Fast Track Tip #6: Test Your Survival Skills With A Grid-Down Weekend

Gaye LevyGaye Levy | Jun 27, 2019
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When it comes to family preparedness, it is easy to take stock of your food, water, gear and skills and be smug in the knowledge that you are ready for whatever Mother Nature throws your way.  But, as a well-prepared Backdoor Survival reader shared in 5 Days with No Power – When the Ice Hits the Fan, thinking you are ready and being ready are two different matters.

In many respects, those of us that have been campers or boaters have had a head start in preparedness.  We are accustomed to getting by without power and only limited water and marginal cooking and sanitation facilities.  Of course we do this all in fun, knowing that we can pack up and go back to civilization at any time.  But when the big one hits – and all of our comforts are gone – what then?  Suddenly things are not so fun.

Test Survival Skills With A Grid-Down Weekend 403x239

This begs the question:  have you ever gone for 2 or 3 days while being solely reliant on your preps?  If not, then it is time to step up.  And that applies to me as well!

Today, Backdoor Survival Contributing Author Rob Hanus is back with a prepper challenge.  Let’s schedule a weekend and practice our grid down skills!

Prepper Challenge! Practice with a Grid Down Weekend

In this prepper challenge, you’re going to be testing how well you can get along without any utilities. This means no electricity, no municipal water, no utility heating or air conditioning, nothing that you can’t provide for yourself. As if you suddenly lost all utilities. This is also sometimes called a Grid Down Scenario.

REMEMBER: It is far better to realize what works, what doesn’t work, and where you can improve when you’re not in a real survival situation. Also, if it’s only an exercise, you can stop at any time, if needed. When the power goes out for real is not the time to learn that your preps are inadequate.

Here’s some suggestions for your test:

1. Choose a weekend and schedule your grid down test. Let your family know when it’s going to be, like from Friday night to Sunday evening. Run this test for as long as you can, but if you find out part way through the challenge that you’re having extreme hardships, then end it.

2. Go to the store and buy some painter’s tape. Tape all of your light switches in the off position. We are so accustomed to flipping on the switch when we enter a dark room, that you’ll accidentally turn on lights, which ruins the illusion that you have no grid power. If you can safely do so, throw the circuit breakers for everything except your refrigerator and freezer. You can use any alternative power that you have.

3. Some houses have a shut-off valve that turns off the water to the entire house. Turn this off so that when the toilets don’t refill after use and no water is running in the house.

4. Turn off your cell phones and unplug all landline phones that you may have so they cannot receive phone calls (or just shut off the ringer).

5. You can use any device that has a battery (laptops, tablets, iPods, radios, etc.), but recharging it has to be from your alternative energy only.

6. Try to use as much as your preps as possible. This weekend is about testing your preparedness plan and making sure that you can continue to live as comfortably and normally as possible without basic public services and utilities. You should use this opportunity to test anything that you haven’t tested yet.

7. No cheating during this challenge. Some of the things you need to do aren’t pretty or fun, but you won’t learn how to do them better unless you actually do them. You can only take “theory” so far.

8. Have paper and pencil ready at all times to make a note every time you come across something that you could do better. Try to be as descriptive as possible, so that when you go over your notes later, you don’t have to try and figure out what you meant when you wrote, “Dog bone remover.”

9. As you are using your preps, keep asking yourself how this solution would work over the long term. What you’re looking for is to make sure that your solutions you’ve chosen will provide you with service for, at least, a year of hard use, if not longer. If any of your prep items fail during this weekend prepper challenge, that’s a good indicator that you need to find another solution.

Assessing the Risks

Getting by without utilities for a weekend is an important step toward assessing your readiness quotient.  In doing so, you will learn things that will help you when and if you are faced with an actual grid-down situation.

Don’t think it will not happen.  While I like to remind you of the threats from Mother Nature (storms, earthquakes, mudslides, hurricanes, tornados and such), there is another, more frightening risk we face and that is the risk of a cyber-attack on our utility grid.  Anyone who has read One Second After knows what I am talking about.  Believe me, the threat is real and is something I will be writing about in more detail over the coming weeks.

The Final Word

While a two day grid-down practice drill is optimal, turning off the utilities for even four to eight hours will be an eye-opener.  I have done it and found that the biggest challenge was the lack of running water.  Your challenges may be different; and that is the point.  You will not know what those challenges are until you experience a grid-down first hand.

Whatever you decide to do – eight hours, one day, one weekend, or even an entire week – take copious notes  and if you are so inclined, come back and share them.  The most valuable prepping and survival tips come from real people who have walked the walk and remained standing.  Hopefully, that will be you.

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!

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In addition, when you sign up to receive email updates you will receive a free, downloadable copy of my e-book The Emergency Food Buyer’s Guide.

