Few counties in the nation have any plan to handle an extended electric power outage. However, Islamic terrorists would be happy to black out a big part of America with some form of sabotage. Transformers at a Silicon Valley substation were once shut down by gunfire. Cyberattacks could damage one or more generating plants. The worst-case scenario would be an EMP attack, but we don’t think they have nukes – yet. See www.futurescience.com/emp.html for more info. If you don’t think your county needs a plan, read ‘One Second After’ by W. Forstchen and consider the changing international situation. A single missile coming off the ocean is an adversary’s dream, compared to the old-style salvo of missiles easily traced to their origin for retaliation, and the global radioactivity that would follow. The plan need not mention EMP, but must take outages a few weeks at a time through the year. Any EMP would be followed by terrorist attacks by sleeper cells. When communications for command and control are gone, self-government is essential.
The political power residing in the people, per the Declaration and Constitution, has been subverted by the political parties’ seniority system, their control of education, and the media’s efforts to dumb us down and divert our attention. We can no longer influence the federal and state governments. America has been weakened economically, weakened militarily, deeply divided on cultural and social issues, and many sleeper cells are waiting for a wake-up call. Terrorists are seeking ways to shut down our electrical grid, and we must prepare to cope with that.
Federal and state governments choose not to consider this threat. Responsibility must be placed on the county governments, because they cannot insulate themselves from the consequences of irresponsibility. This is a bottom-up plan, not top-down. A few concerned citizens can complete the plan for their own county, except for some items that need to be requested by a county official before companies will pay attention.
Following is an emergency plan for extended power outage over an entire county (or state or nation). This was developed for one particular county, and may be useful for any county when modified to include its own climate, agricultural products, medical facilities, industries, and supermarkets. The format follows that of common governmental planning documents.
I suggest that readers copy this to their email drafts folder, fill in information for their own county (get a few other people of various backgrounds to help), and offer it to their county’s emergency manager or commissioners. It’s free. If you never need it, good. If you do, it will at least start the survival experience in a peaceful atmosphere of mutual assistance. Much depends on the time of year and local climate. An outage has different effects depending on what part of the agricultural cycle it disrupts. If you live in a large city, best wishes – civilization is a tenuous thing; make arrangements with adjoining counties that do produce food. Higher levels of government will have little to offer. Counties must work together. Neighborhoods must work together. Families must work together.
Model Power Outage Plan for any county (Draft: 7/12/16)
Major emergencies and disaster incidents are unique events that present communities and emergency personnel with extraordinary problems and challenges that cannot be adequately addressed within the routine operations of local government. Disasters differ in important ways and it is impossible to plan for every contingency, however this plan will cover the basic mechanism for responding to the needs of a power outage that lasts an unusual length of time.
Electricity for _________ County comes over the national grid. Numerous power plants, hydroelectric dams, solar arrays, and wind generators contribute to the grid, A power outage affecting all of _________ County will probably be caused by events outside the county. Repairing damage to electrical supply and distribution within the County will be ________’s responsibility.
The cause of the outage, when known, will give some indication of its likely duration. Weather is usually short-term. One terrorist attack would have limited effects, multiple such attacks would lengthen the repair time, a cyber attack on control systems might do lasting damage to multiple generating facilities. At least four nations are developing abilities to do so. Solar flares have been known to overload or shut down part of the grid, but no recent ones have been near the intensity of the ‘Carrington event’ of 1859. That one would have taken out the grid, had it existed at that time. Our satellites now give 16 to 24 hours notice of such a threat and some precautions could be put in place, and the population notified. Restarting the grid could take a while.
This power outage plan will cover the needs of the public, response agencies, businesses and governments roles and activities to include power generation, backup power, food and feeding, agriculture, etc.
Citizens have the responsibility to prepare themselves and their families to cope with emergencies and to manage their affairs in ways that will aid the county in managing emergencies.
The following Power Outage Plan provides an overview of the local and county governments’ role in providing for the public in the event of a large scale or lengthy power outage in _________ County.
In the event of a lengthy power outage regardless of the reason for the outage, the public, response agencies, and local governments will look to the county government for assistance when all of their resources have been exhausted. During a power outage it is assumed that several local governments in _________ County will look to county officials for assistance in relieving their social, food, transportation, heat, and continuity of operations issues. It is assumed that in a long power outage only locations with backup power will be able to sustain refrigeration, certain types of communication, fuel, and heat.
