Thoughts on American Blackout

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I had the opportunity recently to see the National Geographic Channel docudrama “American Blackout”.  In this program, the entire country is hit by a total blackout, putting Americans in the position of being off the grid for a period of time. This is apparently the result of the actions of Ukrainian cyber-terrorists. You, the viewer, follow a number of people who (inexplicably) have some of the longest lasting camcorder and cell phone batteries in existence.

Blackouts and Preparedness

I followed the program hashtag on twitter during the program and found that most folks found it scarey, but very few mentioned that it would change their way of thinking regarding disasters.  To those people, I would simply say that there are a lot of possible scenarios that involve man-made or natural calamities that no one is immune to.  Tornadoes, Hurricanes, floods, wildfires (all of which we’ve experienced somewhere in the country this year), earthquakes are just some of the natural events.  Economic Collapse, nuclear meltdowns, targeted electromagnetic pulses, civil unrest, and pandemics are just some of the man-made catastrophes. Sure, the likelihood of your experiencing any one disaster is rather small, but what is the chance that you will never experience, to some degree, sometime in your lifetime?  Your children’s lifetimes?

The victims portrayed in American blackout were mostly middle-class Americans whose DNA clearly didn’t contain the preparedness gene. These people, over a few days, went from being amused by the loss of power, to vaguely concerned, to rightfully terrified by the predicament they were in.  Government efforts to help were well-intentioned, but had little effect in relieving the misery. Soon, people were taking drastic measures to obtain food and water, with limited success.

The Preparedness Community and the What-If’s

I won’t pick apart the program’s flaws, because I appreciate that it may bring a few more people into the preparedness community.  But despite what the program portrays, I can assure you that it will be much worse. It just makes common sense to be ready for the uncertain future, and to be medically prepared.  You saw injured and sick people with almost no average citizen ready to deal with them. I think every one of the families they followed wound up having someone who needed some kind of medical help, and that help just wasn’t on the way.

The show also focused on a family that was well prepared for the End of the World as We Know It.  Despite all their supplies, however, they made one mistake: They didn’t put together a community of like-minded people that would help each other in a crisis.  As a result, they could only depend on their own little family to perform activities of daily survival and to provide for the common defense.  If you, the well-prepared citizen, haven’t thought of this yet, It’s time. The strain of doing what it takes to survive this type of disaster can’t be shouldered by one person, and probably shouldn’t be shouldered by one family.  An individual may survive, but it takes a community to thrive.

Some people feel that those that prepare for survival scenarios are not right in the head.  One of the definitions of the word “sane”, as a matter of fact, is “Conforming to the norm”.  It logically follows, therefore, that the people in American Blackout were sane.  But if being totally unready for disaster is “sane”, then put a straightjacket on me and lock me in the loony bin.  Just put some food, water, and medical supplies in there with me.

Joe Alton, M.D. aka Dr. Bones


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