What to Do When the Lights Go Out?

Energy utility pole
Cityscape with energy utility pole in the dark

The only people who will be able to weather the storm are those that had the foresight to plan ahead. I don't know about the rest of you but, during a blackout, what I normally do is sit around with flashlights and candles and wait for the power to come back on.

But what would happen if the power didn't come back on that day, or that week, or even that month or longer? Would you be able to continue with your daily routine? Or would you be like everyone else waiting, hoping, and even praying that the power comes back on? 

The truth is that we, as a society, are woefully dependent upon our technology, and without electricity, most of that technology is completely useless.

I have nothing against modern technology at all. I love my smart phone, my laptop, and my satellite television as much as other people do. But the difference between me and most other people is that, if there is a long term blackout, I am confident in my ability to protect and provide for my family. The reason I am so confident is simple; I'm prepared.

What to Expect When It Becomes Clear That the Power Isn't Coming Back On Anytime Soon

When a blackout occurs, things tend to remain fairly normal for a while. Most people expect that in the next hour or so the power company will have everything up and running again. But when that doesn't happen, people start to get nervous, and in about a week's time at most, there is usually some level of civil unrest developing.

Once people realize that the lights aren't coming back on for at least a while, panic quickly sets in, and violence erupts in the streets. People break into stores and steal food and water, and those who were once close friends turn on each other fighting for the supplies they need. Criminals also take advantage of the situation.

With the turmoil happening all around you, and violence a major threat, the last place you want to be is out in the middle of all this. But, that's exactly where you are going to be forced to be if you hadn’t prepared ahead of time. The fact is that as human beings, you and your family have needs that have to be met.

You need food, water, and shelter. You need these things, and if there is a major blackout and you hadn't prepared ahead of time, then, you are going to be in a lot of trouble. Instead of being able to stay sheltered and safe at home, you will be forced to put yourself in harm's way in an attempt to provide for your family.

The worst part is that, even if you are willing to risk going out in public, the chances of you actually finding anything that can help your family will be very minimal. That's because everybody else will be out looting and attempting to get to the same supplies that you are searching for.

By this point, I'm sure you've heard about my story, but it bears mentioning for those that aren't aware of it. Some time back, I was nearly assaulted by a man for no real reason at all. I walked away from the incident because the man chose not to pursue a fight, but for a few tense moments there, I was completely at his mercy.

Hating that feeling of helplessness, I began to train in self-defense. This interest then led me into learning about survival, which is why I'm talking to you today about what to do if the lights go out and don't come back on.

Keychain dynamo flashlight

You could also consider a Dynamo Flashligh (picture by Lionel Allorge, via Wikimedia Commons)

When most people think about stockpiling in case of a blackout, they start with candles, batteries, and flashlights. These are all good items that you should have at hand in case of any emergency. However, you can't eat a flashlight; you need food.

You need water; you need medicine. Many people don't stop and think that, in the event of a long term power outage, it will be hard to access basic life necessities. Sure the government may try to deliver disaster relief packages but, do you really want to be dependent on others for your survival? Or do you want to be ready for it yourself?

American Redcross first aid kit

Keep a household first aid kit and a disaster preparedness backpack kit (American Red Cross First Aid Kit pictured offered for sale)

Start By Securing Your Home

Step one in preparing for any disaster, including a long term one, is to make sure that your home is safe, secure, and fortified to the best of your ability. Now, you don't have to turn your home into a fortress, but, you should take steps to make it impregnable by thieves and criminals.

Start by making sure that all of your exterior doors are solid and have deadbolts. Next, make sure that you have security doors as well; to serve as an additional layer of protection. Cover your windows with security film, which helps to prevent break ins, and plant cactus and thorn bushes in front of them as a barrier. If you want to take things a step further, you can even put bars on your windows.

Above all, ensure that your home security a top priority but don’t overdo it. This will eliminate chances of unwanted attention. Security doors and window bars are common enough that, most people don't give them a second thought. But if you erect a 7-foot tall fence around your property with barbed wire on top, then, people are going to get intrigued.

When they notice your home, they will start to wonder why it is so heavily fortified. Then, suddenly your home becomes a target, and this is the last thing you want. No matter what types of barriers you have up, they are only going to dissuade people from trying to get in, they can't really stop someone who is truly determined. So, what you have to do is to find a happy medium. You need security, but you need security that doesn't call too much attention to itself.

