Portable Solar Generator Ray Becker “The Ray Becker Show” Audio player provided! On this episode of The Ray Becker Show we begin with economic news for the week and look at the Markets and other economic indicators. We discuss in detail, Portable Solar Generators. We also cover the basics of electrical PIE. Think about the … Continue reading Portable Solar Generator!
Last summer in Yuma, Arizona, we had the worst thunder/rain storm I have ever seen. We had winds of over 60 mph and astonishing rain. We got about 2.5 inches of rain in about two hours (our average rainfall for a year is 3 inches). At times the rain was blowing sideways.
Our sliding patio door is under an overhang of about 4 meters and, at one point for about half an hour, the rain was hitting the door so hard that it filled the track and water was overflowing the track into the house. Water started flowing down the wash behind our house, and pools of water were standing all over the yard.
After about an hour, the electricity went out, and, of course, the air conditioning stopped at once also. Fortunately, the storm cooled the air, which was about 85 degrees and quite humid. At that point it was still light outside. We quickly found out that the water faucet didn’t work either, only a tiny trickle of water (The water company pumps run on electricity, apparently. I always thought they pumped the water to a large tank on a hill and fed us by gravity; not so.) So we started getting prepared.
A bucket under the kitchen faucet to caught the trickle. After 10 gallons were captured, we figured we had enough. Fortunately, we had some battery operated fans for ourselves and enough to loan fans to some unprepared acquaintances. While it was hot and sticky, the breeze from the fans made us much more comfortable.
I also got out our backpacking headlamps, the kind with 5 LEDs and an elastic strap. When it got dark, at least we could sit and read without using a lot of batteries (these use 3 AAA batteries).
As it turned out, the storm knocked over 65 power poles, taking the lines down with them. I saw some of them, and they looked like a giant had just broken a bunch of matchsticks. I was amazed when Arizona Power Service restored the service after only 26 hours; I thought it would take a week.
All in all, I was pleased with how prepared we were and how well we could have weathered the power outage even if it had been extended. Granted, we would have had to start drying the meat that was in the freezer.
Lessons from surviving a powerful summer storm
1. The small fans were a godsend. Every family should have at least one for each person plus a spare. The fans are made by O2 Cool, are 5 inches and take two D cell batteries. They are quiet and the batteries last a long time on low, which is all that is necessary. I just bought three more after we got our power back, and, since the order was over $25, shipping was free.
2. Make sure you have a very good supply of D cell batteries. Within 12 hours of the power loss, there was not a D cell battery available anywhere in Yuma. All other types of batteries were easily available, but not Ds. It would be a good idea to have battery operated radios, etc. that use AA, AAA, C, or 9 volt batteries. We had plenty of batteries, but were stretched when we loaned fans to friends, as each of the large fans we loaned them took 8 batteries.
3. The headband lights are cheap, and very easy for reading at night.
4. Some rechargeable batteries and a small solar battery charger is not a bad idea.
5. If you think you are going to need dry ice to maintain your freezer, go get it as early as possible. It sells out as fast as D batteries.
Hope this is of some interest and is helpful. Have you lived through a powerful summer storm? How did you cope?
This article was contributed by reader, Ray N. and updated on June 6, 2017
It was the second time my power went out in one day. The first time was at two in the morning when a nearby fuse or transformer blew causing a power outage. Other than the backyard solar light glowing, the entire neighborhood was cast into darkness.
A few hours later, our power was restored and the bedside clock started blinking. The sun wasn’t up yet, but the house soon became alive with overhead lights, bacon on the stove, a hot shower, and the screech of my ironing board as I unfolded it and plugged in the iron.
After my husband left for work, the computer and TV abruptly flickered off on its own, and the room was silent again.
I sat in the dark and wondered at the cause of the outages and why I felt so helpless. For years I had been stocking up on candles, oil lanterns, and imagining life without electricity and instead of feeling prepared, I was paralyzed and rooted to my couch.
Although I had grown up for a season in a one room cabin without utilities or indoor plumbing, the bulk of my experience was volunteering for several years at an 1800’s living history museum.
Once or twice a week my family would put on our pioneer clothes, load up the car with supplies, and spend the day on the prairie cooking from a wood stove or open fire, sewing, reading books, and fanning our faces from the front porch.
We learned to appreciate the hard work involved in gardening, collecting firewood, and cooking and cleaning from scratch. With no electricity and running water, it was a sun up to sun down type of existence.
By the end of the day, we were anxious to return to the 21st Century. Walking into our modern day home we were greeted with air conditioning, plush furniture, computers, TV, fast food, the refrigerator, microwave, the faucet, and a toilet that flushed—it was pure luxury.
We endured the primitive lifestyle and 100 degree weather because we knew it was temporary. After an exhausting day on the farm, we’d reward ourselves by stopping off at the convenience store or drive-thru for an ice cold soda pop.
Preparing a quick dinner at home with ease, I was thankful for my generation. But at the same time, the bouncing back and forth into the 19th Century was a nudge to not take my privileges for granted.
Using history to empower the future
I gradually started making some changes at home. I wanted my kitchen functional like our ancestor’s had been. This meant no more decorations taking up needed shelf space because it looked cute, or placing all my dependency on an electrical cord.
I replaced the self-cleaning electric range for a gas stove and oven.
My high efficiency washing machine was traded in for a heavy duty top loader and I hung a clothes line.
When my new dishwasher broke, I reverted back to the old fashioned way of washing by hand.
I exchanged my Teflon skillets for heavy duty cast iron.
I continued using my automatic coffee machine, but kept the stove top percolator on standby.
No more reliance on electric can-openers, or noisy food processors. Although I loved my electric wheat grinder, I purchased a hand-crank just in case.
Imitating our ancestors who prepared for emergencies and the change of seasons, I too took advantage of the seasonal sales at the farmer’s market and grocery stores, stocking up on bulk and dry goods, canning my own soups and meat, and taking advantages of the holiday clearances.
Unplugging from dependency
As I faced my 2nd power outage that morning, I realized my helplessness was due to my dependency.
My entire day was planned by the instant gratification of electricity:
- Flipping a switch for light
- Stuffing the washing machine with dirty laundry
- Checking the bank online to pay bills
- Staying connected with family and friends through the Internet
- Checking my online store
- Vacuuming the floor
- Catching the news on TV
- Running my sewing machine
- Recharging my Kindle Fire
…and now my day was shot.
But more debilitating was the unknown. Like every other power outage, I didn’t know when life would resume to normal.
Although I was inconvenienced that morning, I was equipped and capable of stepping back into the 1800’s.
The thought crossed my mind that if I could still experience helplessness even though I was prepared for the long term, I could only imagine the feelings of hopelessness for those who are inadequately prepared for the short term.
Taking charge in a power outage
What if in a worst case scenario, our power was off long term?
Living by the motto to not focus on the problem but to look for a solution, this is how I would approach my original itinerary.
- Flipping a switch — I would open curtains and use natural light, take most activities outdoors, and after dark, we would use flashlights, candles and oil lanterns. Our ancestors went to bed early, and got up early.
- Stuffing a washing machine — Clothes are easy to clean by soaking in a large bucket and hand scrubbing with a bar of soap. Hang to dry on a clothesline. Our ancestors didn’t own multiple outfits or shoes, nor did they bathe every day.
- Checking bank online and paying bills – Saving cash for emergencies is very important. Depending on how serious the power outage is, banking systems could be down, forcing us to prioritize what gets paid. Some options are to locate Internet access away from home, have a landline telephone as a back-up, or access the Internet through a smart phone. In a worst case scenario, there will be no access to online banks, credit cards, or savings accounts. Ideally, the best plan of action is to always be stocked up on food, water, supplies, and prescriptions for the long term. Our ancestors lived within their means and purchased with barter or cash.
- Connecting with family and friends through Internet —Like many people, my relatives and friends are spread throughout the world. Being thrust into the “dark ages” will end my daily dosage of Facebook, and emails. This is why I’m taking advantage of the opportunity to educate others while I can. It is a great peace of mind to know that my family and friends were listening and prepared, if or when we lose all contact. Our ancestors connected through the mail, telegraph, word of mouth, getting to know their neighbors, and spending time with their family.
- Checking my online store — A long term power shortage would create difficulties for my home based business. I would not be able to correspond online with customers, use my printer, and list merchandise. My best plan of action is to place my store on “vacation mode” if I had temporary access to the Internet. While waiting on power to be restored, I could use my time wisely by building inventory with what I had. Our ancestors took advantage of bad weather and off seasons, by catching up on mending and other demands.
- Vacuuming the floor — I have carpeting, but there’s a plan. A good straw broom can do brisk wonders for a floor. Some of our ancestors had dirt floors.
- Catching the news on TV — I own several solar and battery powered radios, and shortwave. For the holidays, we gave our relatives the wind-up, solar powered radios as gifts. Unless our ancestors had access to the newspaper, they were dependent on word of mouth.
- Running my sewing machine — Although I love my sewing machines, I also enjoy sewing by hand. Unless our ancestors had money, very few owned a treadle sewing machine. A young girl was taught to sew by hand when she was old enough to hold a needle.
- Recharging my Kindle Fire — Although I love reading from my digital book, as well as the instant gratification of purchasing and downloading, I knew early on to stock my book shelves with real books. With a massive power outage and no access to the Internet, it is important for my family to have immediate access to medical, veterinary, dental, gardening, plant identifications, old recipes, prepping, spiritual, and leisure books. Our ancestors spent time together sharing stories, reading together, and playing musical instruments.
When I read about massive power shortages in other places, the long gas lines, and the empty store shelves, I am reminded of how dependent our society has become.
My question is: Are you empowered enough to face a short or long term power shortage, or will you too be left feeling powerless?
The local authorities in Cape Town, South Africa face a power crisis as electricity theft, unpaid bills and switching to renewable energy puts pressure on the electricity companies. Even though the economy and population has grown, the city expects to sell far less electricity than it has since 2006.
Solar electricity panels are appearing on rooftops all over the cities of South Africa, leaving municipalities from Thembelihle in the Northern Cape to Mantsopa in the Eastern Free State in trouble – and it is getting worse.
Leslie Rencontre, Director of Electricity in Cape Town explained the increase in prices to the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) last week: “Where you see a decrease in electricity sales, which we are seeing because of high prices and the introduction of renewable energy, the increase in the electricity tariff has to take that into account.”
As new data confirmed last week, municipalities around the country rely heavily on the profit they get from reselling mostly Eskom power to their towns and cities. In Johannesburg about half of the city´s prepaid electricity boxes claim that the households have used no electricity. It is thought that people have stopped paying for electricity due to the higher prices.
– We are facing massive bypassing of meters and sabotaging of meters, Quentin Green, acting Chief Executive of the Johannesburg agency, City Power, told NERSA.
He explains that between the revenue loss of such illegal connections and the need for maintenance, some of it caused by the load from those illegal connections, they cannot sustain the business.
For most local governments, about a third of their revenues come from electricity sales, where the money is put into other vital services such as roads.
As the price of electricity increases, so does the number of people who choose to live off the grid and use solar power to get electricity instead. These small electricity storage solutions are becoming more and more attractive, but this can eat to absurdities.
– One of the key threats we discussed with NERSA previously is that we were finding higher-end households were able to reduce their electricity consumption and were then accessing subsidies aimed at the indigent, Rencontre said, referring to packages intended to make more electricity accessible for the poorest of the poor.
Cape Town, Johannesburg and a dozen other municipal areas have appeared before NERSA to demand and beg to be allowed to increase the amount they charge residents for electricity. In terms of NERSAs guideline local authorities can increase their prices by about 2 per cent, but must get permission for anything above that. Last week municipalities askes for a hike of more than 20 per cent for business customers.
– We really hope and believe that NERSA will look favourably on this application,” David McThomas, a manager for the Breede Valley district in the Western Cape said.
In desperation different municipalities are trying to find a solution to the problem. In Renosterberg it proposed a 12 per cent increase in electricity prices, but the citizens, 60 per cent of whom are formally in the indigent bracket said they were not going to be able to afford that. The municipality decided to apply for a 6.4 percent increase instead. Johannesburg hopes to thwart electricity theft with a new generation of smart prepaid meters, and in Msukaligwa the council hopes to uncover fraud on prepaid electricity by auditing meters with strange buying patterns.
As the municipalities hope to lessen the power crisis they aim to achieve zero theft to fix the economic problems they are facing, but there is no reason to expect anything other than an accelerating move away from the grid as prices for solar panels keep dropping. Various municipalities have proposed fees that can be levied in return for the rich maintaining but not using their connections to the grid for when their private batteries run low. Yet such charges, they admit, only create an incentive to aim for an entirely off-the-grid home or business.
In the meantime, NERSA is due to announce its decision on the individual municipalitiy’s applications for increases in the coming weeks.
Can we expect more of this and worse in the future? Is this a part of climate change? Trump and Turnbull are putting the world in danger!
While many solar users assume that their system will continue to power lights and electricity in the event of a hurricane, storm or blackout – or in any situation when the main grid is down – the reality is that it depends on the specific type of system owned.
In a recent blog post, Southern Current – one of the top solar installers in South Carolina – said the only way to be completely sure your solar installation will hold up in a blackout, hurricane or storm, is to be 100% off the grid – but due to the expense, this isn’t the most common option for Americans.
According to Southern Current, the most likely result, if and when the grid goes down, is that the solar array shuts down as well. This is due to the National Electric Code (NEC) that stipulates the system must shut down for safety reasons – specifically, to prevent workers from getting electrocuted.
“If the power source – your photovoltaic solar panels – continued to be energized when the sun was shining, it could generate and send solar electricity into the power grid and potentially electrocute persons working to restore power after a blackout,” Southern Current wrote. “So, per the NEC code, the inverter is designed to shut down during a blackout or loss of grid power. Without a functioning inverter, not a single electron will flow in to or out of the house.”
Southern Current estimates this is what happens with about 99% of the systems installed in America, which are grid-tied solar power installations. However, there are a few exceptions – systems that are designed for semi-off-grid and off-grid living.
New storage technologies
The first exception is a system that incorporates backup batteries with AC coupling systems. AC coupling allows the energy generated from solar to be stored in a battery and used independently of the grid. Enphase Energy – a well-known microinverter installation company – has developed an AC energy storage unit that can be retrofitted into existing solar installs.
AC coupling is a relatively new technology, but Southern Current predicts it will become more and more popular in the future as utilities change the way they charge their users for power, like with time of use (TOU) billing tiers being implemented in California and Hawaii. In this scenario, an AC coupled solar power system could be programmed to store solar energy when rates are low, using it to power the home when utility rates are at their highest later in the day (a term referred to as ‘peak shaving’ or ‘rate arbitration’).
