In today’s uncertain times, homesteaders are concerned about a variety of issues. Thanks to the latest outbreak, many homesteaders are stepping up the pace to prepare for emergencies.
If they’re not laying in supplies, they’re preparing the homestead for a higher production yield to ensure plenty of food, but, what happens if there is a blackout or an EMP?
An EMP is an electromagnetic pulse. Basically, it’s a short in the electromagnetic field that occurs due to a solar flare, or to a man made nuclear explosion.
The effects of an EMP could potentially last for several years depending on the severity of the situation, and on the location of the event.
A blackout, on the other hand, is a power outage that is due to a power failure caused by high winds, other weather related issues, or even a car wreck taking out the power grid.
It will cause a complete disruption of power in a specific location for a few hours to a few weeks depending on the severity of the event, availability of the parts for repairs, and current events surrounding the blackout.
Rolling blackouts are a controlled form of a blackout typically preplanned to temporarily block the flow of power for repairs or for other purposes. These can last for a few hours to a few days.
Rolling blackouts were frequently used in war times to help regulate the public. They also helped to route power to specific locations in greater strength.
During a prolonged blackout, EMP, or some other large-scale disaster, nothing incites a panic more than the unknown. Grocery store shelves are cleared of essential supplies including canned foods, paper products (diapers, toilet paper, paper towels, tissues, etc.).
Homesteaders already know this, so they prepare ahead of time. Few are going to panic during an emergency. Why? Because homesteaders, by their very nature, are prepared for such states of emergency.
Before you panic thinking about no electricity, remember that the pioneers had no power. If they survived, you can too. Here are some great ways that you can prepare for a blackout, or for an EMP event on the homestead.
Table of Contents:
Before the need arises for a plan, make a plan. If you and your family are at work school, or are out running errands, have a plan and location to meet up, even if you’re unable to communicate ahead of time. Know where to meet and what to do.
Everyone in the family should have their own assignments of what to do. Make sure that each person knows what their specific role is during a blackout or an EMP. Older children could be in charge of younger children to simply keep them occupied.
Teens and young adults could have specific areas to get the younger children to, and to gain access to food, water, shelter and emergency supplies. Older adults could have their own roles to keeping everything running smoothly.
Many homesteaders are on a shoestring budget, and can’t afford to layout hundreds of dollars on a food supply. They must build their food supply up slowly. It doesn’t take a lot of money to pre-plan stocking the pantry.
Buy things on sale, two for one, buy one get one, and simply stock up slowly as you go. The time to stock up isn’t when you have an emergency; you should be using a stock up mentality on every shopping trip.
Keep the pantry and the freezer filled. Choose simple foods that don’t require a lot of preparation before eating. You don’t know how long you’re going to be without power.
If at all possible, plan to use freezer foods first to avoid losing them due to thawing. It’s easy to think that you can’t stock up due to budget constraints.
Keep in mind that you only need to stock a few items at a time to be prepared. Add an extra can of meat or an extra jar of peanut butter to each weeks grocery store run, and you’ll be gradually stocking up.
It’s also wise to keep the pantry and freezer organized. Know what you do have on hand and keep a running list so that you always know what you need when you go to the store. This way, you’ll be prepared at all times.
If you’re power is only going to be out for a short period of time, leave the freezer doors closed to save the food if at all possible. Otherwise, you’re going to need to plan to eat it quickly or prepare it in another fashion.
Consider dehydrating, building a smoker, barbecuing and other means of food preparation to preserve food that may thaw out too fast.
Store jugs of water in the freezer to fill in spaces, and remove these as required to store food. These will help to preserve foods should the freezer be off for long periods of time.
The frozen water will help to insulate the freezer and keep things cold. If your power is only going to be out for a few days, your food should be fine if you take this measure.
Easy to store food supplies include:
- Dehydrated foods (including meats).
- Canned foods (easy open cans or have a manual can opener on hand).
- Bottles of juice.
- Bottles of water.
- Canned meats (try to find the easy-to-open cans to make this time easier).
- High protein snacks (nuts, protein bars, peanut butter etc.).
It’s hard to determine how long the grocery shelves will remain unstocked due to the blackout or EMP, so you’ll want to have several months worth of food stocks available to tide you over until such a time as the trucks are back up and running on a regular delivery schedule.
