fiction: falling off the grid, part 1

Since some time, I'm thinking about disaster preparedness, see my earlier post. I did continue somewhat on that avenue, but I'm not yet where I want to be; to get a better image of what might happen, and at the same time have an incentive for more writing, I'm starting a fictitious diary of a prolonged power blackout in my area. I will partly assume having prepared differently than in reality, to explore ideas, and I reserve the right to assume improbable situations for the sake of "prepping viewpoint". Be warned though, it won't be a marvel in litterature...

Sunday, the 14th

During breakfast today, power failed; initially, we were not much alarmed, because tea and toast were already prepared... However, when it was still off after ten minutes, I became slightly uneasy, because that's totally not normal in our area. I checked radio: some of the private stations were offline as well as digital service, but the public (federal) FM stations were giving news about power failure in large swaths of the country, apparently due to heavy snow fall in the western parts and the Alps causing power line interruptions, combined with issues in two of our nuclear power plants. Trains mostly were running, thanks to their independent power network.

Power in the area of my workplace seemed down as well, according to the news, and while I had some internet connectivity through mobile service (and could even reach SDF briefly, yay!) I did not succeed to get into contact with any machine there, nor with the security desk. Probably they were offline as well or overwhelmed with alarms. We have some machines requiring constant heating in one part and cooling in other parts, otherwise stuff worth a fortune will break. Sure we have uninterruptible power supplies, but these will not last forever: unless somebody can do a planned shutdown, the thing will wreck after two hours. Eventually I managed to call my colleague while she was en route to the lab, and because she's our expert on those systems, I did not worry about it much longer.

When power was not restored after twenty minutes, I decided to fill buckets and our bathtub with tap water, after sealing the drain with several layers of tape and lining the tub with some large sheet of plastic, to make sure we had some clean water reserves. I also started recharging some of my power banks and portable devices on my solar panel battery. Mobile connectivity and data became flaky, therefore I shut down all internet devices and phones, except for my wife's and my work number, to save on batteries.

Next we had a look through our food stock. We did not open the freezer, to keep it cold, as my wife already had a rough idea of what would need to be eaten quickest, if the power stayed out for much longer. There is still dry food and vegetable stock in the cellar for some more days. Cooking is another problem, but with a small camping-type gas stove, we should be independent for at least two days.

We managed to contact our parents by SMS after some unsuccessful tries to call them: they were quite ok. I suggested they also store some water, just in case.

The weather was nice with good forecast, so we took our bikes, packed some food, and went for a ride at noon: making the kids move is good in any case. After half an hour, we made lunch break on the hilltop, and I took out my handheld transceiver to check some amateur radio repeaters. Most of those I supposed to be reachable from my position were dead, but on the working ones (probably equipped with batteries), there was quite some activity, so I only listened. News said in some areas power had been restored, but in addition failed elsewhere, even in parts of southern Germany. We continued, and other than non-working traffic lights, there were no obvious indications of the power failure — except that we never heard any churchbells ringing, and there were quite some people with cars stranded at gas stations, which obviously did not work.

When we returned in mid-afternoon, tap water was still running, so we decided to all take a shower to make use of the warm water in the boiler. A quick opening of the freezer provided us with some nice steaks which we fried in a small pan on the gas stove and ate with bread and raw vegetables.

It started to get darker outside, and we lit some candles in addition to various LED lights. Temperatures in the house are slowly dropping: a full tank of oil (actually Diesel fuel) unfortunately is of not much use during a blackout, if the heater needs electrical power to work. And as our car runs on gasoline and not Diesel, all that fuel seems quite useless for the time being!

My colleague told me by SMS she had managed to shutdown most of the critical stuff in time, so there was nothing important to do at work for the time being. Until power is back up, there is not much I could do in the lab.

Later in the evening, tap water dried up, therefore I filled a bucket at our rainwater barrel and took it upstairs for flushing the toilet. Sleeping time for the kids arrived; it was not that easy to get them quiet, because they were rather anxious about the whole situation, even the younger one. I quickly tried our phone line while powering the router through the solar panel batteries (fortunately the same voltage), but the line was dead.

Now I'm writing down these notes on my tablet. With the solar charged battery backup, it should remain operable for several days. I did not dare to use my laptop, because I want to keep its batteries available for possible later and more urgent needs.

Now we'll try to get some sleep as well, and hope for tomorrow.