Editors Note: The following article has been contributed by Jonathan Hollerman, he is a former USAF SERE Instructor and an expert on prepping and survival. Working as an Emergency Preparedness Consultant.
“The Congressional EMP Commission on which I served calculated that within a year of a blackout that knocks out the national grid, we would probably lose up to 9 out of 10 Americans through starvation, disease, and societal collapse… The only reason we can sustain a population of 310 million Americans is technology. If you take that away, we don’t have any way of feeding, providing water or even providing communications and government for an orderly society that is going to sustain 310 million Americans.”
– Dr. Peter Pry, Executive Director for the Task Force
on National and Homeland Security Policy
The severity of what life after a grid down situation depends on which scenario was the culprit.
A cyber attack or physical attack on our infrastructure could leave the electric grid down for months and in some rural locations, years. A massive solar storm or small EMP would leave the grid down for six months to a year in most locations, but a Super-EMP could cripple the grid for years in most locations and fry most of the electronics we depend on. When dealing with a Super-EMP attack, scientists have varying views on what percentage of small electronics would be affected. Either way, any blackout lasting more than a week will result in major metropolitan areas descending into utter chaos and total anarchy. Anything longer than a few weeks and, in my opinion, the country will never fully recover. It will be survival of the fittest from that point forward.
Before we get into how losing the grid would affect you personally, let’s discuss how it would affect the country as a whole. Today, America is the richest country in the world, and every other industrialized nation leans on the US for our buying power. Since 1944, the US Dollar has been the world’s reserve currency and is what the central banks use to set exchange rates and the price of oil and other commodities. In recent years (due to irresponsible financial policies by our government) countries like China, Russia, and others have been working to replace the Dollar on the world stage which would have disastrous consequences for the US. The only reason they haven’t been very successful to date is because they can’t offer up a more viable alternative.
I believe the US Dollar would be replaced as the world’s currency very soon after a grid-down scenario. Think about it–no American has the ability to buy anything from stores or the internet without their credit cards and the stores can’t be restocked due to lack of transportation. Essentially, this shuts down all our imports from overseas. Our Stock Market would unofficially crash (unofficially because it would be closed for business without electricity). This would crash every other market around the globe and Asian countries would especially nose dive without Americans being able to buy their exports for the foreseeable future. A lot of overseas factories would be forced to shut down, putting their employees out on the street without jobs, further exacerbating their countries’ woes. Weeks after the grid goes down, your dollar bills are most likely going to be worth pennies.
I believe the ensuing global financial collapse would seriously hamper the ability of our UN partners from coming to our aid in the aftermath. I’m sure some European countries and maybe even Russia and China would pitch in for a short while, sending us ships with food, but for how long? They are going to be experiencing their own societal collapses and record unemployment. They are going to need to focus their resources on helping their own populace. Even if they did send large amounts of food for an extended period of time, how would that food get distributed? We would have 300 MILLION starving Americans scattered across a huge landmass with no infrastructure or way to transport food throughout the country! You’ve seen the movies and videos when we deliver food to starving refugees in developing nations. It’s total mayhem with the stronger men beating up women and children to get a small bag of rice. Could you imagine a container ship of food arriving in New York City’s harbor with TEN MILLION angry and starving people stampeding the docks? Again, it would be total mayhem, and my suggestion is that you stay far away from these types of scenarios because they will be absolutely deadly environments.
In a nutshell, I believe our country would cease to exist in any realistic fashion shortly after losing the grid. The EMP Commission Report and Lloyd’s of London talk about how it would cause trillions of dollars in damage to our economy. With half the US population dead from starvation, sickness and murder after six months and 80 to 90 percent dead after the first year, why would you even fix the grid and who’s going to accept our worthless dollars to help us? EMP Commissioner Lowell Wood calls an EMP attack a “giant continental time machine that would move us back more than a century in technology to the late 1800s.” The problem is that our infrastructure is completely different than the 1800s. We aren’t set up to live like the people did 150 years ago. Who makes horse-drawn plows anymore? Do you see what I mean? We don’t even make the tools and supplies needed to live before electricity.
