Sunday, July 3, 2022

EMERGENCY HEAT and Light for 72 DAYS | Crisco candles | SHTF

What Is The Closest Power Plant To Your Home? Are You Living In The High-Risk Zone?





by RICH M.

We do a lot of talking about electrical power in the prepping and survival community: specifically, how we can survive without it. But surviving without electrical power isn’t the only way that we should be concerned about it. Electrical power production can be dangerous in and of itself, especially when we talk about things like nuclear power.

There are plenty of statistics around, which show just how safe nuclear power is. But there are also some rather spectacular examples of accidents involving nuclear power plants.

While nuclear power is safe, when all those safety measures fail, the results can be catastrophic. All anyone has to do is mention nuclear power and people instantly remember the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster of 2011, the Chernobyl disaster in 1986 and the Three Mile Island accident in 1979. Those aren’t the only reactor accidents, by the way; but they three of the top five.

We currently have 60 commercially operated nuclear power plants, containing a total of 98 nuclear reactors. Surprisingly, the state of Illinois has the most, with a total of 11 operating reactors. A total of 12 states generate more than 30% of their power through the use of nuclear power.

Related: Alphabetical List of Operating Nuclear Power Reactors by Name

In addition to these, there are another 39 smaller nuclear reactors which are not used for the generation of electrical power, but are housed in research facilities. These reactors produce radioisotopes for nuclear medicine, as well as being used in training and as laboratory tools. Some are working on developing new technologies, seeking to make nuclear power even safer for use.

Our fleet of nuclear power plants is aging though, with the average age being 39 years. That’s fairly serious, when we consider that they have been designed to last a mere 50 years. The oldest of those plants entered service in 1969, putting it over that 50 year threshold. That’s only one of four which have already surpassed their expected service life.

On the other end of that scale, there is only one nuclear power plant which is less than 20 years old. Thanks to environmental activists, it is extremely difficult to open nuclear power plants, even though it is one of the cleanest forms of energy production there is.

How Much Risk is There?

In today’s day and age, the big question isn’t so much how many reactors we have or whether they are inherently safe, but whether anyone could make them unsafe. Stories abound about hackers trying to break into our electrical grid, including our nuclear power plant. There’s even one story about some foreign power hacking into one of our nuclear power plants and taking control of it for several hours.

The potential damage that could be caused by someone taking control of one of our reactors is definitely something to be concerned about. Can you imagine the panic that would occur if one of the recent ransomware attacks that have hit our country were to have been aimed against one of our nuclear power plants? Or how about if the pilots who flew those airliners into the twin towers on 9-11 had aimed for a nuclear power plant instead?

The truth of the matter is, with people who are willing to do anything, including putting their own lives on the table as gambling chips, our nuclear power plants are vulnerable to attack. While I have been assured that the computer controls to those plants are not tied into the internet or any other network, making them supposedly impervious to hacking, all it would take is one unscrupulous worker accepting a bribe to make them vulnerable. There are also many ways in which a direct attack on one of the plants could be catastrophic.

Related: The First Thing You Should Do After a Nuclear Attack

Our big question isn’t whether something could happen to a nuclear power plant, but how bad it would be and whether or not we should be concerned. That will vary for all of us, depending on how close we live to one of those plants. Even the 19 states which don’t have a nuclear power plant could be at risk of fallout, if a plant were to be destroyed upwind of them.

Nuclear Emergency Planning Zones

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has established two different types of emergency planning zones (EPZs) around every nuclear reactor in the country. The closer in zone is called the “plume exposure pathway EPZ” and extends about 10 miles in every direction around a nuclear plant.

The big concern in this case, is the inhalation of airborne radioactive contamination. The farther zone is called the “ingestion pathway EPZ” and is concerned with food and liquids which might become contaminated and then ingested. This zone extends roughly 50 miles around the power plant.

As the power plants are constantly monitored, with extensive redundancy in the monitoring methods used, the NRC expects to be able to issue warnings and alerts should any unexpected radiation escape from one of our nuclear power plants.

But there is ample reason to question these EPZs, based upon past nuclear accidents. Japanese officials weren’t able to determine a proper safe zone from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station. As a compromise, they set a distance of just 30 km, with the first 20 km being a mandatory evacuation zone and the following 10 km being voluntary.

Many organizations, including the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) came out saying that 30 km wasn’t far enough. Several countries, including the United States, recommended that citizens visiting Japan keep a minimum of 80 km away.

Yet radiation from that accident spread from four of the six reactors, contaminating the Pacific Ocean. That radiation, as well as airborne radiation carried by air currents reached the western coast of the United States, killing a considerable amount of marine life.

Related: A Strange Thing That Might Save Your Life in A Nuclear Aftermath

What About Explosion?

One of the big questions about nuclear power plants is whether or not they can explode. This has been a popular theme in science fiction and even a few movies; but in reality, a nuclear power plant cannot produce a fission explosion. The nuclear fuel is too dilute to form the critical mass necessary to produce a chain reaction, leading to an explosion. So at least we’re all safe from that.

While we don’t have to worry about a nuclear explosion from the reactors, that doesn’t mean any of us are safe. The Fukushima accident was created by an earthquake that caused a tsunami. Other similar disasters could cause similar results at literally any other nuclear reactor, anywhere in the world.

Are You in Danger?

Whether or not you are in danger from a nuclear power accident depends mostly on your proximity to a nuclear power plant. Fortunately, this information is public and easy to find. All you have to do is search online for nuclear power plants and you can find the information, either in map form or in list form.

