Thought Experiment on Extended Electric Disruption

Well, I guess I timed that last piece reasonably well ;-), no? As you may have noticed, I am at present typing this on the internet, rather than carving it into a stone tablet (actually I'd probably just use a pen and a piece of paper, but stone tablet does sound more apocalyptic), so the latest solar storm wasn't a big deal. Still, it does seem like because there are so many fun things that could take out electricity for an extended period - let's call it widespread outages for months, anyway - that it does seem to be worth talking about. So let's talk.

What do you imagine such an outage in your area would look like? What are you doing to be better prepared to deal with such a thing - personally or at the community level? What would really long term life without power look like for you? What kind of advance response would be most helpful from your community?


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Any kind of 2 month grid based collapse would lead to a major state of emergency in central Scotland. It is densely populated, almost no houses are self sufficient in anything that requires electricity, which includes their gas central heating. All fuel used to commute would end up diverted into generators, and although hospitals and suchlike have them, not many others do.

So we'd probably need some aid from elsewhere to have a hope of getting better. I've enough meths to run a stove for 2 or 3 meals and wood and charcoal for 3 or 4 more, not to mention batteries for a week or two of torch use, but apart from that would be screwed.

Essentially there's nothing i personally could do.
Sure, I could spend a couple of hundred pounds on a generator, but then where would I store enough fuel for it to be much use or actually guarantee fuel later? Also I'm on the first floor...

communications would be a big problem -- back to walking down the road to visit friends on the chance that they're in. Even if we had a solar charger for our phones (must get) that would be unlikely to help as the system at large may well be down.

I think commerce would be the biggest problem -- paying with plastic or withdrawing money from an ATM wouldn't be possible, we'd be a cash only economy for the duration, a major challenge when most people only carry small change. People's pay wouldn't come through and rent / mortgages etc... wouldn't go out.

A lot of perishable food would perish unless supermarkets and wholesalers have back up power supplies. Most folks would loose the week or two's worth of stuff in the freezer, half of them because they threw it out rather than knowing it was still ok for a few days.

depending on the time of year we would be both cold and dark. water would still be on as it doesn't need electricity at a domestic level, but ... pumps and water treatment on a city wide scale do need electricity, so I think water supply would falter if the power was out for long enough.

Sharon -

Since that last post of yours it's been a question that's been on the brain, and I worry whether, at least in the U.S., it's something we can even reasonably plan for (if the outage were to last more than a couple of weeks).

Most of the U.S. population gets water from a tap, supplied by a municipal water system that's pumped with electricity. During major earthquakes here in California we've had full utility (power, gas, water) outages, but usually for no more than a couple of weeks, and usually not widespread. With few persistent and plentiful sources of fresh water near population centers, I'm not sure people in many parts of the country have any backup options. (Near the coast I suppose it'd be possible to manually desalinate, but that's not easy to do at scale.) People in rural areas or regions near freshwater might be better off, though filtration would still be an issue.

Water seems like it might be the key bottleneck resource during an extended electricity disruption, and so it'd be of value to make water systems resilient to this kind of predicament (both by shielding them as appropriate, and ensuring that a backup means of pumping and purifying exists).

Folks around here would cope. Because we're really rural. My county has one stoplight in it- no kidding.

Plenty of small towns; but plenty of farms, too. Enough dairy that a lot of farmers already own pretty substantial emergency generators; if you're milking 500 cows, and the grid goes down, you really can't afford not to have a PTO driven generator ready to tack onto the John Deere.

So lots of fairly mobile 15-50KW diesel generators. Emergencies would get handled. But- Rochester, MN, with almost 200,000 people is not that far away. It would be a lot harder there. The Mayo hospitals have diesel backup, I think. But. Lots of diesel.

