In preparation for National Geographic’s debut of American Blackout this coming Sunday; I wanted to create my own power outage checklist for preppers. The premise of the show from the website is “the story of a national power failure in the United States caused by a cyber-attack — told in real-time, over 10 days, by those who kept filming on cameras and phones.”
I have high hopes for this show and genuinely hope to learn new things and gain fresh insights from the portrayal of these events. If nothing else, I hope the situations they present inspire and motivate others to be more prepared if we are ever faced with a situation like this.
Even if we aren’t ever the victim of any cyber-attack that takes down the electrical grid, power outages do happen all of the time. Knowing what you need to have to weather an outage and having a plan for living through the power disruption is important. As with anything else preparedness related, you are better off planning and organizing what you need well in advance of any emergency. The old prepping adage is that it is better to be five years early than one day late.
The power outage checklist list below is broken into different chunks of information and follows a good, better, best type of format. Good items are the absolute minimum you need for a given scenario which so happens in this case to be our power outage.
Better will keep you above the minimum requirements giving you additional flexibility and capabilities. Best is our recommendation for what you would ideally have to make it through most conceivable scenarios provided outside influences don’t change your situation.
Best isn’t perfect, but it does put you in a posture for success. For most items, I have added links to Amazon or other shopping outlets so you can order and price these items for yourself. I have also created a free downloadable power blackout checklist that you can print out, stick on your fridge and monitor your progress as you acquire these provisions or carry this with you to the store to make sure nothing is missed from your preps.
We will be using the same assumption that National Geographic is using for American Blackout and that is a 10-day power outage. We will assume that for the duration of this power outage, you are able to shelter in place and aren’t forced to leave your home. Where you live and what time of year this happens will influence some of your choices below but I’ll try to call that out where appropriate.
I probably won’t go into some of the situations we as a country could be faced within the aftermath of something like this, but in terms of basic survival, we should have all the bases covered.
There is no more power
A power blackout from a cyber-attack will not be announced. An attack either on systems that deliver power to our homes or from an EMP attack will come without warning. You won’t get news reports for several days in advance like with a hurricane. You won’t have any time to run to the store to buy the items on this checklist before the blackout. You will have to use what you have on hand, or can acquire almost immediately after the blackout has occurred before panic sets in. Once people learn the power isn’t coming back on anytime soon, there will be chaos and you don’t want to be anywhere near that.
What do we need to prepare for living without in a power blackout caused by a cyber-attack?
- The ability to run any electronic devices without batteries – This includes ATM’s, credit card machines, cash registers (I’ll deal with this in the security section), gas pumps…
- The ability to cook food without electronic appliances.
- The ability to see when it’s dark
- The ability to heat or cool your home or food.
- You may lose the ability to get water from the tap.
- The ability to get information and news
- Waste Removal/trash sewer may be affected.
So, let’s take these one at a time and start at the top and work our way down the list of scenarios and all of the items you should have on hand before a power blackout.
Power Outage Checklist
The start of our power outage checklist begins with the most obvious and that is a means to create or harness power again when it’s not provide by our local utility.
- Rechargeable Batteries X 2 for the important items (radio, lights)
- Battery Charger w/ solar or vehicle adapter for batteries and cell phones
- USB External Battery Charger – Essentially a large battery that can recharge your smartphone up to 7 times on a single charge.
- 1000 Watt Inverter connected to car battery for charging devices/running small appliances
- Spare fuel to run vehicle (min 25 gallons)
- 5 – 5 Gallon gas cans
- PRI – G gas treatment for long-term fuel storage.
- 2000 W Generator
- Tri-fuel generator (gas, propane, natural gas)
- Spare fuel for generator (min 90 gallons)
- 7 – 14 gallon gas cans
- PRI – G gas treatment for long-term fuel storage.
- 100 Watt Solar Panel kit
- 1000 Watt Inverter
- Deep Cycle Batteries
- Siphon pump to acquire additional fuel
Backup power and tying into your home’s electrical system require skill. If you don’t know what you are doing, call an electrician to avoid costly and potentially fatal mistakes. Solar Panels may require additional equipment.
- LED Flashlight with spare batteries – 1 per person
- Candles – 15 Hour Emergency candles
- Battery powered lantern for common areas
- Chemlights/ Light Sticks – Great option for younger hands or hands free.
