My Ten-Day Test-My-Preps Adventure – Part 1, by St. Funogas

With today’s world events, I’ve moved from “remote possibility” to “high probability” that we’ll soon see some major changes in our country and world that most folks can’t even imagine today. I’m not alone in thinking at some point there is a good possibility today’s events could lead into a major war for the U.S. We’ll be fighting some real armies, not a bunch of boys with old rifles riding ponies, as we did in Afghanistan.

How hard would it be for enemy with Special Forces-type teams to take out our national power grid without even dropping any bombs? We all know our borders are far from secure. The effects of the Russia sanctions on Europe, not Russia, should be a wake-up call to anyone who’s paying attention. EU leaders are gladly shooting themselves in the foot, or the head more correctly, regardless of the damage it’s doing to their economies and their people. By the same token, how much damage could China do by cutting off all container ships to America? Contrary to our long-held opinions, we’ve seen from the Russia-sanction effects on Europe that anything is possible, regardless of the economic consequences to those making the decisions. There are plenty of other reasons how and why China would cut us off. The common objection is based on normalcy bias, “That would hurt them as much as it would us so it’s not very likely.” Based on the Russia/EU situation, that’s obviously not so. The sanctions are causing an overwhelming amount of problems for Europe and yet they refuse to drop the sanctions.

The time to start prepping, serious prepping not just the Hurricane Katrina stuff, has never been more obvious than it is at this very moment. It’ll be much worse by this time next year. You can count on it. It’s time to test our preps to be sure we’re doing things the right way. I sure as heck wasn’t.

Testing My Preps

I’ve tested most of my preps trying to answer the obvious question, “Does this work?” Some of my preps, based on my lifetime desire to live a self-reliant lifestyle, I’ve made and then used for months on end to give it a real test: my alternate water system, Amish clothes washer, solar food dryer, and solar water heaters among others. While it seemed like a good approach to test them one at a time, I only last week came to understand that it’s insufficient by itself and a more serious approach must be taken to testing our preps.

My goal this year has been to test my preps during a grid-down simulation by throwing the main power switch on my little homestead. I finally got around to it last week after putting it off for so long. What I learned from my grid-down preps test is how unprepared I am. I learned some unexpected things, including one in particular, that showed me I was prepared in some areas I hadn’t even imagined. If not for this 10-day grid-down simulation, I may not have discovered that particular item’s true potential. I also learned how dumb I am in other areas.

I plan on doing another test this winter during freezing weather. Winter is a whole different ball game with different preps to test and with much more serious consequences if they fail. It should be much easier in many ways than the one I just completed. Most of what I learned about my prepping shortcomings will be fixed and upgraded in the coming weeks. I’m excited and look forward to the winter test.

During this test, at times there were so many ideas flowing so rapidly I couldn’t write them all down. Things I thought I didn’t need in my preps were suddenly important, like saran wrap for drying bananas. Things I hadn’t thought of were coming at me fast and furiously when tested under real conditions. It took me 17 hours just to get all my notes organized into some sort of a logical and useful order on the computer. This is only a brief summary of what I experienced. Hopefully for the reader it contains the more interesting parts.

My biggest hope in sharing this info is that some of you will be inspired to do your own several-day preps test, to see where you fall short and to perhaps discover that with some of your preps you’re more prepared than you realized.

Ground Rules

I set some ground rules at the beginning to make the experience as real as possible:

Internet Use – Internet will not be available during TEOTWAWKI of course, but I used it in this trial so I could immediately look up needed information to be used after the trial before the idea left me. The Internet was not used as a resource to help me out of a pickle, or to find how-to advice needed to solve problems that arose, or how to proceed in a given situation. My books were the only resource I used for those situations.

I did use the Internet for my regular daily communications with family and friends, and for checking the weather for curiosity sake, hoping for some very overcast days as I’ll explain later in the article.

Randomness – My grid-down test had to have a 100% random start date. I tried for a while to think of how to accomplish that randomness with no luck. Then while writing an article for SurvivalBlog, I challenged the reader to test their preps. That seemed like a good signal for me to start to my own serious test. As soon as I finished the article and hit the send button, I went out to the street and turned off the power to my homestead. My random date had arrived. I did no last-minute preparations between finishing writing the article and turning off the power.