You’ll want easy to prepare meals and meals that don’t require a lot of refrigeration or foods that don’t require any cooking.
Keep in mind that you’ll need some fun foods too, so don’t forget things such as pop corn, chips and dips, and other fun foods that kids can munch on while they’re playing games, or trying to keep up with their school work.
Harness Solar Power
Invest in some solar lights, and in a solar cell phone charger. Solar lights can light the way and keep you from injuring yourself in and around the homestead.
On our homestead, we have several on our fence to help alleviate running into it, or becoming lost when walking back to the house after dark from the barns.
You can also use solar lights to light a path by placing them into the ground every few feet.
Solar cell phone chargers are an ideal way to keep cell phones charged in case you need to call for help, or to contact a family member. They are easy to charge by simply leaving them in a sunny location during the daylight hours of the day.
Connected to a cell phone they can keep the phone charged, or simply boost the battery power allowing you to make those phone calls or check updates on the news if the blackout or EMP isn’t nationwide.
We also have solar powered clocks and radios at our homestead. One of the radios is also hand crank, so if it doesn’t have enough solar power charge you can wind it up and listen to important newscasts.
Have some glow sticks (save them from Halloween) on hand so that younger kids can have their own power source.
Kids will think these are fun, and you’ll know where they’re at if you chain a few together to form belts or necklaces. It’s also a great way to help keep their spirits up.
Mil-spec chem lights are an ideal addition to any emergency kit. Simply grab the chem light and stretch it open activating the chemical, and you’ll have light for hours. These are quite similar to the little light bands that kids carry around on Halloween.
Make sure that you stock up on these every season as they are ideal additions to your emergency kits, and kids will love them.
Other Forms of Lighting
Flashlights and candles work well as do lanterns, be sure that you have plenty of extra batteries on hand.
Keep some oil for lanterns that use oil on hand as well. Candles will work too but keep in mind that children and candles can lead to fire hazards.
We once had a 2 day power outage due to a transformer being hit by a car. I laughed when neighbors called to ask me why we had power. We didn’t have any power either.
I had several oil lamps on hand and was using my camp stove for meals out on the back deck. I also had a percolator coffee maker that kept us supplied in coffee.
My neighbors all thought we had power because they could see the light through windows at night.
There are also hand crank flashlights, lanterns, and clocks that you can use during this time.
Make sure that candles, flashlights, oil lamps, matches, and the like are all easy to access if the outage happens at night. You don’t want to be stumbling around looking for them and injure yourself or others because you fall or trip over something.
Plan for Some Fun Time for Kids
Children especially can sense fear in adults. Try to remain calm even if you’re fearful. Have some games and other activities thought out ahead of time to help keep everyone’s spirits up.
Consider activities such as charades, create your own “twister” game if you don’t have one. Have some board games on hand.
Consider a scavenger hunt, and have a list of items on different lists for each child or divide them into teams. The more prepared you are, the better this time is going to be for your family. Have some books on hand as well as crayons, markers, and colored pencils.
Kids can keep busy for hours with such crafts and reading materials. The more involved your kids are in planning the activities, the more likely they are to enjoy them during the blackout or EMP.
Backup Cooking Methods
You can barbecue, you can use a propane stove, cook over a fire or even boil some water and use instant meals.
By planning ahead you’re going to feel less stressed about keeping your family fed. Don’t forget to plan some healthy snacks as well.
You can make popcorn over a fire, have some vegetables crackers and dip, have some nuts and fruit on hand, and other such healthy snacks.
If you have a garden, you can dehydrate foods ahead of time for snacking in an emergency.
You can also use a solar cooker to prepare complex meals that your family will enjoy in the aftermath of an emergency.
Medical Supplies and Prescriptions
One member of our household has a life threatening medical condition. Without medication every 8 hours this family member will become seriously ill and eventually fall into a coma and subsequently die.
We asked the specialist what we should do in case of such a situation, and the doctor prescribed a few more of the person’s medications per month. The goal, to save those few extra medications in case of such an event.
Whether it be a blizzard keeping us housebound, or an EMP or a blackout, we now have an emergency supply on hand. We also have emergency injectables for this person on hand just in case of such an event.
