When Others Are In The Dark

five basic needs: 1) food, 2) water, 3) shelter, 4) security, and 5) ENERGY

Nothing sends us back a century or two like an electric power outage. So much of what we call civilization lives or dies on the “juice” that we get with the flip of a switch.” (Discovery.com)

Modern energy and technology* is completely taken for granted in our society — until they no longer work. Of course, the world existed for millennia without our modern energy and there’s no doubt that human beings, as a species, can survive. But can we, today’s ultra-specialized, technology-dependent individuals?

What would we do without our cell phones and computers, microwaves and refrigerators, television and internet, central heat and air-conditioning, or simple “flip of a switch” to turn on the light as we walk into a dark room?

The power goes out. For how long? You don’t know. It could be a fallen tree, damaged power pole, lightning strike, ice/snow storm, high winds, or short-circuit from changing a routine part at a minor electrical substation; the list of inevitable ‘disasters’ continues. Since we prepare for the most likely emergencies first–not the Hollywood style mega disasters–let’s talk about what happens when we get sent “back a century or two” with a power failure. Most of us can fake it pretty well if the lights go out for a few hours to a couple of days. But what about after that?

What if it lasts longer? I’m not saying forever in the apocalyptic sense, just a huge storm that knocks out power for a few weeks? Suddenly we’d have to deal with all the disadvantages of not having power, and none of the advantages from “a century or two” ago of knowing how to heat, cook, and just exist on a daily basis without it (hell, the boredom alone would kill many of us).

We understand that to make fire it requires 1) fuel, 2) oxygen, and 3) an ignition source; and have all created it before. These days when most homes don’t even have a wood fireplace; frequently the only time we strike a match or a flick lighter is to light candle (or cigarette). Ironically if we do ‘make’ a fire in our gas fireplace or propane grill, it is literally “the flip of a switch”. But, making a successful wood fire–the key component in basic heat, light, and cooking–is getting to be a lost skill.

As preppers we should strive for far more than to be huddled around a fire to keep warm, turning our latest kill on a spit, and casting furtive glances into the darkness. We know there are systems that fail. We know that we are helpless to prevent them. So when the power fails, what is your plan to keep warm (or cool – though that’s not a big problem up here in Western Washington), cook, stay connected, and provide light?

This will be the last in the series of the ‘five basic needs’ posts. We’ve now established a baseline of those ideas and concepts which we will build on and refer back to.

(Wednesday: Product Review – Emberlit Stove)

*I won’t keep mentioning technology, but assume it’s implied knowing that it can’t exist without modern energy.

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2 thoughts on “When Others Are In The Dark

  1. My smallest energy backup is a 30-watt solar panel with a lawn tractor battery and a pure sine wave inverter I got from e-Bay. When someone ran into a power pole and put the neighborhood in the dark for about eight hours one summer evening, I pulled it out and hooked it up, allowing my wife to have a lamp, a radio, and her laptop with her smartphone as a wi-fi node so she could finish her studies and homework for a major exam the next day. People were cruising the neighborhood using their $4.00 per gallon gas in their cars just to get some AC and relief from the heat. They would stop in front of the house for a moment, wondering how we had light and music and internet. She finished about an hour before the power came back on.

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