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    How To Conduct A “Survival Stress Test”

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    How To Conduct A "Survival Stress Test"

    How would you fare in a grid-down scenario? One spring, a small but intense thunderstorm ripped through my neighborhood and uprooted a large, black walnut tree in my yard. The tree came down and took with it the power lines. Unfortunately, it also blocked the driveway and started a fire in my garden

    Thankfully, the fire put itself out since it took over an hour for a firetruck to arrive on the scene. Unfortunately, the storm took out power in most of the town, putting my family of 7 at the bottom of the list to have it restored. All in all, we spent a good week without electricity. We couldn't leave our driveway until the tree was removed, and there was no place to stay due to the raging global pandemic anyway. So my children and I had no choice but to bug in with no electricity, no water, and no flushing toilets.

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    What would you do if this were to happen to you? 

    Don't wait for an emergency to find out if you are truly prepared. Instead, you can do a survival stress test to see how you would fare in a grid-down scenario. If you have children, you'll want to make this a fun game, so they aren't scared. And practicing this kind of event will help them feel more comfortable if it ever does happen.

    Here's how to create your own survival stress test:

    1. Pick a weekend that fits your schedule for your survival stress test. 
    2. Turn off the main breaker to your house. 
    3. Shut off the water
    4. Turn off the gas. 
    5. Hide your phones, car keys, and electronic devices. 

    How will you make it through the weekend? 

    If you are doing this from home, you'll have shelter. But you're going to need a few more things to keep your family safe, well-fed, and comfortable. In addition to the items below, make sure you are prepared with any medical supplies or special items your family needs, such as prescription medications. 


    When the electricity is out, I can't get water since my water comes from a well and needs electricity to run. So how will you have enough water to drink and wash with? FEMA says you should store at least 1 gallon of water per person per day, but I prefer 2 gallons so I'll have enough for cooking and cleaning. This can take up a lot of space if you have a large family, but you'll need some other source if you don't have a fresh spring to provide you with water

    I had plenty of gallons of water stored for a week, but we still had to be careful with it. I also have a rain barrel and a filter which can be used for emergencies for people or animals. If you can plan just a bit, you could fill your bathtub and fill up any extra jars and containers. 


    If you can't flush your toilets, you're going to need to deal with waste. You can use a bucket of water to make the toilet flush, but you might not have enough water for that. If you live in the woods, you can pee anywhere and dig a cathole for your excrement, but you might need to try something else if you live in a city. 

    You can use a 5-gallon bucket with a trash bag inside and a toilet seat on top. Sprinkle a layer of sawdust over top of your waste any time someone uses your emergency toilet. You'll need to find a way to dispose of these bags eventually, though, so keep that in mind when you plan your survival test. 


    First of all, you need to keep your refrigerated and frozen food cold. A full freezer will keep your food safely frozen for up to 24 hours if you don't open it. Refrigerated food will only last about 4. You can use a generator to run your fridge if you have one, but when my power was out, I discovered at the worst possible time that my generator was broken and in need of repair.  

    Eating room-temperature food gets pretty boring after a while. So you'll need to figure out a means of cooking. I made oatmeal, coffee, and scrambled eggs easily on top of my woodstove, but I wasn't prepared to make complete meals that way. But if you have a grill or a camp stove, you can easily cook in your backyard, weather permitting. Since then, I got a Trangia, which is a small cookstove that runs on alcohol. It can easily boil water, make soup, and do other light cooking. 

    Of course, you'll need to have food on hand. So consider how much food you need to store for emergencies and how you will store it. According to FEMA, you should have at least two weeks' worth, but some preppers will stock up for a year or more. 


    If your survival stress test is in the winter, how will you keep warm and do it safely? 

    I have a wood stove and several weeks' worth of wood on hand all year, even in the summer. While the wood stove can't heat my entire house, I can shut off a few unused rooms and keep part of the house comfortable for my children and me. 

    If you don't have a wood stove, you'll have to think of other ways to heat your home such as a propane-powered heater.  Never heat your home with a gas oven or outdoor heater. And always make sure you have working, battery-powered carbon monoxide detectors. 

    If your house is cold, put on layers, close your curtains, keep out drafts, and snuggle up together to share warmth. 


    You'll want to have ways to light your home for any activity after dark. I have a small solar-powered light system that is enough to dimly light a room. We also have a bunch of flashlights and batteries around. You could use a cell phone or tablet to create light (but you might want to save the battery for an emergency). You can also grab your little outdoor solar-powered garden lights. Put them in a basket to create a little extra light. 

    If you have a generator, you can run your lights, fridge, and even your coffee maker to give your family a little bit of comfort. 


    Never underestimate the importance of a little wholesome entertainment when the power is out. The moments tick by very slowly, especially for small kids who are missing their electronic devices. So keep some non-powered, age-appropriate activities on hand where you can easily find them. 

    For example:

    • Coloring books and crayons
    • Card games (for kids and adults)
    • Battery-powered radio 
    • Board games 
    • Hobbies, crafts, or other electric-free activities like knitting

    To make it fun, print out a checklist for each person. Here's what to put on the list:

    • Food
    • Breakfast
    • Lunch
    • Dinner
    • Snacks
    • Water
    • Waste
    • Cleaning
    • Light
    • Warmth
    • Entertainment

    As you go through the day, make notes of what worked, what didn't, what you can do to be more prepared next time, and so forth. Make sure you learn something from the survival stress test, and try to have fun. The more positive you can make this experience, the better.

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