Prepper Book Festival 10: Lights Out by Ted Koppel

Gaye Levy Gaye Levy  |  Updated: November 24, 2020
Prepper Book Festival 10: Lights Out by Ted Koppel

On more than one occasion, I have suggested that our greatest risk is that of an EMP, whether caused by natural events or a cyberattack.  Regardless of its source, experts say that the massive destruction of the power grid will send us back to pioneer days.  The difference, of course, is that back in those olden days, folks were not reliant on technology to power virtually ever aspect of their lives.

Circling back, today it gives me great pleasure to introduce you to  Lights Out: A Cyberattack, A Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath by award winning news anchor and journalist Ted Koppel.  Hang on to your seats, everyone, because if you thought you knew everything there was to know about the repercussions of a cyberattack and EMP, think again.

Prepper Book Festival Lights Out | Backdoor Survival

In Lights Out, Mr. Koppel makes it clear that our leaders are ill-prepared to protect our power grid. Furthermore, there are only rudimentary plans in place to help the millions who will be caught off guard with no preps and only meager skills to survive.  Think about it.  If large regions of our country were to go dark, who would be mobilized to evacuate the masses and even then, where would they go?

Without question, we are all vulnerable and as Ted Koppel explains in his book, we all need to have a plan, get ready, and be prepared.

Today, as part of Prepper Book Festival 10: The Best New Books to Help You Prepare,  I share a special conversation with Ted and, in Book Festival tradition, have five copies to giveaway to lucky Backdoor Survival readers.

Enjoy the interview then be sure to check in below to learn about the giveaway.

A Conversation with Ted Koppel, Author of LIGHTS OUT

Ted, how likely is an attack on our power grid?


When I posed that question to former Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, she put the likelihood at 80 or 90 percent. General Lloyd Austin, who currently heads up the U.S. military’s Central Command, told me that it’s not a question of “if, but of when.” Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has warned of a cyber Pearl Harbor, and President Obama highlighted the threat to our power grid in his 2013 State of the Union address.

In short, government and military leaders think it’s likely, and I found no compelling evidence to the contrary.

What could happen if our power grid was attacked?

Depending on the sophistication of the attack it could take out all or part of a grid, of which there are only three in the entire United States.

Under a worst case scenario, tens of millions of Americans could be without a normal supply of electric power for weeks or even months. The resulting shortages would, inevitably, lead to civil unrest, with the likelihood that large numbers of people would flee affected cities.

The wealthy (assuming they could access their money) could relocate to unaffected parts of the country. Those without means would very likely be urged to keep moving.

You say the Internet should be viewed not only as an incredible tool, but also a potential weapon of mass destruction. That phrase has a lot of immediate connotations, specifically to nuclear weapons. Why use it here?

Weapons of mass destruction are not limited to nuclear. There are biological and chemical weapons that are categorized as weapons of mass destruction. The definition depends on the number of people who could be affected.

Using that as a measure, denying an urban population electric power (other than that produced by emergency generators) over an extended period of time would result in significant casualties: patients needing life support systems powered by electricity; the most vulnerable elderly, dependent on electric heating in the winter, cooling in the summer; and the unpredictable casualties that would result from civil unrest when food, water, and medicine are in short supply.

Why is our power grid so vulnerable?

The electric power industry is made up of more than 3,000 companies, many of them using old and difficult-to-repair equipment. The large power transformers, for example, which are crucial to the transmission of electricity across the country, are almost 40 years old on average. They are enormous, so they are not easily moved or replaced. They tend to be custom made, so they are not easily interchangeable. They are very expensive, so small companies don’t keep backups on hand, and most of them are built overseas and it takes more than a year to get a new one.

The largest, most profitable companies have taken elaborate precautions against cyberattack; but they are interconnected with the smaller, less protected companies. Like any chain, the power grids are only as strong as their weakest link.

Who is most likely to mount a cyberattack?

The Chinese and Russians are the most capable of launching an attack against one of our power grids, but because of their many interlocking interests with the United States they are less likely to do so. (As we’ve seen, of course, these ties haven’t stopped the Chinese from launching the biggest cyber-espionage attack in history, vacuuming more than 21 million personnel files out of the U.S. government’s computers).

The great danger of a catastrophic cyberattack comes from entities that have fewer common interests with the United States: countries like North Korea or terrorist groups like ISIS. There is a growing belief among U.S. intelligence specialists that independent groups already have, or will soon have, that capability.

What kind of plans are in place if the power does go out? What agencies would be responsible in that event?

The only plans our government has in place are those created to deal with natural disasters, such as hurricanes or blizzards.

