Imagine this country without electricity. No, not in the 19th century, when everyone was used to hand-operated tools and industry ran on water and steam power; now, when we’re surrounded by electrically-powered gadgets wherever we go.
Imagine that, in the middle of a normal day, the power grid just suddenly stopped.
It would be a disaster, wouldn’t it? Forget the small stuff for a moment; yes, your house would be dark and none of your modern devices would work anymore, but at first, that would be lost in the sheer scale of the chaos.
Driving would instantly become far more dangerous, as stop lights failed. Airplanes would have to get back down on the ground with no ground-to-air radio or navigation systems.
Most communications would fail – not just cellphones, but most of our landlines too. Only old-fashioned phones would keep working, and outside of earthquake hotspots like San Francisco who has those anymore?
However, here you can learn a very simple and inexpensive way that you can maintain the continuity of comms even without a grid.
And then, once you finally make it through the collapse of society and make it home, you have to deal with all the small stuff. The house is dark and nothing works.
The gas and water are out because somewhere along the network that brings them to your home, something relies on electricity.
The scale of disruption that an electrical blackout would cause in the US is hard to imagine, let alone describe.
How Big Is The Risk?
Is a blackout like this something we need to worry about, though? Is there a real risk of it happening? Unfortunately, the answer is yes. In fact it’s less a question of if it’s going to happen, and more like when. The ugly truth is that our electrical grid isn’t in great shape, and it’s vulnerable to multiple threats.
When we think about threats to our electricity supply we tend to focus on dramatic events like an EMP attack, or even solar activity like a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME). There’s no doubt that either of those events could instantly cause chaos on a massive scale.
What most people don’t realize, though, is just how precarious the US electrical grid has become. In fact, even if a hostile state (or the sun) doesn’t decide to take it down, there’s a real risk of it just falling over on its own.
The US power grid is vulnerable to extreme weather in a way most Europeans have long forgotten about. While their power cables run safely underground, most of ours are still hanging from utility poles where they can be damaged by high winds or ice.
There are parts of the US where winter blackouts are a regular enough event that most people are prepared for them. In hurricane season, much of the southeast is also ready for the power to go off. To some extent this is inevitable.
Compared to any European country, the US is immense. It just isn’t realistic for us to bury all our power cables. Unfortunately, decades of under-investment in the grid have made things a lot worse.
Is Our Grid In Good Condition?
A lot of our power infrastructure is antiquated. It was designed in a time when the US population was a lot smaller than it is now, and when every home used a lot less electricity.
Now it just can’t keep up with demand – even if there’s enough power to meet that demand, which there often isn’t.
Over the decades since, utility companies have focused on keeping prices low and profits high, and they haven’t spent money on upgrading, modernizing or, often, even repairing the grid.
Seventy percent of our power lines are approaching the end of their planned 50-year lifespan, and some experts think it could take $2 trillion just to catch up after decades of neglect.
Now the Biden administration is spending trillions on infrastructure, but it isn’t replacing old power lines and building new ones. Instead, the money is being poured into renewable energy.
That has its own problems; replace gas power plants with wind and solar, and there are going to be times when it’s cold, dark and still.
People will want power to heat and light their homes – but the wind turbines and solar panels won’t be delivering it. That, alone, is going to cause local and regional blackouts.
What Do We Do Now?
So that’s where we are. Our power grid is struggling to cope with the load we put on it right now; blackouts are becoming routine in some states.
Overall, the average American is left without electricity for eight hours a year – but in many places it’s much worse than that.
Ultra-liberal California is one of the worst affected, but blackout warnings in the Midwest are also on the rise.
We have an electrical system built for a population of 200 million where every house owned one TV, a washer and a refrigerator; it’s trying to cope with a population of 340 million, where every house has aircon, multiple TVs, a host of smaller appliances and a dozen electronic devices that need regular charging.
Our grid can’t handle the demand anymore, and it’s starting to fall apart. While you cannot prevent a blackout from happening, what you can do is become less and less reliant on the grid. And when it will fail you, you better be as prepared as possible. Fortunately, there is a guide called No Grid Survival Projects specifically created to teach you how to be independent and survive the next American blackout.
Prepping for an EMP attack or coronal mass ejection means you’re also ready for a plain old blackout as parts – or all – of our grid just collapses under the intolerable demand being loaded onto it.
The thing is, we need to be realistic about the odds of our preps being needed. An EMP is something that might happen, but blackouts will happen.
It’s time to go back over the preps we’ve made for the day the power goes off, and make sure we’re really ready to cope with that. Because we’re going to have to.
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