If the grid goes down and suddenly there is no electricity, no natural gas and no water coming into your home, what will you do?
How much thought and planning have you given to surviving without the Grid?
Surviving without the Grid
You wake up. Your alarm clock is dark. Why didn’t that thing wake you up? You grab the remote and click at the TV, no dice. “Ahhh”, you think “The power is out.”
That explains it. The power goes out a couple times a year, but this time is different. It’s not coming back. Are you ready for that? What do you need to survive in this situation.
Water procurement can be as simple as rain barrels or finding a pond, lake, stream or river coupled with boiling or water filtration, but is essential to surviving without the grid. Here are some posts where we’ve discussed water.
You can forage, fish, hunt or trap your food. If you are really smart, you’d probably raise your own livestock. In cities or suburbs you could raise some chickens or rabbits. A goat would be handy for fresh goat’s milk.
Surviving without the grid will cause us to rethink how we cook. Make sure to have plenty of propane so you can use your outoor gas grill or camp cook stove. If you intend to use those tiny 16.4 oz propane canisters for camping, and want to run your camp cook stove (and other propane camping gear) off of your larger propane tanks you’ll need a Propane adapter hose.
To cook and boil water (for cooking or drinking), the Kelly Kettle will burn anything (sticks, leaves, dry grass, dry nut husks, etc) to create heat. The Kelly Kettle Pot Support and Cookset should be on your list. This seems like a pretty wise choice, since sticks will outlast your propane supply.
If you are cooking for a group or family then buy a campfire cooking grate and be done with it. This will allow you to use your pots and pans that you already own. Also consider investing in a Dutch Oven so you can still “bake” foods.
Hopefully you put away a stock of heirloom seeds so you can raise food year after year, using the seeds from the year prior. Once the grid is gone, every family that survives will be raising food. You should transform your entire front and back yards into fields.
How will you stay warm in the winter?
One option is to migrate someplace that is warm in the winter.
How can we heat without the grid? For a while the gas furnaces and space heaters will work. Then kerosene heaters will likely fill the gap for some. When there’s no more local kerosene available for you to use, then what?
We’re back to wood stoves and fireplaces again.
Using wood stoves and fireplaces for heat AND cooking. Yes, we once again, have those multiple use items, that we preppers simply adore.
While this post isn’t all inclusive of every issue you’ll face while living without electricity, it’s a good start. When the grid goes down, many will perish. This is a sad fact, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
Humanity prospered and grew for millennia without electricity, many of us have become soft and reliant.
A wood burning stove is the simplest answer. With a wood stove you get heat, hot water and can even cook on them.
You may not need to replace your electric or gas furnace or heaters, but you might consider buying a wood stove and having it installed to offset your winter heating bills. It might even be prudent to buy a wood stove, all the stove pipe, and insulated chimney piping and store it in your garage, shed or basement so that you are ready for a long term grid down event.
Handy folks can transform an old 55 gallon drum into a wood stove with a barrel stove kit.
Imagine trying to find or buy a wood burning stove after the grid goes down. They will be worth their weight in gold. Do yourself a favor and considering buying a wood stove (with required accessories) and a good axe!
Most people can live without electricity, but I do recommend solar (photovoltaic) systems with batteries for those that can’t. Some people need electric medical equipment to survive. Many people have sleep apnea and require a CPAP machine while they sleep. Diabetics need insulin, which needs to be refrigerated. Keep these needs in mind when considering a grid down situation.
Store up a slew of rechargeable batteries (mostly AA and AAA, but C’s and D’s will be needed too) and a DC powered battery charger, that can work with a solar panel, or better yet, a solar powered Battery Charger. DC is more efficient to use with solar, because converting DC to AC is an inefficient method. See the previous post on Portable Solar for another quick fix.
If you have batteries you can use LED flashlights and lanterns as well as a host of other portable electronics, like a radio (you can get alternate powered radios)
What about all those prepper and survival E-books? Reading eBooks when the Grid is Down.
