The Risk of Government Dependency When Disaster Strikes: Pt. 2

In the first installment of this series I wrote about the dangers to life and property one might face during disasters if one relies entirely upon the government to provide protection and relief. More to the point, I highlighted the folly of such reliance as small, regular preparations ahead of time would mitigate the lion’s share of any life disruption. Much like the grasshopper in Aesop’s fable, those who shirk personal responsibility during times of plenty often go running to their neighbors asking for, and even demanding or stealing items of necessity, and sometimes televisions. This is human nature, and you or I would do exactly the same if we felt our lives were at risk. The difference between us and them is we prepare for emergencies.

Last Updated on October 16, 2015

Editors Note: The following guest article has been generously contributed by Matt Sevald.


In the first installment of this series I wrote about the dangers to life and property one might face during disasters if one relies entirely upon the government to provide protection and relief. More to the point, I highlighted the folly of such reliance as small, regular preparations ahead of time would mitigate the lion’s share of any life disruption. Much like the grasshopper in Aesop’s fable, those who shirk personal responsibility during times of plenty often go running to their neighbors asking for, and even demanding or stealing items of necessity, and sometimes televisions. This is human nature, and you or I would do exactly the same if we felt our lives were at risk. The difference between us and them is we prepare for emergencies.

But what if the disaster isn’t really an emergency? What if it is of our own making and is really more of an inconvenience that affects us disproportionately because of our privileged life style of dependence? As often happens, events to which I am exposed at my job as a 911 dispatcher have provided the muse to write another article for The Prepper Journal. Today we tackle the utility company and not being prepared to do without.

Are utilities a convenience or a necessity?

My father used to say all modern appliances and utilities were conveniences and blessings. I have debated this myself over the years, but am inclined ever more to agree with him. The instruments of our modern life are requirements to exist with any ability to participate in our modern society, but they are not requirements of living itself. Mankind has lived for millennia without electricity or running water. Yes, life was harder. Yes, life was more dangerous. Yes, life was often dark and brutal, but it was life nonetheless, and life at which our ancestors were apparently successful else you and I wouldn’t be here.

The argument has been made electricity is a necessity because of hospital or home health gadgetry, or even simply to maintain “human dignity” according to Bill Gates. I agree electricity is a necessity for some people to stay alive, but that does not mean electricity is a necessity for human life. Even as recently as 50-100 years ago, people died much younger than today. Regularly. People used to have twelve children because half of them died before the age of five and the other half were needed to work the farm. We all die some time, and if we watch the news we are reminded that some of us die much sooner than others. Regularly.

I believe our mortality and the natural fragility of life is the lynch pin for the argument against electricity being a necessity. If we required it we would have been created or we would have evolved with some sort of electrical grid established. Since everything else we need for life is provided, the unnecessariness of electricity is the only logical conclusion, regardless of whether some people would die without it. Without being too macabre or insensitive, I believe that none of us are entitled to a life prolonged beyond what nature doles out, even though we are blessed to live in a nation and at a time which can provide us one.

Case Study: Power Outage

Let us imagine a scenario in which John Q and the family Public have a power outage. Perhaps the weather knocked down some lines, perhaps they were late on their bill, perhaps a fox got into a power box; the particulars don’t matter. In this scenario Mr. P calls the local public safety office because he cannot get a hold of anyone after hours at the power company. He asks for and then demands someone be sent out immediately because “it’s an emergency”. What say you on the matter?

Perhaps there is a medical emergency going on. Perhaps someone needs oxygen, or a CPAP, or a continuous dialysis device to run throughout the night. Even though electricity isn’t a necessity for life, our societal norms which have developed in part because of the luxuries we have dictate we need to send assistance, and I agree with this. But what if the emergency is “we don’t have any food in the house and no money to go buy food” ? Is this an emergency? I’m going to assume what Mr. P means is he has no readily consumable food in the house, i.e. he needs electricity to prepare it. Unless someone there has hypoglycemia, this isn’t an emergency. Humans can live many days without food. Going to bed hungry shouldn’t do anyone in.

