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Security And Survival When The Power Grid Collapses

Ultimate Grid-Down Security

Image source: NPR

Recently Off The Grid News has presented a series of articles on an alternative strategy for long-term survival if the power grid goes down society ends as we know it — returning to a 19th century lifestyle. (Read those articles here and here.)

This approach eschews reliance on modern resources like generators or pumps, and leaves behind the hassles of their need for fuel, lubricants, spare parts and preventive maintenance. Instead, the simpler approach focuses on living in areas with readily available surface water and adequate wood for cooking and warmth.

This third article in the series focuses on security. When society ends as we know it, there will be a lot of desperate people out there. Unlike those living off the grid and preparing for an unknown future, millions of Americans don’t have more than a few days’ supply of food and water. Starvation and panic will result in a lot of desperate people focused on taking care of themselves at the expense of others.

The type of people threatening your homestead will evolve over time:

The First 72 Hours After Society Ends

In the immediate aftermath, unprepared people living nearby will be the threat. With no electricity, most people will soon be out of food and water, and will be looking at you. They’ll have guns and desperation, and no compunction about raiding your garden or stealing your stored food.

In the Weeks and Months Afterward

As it becomes evident that no return to civilized society is imminent, humans will revert to more basic instincts. The weak will not survive, while the strong will coalesce into roving bands led by the strongest. These marauders, armed to the teeth, with vehicles and fuel commandeered from industrial or municipal sources, will roam the countryside.

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They will understand that staying in disciplined groups provides strength in numbers. They’ll be looking for crops, livestock, stored food, ammunition and fuel — in other words, they’ll be looking for you.

The Government’s Reaction

Regardless of the event that causes society to collapse, there will likely be some form of government (at least in the immediate aftermath) that will try to respond. For example, imagine that a new bacterium emerges that is resistant to all antibiotics, or a plague sweeps across North America. The government will try to respond with curfews and marshal law. Eventually, there may be mandatory “camps” for people displaced by events.

The government has vast supplies of weapons, fuel and supplies to keep thousands of soldiers and federal agents going for years. In other words, in the days and weeks after a catastrophe, there may be a lot of armed strangers roaming around your part of the country. They may be state police, military, the National Guard, or even “peacekeepers” from other countries. With time, as the central government breaks down and strands them with dwindling supplies, they may turn their attention to self-preservation. They’ll be trained, armed and disciplined as they seek to survive.

Deterrence, Not Defeat, Is Goal

At least in my estimation, the greatest threat to the security of your homestead will be groups of armed thugs scouring the landscape. Whether they’re from the nearest big city or the remnants of the military or police is immaterial. What’s important is how to plan for defending against them.

This plan is based on deterrence rather than defeat. Rather than clashing with armed thugs in an all-out war, the idea is to make them move on to easier targets. And there will be easier targets. Corn fields, orchards, grazing sheep and penned-up pigs tended by those unprepared for a disaster will be ripe for the picking. Most rational people, even roaming groups of thieves, will choose an easy target over a difficult one.

The first step is to realize that you and your immediate family can’t do everything. You need to establish relationships with like-minded people nearby, and work together to have a plan if the grid goes down. For example, neighbors at the end of a road, or homesteaders in a small valley, can work together. The survival team can commit to stockpiling pistols and shotguns and ammunition with the same diligence that crops are tended and food is stored.

Harness The Power Of The Sun When The Electricity Goes Out…

Look at everyone’s strength and weaknesses, and agree on who will do what. If one in the group is ex-military or police, that person can be in charge of perimeter security and scouting. That person and chosen participants should practice together and choose ideal locations for spotting and engaging roaming thugs. Remember: Some or all of the team will be without electricity, so scouting and lookouts will have to replace sophisticated security systems.

Unwanted strangers approaching the survival team’s homesteads ideally can be dissuaded by shooting near them and/or damaging their equipment. Hopefully, they’ll turn around and seek out easier prey.

While most of the time the survival team will be focusing on tending to crops and animals, or repairing clothes and maintaining the homesteads, a small number will always be devoted to long-range scouting and manning local lookout points. Regardless, all members of the survival team should be comfortable with a gun, and be ready to use it.