The second and least common scenario is using off-grid solar power system. This setup would involve being 100% independent from the local power grid – generating 100% of electricity requirements from the solar system, and storing all of this electricity in a bank of batteries connected to the home’s electrical system. The benefit of being 100% off grid is that there is no need to adhere to NEC codes; as such, the system would not have to shut down during a disaster or blackout because it would never be sent back into the grid. However, this is the most expensive option.
“The bottom line is that a solar power system can be designed to provide you with electricity during a blackout, but it will cost extra, and at this time it’s not too popular,” Southern Current wrote. “Adding batteries to a standard solar installation can cost thousands of extra dollars. Although blackouts are a pain, they don’t happen too often and generally get resolved in under 24 hours.”
That being said, Southern Carolina runs a number of solar rebates and incentives to reduce the costs of installing and running solar systems, and the popularity of solar installation for home or business in the state is rising each year.
The off-grid life is growing in popularity across North America, but it certainly doesn’t always take the same form.
That’s what filmmaker and professor Phillip Vannini discovered when he spent two years travelling to every province and territory in Canada, interviewing dozens of people who have chosen to live off-grid – whether near the arctic circle in the Yukon or on a temperate island in British Columbia.
The result is a 90-minute documentary – Life Off Grid — where he learned the challenges and rewards of the off-grid life. He even visited an island that prohibits utility electricity and requires everyone to own 10 acres of land.
Vannini, the Canada research chair at Royal Roads University in Victoria, B.C., is this week’s guest on Off The Grid Radio.
Vannini tells us:
- Why it’s actually more practical to live off-grid than on-grid in many parts of Canada.
- How he found so many off-gridders – more than 200 — who were willing to share their stories.
- Why people are choosing to throw away their “comfortable” lives and rough it off the grid.
- Which couple lives in what he calls the “most remote home in all of North America.”
We also discuss a man who built an earth berm home for $1,000 and who constructed an air compressor out of a lawnmower motor.
Don’t miss this amazing show that will inspire you about the off-grid life!
BURLINGTON, Vt. — Malware used by Russian hackers has been detected in a Vermont power company’s computer, and at least one cybersecurity expert says the incident is not “happenstance.”
The concern is that hackers could take down the power grid, either regionally or nationally, with the click of a mouse. Ted Koppel’s 2015 book Lights Out warned that a major cyberattack could leave the power grid down for weeks or months.
“We have been monitoring RIS (Russian civilian and military intelligence Services) activities for some time and what we know is that the Vermont utility hack is part of a sophisticated and ongoing advanced persistent threat campaign by Russian cyber operatives to profile vulnerabilities in the U.S. power grid,” Darin Anderson, the chief executive of the trade group CyberTECH, told The San Diego Tribune.
The unidentified malware was detected in a laptop at the Burlington Electric Department on Dec. 29 following an alert by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), according to a press release by the utility department. The same malware code has been used by a group of hackers called Grizzly Steppe.
Grizzly Steppe was one of the groups accused of hacking the Democratic National Committee during the presidential campaign.
“We acted quickly to scan all computers in our system for the malware signature,” said Mike Kanarick, director of customer care, community engagement and communications with the Burlington Electric Department. “We detected the malware in a single Burlington Electric Department laptop not connected to our organization’s grid systems. We took immediate action to isolate the laptop and alerted federal officials of this finding.”
The code was found just days after suspected Russian hackers managed to shut off one-fifth of the power in Ukraine’s capital city of Kiev.
Todd O’Boyle, chief technology officer of the security firm Percipient Networks in Wakefield, Mass., told the Tribune that “organizations don’t just get targeted based upon happenstance.”
“If this was the Russians, they are there for a reason,” he said. “They want something. Maybe it’s how to build better power grids. Maybe it’s preparing for a catastrophic attack. Maybe the target is a hopping point to their real destination.”
Intelligence officials are so concerned about Russian hacking that they alerted executives from the financial, utility, transportation and other essential industries, The Washington Post reported. The hope was to help industry IT experts detect malware.
“As a security practitioner, one of the top concerns I have is a successful attack against our critical infrastructure such as power grids, water systems, transportation systems, etc.,” Gary Davis of the California-based Intel Security, told the Tribune. “Homeland Security has identified 16 critical infrastructure sectors. A successful attack on any one could have substantial and long-term consequences.”
“We’ve already seen successful cyber-attacks in some developing countries and the closer connected devices come in mass to critical infrastructure the greater the chance of a successful attack,” David said. “In fact, reading the article reminds me of a discussion I had with the United Nations earlier this year. After a presentation I had given there about the threat landscape especially as it relates to the Internet of Things or IoT, a couple of its representatives pulled me aside and told me that several of its member nations biggest concern is that a teenager could take down the country’s critical infrastructure.”
Mark Weatherford, the chief cybersecurity analyst for vArmour, told the newspaper that “if you did a 100-percent sampling of utilities, you would probably find a lot of this activity.”
What is your reaction? Do you believe the Russians are trying to take down the U.S. power grid? Is America prepared? Share your thoughts in the section below:
Water is the key to survival. At least 60 percent of the adult human body is made of water, and we can live no more than three days without it.
Since most modern water pumps use electricity to obtain well water, you may wonder how you would access well water in the event of a long-term power outage on the homestead. Here are five methods:
1. Manual pump – With a hand-operated pump, you can obtain five to 15 gallons of water per minute, depending on the make and model of the pump.
Manual pumps, which can be used with or without electivity, require quite a bit of effort, but they are an economical and easy way to get water during a blackout. (Read our previous story on manual pumps here.)
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2. Solar pump – Another option is a solar-powered water pump, which can provide as much as 1,200 gallons for water daily, depending on the brand and model – and, of course, the weather.
Solar pumps are fairly easy to install, and they can last for up to 20 years or so.
3. Wind-powered pump – Once a fixture on American farms, wind-generated pumps are cost-effective and require very little maintenance.
As with solar pumps, wind pumps are weather dependent, though. A back-up system, such as a manual pump, is important to have during calm weather.
4. Homemade pulley system – Think Jack and Jill and you’ll get the idea. With the use of a bucket on a pulley system, you may be able to access well water without a pump at all.
This system requires that you have the strength to lift and pull up anywhere from 20 to 40 pounds at a time. With an efficient pulley system, however, it can be much easier to lift.
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5. Diesel pump — Diesel fuel is a good alternative to electricity when it comes to powering a well. The pumps are relatively inexpensive and are easy to install. However, they do require a lot of fuel, so the cost of running a diesel pump varies with the price of fuel.
Which type of backup pump do you have? Share your well water tips in the section below:
We all have dealt with power outages. Usually, it is very short-lived, and in fact, the first hour or so is kind of nice. It is romantic, mysterious and fun to just chill without the hum of it. You don’t even realize how loud everything is until the appliances in your home are quieted.
But a long-term blackout is completely different. Many Americans fail to realize just how dependent this world is on electricity. Here are eight things that won’t work in a long-term blackout that go beyond the lights and refrigeration we often think about:
1. Water will stop flowing. In short power outages, you generally still get water from the tap, because either the wastewater plant is on another grid, on a generator, or you are getting the water from the storage tank. In a long-term blackout, the pumps will not push water and it will all run dry. If you are on your own well, your well pump will not work at all unless you have some form of backup.
2. Credit cards won’t work. You won’t be able to buy your favorite morning beverage – or anything else — without scraping together the cash. Our entire financial system is electronic and relies on the power grid. The banks will be closed, with no functioning ATMs. All of your money will be inaccessible.
3. Gas pumps won’t work. Even if you have cash. That’s because the pumps require electricity. This means you can’t drive to the next city or to your cabin in the woods if you weren’t prepared.
4. Street lights in your neighborhood will be out. You don’t know dark until it is a cloudy night and you don’t have the glow of porch lights or street lights to guide you. Note: There are some street lights that are solar, but most are not.
5. You won’t be able to flush the toilet. In the short-term, yes, toilets still work. But in the long-term, when pumps aren’t working? They simply back up. Those on septic systems will be more fortunate, but even those eventually won’t work.
6. The garbage man won’t be coming. Why? There is no gas to run the trucks. The garbage you are creating from your canned goods and packages of freeze-dried meals is going to start to accumulate.
7. You won’t be able to call 911 for help. Those systems run on electricity, and when generators stop working, 911 will be down.
8. The Internet will be down. It will work for a little while, but eventually the servers will lose power. In a minor blackout, you usually still have Internet because of battery backups and what not, but in a major blackout, it will be gone.
What would you add to our list? Share your additions in the section below:
Most of Puerto Rico endured a second night without electricity Thursday following the total collapse of the island’s power grid.
All it took was a fire at one power plant Wednesday to shut down a grid that provides power to 1.5 million homes and businesses – or 3.5 million people. Of the 1.5 million homes and businesses, about 390,000 had power restored by Thursday evening.
“This is an apocalypse,” resident Jose Tavela told the Associated Press.
The blackout left traffic lights, grocery stores and gas stations – essentials of a modern life – inoperable.
“Puerto Rico back to the stone age,” @ApagonPR tweeted.
State of Emergency Declared
Puerto Rico’s governor urged caution and declared a state of emergency. He also activated the National Guard.
“Given that the system is so old, numerous setbacks could occur,” Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla said during a press conference. “The system is not designed to withstand a failure of this magnitude.”
The power outage threw the island into chaos and caused at least 15 fires due to faulty generators. No one was hurt in the fires, but at least one person died because of carbon monoxide poisoning from a generator, USA Today reported.
Long lines formed outside gas stations and at hotels that did have generators, AP reported. Many people were sleeping outside on mattresses because air conditioning was no longer available. In the capital of San Juan, commuters were stuck because subway trains were not running.
“Puerto Rico is not prepared for something like this,” resident Celestino Ayala Santiago said. Santiago spent Wednesday night sleeping in his car because it was too hot inside.
With traffic lights out, police had to direct traffic the old-fashioned way — by hand. Employees at the international airport were reduced to filling out tickets by hand.
The electricity went out after a fire at a major power plant in Salinas knocked out two transmission lines. That tripped circuit breakers, causing the entire system to shut down.
Aging Infrastructure Sparked Blackout
Puerto Rico’s grid, like that in much of the mainland United States, is outdated. The utility is $9 billion in debt and lacked the funds to update it. Padilla’s political rival, Jenniffer Gonzalez Colon of the New Progressive Party, had a solution: Ask Washington for help.
“On behalf of the 3.4 million American citizens residing in Puerto Rico, I asked the president to declare Puerto Rico an emergency zone, which empowers the federal government to use its resources to stabilize the electrical system of Puerto Rico and so guarantee service to citizens,” Colon said in a press release.
Many Puerto Ricans were outraged because they already pay electric bills that are twice the average on the US mainland. Many of them took to social media to demand where their money is going, The Orlando Sentinel reported.
Perhaps those of us on the mainland should be asking the same question?
Do you think the U.S. is prepared for a major blackout? Share your thoughts in the section below:
SAN JUAN – The entire island of Puerto Rico fell into a blackout Wednesday following a major fire at a power plant that left officials wondering what had happened.
It is unclear when power will be restored, local media reported, but the fact that a single fire could leave all 3.5 million residents without electricity demonstrates once again the fragility of aging power grids. Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States.
The fault occurred along a pair of 230,000-volt transmission lines, officials with the electric company said.
“We are investigating the causes,” said Geraldo Quinones, a press officer for the electric company.
The company had been seeking funds to replace outdated equipment, local media reported.
What is your reaction? Share it in the section below:
We rely on the Internet for nearly everything in life, but in the wake of a natural disaster or large-scale collapse of the power grid, it is possible that the Internet could become inaccessible.
Even a few days without it could cripple American society’s ability to manage money, practice commerce, and communicate.
Because of that, it is a good idea to reduce your dependence on the Internet by moving more of your needs offline.
Here’s five areas to get your started:
1. Banking. Out of convenience, most Americans do at least a portion of their banking online. There’s no harm in using an online account to manage some of your bill payments and financial transactions. Just don’t rely on it to maintain your records. Monthly or quarterly, download a paper statement from your bank, print it, and file it away. Additionally, make sure you have paper records for all of the accounts you hold. Do the same thing for any stocks or important records of assets; record them on paper. Better still, do most of your bank transactions in person, at a local bank; you’ll have greater security and get better customer service.
2. Maps. Relying on GPS or Google Maps to tell you how to get around your local area is foolishness. Purchase or download updated local maps and keep them where they can be easily referenced or found in case of emergency. GPS won’t be a reliable source of navigation if the power grid is compromised.
3. Reference materials. Whether you read books on a Kindle or tablet, follow websites relevant to your interests, or just get the news delivered digitally, it is important to keep a paper trail for the information you’ll need in the future.
You may not always be able to Google your way to an answer. Buy reference books relevant to setting up and maintaining a homestead, including home improvement encyclopedias and farming manuals. Printing information from often-referenced websites and filing it appropriately will ensure you’ll have the knowledge at your fingertips long after you can’t get it online. Best of all, develop your skills now so you will not need as many reference materials to accomplish tasks around the homestead.
4. Email. Discussing plans and making decisions by email has become commonplace. Create a personal file of email correspondence for each family member and for your business activities. When agreements are solidified by email, print the message and file it accordingly. In addition to backing up your knowledge of what was decided, the written correspondence is an important record in your family. Just as our prior generations preserved old letters, so we must preserve meaningful emails in order to tell the story of our families.
5. Contacts. Many people scarcely know their phone numbers, let alone those of their families and other close contacts. Maintain an address book containing all the contact information and locations of anyone you care about, as well as resourceful peers and acquaintances.
Knowing where to find someone important to you is the first step to reconnecting, and you don’t want to be left high and dry by an inability to access your contacts.
Bonus – Unplug These, Too
Photos. Of course, this is a little sentimental, but there’s more to life than practicality. Don’t simply store precious family heirlooms “in the cloud.” Kids today are being raised with very few printed photos documenting their lives. What a shame if all of those digital photos were lost! Create a photo album for each member of your family, or a family album documenting your lives together. The small investment of time and money could reap rewards for the rest of your life and become an important piece of your family’s heritage.
Entertainment. Learn to amuse yourself without surfing the web, clicking through Facebook, or playing online games. Part of being resourceful is being able to find and create entertainment with ready supplies — paper and pencil, card, and dice games are a great way to connect with your family and have a great time without plugging in. Invest in a book of activities and start gathering around the table more often, and you won’t miss the Internet so much in times of outage.
What would you add to this list? Share your tips in the section below:
Anyone who wants to experience SHTF is out of their mind! The fact is, it won’t be the book, movie, fantasy that many think it might be. It will suck! Every once in a while, we get a little glimpse into what a major event might look like by watching and observing how people respond to the smaller, localized events. And if we are one of the people smack-dab in the middle of one of those smaller, localized events, well, we get a chance to run through how we might truly respond.