A cyberattack on one of our power grids would be vastly different—its impact would be spread over a far wider area and the outage could last weeks or even months. FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security are the two agencies that have the greatest responsibility to prepare, but they disagree over the likelihood of such an attack and over how to respond.

Couldn’t people just evacuate?

One area of disagreement is over the option of evacuating our urban centers. The deputy administrator (the number two man) at FEMA thinks evacuation is the right option. His boss, the administrator, disagrees. He thinks there would be too many people involved, not enough time and not enough willing host destinations.

Indeed, I found that in one small rural state, the governor has developed plans to keep refugees moving: give them a sandwich, a bottle of water, and a map indicating the nearest gas stations.

Who, if anybody, is best prepared for this kind of scenario?

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Mormons, have been conditioned throughout their history to prepare for one form of disaster or another. I devote three chapters to the Mormons and their extraordinary level of organization.

It would be difficult for any other institution to duplicate, but there are measures Mormon families take from which the rest of us can learn.

Is there anything ordinary citizens can or should do to prepare for such a possibility?

Preparing for the unexpected is always a tricky proposition.

I spent my earliest childhood years in London during World War II. The British had gone to great lengths preparing for poison gas attacks, which never materialized. They evacuated well over a million people from their cities in anticipation of German attacks, but hundreds of thousands of those evacuees, as it turned out, preferred taking their chances at home to being refugees in someone else’s home.

Past experience in preparing for the unexpected teaches us that, more often than not, we get it wrong. It also teaches that there is value in the act of searching for answers. Acknowledging ignorance is often the first step toward finding a solution.

The Giveaway

You are going to want this book!  Ted and his publishers have reserved FIVE copies of Lights Out  for this Book Festival Giveaway.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

To enter the giveaway, you need to utilize the Rafflecopter form below.  Select one or more of the options after signing in using your email account or Facebook, the choice is yours.  The best way to start is by clicking on “Free Entry for Everyone”.  After that, each option you select represents an additional entry.  There are a number of different options so pick and choose or select them all.

The deadline is 6:00 PM Pacific Tuesday with the winner notified by email and announced on the Rafflecopter in the article.  Please note that the winner must claim their book within 48 hours or an alternate will be selected.

The Final Word

Lights Out is not a book about doomsday and yet the consequences it describes are terrifying.  If our power grid is attacked, masses of humanity will suffer and recovery will be slow.

The message is clear; there is still much to be learned and to do in order to prepare for such an event. Make no mistake. This message is directed as much to the leaders who set policy as it is to citizens such as you and I. It is a wakeup call warning us not only of the danger ahead, but of need to educate and take our preparations to the next level.

It is my hope that Lights Out will also open the eyes of those who have thought the notion of prepping was silly.  You know who I am talking about – reluctant spouses, partners, and family members.

I don’t say this often, but this is truly a must read.  As always, be well, be safe, and be prepared.

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!

If you enjoyed this article, consider voting for Backdoor Survival daily at Top Prepper Websites!

In addition, SUBSCRIBE to email updates  and receive a free, downloadable copy of my e-book The Emergency Food Buyer’s Guide.


Spotlight:  Lights Out: A Cyberattack, A Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath

In this book, Ted Koppel reveals that a major cyberattack on America’s power grid is not only possible but likely, that it would be devastating, and that the United States is shockingly unprepared.


Imagine a blackout lasting not days, but weeks or months. Tens of millions of people over several states are affected. For those without access to a generator, there is no running water, no sewage, no refrigeration or light. Food and medical supplies are dwindling. Devices we rely on have gone dark. Banks no longer function, looting is widespread, and law and order are being tested as never before.

It isn’t just a scenario. A well-designed attack on just one of the nation’s three electric power grids could cripple much of our infrastructure—and in the age of cyber-warfare, a laptop has become the only necessary weapon. And yet, as Koppel makes clear, the federal government, while well prepared for natural disasters, has no plan for the aftermath of an attack on the power grid.

With urgency and authority, one of our most renowned journalists examines a threat unique to our time and evaluates potential ways to prepare for a catastrophe that is all but inevitable.

Plus: The Preppers Guide to Food Storage

No list of books would be complete without my own book, The Prepper’s Guide to Food Storage.  The eBook  print version is available.


Help support Backdoor Survival. Purchases earn a small commission and for that I thank you!


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77 Responses to “Prepper Book Festival 10: Lights Out by Ted Koppel”

  1. I would love to get this book. This, Being written by a man, as trustworthy as he is, would definitely be well received. You couldn’t find a better person to inform the public, about these truths of this possible danger. I honestly expect a lot of non Prepper’s, to take heed, of the need to prepare now.