Check the location of nuclear power plants in your state and in neighboring states if you live near the state’s border. If you are outside the 50 mile zone, about the only way that you could be affected by a nuclear power plant catastrophe, would be if someone blew the plant up with a large enough bomb to cast nuclear material into the atmosphere, creating fallout. Other than that, you’re safe.What Is The Closest Power Plant To Your Home? Are You Living In The High-Risk Zone?

If you live within the danger zone, I’d recommend having an emergency evacuation plan in place; one which will take you far enough away to keep your family safe. That plan has to be one that you can put into place quickly, so that you can beat everyone else who might be evacuating as well. Don’t stop for anything, including driving back home to pick up your bug out bag. This is the type of disaster where it’s best to take action first, and then do the analysis later.

That means you have to have a supply cache somewhere outside the EPZ, so that you will have basic supplies to use if you find yourself forced to evacuate. I’d recommend establishing it at or near your survival retreat, either at the home of a friend or in a rented storage unit.

What About Fallout?

If someone actually manages to blow up one of our nuclear power plants, sending nuclear material into the upper atmosphere, then the abovementioned EPZs won’t really matter all that much. They weren’t done with that scenario in mind. Nevertheless, if you live within the 10 km zone, I’d still bug out.

The bigger, more difficult question will be about fallout. Where fallout occurs, how long it lasts and how far it extends all depend on the weather. The National Weather Service will be monitoring that, in conjunction with other government agencies. You can be sure that the government will be providing constantly updated information about that.

Evacuation isn’t necessarily required due to fallout, although it isn’t a bad idea. But you can do just as good sheltering in place, in your basement (assuming you have a basement). The fine particles of radioactive material that are fallout won’t penetrate below the ground. So as long as you are in your basement, you’re fairly well protected.

Depending on the situation, you might have to shelter in place for as long as 30 days. That means having enough supplies and other essentials stored in your basement, for your family to survive that long.

You’ll also need such things as bathroom facilities and a means to cook food. Essentially, you’ll need to plan on living in your basement, as if it were a bunker.

Saturday, July 2, 2022

Tin Cans :12 Survival Hacks/ Uses

What to Put in a Bug-Out Bag for Toddlers






By Aden Tate





By the author of The Faithful Prepper and Zombie Choices

Have you ever considered a bug-out bag for your little ones? Well, imagine this: disaster has struck, and you decide to get your family out of the house and head for the hills. One of those family members happens to be a toddler. While you’ve undoubtedly built your bug-out bag for such an event, what about a bug-out bag for toddlers?

Sure, many people with small children stash things for the kids in their bug-out bags. But, wouldn’t it be wise to have a special bag just for them? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of a toddler bug-out bag and what should go in those bags.
Pros of a bug-out bag for toddlers

Imagine you and your family are on your way to your survival retreat, and there’s a roadblock up ahead where gunfire has just erupted. You have no chance of turning around, and you’re a two-day hike from your destination. Do you and your kids have what it takes to make the walk?

It’s important to ensure that your family has what they need to stay safe at all times. Particularly during events such as hurricanes, floods, wild fires, and even civil unrest and riots. You need to quickly throw essentials in the car and get the heck out of dodge in these situations. Should anything push you out into the woods or knock you off course as you journey to your BOL, having ready-to-go BOBs could be life-savers. Having a bug-out bag for your toddler can also help ensure an easier getaway.
Two main advantages of a toddler BOB

#1: Space-saver

Face it. Kids gear is bulky. Whether we’re talking about diapers, blankies, toys, or whatever else, it all takes up space in your pack. You need to carry as many of the items necessary to survive as possible in your BOB.

If you can’t carry much food with you because you have a bunch of diapers taking up space, you have to find a solution. A toddler BOB can be a small part of that solution.

#2: Comfort items close to the kids

Many kids don’t do well if they know their favorite toy is just out of reach. They want to KNOW their favorite item is there with them. Having it in the mini BOL will help do just that. While you may be able to live a spartan lifestyle, your kid cannot. They need the small comforts that you deem unnecessary to survive. For a kid, they are necessary.
Cons of a bug-out bag for toddlers

The main thing that sucks about a toddler’s BOB is that you’re eventually going to end up carrying it. If you’re evacuating from a hurricane and can quickly toss your kid’s BOB into the SUV as you head for relatives in Tennessee, then this is no big deal.

If you’re trekking 20 miles through the woods to your mountain retreat as you avoid enemy invaders, that’s a bit of a different story. Your kid will help to carry their BOB, but that’s all they’re doing – helping. You, as the adult, are primarily responsible for ensuring everyone and everything gets from Point A to Point B.
What to pack in a bug-out bag for toddlers

The main thing I think about with a toddler BOB is saving myself space in my own kit. Remember, that’s space, not weight. There’s a huge difference between the two. If you load your kid down with all kinds of heavy items, they will not go anywhere. Your toddler’s BOB should not weigh any more than 1-2lbs.