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Most people expect to see the US government step in during a national crisis like this, but don’t hedge your bets on that because it CAN’T happen. The Department of Homeland Security or DHS is responsible for taking control in the case of national disasters. They have plans in place for all types of scenarios; however, as of today, they have not put together a plan for an EMP attack, solar flare, or long term loss of the electric grid. FEMA is only designed for localized tragedies and disasters like hurricanes, not for a national scenario like a grid-down event. Right now the US government only has 6 million MRE’s (emergency meals) stockpiled for just such emergencies. How long do you think 6 million MRE’s are going to feed a country of over 300 million? Not even a day. What about the military, you ask? Most people are unaware that 99% of the US military is completely reliant on the civilian electric grid. Most bases have diesel generators for backup that would last a few hours and a day at most. Read the report I linked to where the US military is trying to get mini nuclear reactors for each base to make themselves self-reliant. Hint: it’s not going to happen in the next decade at best. In fact, the DOD report states specifically:
“DOD is unable to provide its bases with electricity when the civilian electrical grid is offline for an extended period of time. Currently, domestic military installations receive 99 percent of their electricity from the civilian power grid… Most military bases currently have backup power that allows them to function for a period of hours or, at most, a few days on their own. If power were not restored after this amount of time, the results could be disastrous. First, military assets taken offline by the crisis would not be available to help with disaster relief. Second, during an extended blackout, global military operations could be seriously compromised… During the Cold War, this type of event was far less likely because the United States and the Soviet Union shared the common understanding that blinding an opponent with a grid blackout could escalate to nuclear war. America’s current opponents, however, may not share this fear or be deterred by this possibility… Even with massive investment in efficiency and renewables, most bases would not be able to function for more than a few days after the civilian grid went offline.”
So you think the US government is going to step in and save you? They are not going to help you in a grid-down scenario because they are in the same boat as you. The government CAN NOT feed 300 million Americans without our critical infrastructure or being taken offline. You are on your own. My bet is the politicians will be shipped to some underground mountain to ride out the storm while you and I figure out how to survive on our own. When the grid goes dark and you start picking up government reports on your battery-powered radio telling you that all is well and help is on the way, do not believe them! I have just given you the evidence that they can’t help. These messages will be designed to try and keep people calm and they will lie as long as they can to achieve that end and prevent panic. Lastly, if you have any survival skills whatsoever, the WORST thing you can do is go to the (FEMA style) camps where they promise food and safety. These “Green Zones” will be overcrowded, and rife with disease and violence. If you have no other options, then go ahead and roll the dice, but when the people there start to starve and realize the government lied to them and can’t feed them, it’s going to get really ugly at those locations. Look at the Super Dome after Hurricane Katrina with the violence, theft, rapes, murders, and overflowing unsanitary conditions. It’s an ugly scenario and that was a localized disaster that only lasted a few days. Could you imagine weeks and months of living like that? Most people who go there will eventually die or flee the horrible living conditions and disease.
So how would a grid down scenario affect you personally?
How long do you suppose the food in your pantry will last? Most Americans go to the grocery store every three days. Let’s assume you eventually eat the boxes of food that needed cooked raw (you will once you’re hungry enough). Most households might have enough food for one to two weeks. A tiny minority may have canned food to last them longer or looted their local grocery store before the masses arrived (48-72 hours) to clean it out. Only ma and pa stores may open their doors and then they will only take cash (for a few days until they discover the power isn’t coming back on). Supermarkets will not be open for business. The managers have no vested interest in the stores, which are owned by some rich corporation in another state. Employees won’t show up for work. Once the food is looted, there is no resupply coming.
Most people don’t realize how the food supply in this country has radically changed over the last 100 years. A hundred years ago, most people (even city people) grew and preserved a good portion of their daily food. Today, very few people garden and the ones who do consume it as it grows. Very few Americans know how to can or preserve fruits and vegetables to last through winter. With the introduction of electricity and food on demand (at your supermarket), the skills needed to live without electricity have been completely lost to 99% of Americans. Even most of today’s older generations grew up with electricity. Today, with the help of computers, we have a “just on time” delivery system. In other words, food is grown, canned, and resupplied to the grocery shelves as fast as it is taken off. There are no great towers of grain like in the Egyptian days. If you stop the growth, canning, and resupply, it won’t be long till ALL the food in this country is completely gone.