  2. I can’t figure out why our leaders have not done more to prepare for an EMP. It seems so obvious that the threat is there and we should “make hay while the sun shines”!!! Ted Koppel should add credibility to the threat and open eyes . . . Thanks Gaye!

  3. I would need to continue to improve security measures on my home, such as boarding up some windows, reinforcing some doors, and coordinating with neighbors for mutual protection.

  4. In a grid-down situation, my first concern would be personal and property safety. We could easily ride out a short-to-medium term emergency as far as preps are concerned, but not so much with personal defense.

  5. This book would be useful to show to the skeptics who think people that prep are prepping for some event that will never happen, rather than the numerous scenarios that could very well take place.

  6. This book should be “must” reading for all of us. We can never learn enough
    in how to survive long term without electricity and all the danger and hardship
    it will bring.

  7. By week two I would be most worried about rationing my food and water storage and about protecting/hiding it from non-preppers since any disaster that goes on for more than 1 week will probably have very long lasting effects.

  8. Sounds like a great read and very pertinent material. I’d be interested in knowing if there is in conspiracy theories advanced in this book regarding the One World Government and their need to reduce the US and world population.

  9. By week two I would make sure the neighbors had the wagons circled. There would be a lot of desperate people on the move (the Golden Horde) and I think then personal safety will come into play.

  10. Assuming that security had been addressed and the neighborhood had been organized, I would pack all electrical equipment away to make more comfortable and practical living space for our bug in group.

  11. I would continue to do what I did in the first week, with more emphasis on personal and home security. I would also be reviewing/finalizing plans for an extended “lights out” period. Which is probably a lot easier to say than to put into practice!

  12. If it is winter I have no source of heat. I live in an apartment that is all electric. Poor planing on the builders part but pretty much the norm. I’m looking for a kerosene heater for emergencys.

  13. See if neighbors are willing to work together so we can protect our neighborhood and maybe share resources, skills, knowledge, and moral support.

  14. The first problem will be trying to get everyone ‘home’. I’ve read that most vehicles should still run after just restarting them. Hoping that is correct.
    Secondly the need for the basics will be in play. Everyone will seek water, food, and shelter whether that means their own, that they have prepared and planned for, or taking it away from others will depend on the person.
    Thirdly, protection will quickly become survival. Must be able to protect your family and possessions from those who would cause you harm to obtain whatever you may have. By the second or third week, people will be desperate. Be careful out there.

  15. Week two: we would continue to use the preps we’ve stored. If we haven’t already, we would need to start thinking long-term – gardening, confirming water sources, self-defense, schooling of the grandkids, delegation of duties . . .

  16. Finally, someone in the know put pen to paper! This specific topic has been my focus for preparing, both physically and Spiritually. This event would not have to be a country, this could come from an ISIS like group or ISIS as we know it today. I read as much as I can just to obtain a different perspective to learn from non fiction and fiction alike. Thank you for venting Mr. Koppel’s book.

  17. It would depend on if the natural gas would still be flowing. I have a standby that would run but if no gas , no power. I am looking to add solar and wind soon. Money is always an issue with us. Making sure the house is secure , closing off windows , making sure I have an adequate supply of fire wood for the fire place

  18. By the second week, I would probably be reaching out to neighbors and the neighborhood and attempting to insure that my family was safe and as protected as possible.

  19. During Week 2 I would continue to focus on security and safety of me and mine. I would likely be making my home look less like a place with anything worth taking, even going so far as to make it appear as it was already looted.

  20. This book sounds very important. I would so love to win a copy. Here are the preps and plans I have not yet gotten to.
    Purchase several plastic kiddie pools and put them out when it rains. Store the water in containers and boil as needed.
    Comb the surrounding woods for fallen branches and cut to rocket stove length. Store in dry container.
    Build or buy rocket stove.
    Install valve to prevent back flow through sewer.
    Locate water main and turn off.
    Drain pipes.
    Build bucket toilet and compost bins.
    Build bucket/plunger washer.
    Finish assembly of clay pots heater.
    Keep solar radio charged.
    Test solar battery charger.
    Start prepping food in 1/2 gallon mason jars because they can be stored under house.
    Buy water bricks and store under house.
    Prep dog and cat food.
    More candles, lanterns, lamp oil.
    More Sterno cans for indoor cooking.
    Do geo cacheing.
    Load firearms. That should be first.

  21. I would need to begin collecting and pricing water! Also would need to keep looking for food sources and probably need to increase security because after that length of time the unprepared WILL be looking for what they can take!

