Lights Out Weekend – Are You Really Ready?
This guest article was originally published back during 2017. But the challenge still holds true. Practice a period of “Lights Out” (grid down) to discover the holes in your preps.
Guest article, by ‘NRP’…
“Practice” makes you better at what you do. Enables you to learn and know “how to do it”, and what to expect while you do it.
It’s common sense that practice makes perfect. Knowing what to do and what to expect when a skill-set is called upon (especially when least expected). It’s important, and probably critical for success.
I have done many “Lights Out Weekends” during the past few years. Now this may sound silly to some whom might ask, “Why would you spend a few days in the back yard or in the woods when you have a very comfortable house sitting right there?”
Well there’s an easy answer to that:
“When is SHTF going to happen?” Maybe when you’re home? Or away at work? Or in town, Or how about when visiting Aunt Martha 40 miles away?
One never knows; so is it not better to “practice” for “Lights Out?” (grid down)
A great book (novel) of a lights-out experience:
LIGHTS OUT by David Crawford
Would it be good to know if you are ready to spend a few days, OR LONGER, living out of your Get-Home-Bag (GHB) or your Bug-Out-Bag (BOB)? Or at home without the grid?
We all have seen many MANY lists telling us we need “this or that” in the BOB-GHB, right?
Well everyone has “lists”. I’m sure I’m on a few lists myself ;) , BUT without using the skills, the “bags”, the “kits”, the “stuff”, the “practice”, how will you know how well you will fare when “something” happens?
The only way is to actually spend a few days without the grid. Meaning on a Friday night, or whenever, when you drive into that nice warm garage, just grab the GHB and park yourself in the back yard. Or better yet, park the truck a few miles away and walk home, then march to the Bug-Out-Location (BOL), aka back yard and let the fun begin.
I believe 90% of us will be very surprised how difficult this “practice” will be:
– Build that shelter you plan on with a Tarp and some Paracord
– Get that fire started (not in the propane BBQ sitting there on the porch)
– Get a bucket of river water and filter it to drink
– Try cooking over that fire you built, or use that little rocket stove you have.
– Now the hard part. Build that nice comfortable bed from some sticks and leaves. FYI, the ground gets really REALLY hard at 2:00AM.
– OK OK, you made it so far, time for some sleep, yeah right, every little noise will wake you, did you remember a sleeping bag in your BOB-GHB?
– Forget about the coffee in the morning, because you need to get up, pack everything, and take a 5 mile+ hike; now do it all again, TWO more times/days.
– Ohhh YEAH, got enough of that TP?
– How about the second day you practice cleaning an (imaginary) deep cut or splinting up a broken arm?
I bet you will find very fast how much “stuff” you have that you really DON’T need, and what you may need and don’t have. Remember how heavy all that stuff/water is when you need to walk 30 miles home.
Personally I try to do a Lights Out Weekend every 5-6 weeks. Yes even in the mud and snow. I’m NO expert by any measure, but I have refined my thinking and the “bags” to reflect what it will take for me to get home or hold up somewhere for a few days-weeks.
Are you up to the challenge of a “Lights Out Weekend”?
Ken adds: I would suggest (if you’re up to it) to simply go to your circuit-breaker panel and shut off the power to your home. Then begin dealing with the consequences of life in your home without electricity. Even if just for hours, overnight, a day, two days?
What are you going to do about the refrigerator and freezer(s) that are now sitting there slowly warming up? Do you have a well pump that now is not pumping water? Is it winter and your house is now getting cold? Etc…
It will really open your eyes and help you figure out what you really need to do!
I have learned lamp oil goes quick in the winter months when it gets dark early.
Our ancestors went to bed with the sun, unless they were very wealthy. Candles and lamps were for emergencies.
Good advice NRP. Lights out weekends are becoming more common here in Ca. Taking it to the next level camping in the back yard with only your Get Home Bag is a grate idea.
I’ve already had plenty of experience, with the Hurricane threats – no need to overdue it !
Part of the “adventure” that comes with livin’ in the boonies is that nature hits yo fairly regularly with extended electrical outages. With extended electrical outages comes water shortages within a couple of days.
Luckily, my first extended outage after moving to the mountain, I had a well used 4KW generator that I used to power my tools while we built our home. I also had a menagerie of extension cords we had used when building. I learned a lot during that 10 day outage (the result of an ice storm that knocked out power to 95% of the state). Within a month after recovery, I had a brand new 13.5KW generator and a transfer box to get rid of those extension cords (using them that is, still have them).
I maintain 80 gallons of gasoline on hand, treated, used, and replaced year round (run our equipment and vehicles out of stock, replace every time I go to town. Have parts to convert to propane and have a 150 gal designated propane tank (separate from 500 gal tank for home.
Installed a 305 gal potable water tank behind home with guttering to capture rain water off the roof. Have two semi-developed year round springs.