Most supermarkets don’t operate storerooms anymore or stock very much in the backroom like they did 20 years ago. Have you ever asked your local supermarket employee to check the backroom for something they are out of? They look at you like your stupid and then pretend to go in the back only to return a minute later and tell you “we’re out”. Most supermarkets get one to two truck deliveries a day to keep their shelves stocked. In the modern world (with electricity and computers), when you buy a can of beans at your local store, the checkout computer tells the warehouse to put another can of beans on the next truck. The warehouse’s computer then tells the distribution center that they need another can of beans on the next truck. The distribution center’s computer tells the canning factory they need another can of beans to be sent on the next truck delivery. The canning facility computer then tells the farm in Mexico that it needs more raw beans on the next available truck. What are the two common denominators in all those steps? The computers can’t communicate with each other and the trucks can’t drive across the country because the gas stations don’t have power. This is true with almost every item you buy at nearly every store you visit. Interstate commerce completely shuts down and you will not be able to buy ANYTHING you need to survive once the store’s current supply runs out.
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You would have no money outside of what is in your wallet or safe. Our entire finance industry is run by electricity. Most people have no clue that the average bank branch has less than $10,000 on hand at a given time. Seriously, I wanted to pay cash for a used car ($9,000) a while back and my bank told me I would have to schedule that size withdrawal in advance and it would take the bank three days to get it. My bet is that the banks aren’t even going to open their doors once the grid goes down. They know people are panicking and they don’t have the cash on hand to give to people (most of whom will want to drain their accounts). Besides, every bank I know uses computers and electricity to perform bank transactions. There is no electricity, remember? You were a millionaire before the crash? Not anymore. Don’t bet on a single bank opening its doors for business. Also, don’t rely on storing up large amounts of gold and silver for a grid down scenario. No one is going to trade you precious food for your gold coins or silver. It will be years before there is any semblance of normal commerce where you can use precious metals to barter for tools or food.
I would recommend spending whatever cash on hand you have in the first few days getting as much food as possible. Within a week, once store owners (the very few with heavy security that hasn’t been looted already) figure out that the power isn’t coming back on, your money is worthless. A hungry person isn’t going to trade you a can of beans for a hundred dollars.
There would be no communication with those who live farther away from you than earshot. In other words: no phones, no emails, no mail delivery, no Facebook, and no Twitter. Are you getting the picture? Think about all the family and loved ones that have moved away. Do you have a sibling in California? Do you have a son or daughter in Texas? You’ll probably never see them or speak to them again. If someone breaks into your house looking for food, how are you going to call for help (not that the police would be able to respond anyway)?
There will be no emergency services. Police, firefighters, and the National Guard will all be in the same scenario as you are. There will be no way to contact them, their vehicles will quickly run out of fuel and the traffic jams will pen them in just like you. They are just people like you and me. Once the looting begins, most will rush home to be with their families to protect them from the rioters and home invasions. Very few will show up to work on day three. Some of the more honorable, single men may stay at their post for a while and try to help out, but within days of the grid gowing down, don’t expect to see any emergency services. You will likely see the same result with National Guardsmen who are typically activated via a phone roster. Most will not be reached and most will not report for duty once things go south. Again, in a crisis situation, they will put the safety of their family before orders from their superiors. Even active duty military will experience a huge amount of AWOL soldiers. However, a good portion of their families live on base and they will be available for duty. Even so, as I explained earlier, the military bases WILL NOT be able to perform disaster relief because the military is dependent on the civilian electric grid.
