Blackout: Keeping Yourself Under the Radar

If there’s one thing you can count on in any disaster, it’s the lights going out. It really doesn’t take much of a storm to knock down power lines; but that’s really nothing compared to the type of blackouts that could happen in the wake of an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) attack, CME (coronal mass ejection) from the sun or a cyberattack on our electrical grid. Should any of those happen, the power outages would be widespread and long lasting.

This is why so many of us put time, effort and money into building off-grid electrical power systems. While it is possible to survive just fine without electrical power, having electricity makes it much easier to survive.

But this can lead to problems too. If you’re the only one in your neighborhood who has electrical power, your neighbors may begin to think that you have other things they need, like food. For that matter, cooking outdoors over an open fire might give them that idea as well. So part of your OPSEC (operational security) planning has to include keeping your relative affluence under the radar, so that it doesn’t invite attack.

More than anything, keeping yourself under the radar means you need to make yourself look like everyone else. While there are limitations as to how much you can do this, you should make the effort to do so as much as possible. Standing out just makes people wonder about you.

Weight Loss

If everyone around you is starving, they’re going to be losing weight as well. That’s one of those signs that becomes instantly obvious, with people who aren’t losing weight standing out if they came from another planet. Not losing weight has to mean that you’re eating well, at least in their minds.

This is an easy one to rectify, if you take your survival seriously. Most of us eat too much as it is; in a survival situation, you’re going to need to cut back. While you don’t have to starve yourself, cutting back to a 1,500 calorie a day diet, until you lose any excess weight that you have really won’t kill you. It might even help you survive, as many diseases are directly related to being overweight.

At 1,500 calories a day your survival stockpile will last longer too, increasing the amount of time you can make it, without either resupply or producing your own food.

General Appearance

Most people will start looking dirty and raggedy in the wake of a disaster, especially if the only water they have available is water they carry from a nearby lake or river. They will bathe and wash their clothes infrequently, and will wear their clothes longer, before washing them.

Lack of personal hygiene is dangerous though, as it opens you up to infection. So I don’t recommend that you stop bathing and doing other things to take care of your body. However, you want to avoid flaunting this in people’s faces. Don’t run around in new clothes, when everyone else’s have holes in them. Looking a little better than anyone else is probably okay, but you don’t want to stand out.


One of the first things most of us will try to do with any electrical power we have, is to turn on the lights in our homes. Be careful about that, as light escaping through your windows at night can be seen for a long distance. That light could be used as a beacon by criminals, seeking you out to see why you have lights, when nobody else does.

The simple solution to this is to use blackout curtains. That means curtains which are heavy enough, that the light won’t shine through them. Of course, the brighter the light is indoors, the heavier the curtains will need to be, to block it. You may have to do some experimentation here, trying different things out, until you find a combination that works.

In a pinch, a comforter off the bed makes a great blackout curtain. Of course, you’ll probably want to have that on the bed, in order to keep you warm at night. But if you happen to have any old comforters laying around, don’t throw them out, save them. Besides keeping the light in your home, they can also help keep the warmth from escaping, as windows are the most poorly insulated part of any home.


Many of the electrically powered things we use make noise. We’re just so accustomed to the noise that they make, that we don’t think anything of it. We have music playing in the background as we work, air conditioners running and use power tools to do various projects.

These sounds, and a host of others make up the background sound track of our lives. But when the power goes out, those sounds will disappear. That’s going to make it extremely difficult to hide the use of power tools, air conditioners or stereo systems. At first, it won’t be too bad, as people will be used to those sounds, but the longer things go without power, the more they will stand out.

Food Smells

This is the most difficult one in this list. You’ve got to cook food in order to be able to eat; but food smells can travel a long way. That’s especially true when others are starving. They’ll smell your meat cooking on the grill or your break baking from a block away and come seeking out the food. Even a wood fire will attract attention, especially if it’s cold out.

You can mitigate this a bit by how you cook. Cooking indoors, even in the heat, helps to keep those smells from traveling through the neighborhood. You should also be aware of the types of food that you are cooking, especially those which are very aromatic. Try to avoid cooking those, except when you can mask the odor.

Another good way of trapping food smells is cooking in enclosed containers, like a solar oven. Since the oven has to be closed, to help trap in the heat, it also helps hide food odors for you. That’s ideal in a grid-down situation, where you’re trying to keep people from knowing what’s cooking. Likewise, cooking in enclosed containers, like a crock with a lid (think crock-pot, without the electric heating element), helps trap in those smells as well.