First you will need the bag. If your child already has one that is lightweight and durable you can use that. If you need one here is a fantastic, lightweight and super cute bag from Dueter.
Favorite toy

Every kid has their favorite toy, and as a parent, you know how devastating it can be to them to lose it. I consider this to be the first necessity for a toddler’s BOB. Kids need routine, and losing their favorite belonging hurts my heart and is a huge deal in the world of a little kid. Cut the crap about “it’s not a necessity.” You love your kid. Pack their dang toy.
Small blanket

Your kid may very well have their favorite blankie. Some of these are no larger than a dishrag. Others are kid-sized. Either way, it will fit in your toddler’s BOB saving you quite a bit of space in your BOB. Also, you won’t be adding unnecessary weight to your kid’s bag.
Snacks

I focus on dry goods here. A few little bags of gummies and Goldfish are the only things I add to this category. I avoid pouches as they’re a heavier food item compared to dry goods. I can carry those.Annie’s Variety Pack
Nature’s Bakery Fig Bars
A Raincoat

A little raincoat rolled up doesn’t weigh much and can easily be carried by a toddler. I consider Rainproof clothing an essential component of a BOB, and your child needs protection from the elements. A raincoat can be a little piece of the puzzle to help do such.Arshiner Little Kid Lightweight Raincoat
Diapers

By no means would I make the kid carry his entire stash of diapers. I don’t see a problem with 2-3 being in here, though. They’re light items that a kid can carry with ease. And, they will be as easy to get to as possible as the daily accidents happen.
Small Flashlight

These don’t need to be super fancy. Just something small and easy to use.KunHe Toddlers Mini LED Flashlight
KunHe Small LED Flashlight for Kids




What NOT to pack in a bug-out bag for toddlers

Liquids

You have to have water with you in your BOB, but don’t make your kid carry it. Water is heavy. You are the one that carries liquids and sippy cups.
Wipes

Wipes saturated with liquid are heavy. Don’t make your kid have a weight strapped to their back. Figure out a way to make room for the wipes in your own BOB.
Actual survival gear

Do you only have one fire striker? Is it a good idea to put that in the hands of a 2-year-old in a survival situation? I don’t think so. If it’s essential to life, the kid doesn’t get to carry it—end of story.
Anything dangerous

This should be a no-brainer. If the item is potentially dangerous, your kid doesn’t need to have it in their pack. Odds are they’ll open up their bag at some point when you’re not looking. Be responsible and keep the dangerous stuff on your person.
“Da’ee, look! I ha’ bahpah TOO!”

Many of you know the physical and emotional toll disasters can have on people. Just think of the toll on young children. The mental and emotional well-being of your kids is just as important as their physical well-being. Teaching them to be resilient and competent will help with this.

Help give them a sense of security by talking to them, in a way they can understand, about these situations and what you expect from them. Make sure to involve them in crafting a bug-out/evacuation plan for your family. A toddler BOB is a cool way for a toddler to “help” and keep some of their essentials as easy to access as possible.

What are your thoughts on the situation? Do you agree or disagree with the steps I lay out here? Are there other tweaks you would make? What would you put in a bug-out bag for toddlers? Let me know in the comments below!
About Aden

Aden Tate has a master’s in public health and is a regular contributor to TheOrganicPrepper.com, TheFrugalite.com, PewPewTactical.com, SurvivalBlog.com, SHTFBlog.com, ApartmentPrepper.com, HomesteadAndPrepper.com, and PrepperPress.com. Along with being a freelance writer, he also works part-time as a locksmith. Aden has an LLC for his micro-farm where he raises dairy goats, a pig, honeybees, meat chickens, laying chickens, tomatoes, mushrooms, and greens. Aden has two published books, The Faithful Prepper and Zombie Choices. You can find his podcast The Last American on Preppers’ Broadcasting Network.


Friday, July 1, 2022

Survival Lessons from The Great Depression

10 Survival Items to Get at Garage Sales

 Original Article


Being prepared means acquiring a certain amount of gear. But all of this gear that we buy as preppers gets expensive, and quickly!

Tools, weapons, equipment, shelter supplies, clothing- it adds up fast and you could be looking at a small mountain of debt if you are buying high-end gear brand new from your local big-box outdoor or camping store.

garage sale

So what is a prepper to do, caught between this financial rock and budgetary hard place? You don’t want to forgo essential supplies or equipment, but taking care of your finances is a necessary prep all unto itself.

You might be tempted to put it all on a credit card and brace yourself for that first payment or even pawn a lesser used organ. You could try a gun show or swap meet, but too many owners are too proud of their stuff and price it accordingly. It seems to be a dilemma.

But I have a solution, one that has worked for me time and time again. Check out garage sales. chances are you haven’t thought to investigate garage sales in and around your town for survival gear, but you would be surprised what kind of gear you can pick up for pennies on the dollar. This article will show you my top 10 picks for garage sale survival gear finds.

Not New, But New to You!

Garage sales are a great way to pick up new gear. Well, not new new, but new to you! You might be wary of snagging any equipment or supplies that you plan on using in a life or death context in used condition, but don’t be.

Most of the things being sold at a garage sale are items that people barely used and no longer care to see accumulate dust in their garages, attics or closets, not stuff that has been beat the crap and they are trying to throw away while getting paid in the bargain.

This means that your typical garage sale find will likely be a little dusty and musty, but otherwise in good repair, or at least good enough repair that you can gain valuable capability while saving a bundle over a new item.

Furthermore, many of the things that we are searching for happened to have very long service lives if they have been given even a modicum of care.

That means you can usually buy with confidence so long as something isn’t obviously defective. A little TLC and it will be as good as new!

However, for certain items it definitely pays to know a little bit about what you are dealing with. Naturally, you shouldn’t expect any kind of return policy on anything you buy at a garage sale and though most people will inform you of any glaring defects, there’s always one or two Slick Willys out there who will try to dupe unwitting buyers. Caveat emptor!

With all that out of the way, let us get to our list.

10 Survival Items to Get at a Garage Sale

Hiking Packs and Rucksacks

Backpacks and other survival- or camping-centric luggage are some of my favorite items to nab from garage sales. Don’t be afraid to ask if the owners have any they are looking to get rid of aside from the usual assortment of moldy old gym bags and kids’ book bags.

