Blackout! – Power Outage Checklist

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In like to re-watch National Geographic’s American Blackout, so I created my own power outage checklist for preppers. The premise of the show from the website is “the story of a national power failure in the United States caused by a cyber-attack — told in real time, over 10 days, by those who kept filming on cameras and phones.” If nothing else, I hope the situations they present inspire and motivate others to be more prepared if we are ever faced with a situation like this.

Even if we aren’t ever the victim of any cyber-attack that takes down the electrical grid, power outages do happen all the time. Knowing what you need to have to weather an outage and having a plan for living through the power disruption is important. As with anything else preparedness related, you are better off planning and organizing what you need well in advance of any emergency. The old prepping adage is that it is better to be five years early than one day late.

American Blackout (TV Movie 2013) - IMDb

The list below is broken into different chunks of information and follows a good, better, the best type of format. Good items are the absolute minimum you need for a given scenario which so happens in this case to be our power outage. Better will keep you above the minimum requirements giving you additional flexibility and capabilities. Best is our recommendation for what you would ideally have to make it through most conceivable scenarios provided outside influences don’t change your situation. Best isn’t perfect, but it does put you on a posture for success. For most items I have added links to Amazon or other shopping outlets so you can order and price these items for yourself.

We will be using the same assumption that National Geographic is using for American Blackout and that is a 10-day power outage. We will assume that for the duration of this power outage, you are able to shelter in place and aren’t forced to leave your home. Where you live and what time of year this happens will influence some of your choices below but I’ll try to call that out where appropriate. I probably won’t go into some situations we as a country could be faced with in the aftermath of something like this, but in terms of basic survival we should have all the bases covered.

Related: How to Prepare Your Household for a Power Outage

There is no more power

A power blackout from a cyber-attack will not be announced. An attack either on systems that deliver power to our homes or from an EMP attack will come without warning. You won’t get news reports for several days in advance like with a hurricane. You won’t have any time to run to the store to buy the items on this checklist before the blackout. You will have to use what you have on hand or can acquire almost immediately after the blackout has occurred before panic sets in. Once people learn the power isn’t coming back on anytime soon, there will be chaos and you don’t want to be anywhere near that.

What do we need to prepare for living without in a power blackout caused by a cyber-attack?

  • The ability to run any electronic devises without batteries – This includes ATM’s, credit card machines, cash registers (I’ll deal with this in security), gas pumps…
  • The ability to cook food without electronic appliances.
  • The ability to see when it’s dark
  • The ability to heat or cool your home or food.
  • You may lose the ability to get water from the tap.
  • The ability to get information and news
  • Waste Removal/trash sewer may be affected.

So, let’s take these one at a time and start at the top and work our way down the list of scenarios and all the items you should have on hand before a power blackout.

Power

Good

  • Rechargeable Batteries X 2 for the important items (radio, lights)
  • Battery Charger w/ solar or vehicle adapter for batteries and cell phones
  • USB External Battery Charger – Essentially a large battery that can recharge your smart phone up to 7 times on a single charge.
BACKUP SOLAR POWER WILL LAST LONGER THAN ANY STORED FUEL YOU HAVE.

Better

  • 1000 Watt Inverter connected to car battery for charging devices/running small appliances
  • Spare fuel to run vehicle (min 25 gallons)
  • 5 – 5 Gallon gas cans
  • PRI – G gas treatment for long-term fuel storage.
  • 2000 W Generator

Best

  • Tri-fuel generator (gas, propane, natural gas)
  • Spare fuel for generator (min 90 gallons)
  • 7 – 14 gallon gas cans
  • PRI – G gas treatment for long-term fuel storage.
  • 100 Watt Solar Panel kit
  • 1000 Watt Inverter
  • Deep cycle Batteries
  • Siphon pump to acquire additional fuel

Backup power and tying into your home’s electrical system require skill. If you don’t know what you are doing, call an electrician to avoid costly and potentially fatal mistakes. Solar Panels may require additional equipment.

Lighting

Good

  • LED Flashlight with spare batteries – 1 per person
  • Candles – 15 Hour Emergency candles
  • Battery powered lantern for common areas
  • Chemlights/ Light Sticks – Great option for younger hands or hands free.
Safety Headlamp
HEADLAMPS ARE AWESOME DURING A POWER OUTAGE. THEY ALLOW HANDS-FREE USE.