On the central coast of Oregon one would be in fair shape for a little while assuming one has prepared already for our inevitable tsunami. I have water and food for a month or so and the weather here is mild enough that keeping warm would not be much of an issue and of course keeping cool is never a problem. Long term like a major grid collapse would be bad for most everyone but we have potable water in streams nearby and there is always seafood. I suspect that there would be a crowd show up eventually depending on the time of year and the coast would be an obvious destination for refugees.

After the tornadoes last year, many gas stations and businesses have generators now. Some chain businesses (particularly Publix) had good business disaster recovery plans and were able to stay open or reopened quickly. The main roads were mostly clear, we had adequate water supplies and the weather was mild. Remote sites such as Facebook and Twitter were up, so those of us with smartphones could keep in touch with official updates and news and share it with others. An extended power outage was an inconvenience under those circumstances. The gas tankers and ice trucks and semis of food rolled in and other than the rationing at some businesses, it was no big deal.

However, if we lost water in much of the city, the roads were impassable or the outage was much larger, things could have gotten tough. Once the gas stops arriving, there are no generators, and that doesn't take long; only about a day or less. The weather doesn't get severe enough here to seriously harm a healthy adult with shelter, but for some an extended heat or cold wave could prove deadly.

For here, safe water is really the major limiting factor. I can keep myself and a couple others in drinking water for a very very long time -- indefinitely if there is no major drought -- but most can't.

I could probably hold my own without any outside utilities or assistance for a year, assuming the zombies and medical emergencies don't come. It might not be a pleasant year (and I would smell awful), but I'd make it. By then, I would hope that some social reorganization would have taken place. The local government is pretty effective in a crunch, so I think we'd have a way to be informed. But with so many people completely unprepared it could get very, very ugly.

Transportation and communications would be the biggest things here in rural BC.

Depends on how long an outage lasts. A week would be ok, 2-3 weeks strenuous, over a month difficult and then down hill from there.

Some people would get by with hauling water, some food stored, wood stoves.

Best way to prepare: start talking about difficulties, build community, convince people to store enough food to last at least a few weeks.

Our area was actually cut off a few days (all passes & airport closed). Food disappeared off shelves quickly, but now everyone has forgotten...

My "community" is Brooklyn, so we're talking a LOT of people.

We do know the people in our neighborhood, thanks in large part to our community garden, and I'm sure in case of emergency we'd be working with those people on solutions to various things. My husband works with the food pantry of the local Catholic church, which is another good real-life (as opposed to online) way of organizing people.

We have a gravity-fed water system, thank goodness, although of course individual apartment buildings have pumps that run on electricity - a point that was brought home very vividly when we had the blackout back in 2003. We lived on the 12th floor at that point and had to carry a bucket of water from our neighbor's place downstairs up all those stairs (no elevators, of course!). Suboptimal, to say the least.

We have a landline phone that doesn't rely on electricity, something that is becoming more and more rare these days, with cable companies providing phone service and all those portable handsets with batteries. We learned that lesson in 2003 too.

And I just got a sun oven for cooking, since we have a back yard that gets some sun and it would be very hard to cook in our windowless kitchen without electricity.

But those are at best bandaid measures to deal with a situation that would relatively quickly get unlivable if the entire city lost power for an extended period of time. I think we would just need to leave the city entirely, and I guess where we would go would depend on how widespread the outages were.

Before we had electricity, we had coal oil lamps, cooked and heated with wood, and had a windmill on a well. We had shelves of canned food from the garden, and cured meat in the smokehouse.

By Jim Thomerson (not verified) on 08 Mar 2012 #permalink

Thinking about this as I was driving to pick up my pizza, it occurred to me that the most important service in an extended outage would be radio. Starting immediately after the power went out there would be rumors of war, ghetto uprisings, plague, and alien invasion. Unless there was at least one radio station going to say what was going on, what the state of the relief effort was, and where to go for water, it could get pretty apocalyptic.

By Whomever1 (not verified) on 08 Mar 2012 #permalink

I think season, size and if the length of outage is predictable is going to matter a LOT. If this were to happen in winter here in Central PA there would be a massive exodus with many people getting as far south/towards friends/family as they could on what gas they have.

