The last few hours before the grid goes down…

article first appeared in March 2016

Awhile ago I was thinking about different scenarios of emergencies, disasters, and grid-down events and how they might develop and play out. I just let my mind really go off in a number of interesting directions. Then I caught myself saying “Wow!”

As I tend to do when thinking through a problem, I go to the “worst case” aspect of the problem. Now remember, I have 20+ hurricane seasons that I have gone through while I lived in Florida, so I have some real experience in this kind of thinking. So I decided to play it out a little more in my mind.

Here was the set-up…

  • A major grid-down event was going to occur.
  • I had 3 hours advanced warning that it would occur.
  • What would I do?
  • What would my wife do?

I then talked to my wife about this, as well as my best friend who lives in the same city that I do. Then I thought it through some more. Yeah, I do a lot of thinking.

What I came up with was an “action plan.” The list of things I would do in the three hours before the grid-down event and for the 6 – 12 hours immediately after the event occurred. As I built my “to-do” list some interesting points started to surface as well as what were the most important steps that I should take. So this article is the result of all of that thinking, talking, and planning.

Some of this may not apply to you, some of it may be a little overwhelming, and some of it may sound outright stupid. So be it. I am putting this out there for you to consider and if some or all it applies…use it, modify it, apply it, and make it your own.

But here are some of the take-a-ways from this mental exercise and its planning cousin.

  1. You have to avoid Normalcy Bias at all costs! When you have the warning that the event will occur, you must take action, no delays.
  2. You must have buy-in of the plan from your spouse. If not complete buy-in, at least not active objection.
  3. When the time comes to pull the trigger on the plan you must do so immediately.
  4. You are going to need help.
  5. When going to the stores the optimum team will be three people. One person to guard the vehicle, one person doing the “shopping” and one person providing security for the shopper.
  6. You must have a cash stash already put aside. Banks and ATMs may not be available.
  7. As soon as you pull the trigger, your #1 priority is the safety of your family and group. After that is accomplished the next priority is getting whatever cash out of the bank and ATMs that you can…if it is even available.
  8. Do not stop or slow down completing the items on your “to-do” list while you still have the time and means. That means do not stop to explain what you are doing, to warn someone else, to stop and think it through again. You must stay on task and complete the list. Focus!
  9. Try to keep a low profile when you are working on your tasks. Example: when you bring home a load of food, pull into the garage and close the garage door before unloading the food. Your neighbors don’t need to see what you are doing. Poor OpSec can bring disaster upon you and your family.
  10. Don’t flash cash. If you are going to use cash (or gold or silver) to “influence” store personnel, do so off to the side where it is just you and them. Do let others watch what you are doing. Have your security “overwatch” standing far enough away to observe the area, people, and keep you safe by intervening as needed.
  11. Everyone involved must understand that safety is the priority #1 and anything that jeopardizes safety must be weighed against preventing harm being done. And when I talk about “safety” I mean the safety of your family and your group. While you don’t want to be cold or cruel, and you surely don’t want to take a life if you don’t have too…your family’s safety and your group safety is #1. You’ve committed to them, keep your promise, and keep them safe.

Remember, keep this in perspective…I am saying this is the “worst case scenario” that you would face. This is NOT what you would do for a hurricane or wildfire…just a major grid-down event where things won’t come back to normal anytime soon. Maybe a “martial law” kind of event might be a good way to think of it to put it all into perspective.

Then, once you have prepared for the “worst” you can dial it back to whatever is appropriate for the actual event that you are dealing with. This plan is flexible, adaptable, and scalable. But like any “plan”…it is worthless unless action is taken. And once you take action, be relentless, be a pitbull, and stay that way after it until your action items are all completed.

Once that is done…then you can move on to the next phase of surviving and thriving.

Let’s review the priorities:

  1. Safety¹ of our family and the group.
  2. Safety¹ of others.
  3. Everyone has to know what is going on and keep lines of communications open.
  4. Everyone involved must take action on the “to-do” list and be involved.
  5. Everyone must keep working through the “to-do” list until unable to physically continue (i.e. store runs out of toilette paper or travel is 100% restricted).
  6. OpSec is a must. No discussion outside of the family or group should take place about what your family and group are doing. This is extremely important! The safety of the family and/or group could be very easily jeopardized if what you are doing gets out to the wrong person or group.
  7. Pre-planning is vital. A cash stash (a must) and a precious metals stash (if possible) is critical to the success of this operation.
  8. Be mentally prepared. The only way to prepare mentally for something such as this is to talk it through…multiple times. Something that might help is a “dry-run.” No, not actually buying the times and doing the tasks on the list, but drive to each location, walk around the location, ask to see the manager and ask a question…just familiarize yourself with those places you will be going to should the need arise.

Let’s talk about security for a minute. I mentioned that 3-person teams are optimal. However, don’t delay action if you can’t reach that optimal team level. A person by themselves is an easy target, especially once word gets out about what is happening, and people realize and recognize what you are doing. So it is safer earlier on in an incident timeline than as the event develops. So yes, I would go to the bank by myself within the first hour of the operation without too much concern. But going to Sam’s Club by myself six hours after the event occurred could well be suicidal.

How you implement security will have to be “threat specific.” Openly carrying your AR while wearing your tactical vest with complete kit could really deter a whole lot of minor threats. But law enforcement might take exception to your tactical display and try to intervene. The outcome to that situation would be a “no-win” regardless of who is left standing.

On the other hand, carrying concealed might give you a lower profile and draw less attention while pumping your tank full of gas. But it also might make you look like easy prey. Setting a single security standard it is a tough call to make but you are going to have to make a decision on your security stance and public profile.

Just remember, there is safety is numbers. If you have someone acting as security overwatch as their only task you will be light-years ahead of 99.9% of everyone else.

But also remember this, you must protect yourself, your family and your group. But getting into a full-on firefight with someone, or some group, is not the answer…it is a mistake.

Now, it may come down to that as an only option, a last option, but be very careful. It should be only your last resort, not a top three option. When the bullets fly, who knows who gets lucky, or unlucky? I would normally rather give up a shopping cart full of food then take a life over it.

Well, that might not be entirely true…one less “thug” might not be a bad thing 😉

Choose wisely.

¹ – Means the physical safety of a person. Sufficient action to protect that safety may be required. Those involved must be mentally and physically ready to take that action if required.



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