It is easy to find quality army surplus, or even serious technical hiking packs with frames and all at garage sales. I once picked up an osprey backpack in mint condition for pennies on the dollar.

This is a great item to look for at garage sales because, like so many other things, the seller or even the entire family might decide to go whole hog into a hobby before giving it the old try and see.

Much of this gear will be in gently used or even like new condition as mentioned because, as it turns out, they just weren’t as into it as they were hoping. Their loss is your gain, and you can save hundreds of dollars on your luggage by acquiring it in this way.

Boots

If you have been out shopping for quality, rugged outdoor capable footwear here lately then you might still be suffering from a case of sticker shock.

Technical hiking boots and even lightweight trail shoes seem to have experienced precipitously climbing prices in these past few years and that means grabbing a pair for yourself could set you back several hundred dollars.

Even worse, depending on where and how you acquire them there might not be any recourse if it turns out they just don’t get along with your feet after you wear them a couple of times. That is money down the drain!

Happily, it is easy to find rugged, high quality boots at garage sales. Many folks will have hunting, hiking or camping boots that only have a little seasoning on them before they were resigned to the closet to live ever after.

So long as you can find a size that works for you and try them on you shouldn’t be afraid to get some used boots, assuming they aren’t too battered.

Even if they look a little worse for the wear, look closer. Many traditional boots that have replaceable soles or lugs can be refreshed by a skilled cobbler very cheaply, making them effectively like new for you!

Blankets

Another one of my favorite buys at a garage sale are blankets, specifically wool blankets like our great grandparents used to use and that many militaries still issue to their troops for keeping warm in the field.

We aren’t looking for traditional comforters or thin, wimpy blankets that women are so fond of draping artistically and haphazardly over one arm of the couch. We want heavy, thick genuine wool!

Though these blankets used to be a dime a dozen back when more textiles used wool for a variety of purposes, they have started to go the way of the dodo and are turning into what is basically a bespoke item with prices to match.

I don’t much like the idea of shelling out a couple hundred dollars on a wool blanket, even though I will if I have to. That’s because wool is incredibly insulating and will keep you warm even when it is soaking wet.

You’ll be thrilled to get this kind of performance far cheaper if you cruise the garage sales in your town looking for these old fashioned but still eminently useful blankets

Outerwear

Living, working and surviving outdoors or in the aftermath of any event that takes away our climate control systems means that protecting yourself from the effects of exposure is Paramount.

If you are fortunate enough to live in one of the relatively few places that enjoys balmy warm weather around the clock year in and year out, I’m happy for you.

But for the rest of us regular Earth people we probably live in a place that is either cold or a place that gets cold in the appropriate seasons. Adding some wind and wet weather and the stage is set for rapid onset hypothermia.

Your first line of defense against exposure is warm clothing. There is no shortage of frankly miraculous technical garments that are incredibly light, durable and very warm in all sorts of weather conditions but they cost a pretty penny.

Large, warm parkas, weatherproof shells, sweaters and more are commonly up for grabs at garage sales and will work just as well when purchased used for a quarter of the price as they will fresh out of the package with that weird factory smell.

As always, try it on before you take it home but if you can grab some quality cold weather clothing at a garage sale, rejoice!

Tents and Camping Gear

Tense and other associated camping items are perennial offerings at garage sales from coast to coast.

Plenty of folks by tents and other camping gear with big, pie in the sky dreams of idyllic family outings at various parks and beautiful wilderness vistas. Trips full of storytelling, roasting marshmallows and bird watching.

After the first few miserable forays full of frayed nerves, mysterious sounds, terrible sleep and legions of biting insects the romance is stone, cold dead and the tent goes up for sale.

Modern tents specially are one of those items that is an excellent option for snagging at a garage sale since quality examples are getting so gosh darn expensive at retailers.

Whatever tent you have available, it pays to give it a thorough going over to make sure it is not moldy, suffering from torn or pop stitching or missing those ever critical components of the frame.

So long as you know a little bit about these systems in general, you should be able to grab your new tent for a song and the owner will thank you for it.

cast iron cookware in the kitchen

Cast Iron Cookware

Surviving isn’t all about shelter and weaponry. Other basic needs must be met, like procuring and preparing food.

Preparing food especially can be challenging since most survival situations will not allow you the use of a fully equipped and energized modern kitchen. However, many of your kitchen tools that don’t rely on electricity will still be useful, and perhaps none more than any cast iron cookware you might have.

Cast iron cookware is durable, adaptable and supremely versatile, capable of being used in the oven, on the stove top, on the grill or over a campfire with equal ease.

One of the best sources of high quality, used cast iron cookware is garage and yard sales. most folks, even folks who don’t do a lot of their own cooking or disdain the use of these heavy, brutish implements will still have a supply of it, usually handed down lovingly from grandparent, to parent and finally to child.

Cast iron is surprisingly expensive when purchased new, and obtaining it from antique stores means you’ll be paying prices according to what the proprietor knows it is worth, but you can get it for a song at a garage sale.

Fishing Poles and Tackle

Fishing is a time-honored recreational activity and a useful survival skill in equal measure. It is unfortunate, then, that so much fishing tackle and especially reels and rods have gotten so expensive and oftentimes don’t measure up against older stuff that your granddad used.

Also, like so many hobbies, many people jump in with both feet only to lose enthusiasm or discover that it just isn’t for them.

Many more have to regretfully give up the hobby when other responsibilities take precedence and they don’t have as much time to get out on the shore or out on the water like they used to.

Naturally, fishing rods, reels and entire crates full of lures and other tackle will be up for sale at the neighborhood garage sale. This is the perfect time to completely get yourself out for a fraction of the cost that you could expect at a direct retailer.

