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  1. Re: your communication needs – ham radio Aside from being able to communicate by voice, there are even ways to send text messages to real cell phones via ham radio. It’s a vast world of possibilities that ham radio stuff. And if just looking for info, there are many small, low power shortwave radio and scanner options to explore. Easy to pack, easy to power and now is the time to get up to speed on how to best use all these to meet your specific needs. Be well and God speed.

  2. For news and weather, have a radio. For grid down times, have a hand cranked emergency radio (most have 6 bands, including weather, AM, FM and some short wave).

    As you found out with your device charger, two is one and one is none. Anything critical should have a spare/backup. Things like generators should be tested periodically. Walkie-talkies (like the Baofeng) might be a consideration for communicating with neighbors, short-wave radios for longer distances.

    We live way out and our power goes out more often than I like, so we got a whole house generator. With no cell service at the farm most of the time, we rely on a landline for most emergency (read that ‘reliable’) communications. I’ve found that one bar signal allows SMS to get through, and SMS is more reliable than cell phone.

    Internet for us will never include DSL, cable or fiber. Just too far out. Our solution is satellite (HughesNet). It works well most of the time but thick clouds during a storm or accumulating ice/snow can degrade or totally block the signal. Waiting for the storm to pass can be frustrating, but it’s not a long term issue.

    1. Yes, I have a small hand crank/battery emergency radio. Actually have 2 but the crank doesn’t work on one. As for my poor Weego charger, it turned out that it was not the culprit. There was nothing wrong with it. My cell phone charger cable was the culprit, despite being only 4 months old and an expensive cable to boot! I was able to return it and get another one. But yes, 2 is 1 and 1 is none so I picked up another cell charger cable(a cheaper one) as a spare. I’m educable! 😉

  3. Thank you for listing your experiences during electricity Black-outs.
    A couple points:

    As you use LEDs, as they emit Blue Light, as you read by staring unblinking at them, your eyes are damaged!

    As during normal waking hours, as your eyes filter most types of sunlight, as Blue Light is a minor part of the light spectrum. Unfortunately, as night is best for sleeping, as Blue Light from LEDs in:
    * flat-screen television sets,
    * computers,
    * smart telephones,
    * tablets,
    * electronic reading devices such as Kindle,
    exceeds the ability of the eyes to process Blue Light, as the maculae lining the back of the eyeball absorbs Blue Light, the damage is cumulative.

    Macular degeneration is a type of blindness.
    As you can ‘see’ (pun unintended), blindness at any level impacts your survivability.

    As you ‘see’ (pun unintended), using LEDs might be best eliminated or reduced to just a few minutes a month… or a few seconds a decade.
    As Blue Light blocking screen-filters and Blue Light blocking eye-glasses help reduce eye injuries, as this is only a partial work-around for an extremely destructive systemic failure.

    How destructive are LEDs?
    If I believed in Hollywood fictions such as TheMatrix or SkyNet or ServingHumanity the cookbook, I would suspect LEDs to be the perfect tool for reducing us to the level of helpless moles or salamanders.

    Add that to the conditioning innate to televisionprogramming and movieprogramming and radioprogramming, we are bombarded by constant programming to condition us to accept the unacceptable.
    * One example could be men dressed as ugly women reading to children in libraries.
    * Another example could be ‘TheGovernmentAgents are superior in intelligence / motive to normal folks’.

    conversations with cats and other animals

    As I live on a small farm, I am around animals much of my time.
    They have much to teach me.
    Fortunately, they are patient with my slow learning…

  4. I’d just like to share something about the new fiber optic phone lines being installed across the country. Ours was done last year. My landline is now useless in a power outage. The phone line now goes through an inverter similar to an internet box, and requires electricity to operate. The electricity the phone company used to provide and now comes from me. It also uses one of the only outlets in that side of my basement, meaning I have to switch between my sump pump and the dehumidifier. Fortunately, my basement is seldom damp and the dehumidifier isn’t needed much. The phone company offered a battery backup system for the new phone box, but the price was stupid, so I am on the lookout for an alternative. I have an “antique” Michigan Bell rotary dial phone hanging on my kitchen wall that has always been there in emergencies. Now it is just a decoration.

    1. My uncle had a bad land-line phone line, and the phone company replaced it with a fiber optic line. They told him that it wouldn’t cost him anything extra for the upgrade. Since glass fibers don’t carry an electric current, they provided him with a wall wart transformer to power his converter box. He complained to the phone company that they told him his upgrade wouldn’t cost him anything extra, but he now had a 9 watt load on his electric bill that ran 24 hours a day. He now gets an automatic reduction every month on his phone bill which averages about $6.50 a month to accommodate the additional electric charges.

