Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Chaos Scenario: Power Grid Failure Part 1

Recently I was talking to a friend about a scenario that we both thought was a little out there, but very plausible. What would you do if the power grid failed?


Some things you need to keep in mind while talking through this scenario:
1. Grocery stores only have 2-3 days worth of food on hand at all times.
2. Most gas stations have electric pumps - no power, no gas.
3. Most people will lose access to water if they have electric water pumps or if city water runs out.
4. A person will only live three days without water and three weeks without food.
5. A lot of people rely heavily on technology to get them to where they need to go and to entertain them.
6. Nothing happens unless you are proactive.

You are driving home from work during a nice fall day. Night is coming earlier now and getting a bit chilly too. The kids have already gotten home from school. One of them calls to tell you the power is out. They aren't able to do their homework. You tell them that the power should be back on soon and their homework will get done.

You arrive at home and start to think about what to make for supper. You don't really want to open the refrigerator or the freezer, but you only have a few options for supper at this point. You can cook on the grill or get out the camp stove, but that would require unthawed meat. You pull out bread, peanut butter, jelly, chips, and fruit for supper.

After supper, you start to load the dishwasher. You start to rinse off dishes and quickly run out of water. You leave the dishes in the sink and find your family in the living room. You think the power must be coming back soon. The kids are getting restless, but the weather is nice outside so you all go outside to burn off some energy. Everyone comes back in sweaty and ready for showers. No water, no showers.

You find some bottled water in the back of the car. You are not sure if it is drinkable, but with a washcloth everyone can rinse off a bit or at least not stink. The kids complain that their homework still can't be done, but you tell them that you will send the teacher a note tomorrow. The house is getting quite dark. Even though the clock only says 8:00 pm, everyone is bored and decides to go to bed.

When you are about to climb into bed after finding a flashlight and batteries, you realize you can not plug your cell phone in to charge. The cell phone has half a battery let so you shut it off and put in on the charger hoping the power will come back on during the night. Time to get some rest.

You wake up to a beeping in the morning and realize your alarm is going off. You think the power is back on only to realize the battery back-up in your alarm is working. You try to figure out what to do: do you get dressed and go to work or stay home? As you finish getting dressed, the kids wake up wondering if they have school. You find a radio and find some batteries that will work it. No radio stations are broadcasting at this time. You power your cell phone back up and find a mass text from the school stating no school. You have heard nothing about work. You are starting to wonder how long the power will be out.

The kids are cold, but with no power you cannot heat up the house. You have a kerosene heater, but hesitate to use it inside due to carbon monoxide testing. You instruct them to put on warmer clothes using layers.

You decide to try to go to work. They may have power. You take six five-gallon buckets with you to get water since you are out. You don't want to leave the kids home alone, but while attempting to call family and friends no one answers. You leave strict instructions with the kids: no opening the refrigerator or freezer unless necessary, don't use cell phones unless extremely important, and don't kill each other.

You arrive at work to find your boss, a few key employees, and limited power due to a few generators running. Your boss tells you that you are not needed since there is no power to do your job. They weren't able to send a message about being closed due to computers that crashed and no radio stations broadcasting. You ask him if they have any water which they do since they have generators. He allows you to fill your buckets giving you about thirty gallons.

You leave work and look for an ATM. No power means no ATMs are working. You only have about $30 cash on you. You have a half tank of gas in your car. You stop at the bank to withdraw some money. The bank is open, but limited in their ability to serve you. Since they have limited access to the vault which is electronically secured, they cannot get all the money out. They allow you to withdrawal $50 since they have that in cash on hand.

With $80 cash on you, you attempt to stop to get gas for your car. The gas station pumps are run electronically and cannot pump out gas. You stop at two other gas stations to find the same thing. You decide to try the grocery store. You walk in the door and are shocked at what you see. Half the grocery store is bare. The freezers are empty. You find a couple loaves of bread, some cereal you hope the kids will eat, some canned fruit, the last two cans of soup, and the last jar of peanut butter. You check out with the cashier using a calculator and limited cash. You spent $35 on groceries and hope they last you a few days.

You head back home hoping the power has come back on. You pull in the driveway and realize it hasn't. The day is still a bit chilly, but not intolerable. The kids are happy to see you as they didn't know what to do. You get home, unload the groceries, bring in the water, flush toliets, and check the freezer and refrigerator. The food is started to get warm and unthaw. You fire up the grill to grill what meat you can and cook some frozen vegetables on a pan on the side.

After lunch, you sit down with the kids and try to come up with a plan. You with the kids start getting emergency supplies together. You are starting to realize that the power may not be coming on anytime soon.

Now for you: What would do at this point? What supplies in this situation would you get together? What do you think this family has on hand?

Part 2 is coming tomorrow or later this week.

Thanks for reading!
Erica

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