However, there is a sizable Amish population and a decent number of people with woodstoves (though the outdoor ones that need electricity to pump hot water are becoming more popular). I'd ballpark it and say 5 to 10% of the homes in the area would be able to heat without electricity. We get enough rain/snow that buckets under downspouts and boiling over indoor/outdoor fires would probably keep anyone from going thirsty.

I think I could manage in place, heating with wood and living off pantry/greenhouse, as long as the zombie horde doesn't clean me out.

I keep a patch of Jerusalem artichokes as a low maintenance emergency starch/carb source that looks pretty in the fall when the flowers are out. It wouldn't be fun, but those alone could probably get me through a winter.

By CentralPAchris (not verified) on 09 Mar 2012 #permalink

We haven't been actively planning for an outage, but it turns out we have some of the bases covered. Our rainwater system feeds the house and could work reasonably well without the pump, just with gravity feed. We have a solar oven that we use regularly, a wood stove, gas cooktop, lots of windup flashlights and a windup radio. We just got a solar PV system but it's grid-tied and I don't think it would work in an outage.
As far as our community (a town in central Texas of 45,000) goes, we're not so well prepared. Especially if it hit in summer, there would be lots of misery and possibly deaths due to lack of air-conditioning. I've tried bringing up the subject of preparedness, but most people can't get their brains around the possibility of no electricity.

@jerah - Your POTS phone service does rely on electricity. It just does rely on *your* electricity. It gets it's power from the copper line that ultimately is getting power from the phone company. When their backup batteries and generators run out, your phone line won't work either.

On the plus side, POTS is a very low power system. In terms of communication systems power bang for the buck, if I were the emergency manager in a long term power crisis, I would prioritize resources for it.

Generator fuel is going to be a bottleneck. Without electricity, you can't pump gas, and any supplies you might have on hand will run out in a few days. This will be a major problem if it happens in winter (I'm in NH), because what little fuel would be available will be diverted to generators for hospitals and the like, rather than being available for heating (most homes in New England heat with oil furnaces). And since I live within 20 miles of a nuclear power plant (Seabrook), I'd have to worry about whether they can keep their cooling system running.

We have had three incidents in three years where more than 40% of electric customers in the state have lost power. But in these cases the issue was weather related (ice, strong wind, or snow causing tree limbs to fall on power lines), and the generating capacity was largely unaffected.

I've seen a photo of a gas station after the 1938 hurricane where somebody rigged a bicycle chain for pumping gas, but I don't know whether modern fuel pumps can be rigged thus (my guess is no).

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 09 Mar 2012 #permalink

Adding to what Nicole said, POTS phone service usually isn't even all copper wire back to the phone company's district office, unlike years ago. They have installed local wiring cabinets in most neighborhoods now where the simple, low-powered, copper wires are converted to optical cable by powered electronics known as DLC's or digital loop carriers. These wiring cabinets have battery backup and can go so many hours to a few days, relaying the optical signals back to the office in the center of town where the generators and larger battery backups are, but the outlying DLC cabinets have no generator. In a long power outage, of a few days to a week, they will die.

For that matter, the newer cable TV-based, Internet phone services from companies like Comcast also have distributed repeater-router boxes in the neighborhoods that also have battery backups but no serious generator. In addition to neighborhood repeaters requiring power, Verion's FIOS system, which brings fiber optics to the home, installs a bridge-converter unit in the customer's premises (my sister has one) and it too has a battery backup that has proven good for a day or so at best. Actually, Comcast's phone modems at the premises level also have a small battery for backup, but again, it's all good for a few days at best and all of these systems are only good until the weakest battery in the chain back to the company office, dies.

True POTS, with its copper wires straight to the company phone office where the big batteries and generators are, is basically a thing of the past behind the scenes, even if the customer still has simple, former Western Electric/Bell System handset, with a real bell ringer.