Kitchen range is propane, but also have capability to cook with wood. Plenty of candles, oil lamps, and kerosene/lamp oil in stock.
My advice for anyone using propane for heating and cooking, buy a 1000gal tank as soon as possible, they will pay for themselves very quickly. I live here in Wyoming and the winters are long, but a 1000gal tank will usually take you from summer rate to summer rate on fill ups, which will save you anywhere from 40 to 60 cents a gallon over winter rates. Trekker Out
For those of you who don’t feel the need to practice this excercise, how about just killing your electricity like Ken says, or just your well, maybe try going without sewer or septic for a weekend. For those who have a septic tank and think you are all set you may be in for a surprise down the road. A blockage can cause a back-up. Flooding will also cause a back-up if the sewage has no place to go. We had to deal with this exact situation a while back and it was definately an eye opener.
Lights out weekend?
In my rural area, we get a few hours here and there, on a regular basis. The grid is fragile. Longest without power 13 days (ice storm). Several short duration trials every month.
It’s an eye opener for sure. My small wind/solar set-ups are a result. If ya haven’t done this powerless weekend, do it. Generators are really helpful. Make it handy for yourself. Extension cords running everywhere works, but it’s not the best solution. Think it through and you’ll find what works for you.
You can do the math to figure out what ya need (watts), or you can actually do it. Depending on the size of your generator, you can rotate the power consumption of your appliances. Fridge for an hour, then the freezer. Run the pump for long enough to get a shower, etc.
During our 13 day trial, the sump pump became a big thing. All that ice was melting. By morning, it needed to run for a while. Prior to that experience, I hadn’t really considered the sump pump. I doubt if doing the math would have brought it to mind.
Now-a-days, no more extension cords running everywhere. I still have them though. Kinda like TP, is 600 rolls enough?
Same here in my neck of the woods. We average a couple of power outages a month which usually only last 3-4 hours but during the winter over after a line of thunderstorms it can go for a few days. When the power goes out you have no idea when it is going to come back on so be ready for an hour, a month or never.
Years ago when I went to the power company to have my service connected the lady saw where I lived and said “you’re at the end of the county and it may take some time to get to you after an ice storm so you need to keep a few weeks of food, water and blankets”. Great advice.
“You can do the math to figure out what ya need (watts)”
Watts are important but also the type of load is important. Lights. toaster oven, small element type heaters, etc. are “resistive loads” and only require the calculated wattage to operate (volts x amps= watts). But electric motors or appliances with electric motors in them (well pumps, refrigerators, freezers) are inductive loads and they require more than calculated running watts to start. A good rule of thumb is “volts x amps x 3 (min.) = nessessary wattage to start an inductive load. This is where the surge/running watts rating comes in on most generators. The surge watt rating is not a guarantee that it will start a load that requires that amount of wattage but should be close. It would be better to go over what you think you need. We see this fairly often at our electric motor repair shop and most people aren’t that familiar with the types of loads they want to use a generator for. Hope this helps some of the msb folks before they make purchase that wont meet their needs.
SH in NC:
Good points especially on the inductive loads. I learned that early in my solar panel/batteries/inverter phase of my preparedness learning curve. I have several smaller gas generators and it took a little time to figure out that ‘Watts Calculated” does not always apply to inductive loads and the “fudge factor of 3x” is a good calculation addition for these types of loads. Good points SH in NC.
The wife is on O2 so we simulate a power outage.In a real case event
the generators will handle the freezer and the well.One generator is
reserved for the O2 concentrator.
We cook with propane or wood if necessary.The dynamo lanterns and
radios keep the lights on and the news and weather reports going.
Our power outages are usually from severe wind storms with many trees down.Three storms in the last year is really unusual.
Reading,board games,and knitting help pass the time.I sometimes go
over the inventory of supplies just to make sure we haven’t forgotten
One of old time Princess Phones comes in handy.We don’t seem to miss
the television or internet.
When the power is out I find that I spend a lot of time thinking and contemplating the current situation our country.
Not sure how much power the O2 generator takes but a good backup to the backup could be an inverter hooked to a car battery,,, this is what my friend does for his wife in emergencies,
Kulafarmer: Good idea.There is no such thing as too many backups.
Have ya considered ham radio? Never to old to learn. It’s easier than ya think.
Plainsmedic: Yep.I just acquired all of the equipment and antenna.
Members of local Ham club are going to help me get set up and licensed. We will see if they can teach an old dog new tricks.
We added a switch to our main so that we just plug the gene in directly……no need for the million electric cords. Keep oil lamps in every room, and burn for a few minutes each quarter just to keep the wick clean. Am reminded to practice now and then when I do the housework and look at dust accumulation (LOL)
We are preparing for SNOW for Tuesday night and a drop to 24 degrees over night. Harvesting all tomatoes, peppers and tender spices today and tomorrow. Made a full batch of tomato paste yesterday with the dinky harvest. Getting ready to close the chicken and turkey pens at night again now that we will have snow early.