Location, Location, Location

If you have the luxury of not yet choosing your homestead for living 19th-century style, then choosing the right location will make forming a survival team and reducing exposure to armed thugs easier.

For example, one group in a western state has several homesteads at the end of a road. This road bridges a creek twice and then ends where the homesteads are located. Behind the homesteads are mountains, so the road is the only way in. When society ends, this group is going to blow up the two bridges on the road. If this sounds extreme, realize that they live 40 miles from a major metropolitan center. If the grid goes down, and desperation in the cities forges roaming bands of marauders dependent on caravans of vehicles, no road means no easy access. Bridges can be rebuilt, but homesteads overrun by armed thugs cannot be replaced.

Another option is distance. The further away from major metropolitan centers, the more difficult it will be and the more fuel it will take to reach you. You could have a perfect off-the-grid homestead, but if it’s only 20 minutes from a major city, you could be swamped by the first wave of desperate people leaving the city and seeking food and water in the countryside. Later, after the first wave, you’ll still be in easy reach of the marauders.

Also keep in mind transportation routes. Try to stay away from major interstate highways. Living a few miles down a tree-studded dirt road (off a remote county road) is much preferable to being a couple miles off the exit of a major interstate. After society as we know it ends, major interstates should likely be passable for some time to come.


A lot of prepping is focused on food storage and other supplies such as clothing and medical supplies. This is crucial and within most persons’ reach. A second, more difficult step is finding a good location for the homestead, and forging a relationship with like-minded neighbors to work together when unwanted, desperate people come to take what is not theirs.

What do you think? How would you survive? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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  1. Meet people in your area and find out their mindset and their opinion about preparing for even a small disaster. For those interested, teach them about the benefits of canning, dehydrating and long term food storage.. The more people in your area who are preparing will reduce the number of people after what you have.

  2. I’ve been trying to prepare for some time and I’ve tried to communicate with my neighbor’s. 99.9% don’t care and do nothing to prepare for “any type” of disaster. My neighbor, a retired L.A. police officer had a plumbing issue and had to have the water shut off until a plumber could get out. This person had no emergency drinking water. No emergency water to even flush a toilet.

    • I’m with you on this one, feels like your on your own! my family and other relations think that we are crazy. Guess we just have to keep at it until we cross a like minded people.

  3. If the grid is down long enough then even “modern” ways of starting fire, finding food, shelter, clean drinking water, everything will become near impossible for most of the remaining population. after doing my own research, this is what I have come up with.

    Stones in circle clear the ground, inside the circle, fires round,
    Coal from fire, soil too; filters waters life for you,
    Bowls from hard wood you can make, to hold the water, food you make.
    Now take the pulp left from the bowls and add that to your filter too,
    This helps the water be better for you.
    Heat stones in fire to real red hot, with water drop them in the cooking pot.
    The excess fat you get from meat, burn it for light and yes some heat.
    Wrap some moss around a twig; be careful that is not too big,
    Put it in the bowl of fat, light the end and that is that.
    Do this in the light of day, and by night you can play.
    To make a little place to sleep, this is what you must keep.
    Sticks and branches, leaves and twigs, pile them up make a weave.
    Your sleeping mat to keep bugs out, cedar and oak go round about.
    Leaves and grass to make it soft, dry not damp, so roust about.
    To build a fire you will need, dry kindling light as the breeze.
    Now get yourself a stick to use, with one end down and back and forth.
    Between your hands the stick must be, for fire to start and you will see.
    Wisps of smoke come from the embers, gentle breath to catch and flame.
    Little twigs to make it grow, it is hungry so feed is so.
    Careful does it, not to fast, for this way is sure to last.
    Slowly feed it larger now, the sticks it needs and yes do vow.
    To feed it larger logs and see, how it wants them, needs them, see?
    Tee-Pee logs above the flame give it air, don’t be lame.
    Once it has the room to grow, sit back and watch the magic flow.
    To make a trough or bowl or plate, use stone to grind the center out.
    Remember not to grind to deep, or you may want to sit and weep.
    When that is done remember dear, pebbles help sand it smooth and clear.