It was for this reason, we dumped the simple, old phone system to save money, with little regret for emergency performance a couple of years ago.

By Stephen_ B (not verified) on 09 Mar 2012 #permalink

Eric, my guess would be no, but I think a lot of gas stations still have a rather simple hatch opening into the gas tanks below. Somebody could then drop a hose into the gas and operate one of the crank hand pumps that are so common on the back of small trucks, used at construction sites, to pump gas and diesel into small construction equipment.

Measurement of the fuel, for payment purposes, wouldn't be as accurate perhaps, but in an emergency situation, would probably still be doable.

By Stephen_B. (not verified) on 09 Mar 2012 #permalink

Hmmm- our area is very rural. Most of us heat with woodstoves- so no electric needed there. Our family & neighborhood (we live in a small intentional community that was off grid until about 7 yrs ago) has solar panels and all gas appliances. We have a hand pump well as back up for our well with electic pump. BUT- we do run a freezer to store meat and summer's berries (I could can them if I needed to though).

Long term though- with out a reliable re-supply source for propane, we would not be able to get it. We currently store ours in the biggest tank we could get from the gas company for home use. For a good part of the year in upstate NY, it is plenty cold outside to not need refrigeration for most things.

Our family's biggest problem would be that one of our children relies on electric run medical equipment to survive and monitor his condition. Our solar panels could run that equipment, but in a long term electric disaster- I'm pretty sure that our supplies of medical items needed (medicines and equipment items) would run out and not be re-supplied (since manufacturers would not be making them), and unfortunatly, our child could not live very long without them. Not that I like to think about it, but the rest of our family could adapt to loss of electric- we have chickens and rabbits, and a basement full of home canned food and friendships with many local farmers who still do things by hand and by horse- BUT our medically needy child would not make it without the ameneties of our current world.

Folks; regarding the vulnerability of phone systems- I'll repeat my recommendation (rarely heard elsewhere) that you quickly invest in a set of top quality and power GMRS "walkie-talkie" radios, with rechargeable batteries. And if you can afford it- buy a few more to distribute to neighbors, now or then.

If you have any kind of generating capacity, keeping them running is very cheap, and the way of keeping in touch incredibly important. Legally, they require a "license", which is automatic; in reality, 97.0952% of users never bother with the license, and it is never enforced.

Sharon- do you have some yet? :-)

I have a solar powered battery charger; it works quite well provided you have a sunny spot. While rechargeable batteries don't last forever, this is one item that is accessible for even the most urban dwellers in the smallest apartments.

The discussion of gas pumps reminds me of driving across the country a few years ago. I lot of gas stations in "flyover country" had very old pumps. No charge slot and no fancy buttons. The non-ethanol pump at the gas station I use sometimes is almost as antique.

My friend who is a doctor lives around the corner from me. She is required to keep a land-line. Her copper wire has not yet been replaced as one of the 7 telephone exchanges in the city is a block away. They've just never run out different lines to our neighborhood. Usually they're digging holes to run fiber way way out but connect it to the telephone exchange on our corner.

We talk to those guys when they come dig. :D They're always very nice.

Preparedness: we'd be screwed in the winter as our gas fueled heat is electronic controls. Water will be ok as soon as I install rainbarrels this spring. Food, some from the garden stockpiled. Not enough for everyone under my roof for an extended timeperiod. It would be tough.

I am almost more fascinated with the psychological changes we'll see. Patterns of behaviour changing, depression, etc. That will be fascinating to watch.

I'd like to know what happens to my aunt's toxic relationship where they ignore eachother and watch TV instead of fixing things. Will it spin apart? Will things be confronted and dealt with? Will it bring them together in a real partnership? I worry about what happens to people and children with major stressors like this and so few cultural or historical experiences to draw upon.

How do you convince people that a chamber pot is a good idea or a compost toilet the only option when the three other toilets in the house don't flush anymore? That will be a fun conversation with my renters! How do you say these are the new rules if we are to survive this? What social mechanisms come into play to enforce those new rules?

