One of the worst disasters that can befall modern man is a loss of the power grid. Our modern society is addicted to electricity. Just about everything we do uses it in one way or another. While some of those things are extras that we can live without, there are sufficient necessities that are powered by electricity that a loss of electrical power can put us into survival mode.
The thing is, it really doesn’t take much to cause a loss of the power grid, at least on a local level. We talk about EMP attacks and cyber-terrorism taking out the grid, but on a local level, all it takes is a good storm. There have been many a time when people have lost their electrical power and even been without it for days, just because of a storm.
If that happens during some times of the year, it really doesn’t matter all that much. Moderate weather can make it easy to survive, even without electrical power. Oh, there will be some inconveniences, but nothing more serious than that. But then, there are other times of the year, such as the middle of winter, when losing electrical power can be life-threatening if we aren’t ready to deal with it. If we can’t supply the things that electricity does for us, then we could be in grave danger.
So, we all know that we use electricity for our computers and televisions, but what are those critical survival needs that electricity takes care of for us? They are, heating, cooling, refrigeration, light and communications.
Heating without the Grid
The most critical need for electricity we have in modern society is for heating our homes. Even if you have a gas-fired furnace, it still uses electricity for the controls and blower. Loss of electrical power means that you can’t heat your home the normal way. Even older systems, such as old steam-boilers use electricity for the controls so while they use less electricity, they still need it. If you understand the control circuitry you can spoof it into working, operating the system manually.
For centuries, people heated their homes by burning wood. In a grid-down situation, this is still the best solution for most people. A fireplace or wood burning stove will make it possible to heat your home, or at least heat a portion of it.
Another option is to use some sort of a portable heater, such as a kerosene heater. These are very efficient and burn clean, albeit with some odor. The big problem is having a supply of kerosene for use in the heater. Kerosene can be expensive, especially if you live in an area where it is not commonly used for heating. Portable propane heaters are another option, but like kerosene heaters, they require having a stockpile of fuel that you can use.
Cooling without the Grid
To people living in the northern part of the country, air conditioning is a convenience. But to those who live in the southwest, loss of air conditioning can produce conditions which can be almost as life threatening as the loss of heat in the north can be. When temperatures top 100 degrees, the body has trouble getting rid of excess heat and can ultimately succumb to heat exhaustion.
Unlike using wood to heat, there really aren’t good manners of alternative cooling. You are limited to two options. The first is to stay in the shade, as it can be as much as ten degrees cooler in the shade than it is in the sun. The second is to use evaporative cooling. That’s why the body sweats. If you are in an area with low humidity you can use evaporative cooling, wetting down your clothes or putting damp cloths over the windows.
Evaporative cooling works especially well when there is a light wind to speed the evaporation process. You can build evaporative coolers that are manually operated, which will help in keeping your home cooler, if not actually cool.
Of course, if you happen to have some caves on your property, you can always go underground to keep cool. No matter how hot it gets on the surface, it will be considerably cooler underground.
Refrigeration without the Grid
Refrigeration is the second most important use of electrical power. We depend on refrigeration and freezing to preserve foods so that they don’t go bad. But refrigeration requires a lot of electrical power. In the event of a power loss, a good refrigerator-freezer unit may keep the food cool for a couple of days, but that’s it.
Just as we talked about with cooling your home, you can use evaporation to keep food cool, if not cold. The Zeer Pot is a means of keeping food cool, which is quite effective. It has been in use in Africa and Asia for centuries, extending the life of food considerably.
The other natural means of keeping foods cool and preserving them is by use of a root cellar. This is essentially the same as going into a cave to keep cool. The underground temperature will be cooler, allowing the food stored underground to last longer.
Light without the Grid
Another major use of electricity in modern times is to produce light. In olden times, they were pretty much limited to working during daylight hours. The inventions of the candle and the oil lamp altered that, but only to an extent, as the amount of light they put out is somewhat limited. Nevertheless, the light offered by these devices is better than not having anything.
A good supply of candles and oil-burning lamps should be high on everyone’s list of survival supplies. If purchased properly, they are inexpensive and will store for a long period of time. Make sure you have a good supply of matches to go with them.
Communications without the Grid
Although not a true necessity for survival, the ability to communicate can help us to find out what is going on so that we can know how to deal with it. It is also useful in letting family members know that you are okay.
Of all the modern uses of electricity, communications is the one that will cause the least amount of problem during a power outage. That’s mostly because a lot of our communications is battery powered. You can receive the news over battery powered radios and cell phones are all battery powered. While not all radio stations have generators to provide power, the telephone companies do, allowing communications to continue without power, as long as their fuel holds out.