Survive Weeks Without Power
Millions lost power and suffered in Puerto Rico but you can have electricity after the power grid fails: How to store and re-generate electricity as an extended power supply before a grid collapse.
Best of all — No one needs to know you have it.
Originally published : by Tom Brennan and Mark Lawrence, SecretsofSurvival.com
Major Disasters Can Knock Out Power for Several Weeks
Recent hurricanes in Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico resulted in massive power outages and Puerto Rico’s entire grid was knocked out. FEMA has been overloaded and local resources have been unable to cope with the massive destruction. In a national emergency, nuclear attack, or even worse an EMP from an enemy attack or CME (Coronal Mass Ejection) from the sun, the recovery might take months or even years.
Never mind the loss of communications but the danger to health from no refrigeration, loss of medical facilities and overall halt to most of daily life’s most common elements would spread the damage on an unheard of scale. A national and societal collapse would follow quickly.
That is why you, me, and everyone else that may be taking steps to prep should include energy storage and energy generation on their list of survival tools for a catastrophic or extended disaster.
Surviving A Long Term Power Loss
Surviving a power loss means being ready to supply your own needs. Having stockpiles of long shelf life foods, medical supplies and a means to power working personal devices like smartphones and tablets are absolutely essential. For a list of basic survival foods see Top 10 Survival Foods to Stockpile and Top 10 High Calorie Survival Foods. These can be your “survival shopping checklist”.
Be Sure You Have the Basics Covered — Next, Move to Backup Power
Make sure you have repair supplies such as sheets of plywood, screws, nails and a dependable manual drill and hand tools to make patches and repairs in walls and roofs. Duct tape and baling twine are effective temporary binding tools for emergency repairs under severe conditions. Extra water supplies and a means to filter and purify water are extremely important as well. Save milk jugs for future use and for portable carriers.
That has been repeated in several articles, but we get so many new readers every day that it needs to be repeated. We have a variety of detailed, step by step articles on survival and prepping for any number of disasters throughout the SecretsofSurvival.com website… literally hundreds of articles on countless topics related to survival and being prepared for a catastrophic event…
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Temporary or Long Term Power Supply
In urban or suburban environments where there may be no immediate threat of civil unrest, a temporary power generating source is an excellent idea. A generator, battery band and converter will keep basic appliances going until power is back. This will suffice for weather emergencies, grid outages or events where relief is expected and in progress.
Moving to a stand-by mentality will keep food loss minimal and mental attitudes positive since communications will be active and news about relief efforts will be continuous.
First, Short Term Power Supply
A generator/battery bank such as described below will be the power supply, a smaller generator and a small number of specific large storage batteries (described further down) will suffice. The cost for a short term power supply and storage system isn’t much at all — and the payoff for having electricity can be tremendous, if it means maintaining communications with loved ones as well as news of secondary threats.
News of Secondary Threats Can Save Lives
Imagine if you lived in Japan and in an area that experienced first hand the after effects of the tsunami just a few years ago. Prior to the loss of power across the region, you would have had news of the impending tsunami. After the tsunami hit the coast, and after the power was gone across the region, without a backup power supply at home there you would never have known about the impending meltdown of the first nuclear reactor at Fukushima. Should you have lived in that area, and been unreachable by neighbors or rescue workers, you very easily could have been poisoned by the radiation that was let loose as a result.
Secondary Disasters Can Be Worse Than the First
News following a catastrophic disaster is a necessity. Without it, you could be in deep trouble and never know what kind of trouble was heading your way. Secondary disasters are a very real threat and sometimes can be a lot worse than the first.
Television News and Radio News
A backup power supply may enable you to receive television news (depending on your abilities for reception) and typically always means news via AM/FM radio. A backup power supply helps ensure you will always be in the know. News can alert you to natural disasters, major war, an invasion attempt (especially for our international readers), and even the launch of nuclear warheads from an overseas nation like North Korea — giving you time to seek cover on the far side of a hill (to escape a nuclear blast wave if you’re far enough out) or time to seek below ground shelter especially if you live in a major coastal city likely to be the target of a first wave nuclear strike.
This isn’t science fiction. The arming and rise of nuclear North Korea makes this a very real threat. Ignore that at your own peril.
Electricity is Gone
Second, Long Term Outages and National Catastrophe
Adapt or Fail
In an emergency situation, either short or long term there are many unknown scenarios so always be prepared for the worst.