We keep a well stocked medical kit on hand for our homestead as well. Several members on our homestead have medical training, and are very capable of providing medical attention for minor emergencies. Consider a quick first aid course before you need it.
Make sure that you have plenty of bandages, medical tape, and other medical supplies on hand, as well as items such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen and the like.
Don’t forget to have a supply of allergy medications as well as any required prescription medications (for at least a week or longer if possible) on hand as well.
If you have a wood stove you’re already ahead of the game. If you don’t, you’ll want to have a heat source if it’s in the wintertime.
Propane heaters work for outdoor areas. Without proper ventilation they’re not wise to use indoors, although some (such as this one) are indoor safe.
Consider creating a “warm room”. You can section off a warm room in the house by choosing a room that is away from drafts and, perhaps, has a window that faces the sun for a portion of the day.
Hang some blankets over doorways and create your warm room. Keep in mind that smaller areas will be easier to help keep warm.
You may also wish to have a stack of cozy blankets on hand to wrap up in while you’re in the warm area of the house. Don’t forget to dress in layers as well.
Finally, remember that if you can keep in motion, you’re going to stay warmer than if you are just remaining still.
If all else fails, consider some exercises such as running in place or jumping jacks to warm up. Exercises are also a great way to help the younger set exert some energy (and keep you sane).
Supplies to Have in and Around
Toiletries. Every homestead is different so plan accordingly. Don’t forget to include feminine products.
Condoms. When times are tough, when couples are having to quarantine or seclude themselves things happen… be prepared.
Remember the “baby booms” that have happened over the various emergency situations in previous years.
Toilet Paper! When a blackout, or EMP take place, one of the first things people think about is having enough toilet paper to last.
If you’re in the midst of such a situation, it’s too late. The store shelves are going to be empty, and you’re going to have to wait for those shelves to be restocked.
You may have to find alternative methods for such products. In a lot of countries and some cultures, toilet paper isn’t used at all, rather, they simply wash with water.
They fill a container with water and pour the water into their left hand and use it to wash off. Of course, hands are thoroughly washed with soap and water after such a procedure.
Still others choose to use torn up t-shirts or rags as toilet paper. Obviously, such rags are washed separately and sanitized before reusing them.
A closed container for such materials will usually be found in such homes next to the toilet to place the used rags into for sanitation. Just make sure to not mix these used rags in with the regular laundry.
Baby Supplies. Consider baby food if you use it-thought most homesteaders prefer to make their own; diapers, extra clothing, blankets, and toys for baby.
Pet and Other Animal Foods. Stock up or make your own.
Cash. Have a small supply of cash on hand for small purchases that may be required if credit card or debit machines are down.
This can be invaluable if you’re needing to stop in at a grocery store and pick up a few things that happen to be available. The computers and machines that accept debit and credit cards likely won’t be functioning, but they may allow cash sales.
Important documents that may be needed (banking information, credit card information, birth certificates, pass ports, living wills, wills, medical information, power of attorney, deed, car titles etc.).
When the power grid is down and you need to get things done you are going to have to make use of what you have.
Here are some manual tools you may wish to have on hand for such emergency situations. Keep in mind that many have multiple uses, and you can create and design your own versions if you’re in need.
- Hand Saw (for minor repairs and wood cutting)
- Hand Crank Radio
- Hand Crank Flashlights
- French Press Coffee Pot or a Camp stove Percolator
- Hand Crank Coffee Grinder Or Mortar and Pestle
- Battery operated or hand crank weather radio
- Sleeping bags and blankets for warmth and sleeping
- Manual egg beater
- Manual can opener
- Battery operated power tools
- … and more electric alternatives here.
Propane stove or camp stove with plenty of propane. NEVER EVER use a propane camp stove indoors. These must be properly ventilated at all times)
There are many things that we take for granted when it comes to tools that we use daily. Remember that battery operated toothbrush? It won’t work if your battery runs dead, so be sure to have extras on hand.
Simple everyday items that we use may require a bit more technology than we ever considered.
Today’s modern society has been raised in the age of technology. Take that technology away and what do you have? Consider this when you’re planning ahead and plan accordingly.
Car inverters are handy little contraptions. You can use these off of your engine and run small appliances to get simple tasks done. Keep in mind that you’re not going to want to use these for too long because you’ll not want to waste any gas.
