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Updated on March 19, 2020
James W Siddall profile image

Dr. Siddall is a Psychologist with over 30 years of experience in clinical and forensic psychology as a clinician, educator and consultant.


Ted Koppel presents a sobering scenario regarding the vulnerability of the American power grid in his well researched book: Lights Out: A Cyber Attack, A Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath. After reviewing the literature, he consulted with leading experts in the field. Shockingly, he concluded that Americans are completely dependent on the electrical grid for all life sustaining goods and services and the grid is highly vulnerable to cyber attack. He quotes CENTCOM Commander General Lloyd Austin who summarized the danger by saying "It's not a question of if, it's just a question of when."

Cascading Consequences

When electric power is disrupted beyond the capacity of emergency backup systems, computer based business transactions using credit cards and electronic bank transactions will stop working. Food, gasoline, and medical supply chains will be disrupted. Essential community services such as utilities, police, EMS, hospitals and waste and garbage disposal will no longer be able to function. The inability of citizens to meet their basic needs will rapidly become a national emergency marked by chaos and conflict over limited resources. Continued loss of power would result in a violent struggle to survive and an epidemic of health problems.

As this article is being written, the Corona virus of 2020 reached the United States. Within a few weeks of the government's announcement that the Corona virus had reached pandemic proportions, the U.S. population was quarantined, and places of employment, schools, bars, restaurants, and public venues were closed in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus. Hospitals were quickly overwhelmed with the sick and dying, millions of people were unable to work and pay their bills and the stock market went into free fall. Panicked buyers emptied the stores of basic necessities and gun sales increased dramatically due to fears of lawlessness.

By comparison, the experts predict a failure of the power grid would have an even more immediate and devastating effect on the entire population. Without power, society would quickly devolve into a state of total anarchy.

A Nation Unprepared

Fail safe power backup systems for the grid are extremely expensive and simply do not exist. Very few individuals have prepared for such an emergency and the recommendations from The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Red Cross for three to five days of emergency supplies may be helpful for short term power disruptions but would be completely inadequate for a long term failure of the grid. Only the Mormons who have developed stockpiles of food and supplies and require their members to have a year’s supply of essentials are reasonably prepared.

Rational Preparedness

From my perspective, a rational plan is cost-effective and fits easily into your current lifestyle. I am not advocating that you live in a fortified bunker in the wilderness. I do recommend stocking up on essentials for at least a three month period and sheltering in place but being prepared to move as necessary. Large city environments are viewed by the experts as particularly vulnerable and dangerous in the event of a prolonged grid down crisis. Your plan should identify low density living environments within your comfortable zone of travel (small town, rural/ forested areas) if moving away from your home is necessary. If you are a camper, you may already have the basic survival skills and much of the required gear to subsist without all of the conveniences of home.

Preparedness Supplies

Here is a proposed list of essentials for three months. Use this suggested outline to determine the type and quantity of supplies that best fits the needs of your family.

  • Food: canned, dried, freeze dried

  • Cook Kit: stove, utensils and fire starters

  • Water: container and purification filter and tabs

  • Shelter: tent and sleeping pads and bags

  • First Aid: kit, medical manual, and personal medicines

  • Signaling: mirror, whistle, flashlight, batteries, electronic beacon

  • Orienteering: compass, GPS, maps

  • Communication: cell phone, recharger, shortwave/ ham radio

  • Self Defense: pepper spray, crossbow, firearms etc.

  • Barter: silver, gold, ammunition, medicines, essentials

  • Bags: Backpack and fanny pack

  • Tools: sized down tool kit for woodworking and mechanics, fasteners, wire, tape
  • Foraging: Hunting and fishing gear, knife, sharpener


Americans are completely dependent on the electrical grid for all of life sustaining goods and services. Shockingly, the grid is highly vulnerable to cyber attack. Our nation and citizenry are poorly prepared for the potentially devastating consequences of a prolonged power grid failure. A rational and cost-effective plan for individuals is proposed for emergency preparedness.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 James W Siddall


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