Fishing is not that complicated on the equipment side, but it definitely pays to know what you are looking at and understand the condition of the rod and reel.

You don’t want to buy a piece of junk on its last legs at any price, so bring someone with you who knows their stuff if you are uncertain.

Lanterns

Battery powered personal light sources are great, but they are limited by your ability to recharge them. This necessitates access to a functioning electrical grid or the use of slow, cumbersome solar chargers in the case of a rechargeable.

If you want dependable, on demand lighting that is free from dependence upon electricity, it is time to look into liquid fueled lanterns. kerosene and alcohol fueled lanterns have been around for a very long time, and are indeed the primary light source in many places around the world to this very day.

You can buy modern iterations for a pretty penny, or save yourself a bundle by picking up vintage but still entirely useful models by the cart load at your average garage sale.

Especially prevalent in the American South and Midwest, many such lanterns are family heirlooms, handed down from generation to generation until somebody gets tired of watching them collect dust in the garage.

A little bit of sprucing up, a new wick or element and a load of fuel and they are ready to push back the shadows once again.

Tools

Another one of my favorite garage sale finds are tools of all description. It is funny how people accumulate tools over time.

Professional tool users will completely festoon their garages and personal workshops with them for professional or hobby related reasons, while the rest of us slowly, surely seem to acquire a collection over time that fills up that one junk drawer in our kitchen or a toolbox placed haphazardly under the sink.

Eventually, there must be a reckoning and these surplus tools are invariably laid out for sale in garages and on driveways across America.

Lucky for you it is possible to score some real bargains on high quality options. Especially hand tools like axes, hatchets, hammers and saws can be found as antique contrivances that are really high performance implements in waiting.

Compared to buying modern, mass produced options made from pig iron out of such places as china, you’d be far better off getting an heirloom quality version and doing a little restoration.

Bows and Crossbows

Conventional bows and crossbows are excellent weapons for discreetly procuring big game, and can even be handy for self-defense in a pinch when firearms are unavailable or just too loud.

Modern examples of either are especially effective at impressive ranges and crossbows in particular can produce genuinely frightening penetration and accuracy. Trust me when I say these are survival tools that everyone should embrace and learn to use.

As you might expect, this performance comes at a price tag, at least it does if you buy new. But like so many other recreational and outdoor items that are on this list many such weapons will wind up looking for a new home at a local garage sale once the spell woven by the “Good Idea fairy” wears off.

Similar to fishing rods and other tackle, it is beneficial if you know at least a little bit about what you are shopping for and what you are looking at before acquiring a garage sale bow or crossbow. Be sure to bring an expert friend or relative with you if you don’t!

Conclusion

Buying survival gear can get really expensive, really fast. But you don’t have to drop a fortune and you don’t have to settle for cheap, inadequate equipment if you know how to find bargains at your local garage and yard sales.

Quite a few survival centric tools and other items can be had at these sales and for pennies on the dollar compared to the cost of new items.

Next time you see one of those tacky little signs on the corner, take the time to spin by and browse the selection. You’ll probably be glad you did.

Thursday, June 30, 2022

It's Getting Worse Than I Thought (Please Prepare)

An Assessment of the U.S. Power Grid and Its Vulnerabilities

 Original Article



By Tom Marlowe

We face many problems and ongoing threats in America today, but one of the most pervasive and the most pressing or threats to our power grid.

It is difficult to understand just how important electricity is to our modern society, and most folks are totally, completely unprepared for a sustained loss of electricity.

Far from being a luxury that can turn on lights at the flick of a switch or animate all of our wondrous modern gadgetry, electricity is now woven into the DNA of our society, and is quite literally the beating heart of commerce, communications, national defense and more.

power lines

It is terrible, then, to consider how old, decrepit and increasingly vulnerable to disaster or attack the entire power grid is.

But consider it we must and a thorough understanding of the vulnerability of our national power grid and our attendant dependency on it is the first step towards insulating ourselves against a long-term or indefinite loss of that power. The consequences of such an event can barely be put into words.

This article will serve as your assessment of the current status of the United States power grid, its vulnerabilities and the likely outcomes you’ll be facing should a regional or nationwide grid down scenario occur.

Electricity is Essential for Modern Life and Continuation of Services

Virtually everyone living in the United States today, and indeed throughout much of the West, quite literally cannot imagine life without the reliable, constant presence of electricity.

It is no overstatement to assert that our electrical grid is the single, most important part of our nation’s infrastructure. It is even more important than our telecommunications hubs, any financial industry, national defense or transportation.

This is because our electrical infrastructure is quite literally integral to the continued operation and sustainment of all of the other mentioned components of our society.

If the electrical grid goes down many elements will cease working entirely until power is restored, and what few remain working will be severely degraded or limited in capability.

The ongoing operation of our electrical grid is the keystone to modern life as we know it and anything that threatens it threatens to start disastrous dominos falling in rapid succession, ending in calamity.

But in a strange sort of symbiosis, our electrical power grid is itself dependent on many other utilities and other parts of our infrastructure.

Natural gas, oil, transportation and telecommunications systems are all vital to the ongoing upkeep and operation of electrical grids from coast to coast and if any of these systems are delayed or disrupted it will start an already complex and tottering electrical grid to begin swaying, and perhaps collapse.

Aside from big picture national infrastructure and societal initiatives, all of us “little people” are still entirely dependent on electricity for running our day-to-day lives.

