I am a deputy sheriff in Louisiana and patrol primarily on the night shift. A few nights ago my shift was alerted that the main city in our parish was under a complete “black out”, meaning a total loss of ALL electricity. The reason for the blackout was unknown but the repercussions were great. The power stayed out for a mere hour and a half, but that was all it took to cause chaos all throughout the city. In this hour and a half multiple shootings occurred, multiple wrecks occurred on the highways and city streets, and multiple stores and businesses were broken into and looted due to security systems malfunctioning. All within that small hour and a half. It really shows how fragile the order in our cities hangs in the balance. People who would probably have been watching television or engaging in other peaceful activities, were gathering in the streets starting fights. All because the lights and tv turned off. Wow. Only a handful of people had nothing to worry about because they were prepared with a few necessities such as: flashlights, food, water, protection (I.e. Rifle, handgun, or shotgun).
I am writing this to remind you of the importance of being prepared for a “lights out” situation like this. This type of thing happens all the time and can happen in your area anytime. These are some minimum guidelines for what you need on hand in a two to three week blackout scenario. It doesn’t matter how much food and water you have if you can’t see it. It doesn’t matter how many guns and and ammo you have if you can’t see to shoot them. And it certainly doesn’t matter how many great flashlights, lamps, and lanterns you have if you don’t have food, water, and defense because looters can walk straight into your home and take anything and everything they please (including your life)!
I will be so bold as to say if the blackout had continued throughout the night it would have escalated into an all-out riot. You might say “no way! Not in America! This isn’t Europe!”. Yes, in America, small town America. People have become so dependent on electricity and have been brainwashed into a “welfare mentality” meaning everything is somehow ” owed” to them to the point that when something breaks their cycle, I.e. a “blackout” they will do anything necessary to “get (by force)” what they want. More commonly known as “looting”. You will start to see this type of thing happening more and more in the near future because history always repeats itself. Look what happened in New Orleans, Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. A large storm causes long term power loss and flooding. And because no one stocks more than a day or two worth of food what do they do? They take what they want; by killing, looting, and plundering. Civil neighborhoods turned into all out war zones! Very few people were prepared for what occurred. It was several days until order was semi restored and weeks until it was fully restored. This is very close to home, and it could happen to you at any moment! Don’t be a pacifist. Understand me when I tell you this is the real deal.
As a well informed survival minded individual there are a few things you should have prepared for the event of a ” Total blackout”.
I recommend having a couple different forms of light on hand for such a situation.
A) Low light.
If living in a well populated area you don’t want to bring attention to your house. So you will want to keep a lantern ( oil, kerosene, or battery powered) or candles to be able to move freely within your dwelling without being spotted easily. A low light can be spotted short at short range but with draw much less attention then a generator lighting the whole house. While a generator can be very useful, using it can mark you as a target for looters. I personally like “crank” lanterns that you simply crank to recharge. Oil and kerosene lamps burn long hours on small amounts of fuel and are highly efficient. Also keep two or three small headlights on hand, they make lots of things much easier when your hands are free.
B) High intensity light
I recommend a high powered light small enough to be easily handheld in order to use with a handgun. LED lights use very little battery while providing a very bright beam. My personal favorite is the Streamlight \Strion  (rechargeable AC or DC voltage). It lasts up to eight hours and is highly dependable. It can be fixed to a rifle, shotgun, or used free with a handgun. A very bright light is highly useful in a tactical situation. A concentrated beam will blind attackers momentarily and provide a easily followed field of vision allowing for faster target acquisition. Don’t go without this! If you can’t identify your target then you may end up shooting your neighbor. There are multiple lights similar to the Streamlight Strion on the market ranging from forty to one hundred dollars that are just as capable.
If using battery powered light keep enough batteries on hand to run them for two weeks. Rechargeable batteries will save you money in the long run, but are highly expensive. Although you can use an DC car charger to charge them in your vehicle. I would suggest having several “shake” flashlights on hand. They last a good length of time off of two minutes of shaking.
2) A one month supply of food.
While I personally advise several months supply, but you should have at least a months supply for a blackout situation. I recommend easily stored, long lasting foods such as MRE’s and canned goods for your months supply. Try to keep some of your supply in easily transportable containers in case there is a need to bug out with little or no time to pack. There is a few tricks to keeping food in your freezer good for a few days. Put several bottles of water in your freezer filled not quite to the brim. These will freeze keeping most of your food in the “safe zone” for two to three days.
3) A large supply of water.
Water can be easily stored in 5 gallon bottles lining your garage or basement. Between cooking and drinking I would have no less than twenty, five gallon bottles. I also highly recommend having some sort of water filtration system for when your supply dwindles to supply you water from natural sources .
4) Home defense.
I recommend a pump 12 gauge shotgun, two .40 caliber handguns, And an assault rifle, which will be highly useful in many situations including the event of “bugging out”. I would stress the need for regular practice with your home defense firearms. You need to be proficient with each one. Under pressure you are only as good as your training! “Practice makes perfect” rings very true when it comes to this. Take any “home defense” courses possible. A shotgun in skilled hands is one of the most effective weapons in home defense. A handgun will be very useful as a secondary weapon. And a high capacity assault rifle ( Such as an AK-47, AR-15, or Mini-14) will save your life in a firefight. You don’t want to be out-gunned!
I recommend 00 buckshot for 12 gauge, and hollow point ammunition for handguns. With a minimum of three magazines, and 500 rounds per firearm. Remember, this is merely the minimum of what you should have. I would recommend 5,000 per firearm and ten magazines for each as a for more adequate supply . Keep your ammo in a dry place in airtight containers where it is easily accessible.
C) A plan.
When looters come pounding on your door you can call 9-11, but don’t expect a quick response if any due to the high call volume. Block doors and windows with heavy furniture or appliances, but keep in mind you need a quick escape route, I.e. a window or side door. Have Bug Out Bags ready for the event of riots or fire. Have at least $250 cash in hand, seeing that credit or debit cards will get you nothing with the power off.
Lastly, keep in mind that roads may be blocked, so use a vehicle that can drive off road if needed in the event of a bug out (SUV or Truck). Map several routes out of the city. I recommend using GPS as long as the system is working. This will make detours much more effective when roads are impassible. Have a destination pre-planned that is not in the city. A friend or relative in the country is ideal if you don’t have a preplanned bug out destination.
These are some rough guidelines that may help you be more prepared for a blackout situation. Keep in mind that ice storms, tornadoes, hurricanes, and thunderstorms can potentially cause this scenario. Don’t be naive, be prepared!
Note: this is targeting people who live in urban areas, as country people tend to have most of the things on my list in stock and are used to power outages. These are minimal guidelines for mere survival, I would strongly suggest more food, water, and defense (guns and ammo) than listed. Good luck!
JWR Adds: Be sure to see the many articles in the SurvivalBlog archives that discuss tritium sights and light amplification (“starlight”) night vision equipment.