DH has been cleaning/running the generators recently and found some bad gas in one. He bought all new filters, changed out the fuel and up and running again. Nice hum! (we have 3 7500’s) only because one is none for the house and one is always designated to the shop/outbuildings.
When we lived on the mountain we had plenty of practice. Since moving closer to civilization we practice once each quarter….mostly to see what the new place needs and also to keep from rusting in our old age! I liken basic survival to our weapons management….PERISHABLE SKILLS! Keep it up an running!
Peace MSB family. Stay strong.
– I have lived under what some would call “3rd world conditions” an appreciable part of my life. Personally, those are almost ‘normal’ conditions for me. DW, OTO, would have some difficulty. The boys, well, it would be fun for a couple of days, then I know that reality would set in and so would the whining.
Artificial light is not normally a given; the source, whether a candle or batteries, will have to be conserved (read: SAVED) against future need. Light from a pair of ‘D’ batteries in an old incandescent flashlight might last two weeks. Turn a Cub Scout loose with one in the woods, it might last two nights (or less). Thank goodness for LEDs where they will last about 5 times longer. Unfortunately, that Cub Scout won’t conserve, he’ll just use it more. Think of the cave scene in ‘Cast Away’ with Tom Hanks.
DW is still better than the average. Just less experienced than myself. Really, no matter how practiced you yourself might be, your family needs to have some practice time, too.
– Papa S.
Been there-done that, it’s called Hurricane Season.
I need to set-up 12volt LED lighting strips/ropes with 2 marine batteries. That will last days on one charge and give off plenty of light.
I got a bunch of them from Amazon, real easy to work with, handy,
Did you use the strips for vehicles or the other one? Could you explain in greater detail on the set up process.
Remember I am a beginner at electrical, and this sound like something worth setting up for lightening around the place.
You want to auto 12 volt lights. Then you don’t need a power inverter to convert 12 volt to 120 volt. To recharge the batteries you use either solar or a 120 volt trickle charger.
Kulafarmer can explain more. I would love to wire the house for 12 volt, but I’m moving soon.
You want to “use” auto 12 volt lights
The 12v coils dont need the power supplies if you are connecting to a 12v power supply like an ATV or car battery. Can use a regular light switch etc. or small 12v toggles, regular single pole switches are cheaper though, dropped an amazon link in another post
LEDs have very low current draw so your battery will last a long time. Just make sure you get 12v strips.
You can rig up all sorts of configurations, 12v is pretty safe to fool with too so no concerns with zapping yourself!
– Kulafarmer, Antique Collector,
Just remember, you can use a pair of jumper cables and your car (Jeep, tractor, truck, motorcycle) to recharge those batteries as well. The vehicle’s voltage regulator will manage the power to get the batteries back up to snuff.
– Papa S.
Foot and hand warmers, priceless!!!
While its hot and extremely humid it would not be very comfortable by any means. We do have a camper and now have purchased a generator. We have done that before due to storms. Like cid we use the solar lights as well. We also have oil lamps and I purchased extra rolls of wicks. As suggested I will look into better batteries. Once our water runs out though our closest natural fresh water source is about 3 miles to a river. The rest is all salt water. Just depends on the situation as to what has priority. I feel like we have a little of everything but to lose power long term would be miserable especially in the summer months.
Just a suggestion but I would focus on the solar lights. I have oil lamps,candles,propane lamps and stoves also but all these things are fire hazards where the solar lights are not. The only down side to them is if you have extended periods of time when the weather is to bad to charge them
I just read an article on drudge about DHS concerns of an EMP attack before the election. Practice i guess. Wow
We have off grid property an hour north of our home, so just weekends are a lights out weekend. ;) We have our own system for water, heat and power. We also spend at least a week every summer on remote paddling trips, so quite primitive conditions. I think we’ll be all right for a while if we’re ever forced to go lights out.
The funny thing is if it happens on a weekend while we’re at our property, we wouldn’t even notice until society went dark until we passed through the first large town on our way back home!
For those who have not experienced power outages might assume from the title that their only loss will be no electric lights and go out and buy flashlights and problem solved. But then the TV, the internet, the AC, the furnace, the garage door, the microwave, the water heater… oh-oh!
You soon learn what is nice to have and what is essential when the power is out for an extended time.
Yep! Good info guys. The learning never stops, til ya die.
well we have been doing a real world test for the last 11 days since Hurricane hit Louisiana and i just found out that we have internet and running off generator
Old Homesteader when did this happen? Recently? Antifa or a drunk with a chain saw? Details please?
Saturday and Sunday this was the case in CA: California’s Independent System Operator declares stage 2 emergency, widespread blackouts expected as power grid may fail. Stood down from this status last night.