You can also find inverters that don’t require a car battery, and simply run off of a generator.
Inverters work by changing the direct current into alternating current or DC to AC, allowing you to plug in small appliances or other items to use as you normally would with normal power.
Many homesteaders relied on gas powered generators as on their homesteads. Still, others use generators on a regular basis. Even if you don’t have a large generator, a smaller size might be handy to have during a blackout or an EMP.
You’ll find many great ways to use these just keep in mind that you’ll need a supply of fuel for your generator and many are rather loud so you’ll want to keep them at a distance if at all possible.
A lot of homesteaders build a “generator house” to help muffle the sounds of the generator.
EMPs can fry your electronics unless you place your electronics into a special box that protects them from the electro magnetic pulse. A Faraday cage or box is a great way to protect your electronics from such a cataclysmic event.
In short, the Faraday cage is simply a container to isolate your electronics to avoid them being “fried” by the EMP. It keeps out the electromagnetic waves, and routes them around the container thus protecting the electronics inside of the container.
Faraday cages and boxes can be large or small depending on the size of the electronics you need to protect inside of them.
Another way is to design and create your own Faraday cages. However, you’ll have to have the cage at a central location on your homestead so that you can store the electronics that you’re trying to protect easily and readily available.
Quick way to make an inexpensive Faraday cage for your phone:
- Wrap your phone in several layers of plastic wrap.
- Wrap the plastic wrap with several layers of aluminum foil.
- Make sure that all edges are folded over well and closed.
- Optional: Add a layer of an adhesive such as glue in between the layers.
Faraday cage out of a stainless steel trash can:
Find a stainless steel trash can with a tight fitting lid (this can be the kind that you step on, or the kind that you put household trash in). Prepare your trash can as follows:
- Layer cardboard against the metal of the trash can.
- Over the cardboard place a layer of plastic wrap (garbage bags work fine).
- Add a layer of aluminum foil over the cardboard and plastic wrap.
- Repeat the above steps two to three times.
- Place your electronics inside of the newly created Faraday cage.
- Secure the lid (make sure to layer some cardboard, plastic, and aluminum foil over the top before placing the lid on.
You now have a new Faraday cage that will be very effective in protecting your electronics against an EMP.
Alternative Forms of Communications
Another important thing to consider is that phones may not always be working or accessible. Satellites may be down, cell service may be sketchy, and landlines may be down or obsolete during these times.
On our homestead we have several HAM Radio operators. HAM Radio requires a license and passing a test to obtain the license before it can be used.
You’ll need to have extra batteries, solar panels or other forms of power for the Ham radios and two-way handheld radios.
Morse code was developed early in the 19th century. It works via signals (usually tones but it can also be done via lights, or other means. There are a variety of ways that Morse Code can be utilized for communication.
Each letter has a signal. The “dots and dashes” are then translated into their corresponding letters to decode the message. The dots and dashes have different lengths of time that help to denote the specific letter that corresponds to the sound.
Dashes are three times as long in tone as are dots. Words are separated by a space (silence) so that the translator can readily translate what is being transmitted.
Typically, a special machine is used to transmit the signal via radio waves, however, it can also be done by lights, sounds (a rock hitting another rock) or even blinking in a hostage situation.
Other forms of communication can include:
- Sign Language
- Carrier pigeons
- Other animals that will return readily to the property (many homesteads have dogs that wanders around the property and, perhaps, visits nearby homesteads)
- Private couriers (friends or family or members of a group that can be trusted)
There may be times where you’ll find it’s safer to evacuate. Bugging out is not only a prepper term, it’s also an important thing to understand and consider when it’s not safe to remain at your home.
If your homestead is in the “eye of the storm” and there is a lot of activity in and around it, it may be safer to go elsewhere during the blackout or EMP.
Consider alternative areas where you can keep your family safe. It may be the proverbial “cabin in the woods” or it may be to grandmother’s house, regardless, you’ll want to have a safe place to take your family.
Many homesteaders have underground bunkers where they can safely hide if need be. Still, others have an emergency plan in place for bugging out. They have stores of food, water, and other necessary supplies at the ready and stored in a secret location that only the family knows.