  5. When the power goes out (hurricane or wind storm) that’s the time to just put your cell phone in a drawer and try to focus on what you learn from the no power situation. Instead of trying to rush back to cell coverage, I recommend you try to learn from the opportunity like most of your article does.

    None of us are going to have cell service when the major problems come as the future unfolds. That means everything needs a back up and it’s why Tunnel Rabbit and JWR features radio and comms on their information portal.

    These events are ELM tree events. Effort + Learning = Mastery. Readiness must be practiced and in game time conditions.

  6. Random thoughts: Comms – 1. How much communication do you really need? As recently as 75 years ago there were a fair number of houses without telephones. How ever did those people survive under those terrible conditions? /sarcasm.2. Emergency Comms – portable ham, see Tunnel Rabbit’s posts. 3. Every househld should have a well organized and properly indexed “Operations Bible” located in an easily accessible place and KEPT UP TO DATE – where are switches, valves, etc., where are critical supplies located (food, blankets, firewood, lighting equipment), where are necessary tools kept, how is stuff turned on or off, where are what keys for which locks, what animals need to be fed and what, where and what are the water supplies, which neighbrs are to be contacted for help or emergencies, what gates should be open, which should be closed, etc. Create a map of the property with locations of key things and post it in a prominent location – if there’s, say, an earthquake, will visiting Uncle Norbert (or your 17-year-old son/daughter) know where the gas valve is and where the shutoff wrench for it is? And how to use the wrench to shut off the gas? Is there a flashlight next to where the wrench is located? How does one open the garage door when the power is off? “Run in circles, scream and shout” may be a lot of fun but it’s not necessarily the best response to an out-of-normal event.

  7. I have to agree with Squirrel about the cell phones, I will add internet to that. Far to much time was spent on the lack of cell phone service, if an emergency develops you would be far better served knowing how to deal with it rather than running around trying to get cell service, particularly if you do not have an emergency. 911 works pretty well but in times of a grid down, even if just for a few hours, consider it a nonstarter in an emergency. I do have to give the author kudos for using this as a learning experience, when our power goes off it doesn’t effect us much but it is a good time to reflect on your preps without outside diversions. Personally my cell phone is a convenience not a necessity and with the advent of computer dialed sales and constant barrage of people calling; all with a better cause than the previous beggar I do not bother answering it much. I have no time for idle chit chat, I check the call log 2-3 times a day and if someone does not leave a message that call will never be answered.

    1. Ordinarily yes, not having cell wouldn’t have been a big deal. The day of the power and cell outage though was my son’s birthday and if he didn’t hear from me he’d have been really worried. I figured he’d likely have power and cell where he lives as opposed to where I’m staying now which is very rural so he wouldn’t realize why I wasn’t in touch with him.

      Cell power went down in many areas of the state with this storm including the 911 system and this has gotten some attention. Clearly the back-up battery storage for the towers is minimal and can’t be counted on.

  8. Well written, thanks for sharing your experiances. I would sugest that you plan to hunker down during a power outage, some day it will be the big one and you are putting a BIG target on your back going out to a store or anywhere. Set yourself up to accept that electronics are fun toys but where push comes to shove they are going to be useless, I know we have been trained to think they are our very bestest friends and we can depend on them to save us ( just like the government will). If you need the information print it out now. also don’t use inkjet printers, the print will run if it gets wet. I sugest getting some collapsable water jugs, fill them when you arrive and empty before you leave a gig, that way you will have water. I think a small tent that sets up without being staked out would be useful, if you had no heat you could set it up in a bedroom and keep warm in it easier than a large high ceiling room. You have a storage unit, keep things in it and pull some to travel with you. I’m talking mostly about books (real paper ones) having the library of congress on your kindle isn’t going to do you ANY good when you can’t access it. Glad to see you are using a less than prefect situation to acess and plan your preps, keep up the great work.

    1. Totally agree with VCC. Basically real books will be both emotionally and technically a solid foundation for any long term situation with an impaired power grid. We have a set of technical books from our engineering days along with a pure reading for enjoyment. I was tempted to toss out my son’s high school paperbacks on the classics as required reading but we kept them in a plastic tub along with our backup gear. If you go to the end of some of the JWR books, you’ll see a reading list of suggested books (same thing of that doc called “List of Lists” on this website).

      We printed out our “how to start the generator” and checklist for power outages on tyvek paper (you can get it through most office big box stores) and then put a copy in our master binder and another copy with the generator cables.