- Headlamps for each individual – infinitely easier and more practical than flashlights. Allows for hands-free tasks.
- Propane lanterns – great outdoor lighting option or use within well-ventilated area. They also put off a decent amount of heat.
- Battery Recharger – It is important to get one that can charge multiple battery sizes if you have different battery uses.
- Oil lamps – the right kind can provide plenty of light and last longer than batteries, or should according to use.
- Lamp Oil
- Rechargeable Batteries for all headlamps enough to charge a set and use a set at the same time.
For more information, you can read our post on Lighting Options when the power goes out. As with anything flammable, candles and oil lamps should be used carefully and not while anyone is sleeping.
Cooking when there is no power
You quickly find out how much we take for granted during a power outage at two points. The first is when you flick that light switch on by habit and nothing happens. The second is when you want to cook something and are faced with the reality that you might have to eat those leftovers cold.
- Propane Grill or Camping Stove
- Spare tank(s) of propane for the stove
- EcoZoom Rocket Stove – Cook with small twigs or sticks.
- Fire Pit with implements for cooking over fire
- Cast Iron Skillet
- Cast Iron Dutch Oven
- Wood Burning Stove – I know these aren’t practical in all situations, but generally speaking this is the best overall option in a grid down scenario, all things being equal.
- 100 lb Propane tank or connection to run grill off natural gas.
- Solar Oven – or you can make one easily enough much cheaper.
For additional information on cooking options when you have a blackout, please read our post entitled “Where There Is No Kitchen: Cooking When The Grid Goes Down”
Shelter from the temperatures
In the context of the power blackout, we discussed that you would not be disposed from your home, so this is really talking about protecting yourself from the extremes of heat or cold. Most of the items below could pull double duty as camping equipment.
- Appropriate clothing for the temperature. Warm weather calls for clothes that dry quickly and wick moisture away. Cold weather usually means layers and warm additions like hats and gloves.
- Spare blankets/ screens for windows depending on weather.
- Tent that sleeps your entire family
- Sleeping bags for each person – Appropriate to climate
- Kerosene heater or Propane Heater
- 20 gallons of Kerosene
- PRI-D Kerosene/Diesel treatment for long term fuel storage.
- Alternate shelter – Camper with Solar power
Water when the faucets aren’t working
- One gallon of water per person for 10 days. For a four person family, that is 40 gallons. The easiest way to store and transport these for me is 5 gallon water jugs
- 1 gallon of water per person for 1 month
- Water filtration system like Big Berkey Light.
- Rainwater collection system.
- Bathtub full of water stored in a container for hygiene or drinking – Water Bob This requires some action before water pressure is cut off.
- Private well
- River or stream on your property
News and Communication
- World Band Receiver – pick up stations outside of your region.
- Handheld UHF/VHF band transceivers – Baofeng makes an excellent and affordable model
- 2 meter antenna
- Backup Batteries for handhelds
- Ham Radio – capable of HF, UHF and VHF bands. HF will allow you to communicate with other countries
- Quad Band antenna
- Back up power as listed above
Security like some of these other topics is more complicated so a list like this is subject to a lot of scrutiny. We do cover this subject in much greater detail in our Self Defense section of our website.
- Handgun for each adult member of the family – 9mm, .40 or .45
- 500 rounds of HP ammo for each pistol
- 2 magazines for each
- $500 dollars in cash
- Battle Rifle for each adult member of the family (AK or AR platform)
- 1000 rounds of ammunition for each rifle
- 20 magazines for each rifle
- Your own Navy Seal team
- 1 month’s salary or expenses in cash
- Bathtub full of water stored in container for hygiene or drinking – Water Bob This requires some action before water pressure is cut off.
- Spare 5 gallon bucket
- 5 gallon bucket toilet lid – Converts any 5 gallon bucket into a porta-potty.
- trash bags – small for toilet/large for trash
- Cat Liter
- Outhouse already built – again not practical in all situations.
We covered a lot of ground on Sanitation in our post earlier this year, if you want to read more, there has been a lot of this topic covered already.
As I mentioned above, lists like these are going to be subject to scrutiny. Without devoting a few paragraphs to each topic, this list could spawn a lot of questions. Fortunately, the Prepper Journal has articles on just about every one of these subjects so the information is here. If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments below.