What Will You Do When the Lights Go Out?

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Top Tier Gear USA

Some people believe that we are hurtling towards physical disaster with our delicate electrical grid. Just how that disaster might occur is open for debate, but we need only look at major power outages over the last few years to see how precarious our grasp on electricity is. It isn’t a matter of “if” the lights will go out, but a matter of “when”.

Severe weather has given the grid a walloping over the past few years. For example, three years ago, parts of Kentucky, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Indiana, Illinois, West Virginia and Missouri suffered through 3 weeks sans power after a record-setting ice storm. Last summer, people in the Washington, DC metropolitan area were without power for a week during a heat wave as the result of a severe thunderstorm accompanied by high winds. And most recently, of course, we have witnessed the plight of the victims of Hurricane Sandy as they have struggled to function in the most populated area in the United States without electricity and running water, all while attempting to clean up the detritus of the massive storm.

Mother Nature could have other tricks up her sleeve with the possibility of a solar flare-related coronal mass ejection that could cause not only outages but irreparable damage to items powered by electricity. Many countries have developed EMP (electromagnetic pulse) weapons that could perpetrate the same type of damage.

Yet another grim possibility is that as the economy continues to degrade, more and more people simply won’t be able to afford to keep the electricity on in their homes.

However it happens, whether it’s for 3 weeks or for the long haul, we need to learn to function differently than we do right now. We need to reduce our dependency on municipally delivered power and either create our own power or simplify to the extent that we need less power.

Many preppers spend hundreds to even thousands of dollars on generators. Most of these are powered by gasoline, although some are fueled by propane.  These investments would certainly be handy during a short term outage but are they really worth the money? This really depends on two things: your ability to store fuel and your budget.

  1. If you live in surburbia, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to have hundreds of gallons of gasoline stored in a shed in the back yard – not only will regulations prohibit this, but there simply won’t be the space on a typical in-town property.
  2. Will purchasing a generator mean that you have to sacrifice other things in your prepping budget? Will you still have enough food to get through an extended supply emergency?  Will you be able to afford a water filtration system? What about first aid supplies, seeds, books and home defense items?

The next consideration is the probable length of the emergency. Many people in New York and New Jersey had generators, but only enough gasoline for 2-3 days. Who can forget the long lines where people waited for hours to only be allowed to purchase 5 gallons of gasoline? Depending on the generator and what appliances are being powered, 5 gallons will supply 3-8 hours of electricity. When you do the math, in the event of a long-term emergency complete with fuel shortages, a gasoline generator is not going to be a long-term solution for most.

Other options (I have not researched these methods because they are currently out of reach for me, so I can’t go into detail on the pros and cons) are solar power, wind power and harnessing the energy of nearby running water. Consider your environment before investing in these systems in order to purchase the one that will be most in line with the area in which you live.

So what can you do? If you can’t afford to have an off-grid electrical system installed at your home, does this mean that you are destined for an over-crowded shelter, or worse, doomed to failure in the event of a down-grid situation?


This just means you have to adapt your requirements.

First, check things out at your home or retreat. Make a list of the items that you use every day that require electrical power.

Then, look at your list and scratch off the items that are absolutely unnecessary – the television, the video game console, the microwave in the kitchen, etc. (If you have those things – we downsized a great deal before relocating here.)


See what you have left.  Of these items, how can you supply your needs without electrical power?  Here are some examples from my family’s list and the solutions that we either have or have planned:

  • Lights:  Solar garden lights, candles, kerosene lights
  • Heat: Wood stove, small propane heater for the bathroom or kitchen for the coldest days, 2 large canisters of propane
  • Cooking: Wood stove, nutritious home-canned meals that only require reheating, small and large cast-iron dutch ovens to use on wood stove, sun oven, outdoor fireplace
  • Refrigeration: Large cooler to be packed with snow in the winter and used indoors, a plastic storage bench that is lockable to be used outdoors in the winter (the lock is to keep 4 legged critters out of it), root cellar for summer, change of eating habits in summer
  • Water:  (our well runs on an electric pump and we rent, so unfortunately we can’t modify this) 1 month supply of drinking water stored, Berkey water filtration system, buckets along with a sled or wheel barrow depending on the season, for bringing up water from the lake for flushing, filtration and cleaning.