On Tuesday, August 23, 2016, a small electric substation caught fire in NW Houston. Why? I’m still not sure. But the fire caused a blackout that at one point reached 85,000 homes!
I was cooking dinner (spaghetti if you must know) and about to put garlic bread in the oven when the lights flickered and then went out. Like every paranoid prepper, I checked my phone…relieved that it wasn’t the dreaded EMP that would end the world as we know it, I opened the shades to let natural light in and served dinner to the family. As we ate, I checked my local area Facebook page, that posts information faster than even Twitter, and realized that the lights weren’t coming on anytime soon.
I checked the Centerpoint Outage Map website to see how far the outage reached. Centerpoint maintains the power lines in the Houston area. They also post updates on outages….more on that later.
We waited for a while to see if the lights were coming on, but chose to head out to my parents since they had power and Centerpoint was saying it was going to be 10-12 hours until power was restored. Why suffer? It isn’t SHTF yet!
Natural light was still coming in since the shades were open, but it got dark fast! I have PLENTY of lights around, so getting our stuff together was no big deal. We packed up, closed down the house and headed out.
As we left the neighborhood and traveled down towards the freeway, we noticed that lights that were previously out were back on. We called my in-laws, who live close by and they had power. We decided to go their to see if lights were coming on faster than Centerpoint said they would.
After about an hour, we realized that the lights weren’t coming on. We decided to go ahead and head out to my parents since they were better prepared to handle us and lights were still flickering at my in-laws (they weren’t leaving). Before we left, my neighbor texted me and reminded me to turn off my AC unit. She said that last time the lights were out like this, her AC blew when the lights came back on. I drove over to the house to turn off the AC and then we headed to my parents.
Power was restored sooner than the 10-12 hours that Centerpoint said. We woke up a little earlier than normal to head back to the house to get the kids to school and get ready for work.
The lessons learned aren’t going to be anything new for the experienced prepper. But they are good reminders. This article also might be helpful for the non-prepper who is looking to have some supplies or ideas to be a little better prepared for emergencies.
Plan, Plan, Plan
The best thing anyone can do when thinking about emergencies is to have a plan and mentally rehearse what they would do and how they need to respond to be safe. As I realized that the power might be off till the next day, I started discussing with my wife what we wanted to do: stick it out in a stuffy house (Houston heat & humidity sucks) or head over to my parents. We talked about what we needed to start doing to prepare to leave the house and started getting ready. Read more articles about planning here, here and here.
You WANT to Have Lights and MORE Lights!
Like I said before, night comes real fast! But, having light isn’t that much of an issue for me. I have 3 flashlights strategically placed on our fireplace mantle. I also have a rechargeable lantern by my bed. But the light that we used the most were the emergency lights that double as nightlights.
I have two Lite Savers, one in the kitchen (see pic) and one in the hallway. They stay charged because they plugin to an electrical socket. At night, they have a small LED light that provides a little light so you don’t kill yourself while you’re walking around in the dark. The LED light automatically comes on when the room goes dark. However, the light can also sense when electricity isn’t flowing in the house and then turns on the big light. You can unplug the light and carry it around like a small lantern. The light it provides is surprising!
It is always amazing to me how people don’t have the basics. One lady on Facebook posted that she didn’t have a flashlight or candles, but she did have her solar lights from her flowerbed. As preppers, we definitely know that trick. But WHY didn’t she have any flashlights or anything else? Come on!
We live in an information rich time in history. Of course, if we have a SHTF moment, information might not be so available. But until then, you have a ton of information on your cellphone. Hopefully, you’re not only using your phone to play “Words with Friends” or “Pokemon Go!” You SHOULD bookmark important information sites so that you can easily access information.
Some examples are:
- Your local power outage map.
- Check to see if your neighborhood or community has a page on Facebook. Like I said, mine posts information before you hear about it anywhere else. Yes, you’ll have to deal with some weirdos, but it’s worth it.
- See if your local police have an online scanner channel. It’s amazing what you can find out by listening to police and other first responders.
- Twitter. Yes, Twitter! This won’t necessarily help you in a local event. Although, you could check to see if there was a city hashtag like #HouNews (see below). But, Twitter is like that Facebook page I mentioned above, but on a world wide scale. Many people use Twitter all over the world. If something is going on, people will be tweeting about it. Coup attempts, riots, war… you can get instant information as it is happening.
- A good traffic map/APP is helpful too!
- Besides your phone, a good emergency radio with SW or even a cheap Baofeng is helpful.
Think About Safety
It was dark when we were leaving the house…real dark. People were still driving in the neighborhood. As we were packing up, I thought about how we might look to thieves who might be driving around the neighborhood, checking out places to “hit” later. We decided to leave one car in the driveway to make it “appear” like someone was home.
Later, when I went back to the house to make sure the AC was off, I was surprised at how dark the neighborhood was. When the moon is not out, it gets dark…real dark. I could easily see which homes had lights shining through the windows. And I was instantly aware of any other light in front of homes or driveways. Something to REALLY think about.
I won’t get into having a means of protection. That should be a no brainer!
A Thought on Cell Phones
My cell Phone did well getting me a lot of information at first. However, at one point, we all lost signal, including the ability to text. I don’t know what kind of emergency power cell towers have, but it probably isn’t much if any. It could have just been our service provider, but I’m not sure.
However, for those that were using their cell phones for any length of time, even as a flashlight, it would have been good to have a way to charge it. Small cellphone battery chargers are very inexpensive! Some of the big ones will charge your phone multiple times!
We were lucky enough to have already cooked food before the lights went out. At the worse, we didn’t warm up the garlic bread. And, even if we needed to do something for dinner, we have plenty of food in the pantry and multiple ways of cooking it. We’re preppers after all!
However, I was floored by the posts I saw on Facebook where people went out to their neighborhood restaurant, only to realize that they didn’t have power either….duh. Some couldn’t buy food because the grocery store didn’t have power. I read where some people just ate crackers because that is all they had.
In reality, someone who was really hungry didn’t have to travel that far to get to an open restaurant or grocery store. But for goodness sake! Have some food in your pantry!
If this would have been a major long term event, people would have gone hungry…very hungry. It’s amazing to me how little food people keep in their homes.
We could of easily stayed at the house. It would have been a little warm (did I say Houston heat & humidity sucks already?), but just an inconvenience. One reason why I didn’t object too much to leaving the house was to update Prepper Website. I try to not miss a day!
Because we prep and plan, we were able to make decisions and had options on how to handle this evening. If you are reading this and you don’t prep, taking a little bit of time to plan and set aside some supplies can make a big difference during a local event. It’s just wise! And if others are depending on you, it’s your responsibility to be prepared!
What would you add?
See larger image Basic Electricity (Dover Books on Electrical Engineering) This expanded and revised U.S. Navy training course text provides thorough coverage of the basic theory of electricity and its applications. It is unquestionably the best book of its kind for either broad or more limited studies of electrical fundamentals.It is divided into 21 chapters and an extensive section of appendixes. Chapters cover safety, fundamental concepts of electricity, batteries, series direct-current circuits, network analysis of direct-current circuits, electrical conductors and wiring techniques, electromagnetism and magnetic circuits, introduction to alternating-current electricity, inductance, capacitance, inductive and capacitive reactance, fundamental alternating-current circuit theory,
August 8th 2016
Video courtesy of Delaney Ruston
SCREENAGERS probes into the vulnerable corners of family life, including the director’s own, and depicts messy struggles over social media, video games, academics and internet addiction. Thru surprising insights from authors and brain scientists solutions immerge on how we can empower kids to best navigate the digital world.
How vulnerable is America’s power grid? The Wall Street Journal recently did an in-depth study to find out the answer to that question, and the results are unsettling.
“Despite federal orders to secure the power grid, tens of thousands of substations are still vulnerable to saboteurs,” writes WSJ reporter Rebecca Smith in the July 14, 2016 edition. “The U.S. electric system is in danger of widespread blackouts lasting days, weeks or longer through the destruction of sensitive, hard-to-replace equipment. Yet records are so spotty that no government agency can offer an accurate tally of substation attacks, whether for vandalism, theft or more nefarious purposes.”
Smith reviewed dozens of reports of break-ins at power stations, including one last year at an electrical substation in Bakersfield, Calif. She discovered that despite federal orders to secure them, the nation’s tens of thousands of substations are vulnerable to attack.
Many substations have little to no security – sometimes only a chain-link fence – and if there is an alarm system in place, the alarms are often ignored.
Abidance Consulting, a security company, inspected nearly 1,000 substations in 14 states over the past year. “At least half had nothing but a padlock on the gate,” Abidance’s James Holler told The Wall Street Journal. “No cameras. No motion sensors or alarms.”
When one utility lost a set of substation keys when a truck was stolen, the staff didn’t even change the substation locks, Holler added.
A big part of the problem with security is that although America’s grid system is federally regulated, in reality it is an interdependent collection of locations owned and operated by utility companies and grid operators.
The fragile electrical system was basically patched together over the decades since the early 20th century. Major power sources, such as gas-fired generators and nuclear-power plants, are linked with substations to carry electricity over a network of long-distance high-voltage power lines. Using computerized technology, substations then lower the voltage in order to deliver electricity safely to homes and businesses.
WSJ calls the grid “a giant puzzle that can be configured in different ways to deliver power where and when it is needed.” While Smith the writer, points out that the motive of most substation break-ins is theft, the locations also are a potential target for terrorists who may wish to gather information for a future attack or cause immediate damage to a region.
At a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) meeting earlier this year on grid security, Gerry Cauley, head of the North American Electric Reliability Corp., said the thought of “eight or 10 vans going to different sites and blowing things up” is something that keeps him awake at night. He estimated that recovery from a coordinated attack could take months.
Differences in power demand, which can be sparked by extreme weather and time of day, cause so much variability in the use of the grid that Smith writes, “What causes a catastrophe one day might not the next, which makes security issues complex. Small problems can quickly spiral out of control.”
Human error is another factor. For example, equipment problems combined with human error caused a large transmission line to trip out of service in Arizona five years ago. While that grid is designed to withstand the loss of any one line, in this case, the current shifted to nearby lines and overloaded them. Then two transformers at two small substations shut down defensively to prevent equipment damage. The result? San Diego experienced a blackout. Street and airport traffic was halted. Raw sewage was released into the ocean. And an estimated 2.7 million households were without power in California, Arizona and Mexico.
The National Research Council of the National Academies of Sciences in 2012 examined the various parts of the power grid and concluded that substations are “the most vulnerable to terrorist attack.”
“We’ve known we had an issue for a long time and have been very slow to do anything about it,” M. Granger Morgan, a Carnegie Mellon University professor who studied the San Diego blackout, told Smith.
The Foundation for Resilient Societies has called for an analysis of the impact of simultaneous attacks, both physical and cyber, on substations. Thomas Popik, chairperson of the non-profit organization, told the FERC in June that the grid is “a battlefield of the future” that needs military-type defenses.
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Michael Bardee, director of the FERC’s Office of Electric Reliability at FERC, acknowledged to The Wall Street Journal that his agency could do more to study security vulnerabilities at substations.
Meanwhile, some local power companies are trying to beef up security. The Vermont Electric Power Co., for example, approved $12 million for an improved security program after thieves broke into and stole copper from some of its substations dozens of times between 2012 and early 2014.
With more secure fencing and better security cameras in place, the utility has not had a break-in in more than a year.
However, WSJ found nine recent substation break-ins where theft did not appear to be the motive.
One of these was at the federally owned Liberty substation in Buckeye, Ariz., which is near Phoenix. In November 2013, an intruder cut fiber-optic cables that serve Liberty and the Mead substation near Hoover Dam. It took workers two hours to fix the problem.
Two months later, two men broke into Liberty again and left after they were unable to cut power to a security trailer that had lights and cameras installed after the first incident. Investigators later discovered that most of the new security cameras had not been properly programmed or installed.
The Liberty substation is operated by the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA), which controls power lines used by utilities serving some 40 million people in 15 states.
A federal audit last year cited WAPA for violations of security regulations, including broken or outdated equipment, poor control over keys to critical locations and failure to install security systems.
Keith Cloud, the WAPA’s head of security, told WSJ that he has received about $300,000 for security upgrades at some of the utility’s 328 substations, including Liberty.
But to protect the system’s 40 most important control centers, he said he would need $90 million. “I don’t have the authority or budget to protect my substations,” he said.
Do you believe America’s power grid is vulnerable to a major attack? Do you think one is inevitable? Share your thoughts in the section below:
Failure of the electrical grid can lead to far more than just inconvenience and a loss of the lights. History has proven that loss of electricity and the amenities it provides can lead to civil unrest, including riots.
Attacks on the infrastructure that provides our homes and businesses with electricity are far more common and sometimes more effective than we might imagine. News articles indicate that the grid is under constant siege from attackers, ranging from sophisticated cybercriminals to disgruntled employees. Even though the motives of these saboteurs vary widely, their purpose is a simple one: to wreak havoc by shutting off the electricity.
Such attacks can occur in conjunction with civil unrest or they might be carried out with the intention of triggering civil unrest. One reason why the saboteurs go after the grid is that it is highly vulnerable to attack. Such assaults are likely to cause a major electrical outage in the future because the grid is under constant attack.
The United States power grid suffers some sort of attack every four days, a March 2015 investigation by reporters from USA Today and 10 other Gannett media outlets revealed. The attacks occur both in cyberspace and in the real world, with a major attempt to breach computer security at an electrical facility occurring about once a week.
There were more than 300 physical attacks on electrical infrastructure between 2011 and 2015, Gannett discovered. Authorities have not been able to identify suspects or make arrests in most of those attacks.
‘We Are Without God Now’ — The 1977 New York Blackout
The worst example of civil unrest caused by a power outage was the New York City Blackout of 1977. That grid failure led to widespread looting, rioting and arson. A series of lightning strikes on the evening of July 13, 1977, blew out circuit breakers, which caused power lines to overload with electricity and blow out the system.
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The loss of power led to chaos and widespread looting in parts of the city. More than 3,700 people were arrested, 1,600-plus stores looted, and 550 police officers injured.
“The looters were looting other looters, and the fists and the knives were coming out,” neurologist Carl St. Martin recalled in an interview with The New York Times. St. Martin witnessed the violence first-hand as a medical student at Wyckoff Heights Hospital in Brooklyn.
Some observers used apocalyptical language to describe the situation.
“We are without God now,” Father Gabriel Santacruz, a Catholic Priest at St. Barbara’s Church in Bushwick, Brooklyn, told his congregation after the violence had ended.
