Well, it’s final­ly hap­pened, and you’ve prob­a­bly already heard about it…  The Unit­ed States Gov­ern­ment has offi­cial­ly, on paper, to the pub­lic said that our elec­tri­cal grid, water sup­ply, gas sup­ply, and much more are in dire jeop­ardy of fail­ing if our elec­tri­cal grid is tak­en out by a nat­ur­al or man­made dis­as­ter. 

If you are unaware of this report, on Decem­ber 10th, 2018, the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty put out a 95-page report (You can click this link to review it in more detail).  If you’re a prep­per and not heard about this, you’ve been out int he bush too long.  If you’ve heard about it, and done noth­ing over the past three weeks, shame on you.  This is prob­a­bly the sin­gle most impor­tant report pub­lished to the pub­lic by the US Gov­ern­ment in sev­er­al years.  

Since the release of this report, the prep­per blog­sphere, prep­per YouTu­ber’s. and prep­per Pod­cast­ers have gone nuts report­ing on this report.  I read the report twice, and let it sink in a bit pri­or to writ­ing about it.  I real­ly want to focus on a few items that hit me, as I sat and read it again this morn­ing.

Come with me on a brief jour­ney to exam­ine the report a bit clos­er so we can both spec­u­late and exam­ine the issue(s) at hand.  

In May of 2018, the office of the Pres­i­dent com­mis­sioned a study on “the nation’s abil­i­ty to respond to and recov­er from a cat­a­stroph­ic pow­er out­age of a mag­ni­tude beyond mod­ern expe­ri­ence.” That was a pret­ty bold state­ment unto itself, and one typ­i­cal­ly you’d only hear used in pre/­post-apoc­a­lyp­tic movies in the most recent few years.  Admit­ting this risk requires a nation­al focus is under­stand­able and con­cern­ing at the same time.  We’ll look at why short­ly.

The goal of the Unit­ed States gov­ern­men­tal bod­ies involved in this report is to “pro­vide a path for­ward for enhanc­ing the nation’s capa­bil­i­ties. These actions require a whole-of-nation approach and strong pub­lic-pri­vate col­lab­o­ra­tion.”  This makes sense at first glance because I think as obser­vant prep­pers we saw Hur­ri­cane Kat­ri­na become a shit show, as the gov­ern­ment, how­ev­er well-inten­tioned was not close to being ready to help in the capac­i­ty they felt required to help.  There were a lot of lessons learned for sure, and you can see (observe) the improve­ments with every major nat­ur­al dis­as­ter since from a dis­tance.  Many of these nat­ur­al dis­as­ters are called out in the report:

  • Kat­ri­na
  • Super­storm Sandy
  • Peur­to Rico (most recent­ly)
  • and more. 

A man walk as pieces of hous­es are seen along the hill dur­ing the after­math of Hur­ri­cane Maria on Sept. 28, 2017 in San Isidro, Puer­to Rico. Puer­to Rico expe­ri­enced wide­spread dam­age includ­ing most of the elec­tri­cal, gas and water grid as well as agri­cul­ture after Hur­ri­cane Maria, a cat­e­go­ry 4 hur­ri­cane, passed through. (Pho­to: Andres Kudac­ki)

So, dur­ing this study, what else was iden­ti­fied that might need improve­ment, and con­sid­ered very con­cern­ing today in the event of both a man-made or nat­ur­al grid down event?  

First, they looked at the poten­tial con­se­quences of a grid down sce­nario.  They also call out that there will be an unprece­dent­ed amount of interdepartmental/agency coop­er­a­tion required across the agen­cies required to bring the grid back up, mit­i­gate future risk, work with the pub­lic, blah, blah, blah.  They go on to say they’ve learned they need a fed­er­al to local approach as all dis­as­ters are local.  They are not wrong.  It’s the boots on the ground that are already here, that will help to best coor­di­nate the best response for the local pop­u­la­tions in their appro­pri­ate geo­gra­phies.  

The intro­duc­tion to this doc­u­ment actu­al­ly starts on page five (5) after a series of def­i­n­i­tions and some com­men­tary on the warn­ing itself.  But, it’s not real­ly until page 13 that the report cites that “There needs to be more indi­vid­ual account­abil­i­ty for pre­pared­ness.”  This turns out to be a bit of fore­shad­ow­ing into addi­tion­al com­men­tary lat­er on how long to pre­pare for and what to pre­pare for.  Addi­tion­al­ly, on the same page, it should be not­ed that the gov­ern­ment is still look­ing at malls, sta­di­ums, etc as infra­struc­ture for emer­gency camps, with­out any deep descrip­tion of poten­tial ser­vices to be offered, oth­er than a state­ment that these facil­i­ties may need to be upgrad­ed.  I would draw a par­al­lel to the local bank in a small town that dou­bled as a nuclear fall­out shel­ter.  Real­ly, what ser­vices will they be able to pro­vide, and in what time­frame?