99 times out of 100, electricity is what will make the lights come on to banish the darkness. We rely on electricity to power our devices that keep us connected to the internet, receive radio signals or operate our televisions. Electricity keeps our banks on and functioning, be it at the teller counter or at the ATM.

Electricity keeps grocery store shelves replenished and stockrooms receiving. We even need electricity to fill up our personal vehicles with gasoline, or to recharge them directly in the case of all electric vehicles.

Imagine all of that, everything, ceasing in an instant and perhaps not coming back on for a very long time. When it fails, it will fail quickly and with ever-increasing rapidity.

Seemingly Minor Incidents Can Lead to Regional Outages

Despite this extraordinary importance to the preservation of life and society in the United States, our electrical system is frighteningly vulnerable both from within and without.

The actual components of our electrical system, the very equipment that allows it to operate and transmit electricity to facilities and homes is old and outdated, and getting older by the day.

The layout of the system is also a major point of vulnerability, being both obsolete and highly Byzantine in design in many regions.

The principles of engineering used to construct and connect it are also proving to be increasingly out of date compared with modern, better practices.

In total, all of these shortcomings add up to a nationwide grid that is by and large incredibly frail, fragile and vulnerable to disruption if not outright destruction.

Aside from quality of life and production problems like high failure rates throughout the nation that just get worse as time goes by, inefficient production and delivery of power and rising repair costs we must also deal with maintenance and refits that grow increasingly expensive and complex owing it to the slap dash, antiquated nature of the grid.

What does this mean in practical terms? It means that our electrical grid, considered at local, regional and national scales, is highly vulnerable to everything from natural disasters and direct action attacks to simple rough weather and seemingly minor accidents.

Any or all of them, as you will soon learn, or enough to trigger total blackouts over a shockingly wide area, potentially affecting millions or tens of millions of people, to say nothing of other critical infrastructure.

As the Demand on the Grid Increases, Funding for Critical Maintenance and Protection Decreases

It is not bad enough that the power grid is old, outmoded, and vulnerable to internal and external threats, along with the odd brush from bad weather or legitimate natural disasters.

Further compounding the problem geometrically are the ever increasing demands in society for electricity along with maintenance and upgrade budgets that are slashed and slashed again as the political football is kicked about or is otherwise raided as part and parcel of the graft that all of our elected officials engage in.

The government is also interested in converting every single one of its vehicles, at least those used in civic roles, to fully electrically-powered. The increasing funneling of taxpayer money to Tesla and other companies pioneering these technologies is proof enough of their commitment.

Consumers, driven by a counterfeit ecologically-conscious ideology or from government mandates in various states, are likewise starting to buy into electric consumer vehicle technology.

Constant attacks against reliable forms of major power production like coal, natural gas, oil and especially nuclear power in lieu of inefficient dead ends like solar and wind power likewise mean that demand is only going up, up, up while production of electricity barely grows at all, goes stagnant or even operates at a net loss due to ever-increasing inefficiency as mentioned previously.

This means that the already overburdened, vulnerable and inefficient power grid will be subjected to growing demands that it can barely handle as is, in ideal conditions.

What do you think will happen to the power grid and to consumers’ access to steady, reliable electricity when times are tough?

Heat waves, direct action attacks, successful cyber warfare intrusions, major natural disasters, cosmic EMP events and more all have the potential to completely capsize our power grid.

Make no mistake: there is going to be no nationwide initiative to revamp our power grid in any meaningful way. There will not even be any money found to afford it a significant overhaul or badly needed maintenance in many areas.

Things are going to limp along like this for the foreseeable future, with everyone involved happy to kick the can down the road or sweep the problem under the rug until such time as the inevitable happens and a total systems collapse occurs.

What is likely to be the instigating factor for that collapse? We have no shortage of possible offenders to look forward to.

Keep reading to get an overview of the most serious and pervasive threats to our power grid, and after that we will examine a selection of some of the biggest and most destructive, not to mention most costly, power grid failures in the 20th and 21st centuries.

Specific Vulnerabilities and Threats to the U.S. Power Grid

The following section details just a few of the major threats to our power grid. though some of the entries on this list may seem minor, even trivial, they take on an entirely new significance when you consider that the US power grid consists of more than 10,000 functioning power plants, nearly 20,000 electrical generators and a combined 450,000 miles of distribution and transmission lines serviced by over 55,000 substations.

This astonishingly massive, intricate and interconnected network could be taken offline entirely, and I mean the whole thing taken offline, if just nine strategically chosen substations out of those 55,000 plus were taken down by force majeure or direct action.

Keep that in mind as you read through this list.

Overload

We all take for granted that the electricity will be there when we plug in the appliance or flip the switch. Luckily, it is much of the time but there is no endless fountainhead of electricity to supply all needs at all times. As hard as it is to imagine for lay people, that supply is decidedly finite.

As demand increases, especially peak demand that arises as a result of changing conditions or unforeseen circumstances, operators of the electrical grid at large must begin making choices about where and when they will supply power.

This involves a sort of “shell game” process by which power may be reduced or cut off in some areas and redirected to others.

Obviously, if you’re one of the unfortunates left in the dark that is bad enough, but the intricate nature of the power grid means that the very process of rerouting power entails a certain amount of risk as it is fraught with opportunities for error and then subsequent catastrophe.

When power grid operators are forced to “rob Peter in order to pay Paul” when it comes to supplying power to a hungry populace it is only a matter of time before a confluence of circumstances and human error result in a cascading failure.

Operator Error

Naturally we all want to think that the people who very literally keep the lights on represent our best and brightest minds, and thankfully so much of the time this is true, the inescapable reality is that they are still, at best, human and prone to making mistakes or, at worst, barely qualified to be operating the milkshake machine at a greasy spoon diner.