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Many observers blamed the violence during the 1977 New York blackout on economic conditions. The worst looting occurred in poorer neighborhoods where people were desperate and angry.
It’s Not Just NYC
In June 2014, angry mobs stormed several electrical substations in Northern India after a heatwave caused blackouts and power cuts, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) reported. In one incident, a mob set an electrical substation in the city of Gonda on fire. In Lucknow, a crowd ransacked power company offices and took employees hostage.
Temperatures as high as 117 degrees caused the grid to fail, the CBC reported. Civil unrest was made worse by popular anger at utilities, which started rationing utilities as high temperatures created a high demand for electricity.
Power outages can also create riots at colleges. On April 6, 2010, a blackout caused a melee at the University of Washington’s fraternity row in Seattle, United Press reported. A mob blocked streets, set couches on fire and threw bottles and bear cans at police.
A similar incident occurred at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, on September 16, 2008. Around 3,000 students poured into the streets and began throwing objects at police after school officials decided to keep classes going during a power outage. Nearly 70 police officers from 10 different departments had to be called in.
There are several ways to stay safe from blackout-induced civil unrest:
- Move. Living in a home that is as far away from the city center and business areas is the best way to keep your family safe. Moving out to the country. or at least the edge of the city, is a good first move.
- Keep as low a profile as possible. Hunker down and keep safe until order is restored. One reason for this is that it will usually take several days for the regular military or the National Guard to mobilize and deploy to a trouble spot. Another delay is that troops cannot usually be deployed to an area until state or local authorities request their presence.
- Stay home and off the streets. Do not drive or take long walks or bicycle rides unless absolutely necessary. You should also stay off public transportation systems, such as subways or light rail, because they run on electricity and often shut down during power outages. Stay off of major highways and freeways as well, because they become gridlocked with traffic in emergencies.
- Examine maps of your area closely and find alternative routes to use during an emergency. Try to avoid major streets and highways.
- Keep all of your valuables such as electronics, jewelry, gold, coins, silver, cash, guns etc., out of sight. If you have a safe, make sure it is hidden. Moving your vehicles to a location where they cannot be seen from the road or street is also a good idea.
- Keep an emergency source of electricity, such as a solar generator, on hand. This can help you enjoy a modern lifestyle while your neighbors are blacked out.
- Stockpile food, medicine and other supplies, and have a bug-out plan.
Civil unrest and power outages are like any other emergencies. You and your family can get through them safely and securely with a little preparation, awareness, knowledge and common sense.
What would you add? Share your thoughts in the section below:
Much of America could face shortages of electricity as early as 2018, according to a new survey of utility and independent power producers.
The survey of electric providers throughout the Midwest indicates the shortage would be due to a series of coal and nuclear power plant closures throughout the region.
The amount of surplus electricity available to the region’s utilities in the 15 states will shrink by two-thirds between 2017 and 2018, the survey by the Midcontinent Independent System Operator or MISO revealed. Facilities are being closed even before it is know what, if anything, will replace them, MISO’s CEO said.
The new data means there will far less backup power available for utilities during times of peak demand, after the power plants are closed, raising the prospects of blackouts or rolling blackouts.
Specifically, there will be 2.7 surplus gigawatts of electricity available to Midwestern utilities in 2017, but only 900 megawatts available in 2018, the MISO reported. (One thousand megawatts equals 1 gigawatt, enough to power about 650,000 homes.)
“Retirements in excess of new generation are driving supply to tighten in the region,” said John Bear, MISO’s CEO. MISO monitors electricity usage in the Midwest.
Power Plant Closures Threaten Grid’s Sustainability
Coal-fired and nuclear power plants across the Midwest are closing. All total, Midwestern power plants that generate 4.3 gigawatts of electricity – enough to power more than 2.7 million homes — will shut down between now and May 31, 2017, Energy Wire reported. Southern Illinois alone will lose 1.2 gigawatts of electricity by then. An Exelon nuclear plant in Clinton, Iowa, that generates 1.2 gigawatts of electricity is closing, as are three DTE Energy coal plants in Michigan that comprise 900 megawatts of energy.
The Lower Peninsula of Michigan will face a 300 megawatt shortfall of electricity and the state of Missouri is looking at a 800 megawatt shortfall of electricity, MISO found. That means utilities might not be able to keep up with demand during hot summer days, when air conditioning puts a strain on the grid.
In Minnesota, a coal plant in Taconite Harbor will shut down by 2020.
“This is a crucial period given the number of generating plants that have retired recently and are expected to retire,” Sally Talberg, Michigan Public Service Commission chairwoman, told Energy Wire.
The Midwest is not alone. The last operating nuclear plant in California — Diablo Canyon, which powers 1.7 million homes — is scheduled to shut down by 2025. The Los Angeles Times reported the shutdown will cost $3.8 billion. Diablo Canyon’s operator, Pacific Gas & Electric, plans to switch to renewable energy such as solar and wind.
Do you trust the power companies and the power grid? Share your thoughts in the section below:
Governments, business, residents and communities in southern California are largely unprepared for a major earthquake that can occur any day, according to the authors of a major study on disaster risk prepared by the University of Southern California (USC).
“Water and power delivery systems could be off for weeks, housing for tens of thousands could be damaged and specific aspects of our infrastructure could be disrupted or rendered unusable,” states the report, Strengthening SoCal: Southern California Disaster Risk Initiative, prepared by experts at USC’s Bedrosian Center for Public Policy Research.
Although the report specifically involves southern California, it nevertheless gives an indication of how long services might be out for the rest of the country after a major disaster, especially a big earthquake.
The study, released on June 22, draws some frightening conclusions, including:
- Many of the water lines in Southern California will burst during an earthquake, leaving residents dependent on bottled water for weeks or months.
- Natural gas pipelines would rupture, creating massive fires that could destroy large areas of cities. Since there would be no water, there might be no way to put out those fires.
- Many of the natural gas pipelines in Southern California lack shut-off valves, making it difficult to turn gas off after an earthquake. Broken natural gas pipelines might fuel massive wildfires.
- Many businesses lack the equipment needed to keep running for days after a disaster — such as generators and backup power systems. This includes hardware stores, which are essential to rebuilding.
- Many local governments are as unprepared as businesses. That means police, firefighters and ambulances might not be available.
- Large numbers of people would be injured or killed because many building codes do not require earthquake-proof structures. That means many homes, offices and business will collapse.
The study’s authors fear that critical industries would simply pull out of California completely rather than rebuild, and would take thousands of jobs with them.
San Andreas Could Be Close to The Big One
Geophysicists think that California’s most dangerous fault, the San Andreas, might be close to giving way, The Los Angeles Times reported.
New computer imaging technology has detected rising and sinking on the fault that could indicate a big quake is imminent. Areas of the fault in Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego and Bakersfield counties are rising at a rate of about 1/10th of an inch a year. Other parts of the fault in Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and San Bernardino counties are sinking at the same rate.
“Once there is a major event, all of that energy gets released,” geophysicist Sam Howell told The Times.
There has not been a major quake on the southern San Andreas fault since 1857. A major quake takes place, on average, every 150 years, Howell said. Other parts of the fault haven’t seen a major quake in 300 years.
Despite that, experts still cannot predict when the next big one will hit.
“It’s pretty much impossible to say when the next one will happen,” Howell said.
What is your reaction? Do you believe America is prepared for a big earthquake? Share your thoughts in the section below:
In one of the craziest-but-true stories so far this year, a monkey is to blame for shutting down the entire electrical grid in the African nation of Kenya.
All the monkey had to do to shut off service to 44 million people was to fall off a roof and onto a transformer and trip it, sparking a chain reaction, the Kenya Electricity Generating Company acknowledged.
“This caused other machines at the power station to trip on overload, resulting in a loss of more than 180 MW (megawatts) from this plant which triggered a national power blackout,” a statement posted on the company’s Facebook page stated.
What’s truly extraordinary is that the monkey was not even hurt, NPR reported. The monkey was able to easily penetrate the Gitaru Power Station’s defenses, which include electric fences designed to keep wild animals away.
Power outages caused by animals are actually very common, although it’s rare for one to black out a nation.
The Cybersquirrel1 website reported that squirrels alone were responsible for 743 power outages around the world as of June 6. Birds were responsible for 321 outages, raccoons and snakes for 61 outages each and rats for 32 outages.
The most recent animal-caused outage in the US was in Pulaski County, Virginia, on June 3. Appalachian Power reported that a snake knocked out power to 2,700 customers around Christiansburg by coming into contact with electrical equipment.
What is your reaction to this story? Share your thoughts in the section below:
May 30th, 2016
Video courtesy of Science Channel
Solar flares erupt outward into space at up to 4.5 million miles per hour. What forces cause these explosions that can be the equivalent of millions of nuclear bombs detonating simultaneously?
Labor unrest can now be added to the list of threats to the electric power grid, as unions are threatening to strike and shut down the nuclear plants that provide most of France’s electricity.
The workers are upset about proposed changes to labor laws and planning to demonstrate their power with a work stoppage, Reuters reported. Most of the electricity in France comes from 19 nuclear plants, staffed by members of a union called CGT.
The CGT’s leaders are angry about proposed changes to the law that would make it easier to hire and fire workers. The union already has disrupted life in France by blocking access to oil refineries, which has led to gasoline shortages at about one-fifth of the country’s gas pumps.
France can import electricity from other nations like Germany, so widespread blackouts may not happen. Unfortunately, there are other ways that unions can disrupt the grid and other basic services.
In 2004, CGT members shut off power to schools, train stations, political party offices and the homes of conservative politicians to protest government policies they did not like, Reuters reported. Last year, workers turned off the power in a neighborhood in Audincourt, France, where Prime Minister Manuel Valls was giving a speech. Valls is a member of the Socialist Party; the CGT or General Confederation of Labor is composed of his political rivals, including France’s Communist Party.
What is your reaction to this story? Do you think something similar could happen in America? Share your thoughts in the section below:
Four years ago this summer, the sun experienced a solar storm so severe that it nearly wiped out the entire power grid for not only the United States but the entire world.
In fact, the only thing that saved Earth was a stroke of fortune: The storm, known as a coronal mass ejection (CME), missed our plant by a mere seven days. If it had hit Earth – as one did in 1859 – the entire power grid would have been taken down for months, and our day-to-day lives would have been plunged back into the 1800s. As NASA itself acknowledged, the storm would have disabled everything that plugs into a wall outlet.
A new government report says that America is overdue to be hit by a storm, and that’s the topic of this week’s edition of Off The Grid Radio. Our guest is Peter Vincent Pry, one of the nation’s foremost experts on threats to the power grid who tells us what we need to know about a massive solar storm that could hit Earth any day.
Pry tells us:
ν How a solar storm that took out Quebec’s grid in 1989 was only a fraction as strong as the 2012 or 1859 storms.
ν Why a solar storm would impact the power grid so dramatically that – unlike what happens during an ice storm – it would not be easily repaired.
ν What life without electricity or gasoline would look like, and whether the U.S. government is prepared for such a civilization-changing event.
In this second of a two-part interview, Pry also shares with us details about how Americans can prepare for a downed-grid – and what they should do to pressure their state and local legislators to do the same.
Don’t miss this week’s show if you care about the future of your family and nation!
A recent government report claimed that the Department of Homeland Security has made major strides to protect the power grid from a crippling attack, but that report runs counter to sworn testimony in front of Congress and to what experts say is really the case.
In fact, DHS appears ill-prepared to protect the United States from an attack on the power grid that could leave Americans without electricity for weeks, if not months. So says this week’s guest, Peter Vincent Pry, one of the nation’s foremost experts on threats to the grid. He is the author of the new book, Blackout Wars, the executive director of the EMP Task Force on National and Homeland Security, and he also served on the EMP Commission.
Pry tells us:
ν Why any steps DHS has taken to protect America pale in comparison to what needs to be done.
ν What the Obama administration has done, and not done, to address the country’s grid vulnerabilities.
ν How the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), part of the Department of Energy, has made America more susceptible to a power grid attack.
ν Which state might be the safest to live in during an EMP attack on America or even during a solar storm.
In the interview – which is part 1 of a two-part series – Pry also explains how the power grid can be protected on a local level, without help from Washington, D.C.
Don’t miss this week’s show if you’re concerned about America’s future and the threat to the electric grid!
Venezuela’s president has ordered government workers to work only two days a week in order to conserve power and to prevent blackouts.
The order means that government offices in the South America nation will be closed five days a week for next few weeks – giving workers a five-day weekend.
“The public sector will work Monday and Tuesday while we go through these critical and extreme weeks where we are doing everything to save Guri,” President Nicolas Maduro said.
Guri is a reservoir that supplies a hydroelectric dam; water levels in the reservoir are so low that power cannot be generated to the levels that are needed. Guri supplies about 75 percent of the electricity to Venezuela’s capital of Caracas.
Maduro also ordered all schools in the nation to close on Fridays in an effort to limit electricity use. The president is trying to maintain what he calls social peace in order to keep blackouts from sparking riots that could end his government.
The two-day work week is only Maduro’s latest effort to reduce electricity use. Many Venezuelans have been experiencing rolling pre-programmed blackouts deliberately created by the government in another effort to save the country’s ailing power grid, Bloomberg reported. In an earlier effort to save the grid, Maduro ordered clocks moved forward half an hour to save daylight.
Venezuela’s electric gird is breaking down because the nation is simply out of money, primarily because oil prices are too low to support Maduro’s socialist policies, Value Walk reported. The nation is also experiencing hyperinflation. Some Venezuelans are now using wheelbarrows of money to pay for basic goods like groceries.
The largest bill in Venezuela, the 100 bolivar note, will now pay for one loose cigarette, Bloomberg reported.
Maduro has another plan to get the lights back on in Venezuela. He is asking the United Nations for public works construction help to get the grid back up and running, Bloomberg reported.
What is your reaction to this story? Share your thoughts in the section below:
Alternative Energy in Depth! Brett Bauma “Makers on Acres” What are some of the benefits of adding alternative energy to our homes and farms? What are some of the negatives? We discuss many of the different types of alternative energy and the benefits and downfalls of each. From wind power to solar and everything in … Continue reading Alternative Energy!
April 4th, 2016
Video courtesy of Seeker Stories
Although 600 million people live without electricity in sub-Saharan Africa, Seeker Stories met 3 inspiring Tanzanians who found unique ways to hack the energy crisis.
President Obama’s war on coal, a resource that provides 35 percent of America’s power, likely won’t end when he leaves office in January 2017. That’s because both Democratic presidential candidates are passionately opposed to coal.
“We have to move away from coal, everybody understands that there’s no doubt about it,” Hillary Clinton told the League of Conservation Voters in November 2015.
