The Biggest, Most Likely Disaster You’re Not Prepared For

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The Wall Street Journal warned us about it.

It keeps government officials up at night.

But the vast majority of Americans are completely unprepared for this disaster:

We’re talking about power grid cyber attack.

We, as a society, are hooked on electricity. So many people take it for granted, and can’t imagine a world where they couldn’t flip a switch and cook their food, heat their home, communicate with family or co-workers, or access all of the date we have stored in the cloud.

The US power grid is one of the most important, and most vulnerable, systems in the country. Every single critical infrastructure, from communications to water, relies upon its function. Without the power grid, our country can’t conduct business. We can’t do our banking. We can’t even milk our cows.

America is not ready for the grid to go down.

bangladesh_blackout_AP_650

But it might. In fact, it probably will. And the government knows it.

The President of the United States stated two years ago that “For those who would seek to do our Nation significant physical, economic, and psychological harm, the electrical grid is an obvious target.”

The power grid isn’t only a target because of how essential it is to the inner-workings of our society, but also because of how weak it is.

The power grid, like many other areas of technology, is automated and remotely controlled. That leaves a network of 160,000 miles of transmission lines, and 55,000 sub-stations very vulnerable. Many major substations of the power grid are completely unmanned, secured from physical attack only by a single, chain-linked fence.

But physical attack isn’t the only, or even the biggest, threat to the system. Cyber hacking is growing as the primary threat to our country’s security, including our energy security. Defending the power grid as a whole is extremely challenging, since there are about 3,200 utilities, all which operation only a portion of the grid, though most of the individual networks are interconnected. With this sort of complicated, multi-faceted network, it’s hard to pick up on a malevolent attack, when there’s so many different administrators involved. The lack of coordination of power grid ownership and leadership doesn’t lend itself well to security.

The Wall Street Journal says it well:

“The grid was cobbled together during the electrification of the U.S. over the past 125 years. It is a fragile, interdependent system. There is so much variability in the grid that what cases a catastrophe one day might not the next, which makes security issues complex. Small problems can quickly spiral out of control.”

Federal officials are very aware of this problem. Almost twenty years ago, officials stated that “virtually any region would suffer major, extended blackouts if more than three key substations were destroyed.” Despite this knowledge, they have done very little about it.

SolarPanels
Having your own capacity for back up power might be the only thing standing between you and disaster

One journalist, Ted Koppel, ventured to ask government officials flat-out what they were doing about this threat to our country. His findings were disturbing. When he asked government security officials about their plan of action if the power grid ever went down, they became uncooperative and defensive, giving Koppel oversimplified and unclear answers. Koppel could only gather from these responses that there really was no plan. At least, not one that was accessible to the people who would be most affected by a prolonged outage (so, everyone.)

The country’s usual response to disaster includes evacuation, increased supervision, and emergency aid. But in the case of tens of millions of homes without power, this action wouldn’t take care of the situation. Evacuation wouldn’t make sense, supervision would never be adequate, and emergency aid would be depleted within days. Koppel speculates that the government doesn’t have a plan because they don’t know where to start. The situation would be bleak, with few good options, if any.

So where does that leave us?

If we can’t depend on the power grid, and we can’t depend on the government to adequately protect us from grid failure, it’s time to take our power into our own hands.

We’re talking about building up your own energy fortress. It’s up to you to make sure you have back-up power–stored energy that you can tap into whenever you need it. Instead of wondering when the next power outage will hit, you can know that you’ll still have the electricity you need to keep your outlets up, your light on, your devices charged, and your refrigerator running. With this sort of security, you can know that your household, and those closest to you, are protected from anything the power grid throws your way.

What does energy security look like?

Mounting Solar panels on roofs or moveable panels allow for easy access for maintenance.
Mounting Solar panels on roofs or moveable panels allow for easy access for maintenance.

There’s actually one very good option for individual businesses and homeowners, and it’s available right now: Batteries.

Energy storage could change everything. Think of it this way — households independent from the grid won’t even notice a grid outage… that is, until their grid-connected neighbors come knocking.

Households equipped with solar panels and energy storage in the form of home batteries will be completely protected from any utility company mishap, whether it be on a large or small-scale. Home batteries allow households to power their own essential appliances like refrigerators, water pumps, and heating/cooling devices with stored electricity collected from renewable energy sources like solar panels. The grid may be vulnerable, but the sun? Not so much.

Energy storage changes the entire conversation about grid vulnerability. We don’t have to talk about prolonged power outages as an impending probability, but a situation that can be avoided altogether. Home batteries put the power back into the hands of the consumer, and back into the appliances and systems we need to sustain our lives.

The largest most likely threat to our everyday lives–a power grid attack—doesn’t have to be a threat at all. You don’t have to live in fear, connected to a power grid that could fail at any moment, leaving you and your family in a vulnerable, and potentially life-threatening situation. Instead, information about this threat can motivate you to adopt a new way of creating, storing, and consuming energy.

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22 Comments on "The Biggest, Most Likely Disaster You’re Not Prepared For"

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Wullow Still
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Home backup power will merely extend your life a little longer. If the gas and diesel pumps stop working for good, most of us will starve.

NRP
Guest

Hence the 95% that are not really prepared….
Maybe ya should think on changing your “percent” number?
I may have a Nuke dropped on my head, but ain’t going to starve to death or be left out in the cold with no electricity, guaranteed.
I though this was a good article to “maybe” start waking up some of the sheeple out there…. Well Done

Arcangel911
Guest

Funny enough, we saw that a few days ago with attack that crippled several websites.

gbbmmfic
Guest

If there was security in place or plans for recovery the last person I’d tell is Ted Coppel.