Human error and good old fashioned incompetence have before and will again result in calamitous power grid failures.

I don’t mean to say that flipping switch a when they should have pulled lever b instead means a ruined parade or Christmas tree lighting. I mean to say that monstrous blackouts affecting tens of millions can be a direct consequence of even a single procedural error.

Such is the nature of electrical generation and continual power supply in America today thanks to our problems I have spent much of this article outlining.

With layoffs, walkouts, worker shortages and more affecting every facet of society thanks to a mysterious pathogen of unknown origin turning the world upside down you can bet on rush replacements, under qualified workers and endless overtime taking its toll on our power grid workforce very soon. When that occurs, lights out.

Accident

Accidents great and small are another common cause of power outages. We have all been there. A windy day or stormy night sends tree branches toppling into power lines or even knocks over power poles themselves resulting in a localized, hopefully, power outage.

Bigger disasters, too, can have deleterious effects on our supply of electricity, everything from automobile and plane crashes to industrial accidents and even mishaps at power generation facilities themselves.

Any or all of these can plunge our society into darkness, but what you might not know is that even the most mundane of accidents could turn into gargantuan regional blackouts that last for days, weeks or potentially even months with all of the attendant effects we have discussed.

You’ll read about one such comparatively recent incident just below. Something as simple as a branch toppling from a tree onto nearby power lines could result in a sequence of events that knocks out power across multiple States for millions of people. No joke.

Natural Disaster

One of the most obvious and pervasive causes of blackouts are natural disasters. Relatively small ones like tornadoes, unpredictable ones like avalanches and wildfires and massive, regional scale catastrophes like category 5 hurricanes.

Each and every one of them can result in widespread, total systems damage to the power grid and the aftermath of these events makes diagnostic and repair tasking considerably more difficult.

In the case of the largest disasters society as a whole in the affected areas can be completely ground to a halt. Even accessing the affected areas to begin to assess the level of damage can take weeks.

Naturally, the loss of power in these areas complicates rescue and retrieval efforts in addition to other post disaster initiatives.

Some disasters don’t even necessarily take place on our planet, but instead happen to it.

Cosmic phenomena like solar storms and coronal mass ejections can project incredibly powerful electromagnetic energy across the gulf of space, potentially impacting the atmosphere of our planet and messing with all electronics, including the transmission lines and substations of the power grid itself.

A particularly powerful event could quite literally fry the entirety of the grid in the blink of an eye, rolling us back to the Stone Age.

The most severe disasters can disable power for millions, even tens of millions, across a regional area and leave them in the dark for months on end.

Direct Attack

As mentioned above, our power grid is a network, a colossal system comprised of millions and millions of components.

Each of these components, seemingly barely significant in terms of the whole, is nonetheless vulnerable to direct attack by malicious entities or individuals in a bewildering number of ways.

Most of these installations and components are completely, totally unguarded, and practically cannot be protected except in the most rudimentary ways or in the case of the most sensitive or crucial installations.

Just in the past couple of decades we have seen small groups or individuals target substations with rifle fire, damaging transformers and other components, fuel tanks targeted with improvised explosive devices, power lines sabotaged and so much more.

The ubiquitous, distributed nature of the power grid combined with a lack of protection means that simple, human ingenuity is more than enough to inflict catastrophic damage on all but the most heavily defended or hardened components or installations.

Frankly, it is a small wonder that the US has not yet been plunged into a long night by a simple, easy to execute attack by an organized enemy.

Cyberwarfare

By far the most insidious, and increasingly one of the most likely, threats to our power grid is that posed by cyber warfare efforts or individual cyber attacks.

An incredibly complex topic, made even more complicated by the patchwork nature of our electrical grid, ongoing efforts to research and bolster the cyber defenses of our power grid have been ongoing since 2005.

We have already seen what devastating computer viruses like the Stuxnet worm can do to even critical infrastructure. One need look no further than what happened to the Iranian nuclear program for proof of that.

Though that worm was not deployed against the United States it takes no imagination at all to believe that similar cyber weapons are ready and waiting in their digital silos for deployment against the U.S. by our near-peer enemies, or worse yet, are already lurking out in cyberspace primed to infect essential systems before being activated.

Ongoing testing and “red teaming” of the United States various electrical systems has shown that electronic warfare efforts, including computer hacking and autonomous viral weapons are capable of logging keystrokes, manipulating system status and various controls, and interfere with data monitoring and other essential, ongoing tasking.

A coordinated cyber attack could offline the American electrical grid almost instantly and by design or accident cause calamitous, coast to coast damage.

Examples of Major 20th and 21st Century Regional Power Grid Failures and Incidents

The scenarios I have alluded to throughout this article are not theoretical. History, even near history, furnishes for us many examples of just how bad and how widespread power grid failures can be, and gives us a grim estimator of just how bad the damage can be. The only thing theoretical for our purposes is just how long the next big one could last.

Read through the following historical blackouts, and their causes, and you’ll have an accurate picture of what we are up against and what you will be facing the next time something similar happens.

Great New England Blackout, 1965

This humongous blackout affected eight states throughout New England and resulted from human error, though a tragically tiny one. A cascading failure resulted after a technician set a protection mechanism in the wrong position. Five minutes of failing power later more than 30 million citizens had no electricity at all.

Today this is a classic example of the societal effects of a sustained, widespread power outage. Some people were trapped in blackened skyscrapers or in halted subway trains deep underground.

New York City did as New York City always does and immediately began looting and pillaging. Beleaguered police blunted the edge of the chaos but could hardly contain the outbreak of crime.

