“Observations of life in an extended power failure”

I’m obliged to Charles Hugh Smith for reprinting the observations of an Australian reader about a recent extended power failure down under.  Here’s an excerpt.

It was a fascinating opportunity to observe firsthand what happens when an electricity dependent society and economy has an extended and complete loss of electrical grid and communications.

Key observations for my local area are:

1. Many people have small petrol generators thanks to our lovely coastal wilderness and a preoccupation with Glamping (Glam Camping).

2. Very few people had a store of petrol at home more than 5 to 10 litres [1.3 to 2.6 US gallons]. (usually kept for use in lawn mowers, brush cutters, chainsaws). Some owners of small boats had up to 20 litres [5.3 US gallons] on hand.

3. When the electricity goes out … the pumps at fuel stations don’t work. To my great surprise, only 1 fuel station in my nearest city of about 14 000 population had (or quickly acquired) a back-up generator to work their fuel pumps. There was a 3 hour wait for customers to get from back of queue to the pumps … and a ridiculous show of ‘bulk buying’ where people didn’t just take fuel that they personally needed; they showed up with between 3 and 8 X 20 litre (5 gallon) fuel cans as well as filling their cars. Hopefully the canned fuel was distributed among family and friends. (My assertion is that the owners of the station should have rationed fuel to 40 litres per customer to keep the que moving faster and to make sure everyone had some, rather than creating an ‘all or nothing’ situation.)

. . .

6. The full loss of grid, grid back-up and other smaller backups caused telecommunications and data transmission to practically cease. This meant limitations of EFTPOS in stores. Banks were shut, ATM’s didn’t work and some shops that were open could only take cash. Generally though, everyone muddled through the sketchy electronic payment systems one way or another. Internet access failed for the most part. Social media pretty much collapsed … my two daughters though their social lives were over. I didn’t miss it. My wife found more time to do other things too.

There’s more at the link.

Highly recommended reading for everyone who routinely prepares for emergencies (as we all should).  There’s good information there.



  1. Well I can see an opportunity for an enterprising sort with enough generator power to get a gas station going. Though I suppose with corporations the way they are you would have to find a small independent one.

  2. In the country we have generators to keep the water well pump and fridge going. That's why you need to aquire propane generators people!! Propane fuel is much safer to store in large quantities and provides far longer run time for generator. Plus due to the problems of ethanol added to gas here in the U.S., you always have problems with gas generators running properly. I have bought fresh gas from a station before only to have so much water already absorbed by the ethanol no small equipment would run. I am in the process of converting my lawn mowers and old gas powered tractor to propane. My tractor wont work with the ethanol gas and the nearest place that has ethanol free gas takes 2.5 hours

  3. My fuel storage is my old farm pickup. Two tanks that hold 38 gallons.
    I have siphoned some out of it from time to time.


  4. Back in the 1970s Jimmy Carter imposed price controls on fuel which naturally created terrible shortages.
    Many stations restricted sales to ten gallons, and most would refuse to sell at all if your gauge read over half full.
    During a more than week long power failure a couple years back the only gasoline within fifty miles was the municipal fueling station. One of our councilmen almost got run out of town for sending his daughter there to fill up her personal vehicle.
    Other than that, it was a great experience of neighbor helping neighbor, block parties, and cookouts to use it up before it spoiled.
    A small inverter run off the truck battery kept a laptop, Kindle, and several small radios charged. Lost the land line for a day or two then that came back up. Cell was off due to tower failure, but back once power was restored.

  5. Yeah, the State of South Australia had a complete shut-down due to unusually large and destructive storms, but here's the rub.
    South Australia's power grid DOES NOT have a base load generating capability, it literally has to get it from a 'line' linked to the neighboring state of Victoria!
    The Green/Leftist State government over the last few decades imposed and applied its agenda to shut down all coal fired power generating stations, and as the state has absolutely NO Hydro-Electric ability, and never will – not one river larger than a large country stream, and that, coupled with it being a state with NO hills or mountains containing fast flowing rivers to generate needed base power, is a state ruined by those policies.

    The power was cut off by automatic safety protectors, designed to protect the grid, in both states.
    Of course, the Greens, Leftists, and other State politicians and bureaucrats responsible for this disaster are running around like cockroaches in a tin with the torchlight shining on them, loudly denying their responsibility, whilst with straight faces to cameras, uttering the most barefaced lies as to what caused this debacle!.


  6. Welcome to Load Shedding OZ… in South Africa it was a daily thing.
    Everyone here has numerous battery packs, LED lighting, solar panels, generators, spare fuel etc… we laugh at Doomsday Preppers on tv… we do it every day like. 😉

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