Self-Defense also Means Surviving Unforseen Events
By Eric Thompson

We all feel secure in our cities and information-driven technology, but in reality, most of us are only a few steps away from being thrown into chaos, especially if our power grids start shutting down more frequently. For readers who live outside the United States and aren't aware of what transpired last August 14th; a sudden surge of electricity touched off a series of power failures that left parts of Canada and eight [U.S.] states in the Northeast and Midwest without electricity. The whole event took less than 10 seconds and affected 50 million people; it was the biggest power outage in U.S. history.

In New York City alone, hundreds of airline flights were cancelled, 71 major fires were reported, 800 people were stuck in elevators and over 350,000 people were trapped in the subways. Most cell phones didn't work for several hours because transmission towers had no power. During the first hour of the blackout, large containers of water were already sold out, as was bread, canned and snack foods. The few stores that remained open accepted only small bills, and if you didn't have a flashlight, it was very tough going.

Most people weren't aware that a small team of engineers in Delaware actually stopped the grid's domino effect from spreading throughout the rest of the nation. This dependency on interconnecting grids is becoming a major problem since many areas of the country [and world] are being increasingly connected to larger grids that control entire power systems. These grids not only provide power but suddenly shut it down if an overload is detected. Unfortunately in the U.S., the environmentalist's and Democrats' fanatical opposition to practically any form of energy development will guarantee more serious power outages in years to come.

Linking and overtaxing power-grids are placing us in an increasingly precarious position. Like a script from a Sci-Fi movie, as our interdependence on interconnected technologies expands, and enormous grids take control of our power-communications infrastructures, a metaphorical hiccup may endanger our very civilization. A tripped switch in Mexico may be capable of downing the entire Americas from Canada to Chile. A minor flux could potentially mushroom into a major economic catastrophe.

And don't think terrorists haven't been paying attention. You can bet that a major power outage sometime in the future will have the fingerprints of the Royal Saudi Family. A nuclear EMP (electromagnetic pulse) bomb added to the confusion of a multi-state power outage can have a devastating effect, and cause more significant long-term damage than a conventional nuclear weapon; and these bombs can be quite compact.

The 2003 power outage lasted only 29 hours, but what if it had continued for several days or weeks? With no water pressure, toilets wouldn't flush, bringing disease. There would be no airline flights, people would start breaking into stores and homes to get food and water. With gas pumps down, people would hijack cars to get out of the city. With ATM's down, only those with cash or gold/silver would be able to purchase necessities, and only those who were armed would be able to survive the first stages of society's breakdown.

Fortunately, the Northeast blackout ended without any major incidents, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't use this wake-up call to rethink our survival strategies. I remember right after 9/11 many New Yorker's were mindful of security and survival issues. Unfortunately, as time passed we forgot how fettered we are to the technology that we take for granted daily.

Preparing for Disaster
You can never be fully prepared for every disaster, whether it's a force of nature, terrorist attack, fire, or power blackout; but there are some things you can do to tilt the odds in your favor. Although this is only a short and non-comprehensive list, it covers the basics. We are not specifically including terrorist activities and chemical agents since this requires a more extensive article.

Your Disaster Plan
Step I
The first thing you need to do is assess your situation and determine what actions to you need to take to get yourself out of danger.

Step II
Contact family and/or friends and determine their situation and where and how you'll meet.

Step III
If able, immediately buy all essential items you need, even if you're stocked up, buy more; water, food, batteries, medicine, toiletries, etc.

Step IV
If you can, go home and wait for family and/or friends. If your home is safe, immediately fill your sink, bathtub, or any type of receptacles with water. You'll need this to wash, do the laundry and flush toilets.

If your home is not safe, see if you can stop by long enough to pick up your large emergency grab bag and go to a predetermined location.

What Do You Need?
Generally the experts say you need at least three days of supplies; that includes water, cash, food and provisions for shelter. You should have a small grab kit at your office [or in your car] and a larger emergency kit at home. Depending on the disaster, and where you live and need to go to, these kits should contain the following items (but not necessarily all of them).

As we all know, when the power goes out so do the ATM's. Have at least a minimum $500 in cash in small bills. As I witnessed last week, it's tough changing a hundred dollar bill. Always carry enough cash with you and stash some at home. For more serious long-term situations you will need several thousand dollars in cash as well as small bars of gold and/or silver.

Keep copies of all important documents at several locations. This includes licenses, INS papers, tax documents, insurance papers, ownership papers, passports, birth certificates etc. Don't forget your family photos, prints and a CD version. Bring your checkbook; checks are sometimes welcomed when credit cards aren't.