Better

  • Headlamps for each individual – infinitely easier and more practical than flashlights. Allows for hands-free tasks.
  • Propane lanterns – great outdoor lighting option or use within well-ventilated area. They also put off a decent amount of heat.
  • Battery Recharger – It is important to get one that can charge multiple battery sizes if you have different battery uses.

Best

  • Oil lamps – the right kind can provide plenty of light and last longer than batteries, or should according to use.
  • Lamp Oil
  • Rechargeable Batteries for all headlamps enough to charge a set and use a set at the same time.

As with anything flammable, candles and oil lamps should be used carefully and not while anyone is sleeping.

Cooking

You quickly find out how much we take for granted during a power outage at two points. The first is when you flick that light switch on by habit and nothing happens. The second is when you want to cook something and are faced with the reality that you might have to eat those leftovers cold.

ECOZOOM COOK STOVE

Good

  • Propane Grill or Camping Stove
  • Spare tank(s) of propane for the stove

Better

  • EcoZoom Rocket Stove – Cook with small twigs or sticks.
  • Fire Pit with implements for cooking over fire
  • Cast Iron Skillet
  • Cast Iron Dutch Oven

Best

  • Wood Burning Stove – I know these aren’t practical in all situations, but generally speaking, this is the best overall option in a grid down scenario, all things being equal.
  • 100 lb Propane tank or connection to run grill off natural gas.
  • Solar Oven – or you can make one easily enough much cheaper.

Shelter

In the context of the power blackout, we discussed that you would not be disposed from your home, so this is really talking about protecting yourself from the extremes of heat or cold. Most of the items below could pull double duty as camping equipment.

Good

  • Appropriate clothing for the temperature. Warm weather calls for clothes that dry quickly and wick moisture away. Cold weather usually means layers and warm additions like hats and gloves.
  • Spare blankets/ screens for windows depending on weather.

Better

  • Tent that sleeps your entire family
  • Sleeping bags for each person – Appropriate to climate
  • Kerosene heater or Propane Heater
  • 20 gallons of Kerosene
  • PRI-D Kerosene/Diesel treatment for long term fuel storage.

Best

  • Alternate shelter – Camper with Solar power

Water

Good

  • One gallon of water per person for 10 days. For a four-person family, that is 40 gallons. The easiest way to store and transport these for me is 5 gallon water jugs

Better

  • 1 gallon of water per person for 1 month
  • Water filtration system like Big Berkey Light.
  • Rain water collection system.
  • Bathtub full of water stored in container for hygiene or drinking – Water Bob This requires some action before water pressure is cut off.

Best

  • Private well
  • River or stream on your property

News and Communication

Good

  • World Band Receiver – pick up stations outside of your region.

Better

  • Handheld UHF/VHF band transceivers – Baofeng makes an excellent and affordable model
  • 2 meter antenna
  • Backup Batteries for handhelds

Best

  • Ham Radio – capable of HF, UHF and VHF bands. HF will allow you to communicate with other countries
  • Quad Band antenna
  • Back up power as listed above

Security

Security like some of these other topics is more complicated so a list like this is subject to a lot of scrutiny.

Good

  • Shotgun with 100 rounds of buckshot ammo
  • $300 dollars in cash
  • Survival Dog

Better

  • Handgun for each adult member of the family – 9mm, .40 or .45
  • 500 rounds of HP ammo for each pistol
  • 2 magazines for each
  • $500 dollars in cash

Best

  • Battle Rifle for each adult member of the family (AK or AR platform)
  • 1000 rounds of ammunition for each rifle
  • 20 magazines for each rifle
  • Your own Navy Seal team
  • 1 month’s salary or expenses in cash

Sanitation

Good

  • Bathtub full of water stored in container for hygiene or drinking – Water Bob This requires some action before water pressure is cut off.

Better

  • Spare 5 gallon bucket
  • 5 gallon bucket toilet lid – Converts any 5 gallon bucket into a porta-potty.
  • trash bags – small for toilet/large for trash
  • Cat Litter

Best

  • Outhouse already built – again not practical in all situations.

As I mentioned above, lists like these are going to be subject to scrutiny. Without devoting a few paragraphs to each topic, this list could spawn a lot of questions. It is best to research a lot and see what works best for you.

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