Anything else, we can really live without. These are the things which are vital, and the solutions are all long-term.

Now, apply this to your own situation. Find as many solutions as possible for the issues you would face if going for weeks (or longer) without power. You must stay warm, eat, and drink. Everything else is a bonus.

Some people like to give arguments as to why they can’t resolve these issues. They live in an apartment, they rent, they have a limited budget….the list is as long as indefinite detention. The fact is, by realizing these things are necessary and refusing to face them and find solutions for your particular situation, you are setting your family up to suffer, and possibly even die, when it could be avoided.

I like electricity. I like the convenience of turning on a light at the switch, of putting ice cubes in my water in the summer and watching a movie after making popcorn on the stove. But will I die without those things? No. Anything electrical that is vital to life has a back-up.

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Contributed by Daisy Luther of The Organic Prepper.

Daisy Luther is a freelance writer and editor who lives in a small village in the Pacific Northwestern area of the United States.  She is the author of The Pantry Primer: How to Build a One Year Food Supply in Three Months. On her website, The Organic Prepper, Daisy writes about healthy prepping, homesteading adventures, and the pursuit of liberty and food freedom.  Daisy is a co-founder of the website Nutritional Anarchy, which focuses on resistance through food self-sufficiency. Daisy’s articles are widely republished throughout alternative media. You can follow her on Facebook, Pinterest,  and Twitter, and you can email her at daisy@theorganicprepper.ca

For more news and breaking information visit www.DaisyLuther.com

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  • BadAmerican

    Hi Daisy:

    Good article.

    Two is one, one is none. I am severely redundant when it comes to power options. I have solar options and generators for electricity, more for use if a major cleanup is required.

    Day to day short term power loss is just like camping.It will give me a chance to try out some of my tacticool stuff.

    I have several action plans for long term grid failure, depending on degree of hardship.

    ….’sides, chocolate tastes better in the dark…lol

    …Be safe…stay the course…xxxooo…BA.

  • Lowtolerance

    I have 4000 gallons of water storage in my back yard here. It cost me $200 at walmart (+75 for a good winter cover). In the summer we swim in it. I am in Texas, might not work so well in Wisconsin… It is not the most rugged thing, admittedly, but it has been there three years now, so it has surprised me to say the least. Yeah, a pocket knife could take it out, but if it were “under attack” we would be long gone from here…

  • Repressed

    When the lights go out I plan to go to sleep. If they don’t come back on again then I guess we will all be living a green lifestyle permanently. I hear all these preppers saying they will survive. I laugh because it really depends on how big the group is that wants your stuff. Enough “zombies” and you loose.

    Statistics say that 80-85% of the population will die within the first year. Look around you. That is 8 of the 10 folks standing near you that will die. If the guy next to you looks he sees a different 8 out of 10. So really your only chance is pure luck with a hint of prep and skills rolled in.

    You have to survive all the obsticles faced for at least the first 9 months to stand a chance, skills or no skills. After that it may, MAY get better but I dont think so. SO my preps include a responsible exit plan. I know the odds of playing the lottery and I know my odds of surviving the first 9 months of no power in this country.

    As a society we have lost the capacity to ‘survive’ and no matter how much you plan and try you are still dependant on the system. Even the mormons and amish rely on products that are mass produced. Let me give you a couple examples; know any good blacksmiths? how about any good herbalist doctors? who out there hangs out with thier local gravedigger? Just these 3 professions alone will be required to survive 10 years. There are a few but how many? Lets take weapons into account. Guns only last for so long if you have no shell cases. The tech to stamp shell cases requires skills that almost no one has. They make good clubs after that.

    How many preppers can swing an axe for 3 hours a day AND then go plow or harvest for the next 10 hours, EVERYDAY, FOREVER!!! Damn look around you at the population. More than 95% are screwed if you are required to actually work to survive. Most preppers are so because they CANNOT work like that everyday.