  4. “The survival team can commit to stockpiling pistols and shotguns and ammunition with the same diligence that crops are tended and food is stored.”

    Shotguns and pistols are close-range weapons.
    Rifles are needed before shotguns and handguns,while shotguns and handguns do have an important security role,they are for close range only.

    A rifle,preferably a semi-auto,and in a military caliber-such as 5.56 NATO and 7.62×51 NATO should be purchased before a shotgun or handgun. If you and your group are down to using handguns to defend your location-you’re in big trouble!
    If you go with one of the A-R platform rifles,be sure to buy one that’s stamped 5.56 caliber on the barrel,that way you can shoot either 5.56 or .223 Remington ammo out
    of it.
    A-R rifles are also available in 7.62×51,which is the military version of the .308 Winchester.
    You can safely fire 7.62×51 ammo out of a rifle stamped .308 Winchester on the barrel,but you can not safely fire 308 Win. out of a rifle that’s stamped 7.62×51 on the barrel-as the .308 Win develops higher chamber pressure than the 7.62×51 NATO round.

    “Unwanted strangers approaching the survival team’s homesteads ideally can be dissuaded by shooting near them and/or damaging their equipment.”

    That tactic should only be used as a last resort,and only if the strangers are clearly identified as hostile,and intent on inflicting harm on your group.
    Not only is it a waste of ammo-it gives your position away.
    Better off having all access points blocked prior to the arrival of any possibly hostile strangers.
    When they are stopped and looking to see if they can get around barriers you have placed,inform them they are surrounded by armed defenders-(from cover)-and will be shot if they do not leave the area immediately.
    The harder it is for them to gain access to your area,the greater the chances that they leave your group alone,and seek a less well protected/defended location to attack-so the smartest thing to do is set up barriers that deny access long before the roving bands of thugs get to your area.

  5. I own a small ranch at the end of a dirt road. On our road we have 2 local police officers, a game warden, highway patrol officer, and the former sheriff, along with a few other people. We run cows, chickens, turkeys, and pigs on our ranch. It’s only about 5 acres but we can feed the people who live on our road inexchange for protection. The nearest major city is 185 miles away. I figure 15 to 20 days walk or 3/4 tank of gas for those who drive.
    The few draw backs are we live 2 miles from the interstate and our well is powered by a 3 hp pump. It will be very hard to get off the frid with a water pump that takes that kind of power to start it, but we do have ways around it.
    Setting up your homestead is just as important as setting up ways to protecting it. We just kind of fell into this place by the grace of a God. Protecting it will be easy, and it’s self sustainable. Think it thru look at all the pros and cons. I don’t plan on bugging out because we have a very easy defendable position from all angles.

  6. I strongly recommend that preppers only communicate their survival preparedness with those inside their prepping circle of friends. I have friends who prep in other areas of the state and constantly brag about their stockpiles of long term storage food and weapons,.. etc. When the SHTF,… there are too many people that know their locations and what stores of supplies they can expect to find there. My immediate neighbors are good people,… but ignorant about preparing for a long term disaster or EOT collapse of society. I have asked if they have preparations for a “collapse” and the common reply is “They will never let that happen”. “They” of course being the government. When my neighbors exhibit that level of stupidity, I simply reply ” I hope you’re right” and NEVER disclose my preparations or stores of supplies. Its an old military cliche, but “Loose lips sinks ships” is a cose that my prepper circle of friends live by. I have been prepping for years – little by little on a modest income and have accumulated all the basics and then some – down to even toilet paper for my group. Prepping requires looking at every possible obstacle to survival, and addressing it it with something to lessen the impact. Food & water(including pets), Long and shortrange firearms of varying calibers for varied situations (with spare parts kits) and lots of ammo, toiletries, hygeine, medical supplies, lighting, cooking fuels, sanitation, disposal sites, fuel storage, and the list goes on.