The economy of _________ County is ____% agricultural, with a variety of crops having overlapping cycles of planting, cultivation, and harvesting. This makes the county pretty resilient, but an extended power outage will affect multiple crops in different ways and increase the complexity of the problem. It can bring fuel shortages, and mechanized farming is essential to our food production. The longer the outage continues, the more important it becomes that local crops be harvested. A fuel shortage might make them the only food available for a time. Cultivation of some crops may have to be reduced to save fuel for harvesting others. Manual planting, cultivating, or harvesting should supplement any lack of mechanized equipment but would severely limit the amount of food produced by the affected crops.
Jails and other correctional facilities are special cases which should have their own extended-power-outage plans and supplies (Attachment E). Some inmates may be available for agricultural work crews if needed.
There is not likely to be a warning for this type of incident although an ability to see the need may come depending on the hazard (ex. Large amounts of snow predicted for ________ County should provide reason to prepare, terrorist activities would show very little warning, storms can develop quickly). Any authority (local, state, or federal governments) may initiate the warning process whenever a large scale threat or emergency exists. When relied upon heavily for long periods of time the resources of the county will become depleted and response activities will begin to slow as responders begin to take care of their personal needs, as they will be affected as well.
The residents within _________ County will rely on their local government to maintain order and services.
Keeping the peace: (Agencies, Attachment A)
Informing the public about cause and duration is important. People will adjust their plans and attitudes if they know how much inconvenience they are facing, and for how long. People will busy themselves coping with a known problem, unknown problems easily lead to panic. See ‘Notifications to the Public’.
Concept of operations
Initial public assumptions will be that the outage is temporary, and people will continue their normal activities as far as possible. They will want information on expected duration, but local radio stations and receivers will have no power. The nearest station with complete backup is ___________, AM ____ from http://allhazards.blogspot.com/2013/02/find-your-nearest-pep-radio-station.html as updated. Public impatience and frustration will grow until cause and duration are known. Businesses and schools will close and people will go to their homes to pursue whatever food preparation they can do without power.
Cause and duration should be known within 24 hours, and public notification will be needed. People can then prioritize or alter their plans to fit the new circumstances. County government’s routine operations may have to be suspended without electrical and internet availability, until the county’s backup generator can support at least some functions. Agencies can then assist the public with needed services as the outage continues until the situation is resolved. Agricultural operations will want some fuel, as they can usually store only about a week’s needs on average and some will be low on any given day.
Each department within _________ County must develop SOP’s and COOP’s to insure that life, safety, and continuity of government operations are maintained. These include plans for employee protection, employee family protection, reduced staffing, and optional or alternative work locations. Following are points which each county department should consider when modifying the department’s other operating plans to address an extended power outage.
The sheriff’s office is responsible for peacekeeping in the county. Cooperation with law enforcement in the incorporated areas is essential. The sheriff, as the highest elected official in the county, can call upon local officers of other agencies as well as deputize private citizens to aid in emergency services, communication, transportation…
The first problem likely to arise is the difficulty of purchasing food when cash registers and internet terminals have no power. Many people do not carry cash. Banks will not be operating. Check-verification equipment will not work, but checks will probably be accepted. If the likely duration is over a day and a store lacks backup power, refrigerated items might as well be cleared out of stores free or on whatever sort of credit basis management will accept. Prescriptions are a problem; those are all on computers and cannot be verified unless the patient brings in their previous bottle. (note that on notification flyer)
Longer duration raises the possibility of looting. At that point, it must be defined just what sort of crime is a shooting offense. One day’s worth of groceries, probably not. Theft of medications, drugs, or alcohol is more serious and warns of more criminal behavior to come.
Rural and urban areas differ in their degree of preparation for such emergencies; rural residents are more likely to have a week or two of food (and weapons), but refrigeration beyond 3-4 days would need a generator there. Law enforcement may be more of a problem in towns, where a power outage leaves the young with little to do unless they are assigned specific tasks. Parents should have some tasks ready.
Neighborhood watch groups will be particularly important in a power outage. People should be actively watching their neighborhood. On a city block, outdoor food preparation or lawn and garden work keep people acquainted with local residents and regular visitors. In rural areas, there is less contact and less immediate help with problems. In either place it would be useful to have some local communication system that does not depend on household power. There are enough hunters in the county that there must be some of the 2-way radios found in sporting goods stores, and if those are shared among a neighborhood group it will be easier to handle health or trespass problems.
Transportation will be affected and priority should be given to emergency services for the distribution of fuel resources. Supply breakdown and uncertainty in an extended outage may require the acquisition of more fuel resources from private or other public sector entities. (need memorandum of understanding with such agencies) An extended power outage over most of one or more states will probably shut down oil refineries or limit their operations.
