Prep Monday – American Blackout

Anyone see this on the National Geographic channel? We DVR’d it and watched a few nights after it aired. Just when we got to the part where transformers started blowing, I got a text from someone telling me had blown in our area. Creepy, and not even Halloween.

The basic premise was that the US was under a cyber-attack, which took down the entire US grid – east coast, to Texas, to west. The story followed several groups/families/individuals and how they dealt with the situation. One person in each group documented everything with a video camera.

The first family, Mom, Dad, 8-year-old daughter, and about-to-be-born baby brother, were typical suburbanites. They weren’t clueless, but they weren’t prepared either. And of course, as if the drama of impending labor wasn’t enough, there was also a house fire which broke out when Dad was gone to find supplies. Happy ending, though.

What I found laughable was that the neighborhood threw a big barbeque, to cook and eat all the food in their freezers before it went bad. Guess they already knew the situation was only going to last eight days? SMH.

Then we had a tech/gamer, a loner, who kept going out in the streets to see what was going on. He had batteries, a solar charger, etc., but he was a teen whose mom, a nurse, had gone into work – and since communications had gone down, he had no way to reach her. He wasn’t unsafe, exactly, but he probably should have stayed home.

A few college students were trapped in an elevator. They finally managed to climb out through the top and reach an unfinished floor and the roof itself. They rigged up tarps and buckets to catch rainwater, and had an injured student to care for too. Didn’t too badly, considering how little they had to work with.

And finally, two groups who represented opposite ends of the spectrum: one fully prepared, food, weapons, plans, BOV, BOBs, and a place to go, and the other, well, woefully inept. Woefully.

Let’s talk about the first one, those who were ready. Then, yes, I’m going to make fun of the other one.

Mom, dad, son about age 10 or 12, teenage daughter. And her boyfriend. The weak link. Dad heard the news, gave the order to grab their BOBs, daughter whined about the boyfriend. His parents may have been out of town, I think, so dad said sure, bring him along. Of course, he had no BOB, and when Dad gave him the tour of their bug-out place, the kid asked what about emergency supplies for him? Sorry, kid. You got a bonus just coming with us.

Things would have been fine until a neighbor showed up, asking for food for his wife and kids. Dad held him on the other side of the fence and said sorry, dude, you should have been ready. Then the boyfriend opens his mouth. “We have plenty, can’t we give them something?”

I thought Dad was going to shoot him.

He didn’t, but the damage was done. Later that night, in spite of Dad’s explanations of WHY this was a bad idea, the kid snuck out and met the neighbor, bringing him food. The son got it all on video. Dad had a major fit.

Naturally, the next day, the neighbor returned with MORE neighbors, got the jump on Dad and held a knife to his throat. Teenage boyfriend pulled out a shotgun and promised to blow off the neighbor’s head.

And then – drama – the kid’s cellphone rang. It was all over.

Now, I’ve talked about “who do you bring” and touched on “do you wait for someone,” but what about an unexpected person? Someone who happens to be at your house when SHTF?

What if it’s a small child?

Or a teenager?

Or an adult?

All of these, of course, are different and will affect your decision in different ways. And there could be variables, too, among these. Food for thought, certainly, but it’s up to each one of you to make the right decision for your group.

So, as promised, the last group. A couple, actually, living on the 46th floor of a ritzy apartment building in NYC. If that doesn’t provide comedic relief, read on:

She, wearing ridiculous high heels, locked herself out of her apartment – because the electronic key card didn’t work and she had no idea where the actual key was kept. She “couldn’t” walk down 46 floors in those shoes, so she sat down and waited. Had no idea what had happened. Apparently unable to remove said shoes.

He spent most of his on-camera time whining about how everything in the building was electronic and there were no “fail-safes” and that was UNACCEPTABLE based on the price he’d paid for the apartment. Oh, and he moaned a lot about the $17 per ounce swordfish that was going bad in the freezer.

But then – he tried to open a can with a knife. A kitchen knife. He missed the can. But didn’t miss his hand. Seems like it rendered him nearly unconscious for the last half of the show. So he also missed his dingy wife/girlfriend/whoever hearing noises and opening the door and walking down a couple flights – guess she got those shoes off eventually – only to see looters. They raced up the stairs after her and dragged her off somewhere. I guess. We never saw her again. Or him, either.

So, what could they have done differently? To survive? NOT live on the 46th floor? Let’s start with those damn shoes. TAKE THEM OFF. Duh. Keep your key on you when you go out – did they think the power was a magical thing that NEVER fails? I mean, let alone during SHTF, sometimes stuff just happens, right?

And doesn’t almost everyone have a backup, non-electric can opener lying around? An old one, maybe from before you made your first million or whatever? At any rate, there are ways and there are ways – and a basic safe way is to NOT STAB at the can! No basic first aid supplies either, as I recall, they wrapped his hand in a t-shirt.

And for the love of heaven, stay put. Don’t investigate noises – you don’t know who they are, as she discovered rather quickly.

This post is getting long, so I’ll wrap up quickly. The show itself did provide several different scenarios, dos and don’ts, good ideas and bad. Gave a decent approximation of what could go wrong. But here’s the kicker – it took the president (yes, the one we have now) the entire EIGHT DAYS before he asked for assistance from other countries. There were fires, and looting, and murder and rape; there were people dying left and right. EIGHT DAYS.

The motto of the story is this: get ready. Now. Today. Have a plan. And stick to it. Don’t count on anyone else to bail you out – that used to be our motto. Anymore, not so much.




8 comments on “Prep Monday – American Blackout

  1. With 9 days to go before the US carry out their much advertised test of your national grid I’m not surprised everyone is getting twitchy. Still good news for your economy, I understand candle sales have rocketed!


  2. Well said, great post, Robin! ABP……


  3. We had a horrendous storm here (okay so by US standards the trees sneezed a bit but for the UK is was HORRENDOUS) and it got me to thinking about how prepared we are. We figured we’d be okay – I grew up learning how to forage everything from food to medicine, we both know how to catch and skin a rabbit, and living in a village prone to power cuts and dodgy water we always have a minimum of 3 days bottled water, plenty of candles and matches and extra sheets and duvets (for warmth).

    When it comes to stragglers and add-ons. Sorry buddy, but unless you have a skill I can use – you’re on your own. I have kids to protect!


    • Charlotte, for a romance writer, you’re kinda scary! lol


    • Joys of growing up in a tiny farming community! We’re always prepared for every eventuality – power cuts, dodgy pipes, flooding, droughts, snow storms – we’ve done it all and know how to get through it. I remember many a night spent playing Scrabble by candlelight!! And as a Mum – I now know why my Dad used to say that he would kill lions for us. 🙂


  4. […] coming week, Wednesday and Thursday, the DHS is conducting a drill a la American Blackout. Several government sites have put up notices about this, although the information is not widely […]


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