It’s a position that her campaign has affirmed, again and again, including when Obama placed a moratorium on the issuance of coal leases on public land.
“Hillary Clinton supports President Obama’s efforts to ensure our energy priorities align with our imperative to combat climate change, including today’s announced review [by Obama] which she would see through to conclusion as president,” Clinton’s spokesman, Ian Sams, stated on January 16 of this year, the same day Obama made his announcement.
Her opponent in the Democratic race, Bernie Sanders, also opposes coal.
“To he– with the fossil fuel industry,” Sanders told a crowd in North Charleston, South Carolina, in November 2015. “Worry more about your children and your grandchildren than your campaign contributions.”
Sanders said in December, “It’s time for a political revolution that takes on the fossil fuel billionaires, accelerates our transition to clean energy and finally puts people before the profits of polluters.”
Clinton, the former Secretary of State and former first lady, also published a blue print for what would happen after coal plants are shut down. She proposed a $30 billion plan to help coal miners, families and others who will be hurt as coal is phased out and plants closed.
“She will not allow coal communities to be left behind — or left out of our economic future,” the document states.
Among other things, the money will cover benefits to ex-miners, will finance schools in former coal mining communities, and will help miners transition to other jobs. But it will not help the coal plants.
“Hillary Clinton is committed to meeting the climate change challenge as President and making the United States a clean energy superpower,” the document states.
Her plan on coal plants is virtually identical to Obama’s proposals.
The coal industry in the United States has collapsed since Obama took office in 2009. Coal company stocks lost 90 percent of their value between January 2009 and August 2015, CNN Money reported.
Additionally, more than one in five coal-related jobs in the US has disappeared since Obama was inaugurated, Politico said. Several major coal mining companies also have declared bankruptcy.
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Obama’s regulations on power plants have made it uneconomical for many of them to stay open.
“The administration has systemically eviscerated a high-wage industry, coal … and then offers welfare money,” Luke Popovich, a spokesman for the National Mining Association told Politico. “And rather than see opportunity to distance herself, [Clinton] now appears to embrace those policies.”
Officials in coal mining communities haven’t forgotten what the Obama administration has done. It has impacted how the communities view Democrats in general.
“People look at these folks and say, ‘They’ve completely abandoned us, it’s like we don’t live in America,’” United Mine Workers of America Vice President Ed Yankovich said of coal-country attitudes towards Democrats. “There’s a distinct bitterness about it.”
He added, “If you were a Democrat running for town supervisor, they’d treat it like you and Barack Obama were making decisions together. The question is whether Hillary Clinton can do something to assuage that and [have them] say, ‘You do care for us.’”
Yet the jobs that Clinton’s plans would create pay less than mining jobs, coal experts say. That could make the economic crisis that coal country is already facing even worse.
How Coal’s Demise Could Affect Your Electricity
Critics have long complained that Obama’s energy plans would raise electricity rates for the average consumer. There seems to be some evidence that those predictions are coming true.
The retail price of electricity increased by 9.2 percent between August 2009 (his first year in office) and August 2014, according to government data. In fact, it is expected to increase even further by 2017. By September of that year, electricity will have increased by 15 percent since Obama’s first year in office, according to the same data.
“EPA completely ignores the fact that building new power plants is far more expensive than maintaining existing ones,” Travis Fisher, with the Institute for Energy, told The Washington Times. “We have a situation where EPA is forcing the closures of perfectly good and affordable power plants and trying to replace them with new, more expensive plants.”
Fisher continued, “This means higher electricity rates for Americans. EPA’s claim that its regulation will lower electricity bills is misleading. In reality, electricity rates will skyrocket under the proposed rule. The only way power bills will go down is if EPA succeeds in making Americans use substantially less electricity than we currently do. It’s like telling people that their grocery bill will go down if they’re forced to stop buying the food they need to feed their family.”
Utilities will be forced to shut down coal-burning power plants that generate around 73,000 megawatts of electricity a year because of EPA rules, industry leaders told The Times. An additional 50,000 megawatts of electricity will have to shut down if the EPA’s new Clean Power Plan rule goes into effect.
In February 2014, an official within the Department of Energy said electricity rates in coal areas could rise by 70 to 80 percent as plants close, Off The Grid News previously reported.
That same month, US Senator James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) warned that the shutdown of older coal-burning power plants because of Obama’s EPA restrictions would result in electricity shortages and power outages.
“If this recent cold weather occurs again in a year or two when these plants are shut down there simply will not be enough electricity available to keep homes and businesses warm,” Inhofe said. “It could result in massive blackouts. When Americans need their electricity it will not be there. It will be as if we’re living in the 1600s and everyone will be cold.
“… These coal-fired power plants which were critical to keeping homes all around the country warm during the cold temperatures are going to be shut down because of Obama’s environmental regulations,” Inhofe added.
With Hillary Clinton pledging to continue Obama’s policies, it may be time for Americans to consider generating their own electricity.
What do you think? Share your thoughts in the section below:
Low Tech Prepping
Highlander “Survival & Tech Preps”
Electricity is a great thing, until it is no more. We get so used to having light at a flick of a switch. But what happens when those lights go out? On Survival and Tech Preps we have talked about high tech vs low tech in previous shows, now I want to talk about prepping for a low tech lifestyle.
Electricity is great to have and a lot of preppers are planning solar, wind, and other means. The fact is these other sources are temporary, it is not sustainable. Batteries die, the solar panels wear out, the chargers go bad. So what then? Well in my opinion the best thing to do is prepare for the ability to survive without electricity.
In this episode I will talk about key aspects we need to think about when going low tech. How do we cook? How do we prepare water, how do we communicate. All of this might sound simple to some and hard for others but I hope to bridge the gap between what is myth and what is realistic.
We all have heard those say they can survive for years by themselves, well lets back up there a second it isn’t that easy. Those that claim this will most likely fall very short. This is not a topic that will be summed up in one episode but I hope to get a little stepping stone for those of you that might want to plan on going off grid if shtf happens.
I will also talk about diet, weapons that are low tech, bug out items, food preps, and other things that we may need to start our journey on the low tech life. There are many aspects to this that you may or may not have thought of, but with a little knowledge and a little planning one can thrive if done right, so sit back and enjoy the show and hope you and I can learn something!
Join us for Survival & Tech Preps “LIVE SHOW” every Monday 9:00/Et 8:00Ct 6:00/Pt Go To Listen and Chat
Listen to this broadcast or download “Low Tech Prepping” in player below!
How often do you take electricity for granted? If you are like I once was, it happens quite frequently.
Often, I would shut off lights and unplug things when not in use, but I still never really took the time to think about what it would be like to go without power — that is, until I spent more than two weeks after a hurricane in just that situation.
I didn’t like it at first, but after a while, it was kind of nice to read with a lantern by my bed or work hard while the sun was up and relax once it retired. I figured it must have been kind of like how life had been for my great-grandparents at one time. I eventually did get into a routine, and it was at this time that I realized just how much the availability of electricity set the tone of my life.
Just last year I had the amazing opportunity to spend several months off the grid in a very remote location. Although the home I rented had a well-appointed solar system and a back-up generator, there were still some things that I had to “get used to.” It took some time to develop a good working relationship with the solar system, and I prided myself on using the generator as infrequently as possible.
Of course, the amazing thing about going solar is that you can make your system as large as you desire. For me, though, there was some adventure to working with the system that was in place and having to adjust to the solar power rather than taking power for granted.
For example, vacuuming was something that was reserved for days when there was ample sun and backup power. We did quite a few things differently while we learned to live on fewer watts, and our off-grid experience was richer for the thought we had to put into preserving the free power from the sun.
Here are just a few of the changes that we made to our off-grid lives that helped us use less watts:
- We never took a shower before the sun was up.
- We never took a shower when the sun was down.
- We only did laundry between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., and only one load per day.
- We went to bed early and got up early (this proved to be most productive).
- We used battery-operated lanterns and book lights for evening reading.
- We unplugged everything — the coffee pot, the toaster, etc. – when not in use.
- We rarely used the microwave.
- We never left the TV on, and we used it sparingly.
I think the nicest thing about living on fewer watts is just the lifestyle that it dictates. You become much closer to nature and the rising and setting of the sun and much more aware of your surroundings. The changes that we made did not come naturally, and it did take time to grow accustomed to them. But after a month or so, we were in a pretty good routine and had more than enough power for our day
I am convinced that the time living fully off-grid made me a more resourceful person, and I am anxiously awaiting another opportunity to leave the grid behind again!
How do you use less watts on your solar system? Share your tips in the section below:
How to Get Emergency Power from a Phone Line Warning.. this can damage your phone and line if you do it wrong ** What do you do if the power is out and you need to charge your cell phone to make an emergency phone call? Don’t worry. There are a number of potential power sources …
Now I like to think that I can get by without electricity. So this week, I took the time to do a survey of our home to see how much we depended on electricity. The idea being how much would a long-term loss of electricity affect us. This study revealed some interesting results.
- Clocks – I realized that all our clocks were electric with the exception of one older wristwatch.
- Lights – here we had plenty of backup. We have a couple of small solar systems and kerosene that would supply adequate lighting if the power is out.
- Heat – here we are a bit weak, but it doesn’t get very cold here for extended periods of time. If we dressed warmly, we would be fine. We should work to improve this area
- Freezer – We have generator backup for our freezers. This would give us time to use some of the food and preserve the rest. However we need to improve our system for preserving meat from our freezer. Because we would be dependent on salting it, I want to build a good smoker for preserving meat.
- Garage door openers – We have an alternate system for securing our garage door, if we have to open and close it with the power out.
- Phones – We have the capability of charging our cell phone, if they are still working. For landlines, we keep an older dial phone that is not dependant on the power in our home, but will work off the power in the phone lines, if the system is still functioning. Power Outage Caused Phone Failure can Often be Prevented
- Cooking – This not a problem for us, we have solar cookers, a kerosene stove and a rocket stove.
- Communication – Battery operated ham and MURS radios can be charged by small solar panels.
- Radio – We have a good solar and crank powered radio.
- TV- I figure we will be better off without it.
- Kitchen appliances – We have hand operated mixers and grinders. The rest we will do without.
- Power tools – Electric power tools especially the battery operated ones are nice and handy and we will use them as long as we can. But when they fail we will go back to the old methods. A Good List of Hand Tools You Need to Work Without Electricity. Hand Tools for Carpentry After TEOTWAWKI
- Well pump – we don’t have a well, our water source is municipal water, but we have a stream across the street and some water storage.
Now I know that we have not covered everything. Transportation and gardening both will require separate posts. Take a look around your home and see what you will miss if the power goes down for an extended period of time.
Electricity and backup power options.
Brett Bauma “Makers On Acres”
Living in today’s age we are almost completely reliant on electricity from the grid to power our homes and devices. Many people in today’s world are scared of electricity and don’t truly know the fundamentals of it, or how it works.
In order to be prepared for any situation, we need to know about backup power systems and even how to do an emergency electrical repair. Before we do repairs or set up systems, we first need to know the basics of how electricity works and its behaviors. We will be talking and teaching about many of the basics. Although I only recommend having an electrician do your electric work for you, there may come a time in this world where that is not a viable option and you may need to know some basics to keep you safe and get things powered back up.
What back up system is right for you? Should we add supplemental renewable energy to our home? We will run over solar, wind, and fuel powered generators as well.
Tune in with player below to learn about Electricity!
*All the information in this show is for informational purposes only and we recommend you always consult a licensed electrician for your electric work. Electricity can cause serious injury and/or death.
Makers On Acres: Website: http://makersonacres.com/
Join us for Makers On Acres “LIVE SHOW” every Saturday 9:00/Et 8:00Ct 6:00/Pt Go To Listen and Chat
Listen to this broadcast or download “Electricity & backup power options” in player below!
It’s wintertime and the power goes out. If you’re like most of us, you’re not all that worried – you trust that the power will come back on soon. But when 12 hours goes by and you still don’t have any electricity, you start getting concerned. It might be days before the power comes back on.
For many of us, the quick solution is to turn to wood. Heating with wood is historically the most common means of keeping your home warm. Throughout the centuries, people used wood to warm everything from tents to palaces. It has withstood the test of time quite effectively, providing warmth for millions of people. That makes it a survivalist’s number one choice for a backup heat source.
But it takes a lot of wood to keep your home warm. In a long-term crisis situation, you might run out of wood before the power comes back on. Or, perhaps your wood-burning stove is unusable. Whatever the case, you’re going to need another alternate heat source. Here’s a few to consider:
Many people living in rural areas already heat with propane. Unfortunately, their forced-air propane heater won’t work any better without electricity than anyone else’s does. However, there also are ceramic heaters, commonly referred to as “catalytic heaters,” that can be tied into the home’s propane. These allow you to burn the propane for heat without having any need for electricity. They are extremely safe for use indoors.
These catalytic heaters also are available for connection to a portable propane tank, such as the type used for a barbecue grill. I actually heated a motorhome through a couple of winters with these, as they were much more efficient than the furnace that the motorhome was equipped with.Kerosene
Kerosene heaters provide a considerable amount of heat, without needing electricity. I used to heat my office with a kerosene heater, back when my office was an uninsulated attic in upstate New York. If you live in a part of the country where people use kerosene for heating, then the price is quite reasonable. But if not, avoid this one, as buying kerosene at the paint store is just too expensive.
3. Passive solar
Anyone who builds a home without giving it at least some passive solar capability is missing out on a great opportunity for free heat. Even if passive solar can’t heat your whole home, you will still save money on heating costs. Passive solar is reliable, cheap and plentiful, especially if your home is designed for it.
If your home isn’t designed for passive solar heating, you can still take advantage of it. Open the curtains on all your south-facing windows during the day and put something dark colored on the floor to absorb the sunlight and convert it to heat. While not a perfect solution, it will help.
The big problem for most people is having a thermal mass. This is a mass of rock or concrete that becomes warmed by the sunlight striking its surface. The surface, which must be dark, is called the absorber because it absorbs light and converts it to heat. If your home has concrete floors and you cover them with dark-colored floor covering, then you’ve got a basic passive solar system, even if the concrete isn’t thick enough to absorb much heat.Solar convection
4. Solar convection
Another way you can take advantage of solar energy is to build a solar convection heater. The easiest and cheapest way to make one of these is to cut the tops and bottoms out of a bunch of aluminum soda or beer cans. Glue them together, forming tubes out of the cans that are the height of your windows and leave an opening at the top and bottom. Connect several of these together, side to side, to fill your window opening and paint the whole thing black.
Since warm air rises and cool air drops, the cooler air at the bottom of the window will enter into the bottom of the solar convection heater and exit out the top, warming as it passes through.