Be assured that with the grid down or gone, life will change and to succeed and survive you will have to adapt. Even the best generator system can only produce a certain amount of the electricity you were accustomed to using.
1. Basic appliances will be available but will need to be run on a schedule that saves the most power. Having your shelter well insulated for heat and cooling will reduce power consumption.
2. Having a plan for staying warm without electrical heat and staying cool without electrical air conditioning means you will have a lot more emergency power in the first hours and days.
3. Moving to a sunrise to sunset schedule will be a necessity, storing rain water, making use of the local environment more efficiently and storing foods through preservation rather than refrigeration will make for successful living.
Using Equipment Intelligently — You May Need to Hide the Noise
In a national emergency where civil unrest and hostile groups are active, sound insulation for the power generator with plywood baffles, use of electric heaters (if you absolutely have to have heat) rather than smoke generating stoves — and then remembering to vent all heating and generating equipment — will provide security and help mask your use of these devices.
Storing Fuel Safely
Gasoline should be stored safely and securely and handled only by physically capable persons. Industrial gas depots have shown that gasoline and diesel both can be stored safely, but it’s always by carefully trained workers (its supposed to be anyways). With some online reading, you can quickly learn the ins and outs of handling and storing fuel safely — so do your homework first. One of our colleagues has hauled fuel for the oil industry and pumped fuel into and out of tankers, generators, and external storage containers — he assures us that, when you are paying attention, fuel can be handled safely. If you get careless, that’s when disasters can happen.
1. Make sure all your equipment, including any vehicles involved in the transfer of fuel, is grounded.
2. Use only non-sparking tools; if you drop a tool that can make a spark on impact, you and everything around you can go up in flames.
3. Don’t smoke — that should be obvious, but still some people get careless.
4. Cell phones should be turned off or nowhere near your fuel supply. A cell phone can ignite fumes that are present.
5. An empty fuel container that once held fuel can be more dangerous than a container full of fuel; fumes are explosive, and an empty container needs to be handled with utmost care.
6. During warmer weather, leave space for fuel expansion — or a tank or container can burst.
7. In severe cold weather, if you use diesel fuel, be sure to use “Clear 1” or “Off Road Diesel 1” — both have the correct properties for cold weather starting that normal grades do not; off road diesel 1 is the cheaper choice and probably the best bet.
Planning Ahead: Selecting Low Amp Appliances and Necessities.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to resort to becoming a cave-dwelling primitive, some conveniences are allowed, just select ones that use the least power and use them wisely.
1. If you are planning on relocation as part of your long term survival strategy, research and buy low-amp basic appliances for your new dwelling, wherever that may be.
2. If you plan to stay where you are, purchase some basics as your grid-failure backup system. Lower power appliances such as freezers, heaters etc. will deliver what you need but at a lower capacity.
Standard appliances, even Energy Star, still require higher power and this means you must generate and store more electricity. Still, remember this is a survival situation. The goal is to survive and endure until things change.
Adapting to different situations is essential; consider the alternative (not surviving). It is worth the effort to choose the lowest amp devices that are high quality and not prone to problems or failure.
The Electrical System
The basic electric power generating system consists of a fossil fuel powered generator, bank of storage batteries and converter (DC to AC). For energy independence a fossil fuel (gasoline) generator is best. Select a model that will generate the largest amount of power efficiently on the lowest amount of fuel. The generator will be run to charge the battery bank.
Use Your Battery Bank for “Silent” Power — Not the Generator
The battery bank is your source of electrical power, not the generator. Read that again.
The generator can be programmed to run on a set schedule to kick in when batteries are at a certain low point — though it may be best to run the generator manually, only at opportune times and even using “lookouts” a block or so away to give you an “all clear” signal that it’s ok to run the generator (even “quiet” generator models make some noise; operate with caution; more on this below…)
How to Choose the Best Generator.
There are many types, models and brands available. Consumer Reports is considered the most objective purchasing guide and they have an article about selecting a generator. Since there are many more generators available now, use their criteria as your guide. A tour of your local big box home improvement store can be one place to start, but an RV store and more importantly RV technician may have better input.
Seek Out RV Shops and Mechanics / Technicians for Specific Advice
RVs and some mobile home models are commonly outfitted with portable generators and RV technicians are typically experienced in calculating energy needs. Just any sales person at your local big box store may not be so knowledgeable and could point you in the wrong direction.