What if the complaint is the family just returned home from a vacation and the power was shut off and now the furnace won’t work and the house is cold? But the children might freeze! (or so they plead). Won’t someone please think of the children? Is this an emergency or a matter of convenience? In my opinion, reasonable, viable options include renting a hotel room, staying with family/friends/neighbors, huddling together with blankets and layered clothing, or even staying in the car with the heater on. Is it an inconvenience? You bet! Is it the way I’d like to live after coming home from a trip? No way! But the fact of the matter is, unless someone has hypothermia, this isn’t an emergency.

Are you prepared for the utilities to go out?

Growing up in Detroit, each summer we would have a massive black out from some pretty awesome thunder storms rolling through. Power lines all across the city would be down for days upon days with the heat of a muggy summer bearing down on us all. Life was hot and rough. We used a literal barrel of blessed candles my grandmother gave to us from a desanctified Catholic church to light our way at night, and even gave plastic shopping bags full of them to our neighbors. We played outside more and read books. My dad still went to work at the fire department and my mom still kept up the house and we barbecued a lot more.

When power started to come on, we’d get rolling brown outs due to so many greedy people cranking their air conditioning and overloading the system it would delay return of service for another day or two. Did we ever call the police to find out what was happening or when power would be restored? Not on your life. Part of the reason is that the city of Detroit is just so large and has so many greater problems than to deal with one whiny person complaining about the heat, but another part of the reason was also because we took pride in simply carrying on. I remember candlelit nights telling stories with the windows open for a breeze and listening to crickets and watching fireflies while my dad would remind us this was how the pioneers used to live. I always felt good being able to connect with such intrepid individuals.

The whole reason we prep is to be able to handle situations like these so we don’t become the zombie horde, begging and stealing. Whether the loss of modern conveniences is our own fault or due to outside influences, generally, it shouldn’t cause us to become helpless, mewling infants begging for government or someone else to save us. We can’t prepare for every situation, but we can take reasoned precautions to alleviate all but the worst of blows. Stock up on food, have some blankets and all-weather clothing available, store water, save cash (good story in that link of how the water utility isn’t your friend either), have the ability to defend yourself. The more you are able to do for yourself, the less your life will be affected when things go south.

How do you deal with utility problems? Are you “off the grid”? I’m looking forward to hearing from you in the comments section!

  1. I have a rancher friend who lives at the end of a very long and rough 2-track dirt road, literally on the edge of a wilderness area. He (and/or his wife) gets into town about once a month (at most) to stock up on food and other essentials. The nearest utility power pole is more than 20 miles from his house, so he uses solar voltaic for modest lighting at night. He has a reliable spring that provides water, and he has cattle and horses. The last thing he would ever do is turn to the government for help – for anything.

    Some people can’t imagine going a day without getting a cappuccino frappe at the local Starbucks, or a lottery ticket at the corner convenience store. These same people live hand to mouth and wonder why their credit card bills are so high.

    My personal philosophy is to never seek or depend on support that I haven’t already earned and paid for. Absolute dependence on government means that your are absolutely under their control.

  2. I still remember growing up in Springtown, PA in a stone house without indoor plumbing, without a refrigerator (only the rich people could afford them at that time) and without a water heater. We had an outhouse for the obvious reason and a pot under our beds to use at night so we wouldn’t have to go to the outhouse in the middle of the night and would empty them in the o
    uthouse in the morning. We would bathe in a large metal tub in the kitchen where the hot water came from the kitchen wood and coal-fired stove via large pots that was also used for cooking and heating the irons my mother would use to iron clothes. That stove also supplied heat for half of the house in the cold winters so most of the winter would be spent in the large kitchen in order to stay warm. Also, the winter had it’s advantages because we wouldn’t have to by ice for the icebox to keep our food cold because we had a steel window box outside the window with a door inside. If it got too full we would just put the items we could freeze in another steel box on the side porch outside the side kitchen door. The water came from a hand-operated well pump outside the back kitchen door. I could go on and on about not having the everyday conveniences we have now but having lived during that time showed me that we really don’t need very much to live comfortably. I know I could and would do it again if I had to. I’m not sure about the modern people being able to do it if and when the SHTF. It seems like the majority of the people would be relying on others to survive; especially those that take everything for granted and fail to prepare for a short or long term emergency (water, heat, food and the proper clothing for multiple environments). What was the normal, everyday lifestyle back then could easily become the lifestyle of the future merely by losing utilities short term, long term or permanently. An EMP would cause that in the blink of the eye and would take many years to recover if at all possible. People that don’t prepare for it on their own will surely die in short order and nobody will be there to save them.