  22. By week 2, I should have all my family here at home sheltering. We would be rationing food and water, delegating duties and chores, and concentrating on safety.

  23. If you’re not prepared by the start of week 1,then you are in a bad situation. Week two will probably be worse than week 1. You should already have a plan in place and following it. No plan-no prepping= a short life. A lot of things mentioned in other comments should already be done.

  24. I would be evaluating my neighborhood for problems and if necessary would move to friends compound which is off grid and take as much of my preps along with me. If possible make several trips.
    If not leaving, I would re-enforce my security duties and perimeter alarms, conserve kerosene for heating, ration what supplies that I have, set-up rainwater harvesting that is not set-up at this time, check my black out coverings and whatever else I could think of to ensure safety and comfort not knowing how long the grid down situation would last.

  25. Preparing for EMP is different than preparing for a cyberattack that takes down the grid. In either event evacuation of large numbers of people will be either difficult (cyberattack) or impossible (EMP) – in a grid down event how would all the vehicles get refueled? Who would be providing security for the affected areas to prevent mass looting? And with an EMP, most likely there wouldn’t even be enough functional vehicles to attempt a mass evacuation. The FEMA dude is deluded.
    Let’s face it, we’d be on our own in either scenario. So make sure you have all your preps in order: food, water, heat, alternate shelter, and personal defense. And then hope for the best while keeping a low profile. No need to advertise you have plenty if there is an event, since desperate folks will do things normal folks wouldn’t think of. I already have the materials to block off my basement windows to not give people ideas if they are casing the house. We also have a standby generator, but it’s only tied to natural gas, so if the gas stops flowing so will it -which is a good thing from an OpSec perspective. And I can hide the small solar panels that will keep my radios and flashlights working for years if necessary.

  26. I am half way thru this book. What an eye opener. Now I really want to look into solar, even though I have a Gen with lots of stored fuel. The Government has no clue how to react to this. Time to divert funds from overseas to grid protection here.
    Go get this book $14.95 at Sams, 26.95 at B&N.

  27. Having lived for a year and a half without electricity, I would like to read and think about this book, if I should be so lucky as to win the giveaway . .

  28. I have to find some sort of heating that doesn’t require electric. Even my gas furnace takes electric to start and for the fan. I want a woodstove but my husband is opposed. I think he’d change his mind when we’re freezing, but it’ll be too late then…

  29. Water availability in Phoenix would probably be my main concern but I believe I have some barter items that would help. Food for longer than about 1-2 months would become an issue but again I could possibly do some bartering.

  30. I have watched Ted from the time he was an investigative reporter. I’ve also watched several in depth interviews about this book. Yes many will be critical, and yet; much of what he’s saying hopefully will wake people up to say, “Don’t rely on the govt to help you immediately after any disaster.” We as individuals will be able to do more in our local area than even the local govt because govt by it’s names has to be concerned for ALL individuals so that’s where their focus will be.
    When I think of the govt moving. Anyone remember how New Orleans knew about what could happen if a Katrina hit it. Five years before it hit, they knew yet did nothing. This was the local which could move more rapidly even than the feds.
    Just before this book came out, Oregon came out with the Oregon Resilience Plan. This link will provide some different ways of learning more about what one state has done for that possible “Big One”. //
    Now they are telling people not to prepare for 72 hours, but 2 weeks. Having lived through a tornado, THAT’s how I’m preparing. Two weeks worth in my kitchen, the rest in disguise in various places. No propane nor natural gas. I live in all electric which includes solar for cooking, and other ways of living. i am preparing for something like this and then combining it with a natural disaster because I so believe jGOD has a sense of humor and likes to keep some of us on our toes. 😉

  31. Assuming it’s not the dead of winter and I hadn’t frozen stiff by then, I’d still be OK from a food-and-water standpoint by Week 2 (and for several weeks thereafter). Hope this isn’t TMI, but I’d be concerned about flushing the toilet without power. I could transport water from a nearby creek to my apartment for flushing purposes…but maintaining OPSEC while sneaking around with heavy water containers would be difficult.

  32. Neighborhood and personal home security will definitely be an issue. Also finding sources of water and food for neighbors who are not prepared will most likely be necessary.

  33. I’ve been wanting this book since after reading, One Second After, and about to read , One Year After,
    this book would set me free on the desire scale.

  34. Getting the beds ready for the brats and grandbrats. Setting up a perimeter guard and getting heat to all parts of the house that need it.

  35. My home is now listed for sale so that I can hopefully soon move to a better and safer location and then I will work diligently to get things ready there asap.

    I am glad that you interviewed Ted. I enjoyed his weekly TV program.