Because Individual Energy Needs Vary, We Can’t Advise You
What we can advise you on is this:
1. Figure out a way to save as much energy as possible and how to use electrical devices in such a way as to consume the least amount of power. For example, change all your light bulbs to the lowest watts possible and, regarding heat, maximize all insulating properties of your dwelling as well as seal all doors, windows, etc.
2. Have the equipment (empty barrels, tubs, scrub rack) to handwash and dry clothing; that also includes dishes, pots, and pans.
3. When not using a specific device, unplug all devices from inverters, generators, etc. as each can slowly drain power (called “phantom” power loss), even when certain devices are “off”.
4. Forget about powering your large screen television; a small portable television with a low energy draw can be the way to go (if cable or satellite are out, an external antennae — you may need a large external antennae — can still capture broadcast news — don’t forget at one time that’s how most televisions received signals). If you don’t need television, then radio is going to be the best device to go with for news as it draws less power than a television.
Finally, why use electrical power at all for your radio needs? Certain emergency radios can be powered with or without batteries or external electricity. This Kaito emergency radio model has been recommended in several articles on SecretsofSurvival.com. There’s a reason for that.
Batteries — Safe Storage for Several Hours or Days of Electricity
Marine Batteries Are Essential
Shh… I’m about to tell you a secret. It’s not supposed to be a secret though. But somehow when talk about preparing for an emergency turns to a backup power supply, most common statements have to do with portable generators. Why is that?
Marine Batteries Are the First Choice — Generators Are Second
Did you know that marine (boat) batteries, when connected to low watt devices, can run for hours before being fully depleted and needing to be recharged?
That’s where your generator comes in. You need the generator to recharge your marine batteries. If a disaster strikes, and your marine batteries are fully charged before hand, you have an immediate and silent supply of several hours of low watt power, vs having to run a somewhat noisy generator to supply energy.
Auto Batteries vs. Marine Batteries
12 volt auto batteries are chiefly intended to start a vehicle and run certain electrical devices (lights, clock, and radio) for short periods. They do not have the storage capacity to generate enough power to run appliances, even when linked in a battery bank (several 12 volt batteries wired together as part of a system).
Marine batteries have a high storage capacity and in a battery bank can supply a reasonable survival mode power source for essential appliances. At the same time, marine batteries can be repeatedly run down to zero power, and then recharged, again and again, without losing life (very little anyway). Auto batteries, on the other hand, shouldn’t be run down to zero, and then recharged or they can quickly burn out. That is why marine batteries are a very real and essential survival prep vs auto batteries.
Fossil Fuels Are Dependable for Powering Generators
Fossil fuels for generating power are best and most dependable in a long term grid failure, or even an EMP aftermath. Gasoline will be available from abandoned cars and fuel stations; you will just have to pump it out manually. Be sure to have a dedicated siphon for fuel. Also maintain a safe fossil fuel storage area far enough away from living quarters, free from combustible material and stored with secure containers and handled only by responsible persons. Carelessness is not optional.
Fuel Hard to Come By? There’s May Be More Than You Realize Closeby
Shh… want an easy way to find a large amount of fuel following a loss of the power grid? Check the local rail yard for abandoned trains that were carrying large amounts of fuel prior to the grid collapse and everything coming to a halt. That’s if the military or other faction hasn’t grabbed it already. You never know.
Trains carrying large amounts of fuel are likely to be abandoned out in the countryside as well. So if you’re ever out of fuel, just start walking the train tracks — especially if you know that these tracks carry fuel transports. Eventually you may come across an abandoned train and thousands of gallons of fuel.
1203 vs 1993
Become knowledgeable on identifying what kind of fuel is in what train car. Most train cars will be marked with a placard. A diamond shaped red sign with “1203” is the placard for gasoline while “1993” is the placard for diesel. Typically this is clearly marked on the outside of tanker cars being transported by train.
Don’t mess around with train cars that are labeled with other placards. They could be carrying a hazardous substance that can kill you should you encounter it.
You Have a Choice: Build Your Own Electricity System … or Have it Built By Someone Else
Many solar companies feature custom design and construction of power plants. They are usually realistic and will state that solar power depends on regular sunshine and there will be times when the weather is not favorable.
They build and supply auxiliary power generators and battery banks as backup. A solar power company will be able to construct a system for you. Many RV technicians also take on projects as well.
Not Just Solar Companies and RV Shops — Talk to Marinas
A local marina (where boats are stored and or worked on) may have people on staff who can put their experience to use in building a system. In all cases, check with local vendors and ask for estimates. You can also assemble your own. Materials are readily available as well as schematics.