Many even have a bug out vehicle at the ready. This may be a camper or an old school bus stocked with supplies.
The bug out vehicle will have enough room to transport everyone in the family safely, and it should have plenty of supplies for a few days. It will always be full of fuel to ensure safely arriving at the bug out location in case of a detour.
When bugging out, it’s important to plan ahead to blend in. This is rather like the “gray man” scenarios that many doomsday preppers plan
What’s a “gray man”, you might ask? A gray man literally blends in with everyone else, and doesn’t draw any attention to themselves.
They dress very unremarkably, and won’t ever stand out in a crowd. Some homesteaders have jobs off of the homestead.
The person with a job may have to continue working for a time so that everything looks “normal” to outsiders. This person is an ideal gray man in such scenarios.
If they were absent from work (if they were an essential employee such as a nurse or doctor) they would stand out more than if they continue to come to work.
By the same token, the bug out vehicle won’t stand out in a crowd, either. It will blend in, and make it appear as if they are just like everyone else.
It won’t be obvious that the family is bugging out. It will appear as if they are just like everybody else that is out and about.
Learning how to blend in and be the gray family is vital to survival in an evacuation. It can take a lot of practice to get an entire family on board with how to remain calm and appear as if they are acting normal during a stressful bug out situation.
If you’re going to need to bug out, NOW is the time to plan. You’ll need at least the following basic supplies to bug out:
- Safe vehicle at the ready (full of fuel, supplies, and plenty of room for everyone to fit)
- Safe location to bug out to.
- Supplies at the safe location.
- Several safe routes in case one route is blocked to the bug out location.
Some families have more than one bug out location. They will quietly set the various locations up, and either keep on the move, or simply go to the one that is easiest to get to during the crisis.
Unfortunately, there are many who choose not to preplan for such an event. Often, these people decide to become looters and raid boarded up businesses and even residences.
Be prepared. It doesn’t take much of an event for some people to suddenly turn bad.
Some regions will release persons from jails and prison due to epidemics and unsafe buildings. When some of them come back into society, they have had no way to preplan, and may use force to take what they feel that they need to survive.
It’s important to make your homestead look uninviting. Don’t be flashy about what you have as far as supplies go. Keep things covered up and hidden from the naked eye. Keep your food stores stashed safely away, and only have one or two family members gather foods for meals.
Many homesteaders have game cameras set up that they can use to protect their homestead during such a crisis.
It needs to appear as if your homestead is struggling as much as everyone else’s. The less obvious your homestead looks as a safe haven or place to seek refuge, the better. If people think that you’re doing well, you’re more likely to be looted or have them seeking shelter at your place.
Avoid These Tendencies
Now that you’ve prepared for a blackout, EMP or bug out situation, you’ll want to consider a few things that many fall prey to. Here are some things to avoid doing during any emergency.
Don’t Panic (especially if there are children involved)
When things are going badly, it’s easy to panic. When we panic, we make bad decisions. Remain aware of what is going on, but remain calm and keep children calm. When there is a disaster you want to keep your wits about you.
Don’t keep listening to the news nonstop
It’s important to be informed and know what is going on, but beware of your sources. Not all news sources are true and above-all, the more you dwell on it the more stressful it becomes.
The news media is doing their job. Listening to the news nonstop however, is time that you’re not spending being prepared, and it can often stress others out.
Don’t let just anyone into your homestead
In time of disaster, many are seeking refuge. It’s easy to fall prey to those in need.
Have a select group that you work with, and don’t accept passersby unless you’ve previously known them, and all on the homestead agree that they’d be an asset at this time.
People will be desperate, and many will use a variety of ploys and scams to take over your homestead and do your family harm during this time.
Don’t be afraid to accept resources
If your community has government aid or food banks going on, accept these as resources. There are two reasons for this.
Reason #1 is that you want to blend in with everyone else and look as if you’re struggling as well. If you don’t appear to be in a struggle just like the rest of the community, you become prey.
Reason #2 is that it gives you some quiet intel as to what is going on. Both are valid reasons to accept help, and may give you some much needed inside information.
Don’t advertise what you do have
Now is not the time to brag to the neighbors over coffee that you’re all prepared. Don’t advertise that you have plenty of ammunition and weapons, plenty of food etc. This will not only draw too much attention to your homestead, it will also make you a potential target.