    • Hi I am Charles
      On your post, look for a person that lives in the rural area that is near you. someone that is like minded. A co worker or a friend of a friend. But don’t leave the city until you have a plan. With many paths to where you want to go. the city has a lot of stuff in it. So get your preps up and watch the other people, then will you know when to leave. Keep an open mind. as info is all around. Please don’t get in the mass extrados. Stay calm and think out side the box. I am not the man but just a man.

  36. I have three kids and I am a brand new prepper. I’ve got about 30 days worth of food so far. I am motivated to prep because of my family, I want them to stay healthy and safe in the event of an emergency. Thanks for your blog, it is an amazing resource for people just starting out, like myself.

  37. I’d like to read this book. I’ve read several others and find things I either didn’t think about or give enough thought.

  38. To be more ready for a week of no power, I would recheck our food supplies to make sure we have plenty of items that don’t require long cooking times, and enough variety. I’d also check our water storage and fill up an empty 55 gallon water barrel which is sitting empty in the garage. Come to think of it, I’ll do these today!

  39. During Hurricane Isabel the area lost power for 9 days and had a boil water advisory for vulnerable people, as a result the county urges people to store 2 weeks of food and water per person

    I need to focus on defense. I hope that the apartment complex could band together for security, but I’m not optimistic. I also need to work more on natural remedies since the sanitation situation in my apartment would go bad very quickly since there would be no trash pick up.

    Thanks for posting the question, Gayle, it reminds me that plans need to be reevaluated. Also thanks to Mr. Koppel and his publisher for offering the giveaway.

  40. Within a day or two after the event starts, if everything goes according to plan, then at the beginning of week two everyone should be at one location. Security, communications, energy, water and food routines should be established by then.

  41. I would be keeping as low a profile as possible. I can’t “bug out” and my neighbors are mostly college students so they would have probably already be gone.

  42. This is a must read book. This is interesting timing with the events going on in Paris, France at this time. Will have to look for this book on Amazon. This is the first time of hearing of this book. Thank-you.

  43. By week two security and self defense would be critical from the hordes of starving people who did no prepping for themselves. You will need to protect yourself and your preps.

  44. I bought this book as a Kindle download & have already recommended it to 3 people. I wish it was available to loan through Kindle, but it isnt, so I’m entering the give away to be able to share book with more people. My only complaint with the book is that I feel Mr Koppel didn’t go far enough in his push for more individual preparedness.

  45. I practices lights out every night during the winter. I hung a propane lantern above the kitchen table and I have two oil lamps in the bathroom. Once it gets dark, I don’t turn on the lights. I also leave 9 miles out of town in a small subdivision. I am working on getting more ammo and wood. I need to get a solar panel for my water pump.

  46. Week two, I am thinking about security for sure. I put a hold on this book at my library earlier this week, only 88 people ahead of me!

  47. I think securing my home better would be at the top of the list. Boarding up windows being the first thing. Then securing my food and preps would be next. Hiding things in case someone does force there way in with plans to take food and supplies.

  48. My place has issues with plumbing so I’d want to know the water and gas lines are safe or if I need to evacuate. After safety I’d look at my food and water storage.

  49. I’ve already done some of the things I’d need to do. I have a generator to keep my freezers going, I have a Coleman lantern and fuel, a wood stove and wood, a Coleman stove and fuel, and we have about three weeks or so worth of food in the house. Water is right outside my front door, and I have a water filter.

  50. Continue to prepare for long term issues. Have multiple ways to cook, purify water, save food, etc. I too am looking at things that will rely on solar power. Do research on all future purchases and get the most for your money. We all need to care for ourselves and not hold out hope that the government will be there in 24-48 hours. I am still working on my children to get more prepared but sometimes I think it is going to take a rather large incident to get their attention. So now I am working with my grand children to be more prepared but also to assure them that we can survive most things if we are ready to deal with them. It is not a matter of if something were to happen but when is it going to happen. Look at what has recently happened in Paris, France and weather incidents around the globe.

  51. Constant vigilance of the world around me, knowing what is going on, knowing the best methods of preparation — and then doing my best to provide the best in case I have to rely on myself and my storage. The more I read and learn and put into action, the more confident I feel.

  52. We would be concentrating even more on security, gathering more wood to use to help with trying to preserve some of the food that is beginning to suffer from non-constant freezing/refrigeration from our propane generator, cooking continually during the day with our Sun Oven, continually operating what solar devices we have to collect energy or to recharge devices/batteries, and putting out as many buckets/other containers to catch whatever rain might fall to supplement our stored water supplies.

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