Published by Crown on October 27th 2015
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 isnâ€™t just a scenario. A well-designed attack on just one of the nationâ€™s three electric power grids could cripple much of our infrastructureâ€”and in the age of cyberwarfare, a laptop has become the only necessary weapon. Several nations hostile to the United States could launch such an assault at any time. In fact, as a former chief scientist of the NSA reveals, China and Russia have already penetrated the grid. And a cybersecurity advisor to President Obama believes that independent actorsâ€”from â€œhacktivistsâ€ to terroristsâ€”have the capability as well. â€œItâ€™s not a question of if,â€ says Centcom Commander General Lloyd Austin, â€œitâ€™s a question of when.â€
I was excited to order Lights Out, a book about the possible aftermath of a catastrophic attack on the U.S. power grid, but once it arrived I was reluctant to read it.Â Why?Â Possibly for the same reasons as many officials have for not addressing this threat.Â I want to pretend it can’t happen.
I was pretty sure that if I read this book that I would turn into some type of disaster prepper.Â I already asked for a generator for Christmas (I didn’t get it).Â The idea of having electricity fail permanently seems like a horror movie for me.Â It would be a horror movie for everyone.
The book outlines ways that the grid is vulnerable and ways that it has already been attacked.Â It also has interviews with several people and groups who are preparing for disasters in varying ways.Â No one seems to be totally prepared though and the book ends with the acknowledgement that we will never be ready.
I will be rereading the preparation chapters again with some notes about things I can start to do to prepare myself for even minor emergencies like power loss due to blizzards.Â My goal of off the grid living is far away but this book made me even more serious about wanting to live that way.
I used to live in rural areas where losing power for up to a few days wasn’t an abnormal occurrence.Â Now I live in the city where it very rarely happens.Â It happened this week.Â It was almost bedtime anyway so I just went to bed but as I was lying there I had a few minutes of panic.Â What if this was it?Â What if this was the time it was never going to come back on?Â Would I look back on my thoughts while laying in bed like a movie voiceover – “These were the last few hours of living in the world they knew….”Â Should I get up and check the internet on my phone to see if there was a catastrophe?Â Should I save the power on my phone instead?Â I knew reading this book would mess with my head.Â (It came back on in less than 2 hours.)
I need a generator and solar panels.