Get Ready for a Summer Blackout

On a hot summer afternoon on August 14, 2003, two power lines in Walton Hills, Ohio sagged down into a nearby tree.

Power lines sag when they are overloaded. The extra electricity coursing through the lines heats them up. This causes them to expand and sag. And on this summer day, everyone in town was running their air conditioners... drawing a ton of power through those overloaded lines.

When two sagging lines touched nearby trees, the contact tripped the local power station's safety override mechanism. The system shut off power to the lines. The shutdown forced other lines to carry a higher load... which in turn caused them to sag into other nearby trees. The process repeated again and again.

By 3:17 p.m., the local Ohio power station was producing more electricity than it could distribute through available lines. Emergency systems took the plant offline to prevent generator overload. Other plants increased output to compensate. But similar faults in antiquated power lines and emergency shutoff systems forced these plants to shut down as well. A cascade reaction began.

By 4:13 p.m., 256 power plants across eight Northeast states and one Canadian province had gone offline. Fifty-five million people were left without power... for days. As day wore into night, chaos began to unfold. Burglar alarms were inoperable, so break-ins and lootings spiked. Waves of panicked emergency calls overwhelmed police, fire departments, and emergency medical responders.

In New York City, emergency services responded to more than 80,000 calls for help, more than twice the usual amount. In Michigan, one man ran a gas generator inside his home and died from carbon-monoxide inhalation. Another died after falling asleep with candles lit... The fire spread to nearby curtains and engulfed his home in flames.

Four million citizens were under a boil-water advisory for days. Stress-induced heart attacks killed medicine-deprived elderly citizens. Reckless motorists killed children riding bikes through unlit streets.

In city after darkened city, those without cash on hand had no way to purchase vital goods... nor could they withdraw funds from banks or ATMs. Commerce ground to a near standstill as the entire populace waited and wondered... "What do we do now?"

The Northeast blackout of 2003 was the second largest in world history at the time. It contributed to at least 11 fatalities. For most involved, it was a dangerous and uncomfortable time. In the worst cases, the outage proved lethal.

Unexpected, disruptive events are a fact of life. It is never a question of "if"... It is only a matter of "when."

And this summer isn't looking good for folks in the U.S. Experts are predicting that most of the country could experience power blackouts throughout the season thanks to an aging power grid and an increased demand on it during heatwaves.

There's no good reason to be at the mercy of these unexpected, but inevitable, events. You can take some simple steps right now to protect you and your family against enduring crises like the 2003 power outage.

An Overlooked Emergency Staple

Two of the most obvious things you'll need during a power outage are water and food. We've written before about the best kinds of water and food to buy and how to safely store them.

But today, I want to focus on something lots of people – especially our younger readers – might not consider... communications.

In the information age, a power outage also causes an information outage... and with it, a screeching halt to our way of life.

Communications companies often have backup generators. Cell networks and conventional landlines may or may not stay available during an extended power outage... And regardless, cell networks are useless if your cellphone is dead. Fewer than 30% of Americans have a landline, so a cellphone is essential for most of us.

That's why you should keep a power bank for your cellphone. These cost around $30, depending on how long it can keep your phone charged and how many devices it can charge at once. The key here is to remember to keep the power bank charged up (which can take up to 12 hours). Solar-powered cellphone chargers may also be an option. They start at around $25. But solar power has its limits, and these chargers often take several days of direct sunlight to fully power up. So this shouldn't be your go-to choice.

To conserve power, use cellphones for calling and texting only. Disable the "vibrate" feature if engaged, and don't watch videos. Both accelerate battery depletion.

And keep a hard-copy list of important phone numbers in case your phone does die. This includes family, friends, neighbors, workplaces, and schools. If you have school-age children, plan on who will pick them up in advance. Schools will not release custody of children to just anyone, even if they are relatives or family friends. Learn what these policies are ahead of time so you're prepared.

And finally, use a battery-powered or hand-crank radio to stay informed during the emergency. Emergency broadcasts from civil defense agencies will go out over AM radio stations. Shortwave, civilian band ("CB"), and police/fire "scanner" radios are some other alternative communication devices. Uniden makes a wide variety of "alternative" radios. The company also has a good reputation for quality. A solid unit will cost you around $150. Some of these also have solar-charging capabilities and can be used to charge small electronics.

In The Doctor's Protocol Field Manual, I cover everything you need to survive any crisis, from what to do on a crashing jetliner... to how to ship your assets offshore. Use it as your go-to guide in almost any type of critical situation.

Click here to get a copy of The Doctor's Protocol Field Manual.

What are your disaster prevention tips? Share them with us at [email protected].

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Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,

Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
June 29, 2023