  7. **My response posted before I was ready** – to continue: Many preppers do not include tools as part of their cache of supplies. Nails, screws, and basic carpentry hand tools, rope and chains, & 200lbs of Kwikcrete are a must. Solar lights and simple cheap battery operated 2 way radios will make communication easier and maintain the integrity of a good outer security circle with the inner perimeter. I strongly recommend that there is a minimum of 2 good chainsaws w/extra chains as part of your tool chest. If you need to make an emergency barrier to keep thugs out, and need speed, a good chainsaw or 2 comes in handy. There is strength in numbers, and a well organized, and very disciplined group that works together can secure their families from thugs and maintain their stores of supplies. I enjoy reading the post and am glad to hear from like-minded folks. Good luck to all and God bless your hard work and preparations.

    • Some of those are still considered “modern” convinces. What happens when gas is no longer available? Barricades can be made with just about anything in a pinch. Hand tools are good to have, basic items like axe, hatchet, manual push mower, blade sharpening stones, even a machetti. Ok I can’t spell that last one, you get the idea though. Solar and/or wind power will be good to have, although my preference is solar. If you think about it, about 4000-5000 square miles of solar panels is enough to give power to most, if not all of the USA. Something like that anyway. I have to redo that research.

      I have enough raw wax to make 1000’s of candles and when that runs out there is the fat of animals that can be used. Animals will let you know if water is safe to drink. If they don’t drink it you don’t either. This I have already experienced, the cat would not drink the water until I filtered it. Many things are “burnable”. So cooking is not really a problem. I have seeds stored for growing food. That can be done outdoors or indoors so year round production. Even an underground, dirt floor with a pup-tent top can be used to grow year round. I prefer bow and arrow over guns and ammo. Arrows can be made from renewable sources found all around., bow string made from sinew.

      Just make use of natural resources and you will be able to survive.

  8. Good thinking in the article and posts. Not thinking the end is near, but things are shaky and continue to deteriorate. We’re rather isolated, but my thinking is that folks should prep to ‘shelter in place’ and keep mum about it. Then keep a really low-profile if the SHTF, look and act like a bum. Water, food and some sort of armament might save the day.

  9. On a well? Don’t forget well bucket’s and rope. These are cheap to make and a few extra’s could be traded/bartered to neighbor’s who don’t have them. Salt; It wouldn’t be unrealistic to have a 55 gallon food grade drum full of plain salt. At approx. 8 pound’s per 5 gallon’s of water for a curing brine, it will go fast. Plus one on hand tools! Not just hammers and saw’s, but axes, cultivator’s, drill’s, shovel’s and hoes to name a few. Fencing can be done with wattle panels. I am currently reading more books that entail 18th and 19th centiry lifestyle. I also look, after a fasion, to methods and equipment of the long hunter’s. I also can from my garden, dry fruit from the tree’s and make jam with the berries that are local. Still expanding and improving for more. Have two water sources on my acreage and a third and fourth withing walking distance.

    I started preparing after an unplanned surgery many years ago. Off for ten weeks and scraping to get by. It does not have to be an EMP or zombies, a full pantry can help when times are just tough. Good luck to all.

  10. currency, no not money, tobacco, insulin, sugar, coffee products like these are going to be the main source of currency if total collapse of civilisation

  11. Hi all, My husband and I have been working for a few years now on getting ready for when the world as we know it will change forever. In the beginning we bought enough freeze dried and dehydrated food for four people for a year, added to first aid products, purchased oil lamps, and a olden days wood burning cooking stove/with oven. Last year we built a chicken coop for 20 chickens. We keep 20 logger cord of hard wood on hand to heat and cook with. This year we are building a greenhouse. Also this year I bought a pressure caner, and have started canning meat, and will can this fall from our garden. The Mormons church tell their members to have on hand at least a years supply of food. You Tube has lots of good information on many areas of prepping. I can’t tell if my neighbors are prepping, but I think so. They are building things on their property and are very secretive. I hope they are getting ready. I do have guns and know how to use them, but hope and pray I won’t have to. I am putting enough food away that I will be able to give people beans and rice, or be like a soup kitchen. We are Christians and believe in life after death, but do want to be comfortable as we wait for Jesus to return. You all take care. I hope that God will be part of your journey in these dark times ahead.

  12. Hi cynthia, I really liked your post and i think your attitude is just the kind people need looking ahead. What state are you in? are you isolated? how close to a city? do you have a defense barrier?/ Take care and keep your trust in the lord.

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