a little fable, but in real life it doesn’t end this way, it ends with those that want what you have steal from those that have worked their backsides off to have it or, the gov, wants you to give it up to those that didn’t don’t do anything or put you in jail for being a terroist because you have extra food, etc. (The U.S. Government, Considers those who have FOOD STORAGE for more than 7 days, Missing Fingers and have Guns are Terrorist! Rand Paul said “The U.S. Citizens can be taken to Foreign Prisons for those reason)

    The Ant and the Grasshopper
    In a field one summer’s day a Grasshopper was hopping about, chirping and singing to its heart’s content. An Ant passed by, bearing along with great toil an ear of corn he was taking to the nest.
    “Why not come and chat with me,” said the Grasshopper, “instead of toiling and moiling in that way?”
    “I am helping to lay up food for the winter,” said the Ant, “and recommend you to do the same.”
    “Why bother about winter?” said the Grasshopper; we have got plenty of food at present.” But the Ant went on its way and continued its toil. When the winter came the Grasshopper had no food and found itself dying of hunger, while it saw the ants distributing every day corn and grain from the stores they had collected in the summer. Then the Grasshopper knew: It is best to prepare for the days of necessity.

    If you know someone that needs help give them a list of things they can do…NOW. I’ve added a website that you can print out and hand to them. and encourage them with affordable ways to be prepared. I went to each of my neighbors with a printout of the page below, a pound of beans, a pound of rice, a gallon of water and I was able to come across small first aid kits at the dollar store and gave them one of those plus a box of matches. That was a $5 emergency kit. It got them started. What kind of neighbor will you be in an emergency. I didn’t want to wait for an emergency to get them prepared.

    • Susie

      You are awesome! Thanks. Now everyone get their friends, families and neighborhoods moving. These items can be given for birthdays, Christmas, ANY occassion you’re going to buy something for someone. I told my family awhile back that I was not going to given them one more thing that was not useful and they were very appreciative. The time is short and each item truly is worth its weight in gold.

  • Benjamin Fox

    At least God in His wisdom let Washington DC see His power but, since a little god is in charge there, I’m sure this half white, half black lying messiah will put his egoist nose in the air and laugh? I know who gets the last laugh and the little god man will visit a very hot place where nobody cares about his ego.

  • Tim Gabz

    I am so very dissapointed at those who complain and believe that Govt will rescue them. Please read up on Zimbabwe. This happened in our recent times. Govt was the cause and tried fixing through chucking new laws to control the melt dowm.

    There is one heck of alot people can do on a very restricted budget to ensure 3 months survival. The first is accepting that it is possible, the second getting educated on it. I am on 1/2 salary and wife is unemployed, we get no benefits what so ever – however I have stored my reserves built up over the past 6 months. Some kit is 10 years old. My genset is 12 years and I hustled for it. It is small but it will do for essentials.

    As for the poor, they starved in Zimbabwe. Wealthy were stripped of wealth and starved. The prepared survived. There was no laughing but intitially alot of finger pointing.

    Wake up. 90%+ of those who will be in crisis could prevent it now. The less people in crisis the better when things go wrong and the easier to care for the elderly and disabled. How on earth will the 5% prepared, the 5% unprepared but sound part of the population support the 90% when they are not generating wealth?

  • Deerinwater

    I would encourage every American household to practice Black Out conditions and find their weakest areas of concern. ~

    Many of the problems that you will experience in a “black-out” , you can do something about quickly and do it cheaply.

    While some takes more , time, effort and cash to address.

    I lord over aging parents, ~ They are much like perishables, ~ I’ve redundant back-ups to everything but waste water.

    During my Chief Engineer Seaman days, it comes natural for me. Ships are 100% self contained floating cities with a multitude of backups, There is plan A,B,C,D,E, F & G.
    Ships don’t stay afloat by accident.

    Throw the main disconnect in your home someday and see how everyone reacts to it.

    Some problems require address quickly, some you have some time to address.

    You need to be self sustaining for 36 hour in heat of summer or cold of winter.

  • JimH

    In our area the state “regulates” the power company.
    When they needed to upgrade the grid they didn’t have the money to do it.
    The asked the “state” if they could raise the rates to get money to upgrade the grid and were told, NO.
    Now we opperate on a 50 year old grid.
    Thankyou, government regulation.
    Rob’s kind and benevelent, over bearing,big government to the rescue.

    • Robert Smith

      “When they needed to upgrade the grid they didn’t have the money to do it.”

      I’ll bet it went to huge salaries and stockholders.

      I’d like to see a balance sheet for whatever “state” you are yammering about. I’ll bet it’s driven by greed.


      • JimH

        Rob, And you know this how?
        What power company am I talking about? Tell me your source of their finances.You don’t even know what state I’m “yammering” about.
        You don’t let knowing NOTHING of what you’re talking about stop you.

      • Liberty4Me

        Rob constantly yaps about GREED but he misses the point that the only greed here is his greed for others to pay for his perceived safety. He is too stingy to prepare himself for what may happen. He wants other to dish out so he can sit back and enjoy what they work so hard for.

  • Tim Gabz

    72 hours is your basic minimum time that you lay aside equipment. If everyone was prepared for 3 months basics then if a massive wipeout occured contingencies and reconstruct could occure from ground up. Still a whole lot of ill people will succumb.

    If 90% is unprepared then we will see society screech to a violent halt when 90% of the population is starving and struggling. Without medications – dying. Organising reconstruction under chaos is very difficult.

  • DireWolf

    Your article is very good and helpful, thanks. Another factor if the lights stay out will be that those in need of medication to sustain their life will be in dire straights. Should the grid stay down for any lengthy time, or for good, many will die for lack of medications.

    There is not one aspect of our lives that does not depend upon electricty, without which our society will devolve into chaos where the strong and smart (prepared) will survive.


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