In a Grid-Down World

dudeandyuccaBy Dude McLean

“Grid down” is a rational fear. China is perfecting their device to use EMP on Taiwan, and if we interfere, it’s likely to be used on us, or at least the ships we might have in the area. Put that aside for a moment. China has called for the dollar to be replaced by a world currency, again. Given that the vast sum of money the money the U.S. owes China grows by the minute, could they be growing tired of waiting.

The “grid” is very fragile in the first place. We have three grids that are linked—Eastern, Western and Texas (that always struck me as strange). We really have no control of the grid. We are sitting ducks just quacking along, willy-nilly, in our own little bubble of electricity, power, lights, gas, and all that goes with it. Terrorists could inject a virus, in a heartbeat, in this computer- driven nightmare waiting to happen.

EMP is a legitimate fear for downing the grid.

Many millions heat their homes with electricity, not to mention lighting. Many oil heaters use an electric switch to turn them on. If an EMP hit, our love affair with computers would be over –Bam! Just like that! Most systems in your home would not work. If you have solar electricity, you might be able to keep a few things going, like your refrigerator for a few hours a day. In some cases, those who have gennys will be able to continue running some things, but they use a lot of fuel. How much fuel does the average person have stored? Enough to last a week or a month? And then what?

Most folks do not have a large supply of batteries. How long before those are gone?

In a grid-down world, we will not be able to buy gas, because those pumps are all electric. Any kind of fuel is very hard to store for most urban folks.

Always fill your tank when it is at the half way mark. Gas will be huge to have in those urban areas, but impossible to store much. Some in the more rural areas might have an advantage (or not) because the EMP will affect most trucks and cars that have computers. By 1980-81, computers were being installed in many cars and trucks.

Kerosene stores for a very long time, and with frugal use, you would be able to cook on camp stoves and have old time lanterns for light. Today, they have excellent kerosene heaters that are fairly inexpensive. It might be prudent to have a few on hand. In the high desert where I live, wind generators are a common thing to see. However, after talking with a number of folks about them, I am not to keen on trying them. They have several maintenance problems and tend to break down a lot, though they could be a viable option for some. It’s your call.

If you have a bike, it might work well for personal transportation. If you have a horse, that could work also. I feel transportation could be a major deal. Just going to buy food would be a hardship.

If you have a generator, lock it down. Alan Halcon and I interviewed a guy who was in a location when a large section of the grid went down due to ice storms. One of the dirty tricks used by bandits was to roll up to house, deep in the night, where they would hear a genny running. They would pull out a cheap gas lawn mower, turn it on, and leave it running next to the genny, while they took off with the genny. No one woke up because they could hear their genny still running. Neat trick, eh?

By going low-tech, depending on the time of year and where your are located, you could consider setting up several zeer pots. Obviously, get the parts ahead of time. It would help preserve foods that spoil rapidly without a fridge. Zeer pots are cheap and easy to set up. I gave a class about the zeer pots at the Dirttime 9 event, and it’s essentially a clay pot in a clay pot. You need a very large unglazed clay pot, or flower pot. Cover the bottom with about 2 inches of wet sand. Be sure to plug the hole in the bottom of the pot. The second pot must be able to fit inside the larger pot, and you tuck in wet sand all around the sides, between the two pots. The smaller pot can be glazed, or you use a copper or an aluminum pot as well. Make sure the sand between the pots is all wet. Cover the top with a wet cloth. Place in the shade where a breeze will hit it. You keep your food in the inner pot. This will keep a lot of foods from spoiling before you can eat it, and it works!

Details of the zeer pot can be found in Christopher Nyerges’ “How to Survive Anywhere” book, pages 81-83. He explains how Mohammed Bah Abbah, a potter in a small Nigerian village, invented the method to meet a local need where there was no electricity. Abbah won several awards for this simple technology in 2001.

If you have a root cellar, you will be streets ahead of most folks.

In a grid-down world, it will be calling on you to be your primitive self. A grid-down world might last weeks, months, or more. Who knows? Without electricity, it would be a far different world which most of us have never known, affecting millions who must have certain medications to stay alive.

I think we take for granted certain services that are almost invisible, like garbage pickup. Since that happy service will be gone, you will see how amazingly fast a place will fill up with garbage. Your option might be burning the garbage, maybe composting some. I would find a few barrels—now—that you could use for burning. You might think about digging a large pit for garbage but in some areas that simply won’t work well. Of course, if you simply couldn’t go to a store and buy something, an amazing amount of that garbage will be pressed into service and recycled to fill some need.

Even if just a few folks are eating and creating the garbage, it piles up very fast.

In the grid-down world, being prepared and truly owning the skills is going to be a huge deal. You must think outside of the box, because, well, there won’t be a box.

I really hope none of the potential tragedies that are looming never happen. Our wonderful way of life could be erased in a minute. If it does happen, be positive and think of as a very long term camping.

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