A power outage will close most businesses, reducing commuting and shopping. Vehicle use will decrease, but fuel needs of agriculture depend on the season. Fuel delivery by truck depends on availability of the fuel that each truck uses. Some gas stations may have backup power; _______ Market may have their backup generator (powered by natural gas or diesel?) driving their fuel pumps. (Fuel sites, Attachment B)
Travelers low on fuel will begin to collect at gas stations. Station operators should be advised of how far the outage extends; those with backup power should be asked to reserve fuel for first responders. Rather than going on in hopes of finding fuel, travelers should be offered emergency shelter. (Where? What capacity?) Information should be gathered on their home address, and their job skills; medical and electrical workers may be needed in the situation. Local residents may be asked to volunteer temporary lodging and food; location should be recorded in case their skills are needed. Some travelers may be keeping a schedule, and go on in search of fuel. Some will run out, probably on a primary highway not a dirt road; light aircraft can quickly scan major roads to locate stranded cars needing rescue.
Agricultural fuel shortage or unavailability during a harvest period could lead to loss of one or more specific crops. Manual labor could lessen the impact if enough volunteers were available to handle some tasks. 4-H and FFA would be useful in recruiting and instructing volunteers. The ingenuity and inventiveness of the farming community would be tested.
Natural gas availability makes a big difference to feeding and housing the public. With it, most households can cook available food and have winter heat. It makes the old power plant more useful. Without, feeding the public soon involves wood fires, soup lines, and transportation as well as housing those who do not have heat in winter. Most gas ranges use an electric igniter, so each burner must be lit each time with matches. Fire departments must be ready. Gas furnaces controlled by electric thermostats may be difficult or dangerous to light. Gas water heaters may be a similar problem.
Home heating without natural gas may involve propane, if the unit will operate without power. Propane is heavier than air and tends to pool in low areas. Amateur attempts to light a propane heater invite explosions and fires. Pellet stoves use an electric blower, so those will not be useful. Wood stoves would be more useful, though they bring the risk of chimney fires. Fireplaces are mostly a net heat loser, as they generally use the heated room air for combustion and it goes up the chimney.
Public Works Department
The county’s trailer-mounted ___kw generator will be allocated according to immediate needs.
Individuals who own generators should be encouraged to use them sparingly to conserve fuel. Some private generators may be requisitioned for specific needs.
Planning and Development Department
Personnel may be aware of equipment and resources that would be useful in obtaining fuel or transportation.
It would be useful to have a map that locates dairies, chicken farms, onion sheds, feed mills, and grain storage as they have special needs for milking and refrigeration, ventilation, or operation. There should also be a list attached noting which have backup power and how long their fuel would last.
If only part of the county lacks power, a map of that area will be helpful to law enforcement.
Record all food and supplies acquired for mass feeding or distribution
Monitor mass feeding for food safety
Monitor milk supply from dairies; pasteurization may not be available. Can local businesses make yogurt or cheese from it?
Recruit volunteers as needed to assist agricultural operations
Notifications to the Public
The cause will probably be made known by a broadcast radio station outside the outage area, or by ham radio. If the outage extends beyond __(state)__, it will probably last more than 24 hours. When the cause and likely duration are known, as many citizens as possible must be notified. The quickest method will be determined by the resources that are functioning at the time. A power outage will probably stop ’reverse 911’, land lines may not work, cell towers may not work, broadcast radio notification would only reach battery-powered radios. Copiers could be taken to the site of the county’s generator, or privately owned generators brought in, and used to copy informational fliers; the post offices could be prevailed upon to deliver them. The last resort would be to find a print shop that still uses type and ink to print fliers with basic information and instructions, then distribute those by available vehicles. (sample needed)
________ hospital has a backup diesel generator and enough fuel to operate for two weeks. (verify)
A significant number of local citizens depend on electrically powered supplemental oxygen. Others use compressed oxygen. Kidney dialysis patients and insulin-dependent diabetics will need supplies and perhaps transportation. A power outage will make it difficult to communicate their needs to first responders. It may be necessary to collect oxygen-dependent people in one or a few locations where generators can supply the necessary power.
Nursing homes are not likely to have backup power, or a large food and medication inventory. These will require special attention.
American Red Cross / Salvation Army
4-H and FFA would be useful in recruiting and instructing agricultural volunteers.
__(state)__ Division of Emergency Mgmt
If power and communications are out across the state, the county is on its own for a few days at least
Feeding the population
Refrigerators and freezers will keep food safe for 3 days. Encourage community cookouts if weather permits, to keep it from going to waste and becoming a health and disposal problem. Canned goods and pasta will fill in after that until they run out. If natural gas is available, many households will be able to cook for themselves and neighbors. If city power comes up, even more can do so.