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There are still many homes in the northeast which have coal bins and coal chutes into the basements, even though they are no longer heated with coal furnaces. Coal burns hotter than charcoal and will burn a long time. Essentially, coal is petroleum-filled porous rock. So what is burning is the petroleum, leaving behind the rock, which is referred to as coke. The biggest problem with burning coal is keeping it lit. It needs a lot of oxygen to burn, so you’ll have to have good airflow to the fire. It burns slowly, making it perfect for heating, but does produce a lot of soot.
In order to use coal, you’re going to have to use it in a fireplace or a wood-burning stove that is lined with fire brick. Please note that this is only an emergency measure, as the coal will damage the fireplace or wood-burning stove. A coal insert in the fireplace is better and will allow the coal to burn more efficiently. Don’t use coal in a metal, wood-burning stove without fire brick since it can get hot enough to soften the metal, distorting it. You absolutely have to have some ventilation, or your home will fill with the coal smoke.
6. Animal dung
Dried animal dung has been used by a variety of cultures throughout history for heating and cooking. While not anyone’s favorite, it works well. If you have livestock, you have a regular source of this heating fuel. Just allow them to dry naturally in the field and collect them. Surprisingly, dried animal dung burns without stinking up your home.
7. Burning flammable fuels
Gasoline, diesel, oil and other liquid fuels can be burned for heat if you are careful. The problem is controlling the burn rate. This is fairly easily accomplished by pouring the fuel into a sand-filled container, such as a number 10 can. The sand will act as a wick, controlling the burn rate.
There also are oil heaters. Some of the simpler ones control the burn rate by dipping the oil from a tank into the burner. The Army used to use heaters of this sort, with gasoline, to provide hot water for field kitchens. So you might be able to find one of those heaters at your local army surplus store.
The big problem with this is that you’ll go through a lot of fuel quickly, so this should be considered only if no other option exists. Ventilation is essential.
The natural act of composting produces quite a bit of heat as the millions of bacteria eat the organic material, breaking it down into its basic elements. You can tap into this heat source by burying pipes in your compost pile. Those pipes can carry water to be heated or you can push air through them to be heated. As long as the compost pile has a continuous source of organic material and is kept moist, it will continue to produce heat.
What tips would you add to this list? Share your advice in the section below:
No matter how much thought and effort we put into preparing for the unknown, there’s always something we’re likely to forget. We fail to stock up on this, we put off buying that, or we neglect preparing things we think we’ll never use in a disaster situation.
Following is a list of things we often overlook when preparing for a natural or man-made disaster – or even a time when the power is simply out for a few days or weeks. You wouldn’t normally find them in the usual survivalist lists because they’re not urgently needed. But in a major, long-term collapse when business is down and most goods and services aren’t on the market (or maybe there WON’T be any market at all), these are the things you’ll wish you had stocked up on – regular, ordinary things that usually wear out in a few years or factory-made stuff that’s impossible to make yourself.
If you have the means, get them now while you still can and while you’re still able to choose the kind you want. Many of them can be bartered if needed, so it won’t hurt to have several extra pieces in your cache.
1. Boots. Get sturdy, good-quality boots that you can use for a variety of purposes and in different terrain. While shoes – and boots for that matter – are highly specialized these days, you can opt for hybrids. Hybrids are durable enough for hiking, but versatile and comfy enough for gardening, walking downtown and even pedaling short distances. They’ll just be your back-up anyway, something you can resort to if your current pair breaks down.
2. Eyewear. Do you wear glasses? Get an extra pair of your prescription glasses or several pairs of contact lenses (a few dozen if they’re disposable) so you won’t be visually challenged if you break or lose your existing pair. Extra sunglasses are good to have, too, if you’re out in the sun a lot.
3. Bicycle. If your car breaks down or runs out of gas, you’ll have to pedal to town or to your nearest neighbor for help. Consider attaching a basket or a trailer for hauling supplies. Get spare tubes, too, along with an extra pump.
4. Basic hand tools. These are critical if a disaster strikes and the grid goes down. Expect to have to do some repairs or minor projects by manual labor. You already know the essentials: hammer, screwdrivers, drills, pliers, wrenches, crowbar, a saw. If you already have them, make sure they’re in good shape. Throw in a couple of knives, scissors, can openers and nails of various sizes. If you do a lot of homesteading you know how indispensable gardening tools and supplies are, from axes to gloves to wheelbarrows.
If you already have them, make sure they’re in good shape. Throw in a couple of knives, scissors, can openers and nails of various sizes. If you do a lot of homesteading you know how indispensable gardening tools and supplies are, from axes to gloves to wheelbarrows.
5. Raw building materials. Homesteaders usually have these in their sheds already but suburban dwellers likely still run to Home Depot for such things as plywood and PVC pipes. These are essential for building, repairing and reinforcing. If you have the space, consider storing lumber of different sizes, galvanized iron sheets, a few steel bars, chicken wire, and maybe even some bags of concrete. It also wouldn’t hurt to stock up on sealants, heavy duty glue, lubricants and ropes.
6. Lightbulbs. If you’re off the grid and able to produce your own power through solar or other means, you’re still going to need these.
7. Snow and rain gear. You may not be living in a region prone to hurricanes and blizzards, but with today’s erratic weather you’ll need clothes for extremely cold and wet weather.
8. Underwear. If you have young children, you know how fast they outgrow these. For us adults, it just gets uncomfortable when those undies get a little too loose and worn. They might be great for sleeping, but what about outdoors when you need to be doing a lot of physical activity? Nothing beats a snug fit. Include a dozen pairs of thick socks, too.
9. Maps in hard copy. In a grid-down scenario, you won’t have the Internet or your phone’s GPS to guide you. Get a road map of your city, state and region. Get a topographical map of your retreat area. Search online for useful info that your map doesn’t have yet. Mark important locations you’ll want to remember in the future, such as water sources, bike trails, high elevation areas, etc.
If disaster strikes and you’re still able to monitor the news, maps can help you track problems like storms, wildfires and chemical plant accidents in reference to your area. You can print online maps out for use and likely find very specific maps that show water tables, logging roads, gas pipes, fishing lakes, railroads, contour lines and the like. Laminate your maps so they’re waterproof.
10. Grain mill. Something to consider if you’re planning on doing extensive gardening. If you can grow your own grains, peanuts, beans and even seeds from which to derive oils (sunflower, grapes, even moringa), why not invest in a grinder? You can save money by baking your own bread or even just grinding store-bought coffee or cocoa beans. There are manual and electric types, and convertible ones. Many are for home use but some are heavy-duty enough for a small business.
11. Dental health. No, you don’t want an impacted wisdom tooth or cavity-ridden molars causing you pain in a disaster scenario. Rotten, aching teeth are not only painful but can create dangerous infections. If you don’t have a dentist in your prep group, take care of dental problems now rather than suffer the consequences later. Meanwhile, be diligent with your dental care regimen to keep those pearly whites healthy: regular brushing, flossing and proper nutrition.
12. Bible/inspirational books. Probably the least prioritized but the most helpful for one’s spiritual and emotional health. Having a book that inspires and brings you peace can be very useful when things become really dire. And reading can provide a healthy distraction and a break from the troubles that come with a disaster.
What would you add to this list? Share your ideas in the section below:
A widely feared nightmare scenario has finally occurred, although in another country — hackers were able to cause a widespread power failure in the Ukraine by infecting utilities’ computers with malware.
Half of the homes in the Ivano-Frankivsk region of the Ukraine lost electricity Dec. 23 because of a malicious software program called Black Energy.
It is the first time a cyberattack has caused a widespread blackout.
“It’s a milestone because we’ve definitely seen targeted destructive events against energy before — oil firms, for instance — but never the event which causes the blackout,” John Hultquist of the cybersecurity firm iSIGHT told Ars Technica. “It’s the major scenario we’ve all been concerned about for so long.”
Ukrainians lost power after computers at three different utilities were infected with Black Energy. The program caused the blackout by somehow disconnecting a number of substations from the grid.
“This is the first time we have proof and can tie malware to a particular outage,” Trend Micro senior researcher Kyle Wilhoit told Reuters. “It is pretty scary.”
Experts at iSIGHT and antivirus company ESET identified an updated version of Black Energy, a malware that’s been around since 2007, as the cause of the blackout. The researchers said Black Energy apparently contains an updated component called KillDisk that can shut down industrial control systems.
KillDisk is a Trojan that embeds itself inside computer controlled equipment. Once there, it can either serve as a gateway to let hackers take control of the system or insert malicious code which sabotages the equipment. Some versions of KillDisk have the ability to destroy hard drives and other computer components.
Black Energy has been targeting various targets in the Ukraine, including media outlets, for about a year, Ars Technica reported. Black Energy is a particularly terrifying weapon because it enters systems through infected Microsoft Office documents.
The Sandworm Gang
Cybersecurity experts think a mysterious group of hackers that iSIGHT has dubbed the Sandworm Gang is behind Black Energy. Nobody knows where the Sandworm Gang is located, but iSIGHT suspects that they are Russians or have ties to the Russian government.
This is not the first time that hackers have infected a utility. In 2012, someone infected Saudi Arabia’s largest natural gas producer with malware.
Experts including Ted Koppel think it is only a matter of time before something like Black Energy targets America’s power grid. Koppel says such a cyberattack could knock out the US and Canadian power grids for weeks or months and lead to mass starvation in North America.
What is your reaction to the cyberattack, and do you think such an attack in the US is inevitable? Share your opinion in the section below:
January 4th, 2016
Video courtesy of Tim Pool
Windows 10 is tracking you and reading your content and soon windows will roll out the same updates for Windows 7 and 8.
Cooking when the grid is down can be a bit tricky for those who rely on their oven or other electrical appliances to prepare a meal. Whether you live in an area prone to power outages or simply want to add some emergency cooking methods to your bank of knowledge, here are some ideas for making a hot meal without power.
Keep in mind that cooking methods or tools for outdoor use are labeled that way for a reason! Be safe and if you aren’t sure whether a particular grill or other cooking device can be used indoors, take it outside.
Naturally an actual woodstove would be the obvious way you could cook off-grid, but if you only have a traditional fireplace, don’t worry! If it’s cool enough to start a fire, you can easily cook in your regular fireplace.
2. DIY alcohol stoves
Alcohol-fueled stoves are easy to make at home and cheap to use. These types of stoves are super portable and can be quite small, making them popular among campers and backpackers. They burn hot and can easily heat up a pot of water quite large compared to the stove itself.
3. Propane camp stove
Most campers probably have at least one propane camp stove. Even stores like Walmart or Target sell them. These stoves tend to work very well and are pretty easy to use. The only downside is that you will need to keep canisters of propane on hand and if you run out, you are out of luck.
4. Versatile ‘Crisis Cooker’
Unlike a propane camp stove, this handy portable device lets you use not only propane but also wood or charcoal. It works great with propane but in a pinch will allow you to boil, grill, bake or fry using other heating sources. For example, because of its unique design, you can cook a meal with only six briquettes. Wood chunks work, too.
A great way to cook up a meal is just to make a fire outside. You can either build a campfire in a safe area or build a dedicated fire pit for cooking. In good weather it can be a lot of fun to gather around a fire in the backyard and make a meal with family or friends around. As for cooking techniques you could make a spit, build a rack for grilling or go the route of using a Dutch oven. Click here to learn how to cook with a Dutch oven.
6. Rocket stove. The rocket stove is an efficient option that uses only bricks and wood and can be assembled in a short amount of time. You will still be able to use all of your other normal kitchen equipment with this stove. The other beauty of the rocket stove is that it doesn’t just have to be used in a survival situation; it can also be used as a temporary backup on normal days when your regular kitchen stove breaks down. The downside: It’s not portable.
7. Charcoal grills
Grilling or barbequing isn’t just for summer events. A charcoal grill has the advantage of you also being able to use it for a wood fire if you don’t have briquettes. The downside is that grills tend to be rather large.
8. Dedicated outdoor oven/outdoor kitchen
Everyone can benefit from having an outdoor kitchen area, but especially those who live in rural areas. A dedicated outdoor oven (whether it’s an old wood stove, masonry stove, etc.) heated with wood or propane makes cooking more enjoyable and it’s always reassuring to know that there is always a way to cook outside. Consider building an outdoor kitchen area or at least have the oven covered with a simple structure. A big benefit of having an off-grid outdoor kitchen is that you can still cook up big meals in summer without heating up your house.
How do you prefer to cook when you have no power? Please share your comments and your favorite easy off-grid recipes below!
Iranian hackers have successfully penetrated America’s power grid and accessed passwords and engineering drawings of power plants, and security experts say it’s only a matter of time before such an attack leads to widespread blackouts, the Associated Press reported.
In fact, hackers from Iran and other countries have infiltrated America’s power grid at least a dozen times over the past decade, gaining enough “remote access to control the operations networks” that run the power grid, experts told AP.
“If the geopolitical situation changes and Iran wants to target these facilities, if they have this kind of information it will make it a lot easier,” former Air Force cyberwarfare officer Robert M. Lee told AP.
The AP investigation found that the danger of cyberattack on the grid is far greater than the US government wants us to believe.
Some of the other frightening details of the AP report include:
- Some of the attacks over the past decade were so sophisticated that attackers could have gained control over portions of the grid or power plants, if they wanted to do so.
- ISIS is trying to hack into America’s power grid.
- Hackers took “detailed engineering drawings” of 71 “networks and power stations” from New York to California. That information shows “the precise location of devices that communicate with gas turbines, boilers and other crucial equipment attackers would need to hack specific plants.”
- Some of the hackers stored their stolen data on unencryptedcomputers, meaning the data was easily accessible by others, too.
Security researcher Brian Wallace discovered that Iranian hackers had stolen passwords and detailed information from Calpine Corp., which operates 82 power plants in 18 states and in Canada.
“We’re still in this era where everybody believes [the power grid is] secure and it’s not,” Eireann Leverett of the Cambridge Center for Risk Studies told AP.
Fixing the damage done by a large cyberattack could take far too long. Many of the parts that would be damaged by an attack are custom-made, meaning there literally are no spare parts.
“In the case of a large cyberattack on the US we can’t be calling up vendors and having them say, ‘Sorry, it’s going to take us eight months to get this patched,’” Leverett pointed out.
We’ve been warned.
Are you concerned about a cyberattack on the power grid? Share your thoughts in the section below:
We can never know when disaster will strike. But rather than waiting around for it to come before deciding our next steps, we can take proactive measures to ensure we’re ready to handle whatever is thrown our way.
One such step includes the construction of an underground survival shelter. These structures give you the peace of mind that comes with knowing you and your loved ones will be safe even in the event the unthinkable occurs.