There are no hospitals or medicine. Most hospitals are required to have a one or two day supply of backup electricity. Once they run out, loved ones on life support will die. Hospitals will be flooded with emergencies and injuries related to people doing stupid things out of their normal routine. How many nurses and doctors will stay more than a few days without going home to check on their family and protect them from the rioters and looters? Without the ability to get resupplied, the hospitals will soon run out of bandages and the like. How long before the doctors and nurses throw up their hands in despair with their inability to help people and head home?
You need a prescription to survive? Guess what, almost twenty percent of the population do as well. This includes everyone who suffers from asthma to diabetes. The drug stores will be closed because they have no way to verify prescriptions or check you out. How long before the tweakers and heroin addicts raid your local pharmacy because there are no security cameras and no way for the police to respond? How long will the vials of medicine you need to survive without refrigeration once the electric grid goes down? If your child requires medication and you haven’t stockpiled or are unwilling to risk looting your local pharmacy, then you will know exactly when that child or loved one will die…. shortly after their current supply of medicine runs out.
Your house will not protect you like it has in the past. There will be no A/C or heat in your home. If you live in an area of the country that has cold winters or hot summers, life will become very uncomfortable and deadly in a lot of areas. A lot of malnutritioned people, not thinking clearly, will resort to doing incredibly stupid things to get warm, like start a fire in their house, or burn a charcoal grill indoors, etc… In urban areas with row houses and large apartment buildings, you will likely see large out-of-control fires burning whole city blocks because one person does something dumb and there are no fire trucks (out of gas) to come and put the fires out. You could actually see whole sections of large cities burn to the ground with no way to stop the flames. Do you know how to stay warm in your home once the thermostat drops below freezing? In a lot of cases, extra blankets won’t be enough. Many people will go to bed and not wake up the next morning. Also, a lot of people watch action movies and think they can hide behind a door or wall to be protected from someone who is shooting at them. This is not accurate. Most bullets will travel through multiple walls until they hit a stud. Your home is NOT bulletproof! Ducking down below your window in a firefight with your neighbors will likely not protect you from their bullets.
If you rely on city sewage, your house will likely back up over time. Raw sewage could start bubbling out of your sinks and tubs as people continue to use toilets and sinks even though the sewage facility isn’t operating. This will create dangerously high levels of methane in your home that could make you very sick. Because of poor sanitary conditions around the country and most people not cleaning their hands properly before cooking due to lack of water, dysentery will become a major problem in this country with a lot of people getting sick and dying. Regular baths will become a thing of the past, and many people will start bathing in their local creek or water source, causing dangerous bacteria to float downstream where other families rely on the same water source for their water needs.
Don’t depend on your vehicle getting you out of dodge. In the event of a Super EMP, a lot of cars will come to a stop in the middle of the street. Even if they don’t, a lot of people will try to flee the cities on empty gas tanks causing massive traffic jams. It only takes a handful of cars to run out of gas on the roadways to completely block traffic. If you do not flee town within 24 hours of the grid going down, you are likely to find yourself penned in. If you do have a vehicle that is running, it will only run if you can get fuel for it. Most gas stations don’t have back-up generators. The ones that do will be quickly overrun and emptied. There is no way to re-supply them because the trucks rely on the gas stations to get the fuel to other gas stations. Even if they could be rigged to resupply from their own tanks, don’t forget that there are massive traffic jams all over the country. Even if they could get through, how would the trucks get re-filled? Oil refineries take massive amounts of electricity to operate and will not be operational any time soon. What about the nation’s precious fuel reserves? If you don’t think the government is going to confiscate that for military and government use, I have oceanfront property in Arizona I’d like to sell you. There will be no refueling shortly after the grid goes down. If you were a forward thinker and have a large supply of fuel for your vehicle, I would only recommend using it the first few days. After a week, most cars will be out of gas and people will be desperate for a running vehicle to get them where they need to go. If you are driving one of the few cars on the roadways, YOU ARE A TARGET. I wouldn’t start using the vehicle again for a full year (until most of the starving masses are dead).