I'd like to see a game where we come up with individual scenarios on this and how we'd help keep disease down, water intake up, food intake up, communication clear etc. etc.


Please! We wanted to talk about the really, big, "important" stuff like how long the phones will continue to run, not all that other stuff like adjusting to little or no plumbing, having to entertain ones' self w/o electronics, shorter daylight, and so on.

(sarcasm now turned off :-) )

In truth, given that I work with at-risk kids in a treatment center (for now anyhow), everything you mentioned was front and center in my mind. It's just that it's a huge topic.

At my work place, we have a large, propane-fired generator for the main residence, so for the first week or so, we're okay. After that, problems arise and given that nearly all my clients and coworkers are city-apartment-raised folk, there will be much adjustment needed.

At least the large propane tank buys us a week of preparation time (both physical and mental.) I would plan too on turning the generator off from time to time, if I knew that we were looking at weeks and months of outages, to ease my residential treatment community's transition to the inevitable no-power situation.

Many of my coworkers would not be able to get to work, once gasoline shortages became common place. I'll be doing 100+ hour weeks.

Then too, given that disinterest and budget cuts have largely gutted the large agricultural program that I had tried to get started there (I'm running a garden and orchard on strictly my own volunteer time now, as there is no willingness or money to have the agency do it, even though we have marketing materials out there, touting our large garden and advertising that we grow much of our own food - a blatant fiction), and given that the breakdown in our behavior management program there has resulted in a quintupling of police and ambulance calls to our facility, absolutely killing our previously good relationship with neighbors and the town, an extended power outage would be an even bigger problem than it would have been, say 3 years ago as said breakdown has noticeably cut into the goodwill extended to our facility by the local community (to say nothing of donations, which have also been significantly impacted as I understand it.)

We do have a decent pond onsite for water, that, we a decent filtering system, such as a Berkey, would be potable (though I'd have to lend the program mine, since they haven't seen fit to invest in one.)

If the town water system were to go down - a possibility given that it's well water, electrically pumped, with town propane-powered backup generation, I'd be digging some outhouses pretty quickly I guess.

As cynical as I sound, people will toughen up and adjust and they'll most probably be all the better for it.

By Name left off (not verified) on 09 Mar 2012 #permalink

c: good thinking! Excellent questions; mostly with good scary answers. :-)

Rather than a game- I have been suggesting (and getting no traction) for at least a year, having "neighborhood drills". For a week.

It would be difficult, but somewhere there is a neighborhood that would say "yes" to this. Every time a "challenge" comes up, the topic of "I'm on board, but my hubby won't" - or kids won't, etc., leaps to the fore. Ah, but what if they just had no choice? Which is exactly what the reality is; every time a tornado zips by, or the floods last summer- etc.

There are few folks left who don't know it CAN happen- to them. Do we have fire drills, to prepare? Of course. How about getting your neighbors to agree to run a week long drill; and get some of these questions answered- and some of the unknowns exposed? Tell the kids "we've just been attacked by alien Sasquatches- and they destroyed our local power substation. " And have the power actually turned off to the neighborhood, for a week.

I think you could count on good press coverage. And we'd learn a lot. Hey you guys... do it!!

on the subject of living without flushing toilets. Residents of Christchurch in NZ had months without sewerage due to last years earthquake. This led to a proliferation of pit toilets "long drops" in NZ english at the bottom of peoples gardens. See these

Here in Las Vegas we are 30 miles from Lake Mead, the largest freshwater reservoir in the US, but we are uphill from it. I suppose the Water District can start pumping the heck out of our municipal wells using diesel power and instituting some serious rationing to keep water flowing. Otherwise, perhaps trucking water in from the lake will have to be done. As for me, I would rig up a solar sill on the 15,000 gallon pool in the backyard and show my neighbors how to do the same. In any case, it would be pretty dicey here in the desert southwest.