Stay Home – The last rule was not leaving my homestead during the trial.

With these rules, I was ready to begin.

First I’ll begin with a small sampling of some of the day-by-day events, then follow up with my findings on various topics.

Day One

Grid down at 19:11 on Wednesday.

One of the very first things I thought of was to take an inventory on certain items:

Five working 12v batteries, including one deep cycle. Truck 12.6v, SUV 11.92v, Deep cycle charged 100%.
Gasoline: Pickup 70% in both tanks, SUV 65%. Gas cans: total 16.5 gallons.
Freezer temps (wireless thermometer already in place): harvest freezer in shop -8°F, 75% full. Inside refrigerator/freezer about the same. I taped both doors shut after goofing up and opening the fridge, letting the cold air out.
Clear skies, good weather
500-gallon water tank – 80%
Plumbing pressure tank – 34%
Batteries – lots of AA, AAA, C, and rechargeable AA and AAA
Propane – 2-20 lbs., 2-40’s, and a little left in the 100 lb. which has been in use for 23 months.
Did laundry this morning.

The second thing I thought of was, “There’s way too much going on, too many priorities, I need a manual with a written plan!”

While looking for something I ran across my keychain flashlight and hung it around my neck after making a cord. Surprisingly it was my most-used tool, during the test. No more lights to flip on so I kept it around my neck 24/7 unless sleeping. This was one of my accidentally brilliant preps that I hadn’t realized was a prep at the time so lamentably I can’t claim brilliance.

Right after I found my keychain flashlight, I found my backpacking stove and mess kit. “Alright! This will come in handy.” Next to it in the same box were two packages of Ramen noodles that expired around the time Monica Lewinsky was becoming a household name. I got everything going for a quick dinner and while looking for a place to put the backpacking stove while it was ignited, I noticed my regular kitchen stove. You idiot! I paid $1,400 for a special off-grid battery-powered propane stove that doesn’t plug into the wall like all the modern ones. This was my first experience, of many, that in the opening moments of the power going off I realized all my routines were suddenly gone. Once out of my routines, normal logical thinking went south in a hurry over the simplest things. I got a good laugh out of the stove incident. The Roman noodles (chuck the mysterious flavor packet and add Italian spices: oregano, garlic, basil, and salt) were slightly rancid due to their antiquity but I snarfed them down anyway.

Daily routines are very hard to break. Some lessons I learned too late, like not opening the fridge/freezer door and letting all that irreplaceable cold air fall out. While taking a shower in very low light I left the curtain open and had to get the mop. I decided in some cases I had to use physical means to prevent me from unthinkingly using certain things until I had a plan formulated. Things like flipping light switches were irrelevant (which after ten days I never did get over) but not opening the fridge was important. After opening it I slammed it shut and taped the door, then went out to my shop and did the same with the harvest freezer. I turned all the water faucets to half off as a physical reminder to conserve. I removed the soap in the bathroom and replaced it with hand sanitizer to save water.

Thinking Correctly – It was hard to think correctly sometimes that first night. Wondering how to charge my phone, I suddenly remembered I could use my vehicles if I only had a cigarette lighter charger. Darn, too bad I didn’t have one. In another brain cramp I remembered I had just bought two at Walmart four days before to recharge my new phone. I went out to plug my phone in. There I found three more chargers… Bette Midler was right: Getting old isn’t for sissies. Part of it was just the stress of too much to think about all at once.

“Where the keck is…” – A place for everything, everything in its place. The first few days were stressful enough without wasting time looking for stuff.

19:17 – a very inconvenient time for the grid to go down, morning would have been so much easier. Late at night gave me so little time to batten down the hatches and get ready for everything that was to come. Day One plans must include all possible scenarios, including a late-night start.

Trivial things to do: Put the cat on upper deck with some feline MREs and close the door. He was freaking out about me abnormally scurrying about and all the darkness. He wouldn’t quit meowing. He likes his routines too.

(To be continued tomorrow, in Part 2.)