Major disasters can turn any law-abiding citizen into a criminal if there is a need for something. Remember when talking to others that “less is more” when it comes to information on how your homestead and family are doing.
Remember that “loose lips sink ships”, and keep that mentality. The more people know what you have, the more risk you put yourself and your family at.
You don’t have any idea how many of those people tell someone else that you’re prepared. The more they know you’re prepared, the more dangerous your situation becomes.
Working During a Disaster
You’re on a homestead and there are still jobs that must be done. As far as feeding the animals, you’ll do this during normal daylight hours.
However, if you need to bring in some of your stores from a stash on your property, if you’re needing to drag in some firewood, do this at night so that you’re not seen carrying around your supplies by any passers by.
Remember, you’re in stealth mode, and you don’t want to have everyone showing up on your homestead taking your supplies. Wait for dark to bring supplies from one of your stashes.
You may have one or two homestead members that have to keep working their outside jobs (they may have medical training or other skills that require them to continue working during the emergency).
Make these the ones that are the “gray man”, and have them in charge of gathering supplies from outside the homestead. It’s important that these persons are safe and aware of everything, and that they continue working to make it appear as if your homestead is struggling alongside the rest of the neighborhood.
Remain aware of what is going on in the neighborhood. Make sure that your homestead looks like it’s not worth anyone’s time to break into.
Work around the homestead in a non obtrusive sort of way, and make it appear that you’re struggling just as much as your neighbors.
Block access to your homestead with easy methods such as boarding up lower windows, blocking extra ways in with piles of scrap or slash piles that make it appear as if these areas aren’t used.
Take different paths to the barn and store areas to avoid having one trail that will lead a potential looter directly to your main stash.
Use the buddy system on the homestead when you’re feeding animals etc. You don’t have to have the buddy right next to you, but at least have someone on the homestead that will notice if you’re down at the barn longer than usual so that they can investigate and help if you’re in a compromised situation.
There is no such thing as being too prepared for an emergency on the homestead.
Cash and Bartering
What will you do if the Internet goes down and you can’t use your debit or credit cards? It CAN happen, and many will be left penniless since they can’t access their funds.
If you do find a store that is operational, it will likely only accept cash, so make sure you stash some funds just in case you need them for something.
Don’t flash around large amounts of cash. If you are out shopping, place your money into several different pockets and know how much is in each pocket so that you don’t have to be seen counting out large sums of cash.
Spend as little as possible so that you don’t look flush with cash. It’s better to go to a few different stores and buy a few items at each store than to go to one store and spend a large amount.
Another consideration is bartering. This is a time when neighbors and others will be into bartering. Have a few things on hand that you’re willing to part with in order to barter.
It may be those canned peas that no one in the family likes, or it may be some firewood or a case of water. At this point in time, people are going to be scrambling to gain supplies that they don’t have.
If you appear to be struggling and make it look like that’s your last case of water, can of peas, or last 10 pieces of firewood but you’re willing to barter it for something else, you and your homestead may remain safe.
Set aside a small area of supplies that you can afford to barter with. It may just save your life and your homestead from looters and passers by.
Planning ahead for a blackout or an EMP can help your homestead be ready for any emergency.
It will help you and your family to remain calm regardless of the situation, and not stress over what could be a short term (a few hours) to a long-term (several weeks to months or longer) blackout or EMP situation.
Homesteading and preparing for disasters are a mindset. Once you set your mind to it, you’ll see your homestead and life in a different way.
Everything that you do will be in preparation for any emergency. You don’t have to act desperate, you don’t have to struggle (although you want it to appear as if you’re struggling right alongside of your neighbors and passers by).
All of the above-mentioned suggestions are easy to implement and can be done in just a few minutes a day. If you make up your mind to be prepared for anything you’re sure to have plenty of supplies on hand for any emergent situation.
Sit down with a pen and paper, and plan out what you and your homesteading family will require, and then work slowly toward you goal of preparation.
Even if you’re on a shoestring budget you can make small changes in how you currently shop and do business to ensure your homestead will be ready for the next blackout or EMP.
How do you prepare your homestead for a blackout or an EMP? Be sure to pin this for later on one of your Pinterest boards!