Light is a big issue. Regardless of season, you will have night, and night is dark (surprise). When you have to go outside, without porch lights, or walk down the hallway to the bathroom, you will need to see your path.
Everyone in your family will have a flashlight, probably more than one.
What about lighting up a room? Sure, you could use your flashlights, but if you were hanging out with friends, or trying to play a board game, this would be inefficient, at best.
Can you imagine making a comment or point during a discussion, with everyone shining their flashlights at you? Awkward and a tad freaky.
The Amish, that I knew, used kerosene lanterns. They used some really, nice lanterns, with glass bases, so you could see how much kerosene remained in the lantern.
While kerosene lanterns are nice, LED lanterns are simpler and safer to use. The batteries last a really long time, and if you have a method to recharge the batteries via solar power, then you’re good, until those batteries wear out.
For long term use a good option would be a Solar LED lantern, so it can charge during the day to prepare for it’s use at night.
If it’s a true grid-down situation, then we need to look at longer term solutions. Candles and oil lamps will probably become the norm again, as will going to bed, when it gets dark and rising with the sun.
If the Grid goes down so do our cordless and electric drills. All our power tools will be worthless. Some of us will be able to recharge them via solar or generator, but eventually all devices fail. I’d recommend heading over to Amazon.com and picking up some manual tools.
Surviving without the grid won’t be easy, but it’s not impossible. Humans have only been reliant on electricity for just a bit over 100 years. Some of us will have to build bike generators to recharge and power devices, but the smart folks will have already put up wind generators and solar panels. Others will learn to live without power. We’ll all really miss the Internet and air conditioning!
In a situation like this paper currency could be almost worthless. Junk silver, and precious metals will be money. Barter, trading, will be the name of the game. Do you know how to barter? Go to flea markets and garage sales now and learn to negotiate prices down, then you’ll be on your way to the skill of bartering.
Travel will be a thing of the past. Unless you have a bike or a horse you won’t be ranging too far. You’ll need to think on a local level when considering your available resources. If you do opt for a bike, then don’t forget the bicycle trailer. It seems like no one ever discusses the bicycle trailer, but what better way would there be to move a load of gear?
Get some you footwear that can re-soled. Shoe cobblers will likely make a big comeback in your area.
A Guidebook to Surviving
A survival manual comes in handy in so many unpredictable situations. Make sure you have a good survival manual.
One rock-solid survival guide is the SAS Survival Handbook, which also comes in a very handy, space conserving pocket version. The pocket version takes up very little space, is packed with tons of survival information and really makes a great gift!
If you have an Army surplus store nearby, see if you can’t find one of the newer versions of the FM21-76 military survival manual. An old FM21-76 is better than no survival guide at all!
Simplify Grid Down Cooking
We’ve all been through storms that have knocked the power out. If you have a gas or propane stove in your kitchen that’s usually not a problem, but if you have an electric stove, it’s time to head outside and light the gas grill.
Cooking without electricity will be a game changer for many. The microwave is no longer useful without power. The electric stove will sit there doing nothing, except offering additional cabinet space in it’s oven. If the grid is down long enough, my gas stove will do no good either, since the pumps to pressurize the gas lines will not work.
You can cook for a while on your propane gas grill, but those propane tanks will run dry soon enough.
My previous 2 burner, gas grill was over 10 years old and didn’t have any fancy features. I could grill with it, and that was all. I’m not complaining, as limited as it was, it came in very handy, when the power was out!
When it came time to buy a new gas grill, I really wanted to get the right one. I put on my prepper thinking cap, as well as my “dad’s backyard cookout” thinking cap and starting trying to decide if there were any features, that I “needed”, on the new grill.
My features ended up being pretty simple, I wanted a larger cook space and a gas stove top burner. I’m fairly confident that I was the last person in the world, who had a grill, with no stove top burner on it!
It’s amazing how just adding a stove top burner transforms my grill into a full blown cooking kitchen. Now I can boil, saute, blanch and fry on my grill.
The powers out and I want fried eggs… BAM, fried eggs!