These kinds of shelters come in all shapes and sizes. They can be custom designed to your specific property, and you can rely on the insights and recommendations of experts who will help you build the one that makes the most sense for your needs.
Not Exactly Roughing It
It’s important to remember that thanks to breakthroughs in technology and design, today’s underground survival shelters can be much more than dark, safe holes in the ground, so to speak. In fact, as you go about planning your survival shelter, you will be better off thinking about building an underground home of sorts.
Indeed, today’s shelters can have it all, everything from closets to flushable toilets to fully functional kitchens and more — the sky, or your wallet, truly is the limit.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at five essential items you need in your shelter:
Food and Drink
First things first: You’ll want to stockpile at least three days’ worth of food and drink for each person you expect would make use of your survival shelter in the event disaster strikes. Generally speaking, you should set aside a gallon of water each day for each adult.
For food, get as many non-perishable items if you can, unless you choose to go to the underground full kitchen route, in which case you can stock your fridge and freezer. Things such as crackers, pretzels, canned vegetables, soups and canned meat will do the trick.
While we don’t need electricity to survive per se, it’s safe to say our lives would be significantly inconvenienced if we’re forced to live without it for an extended period of time. Great underground survival shelters are outfitted with enough electricity to allow you to live a somewhat normal life. Be sure to search for the electrical gear you need to produce desired outcomes.
A First-Aid Kit
You never know when someone might get sick or hurt. Be sure to stock a first-aid kit full of band aids, gauze, sterile bandages, splints, tweezers and scissors. Also stock up on Tylenol and Aspirin.
It’s better to have a hammer and not need it than need a hammer and not have it. Put together a tool kit and stick it down in your shelter. Be sure to include wrenches, screwdrivers, a battery-operated radio, flashlights, a fire extinguisher and other relevant items.
Since you’re going to be living underground for at least a few hours, it’s wise to put some things in your shelter you can turn to for entertainment, particularly if you have children. Some folks go as far as building complete home entertainment systems underground. You don’t necessarily have to do that. Just be sure to store board games, books and playing cards in your shelter.
Let’s hope the only use you get out of your underground bomb shelter is when your kids play hide and seek. But should a catastrophic event occur and you need safety without having to sacrifice comfort, you’ll find everything you need in your underground survival shelter. Stay safe!
Alicia grew up in Alaska where she earned her hunter and wilderness safety license at age 13. She now works as a content coordinator for a tech company in Pennsylvania and blogs in her free time at Homey Improvements.
Traditional heating systems are powered by electricity and often accompanied by heat that is generated by natural gas, oil or propane. All are expensive options and typically require at least an electric-powered fan to force the air through heating ducts throughout the house.
The benefit of any forced-air system is even distribution of heat. Wood-burning stoves lack this feature and depend on “radiant” heat, or heat that is simply radiated from the stove itself. But the downside of forced-air heat is its dependence on the grid.
There are alternatives, though, to not only electric systems but also to the traditional cast-iron stove. Let’s explore them.
1. Masonry stove
These stoves burn wood but are made from materials like fire bricks and concrete, and some even funnel smoke through a chimney system that is embedded through a brick wall. The advantage of a masonry stove is that it holds and exchanges heat better than cast iron and typically can produce significant heat with a slow, burning fire.
One of the significant advantages of a masonry wood-burning stove is in the wall feature. By circulating heat through a brick wall, it can effectively deliver heat to a second story bedroom or bathroom to some degree. The biggest problem with wood-burning stoves is that they depend on radiant heat. The good news is that heat rises, but on particularly cold days it may not rise enough to sufficiently heat rooms upstairs. A masonry stove does both, imparting heat not only through radiance, but also through brickwork upstairs.
2. Pellet stoves
Another alternative is a stove that burns things other than firewood. These stoves can burn dried corn cobs, wood chips and even peanut shells. Pellets are the result of a manufacturing process that also requires a supply-chain distribution system. That can be a problem in an off-the-grid scenario.
Another consideration with alternative burning fuels is their availability in quantity. Burning corn cobs is a good idea assuming you can store and accumulate enough corn cobs to last the winter. But unless you plant a significant amount of corn or have a resource close to home from a local farmer, you might run out of corn cobs pretty quick. The same is true for wood chips and peanut shells. It sounds like a good idea, but do you have a ton or two of wood chips and peanut shells? If so, you may want to consider such a stove.
3. Passive solar
Passive solar involves the collection of heat from the sun in tiles or wallboards designed to absorb heat during the day and radiate it at night when it’s colder. It may be inaccurate to call it an “alternative” system, but think of it as a complement to another home heating system. It’s an excellent way to provide heat to parts of a home that are beyond the reach of radiant heat.
However, there are a few parameters.
- It requires a significant southern exposure with large windows that will allow sufficient sunlight to hit the tiles or wallboard so they can absorb the heat.
- It is ineffective on cloudy days. Even though solar panels can absorb some radiation from the sun on a cloudy day, passive solar tiles require direct sunlight to capture heat.
- The tiles can overheat a room in the summer and even in winter. There’s no thermostat you can dial up or down. Your only solution is drapes or shades to prevent the sun from striking the tiles. It’s a simple solution if you don’t mind covered windows in the summer.
4. An underground home
This is not for everyone, but where and how you live can make a big difference when it comes to maintaining and sustaining heat in winter. One of the best solutions is based on the geo-thermal principle. The ground stays warmer than the air during winter, so build your house underground. This gets to the basic laws of thermodynamics. The average ground temperature is around 40 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on where you live. Rarely above or below. Do the math. You’re never freezing and never over-heating. Few people consider this option, but it’s a good alternative solution. In an underground home, you won’t have to use heat until it really gets cold outside – and even then, it won’t take long to warm the place.
What alternatives would you add to the list? Share your tips in the section below:
The state of Illinois has received a letter that usually is reserved for customers who don’t have enough money in the bank — a disconnect notice from the electric company.
Power to state offices could be shut off because the state has not paid its electricity bills for several months.
The president of the board of the Southwestern Electric Cooperative confirmed in an interview that his utility had sent the state a shut-off notice, The Belleville News-Democrat reported.
Technically, the offices’ electricity should have been shut off months ago. The number of state agencies not paying has “far exceeded our disconnection for non-pay policies, with some of the accounts being subject to disconnection as much as four months ago,” according to a copy of the letter obtained by the newspaper. The agencies were not identified but the letter was addressed to the District 11 Headquarters of the State Police in Collinsville, Illinois.
State Cannot Pay its Bills
“Officially we don’t talk about any of our members’ or customers’ bills or what they owe, but it’s out there now,” Alan Libbra, the president of the cooperative board, told The News-Democrat. “We sent the letter to the appropriate offices, and who released it I don’t know.”
The bills are unpaid because the state legislature and Governor Bruce Rauner have been unable to agree on a budget. The legislature is controlled by Democrats, and Rauner is a Republican. The state controller’s office cannot cut checks unless there is a budget in place.
“Without a budget or a court order, the comptroller’s office is prohibited by law from making payments,” Rich Carter, a spokesman for the controller’s office, told The News Democrat.
State Cannot Pay Bills for State Capitol
The bills to the cooperative, which serves parts of Madison, Bond, Clinton and St. Clair counties, are not the only ones the state cannot pay. The State Journal Register reported that the only reason Christmas lights will shine at the state capitol in Springfield this year is that three local unions are paying the bill.
The secretary of state’s office had announced there would be no Christmas lights because it could not afford the electricity needed to power them. The Basic Crafts Council, a group of three unions, stepped forward to pay the $7,500 electric bill.
Meanwhile, state lottery winners are still waiting for their payments because of the budget gridlock at the state capitol, Off The Grid News recently reported.
What is your reaction to this story? Should the electric company cut off the state’s electricity? Share your thoughts in the section below:
Solar storms, defined by NASA as “eruptions of mass and energy from the solar surface, including prominences, flares, sunspots and coronal ejections,” are not a direct threat to us here on Earth’s surface, since our atmosphere serves as a protective shield from the explosions. In fact, most of the time, solar storms go unnoticed on Earth.
However, solar storms have the potential to cripple our power grid and communications technology, and, as a result, bring much of the modern way of life to a standstill. Here’s how:
The most powerful solar storms send coronal mass ejections (CMEs) that contain charged particles out into space. CMEs that strike our atmosphere could cause a disturbance of the Earth’s magnetic field, potentially disrupting satellites, interrupting navigation systems and communications systems and taking out power grids for entire regions.
The biggest solar storm in recorded history was the Carrington Event, named for Richard C. Carrington, who observed and recorded the 1859 solar event. It wiped out telegraph machines and sent auroras – normally only seen in places like Alaska and Canada — as far south as Hawaii, Cuba and even Africa.
Another lesser-known solar superstorm occurred in the 20th century, however, and even though it was long before modern technology, it can give us a glimpse at the devastating effect a solar storm could have on our 21st century lifestyle.
On May 13, 1921, astronomers noted a huge sunspot with an estimated width of 94,000 miles and a length of 21,000 miles on the solar surface. Auroras were observed for the next few evenings across much of Europe, in the Eastern United States and in California.
More significantly, most of the East Coast experienced a communication blackout caused by the solar storm. That morning, the entire signal and switching system of the New York Central Railroad shut down due to current charges from the storm. The event also sparked a fire in the control tower at 57th Street and Park Avenue.
A telegraph operator reported that his switchboard ignited, causing an entire building to soon become engulfed in flames. A similar report of a fire came from a telephone station in Sweden that morning, and the solar storm affected telephone, telegraph and cable traffic over most of Europe.
What does this 1921 event mean to us today? Aside from being fascinating historically, it portends the dire results of a modern solar storm. The impact of a storm today would be far more severe, considering our dependence on technology for so many aspects of our lives, including paying bills, buying groceries, sending emails and even pumping gas.
American and European scientists have expressed concern that the plasma cloud from a solar superstorm could wipe out vast electronics networks and technologies, causing unpresented havoc. Without electricity, the entire modern-day financial infrastructure shuts down, as does the delivery system for food.
According to John Kappenman, an engineer at MetaTech Corporation, a California-based science and engineering company, a solar storm on the same level as the so-called Railroad Storm of 1921 would affect 150 million people across North America. Resulting magnetic storm currents also could damage transformers that would affect many others.
In all, losses could exceed $30 billion in lost salaries, spoiled food, business closures and other related effects of a huge solar storm. And those numbers could ratchet up dramatically if outages and other storm-related problems persisted for weeks.
Grid expert and Congressional EMP Commission member Peter Pry said in testimony this summer that a storm on par with the 1921 one “could kill up to 9 of 10 Americans through starvation, disease, and societal collapse” because the grid would be down for so long. That’s more than 280 million people. (Listen to Pry on Off The Grid Radio here.)
Experts agree that we may have only 24 hours warning before a storm collided with Earth. How can we prepare for a disaster? The answer is much the same as you would for any other natural disaster – by stockpiling food, water and other necessities.
In addition, it is wise to keep cash on hand, since banks will be unable to process withdrawals during a massive power outage.
Do you believe America is prepared for a major solar storm? Share your thoughts in the section below:
Back in the old days, a root cellar was not a luxury, but instead was just as essential as our refrigerators are to us today.
A well-constructed root cellar can be a real life-saver — especially if you live off the grid, in remote areas or in places where power outages can be problematic. If you lose power and your refrigerator goes out, then your root cellar becomes an amazing backup.
You also can cut power consumption with a root cellar. Depending upon the size of your cellar, you can store as much as a restaurant-style walk-in refrigerator. However, you’re not using any electricity to do it.
As you may well know, root cellars are also a great place to take shelter in case of wind storms like tornadoes. Your house may be gone or damaged, but at least you weren’t in it when it was hit.
What Is a Root Cellar?
A root cellar is any storage space that uses the natural cooling, humidifying and insulating properties of the earth to preserve foods.
For your root cellar to work, it needs to maintain temperatures between 32 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit and a humidity of between 85 to 95 percent.
The reason you need both is that the temperature stops the growth of microorganisms and slows the release of ethylene gas, both of which work to decompose food faster.
The humidity stops your cold storage roots, tubers and vegetables from drying out and looking wilted.
What Type of Root Cellar Should I Build?
Many people will attempt to dig their root cellar right along the foundation of their home – the logic being they will have that nice cement wall for one side of the cellar if they have a basement. The problem with that is you’re undermining the foundation of your home. You’d be undermining a huge investment (your house) for something that you are likely going to build for free or at most a couple hundred dollars.
I’d recommend digging your cellar away from the house by at least 20 feet. The reasons are mostly for the security of your home and any possible groundwater issues.
Hillside root cellars work really well. You dig your cellar into the side of a hill and slope the inside floor down toward the opening for drainage. Yes, you can put in drain pipes and if you’d like to go that route, you should. You’ll end up with a dryer root cellar for sure. That being said, our forefathers didn’t have PVC and drain field pipes.
If you’re going with a pit style, then dig a square pit and then slope one end down to its floor, so you can lay in your steps over the top of that slope.
A word to the wise: There are those who recommend simply burying a garbage can for storing small amounts of food. This is a bad idea, as the garbage can can’t breathe. Your root cellar needs ventilation in order to get rid of ethylene gas.
8 Fundamental Tips
I won’t go into how to dig the hole and other such items. I’m sure you’re handy with a shovel. What I will cover here are eight fundamental tips that can really make or break your root cellar’s performance, long-term.
- In order to reach a nice stable temperature, you need to dig down at least 10 feet. In sandy, loamy soils you may need to go a little deeper than that to get the right temperature.
- Build your shelves and platforms out of wood, as it doesn’t conduct heat and cold nearly like metal does. This helps maintain steady temperatures.
- Don’t dig your root cellar near any big trees. You’ll have to chop the roots out while you dig, and they always grow back. Plus, if the tree falls over from wind or old age, it can rip your cellar up with it.
- To keep rot off your shelving and platforms, be sure to place them one to two inches away from the walls so they can stay dry.
- Packed earth floors work well and have been the standard flooring for hundreds of years. However, if you want to step it up just a bit, then pour a concrete floor. With such a floor, you won’t get dirt on your shoes to track back in the house. Plus, it keeps your wooden shelves and platforms off the ground so that they will last longer and not rot.
- Install an exhaust pipe so that you get air circulating and prevent the build-up of gases. Ventilation is critical to maintaining temperature and humidity, without which your food won’t preserve very well at all.
- Get a thermometer and a hygrometer to measure temperature and humidity, respectively. Maintaining the proper temperature and humidity levels are the pivotal points in constructing your root cellar.
- Follow all structural guidelines and best practices in your building process. Be sure to follow all applicable building and or construction codes. Also, ensure that you get any necessary permits before you begin.