    1. Thank you very much for the reply. I appreciate you sharing your story. Isn’t it amazing how nowadays, if you attempted to live like that, especially with kids, social services would come in and say your living conditions were “unfit”? Then they’d steal your children like that family who lost theirs in Kentucky and condemn your property.

      I believe this is done by design to keep people enslaved and dependent on the government and utility hookups since self-reliance creates independence and independent people are dangerous to the power structure.

      1. Well said. Nearly 2 million people in New York City are on food stamps. Do you think they will ever look anywhere but to the government to improve their lot in life? There are states where being unemployed pays better than the starting salary for a teacher. Go figure.

        1. Those are the people that will die off quickly if and when the SHTF because the government will be unable to help them and money will probably be worthless. They will be completely unable to think for themselves and function in the way it would be required to survive on their own. Many will resort to criminal activity in order to survive but anarchy will prevail only for a very short period. The people that have prepared for emergency situations in advance will band together into a cohesive group to protect their lives and property (food, shelter and clean water supplies) and will probably eliminate most of the criminals in very short order and begin to rebuild an orderly society.

      2. You’re more than welcome and you’re absolutely correct when you say the government wants to control every aspect of our lives. I think that living like that has shaped my life positively knowing that the technology we have now is only a convenience and not a ‘need’. The likelihood of an EMP, the ultimate technology destroyer, seems more real as time goes on and my wife and I are prepared for it even though it may never happen. I am confident that we have the needed skills to survive that I learned in my past; having lived it, hunting, fishing, gathering, preserving food, etc. I’m old now but in very good health for my age and plan on keeping it that way. Without good health a person has nothing. Sometimes I have to laugh to myself when my adult grandchildren complain that their cell phone isn’t working right and don’t know what to do without it, are completely incapacitated with a common cold or how they panic when they run out of toilet paper, LOL.

        BTW, I noticed your name ‘usmarinestanker’. Were you or are you a tanker? I was a tank gunner on an M48A2 in the Army in the 1950s in Germany; another memory that positively shaped my life.

        1. I served in the Marines from 2003-2006 and was the loader/radio operator on an M1A1 Abrams for our platoon commander (A Co, 2nd Tank Battalion). We fought in the second battle of Fallujah among other skirmishes. It also shaped my life positively. I remember seeing a Patton tank at the Patton Tank Museum when I was at Tank School at Ft. Knox. Amazing how small those things were compared to what we operate now. Thank you for your service and your perspective.

          1. I’d like to get to know you to share some tanker things but I don’t want to put my e-mail address on here. I’m going to go to craigslist and post under ‘Community-General’ in the Sacramento, CA area and use ‘usmarinestanker’ as the subject. If you’re interested in contact you can respond anonymously. Just go to ‘Sacramento,’ click ‘community,’ click ‘General’ and search ‘usmarinestanker’ to find my post and I’ll send you my e-mail address.

  3. Great article 🙂

    It is my belief that one of the reasons that we see such significant numbers of “state-dependent” people is because by and large the governments of our nations (I live in New Zealand) are actively encouraging this lifestyle…cause once you are dependent on someone THEY get to tell you what to do…and what NOT to do!