Once Your Home Is Secure Start Stockpiling Essential Supplies

When the power goes out, that means that any food you have requiring refrigeration is going to spoil quickly. On top of that, if you use electricity to power your stove and oven, then, you aren't going to be able to cook what food you have. That's why it's so important to have a large supply of non-perishable; ready to eat foods stored in your home. So, having dehydrated foods and canned goods is a must. You should also make sure that you have dry foods such as rice, beans, sugar, salt and flour at hand. If the blackout goes on for several days, set up a cooking system that uses fire instead of electricity. This will give you the ability to make a variety of foods instead of having to rely on only ready to eat foods.

Even more important than food, is keeping a supply of water at hand, and having the means to process more water as needed. If necessary, you can actually survive for several weeks without food, but after just a few days without water, your body will start to shut down. This means that you need to have a large supply of water stored in airtight containers in your home. You also need to have water purification tablets at hand, and water filters as well. Having a rain catch system in place is also a great idea if you live in an area where there is a lot of rainfall.

Without electricity, you won't have a way of producing light, cooking food, and if you use an electric heater, you also won't be able to heat your home. The good news is that you don't need electricity to cook with, to provide light, or to warm your home. All you need for that is fire. You should have matches, lighters, and firewood at hand as well as candles so that you will be prepared for a long term blackout. On top of that, you also need to have a striker available for starting fires in case you run out of matches and deplete your lighter's fuel supply. Having a good supply of firewood is also important, but you can usually easily replace firewood. So, you don't need to have so much at hand that it takes up space for more valuable supplies.

While a blackout may mean that you can't get power from the grid, you can get power in other ways. One thing you can do now to both save yourself money on your electric bill, and to provide power when the grid is down, is to install solar panels in your home. Solar panels, in areas where there is plenty of sunshine, can supply you with more than enough power to perform basic tasks. If you didn't afford a full solar panel system, I would recommend that you at least have a few small solar panel arrays that you can use to power small appliances and recharge batteries. You should also make sure that you have flashlights, an emergency cell phone, and walkie-talkies.

When you are trapped for a long time during a blackout, you also want to make sure that you have medical supplies on hand in case someone in your family is hurt, injured, or becomes ill. You won't be able to call for help, and venturing out to a hospital is risky. On top of that, there's a very good chance that the hospitals in your area have been abandoned and that there aren't even any medical supplies left. This means that you need a supply of prescriptions that you or your family use, as well as over the counter medications, hygiene supplies, and first aid supplies as well.

There is likely going to be a lot of violence going on all around you. You should be relatively safe in your home, provided that it is properly fortified and that you haven't done anything to attract attention to it. But there's always a chance that someone is going to try to break in. Or you may have to venture out looking for supplies. In either case, you need weapons. When people get desperate, they don't care who they have to hurt to save themselves and their families. Desperate people can be terrifying since they won't be held back by fear or concern over breaking the law. While self-defense training is a must, you never want to get into a fight if you can avoid it. Do you know a great way to avoid a long drawn out fight? Have a gun or other weapons with you.

Final Thoughts

When the lights go out during a storm or due to some other reason, most of us just sit around waiting for the power company to fix it. But what happens if they don't? What happens if the blackout doesn't come to an end quickly?

Well, if you are prepared like I am, you should be able to ride out the blackout in the safety of your own home. As a society, we are all painfully dependent upon our technology. Take that technology away, and in less than a week people will be behaving like animals. They will get violent and desperate, people that were once friends will be fighting over things as insignificant as a candy bar.

The only way to stay safe and to keep your family provided for if a blackout strike is to be ready ahead of time. When the lights go out, it's already too late, and if you don't have a fortified home and emergency supplies at hand, you and your family are in a lot of trouble. If you care about your family as much as I do about mine, then please heed my advice and start preparing yourself today.

Above all else make sure that your home is fortified in such a way so that it doesn’t attract a lot of attention. Security doors and window bars are common enough that most people don’t give them a second thought. But if you erect a 7-foot tall fence around your property with barbed wire on top, then people are going to notice.

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