It’s nice to have options when it comes time to cook.
I also opted to purchase a second propane tank, so I’d always have a full tank on standby. This will buy me some time, and will come in really handy, when my first tank runs dry, 1/2-way through cooking something.
Yes, this was a big enough issue for me, that I had to purchase a 2nd propane tank. It’s embarrassing to tell my wife that dinner is sitting on the grill and will be another hour, because I have to take the propane tank to get filled.
Camp Cooking Propane Accessories
While I was on the propane thought-train, I decided to pick up a few other propane related accessories to keep my preps and camping gear up to date.
I have a Coleman Fold N Go Instastart Grill, a Coleman Two-Burner Propane Stove, and a Coleman 2-Burner Fold ‘N Go InstaStart Stove so I really wanted to get the One Pound Tank Refill Adapter to allow me to refill those tiny 16oz propane tanks from my larger 20lb tanks.
No longer will I have to run out and purchase 16oz propane tanks, before I head out to the woods. I can always refill my tiny tanks, so they are staged and ready for deployment, at a moments notice. Bugging out will be so much simpler now, since I won’t have to stand in line at Wal-Mart, during a SHTF situation…. just for propane.
There was also a purchase of a propane hose adapter to allow me to run my camp stoves and camp grill off of my 20lb propane tank at home, in case I needed more than one stove burner to cook a meal. The hose adapter also lets me test the camp stoves before I head out and let’s me try new camp cooking techniques, in a controlled environment, before I do it for real, out in the forest.
With a couple small purchases I was able to expand my outdoor cooking tools and simplify grid down cooking. This will help me ride out any extended power outages, and should buy me a few weeks, of almost normal cooking, in a post-SHTF world…. at least until the things start getting really bad.
Sanitation. We all know about it, but no one really wants to talk about it. We eat, we use the energy, we excrete the wastes. “Ewwww gross”, trust me, I have children, I am painfully aware that this is gross. We really need to discuss our Grid Down Sanitation Plan.
Grid Down Sanitation Plan
How will city and suburb dwellers contain this tide of human offal? I’m sure outhouses will become all the rage again for those with yards, but what about the scores of apartment and condo inhabitants? There are a serious number of people in a small amount of square footage.
There are portable camp toilets and 5 gallon buckets tricked out with toilet seats make for a portable, indoor potty, but it will fill up eventually. Where will they empty these delightful packages of poo?
I am assuming the lazy folk will dump them out windows or from balconies, leading to hygiene and health woes below and in the surrounding areas. Imagine parking lots and common areas full of human waste, then the rain comes.
“Oh good, the rain will cleanse this mess”, you think to yourself.
Ah, No! The rain will wash this waste into our waterways and into surrounding areas. Delivering diseases and pathogens to the rest of us.
There must be a large common waste pit, far far from drinkable and potable water. Now this might not be the best idea, but it’s the only one I have for now.
Urination Grid Down Sanitation Plan
If you are like most men, then you tend to pee anyplace that you think no one can see you. There is a rule of thumb though.
- Urinating should occur a minimum of 200 feet (300 feet is much better) from water sources, campsites, and trails.
- For Urine, digging a pit is optional for small groups of people. Large groups should dig a pit or slit trench.
Poo (the big #2) Grid Down Sanitation Plan
Dig and Bury are the key to healthy happy decomposition of human excrement.
Digging a cat hole and burying feces is a very common waste disposal method in places with no restroom facilities (think campsites).
- Dig your cat holes 6-8 inches deep and minimum of 200 feet (300 feet is much better) from water sources, campsites, and trails. The cat hole should also be about 6 inches in diameter. This size hole will be easy to bury when your business is done.
- Choose a location and dig your cat hole in a spot that seems to be nice rich soil.
- Choose a location and dig your cat hole in a spot that has decaying wood (downed trees, dead stumps) and/or nice thick brushy areas.
A small garden shovel (or trowel) should be a part of your bug out bag gear or hiking gear. If you can find a trowel with a blade just over 6 inches it makes it much easier to determine the depth and width measurements of your cat hole when digging.