  4. I just recently joined and so far I like what I see 🙂 I was considered poor growing up and we used propane for heating and cooking. Many times we would run out of propane, so no showers no stove meals. I leaned to take a cold sink bath and in the winter that water is cold! I’m sitting here trying to remember what we ate, my mind is a blank. Microwaves had recently come out so we probably did that. As a young adult on my own, several times I had to heat water on a fifth burner, pour it into the bath tub and bathe and wash my clothes at the same time.

    Now however as an adult, I’m more prepared. I have canned goods, water, medical supplies. If the power goes out my family can survive. Will it be pleasant? Not at all. Will we live to see another day? You bet!

    My house is always trying to think outside the box and be prepared for “what if”. Also in my entire life I have not once ever considered calling 911 for a non emergency, as I think emergencies are things that affect life and death literally.

    1. Cold baths are my idea of one of the 7 circles of hell! I was forced due to construction in the Army on our barracks to take showers in winter with no hot water. That was tortuous for me because I am a big baby when it comes to cold water.

  5. Most people could not survive 12 hours without their cellphone or 24 hours without facebook never mind survive the apocalypse

    1. I think you are right Steve. Just driving around this weekend I was shocked at all of the people swerving off the road because they were checking their phones. Zombies due to technology.

  6. The sandbags are a great idea, I keep 1000 of them on hand but more for building ballistic shields rather than flood control.
    Some other outside the box thinking is rolls of black pvc pipe, I could build a solar water heater in an hour with that, also good to pipe the year round stream into the house if the solar well pump fails.
    I picked up some German army field telephones some time back, and the wire to aid in communications with any OP/ LP I may establish.
    Extra oil and filters for your vehicles never goes to waste unless you change vehicles a lot. Back stock gas and keep your vehicles topped off, even the seasonal ones including wave runners/atv’s/snow mobiles, etc.

  7. Excellent article. Thank you for writing it. I believe that preppers who have grown up in the US or Western Europe greatly underestimate the ability of people to cope with disasters. I would say that about 70% of the things for which preppers in the US prepare are things that I grew up without in Eastern Europe. Heat, electricity, running water, functioning government, a stable currency, etc are nice to have, but they are not essential. One can get used to them, and then one can just as quickly get used to living without them.

    I find all the talk about how people are going to start dying off after a SHTF event to not be grounded in what actually happens in such situations. People don’t just die. Systems don’t just dissolve; they change. People find ways to keep going. Ironically, the ones who everyone thinks are going to die first are the ones who in my experience tend to be more successful under SHTF conditions. I guarantee you that the guy who is currently receiving a government check will be much more capable of dealing with a SHTF scenario than those who are prepping to preserve their middle class lifestyle. That person is used to living in horrible conditions, doing what has to be done to make it, not having security, and most importantly, knows the people who will be most prosperous after SHTF. The same guys who currently manage to transport and distribute tons of narcotics from Central America into the US, who shortly after SHTF will find a way to transport rice and beans over the same network for similar markup.

    Anyway, that’s just my opinion. I could be completely wrong.

    1. Thanks for your comment Ross and I don’t think you are wrong, but maybe we are talking about a couple of things in a different way.

      Usually, when we talk about SHTF or TEOTWAWKI, it isn’t with the assumption that the rest of the world is still perfectly fine. Yes, I agree that Eastern Europe has seen it’s fair share of trouble, but society was still functioning, there was electricity and production and goods being transported somewhere in the world.

      If STHF, and we again assume the electricity for everyone would be out, that would impact quiet a lot of things.

      No electricity means food doesn’t stay fresh for very long.
      Gas pumps don’t work so goods aren’t shipping as easily as they did.
      People on life support, die.
      People who need medication that is refrigerated like Insulin die.

      I know people will not just pass out on the floor if there is no electricity, but that same person used to a government check will almost without question be living in a city where a lot of other people are going to throw a big fit. There will be riots, looting and murder to get to supplies before your guy can figure out a new revenue stream.

      I do agree people will live, but I also think in the worst case scenario many will die too.

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