You will not have lights once it grows dark outside. I understand that you may have a flashlight and some candles at your house, but honestly, how long will your batteries and candles last? I would use them very sparingly for a couple reasons. Without electricity, the world is going to become a very dark place. With no streetlights or ambient light in the cities, nighttime will become a very dangerous place to find yourself outdoors and light attracts attention. If you do have a large supply of batteries or candles, I would use them very carefully. Two weeks in, once people start getting hungry and desperate, lights coming from a house will be a huge beacon for looters and home invaders. Most people have never been to the mountains on a backpacking trip. On a cloudy dark night, you can see someone smoking a cigarette on the next mountain over. In a perfectly dark city, light escaping from around the edge of your blinds or curtains will be seen from a long way off. In a grid-down situation, you want to rise with the sun and go to bed once it gets dark, utilizing natural light and conserving flashlights and candles for emergencies. These are just a FEW of the ways your life would be impacted by the electric grid going dark.
A lot of the “experts” will say I am fear-mongering or exaggerating how bad it will be. They say Americans will work together and will get through it. They do not understand human suffering and have no experience in dealing with starving people. Staving Americans will act no different than starving people in the Congo or Mogadishu. In fact, they will likely act much worse. Americans (even the poor) have never seen true hunger or been actively starving. They didn’t grow up starving and without food like the people in Africa. Americans and their entitlement mentalities will be viciously ANGRY when they get hungry. They will have no experience or idea how to deal with the mental hallucinations brought on by hunger pains and most will resort to anger and violence. Looting, raping, and pillaging will become the norm. It will be straight Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome and eventually like the movie The Postman. I don’t care if they fix the electric grid a year later. Most Americans will be dead and the only ones left will be the survivalists, the extremely lucky, the larger, well-organized gangs of looters, and the strongest and most brutal of men who left their souls at the gate and did horrible things to survive. Who are they going to fix the grid for? Are we all going to forget what has transpired and go back to driving our Prius’s to work at Starbucks? Are you going to get the warlords to give up their positions of power among their men and their harems of sexual slave girls? The day the electric grid goes down, America ceases to exist.
You need to understand that life after the grid going dark will probably be ten times worse than I am describing. There will be 300 Million Americans facing the same horrific questions as you. Where do I go? What do I do? It is vital that you understand and accept that the following is true. A few weeks after a grid-down scenario, there will be hundreds of millions of starving people wandering around the country desperately fighting over every last scrap of food. A month or two after the grid going down, most Americans will be violently sick from food deprivation and other illnesses. THE AVERAGE DESPERATE AND STARVING AMERICAN WILL KILL YOU IF YOU HAVE FOOD AND THEY FIND YOU. I don’t care how protected you think your home is. You will eventually be over run!
There are very specific things you can do to survive this scenario. If you have the financial resources, you MUST hire an expert to help you plan your retreat. Don’t buy two years of food supply and put it in your basement in town thinking you’re covered. You will only be feeding the looters who will eventually scramble over your dead lifeless body to take YOUR food and haul off your beautiful wife and daughter to God knows where! Don’t let this be you…
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Comments on “Life After Losing the Electric Grid”
I have been a volunteer firefighter who has the Limerick Nuclear Power station in my response zone, for 26 years. A reactor years past it’s service use…
If a reactor goes full meltdown, 90 miles diameter dead zone.
Google then print a map of our nation’s reactors.. then draw 90mile circles around….. With only 9-14 days deisel reserves for reactor cooling, that area will be dead zone………..east of Mississippi will be uninhabitable period
Thanks Mark, I was thinking about the reactors . Toast all around…
I think the GOVERNMENTS PLAN to kill everyone in america will over ride most peoples plans to hide out or be underground hiding out,POISON GAS,RADIATION,DESASE,AND A WHOLE VARIATY OF WONDERFUL THINGS they have planned for those who think they’ll be survivors,TRUTH be told,if their NOT stopped now,there will only be a few hundred survivors at best,AND I DON’T see anyone lifting a finger to stop them,not even americas hero,President gun grabber,and his banker,and OIL company friends…AND the biggest joke of all,THE MILITARY TRIBUNALS,hahaha,it would take them a hundred years to try them all if it wasn’t all BOGAS,and it is……
i order the book and i need received it, disappointed