After a week, neighborhood food supplies may begin to run out and grocery stores might be emptied. A power outage could interrupt their communication and delivery system. Nonperishables may be replenished by truck if fuel is available. Perishables will have to be delayed until the city power plant can supply reliable power, unless the grocery stores‘ backup generators are operating well. If the need for mass public feeding develops, several locations should be set up where large quantities of local grains and beans can be prepared using the cleanest-burning available fuel. Sites with natural gas or backup power would be preferable. Restaurant operators and staff would be useful in this effort; their experience will help it go smoothly. Large cooking utensils will be needed, and the number of people per location may mean just one long cooking period per day rather than multiple separate meals. (Att. C, feeding locations, source for cooking utensils)
In cool weather, or if refrigeration is available, butchers and meat cutters can be recruited and cattle bought to supply meat. If this is done, waste must be minimized. Local craftspersons should be contacted to see if they can use the tallow for candles, fat for soap making, hides for leatherwork. Bones and such can be cut up for pet food. Prompt distribution, or use in mass feeding, will be essential unless grocery store meat departments have power and can store and distribute meat. The skills and experience of the whole community must be sought and developed to meet needs as they appear.
Distribution will be necessary if the grocery store supply chain is not working. Local storage of grains, beans, and other produce varies through the year. A list of storage locations and contents should be made, realizing that the quantity will vary as commodities are sold and shipped. When an outage occurs, those locations should be checked to determine availability. (need list of _________ County sites )
Transportation will be limited by available fuel. Bulk quantities of food should be delivered to drop-off points where the public can pick some up for their neighborhood with a minimum of driving.
Managing trash and spoiled food
Trash disposal may be limited by fuel availability. Residents should minimize the volume of trash they create. Those who have much meat in a freezer should consider canning it if the outage duration looks like multiple days. If that is not an option, it could be donated as pet food after it has thawed. Spoiled food creates health and rodent problems, and should be well buried or taken to a designated collection point. (designate collection points in public-notification flyer #2)
Water and Sewage
Most domestic water in the county comes from the ________ treatment plant in ________. Their facility is powered by __________and may need __________. Outlying areas use wells or local treatment facilities; such facilities may be shut down by an outage. Their water should be more closely monitored and a boil order issued to users if contamination is found. Eight drops of plain chlorine bleach per gallon are a home substitute for chlorination. Water treatment chemicals may run low if deliveries by truck are delayed.
Water towers are widely used to maintain water pressure. The pumps which fill them, and any other pumping stations, need backup power (and fuel for it) to continue service.
Sewage treatment plants depend on electricity and should be a high priority for whatever power is available. Residents should be asked to limit water use to reduce problems with water treatment as well as sewage. (verify with sewage staff; is dilution helpful or harmful then?)
In winter, homes without heat soon become unlivable. Modern all-electric homes are at risk. Winter power outages over two days may require other shelter for their occupants. If neighbors cannot accommodate them, heated shelter with restroom facilities will be needed. Evacuated homes should have their water shut off, pipes drained and sink and toilet traps winterized like an RV to avoid costly freeze damage. Evacuees should be added to the traveler-information list so their location and skills are known and available if needed.
(need list of vacant, heatable buildings in towns in addition to motels and designated shelter: Att. F)
Concerns by outage duration, by season
Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4
. Notify public#1 Update public#2 Water treatment
. Ag fuel needed
. Shelter travelers Check grain storage
. Prescriptions Mass Feeding
Assist farmers Food Distribution
. Hospital bkup fuel
Continued fuel shortage could need manual labor for the following activities, in exchange for room & board
Food and water would have to be supplied to the field locations, plus transport if beyond walking distance
Crop irrigation & cultivation
Harvest and Storage
Get food from storage; find seed; eqpt maintenance
Plowing & Planting
Agricultural power needs and backup generation or lack thereof
Augers that fill most grain bins and silos are electric; any mechanical drive option?
Eqpt. Maintenance & repair involve power tools and welders – people can move generators around as needed
List of backup generators/fuel/duration/function at livestock facilities – feed mills, ventilation, refrigeration
Attachment A – Local law enforcement agencies
Attachment B – Sites with backup power, fueled by, for how long, functions (fuel, refrigeration, freezer, baking, ventilation, milking)
Attachment C – sample public-notification flyer
Attachment D – list/map bulk food drop-off points for food distribution
Attachment E – Correctional facility information, backup / fuel / food normal supply
Attachment F – Shelter sites and vacant, heatable buildings in the county
Attachment G – Table of agricultural crops, functions, and needs by time of year
Feed corn plant, April/May irrigate/cultivate/spray June-Aug Harvest silage, Jul-Aug
Harvest dry, Nov-Dec