Before we get into our list, lets first describe exactly what is meant by a long-term blackout. Ready.gov does not characterize power outages by short and long term. They merely offer advice for dealing with power outages in general.
It’s important we discuss the term because a Long-Term Blackout can mean many things to many people. For those accustomed to losing power, a week without may not even phase them where as those who rarely loose power might consider a long-term blackout to be 3 days!
For the purposes of this article we are going to call a long-term blackout a period without power to major infrastructure, residential and business operations for a period of 3 months or more. In this time the base for civility will be shattered and the consequences of missing basic public services will be widespread.
While it may be common knowledge that a widespread blackout is going to present problems for the water supply I think many people do not considering the details of what that means.
- When will water treatment plants officially go offline?
- How will that correlate with water taps no longer running.
- Without local news, how will you know when to stop trusting the water that’s coming out of the tap?
The truth about water in a long-term blackout is that drinking from your tap will become Russian roulette. You won’t know when, but eventually the water coming through those pipes will likely be contaminated or there will be no water coming out. You just don’t know what will happen first.
Fresh off the holiday season is a wonderful time to consider the importance of the garbage services. Remember what it was like after Christmas? Imagine what your yard or home will look like a month without trash service.
Even if you have a healthy bit of food storage, its all packaged. That packaging is going to need to go somewhere. Most people don’t consider just how quickly their trash will pile up. It will be a matter of weeks before things get out of hand. Trash will be all over the streets and before long, the pests and animals will come to take advantage.
Without a concrete, agreed upon method for dealing with the trash in a neighborhood you will quickly find your beautiful little community piled with trash and filth as well as being flea infested. Its not a pretty picture but post disaster trash collection and management are a topics I rarely see discussed, even in the prepper world.
As I mentioned earlier, there will be time when the water stops running. As a prepper you will have to decide what to do about sewage. You can use water to flush your toilets but that could be a waste of water and it might also, eventually, result in a backup. That could be a dangerous situation considering feces harbor deadly bacteria. You will not have access to a quick Z Pack from your doctor. People rarely consider where all their bodily waste is going to go in a long-term blackout.
Once the water stops running you are left with very few options. Burying or burning is about it.
Of course, it’s the neighbors and the passerby's that make for more concern. What will they do with their waste? If you are living in a world stacked up with trash and human excrement, you will be at maximum risk for contracting a disease. Not to mention this will affect water quality in your area.
All the above realities of a long-term blackout lead to disease. Add to those things like lack of sleep, malnutrition and living without heating or air conditioning and things will get bad fast. Before long it will seem like everyone around you is sick. Worst of all, you won’t be able to professionally diagnose any of it.
Water borne illness will likely be the biggest killer. You need only to look at third world nations to understand that. Water borne pathogens kill 4000 children each day on this planet! It’s the worlds leading killer. During a long-term blackout these pathogens will be a massive threat here in the US.
While food, water and disease might be high on the preppers list, bills might not be.
- What happens if the long-term blackout doesn’t affect the whole country?
- What if it’s an isolated blackout and things like mortgage, work and other debt still need to be considered?
If the narrative is such that recovery is possible, debtors will still be hungry for payment.
In the early days of a long-term blackout you could still have bills to pay. It may seem heartless on the end of the debtors and banks, but it still may be very true.
Do you have an emergency fund for these types of issues? An emergency fund is the best defense against this situation.
The Speed of Decline
I think the most terrifying reality of a long-term blackout would be the shocking speed of decline. When people see just how quickly the world comes apart, it will mortify them.
Lord Cameron of Dillington said “We are nine meals away from anarchy.”
That means that after 9 meals most people will hit a hard wall and have to start making terrible decisions about food, water and other provisions. In fact, I’d like to expand upon Lord Cameron’s quote.
Most Americans are one supermarket trip away from collapse.
That said, a true blackout that lasted over a month would spawn such chaos it would be hard for the human mind to understand how it could go so bad so fast. This would be particularly true if government assistance was not part of the equation.
The Complexity of Recovery
With the government in mind we must consider recovery. What would recovery look like?
Following a long-term blackout, the government would be faced with some hard decisions. You see, because of the chaos that we have already discussed, there would be a time limit on recovery. The government and local resources would scramble to deal with the blackout but there would be limited resources and time to get power back on.
Those areas that got power first would be in decent shape, maybe. The longer it took to get to other areas would determine whether those areas could be helped at all. Some areas would be so bad off that moving forces in to repair things might not be possible. The human threat may be too great.
Now consider those areas that first got power back up and running. How do you think neighboring communities would feel about those who have power? How long would it take before the anarchy wound up in the backyards of those with power?
Resources, logistics and the feasibility of repair; along with public cooperation would all be issues in recovery. It would not be the same protocol as recovering power after a hurricane.
Preparing for These Realities
You must go back to the core basics of prepping. Do not get overwhelmed at the stark realities of a long-term blackout. You must be prepared to outlast or adapt to the power outage. You should have a plan to wait out a return of service but also have a plan for never having power again.
Also, if things get ugly, fast, you better have a well-oiled bugout plan that will at least get you away from the masses. This plan should be written and practiced with the whole family. Find out what a true bugout looks like and feels like with your family. Do not bet your life on false pretenses and predictions of performance.