Imagine if you will, what would happen if you pulled an American family from the 19th century, and plopped them in the middle of downtown Los Angeles during rush hour. They’re not given a warning, they’re not given any kind of primer on what they’re about to experience, and the occurrence is completely inexplicable. How long do you suppose they would last before they cried uncle? Would they even survive? The odds probably aren’t so good.
Of course, the reverse is probably also true. If you and your family were wrenched from the comforts of the present and hurled back into a previous era, you might not fare so well either. Your survival odds would probably be a little better since you have hindsight and an understanding of germ theory. However, it would still be a pretty alien world for you. It would be littered with pitfalls that most modern people can’t even imagine.
6 Totally Insane Things That Will Happen If Our Power Grid Goes Down
And that’s why it’s so important for everyone to prepare for the possibility that one day our grid could go down in a big way, whether it be from a terrorist attack, cyber attack, nuclear war, or solar flare. If our society suffered a widespread power failure that lasted for weeks or months, it would be no different for us than if we were suddenly sent back to the 1800’s. It would be a strange and dangerous world, and for the average person, it would catch them off guard in the following ways:
1. All commerce will cease. The ATMs won’t work, the banks won’t open, and the cash registers won’t…well, register. For a while cash will be king, but if the crisis goes on for more than a few weeks, then people will view it as worthless. We’d be back to a barter economy in short order.
2. Communications will shut down. If you think you can rely on your cell phone to work in a disaster, think again. In a crisis, when everyone instinctively reaches for their phone, that limit is quickly surpassed and the radios on the tower get sluggish, thus causing the fast-busy signal. Mobile analysts estimates that a cell site can handle 150 to 200 calls per second per sector. When a large group are making calls at the same time, the network can’t handle the amount of calls. More importantly, communications with police, firefighters, and ambulance services will cease. Many of the workers in these positions will try to soldier on, and keep doing the best job that they can for as long as they can. However, without ordinary citizens calling them to report crimes and emergencies, they’ll be helplessly watching their communities burn down around them. It won’t be long before they give up, ditch their posts, and return to their families.
3. Without electricity, all forms of fuel that our society relies on will stop flowing. All of our vehicles will be dead in the water, and more importantly, the trucks will stop delivering food. The grocery stores will be stripped bare in hours, and will not be replenished for a long time. Even if you live in an area that is rich in agricultural resources, there may be no food to be had, since those farms rely on fertilizers and farming equipment that must be delivered by trucks.
4. And of course many of those farms will lack water, as will your plumbing. For a couple of days after the power goes out, you’ll still have running water since water towers rely on gravity to feed the water to your home. However, electricity is required to clean that water and pump it into the tower. Once it’s out, that means that you won’t be able to flush your toilet. So not only dehydration be a major threat, but without the ability to remove human waste or wash your hands, every community will face daunting sanitation problems.
5. When the grocery stores are stripped bare, the pharmacies won’t be far behind. Millions of people who rely on life saving medications could die in the weeks and months that follow. But perhaps more shocking is what would happen to the people who aren’t using drugs that are immediately life saving. 13% of Americans are using opioid drugs, which are highly addictive and cause horrendous withdrawal symptoms. Another 13% of Americans are on antidepressants, and likewise, the withdrawal symptoms are pretty problematic. In other words, within a few weeks after the grid collapses, about 25% of your neighbors are going to be in an awful mental state that is not conducive for survival.
6. And finally, one of the most shocking things that people will have to deal with, is the lack of GPS. The GPS satellites will probably keep running, but eventually the devices that read those signals will give up the ghost. These days people are pretty reliant on GPS for directions, and there aren’t as many paper maps lying around. The average person is going to be utterly lost if the grid goes down.
In summary, law and order will break down at every level, and death will be around every corner. It’s one thing to grow up and live in an era that lacks electricity, but to be sent back to such a time on a moments notice would be one of the most challenging things that a person accustomed to modern amenities would ever face.