Short-term cooking ability, but not longterm, although handy husband would probably figure something out. No heat. In summer, no water, unless there was a couple months' worth stored in rainbarrels. No way to get to work once the gas runs out. No way to do work even if could get there; it's all computer, these days. Frightening thoughts. And with that subduction zone quake possibility hanging over us, highly relevant ones.

Hrm. Alien sasquatches. (I'm visualizing zucchini hail for some strange reason and the composting situation gets out of hand quickly). :D (my city allotted compost bin limit is quickly reached)

I keep coming back around to the psychological question because I was raised with an indoor composting toilet and I was raised with (insert x that does not meet mainstream america's view of the world) and the reactions I get from people when they find out it's like I'm a leper or something to be pitied. So I wonder how they'd manage to wrap their heads around it if need be. I don't currently live that way as I'm in the city now and married and etc. etc. (And I had the most wonderful childhood with great stories of adventure that my cohorts cannot begin to match. I pity them most days.)

I begin to wonder if the disaster or damage scenario is something that doesn't happen overnight and there are stockpiles how long you try to live the old way with a flush toilet etc. before you ration water before you make the necessary changes.

I have doubts I could talk my neighborhood into such a drill although I am going to start asking around if anyone else thinks about these things.

Since I read _One Second After_ by William R. Forstchen (a post-EMP novel), I have thought about the consequences of grid crash in my little town and have done a bit of investigation.

Our local municipal water is pumped from two wells to a water tower. Water then flows by gravity to the houses. There's a diesel generator for the pumps as a backup. There's no backup for the generator. I'm thinking wind power might be a worthwhile option here for this essential service.

Our sewer system has several "lift stations" that pump sewage uphill to several lagoons. The stations don't have any power backup that I know of. If the pumps stop working, I imagine the system would overflow at the lift stations if people continued to use the system. Something to investigate further. Again, it would be worthwhile to establish wind power for this service, although it probably takes quite a bit of power.

We have quite a few prisons in the immediate area. I don't know what would happen to them in case of a grid crash. If the inmates escaped, that would not be a good thing. Fire and police protection would be hampered by lack of fuel, though I feel sure the police would organize themselves on horseback over time. Forest fires would be an even greater danger than they are now.

We have a bunch of radio stations in town. Whether they have any backup plans for power is something to investigate.

Otherwise it's fairly rural here and far away from cities of any size. Wood-burning stoves are quite prevalent and we have plenty of water. Though there was a fairly diverse food farming economy here a century ago, most farms in the area grow hay now as it is more profitable. Regulation put the cheese factories out of business (something to do with class A milk versus class B.) There are still a few dairies and sheep farms. It is doubtful that we have a lot of food stored in homes or as a community. Hunting and fishing skills are quite widespread. Transportation by water would be an option.

Deer camp is an annual ritual here and extended families are prevalent, so I think most people in the area would adapt fairly quickly to rougher circumstances. People would miss Facebook and ESPN though -- LOL!

By GreatBlue (not verified) on 10 Mar 2012 #permalink

We have a diesel generator and can run it on our homebrew biodiesel. We have some of that stored, but it would get very hard to make more if we run out of inputs. Probably we could keep generator use to a minimum though - I can cook on the woodstove ( though it is way too small to heat this leaky old farmhouse). I have rain barrels and live In an area that will provide us with plenty of water almost year round. Boiling for purification is energy intensive, though. Id like to make a charcoal filter system that can filter larger quantities, like a barrel. We have dynamo radios and dynamo lanterns. We have a solar cell phone charger, and the phones will keep us connected to the Internet as long as they are charged. I'm not too worried about food - between my animals and my food storage we should be ok for quite a while, plus I know a fair amount about foraging and this is an abundant area three seasons a year. Heat worries me. Getting food for the animals would worry me if it were winter.