That being said, building your root cellar can be a fun and relatively easy project, and you’ll enjoy the “fruits and roots” from it for many, many years.
What is your best advice on building and maintaining a root cellar? Share it in the section below:
Winter months present a unique challenge in many parts of North America due to freezing temperatures. In fact, no other season is as deadly if the electricity goes out. So how do you prepare to survive the cold season? What should you stockpile? And if you’re tied to the electric grid, what do you do if the power goes out?
Heat is the Key
If there is no electric power you can always assume you’ll have gas. But many gas appliances from furnaces and water heaters to gas ranges have electric components. They also have compressors that are electric powered to force the air through your home. You could always light a gas range cook top with a match or flame, but don’t assume for a minute it can serve as a heat source unless you’re absolutely desperate. You can put some cast iron over the gas range cook top to act as a heat conductor after you have switched off the gas, but it’s not going to add much heat to you home.
If you have a fireplace, it can certainly help you stay warm. But be forewarned. Ninety percent of your heat is going up the chimney with the smoke. A fireplace will heat a room, maybe two. It will not heat a whole house. You can close-off sections of your house, but you’ll discover very quickly that a fireplace is a highly localized and inefficient heat source.
Buy a small cast-iron stove that you can quickly install into your fireplace. You’ll have to attach a stove pipe that exhausts up the flue, and some heavy duty aluminum foil affixed with foil tape to seal off the flue. Once you’ve done that, your cast iron stove will be a heat exchanger that will add significantly more heat than a traditional fire in a fireplace.
You could also have a wood-burning stove installed in your home to not only supplement your heating while on-the-grid, but to serve in an emergency off-the-grid.
Keep in mind that just because you have an efficient word-burning stove it doesn’t mean it will heat your entire home. It’s all a question of square footage and the design of your home, as well as the size and number of wood-burning stoves inside. While some people have installed “whole-house” wood-burning solutions, most people have just one wood-burning alternative.
Keeping a two-story home warm is the most challenging. Heat rises and cold descends. If the temperature outside is zero degrees, your house will quickly equalize to that temperature. A single, wood burning stove in the fireplace will not efficiently heat a two-story home. The temperature will rise, but you’ll be lucky to have an average temperature above freezing across your home.
As a result, you may have to rethink your living and sleeping arrangements during a particularly cold weather. Your first step is to abandon the second story. Close all of the doors upstairs and try to block off any hallways with a sheet that is tightly suspended or tacked around the wood framing to the hallway. You also might want to consider closing off rooms that are not critical, like a formal dining room.
A Special Note About Kerosene Heaters
Kerosene heaters give off significant amounts of carbon monoxide. You could always place one in the fireplace in place of a wood-burning fire, but unless you close off the flue to some degree and carefully vent the kerosene heater you’ll lose more heat up the flue than you generate.
Putting a kerosene heater in proximity to a fireplace could also encourage venting of the carbon monoxide. But manage it carefully and if you feel dizzy, nauseous or have a headache, know that you may be succumbing to carbon monoxide poisoning. If you have children, they will be affected more quickly due to being smaller.
Avoiding Frozen Pipes
If you cut off heat to the second floor of your home for any length of time, you’ll want to drain the water from sinks, toilets, showers and bath tubs throughout the house. Without electricity you probably won’t have running water and will be depending on local water supplies, your stockpile of water, or melted snow and ice.
You can still flush a toilet without running water. You just have to fill the toilet tank with sufficient water to effectively flush. This is a good argument for keeping a constant supply of melted snow or ice on hand in a large 5-gallon bucket or two.
Without electricity you’ll find cooking to be a continuing challenge especially in winter. There’s a remote possibility that a gas range may function, but you’ll need to light the flame manually.
You also can cook in your fireplace or on the surface of a wood burning stove. Make sure you have an ample supply of cast-iron cookware on hand including covered pots like a Dutch-Oven. Some people use a corner of the fireplace for cooking with a metal grate to support a pot or pan.
You also have the option of cooking over an open fire in the backyard or a kettle grill stocked with wood that has burned down to coals that are manageable for cooking. This is a cold proposition depending on outside temps, but if you have a covered grill you can hurry inside while the food is cooking outside. Here again, consider the cooking equipment you might need to cook a variety of dishes and meal types outside.
Bedding and Clothing
It’s obvious that winter clothing makes sense in winter but there are some items you want to make sure you consider. One is sometimes referred to as a “night-cap” and no, it’s not an evening cocktail. If you’ve ever slept in a tent in the winter you know how cold your head can become. In fact, we lose 40 percent of our body heat through our heads. You might want to consider sleeping with hat on.
Bedding should be ample with extra blankets, quilts or sleeping bags. If you’re sleeping on the floor in a family room or on a couch, having extra blankets on hand can not only keep you warm, but accommodate friends and family that may have joined you because they don’t have a fireplace or wood-burning stove.
In addition to the cold, it’s also darker in many parts of the world during winter. Candles are a primary consideration along with a few lanterns that burn a clean oil.
There are also flashlights that are cranked by hand to provide a light source without batteries. If you are going to depend on battery-powered flashlights to any degree, consider a solar recharger. Remember, however, sunny days in the winter are short and might be few and far between.
Laundry as a Humidifier
Laundry is a tough one in winter without electricity and ample supplies of water. Your primary focus should be on laundering socks and underwear and any other clothing that is obviously soiled.
A benefit of doing laundry in the house and hanging it to dry is the humidity that it creates. Just like on a hot summer day, the humidity will make you feel warmer. And if you are heating with wood you may find the laundry drying surprisingly fast due to the dryness of the air.
If you need humidity and the laundry is done, you can always use some dowels to support a towel in a 5-gallon plastic bucket filled with water. The towel should emerge above the water level to some degree and will act as a wick to add humidity to the air.
Creating a Winter Stockpile
If you want to prepare for a winter off-the-grid, you need to figure out some basics. One is the number of people you think you will be housing. This could go beyond your immediate family as extended family members seek shelter in a location with basic resources they may be lacking.
Here’s a checklist to serve as a reminder. It may vary depending on your circumstances and already assumes you have ample supplies of food and drinking water:
- A wood-burning stove with the necessary equipment to install it in a fireplace, including stove pipes, foil and foil tape, along with an ash bucket and ash shovel.
- Sufficient firewood to heat throughout the winter
- A kerosene heater if you can properly vent it. Make sure to have enough fuel, replacement wicks and filters to keep it operating.
- Lumbering tools for harvesting and stocking additional firewood.
- Cooking equipment and utensils for cooking on a wood stove, open fire or kettle grill.
- Sufficient candles, lanterns, lantern oil and flashlight options that are hand-powered or solar-powered, along with sufficient fire-starting materials like matches and lighters.
- Up to a dozen, 5-gallon plastic buckets for water collection of snow and ice and other needs.
- Sufficient winter clothing for you, your family and others who may join you.
- Sufficient bedding in the form of blankets, pillows, quilts and sleeping bags, plus sheets that also can be used to temporarily seal off hallways and stairways.
- Soap for washing and laundry.
- Rope to hang laundry to dry and act as a humidifying agent.
This list is by no means exhaustive, but it’s a good start. The key is to stop and anticipate your needs and do some estimates so you have enough on hand to get through winter and early spring.
What would you add to this list? Share your suggestions in the section below:
6 Good Reasons to Install Solar Panels
For the past several decades, we are witnesses of change in thinking of an average person. Instead of thinking backward, “What was wrong?”, we started thinking “What can be better?”. This is the case when it comes to solar power source. To create better tomorrow, we had to think up something yesterday, and start using it today. Here are the reasons why.
It is less known that many countries in the world actually have quite old power grid, and that might represent major problem in near future. USA, for example, may or may not face crisis in the future, if something is not done. This large investment will not pay off on a longer run, for we will get only the transmitters of power. With solar system, we gain power source as well.
For now, solar power source is used only as the additional source of electricity, but the good thing is that it can be changed. Literally putting a few panels on your rooftop will make you free of relying on others. This means that in case of a major attack, or natural disaster, damage done would be far smaller.
Being highly dependable on fuel , we need alternative power source, and we need it fast. Majority of these additional sources are very “green” by nature, for there is no combustion, just pure and clean energy.
Depending on fuels that may run out eventually is a risk, but the Sun will not run out for at least five billion years. Only one potential setback with this power source is that areas on Earth with less sunny hours during the year may have potential trouble, but that can be easily overcome, by combining several alternative power sources.
Self-sustaining [“Pic 3 – Alexandria tour” goes here]
If you are watching AMC’s TV show, “The Walking Dead”, you will notice that cities of Woodberry and Alexandria are relying on solar power, and are the only ones which have potential to last as havens for humans. This scenario can be applied easily, for in case of any worldwide catastrophe, we could still believe that self-sustaining cities exist.
Easy to mount
You will need professional help to install solar panels, but besides that, it is rather easy work. Depending on where you install them, you will need either stable decking supports, or adequate roof base. First installments are great for huge, open spaces, such as farms, while the second is better for urban areas. Installations required are consisted of several controllers and batteries, but that is not a rocket science. Pretty easy for an average man to maintain it.
When all the things above are taken into consideration, we can surely say that our future will depend on solar panels. That is why it is of utmost importance to start getting used to them now.
About the author
Marie Nieves is a student and a blogger who loves unusual trips, gadgets and creative ideas. Marie loves to share her experiences and talk about practical solutions. She is an avid lover of photography interested in interior and exterior design and regular author on Smooth Decorator. You can find Marie on Facebook or follow her on Twitter and G+.
- printscreen from Alexandria tour
Of all the possible disasters we face today, an EMP or major solar storm are two of the scariest. Few truly understand how devastating they would be to our way of life. We depend on electricity and electrical devices so much that life would be set back about 100 years, technologically speaking.
An EMP occurs when a nuclear bomb is detonated high above the atmosphere. Since there is nothing to absorb the explosion and convert the energy into blast energy, it all goes out in its original form, as electromagnetic energy. Hitting the atmosphere, that energy is actually amplified, speeding towards the surface of the earth.
Upon arrival at the earth’s surface, all of that electromagnetic energy is absorbed into electrical devices, the power grid and any metal it encounters. That which hits solid-state electronic devices overloads the circuitry, destroying it. Metal can protect those devices, having the effect of a Faraday Cage, but if the electronics are exposed, the EMP will hit them with a surge of power that is too much for them to handle.
The electricity that enters the power grid will flow along the wires, reaching transformers and substations. Many of them will also become fried by the high energy burst traveling through them. But some of the energy will get through. It will then overwhelm surge protectors, destroying any electronics that managed to survive the initial surge because of being protected by metal cases.
A major solar storm would do similar damage to America (and the world), and actually did so in 1859 during what is known as the Carrington Event. It destroyed telegraph machines, the most advanced technology of the time, although Earth has dodged similar solar storms since then. A Carrington-like solar blast nearly hit Earth in 2012. (Recommended: How A Simple Solar Flare Could Doom America – And The World.)
Within seconds of either an EMP or major solar storm, all solid-state electronics and computer-controlled devices will cease working forever. However, that’s not to say that all electronic devices will die. Surprisingly, simple electronics will survive, although there won’t be any power to make them operate. (Recommended: 5 Surprising Items That Will Survive An ‘End-Of-The-World’ EMP Attack.)
Pretty much all of the infrastructure we depend upon will be destroyed. Airplanes will fall out of the sky, mid-flight. Gas pumps will stop working. The entire electrical power grid will go down. Most of us will be without water, as the pumps and water treatment plants won’t have the electrical energy they need to purify the water and get water to us. All commerce will be on a cash only basis at first, eventually morphing over to a barter system.
Will Anything Be Working?
One of the surprising things that will survive an EMP is solar panels. While the EMP will reduce their efficiency somewhat, it won’t really be enough to make much of a difference. Electric motors will function, too, so wind generators will still work and appliances may still be usable. Of course, with the grid down, the only way they would be usable is if you have your solar panels or a wind turbine to produce power.
The people who will be the best off after the EMP will be those who live in rural communities, especially rural farming communities. They will have food available to them, even though transporting that food to the cities will be almost impossible.
We will see people dying off from the very beginning. There are a large number of people who depend upon medicines to keep them alive. Without the ability to distribute the medicines, many of those people will pass away once their personal supply of medicine runs out.
The big killers in the aftermath of an EMP will be starvation and hypothermia. This will be the second wave of deaths from the EMP and it will be so enormous that it will make the first wave pale by comparison. Without the ability to transport supplies, cities will become death camps. Those who can escape the city will actually have a better chance than those who stay behind.
Of course, people who have a food stockpile will have a much better chance of survival.
What Can You Do?
Preparing for an EMP is just like preparing for any other disaster, with one major difference. That is … there will be no turning back. As things stand right now, an EMP or major solar storm will be so devastating that it will take decades to recover from, not just years.
You can’t count on a year’s worth of food getting you through the aftermath of an EMP. About the only way you can be sure of surviving is to turn your home into a homestead. You’ll need to produce your own food in order to survive. That means an extensive vegetable garden, as well as raising chickens and other animals for eggs and meat. You will need to produce enough to feed your family for the whole year, not just enough to make it through a few months.
The ability to produce your own electricity could help as well, but only if you have electronic devices hidden away in a Faraday Cage. Make sure that you have a spare charger for your battery backup and a spare voltage inverter as well. Otherwise, those solar panels won’t do a bit of good.
What do you think the aftermath of an EMP will look like? Share your opinion in the section below:
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Targeted at spec ops units operating far away from reliable supply chains, ini-power’s line of portable gennies may also appeal to those looking to have some of that good ol’ fashion ‘tricity if and when our usual supply chain self destructs.
From the spec sheet:
INI’s agnostic fuel architecture allows for the use of ANY FUEL, in ANY AOR, in ANY COMBINATION, thereby allowing War fighters to generate power from any military logistical fuel, in addition to any fuels available off of the local economy, including contaminated fuels typically found in remote AORs for a wide-ranging number of mission sets.
Listed fuels include JP-8, F-34 “NATO”, gasoline, propane, methanol, and isopropanol, but most anything combustible that you can pour in the tank has a good chance of working.
They’ve got 2 kw, 1 kw and 500w versions out there, and Soldier Systems just had a blurb up on a new 5 kw unit they are releasing.
Unfortunately, at time of publication, INI only sells directly to the .GOV.
For us regular schlubs in need of versatile fuel consumption, tinkering survival types have had good success with Harbor Freight’s little 900w generator (this one on Amazon looks similar if you don’t have an HF nearby. There’s a long running thread over on ARFCOM about this little genny that could, including tales of dudes who have successfully run it on all variety of fuels – rubbing alcohol and nail polish was a winner, if I remember right.