    So I say again, when the lights go out I will go to sleep and if they stay out I will stay asleep. I am a product of our technology and was not made to survive and when I look around I see 10 out of 10 that wont either. Enjoy the stuggle though, maybe you wont suffer to badly before reality catches up to you and yours.

  • Ed_B

    Those who are not competent to survive will die. That’s all. If that is your fate and you have done nothing to change it, then so be it. Those who are prepared will have a FAR better chance to come through a SHTF situation than you and millions of other sheeple. You will not survive because you have NO idea how. This does not mean that others are as incompetent. Many are but those who prep generally are not.

    Could I work 18 hours a day every day? Nope, but then I do not need to. Having a lot of freeze-dried and canned food means that I do not have to grow and preserve every bite of food I consume, at least for the first 2-3 years. Plus, as a member of a good sized family, we all pitch in and help with whatever needs doing. I am not a blacksmith either but I do know how to work with metal, wood, leather, glass, and can weld. Others will have skills I do not and we can work together to provide more than either of us can provide separately.

    As to ammo… buy LOTS of it and an inexpensive reloading press + ammo components. This can be kept and used very effectively for many years. A good hunter can bag game regularly with only a few rounds of ammo, so ammo consumption will be low unless defending the place against marauders. Other weapons will also be brought to bear in that case, however.

    A .22 rifle is one of the best survival arms available today and one could easily store 10,000 or more rounds of ammo for it. While not reloadable, the .22 is still a lot of bang for the buck. It is accurate and an excellent small to medium game getter. So is a good Wrist-Rocket type sling-shot or a bow and arrows or cross-bow.

    Survival is not a gift. It is a prize that can be won by those who are prepared to do so.

    • OldGuy

      Ed I guess you missed represseds’ point a little. I dont think he is saying he is not a prepper. I think he is saying that the odds that even a prepper will survive the first year are slim. Hungry, scared, armed (you know how many guns have been sold this year alone right?) masses will leave the cities and overrun most of the countryside in the first month. When most of those die you will be fighting diseases. After that the more organised gangs will start collecting resources. You are going to need a bunch of luck in that BoB along with your #10 cans and Katadyne filter.

      You are both right but Ed you know what they say about assuming right, it will get you killed. I never once assumed repressed was not prepared. He has a different view for sure though.

  • Repressed

    I have to assume you are responding to me without actually responding to me. I also figure you will check back to see if you get a rise out of me like I did out of you.

    You have many vaild points but missed so many hidden statements in my comment. Take another read at what I said mixed in with what I wrote. I never said I did not have preps. Read the first 3 paragraphs again and pay attention.

    I also never said I was ‘incompetent’ but I KNOW that I am not capable of surviving long without the technology that all of us have relied on our entire lives. I know there are some that have been living this lifestyle for years and are better adapted to it than the rest of us.

    Now sunshine re-read the last 3 paragraphs again. I stated the obvious and will not re-write it for those that can’t comprehend. I will say this. I have been in the prepper society for over 20 years in addition to 9 years military. I have watched the folks come and go and most go because it is inconvenient to be a “real” prepper. Many that stay are still incapable of surviving. Once the supplies run out they are lost.

    Your idea of a group environment is spot on and you say you have knowledge of many things. Now how good is that working knowledge without power. What good is welding after the tanks are empty? Again long term plans anyone? A real survivalist and hunter will not use a gun unless it absolutly necessary, you know because it gives away your position in a SHTF situation and the leeches WILL come for your supplies. Most of them have “other weapons that will be brought to bear” in the taking of your goodies. If you are over-run you will leave all your stuff behind.

    I am at least honest and not running on ego and hyperbole. “Survival is not a gift. It is a prize that can be won by those who are prepared to do so.” I agree but I am also a realist and know that not everyone can or will survive TEOTWAWKI no matter thier knowledge, preps or effort. That is what I am prepared for. Are you?

    • OldGuy

      Dude, a real prepper does not argue with zombies that eating brains will not make you smarter. Good luck to you.