We've had some experience of this in Christchurch over the last year or so with the earthquakes knocking out more than 50% of the infrastructure. At least 6 power outages that I can remember, no running water or working sewage for a couple of weeks in our area - and we're the lucky ones, some people went months without these services, or still don't have them back after a year. Got drinking water stored for a week - after that, I now know where the nearest publicly accessible wells are. Not sure how they work but they don't seem to need pumps. We'd use up all the bread, milk and cereal first, and then we'd use a little gas burner and enough gas stored to cook for a week or so. There's at least a month's worth of canned food that could be eaten cold if we had to. We also have the Thermette (volcano stove) that can boil 2 liters of water in a few minutes on a twig fire. It's not so good for cooking though, just warming food up. Got a log burner for internal heating and we usually have a season's worth of wood stored, but it's not set up for cooking - clean air regulations make it difficult to install an actual woodstove. The main problems I've found during outages is that while we have numerous flashlights, solar & crank powered we could do with better light sources to light a whole room rather than just a small area. Because of the ongoing quakes, candles are too dangerous to use. And all our emergency cooking methods need to be used outside, which is not always a great option in winter or at night. If I can get some sort of small Dutch oven it probably could be used in our logburner indoors, but I've already found this campfire cookery does take some practice :)

By sealander (not verified) on 10 Mar 2012 #permalink

We put a hand pump on the well, and that can hook by hose to the pressure tank in the basement. If one person pumps, the other can run around the house flushing toilets, filling cisterns, washing dishes, etc. It's potable, too, though we also have a Berkey for backup and lots of surface water sources within 1/4 mile.

The fireplace insert heats much better with a little electricity to blow the air into the room, but a good hot fire will throw enough heat to take the edge off.

The insert can warm food on the mantle, but isn't great for cooking. We have a portable butane stove and maybe 10 hours of fuel on hand, plus a solar oven and a very rickety rocket stove and lots of brush to fuel it.

Solar Joos charger for small electronics, and a few battery and/or crank-powered lights. Candles. A bazillion matches.

Root cellar is full of potatoes, beets, 'bagas, kraut, and squash, but is only useful Sept-April. Enough canned and dehydrated food for a week or two, plus beans, grains, etc. for many more weeks if cooking can be worked out.

So our immediate household is pretty set, aside from boredom and worry. I am much more concerned about the rest of the community. We'd open the well for neighborhood use from dawn to dusk, but what about the 100,000 people in the city 10 miles from us?

The first thing that comes to mind is lights. We have water covered especially in the summer/spring/fall. Our other issue would be electric fencing. We will be working to put in full fences/woven wire? in the next year or two. We have animals trained well enough to keep them in place for the moment. And so far we only have an issue with that in the winter when the snow weighs down the high tensil electric wire.
We have heat and cooking covered. Travel hasn't been discussed.

great points...and because I live in a disaster-prone area (RTP, Raleigh, NC) we've done three 'short' no power stints in the last two decades. 8, 6 and 9 days, due to hurricanes, ice storms and 22" snowfalls. We survived by eating what we had in the fridge/freezer (I canned a bunch of previously-frozen stuff after the hurricane on our gas stove. The house was already hot as hell, why not make jam?) We lost power in those situations, but not water or gas. Land-line phones kept working. These weren't giant outages for the times specified, just outages in my little, tucked-away downtown neighborhood due to fallen trees, etc. I agree that radio will be CRITICAL in a disaster to keep folks informed. If the outages are very widespread there would be no reason to travel/leave. If the outage is localized, travel would be advised.
My worries? My child who takes a daily and absolutely needed medicine. How would we get it? We stockpile it a bit now, during hurricane season, but insurance won't let us get more than 90 days worth. Second worry-food and water in this part of the US where it can be hot and dry. With a whole town in need of water the local creek will be scooped dry...those rain barrels won't hold us for months, even with a pit toilet. We grow some of our own food, but here in Raleigh the farms that surround the city are a day's walk, minimum. Will we pool together with our neighbors and bike out there to pick up our CSA? Third worry-elderly parents far, far away who won't/can't care for themselves.