Lessons From American Blackout

American Blackout is a movie that recently aired on National Geographic. If you have any interest in prepping there’s little chance you’ve missed it. It chronicles a national power failure brought on by a cyber attack, shown through the eyes of everyday people. Filmed on camera’s and mobile phones they tell their story of surviving 10 days without power. It’s worth the watch. So if you haven’t seen it yet, get on it.

I’ve watched it several times now looking for things to learn from either the mistakes being made or from great ideas and solutions. Although I found it not to be of much educational value, there were some nuggets in there to shed some light on and learn from, I hope you’ll find them useful.

  •  Prepare! The most important lesson I found and also the most obvious one to preppers. Not preparing leaves you to the mercy of others and when times get tough, mercy is the first thing out the door. Time and time again we see examples of unprepared people having a harder time to survive. It doesn’t matter what you plan to do, just make sure you have a plan.
  • Bug in. The American Blackout is a great example of a disaster that strikes everywhere. In Building An Urban Survival Kit Yourself I go into the numbers. One very important number to remember is 103.2, the number of people per square mile on the contiguous United States. When people start swarming, which they will, you’ll see even the most remote places being overrun. So whenever you can, bug in and stay away from the masses.
  • Plan, Explain, Train. When you do bug out and have your preparations in place, make sure your family is on board and trained. Character Hank, a pretty solid prepper, lacked the understanding of his family. They didn’t understand the urgency at play, so help from his family with loading up the bug out gear was minimal and they questioned if leaving was even necessary. Understanding a task makes people better at it, and more motivated to do it. Also they’re more capable of thinking of contingencies when the need comes up.
  • Quick Getaway. Every time I see preppers leave to bug out they take a long time to get going. Hank from American Blackout needed more time then was necessary. Doomsday Preppers is full of lengthy (and even one completely failed) bug out moves. It depends on your situation, but built a system that allows you to leave in under 5 minutes. If you have to bug out, think of a fast way to deploy a system that fits your mode of transport.
  • No services. Be sure to have cash at your primary location(s) as ATM’s won’t work. Likewise you’ll find that no form of plastic money will be accepted, nor will checks for that matter. As communication networks fail (mobile, land lines, internet) you’ll find yourself incommunicado. Agree on a meeting place beforehand.
  • No Stores. For all intent and purposes you can view stores as closed. They’ll either be ransacked by a mob or won’t be restocked due to the collapse of the entire (food) distribution network. Have two weeks of supplies on hand. That means at least water and food.
  • No Safety. You will have to take care of your own safety. No longer can you count on the civil behavior of fellow Americans. They will come and take whatever they want. Read my article Urban Survival and Home Defense for a good rundown of what to think of and how to protect yourself.
  • Operational Security. Keep your mouth shut. Don’t show that you are prepared, don’t tell that you are prepared. People will take it from you. Do not take up strangers into your group. Everyone you take on board needs to have had your OpSec talk, and agree with that 100%. At the first sign of disagreement, like saying you might be selfish keeping your food to your self for example, drop ‘m like a bad decease.
  • Renewable Power. About the only source of power that will still work when the nation goes black is crank and solar power. Have radios and flashlights that are crank powered and when possible have a small carry on solar unit and use rechargeable batteries.
  • Entry and Exit. When you have a super duper bunker on your (bug out) property, stocked with all the goodies to survive for a long while that you cannot get to or leave unseen, you might just as well not have a bunker at all. When you have a bunker build make sure that you can enter it from within your house or cabin. Nothing is dumber then being under attack and than not having easy access to your bunker. Likewise it is beyond me why the emergency exit to most prepper bunkers I see used is at almost the same point as the entry. An emergency exit 30 feet from the entrance is pretty useless when you’re under attack.
  • Self sufficient. One of the strong points of bunkers is that you can get in one and cut yourself of from the outside. When you are still dependent on things from outside your bunker like, in the case of the prepper in American Blackout, a power or fuel source you have defeated the purpose of your bunker. Now all they have to do is shut down your generator and your done. A bunker works best when everything you need to run it is inside it.
  • Organize. It is harder for people to turn on or attack others they’ve formed a defensive group with then it is for them to turn on a single stranger. When you organize the equivalent or a neighborhood watch in your apartment building you’ll be a lot safer. Start with your floor and organize up and down so that you have a bottom and top safe floor that blocks off your protected area. Does wonders in keeping away marauders.

These would be the main lessons I draw from American Blackout. It is hard to prepare when you’re an urbanite stuck in an apartment building, but urban survival is possible. I hope that you’ll take away from this post that you can too.

I love to hear from you. Tell what your ideas are on preparing for the disasters in the city. Please leave your comments below or let me know on twitter or drop me a line over at www.google.com/+KainYoung

Till next time, Kain.