Where it gets inter­est­ing is on page 14, where the report says, 

Peo­ple no longer keep enough essen­tials with­in their homes, reduc­ing their abil­i­ty to sus­tain them­selves dur­ing an extend­ed, pro­longed out­age. We need to improve indi­vid­ual pre­pared­ness.

  • Most pre­pared­ness cam­paigns call for cit­i­zens to be pre­pared for 72 hours in an emer­gency, but the new emerg­ing stan­dard is 14 days.
  • For exam­ple, Wash­ing­ton, Ore­gon, and Hawaii have a stan­dard that indi­vid­u­als have enough food and water to sup­port them­selves for 14 days. These efforts could serve as a mod­el for fed­er­al and state pre­pared­ness resources, cam­paigns, and train­ing.
  • The idea of indi­vid­ual pre­pared­ness is not a new con­cept. Civ­il defense, an old­er term used to ele­vate a lev­el of indi­vid­ual pre­pared­ness and acti­vate com­mu­ni­ties, used to be more wide­ly accept­ed.
  • FEMA offers a num­ber of tools, resources, and guid­ance on emer­gency pre­pared­ness, includ­ing recent efforts focused on bet­ter finan­cial pre­pared­ness for dis­as­ters, and work­ing with inter­a­gency part­ners on activ­i­ty books and cours­es to edu­cate stu­dents on emer­gency pre­pared­ness.

This is after a num­ber of para­graphs about how fuel will be crit­i­cal in bring­ing up the grid once repaired, which is con­cern­ing unto itself, since in some cas­es fuel will be hard to come by, even for the pow­er com­pa­nies which will be repair­ing the grid.

By page 15, DHS admits to a series of strate­gic coals, the first of which will be: 

Strate­gic Goal 1: Build a Cul­ture of Pre­pared­ness includes objec­tives to incen­tivize invest­ments that reduce risk, includ­ing pre-dis­as­ter mit­i­ga­tion; clos­ing the insur­ance gap; help­ing peo­ple pre­pare for dis­as­ters; and bet­ter learn from past dis­as­ters, improve con­tin­u­ous­ly, and inno­vate.

I applaud them for think­ing of this, but as you can see from the two sets of call­out’s that they’re real­is­ti­cal­ly only call­ing out up to 14 days of food & water for a pro­longed dis­as­ter.  More on this short­ly.

hurricane maria

Hur­ri­cane Maria

They con­in­ue to doc­u­ment con­cerns about back­up com­mu­ni­ca­tions and that DHS knows that the aver­age cit­i­zen may not have or know how to use back­up com­mu­ni­ca­tions equip­ment, that those com­mu­ni­ca­tions plat­forms are also vul­ner­a­ble to attack, dam­age, etc.

The meat and pota­toes for prep­per types hit on page 65, where DHS goes to dis­cuss how all dis­as­ters nation­al, or oth­er­wise are “local” in nature, and that ulti­mate­ly fed­er­al author­i­ties will coor­di­nate with state and local offi­cials to dis­sem­i­nate infor­ma­tion and resources to the cit­i­zen.  To add addi­tion­al cred­i­bil­i­ty to what DHS is putting out there to the pub­lic, they dis­cuss Kat­ri­na, Peur­to Rico, Super­storm Sandy, and the lessons learned, not only with the tac­ti­cal boots on the ground, but at the indi­vid­ual untilites lev­els as well.  

What you already know from the blog­sphere, twit­ter­sphere, YouTube, etc, is that DHS is say­ing that peo­ple should be pre­pared to sur­vive off-grid for at least two months with as long as six months with­out pow­er. Think about this for a moment.  Six months.  What does this mean?  This means that (as we all know) in 48 — 72 hours all the food on the shelves in the gro­cery stores will be gone.  With­in a week those that were com­plete­ly unpre­pared will be on the prowl for their next meal.  Oper­a­tional secu­ri­ty aside, this is ridicu­lous­ly con­cern­ing.  I per­son­al­ly saw this dur­ing Hur­ri­cane Sandy in NJ.  Those from oth­er neigh­bor­hoods had start­ed push­ing out into their neigh­bors’ streets inside of the first four days of the pow­er out­age.  Secu­ri­ty start­ed to become para­mount.  The report only men­tions ‘once’ that the grid down could last for years depend­ing on the event that brought it down (page 5).

