When The Lights Go Out

Power Outage

You awaken to a deafening silence; the bedside clock is blank, no hum of the air conditioner and no traffic noises. The silence, is unlike any you have ever heard before. Habit makes you reach for the coffee as you enter the kitchen and you have the filter basket full of grounds before it sinks in you have no power.

You grab the cell phone and it’s off. Pushing buttons, removing and replacing the battery has no affect. You are shut off from the world. The inside of the refrigerator is damp and has that peculiar smell that only the insides of refrigerators have, when they are warm. Condensation is dripping off of everything.

The power goes out from time to time and it will only be a few hours, you convince yourself, and yet something nags at the back of your mind. When the power has gone out in the past people still raced back and forth along the US highway that is a quarter mile from your house. Whether the traffic lights work or not traffic always moves along the highway.

You picked this house because it’s remote and yet you found that even at a quarter of a mile away you could always hear traffic. The nearest neighbor is two miles north. Now you feel the need to talk to someone, anyone, and it has only been a few hours.

It just dawns on you that you are trapped as your car is in the garage and the overhead door is electric. You have no idea how to open it, all you know is it cannot be operated by hand. Something must be done first is all you know, and what that is, is a mystery, something about springs, disconnect levers and balance and tracks. You did not pay any attention when they installed it; now you feel trapped, and it is quiet outside.

Two Hours Later

You need coffee so you fire up the gas grill and just as the pot of water you filled from water bottles is beginning to bubble, you run out of propane. The kitchen faucet, when you open it, delivers a hiss of air and the rest of them give up nothing. You pour the hot water through the filter of coffee grounds as it rests in the machine and let it slowly drip into the pot. It’s a slow process, the coffee took an hour to make and it’s horrid.

Now you begin to worry about the lack of electricity. You are not sure how long it has been out because it went out while you were sleeping. Not normally a breakfast eater, you are now hungry and you have no way to make anything.

Fear of the Unknown

Was there another 911 type of attack, who hates us today? No storms, not any flooding or high winds that you could see, so what happened? You had heard somewhere that the power grid could be shut down by remote control or some such thing, and some people even have devices that could destroy all of the electronic components by some type of electrical pulse. You were never one to give into the propaganda about doomsday or the Mayan calendar; however, now you are getting worried because it has been close to five hours and it’s getting hot inside the house.

Dusk the First Day

You pace around for hours munching on whatever you can find. You pull every drawer out but cannot find a manual can opener, and stabbing the top of a can of soup with the butcher knife almost cost you a finger. Warm and soggy celery and carrots with some sliced cheese is all you have that does not require opening a can or cooking.

You drink at least three bottles of water out of nervousness before you realize you need to slow down, what if the power and water never come back on. It has been 12 hours and you feel panic welling up.

You do not dare use the bathroom all day because what if it doesn’t flush, so like a criminal you slink around outside looking for a spot because between the water and being nervous you need to go and often.


You rifle through all the drawers and cabinets looking for candles, and you find several along with some obviously ornamental ones that you have no idea where you got them or if someone gave them to you. They’re lit and on the kitchen table and you’re not just hungry you are starving, and someone has stolen your hand operated can opener, obviously this has to be the case because who doesn’t have one of these around the house.

You find a screwdriver and manage to stab a hole in a can of soup big enough to pour the contents into a bowl. Cold soup isn’t the greatest but it helps quell the panic you keep feeling.

You smell sour from nervous sweat and you constantly rub your hands on your pant legs, you want to wash them but do not dare waste any water. You feel trapped and it’s dark outside.

Middle of the Night 

The heat is unbearable and the open windows make you more nervous so you pace back and forth and then you flop on the couch. For some reason you don’t want to get undressed and climb into bed. You have the feeling of something; something’s on the verge of happening. The candles smell and they don’t give off much light and you don’t want to fall asleep with them lit, so you are constantly blowing them out and re-lighting them until you realize you might run out of matches.

Outside on the deck isn’t much of a relief because the bugs and mosquitoes swarm around you making it impossible to stay out long enough to catch a breeze. Your stomach is protesting and you decide that first thing in the morning you will figure out how to make a fire and heat some food, surely there is some wood that could be used laying about the property.


Twenty-four hours have passed and it feels like a week. Your teeth are fuzzy and your eyes have a gritty feeling, your clothes feel damp and you smell. There’s no helping it, a bottle of water has to be used to brush your teeth and then food is next.

You change out of your clothes and after that with clean teeth, you feel well, so it’s time to start thinking instead of reacting. You venture into the garage to see if you can figure out how to get the door to open and then realize the radio in the car probably still works and you need information.

The battery is dead, there are obviously no dome lights, no radio, no power at all.

You give up on the door, because what’s the use now and you even have thoughts of crashing through with the car, but that was not happening as the car won’t even start. Instead, you grab your mountain bike and maneuver it to the front door. If nothing else, you can always ride to the neighbors’ house but first you must start a fire.

It always looked easy on television when the experts toss a match down or strike a couple of rocks together to engulf a pile of wood into flames. The pile you have isn’t very big, but once you have it going you’ll explore further into the woods for bigger pieces of wood. Some old newspaper and six matches later you have a small fire going just off the back deck.

You gather up a small stainless steel pot, fill it with soup and some soggy carrots and add the rest of the celery, and set it near the flames, it’s not gourmet but edible. Most of the food in the refrigerator has ruined and you spend over an hour digging a pit deep enough to dump the spoiled food in, which smells so bad it almost ruins your appetite.

You have five matches left, so it seems you have to keep the fire going and what happens if it rains. The next two hours after you gulp down three cans of soup are spent wondering what to do next.

Realistic or Not

This is what many will experience if they awaken one day and the power, water, gas and other services are stopped. The utilities interruption and the fact the individuals vehicle didn’t work were caused by an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP). The possibility of this happening is getting more realistic every day for those who do not believe this can happen.

There are an untold number of nuclear weapons unaccounted for in the world today, and a surface or atmospheric detonation of a nuclear device can cause an EMP, whether that was the intent of the detonation or not.

The feelings of panic and frustration that the individual felt are real and anyone in that position will feel them. People like to know what is going to happen so they can prepare for it, but in today’s world preparedness must be a state that is maintained at all times. Always be prepared, do not wait until you think something will happen, or until an alert is issued. Anything can happen to anyone, at anytime, without any warning.

Between 36 and 48 hours either things will completely unravel or you can wake up, grab a hold of yourself and start surviving. The individual in the scenario described had the typical 48 to 72 hours worth of supplies such as canned food and bottled water on hand.

Once you realize you cannot eat you become hungry and once you understand there is no more water you become thirsty, these are real feelings and you will experience them in the same situation. The old saying goes, “you never miss the water until the well runs dry” definitely does apply to emergencies.

The individual had no way of communicating with others. The concept of an EMP was foreign to them, and something they’d only seen on the Science Channel. They would never have guessed it could be the reason for such an interruption, nor would they have known how to prepare for such an event.

Identifying any and all possible threats ahead of time and knowing in advance, how to prepare for them is extremely important. In the case of an EMP attack, they would have known to shield any electronics, such as radios and flashlights, prior to it taking place. Knowledge, skills sets and the belief it can happen will save your life some day.

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