New York City Blackout, 1977

Another Big Apple blackout, this one caused by multiple lightning strikes that completely knocked out power to the vast majority of New York City proper. Though not particularly catastrophic from a technical perspective, this blackout could not have occurred at a worse time.

With socioeconomic tensions at an all-time high and the city already on the brink of paranoia from the ongoing Son of Sam killings, pandemonium erupted in the immediate aftermath of the blackout.

Rioting, looting, arson and killings are always on the menu in New York City and all were being served by the cartload.

Homes were broken into by the hundreds, thousands of stores were robbed or looted and more than 1,000 instances of arson or committed, including more than a dozen multiple alarm call-outs. Every police structure that could hold prisoners was committed to doing so.

Even though this blackout lasted little more than a day, total damages were over a billion dollars.

West Coast Blackout, 1982

This massive blackout originating near Tracy, California was the result of a simple accident. Freak high winds knocked one high tension transmission tower into another, which subsequently toppled into another, creating a literal domino effect of cascading failure.

Worst came to worst when response teams bungled the initial procedures and compounded it with shoddy communications.

Communities as far away as Las Vegas, Nevada were plunged into total darkness and had no idea why.

This blackout should serve as one of the best, recent examples of how even comparatively minor mishaps can be compounded by human error, improper procedure and confusion.

Northeast Blackout, 2003

In upstate Ohio, during August of 2003, transmission lines that were already strenuously overloaded by high demand or contacted my branches from overgrown trees and other vegetation.

This transmission line tripped and went offline, normally a minor event; however, a malfunction with the notification alarm systems controlling software meant that power company operators were none the wiser at first.

By the time they became aware of the situation, three more transmission lines were rendered offline and then things got really bad.

The subsequent cascading electrical failure resulted in a massive blackout virtually unprecedented in its scope, impacting more than 45 million residents throughout the American Midwest, Northeast and portions of Southeast Canada.

More than 250 power plants were put into failure states and multiple, major American cities, among them Cleveland, Detroit and New York were plunged into darkness.

The full restoration of power took more than a week.

Southwest Blackout, 2011

This blackout, shockingly widespread in its scope, was the result of human error and resulted in a loss of power or interruption of power to more than two and a half million people in the American southwest, predominantly southern California and Arizona.

A technician made a grave mistake while working on a capacitor bank at a substation in Arizona and the consequences were yet another cascading power failure.

Airlines, schools, public resources, water, sewage, banks and more were all affected with many being brought to a standstill. Though the outage lasted less than a day this instance sharply illustrates how bad even the simplest of errors can be when dealing with our power grid.

Hurricane Sandy, 2012

The landfall of Hurricane Sandy in October of 2012 knocked out power in 22 states and more than 8 million residences.

The damage to regional power grid installations and facilities was nearly total, and included destroyed terminals, flooded or submerged substations and badly damaged power plants.

As a direct consequence of grid damage from the storm, airline flights were canceled, aircraft were grounded, trains could not run and public water and sewer systems catastrophically failed.

In many places, the total loss of electricity including reliable backup systems meant that sewage actually contaminated drinking water supplies. Radio and cellular communications were likewise affected in the most badly hit areas, further hampering efforts to alleviate the problem.

This outage cost anywhere from an estimated $15 to $22 billion dollars in damages and losses. Full restoration of electricity and services took months.

California Substation Sniper Attack, 2013

Early in the morning on April 16th, 2013, multiple shooters using various rifles began shooting at and severely damaged 17 transformers at the Metcalf transmission substation in Coyote, California.

These transformers were perforated by gunfire and leaked more than 50,000 gallons of oil before overheating. Prior to the direct attack, the gunman or others associated with them cut fiber optic telecom cables elsewhere.

Though low-tech in nature, the attack was highly organized and professional in execution with the perpetrators going uncaught to this very day. Though mercifully no cascading failure resulted from the attack, damage was substantial, totaling more than 15 million dollars.

Multiple experts consulted on the attack agreed that if conditions were even slightly different, the impact on the electrical grid could have been massive.

It remains one of the best examples of how easily and severely small organized teams could affect the power grid

Arkansas Grid Attack, 2013

Coming just a scant few months after the attack on the substation in California, another coordinated series of three attacks took place against substations and transformers in Cabot and Scott, Arkansas.

The first attack sabotaged a support tower for a massive electrical line that resulted in it being dropped onto adjacent railroad tracks and severed after a passing train ran over them. Power to the entirety of Cabot, Arkansas was cut. A later direct attack on a substation in Scott, Arkansas caused more than 2 million in damage but thankfully minimal disruption.

These perpetrators were caught, but it again further illustrates the extreme vulnerability of even the most essential components in the transmission of electricity. Minimal planning with plenty of motivation and low-tech tools and weapons are more than capable of crippling the power grid in a local or regional area.

Arizona Diesel Supply Attack, 2014

Nogales, Arizona, June 2014. An incendiary IED was placed under a 50,000 gallon diesel storage tank serving a liquid fueled generator and a power station. Mercifully, the strike failed to ignite the diesel fuel even though it functioned.

This was a comparatively localized attack, and if it had gone off as planned it would have instantly cut power completely to tens of thousands of people in the area.

Conclusions

The United States power grid is a massive conglomeration of installations, equipment and interconnected systems that are increasingly decrepit, poorly maintained and frighteningly vulnerable to a variety of mishaps, accidents, disasters and enemy action including cyber warfare.

As time goes on, relatively minor incidents will cause bigger and bigger problems until eventually the whole system comes crumbling down. This is not a matter of if, but when.