That said, while we know this event may or will hap­pen even­tu­al­ly, DHS con­tin­ues say­ing the fol­low­ing:

As part of the scop­ing effort, the NIAC defined cat­a­stroph­ic pow­er out­ages as events beyond mod­ern expe­ri­ence that exhaust or exceed mutu­al aid capa­bil­i­ties. The NIAC built on that def­i­n­i­tion to pro­vide addi­tion­al detail and clar­i­ty:

  1. These are like­ly to be no-notice or lim­it­ed-notice events, and poten­tial­ly an act of war that would require a mil­i­tary response. These poten­tial events could include:
    1. Sophis­ti­cat­ed cyber-phys­i­cal attack timed with a major nat­ur­al dis­as­ter
    2. Repeat­ed events in a short peri­od of time with sig­nif­i­cant phys­i­cal dam­age
    3. Elec­tro­mag­net­ic events, whether nat­ur­al or man­made, which could result in severe phys­i­cal dam­age
  2. Long-dura­tion, last­ing sev­er­al weeks to months (at least 2 months, but more like­ly 6 months or more) due to phys­i­cal destruc­tion to equip­ment, such as trans­form­ers or trans­mis­sion lines; or the sever­i­ty of the event result­ing in lim­it­ed work force to repair dam­age, or inabil­i­ty to cre­ate or trans­port replace­ment parts.
  3. Affects a broad area of the nation cov­er­ing mul­ti­ple states or regions, impact­ing between 50 mil­lion and 75 mil­lion peo­ple,15 and threat­en­ing the via­bil­i­ty of state and region­al economies and local com­mu­ni­ties. 
  4. Results in severe cas­cad­ing impacts that force crit­i­cal sectors—water and waste­water sys­tems, com­mu­ni­ca­tions, trans­porta­tion, health­care, finan­cial ser­vices—to oper­ate in a degrad­ed state, due to back-up gen­er­a­tors run­ning out of fuel and fuel resup­ply hin­dered by lim­it­ed tran­sit options or being divert­ed to high­er pri­or­i­ties. a. Many gen­er­a­tors will also break­down after they are forced to run beyond design lim­its dur­ing an event that stretch­es weeks and months.
  5. Exceeds or exhausts capa­bil­i­ties of exist­ing mutu­al aid pro­grams and emer­gency response plans.
    1. Cur­rent emer­gency response plans and frame­works rely on aid being pro­vid­ed from unaf­fect­ed areas and the abil­i­ty to iden­ti­fy and com­mu­ni­cate needs. This is unlike­ly to be pos­si­ble dur­ing these events.
    2. The elec­tric­i­ty sec­tor has an effec­tive mutu­al aid pro­gram, but dur­ing an event of this scale util­i­ties are unlike­ly to have sur­plus sup­plies or work force, and depend­ing on the sever­i­ty of the event it may be imprac­ti­cal or impos­si­ble to bring help in from unaf­fect­ed areas of the nation.
    3. States are also unlike­ly to be able to assist oth­ers giv­en lim­it­ed resources and expect­ed bar­ri­ers both legal and phys­i­cal for mov­ing mate­ri­als and work force.

Talk about dis­con­cert­ing.  EXCEEDS OR EXHAUSTS CAPABILITIES OF EXISTING MUTUAL ADI PROGRAMS AND EMERGENCY RESPONSE PLANS… You know what that means, don’t you?  My guess is after a few months (two to three), you’re on your own…  You’ll be on your own any­way, as I see it, as my assump­tion is they’ll want you to be housed in a facil­i­ty of their choice to receive aid from the gov­ern­ment.  Remem­ber those sta­di­ums, etc men­tioned ear­li­er… Have you all read “One Sec­ond After?” If you haven’t you should.  It’s a primer (as I see it) for what could hap­pen in a grid down sce­nario.  Not to men­tion it’s a great book, and enter­tain­ing at that. 

I dis­cussed the DHS report with Mrs. Prep­per.  Upon dis­cus­sion, I got the feel­ing after she digest­ed the ini­tial dis­cus­sion that she believes we would be in a “shel­ter in” sit­u­a­tion.  I am not so sure.  I want to give human­i­ty the ben­e­fit of the doubt, but afraid that human­i­ty is too fick­le to mind their own busi­ness.  Oper­a­tional Secu­ri­ty pri­or to grid down day one needs to be estab­lished and test­ed.  Shel­ter­ing in for even two weeks would require round the clock watch and hard­en­ing of areas of the home I have not begun to address yet.  

The DHS doc­u­ment (Click here to read it) is 95 pages long.  It’s actu­al­ly a quite easy read.  I read it twice so that I could ensure I did­n’t miss any­thing.  I urge you to read it.  Unlike One Sec­ond After, it is not enter­tain­ing.  It is enlight­en­ing.  The most impor­tant thing I think a cit­i­zen can take from this report is the fol­low­ing:  Food, water, pow­er, com­mu­ni­ca­tions, hygiene, and trans­porta­tion sup­ply chains will be dis­rupt­ed.  Secu­ri­ty will be required, and I have not even begun to get into what the roads, and infra­struc­ture will look like when every­one stops their car or runs out of gas try­ing to get to their next des­ti­na­tion, espe­cial­ly if you don’t bug out ear­ly.  But that is the age-old ques­tion, right.  To bug in, or to bug out?  Only you know the answer.

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