Thomas Paine in the butt
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Thomas Paine in the butt

Regardless of how you feel about the content of the latest Wikileaks document dump, Julian Assange has done us a favor in revealing just how vulnerable our supposed secure networks are.

Unless the hardware is damaged a cyber attack would only be a short term disruption. It could be the first stage that continues and damages infrastructure which would be crippling.

If there would be a silver lining to a cyber attack on the power grid it would be a more decentralized local based grid. That’d mean many more much smaller generation plants servering a state of portion of a state.

DV Bill
Guest

Cyber attack very well could affect physical equipment…open or close the right switches/breakers and you can cause overvoltage/overloads that burn out equipment…and there’s your eqpt damage….enough of that, and you spiral out of control….that big outage in northeast and Canada a few years back was due to a tree falling on a line…and faulty protocals.

Thomas Paine in the butt
Guest
Thomas Paine in the butt

I started thinking about that after posting. I think you’re right if we’re talking about an attack by a nation state where the goal is to defeat an enemy. The terrorists look like they’re trying to make a statement and get press over doing real damage.

With the growing collaboration between hostile states and nontraditional forces, I could see an attack where the enemy state does what you’re saying with the terrorists lobbing a few mortars at some transformers. The terrorists get the press and the enemy state gets a crippled enemy.

Bobcat-Prepper
Guest
Having solar power would be great if you lived on a large isolated property, but in a neighborhood those panels will be advertisements for the rest of us in the cold, “Hey visit this house – it has the comforts you are missing!” Gangs will be relieving the house of the panels and anything else of value soon thereafter. It would be a better survival strategy to prepare to be without central electrical power with alternative, less obvious methods of (sparingly used) light, heating, etc. Oil lamps, flashlights with rechargeable batteries, a good wood stove, and hand-operated tools are the… Read more »
John D
Guest
I’ve thought of that. My off-grid system is small. I could easily move panels from my roof and reinstall them near the ground. There, they would be hidden by my house, garage, and a privacy fence. I would also keep lights off, unless I need them, and darken my windows. And don’t forget, there are many security advantages to having solar. I’ll be able to cook, and warm food and water, without having a “smoking” fire. I’ll be able to use security camera’s, and motion detectors. For other security issues, I’ll rely on my two friends, Smith and Wesson.
Raider
Guest

Hungry people smell food better… Just saying.

John D
Guest

I agree. That’s why they will be more likely to locate food from other people’s backyard campfire, than my indoor food prep.

Cynical Bastard
Guest

Exactly.

John D
Guest
I have an off-grid solar panels on my roof, but I’m also working on a portable system that I’ll take with me if I need to bug out. I’ve written articles about off-grid solar in the past, and most of the comments were negative. My fixed system cost me about $3K and my portable one will cost about $1K. I consider it money well spent, and insurance for when the SHTF. Generators will run out of gas, and batteries will quickly disappear from store shelves. Within a short time, most people will literally be in the dark. My systems are… Read more »
Rascally Rabid
Guest

After reading @ War, and Koppel’s book, Light’s Out, my entire perspective about SHTF shifted. The vulnerability of our grid to cyber attacks is bad enough. But with Obozo and TPTB wanting to hand over control of the internet to China and Russia we will be even more vulnerable. I could care less about an EMP/CME. More damage can be done in a far cheaper manner through cyber attacks. I do have a backup system in place.

Cynical Bastard
Guest

People lived for a long time before there was a “grid.” I reckon they’ll be around a long time after.

Bolofia
Guest

Except that 95% or more of today’s population has no idea how to survive without electricity. The era you refer to was heavily agrarian in nature (70% or more). Industrial output was achieved almost exclusively by mechanical or manual means. Transportation was either on foot or by horse/mule, etc. Communication was either by word of mouth or primitive printing presses, although the majority of people were illiterate. Life before electricity and the advent of the industrial age was short, dangerous and brutish.

Cynical Bastard
Guest

Doesn’t change the fact that people were around for a long time before and will be here for a long time after.

Agnes
Guest

How does one prep if living in an apartment? My concerns are the fridge and AC.

John D
Guest

Living in an apartment means that you can’t have solar panels on the roof, but if you have a sunny patio, you could have a portable system. You’re not going to have enough power for AC, but you might get by with fans instead. You should consider a small chest freezer, since that uses less electricity than an upright refrigerator. You’ll be able to charge portable devices, and the capacity to use LED or CFL lights.

Rico Suave
Guest
I live full time in an RV and I can tell you that the Fridge is not a huge issue. AC will be. With a few solar panels and a car battery you can run your fridge indefinitely. I would put the fridge on a timer like 2 hours on 30 min off something like that (Tweek it till you get the deserved affect). RV refrigeration can be run of electricity or propane. Propane lasts a while if you stored up 100lbs you could easily buy yourself a couple months of survival time using the propane as cooking, and refrigeration… Read more »
christopher
Guest
one thing you could consider is (2-3) 100 amp batteries with a few solar panels to charge them. i agree with other poster, if may be hard to charge longterm depending on your sun exposure in apt, but you can keep them charged with AC outlet until power goes out. depending on your windows you can clamp the panels in windows ( I did this temp before mounting mine outside in yard) . some windows will deflect the light, so you may need to open the window if possible and remove screen. its better than nothing. you can check into… Read more »
John D
Guest
A few years back I did some testing. I found that a small chest freezer was my best option, at a time when the output of my solar electric system was limited. with that, I was able to make ice, for use in an ice-chest, for items that needed to be kept cold, but not frozen. As you said, the ice could be used in “cooling ice buckets”. I’ve seen plans for these, where you use a fan to move air through an ice bucket, and provide cooling in situations where AC is not an option. I would hang solar… Read more »
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