Another example of a green level event is a blackout. Blackouts can happen at anytime and anywhere. The information provided in this blog post will just go to re-enforce that survival planning for emergency situations is important. Having backup food stores and extra water on hand for your survival needs can go a very long way when the grid goes down. So read this interesting blog and then go back and check your current survival gear supplies. It’s funny sometimes how reading an article such as this can make you think about things you can do to make yourself better prepared.
Without a doubt one of the weakest points in our country’s infrastructure are the power grids. None other than Bill Richardson, the governor of New Mexico and the former head of the Department of Energy, stated in a live interview that States was “a superpower with a third-world electricity grid”.
Lets go back to August 14, 2003. You may or may not recall that on that date the United States suffered its biggest blackout that left roughly 55 million people without power. It was widespread and occurred throughout parts of the Northeast and Midwestern states as well as roughly all of Ontario, Canada. Ten million people in Canada were affected, while just over 45 million in the United States were affected. The cause of the blackout was due to surge overloads. It was a hot day and one power flow center could not keep up with the high load and shut off. From there the domino affect took hold and affected small power stations all the way up to eight nuclear power plants that also shut down. The black out lasted late in the evening for most, and in some areas such as Manhatten and Staten Island it lasted will into the next day.
There has been a lot of research into this major blackout occurrence, and there is a lot of interesting information that can be found on the internet that goes into lengthy detail on how this blackout affected airports, emergency services, industry, etc… Below I am going to only touch on a few pieces of information that will really re-enforce the need to prepare for disaster situations.
Water Supply – Most areas of the blackout zone lost water pressure. The loss caused potential contamination issues in all of the states affected by the blackout, and many affected areas were issued a “boil your water’ statement that stayed in affect for days after the blackout ended. The loss of power caused many chemical and sewage treatments plants to loose containment and dozens of spills occurred in creeks, rivers, lakes, and the Atlantic Ocean. Some of the spills polluted water reservoirs affecting drinking and bathing water in many areas.
Communications – Only laptop computers with remaining battery power hooked up to dial up internet connections were able to get onto the world wide web. And once batteries ran out of power there was obviously no way to charge them through conventional means. Cellular communications were also up and down due to the loss of backup generator power (generators ran out of gas, no way to pump more with the electric pumps). And after phone batteries died, again there was no conventional way to keep them charged. And of course the more traditional land line phone system was overloaded with phone calls that were to numerous for the system to carry.
Industry/Business – Large numbers of factories and all kinds of businesses closed without power to keep them running. Most closed without pay of course.
Transportation – With the grid down and backup generators out of gas street lights stopped working. In large cities police and emergency services and even common citizens were not able to direct traffic affectively enough to keep cities from experiencing gridlock. This was a major issue for not only commuters trying to leave the cities to go home who ended up stuck to sleep in parks, streets, and hopefully a friend’s house, but it also affected how well emergency services were able to respond to situations that needed their attention. Freeway congestion was also a problem, and affected the just in time supply system of many grocery stores and other retail businesses that tried to stay open to provide food and water on a cash only sale basis to customers. With ATMs and banks closed down, not many people has cash to by supplies, and some minor rioting and looting did occur in Ottawa and Brooklyn. Air traffic control safety systems were also not operable without power, and many airports ended up closing. Gas stations were unable to pump gas without power to their pumps, however those that had backup generator systems were able to keep pumping gas, but raised their prices and operated on a cash only pre-pay service.
Other Recent Blackouts That Affected Millions:
- Large parts of Europe 9/2003, just six weeks later. Cause: Surge/overload
- Southern Brazil 1999. Cause: Surge/overload
- Canada’s Quebec Province 3/1989. Cause: Solar induced magnetic storm (solar flare)
- United States – New Jersey and New York Area 10/2012. Hurricane Sandy
While some types of disaster situations are specific to certain geographical regions, such as flooding, tidal waves, and hurricanes to name a few, blackouts can affect everybody. Even if you live off grid and provide your own electric power through solar energy, society around you that you depend on does not. So being as best prepared as you can be is important.
Being prepared means having a stock of emergency food and water storage. Depending where you live and the climate changes you face it can also mean specific requirements such as clothes or alternative heating options. It also means being ready in ways that include not letting your gas tank go below half full, and having alternative means of cooking and preparing food. Camping stoves and heaters, as well as long burning survival candles for light can be a luxury when disaster strikes.