The Lynchpin: The Power Grid

The level of severity for any survival scenario will be tremendously greater if the power grid goes down (“grid down“) for a period of more than a week. Consider the following:

If “grid down” most towns and cities will be without municipal (utility) drinking water.
If “grid down” for more than a month there will likely be huge outflows of refugees from cities.
If “grid down” there will possibly be mass prison escapes.
If “grid down”, virtually all communications will go down. Telephone company central offices (COs) do have battery back-up. These are huge banks of 2-volt deep cycle floating batteries. But those batteries will only last about a week. Backup generators were not installed at most COs, because no situation that would take the power grid down for more than 72 hours was ever anticipated. (Bad planning, Ma Bell!) Thus, if and when the grid goes down then hard-wire phones, cell phones, and the Internet will all go down. When both the power grid and phone systems goes down, law and order will likely disintegrate. There will be no burglar alarms, no security lighting or cameras, and no reliable way to contact police or fire departments, and so forth.
If “grid down” for an extended period anyone with a chronic health problem may die. There will be no power for kidney dialysis machines or breathing machines for respiratory patients, no re-supply of oxygen bottles for people with chronic lung conditions, no re-supply of insulin for diabetics, et cetera.
If “grid down”, most heaters with fans won’t work, even if you can bypass the thermostat. And pellet stoves won’t work at all!
If “grid down”, piped natural gas service will be disrupted in all but a few small areas near wellheads.
If “grid down”, then “seasonal affected disorder” will seem mild compared to the depressing effects of spending 13+ hours a day in the dark during winter months—especially at latitudes north of the 45th Parallel.
If “grid down”, there will be no 911 to call—no back-up—no “cavalry coming over the hill” in the nick of time. You, your family, and your contiguous neighbors will have to independently handle any lawlessness that comes your way.
If “grid down,” sanitation will be problematic in any large town or city. Virtually everyone will be forced to draw water from open sources, and meanwhile their neighbors will be inadvertently fouling those same sources. I heard one survivalist lecturer state that a grid down situation would “almost immediately reduce sanitation in the U.S. to Third World standards.” I think that he underestimated the impact of an extended power grid failure. At least in the Third World they are accustomed to living with poor water and sanitation. Here in the U.S., we don’t even have Third World facilities or folkways. With the grid down and city water disrupted, toilets won’t flush and most urbanites and suburbanites will not dig outhouse or garbage pits! Furthermore, the long-standing Third World village norm of “Draw your drinking water upstream and wash your clothes downstream” will be ignored. A “grid down” condition could be a public health nightmare within a week in metropolitan regions.