It finally happens and you hear it… or rather, you don’t hear it. You don’t hear anything at all. Everything just seems so quiet. Must have been how things were, before all the cars and machinery entered our lives. Things just seem to have come to a stop, like the power grid went out. Oh wait, the power grid did go out. Now, what do we do?
The loss of the grid, whether through an EMP attack, terrorism or cyberwarfare is the nightmare scenario – everything we depend on coming to a complete stop. If ever there was a difficult survival scenario for us to face, this is it. Modern society is so dependent on electrical power to operate, that the loss of the grid would leave most people at a loss for what to do.
Many have talked about the loss of the grid as returning us to living like the 1800s, but it’s not… it’s worse. At least our ancestors who lived back in the 1800s knew how to do without all the things that we’ll be doing without. We won’t. We will have to depend on ourselves and our own resourcefulness for the most basic of necessities. Things that our infrastructure now provide for us, will no longer exist, unless we can reproduce them ourselves. That’s just what we’ll have to do if we want to survive.
So, here’s my “top ten” list of things we will need to have ready, so that we can meet our own needs, when society no longer can meet them for us.
#1. The first thing we’d better concern ourselves with is heating our homes. Of all the things that could kill us in a grid-down scenario, the fastest and easiest killer is hypothermia. Without electricity, it doesn’t matter what source of heating we’re used to using… it will be out. We’ll need something else.
For most of us, this means heating with wood; using a fireplace or wood-burning stove. Of the two, the wood-burning stove will provide us with the most heat. It’s also easier to install. But the big question is fuel. How much firewood do you have? Where can you get more? How can you haul it home?
#2. Without electricity, we won’t have a municipal water system, with fresh, clean water delivered right to our homes. While it might run for a day or two, until the gas for the generator is used up and the water in the tanks runs out; but that’s about it. After that, we’re either going to have to haul water from a nearby river or lake, or we’re going to have to harvest it from rainwater or a well.
No matter how much water you have stockpiled, you can be sure it’s not enough. Even a swimming pool full of water will only last so long. You’re going to need more than that. So it’s best to be ready to harvest your water right from nature, preferably on your own property.
#3. In a post-disaster world, you’ll have to assume that all water is suspect. That means drinking only water that you have purified. While you can use unpurified water for a lot of things, you can’t ingest it in any way. That means purifying enough water for drinking, cooking and washing the dishes at a minimum.
Most people count on filtration for water purification. There’s nothing wrong with that. There are a number of excellent water filters on the market. But what are you going to do, when you run out of filters? You’ll need something else, in addition to that filtration system, to make sure that you can continue to have clean water to drink.
#4. Most of us cook over either electric or gas stoves. Even so, the gas stoves depend on electricity as well. While most gas pumping stations generate their own electricity to run their pumps, chances are that they will shut down as well. Even if they don’t shut down automatically from the loss of electric power, they will probably be shut down by the operators, as a safety measure.
This will mean that we are left without our most common method of cooking food. The most likely replacement, once again, will be wood, with people turning to barbecue grills or fire pits to cook in. Another option is using solar power for cooking, with some sort of solar oven.
#5. The beginning of prepping for most people is to build a stockpile of food. That’s something that just never seems to end. No matter how much you have, there’s always a desire to reach the next level, increasing your preparedness just a little bit more.
Don’t forget to have some off-site caches of food as well, in case you are forced to abandon your home. you never know what might cause you to need to bug out and you might not be able to take it all with you.
Of course, food isn’t the only thing you need to stockpile, it’s just the most obvious. You’re going to need everything from fuel to sewing needles. So, even if you start with food, be ready to expand your thinking, adding everything else you’re going to need.
#6. No matter how big your food stockpile is, it will eventually run out. That’s why many preppers are turning to grow their own food at home. even if you have a huge stockpile to use, growing your own will allow you to extend that stockpile out, surviving longer.
In the case of some of those disastrous causes of the grid going down, there’s a good chance that it will take over a decade to bring things back online again. With that being the case, it’s unlikely that your food stockpile will be enough, no matter how big it is. Whether or not you survive will depend a lot on your ability to grow enough food to meet your needs.
#7. If you’re going to be growing all that food, you’re going to need to preserve it as well. Food preservation probably started with our ancestors trying to survive the most common disaster of all… Old Man Winter. Without the ability to hunt or gather, the only food that those ancestors had to keep them alive through the winter was whatever they had harvested and dried.
Today, we have a number of food preservation techniques available to choose from. But you’d better learn how to do those, as well as stockpiling the necessary supplies. Don’t skimp on the salt, as that is needed for just about every method of preserving food.
#8. One of the trickier areas we have to be ready to take care of is our own health. While doctors and other health care professionals won’t just disappear, there will be severe shortages of the supplies they use. If you don’t have your own, you might just be out of luck.
But don’t just depend on having those supplies, you’d better have a pretty good idea of how to use them, as well. Without electrical power, you won’t be able to just go to the corner station and fill up your car’s tank. So you might not be able to get to wherever any doctors are anyway. In that case, critical things, like first-aid will become of prime importance.
#9. While waste disposal isn’t a glamorous part of survival, it is a necessary one. Human waste is one of the ways that disease travels around. Without the ability to quarantine it or dispose of it, your body’s own waste could become one of the most toxic things you deal with. Digging an outhouse isn’t all that high tech a solution, but it’s one that takes time, muscle and tools. It’s nice to have some lime on hand as well.
Of course, that’s not the only kind of waste you’re going to be dealing with, just the most dangerous. What about packaging from the food and other supplies you’ll be using? You’ll need to have some way of dealing with that too, in order to keep it from taking over and showing everyone how well you’re stocked. Even if that means nothing more than burning it, you will still have to deal with the cans and the ashes from that fire.
#10. Lighting isn’t as much a need as it is a convenience. You could just do everything during daylight and then go to sleep when the sun goes down. However, we are accustomed to having more hours in the day to use, because of lighting our homes. Having some way of doing that, after the power goes out, will give you more usable time for your many survival tasks.
I’m a firm believer in flashlights, but I also recognize their limitations. Once your battery supply runs out, those fancy tactical flashlights and headlamps won’t do you the least bit of good. You’ll need to revert to something simpler, like candles and oil lamps. Do you have any way of making more oil?
#11. With everything listed above, chances are that you’re eventually going to attract the attention of those people who aren’t prepared. When that happens, you can count on them knocking on your door, asking you for help. Whether or not you help them is up to you, but the reality is that you can’t feed the world.
Turning people away is only a temporary solution. They’ll be back, trying again. If you keep refusing help to them, they’ll eventually come prepared to take it; and take your life as well, if that’s what’s necessary to get what you have. You’ve got to be ready for that eventuality, just like everything else.
Home defense is more than just buying guns and ammo. You’ve got to make your home defensible, essentially turning it into a fortress, preferably without doing so in an obvious way. You’ll also need a defensive plan, that you’ve practiced so that you know what to do when the time comes.
That’s my list, and it’s really just the basics. I can think of a lot of other things I’d add, like the ability to make and repair your own tools. But those aren’t the basic needs; they’re more like additional useful skills for long-term survival and rebuilding society. What would you add to this list?