      Have fun. Get organized. Make a game of it on the weekends. It’s not like any of miss out by watching TV or the news. This is much more fun.


      1. T.R., good on you for printing out those critical instructions, but keep an eye on your Tyvek paper – SOME formulations of Tyvek paper – but not all – have fibers so impervious they either don’t fully absorb ink or absorb it so poorly it’s prone to smearing; ink jet printing often doesn’t work well with Tyvek and some laser printers don’t fuse toner at high enough temperatures to fully bond to Tyvek fibers, resulting in smears, so “print and test” is the watchword. It’s a PITA to do, but I’ve found using 40 lb stock (“regular” bond paper is 20-22 lb, postcard stock is 60 lb), using a clear 10 pt non-serif font (Arial) or 12 pt Arial Narrow and laminating it seems to work best. Pro Tip: 10 pt font isn’t very large, so include a couple plastic magnifier sheets in the binder with the instructions; plastic magnifiers are available from credit card size (great for keeping one in your wallet) to full-sheet size; I’ve found approx 4X6 / 5X7 to be the most convenient size, and a 10-pack isn’t very expensive).

        (Most toners fuse – melt into the paper fibers – at 108-112F, some toner formulations fuse incompletely, especially the “budget toner refills” found on the internet. Tyvek, BTW, was invented as clean room paper for the semiconductor industry because it doesn’t shed fibers; clean rooms mandate sodium-free ink in specially-constructed ballpoint pens – no pencils because they shed graphite particles and “regular” ballpoint pen ink contains sodium and often has bonding problems with the writing surface – because sodium particles that outgas from the ink contaminate the layer bonding with the aluminum alloy used in the conductive lands on chips resulting in future microscopic faults (those conductive lands are approaching .25 microns in width and thickness is measured in angstroms – the hair on your head is ~45-50 microns in diameter), and handling written-on Tyvek paper transfers sodium and other particles to gloved hands which transfer it to, well, everything touched, which is why clean room rules specify “re-glove after touching anything other than manufacturing product.”)

        1. Nosmo, you got me on this one, totally. I just tested it again to test. My tyvek is good but my toner cartridge is cheap. In my case, I bought my paper from the old Dupont company store but my toner cartridge must be el-cheapo. Good catch, that’s what so awesome about this website – thanks for your help. The only good news is that my old versions printed seem solid.


    2. Yep, in my world, electronics are a luxury. You speak well.

      My sweetheart and I read to each other, from a paper book, most evenings and when we take a road trip. We get the words spoken and have spirited discussions about the content.

      This is a diffrent version of “two is one”.

      Carry on

  9. I can’t speak highly enough of Luci Lights. We’ve used them for some years now ever since my sister gave everyone one for a Christmas gift years ago. We (my siblings and all our kids) always carry them. Very helpful when all power and communications were shut off when my daughter and I were in a fancy hotel in Ethiopia on a flight layover. The government shut off everything and internet when there was political trouble somewhere in the country. I took them as gifts for the chiefs and special people in the village where my daughter was stationed in the Peace Corps in Africa. They were a huge hit !
    They now have them with usb ports to charge cell phones. My sister used her two with ports to keep the cell phones and the phone back-up power banks charged during the recent California power outages. Many cell towers didn’t work but a few did and by going up into the open space near her house (and then to one farther the last few days of the week long outage) they were able to get service to tell us they were okay and coping.
    We always take them camping and after years of filling and pumping Coleman lanterns (I used one and kerosene lamps when I lived off grid in Northern Canada for many years) I find Luci Lights a real blessing.

  10. Re: Communications. I agree with the comments above, but just to cover the spectrum of choices, note that satellite messenger devices are relatively affordable nowadays and completely separate from the local ground infrastructure, thus not impacted by local or regional power outages. Devices are around $330, monthly subscriptions as low as $11.95 plus .50 per text, 160 character limit per text. Voice capability is three to four times more expensive.

  11. People worry about contacting >relatives during emergencies. = That’s the reason for the concern about continued Cellphone Coverage (when the lights go out).

    SurvivalBlog has numerous articles about Shortwave Ham radios for amateurs. Often equipment is expensive to buy; +It takes time to learn how to use it competently. Check SurvivalbBog for some suggestions for relatively inexpensive equipment.
    [There was a >Specific good suggestion by SurvivalBlog about equipment to buy, because of a change in the Government Rules about Amateur Ham Radio equipment. That one train has left town. But, still >good ideas, information, and advice can be found on SurvivalBlog, about other equipment and options.]