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Meyer Classic Stainless Steel Yosemite 8-Cup Coffee Percolator: The reviews are great.

Hario Ceramic Coffee Mill : Whole beans store well when sealed in a Mason Jar (see How to Use a FoodSaver for Vacuum Canning).  As with the percolator, this one has great reviews.

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HERCules (Home Emergency Radiant Cooking) Tea Light Oven:  I will have more to say about the HERC in my review on March 28th but for now, check it out.  It is powered by tea lights and is safe to use indoors on any surface. 

FordEx Group 300lm Mini Cree Led Flashlight Torch Adjustable Focus Zoom Light Lamp:  Here we go with another flashlight.    It is super mini sized, bright and waterproof.  Plus, it uses a single, standard AA sized battery.

Mr. Heater Portable “Big Buddy” Heater:  Using propane and safe for indoor use, the Big Buddy Heater features an automatic low-oxygen shut-off system that automatically turns the unit off before carbon monoxide fumes reach dangerous levels in home.

Coleman PefectFlow 1-Burner Stove:  This Coleman One-burner Propane Stove is an easy-to-use portable stove that should meet almost any camp cooking need. The PerfectFlow regulator provides consistent cooking performance by producing a steady fuel stream, even in cold weather, high altitudes, or when fuel is low. Equipped with one 10,000 BTU burner, this fully adjustable stove will last for 2.2 hours on high or up to nine hours on low.


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Every family should have at least one Tote-able Toilet.  I have priced purchasing the bucket and toilet seat lid separately and found that it was more economical to pick up this kit (currently on sale for $14.95).  I have filled my portable potty with sanitation supplies plus, of course, plenty of TP.

I also recommend the Mobile Washer. This is hand operated washing machine. Like a plunger, it uses a technique of pushing and pulling the water through clothes to clean them well without wearing them out. It uses a minimum of water and less soap due to the agitation motion. Use in a bucket (5-gallon suggested), sink or tub.


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19 Responses to “Fast Track Tip #6: Test Your Survival Skills With A Grid-Down Weekend”

  1. Before the weekend test, you may want to let friends and family that don’t live with you know that they will not be able to call you, and you would rather they not drive by to check on you. Sometimes, if a family member can’t get you on the phone they will call the police to have them check on you. Having the police show up Sunday morning, while you are doing your test would spoil everything! Friends and family may think you are a bit crazy to do such a thing, but are they 100% sure they could survive a total grid down situation?

    • Jim – That would be embarrassing (having the cops show up)!

  2. Since its only a test I wouldnt turn off the power completely, many fire detectors are hard wired into a houses electrical, maybe they have back up batteries, but they need to be checked first. Your going to be using different fires no doubt, and being just a test, Id want that safe guard in place if possible. I want to try this. Should be interesting.

    • Don’t fire detectors that are hard wire into the electrical system beep when the electric is off? This would unnerve me.

    • I need to check but I am fairly certain that all smoke detectors must have a battery backup.

  3. Testing is not an option here. I believe I will have to wing it if and when the event happens. My Mother is 86 and this is not within her thinking. So I am constantly reading, checking blogs and rolling situations and events though my mind, working out possibilities.

    • Marilee, you might try ‘limited’ testing. Instead of just doing it in your mind, take an event, live through it with as limited amount of ‘modern’ conveniences possible. This isn’t just about a mind thing. It’s also getting your body in ‘event’ mode. I so understand the older mom and her needing normal. Perhaps you also need an event where you must deal with her in many different reactions she might have. Been practicing/drilling for those here too.

  4. My husband and I have written a novel “Post Grid.” We are looking for Beta readers, critiquers. We are not looking for grammar, spelling or punctuation unless you are compelled. We want your opinion on readability, characters, plot etc. Drop us an email at [email protected] up untill September 2014.

  5. I did a partial test last weekend, I learned yet again, not all candles burn the same. Not at the same rate, not with consistency, and there are some problems to anticipate, like holes (created by the fire) on the sides of bigger candles, leading to puddles of wax overflowing the candle holder. That note pad needs to stay away from wax. It’s kind of hard to read a note that has been covered in wax.

    And use a Very large over-sized and Wide candle holder. Those skinny narrow ones are about useless.

    I’m going to have to look into candle lanterns or lamps. I have a candle holder with the old time glass on it (I think it’s a candle lamp?) I’m going to test Saturday.

    I tested various types of candles. The “emergency” type candles were fairly consistent compared to plain Jane everyday candles.

    One plain Jane candle kept going out, the wick would fall over and self-extinguish.
    Another candle created so much soot I had to blow it out and light something else.
    Some candles need their wicks trimmed. That can be messy and a waste of water or wipes to clean up.