Water & Food
Stock as much bottled water as feasible in your home and office, believe me, it runs out fast. Stock drinks that contain electrolytes (e.g., sports drinks, Gatorade), stock dried packaged foods, especially meat and protein. Canned foods, soups, freeze-dried meats, peanut butter, biscuits and crackers. Tea bags, instant coffee and dehydrated [camping] food. Stock canned foods, soups, peanut butter, tuna, spam etc. Bring Ziploc bags to store and carry foods, have several water containers, thermoses or canteens. Cooking utensils and a stainless steel mess kit. Don't forget the water filters.

Contact Information
Family Contact Plan
The first thing we think of during a disaster is our family and friends. If the phones stop working, have a plan of contact. Make a list of phone numbers and primary & secondary contact [address] points where you can meet wherever you or your family are (from several locations, work, shopping, home, travel etc.). Type this information on your computer, print it out and make copies, then laminate them wallet size, hand them to all parties. Rehearse a meeting scenario at least once a year.

Keep a list of phone numbers and addresses of at least a dozen hotels/motels near your home, work or shopping areas. During a crisis many people overlook this only to find that all hotel rooms are fully booked. It's best to go to a nearby hotel and make the reservation in person, bring all forms of ID and your cash and checkbook.

Family & Friends Outside Your Area
Have a plan to evacuate your area if necessary, do this in advance. Contact family and friends in others states and map out detailed plans on how to get to their locations with alternate means of transportation. Keep a list of their addresses and phone numbers.

Medical Assistance
Have a list of doctors, hospitals and pharmacy numbers/locations in areas you frequent, as well as areas you may travel to.

Land Lines
In last weeks incident the landlines were still working as evidenced by the long lines at phone booths, keep several dollars in small change available.

Cell Phones
Many cell phones weren't working for several hours, there were a few exceptions; Verizon and Nextel, these phones are based on alternate technologies, but you never know what the conditions will be like next time. A set of high-powered Walkie-Talkies with waterproof packs is a good backup. (for information contact

You need to know what's happening while the world is crumbling around you. Have a small walkman type device with a radio tuner at work and at home. A police radio scanner will give you excellent information. Don't forget to purchase a non-powered crank-operated radio. (for information contact

A Self-Maintenance Kit
Every member in the family should have their own. This should include soap, toothpaste, a toothbrush, shaving gear, deodorant, scissors and necessary toiletries.

A First-Aid Kit
Should include all family medications as well as pain-relievers such as Aspirin, Tylenol, anti-inflammatory medicine, etc. typical first-aid components such as bandages, iodine, sterile pads, alcohol swabs, and QuickClot (for information contact

Small tactical flashlights are essential and can be carried in a pocket or briefcase. In addition purchase several inexpensive flashlights for different areas of the home. These can be set on tables and used as general illumination if you have enough batteries. Also worth consideration is a battery-less (crank or hand-pump) flashlight. Don't forget to keep a stock of flashlight bulbs on hand. (for information contact

Candles have been the old standby since the beginning. Carry several non-perfumed candles in both packs. Don't forget the matches, both wind-proof and conventional lighters (with an extra can of lighter fluid).

Emergency extras
A fire hood, flares, duct tape, a space blanket, 2 signal mirrors, small pry-bar (Extrema Ratio's Fulcrum model doubles as a knife and pry-bar). A digital camera will help you keep records; and a waterproof dive watch will be reliable in all types of weather. Multi-tools and a large Swiss Army knife can be the difference between life and death. Have fishhooks, tackle, and bait. Guns and traps for hunting if you are in the countryside. You'll need an axe for chopping and knives for skinning, cutting and food preparation. Last but not least safely store a reasonable supply of gasoline in a locked area.

All types, all sizes, from DD to specialty batteries for compact flashlights, keep enough to power transistor radios for at least a week. Don't forget solar operated battery rechargers. Get a solar recharger for your laptop.

Take appropriate clothing depending in what location and season you're in. Consider the high and low temperatures in your area, remember, even in a desert, the temperature can range from a high of 110 degress to a low of 30 degrees. Take sturdy work-type boots and a pair of sneakers. You will also need several changes of underwear. Wick-free socks are better than cotton or wool. Bring some type of detergent to wash your clothes. Bring a hat, sunglasses and 2 collapsible umbrellas.

One or two days without power and water is tolerable, but after several days, things start getting nasty fast. For major catastrophes that may last longer than a few days, you will need a shotgun, an M-15, and several handguns; all with adequate ammo. Don't forget tactical knives of different sizes.

This isn't everything, we've probably missed a few items, but it should give you a starting point to build your emergency kits.