The nice thing about cat holes are that they are easy to disguise afterward, so no one knows you were there. They also disperse waste, enhancing decomposition.
I really don’t mind doing my business outside, I just really want to be reassured that someone brought some toilet paper for my tushy!
If you plan to bug-in, then your Grid Down Sanitation plan can be to go old-school, and dig an outhouse in your back yard. I think I will too, because that’s how I roll!
If the Grid goes down, many of us are prepared, or think we are. How will we light our way? How long will batteries last, even rechargeable batteries? How long will kerosene and propane be able to power our lanterns. Rust, breakage and entropy will take it’s toll. What then? A time tested, tried and true solution!
Oil Lamps – Light for Long Term Grid Down
You need to find a method to create light to see at night, regardless of the cost. You can plan to use batteries, propane and kerosene until they cease to exist, but after that you’ll need to leverage anything else that you can.
What is a good long term and sustainable method to light up your darkness?
Go old-school and use Oil Lamps. This will allow you to take advantage of used cooking oil or left over fats from cooking meats.
- Cook meat
- Drain off the fat and oils
- filter the fat and oils
- feed the lamp
- Add a wick – You can create wicks from any bit of fabric that you may find or scrounge.
If and when the grid goes down, many of us will have to block our sewer lines to avoid sewage backup. Will it be outhouses or camping toilets after the grid goes down?
Toilets After the Grid Goes Down
If the grid goes down and you are sheltering in place (bugging in), you’ll probably want to continue to use the bathroom indoors. In a time of so much change and strife, the nature of sitting down, indoors and relieving yourself will be a welcome luxury.
What! No sewer system, and no indoor toilets?
The sewer system will likely not be functioning as needed. This means you either dig an outhouse in your home (gross), or utilize camping or composting toilets.
There are 3 main style of camping or portable toilets:
- Bucket toilets
- Portable Toilets
- Composting Toilets
Bucket toilets are, believe it or not, buckets with toilet seats on them. They are typically, but not always, lined with a bag of some form. This bag makes it easy to empty the bucket with a minimum of cleaning. As you can imagine without the bag lining, it would be really gross to scrub out this filthy bucket.
This would be smelly, requiring you to use soil, lime or sawdust after each use to help keep the smell down. If you use bags, you’re going to have to find a place to dispose of your excrement filled sacks of goodness, and eventually you’ll run out of bags, so you’ll be pooping in a gross bucket.
These are ok for camping, but this is really a last resort in your home. It makes sense that these are probably your cheapest option.
Portable Toilets are a step in the right direction. A toilet, typically with a holding tank for human waste and a reservoir for water to flush with.
These normally have seals and gaskets to contain odors. These seals and gaskets also prevent spills, when you are hauling the waste tank out to a safe dumping area.
I’d recommend putting “yellow” paper from the ladies into a trash can and burning it, instead of discarding it into the tank. This will help prevent the tank from filling up so fast. Also consider using grey water (from dishes or bathing) for for the flushing reservoir instead of clean drinking water.
You’ll still have to clean this tank out. Maybe swirling around some bleach water in the tank after emptying it.
These are more expensive than bucket toilets, but not nearly as expensive as composting toilets.
Composting Toilets are very expensive, and some of them even require electricity. They typically use a minimum of water and have some pretty ingenious methods of venting the odors (solar vents). These are making a big play currently in the boat and camper arenas.
If you find one that doesn’t require electricity and uses easy to find medium (dirt, newspaper or cardboard) to aid in composting, these might be the way to go. Most composting toilets require peat moss or stuff like coconut fibers as a medium.
You may want to start researching and saving up for the perfect Composting Toilet, one that uses a composting medium that is readily available and makes sense in your area. In the meantime, investing in a Portable Toilet and keep a couple Bucket toilets as standbys would be a smart move. This way you’ll be familiarized and ready to use camping toilets after the grid goes down
I’ll be honest with you, my dear readers, it was all I could do to not call this post “The Scoop on Poop”!