    I had a pretty bad cold or allergy to pollen or something while doing this partial test. Things sure do go differently when you’re under the weather. I was very glad I had extra Kleenex. I learned I need a better medical bag setup, it was very frustrating digging through stuff while I was sick, in low light conditions, looking for some relief. I didn’t find what I was looking for until the next day. One item in particular I didn’t find until three days later when I no longer needed it. Got plenty of bandages though!

    I had planned on slicing up some squash to try and cook but I found what I had was rotten. I threw them out, all except one which I thought was ok. It looked ok, when I cut it in half it smelled ok, but maybe my smeller wasn’t working as well as it could because when I finally managed to cook it I found out it was terrible tasting. It was still editable, I think, but I made sure to make a note to change how I have my setup so it’s easier to check them and hopefully I will check them more often.

  6. I found some solar yard lights at the dollar store. I put one out next to the coop about 8 months ago now and it’s still charging during the day and lighting at night. I have another half dozen in the closet waiting to be used if needed. I think I’ll get them out and charge them today. Try those. Less messy…

    • Nan – some of the solar lights have a switch that will turn them off. Those can be charged up and then turned on when needed. Also, there are also solar charged flashlights that are handy, put them where they get sunlight, then when you need them you know where they are and that they are charged.
      I wouldn’t recommend trying to run the solar charged lights all night, but they do make it easier moving around at night (going to the bathroom or checking on what the dogs are barking at, etc.).

    • I like the solar lights. They are indeed less messy, but as Jim alluded to, they don’t last all night. Some don’t even last four hours.

      I’ve found that most 10″ candles will last all night.

      I think the solar lights are kind of expensive. Sure, they are 99 Cents, but a quality replacement battery is more than that. Yes, while using a solar light vs. a box of candles, the solar lights are cheaper to use, however; two years from now when I pull a solar light out of a box and it has a dead battery vs. the candles that still work, the candles were the better deal. YMMV of course.

      I seem to recall reading a label on a more expensive and larger candle stick that claimed to last eight hours, but I just couldn’t part with the money for one. I was feeling frugal that day.

      I have a few batteries that are a couple of years old and they still work. I also had a surprisingly large number of new batteries last only one year and then they wouldn’t take a charge. Same for the solar panels on the lights, some stopped working after a year and would not charge a battery.

      Still, I have both.
      I like redundancy and I’m a big fan of reliability and durability in the things I have and use.

      Next week I intend to try using cooking oil in an oil lamp to how that goes.

      I wonder if anyone makes a mini-kerosene heater for indoor use? One the size of a gallon paint can.

    • I can’t say for sure but you might check Lehmans for such a heater. I just got their catalogue and they have some amazing items.

    • Thanks for the Lehmans link, Gaye. They have some stuff, for sure.

      The Alpaca Kerosene Cooker came close to what I was seeking. But it was outdoor use only and not really a heater.

      I did a search and found some chicken egg incubator heaters that came pretty close.
      Also, there’s some European antique heaters that seem to fit the bill. But they are “Out of Stock’.

      I’m surprised ‘someone’ doesn’t make something like what I seek.
      Or even a desktop wood-burner?

      @ Jim, I would think now is the time to teach younger people about flames and fire, just in the same way it’s The time to teach the younger people about firearms?

      As to the so-called ‘infirm’ …of those I know, being around a flame is not a problem. They have experience.
      If they are so febel they cannot deal with an open flame…. it’s hard for me to even imagine being like that. I think maybe it’d be better the world burned than to be like that?
      An old baby?

      The things geoengineering creates?

    • My only problem with candles and oil lanterns are young children and the infirm elderly. The children don’t really comprehend the dangers and the infirm may have an accident with open flames. I do have both candles and oil lamps that I use, but then I also live by myself. Anyone with small children needs to take extra (or should that be extreme?) precautions with flames of any kind. Having your house burn down during a disaster could ruin your whole day. 🙂

  7. Oops, I meant “solar light stick” when I wrote about the label on the more expensive and larger “candle stick” that claimed to last eight hours.

  8. If you can safely do so, throw the circuit breakers for everything except your refrigerator and freezer.

    In preparation for that real-life “grid-down” in which the refrigerator and freezer magically keep running?? If I’m going to have a dry-run weekend, it will include either keeping my fridge running (using the generator, every few hours) or dealing with the problems that arise when perishable food sits at room temperature.

    Isn’t the whole point of a dry run to avoid surprises when the real event comes?

  9. This may be off topic, then again, if we are doing a drill, this might be something to consider for upcoming drills and the REAL thing. I couldn’t help being reminded of my senses being a little off when getting my own hair cut short. Anyone else sense this? Hello Duck Dynasty. 😉

  10. I’m just watching a Senate hearing about the electric grid security and reliability. They just said there are 3 grids across the lower 48 states. Eastern, Western and Texas has its own. While we all have an idea(s) about what may happen, it’s good to know at least this much and how we can plan for it.


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