    Local Ham Radio clubs are everywhere in the USA. The members are kindhearted people; they operate ‘safety/contact nets’ during emergencies. = Especially useful when everything else shuts down. Support the local Ham Radio Clubs. Often they’ll ask for help to build a new Repeater in your area.

    I own a crank-powered radio only capable of receiving Shortwave broadcasts. During a severe emergency, I expect to hear: “Stay inside; Don’t drink the water; Put on your best walking shoes. When the sirens are set-off, start walking towards the local FEMA camp. There’s a cot waiting for you, and possibly a hot shower.”

  12. Having been a HAM since 1961 I think I can talk from experience. Get a HAM license, join a ham radio club. Get to know your fellow hams around your region, state. Learn to use your equipment well. Practice often when SETs are announced . Know your equipment and fellow hams well. Learn about antenna systems, and how to make your own. Build backup systems, and exercise them often. Have practicle portable battery powered systems. MOST modern ham gear works on 12 volts DC. Make sure you know how to connect your equipment properly. Remember. RED IS POSITIVE. BLACK IS NEGATIVE in DC systems. A lot of gear today is reverse polarity protected by diodes. But don’t count on it. Know how to set up a station on the fly. You never know when your skills will be needed.
    Carry handheld gear with you all the time. I always have two vhf/uhf radios and charged batteries with me. you never know when an emergency will occur. know your local repeater systems, or carry a repeater handbook. also down load a local repeater directory on you cell phone. Even of your not a ham. in an emergency you may use the radios to seek help or aid in help others. Even Hams keep CB sets and FRS/GMR radios around. Learn abou aamron channel 3 project, Its a great plan. In emergencies use Channel 3 on channelized CB and FRS.

  13. Another comment. wire line phones. I have one, and use it most of the time. It is quieter, and more reliable. I am 22 miles to the main switch and about a half mile from the distribution vault. The system has battery backup. I tend to count on the wire system as a reliable system…. My cell system uses the cell system to fibre line. it goes through the fiber systems up and down the hiway but the switch is in Portland. then I found out a few years ago that my wire line is switched in my local community. BUT the switch computer is actually in Portland. I am about 250 miles away from there. Hmmm (stupid planning.) So when the big one strikes if Portland goes down. So will my wire line, and Cell system. There is absolutely no redundancy in my cell or wire phone system. If The SHTF EQ. wheather, volcano etc. our comm are toast. Sure glad I’m a Ham and have several more types of comms available.

  14. Since we live off grid on solar, much does not apply to us. When it comes to generators, we believe propane generators are the best. We have a low speed, 15 Kw, 1800 RPM, liquid cooled, generator. At our altitude, it puts out about 11 Kw. Our solar system is large and we seldom use the generator to top off the batteries. Propane does not go bad in storage, so there are no worries about changing fuel and cleaning the carburetor. We have a 575 gallon propane tank dedicated to the generator.

    Since we are off grid we got our internet via 5ghz link from 12 miles away. It was fairly reliable, but when the power goes out, there is no internet and cell sites work for a few hours. We decided to change over to Satellite Internet, Hughesnet Gen5. It is flawless and allows you to also use your cell phone through the internet. We also have Satellite TV.

    It is vitally important that you know what is going on around you in an emergency. One of the best ways to know what is happening is to have a Scanner with all emergency frequencies programmed, (Police, Fire, EMS, FEMA, USFS, BLM, etc.) An external scanner antenna will allow you to get better reception at longer distances.

    To know what is happening a hundred or more miles away, Ham Radio works best, using VHF/UHF repeaters and HF. HF will allow you to know what is going on across the country. A simple dipole wire antenna can get you the world when conditions are right. Get your Ham Radio License!

    Solar panels are the cheapest they have ever been in history. Santan solar is selling 345 watt panels for 110.00 each. I am a satisfied customer and have no financial interest. A small solar system and battery bank can run your lights and refrigerator and freezer as well as your communications. It is a good investment considering a full freezer full of food that will go bad.

    Think about a long term grid down situation due to hurricane, big winter storm, flood or fire where infrastructure my not be restored for days or weeks. Going to a refugee center is not a fun experience.

  15. Solar Lights – Our sidewalk is lined with individual landscaping lights that stick into the ground and have little solar panels on top to charge during the day. These work great for interior lighting in a power outage. Not a huge output or all night power but they work great from sunset until bedtime to see doing task inside the house without the fire hazard of candles. Quick, cheap, easy to buy if your spouse doesn’t fully buy into prepping expenditures.

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