If you are unsure or lack experience play it safe and have the work done by experienced professionals: You are dealing with electricity and this can be dangerous.
Calculate Power Needs by How Much You Can Spend
Knowing how much power you will need, how much you can spend and how you can use and maintain your generator system all adds together to help make intelligent decisions.
Part of your research needs to include specifications and instructions on troubleshooting. There’s nothing worse than having equipment you don’t know how to use or repair in an emergency. Batteries and battery wiring is the easy part of that equation. Whatever generator(s) you are using is where you may run into the most trouble should your generator fail to start or run correctly.
Generators Can Kill
Portable generators take lives every year — typically because there’s not adequate ventilation. The lesson here is never operate indoors; at the same time, be very aware of what direction the wind is blowing so that dangerous exhaust, namely carbon monoxide, isn’t blown into your dwelling where it can quickly kill you.
Generators Are Noisy — Use Wisely
If there’s ever a concern about noise, don’t run your generator that day or evening. Use that battery backup power supply instead.
Though they cost more money typically, a “quiet running” generator like this Yamaha may be the best choice for you, especially in an urban or suburban environment where you don’t want a noisy generator to tell the world that you have electricity.
That’s a quick way to draw the wrong kind of people to your location. Quiet is best. Silent is better. Be wise about this and use that battery bank of marine deep cycle batteries to supply power whenever your concerned about noise. Once danger has passed, then you can consider running that generator to recharge that battery bank, but not before.
Marine Battery Energy Storage Ratings
There are different size marine batteries; in solar panel systems they’re known by the other term, “deep cycle batteries”. When we discuss marine batteries, and deep cycle batteries, we are referring to the same category of batteries.
Important note: Deep cycle batteries have different storage capabilities. Think of the power storage needs on a large luxury yacht. In this case there could be 2 – 4 or more deep cycle batteries wired together as part of a “battery bank”, that same battery bank discussed earlier. For your power system, this is the same concept. But instead of the alternator in a luxury yacht’s engine keeping that battery bank charged, this is where we instead turn to that portable generator.
Whether you decide to build the system yourself or hire someone else to build it, you’ll want to turn to marine / deep cycle batteries with high amp hours (AH), which refers to how much energy they can store. For example, this deep cycle battery is rated for 200 amp hours. That’s several hours or longer of stored energy if you use it to only power low watt devices.
Threats to the Power Grid Are Real – Where You Rent or Buy a Home Can Be Part of Your Survival Strategy
Be ready to provide the basics for your family and yourself in a power outage with an emergency generator and battery system. You can bet that a lot of people down in Puerto Rico in recent weeks since the hurricane are experiencing ongoing misery, especially wherever electricity is still out and also because they failed to prep before hand. Or course there’s moving and relocation to talk about as well, and not just the “Redoubt” states, but parts of Canada north of the Pacific Northwest’s Puget Sound or northeast portion of the U.S. in the direction of Newfoundland and near the Atlantic Coast.
Remote Coastal Lands Near the Ocean May Be Rich in Resources
There is so much vast and remote landscape along these coastal areas that entire small cities could be built, if it came down to it, with access to ocean fishing and hunting in the interior. Following a permanent collapse of the power grid, it would be like discovering the “New World” all over again, but for modern day Americans emigrating from a country that was no longer safe to live in.
Be Prepared Before It Happens
… Don’t let “too little, too late” be what’s written on your gravestone one day. Don’t only have that backup power supply, but have the knowledge to protect all your electronics including that generator and battery bank from the possible effects of an EMP (electro-magnetic pulse). Take what you’ve learned about Faraday Cage construction and go bigger with the box you build to store your generator, wires, low watt appliances, and battery bank in. The last thing you want is to have your backup power system fried before you can put it to use.
Dan Sullivan, a guest writer in past months for SecretsofSurvival.com, put together this EMP video on Faraday Cage construction to explain how it can protect electronics from the effects of an EMP. It’s an eye opener.
Attacks on the national power grid, the threat of EMP, weather extremes and the inability of local and national agencies to provide relief or recovery are a “new normal” in today’s chaotic world. The daily news tells us only the tip of the iceberg; the reality is below that tip and can quickly overwhelm the unprepared. Several states and countries are showing us every year what happens to the unprepared.
Starting today, you can have the information, materials and resolve to survive. Go for it! People are depending on you.
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