Funny about Money

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. ―Edmund Burke

Come the Apocalypse(?)…

So, what d’you think about this thing here?

Sure looks snazzy in the picture, doesn’t it? Looks like a regular gas stovetop, in miniature. Amazon wants $53 for this thing, a bargain compared to Costco’s $200 offering, which (admittedly!) does have a stand to hold it at waist height but which has only a couple of burners that don’t look very efficient.

This morning I was reminded that I’d like to have a propane camp stove that will boil water and fry or stew foods, come the apocalypse. This one has a lot of bad reviews — 18%, unfortunately — so I’m still looking (any recommends, dear readers??). But I definitely want to get something with a stove-like burner to use outside.

And how did I happen to be reminded? Well, once again the damned Cox wireless connection went down. So as usual I shut down the computers, unplugged the router and modem, left the system off for half an hour, replugged, and rebooted. Since this happened right about the crack of dawn, the house was kind of cold, so while I was waiting for Cox to recover itself, I went to turn on the heat for a few minutes by way of warming the place up to 63 or 65 degrees.

And lo! The damned Nest thermostat was OFF-LINE.

Yeah. If your router is off, your nifty computerized thermostat is off. So…let’s think about that. Even if your electric service is intact, if your Internet connection goes down, you can’t run your heat or — far more crucially in lovely uptown Arizona — your air conditioning.

Holy sh!t.

If you’ve been paying even the slightest bit of attention, you’re aware that the U.S. Internet is highly vulnerable to attack from Unfriendlies. So much so that an extended regional or nationwide outage is probably inevitable. A serious attack could disable the Internet not for days but for weeks…possibly as long as three months. The same is true of the electrical grid.

We can all imagine the chaos an extended interruption of service would cause nationally and locally. But it’s worth considering exactly what it would mean to you, personally, in your home.

If you couldn’t even turn on the heat or the air-conditioning — even if the electric grid was operating — you would be in deep trouble.

A major attack on the country’s infrastructure — even a part of it, given our present near-100% dependence on computer technology — would mean you couldn’t turn on your stove, your heater or air conditioner, or your water heater. Gas stoves today operate with an electric sparker system, and so your gas stove would not run without electric power. You might not even be able to get potable water out of the tap — or any water. You would not be able to buy gas for your car, because gas pumps run on electricity and computers. You wouldn’t be able to buy groceries and medicines, because retailers’ cash registers are computers running on electricity.

It sounds like crazy Prepper thinking…but between you’n’me, I think it’s probably wise to be prepared, at least minimally, for an extended outage of these services. That’s even if you don’t live on the San Andreas Fault or deep in Tornado Alley.

Today we all live on a fault line.

My best friend in graduate school came from the Salinas area, where her parents were still living when the last major earthquake hit central California. Her mom was here visiting at the time, but her dad had stayed home. Fortunately, Elmer was a camping and fishing enthusiast. So he had a lot of gear on hand. And he had a camper that was equipped with a propane stove and refrigerator.

All the power went down and stayed down for some time. Roads in and out of town were wrecked — no one could get in or out for several days. Elmer kept the entire neighborhood going with the supplies he had, meant to keep him in comfort for a week or two when he was out in the sticks. He was able to boil water and prepare food for the neighbors’ small kids with the propane stoves he had on hand. He became, to put it mildly, the hero of the day.

So…what would be minimal preparation for an extended Internet or electric outage?

Water — enough to last  until the government or Red Cross can truck water into the area
Source of heat for cooking
Source of light, battery or propane operated
Supply of foods that do not have to be refrigerated
Supply of pet food, as necessary
Source of living quarters heat, if it’s very cold outside, or plenty of warm clothing and blankets
At least one 5-gallon jerry can of gasoline
A generous stash of propane, stored safely
Stash of prescription meds, if you can get them, and stash of OTC nostrums
First-aid kit

That’s really not very much — nothing unreasonable for most of us to keep on hand.

“Source of heat for cooking” means a device with at least one burner that gets hot enough to boil water. You may have access to water, but it may not be safe to drink without boiling. If your stove doesn’t work, you’ve got a problem.

I have 18,000 gallons of water in my pool, so assuming I have a camp stove and plenty of propane, I could get by for quite a long while in the event of a water shortage.

Foods that can be stored without refrigeration include dried rice and beans. These need to be soaked in water and cooked for a fair amount of time: hence, propane and water.

A generator would be good…but generators don’t run on air. Whether to drive or to run your house, you’d need gasoline. And gas is not something that can be stored and forgotten: you need to empty the jerry can into your car now and again and drive back up to the gas station to refill your supply

I’m keeping all my propane tanks full at all times, and am thinking I’ll buy another one. At this time I have three; four would last for quite a while.

While the grill works well for most kinds of dry cooking — roasting, baking, and grilling — it’s not designed for boiling water. Using it to boil water or cook rice or beans would waste a lot of fuel. That’s why I think I should have a functioning camp stove.

As for keeping warm at night? Dog. There’s a reason for the “two-dog night” saying. A dog’s normal body temperature is 102.5 degrees. Put the critter on your bed at night, and it’ll warm you up just like an electric blanket.

The ultimate heat source…

I personally am beginning to believe that within the next four to eight years, we will see serious civil unrest in this country. The time may come when we cannot safely leave our homes or neighborhoods for any length of time…or at all.

Which is the longer shot — cyberattack or civil war? I don’t know. They both seem like long shots. But who would have imagined Americans would elect a President who wants to shut down the free press, who imagines he can build a Berlin Wall from Sea to Shining Sea, who lies as freely as he breathes, who cultivates divisiveness, and who evinces clear signs of mental illness?

Whether you think it’s going to happen or not, it may be wise to be prepared. Helle’s Belles, none of us thinks the house is going to burn down or we’re going to croak over tomorrow. But we all carry insurance…just in case.

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9 Comments

  1. At the end of a 30+ year in IT, you can trust me when I say – the Internet will be around long after us. It’s ridiculously resilient, multi-national, routes around damage (or censorship) like a self-healing organism, and the backbone is some of the best hardware that can be built today. A prolonged outage is unlikely but possible, so your preparations are wise. However, in a society where everybody is packing heat, how long is your water/propane/food going to be yours?

    I’ve made peace with the possibility of apocalypse, thanks to a reliance on modern medicine I’ll be one of the first victims. Good luck though, Maybe Mel Gibson will save the day.

    • {cackle!} When we say “everyone,” we mean EVERYONE.

      Notice how primly I restrained myself from suggesting that one also should have plenty of ammunition on hand… {pats self on head} 😀

      While we’re swan-diving off the highest springboard, how’s about some cigarettes, dope, and candy that can be used for barter?

      Seriously…when one tries to get “serious” about this stuff, it just gets crazier and crazier.

  2. Devices like the Nest should have the option to connect and be controlled via the Internet, but they should not have this as the only option. Thanks for making sure I never buy one (at least in the current iteration).

    • True that!!!

      Honeywell makes an imitation of the good old-fashioned, easy-to-use round thermostats. It’s manual and the only thing it’s connected to is your HVAC unit. Even though it’s said not to be very accurate (because they no longer use mercury), I’m thinking I may just have my AC guys replace mine.

  3. It’s been a couple years since I had a Nest, but with the unit I had, if it was “offline” the unit still worked. I couldn’t make updates from the app or web, but it would continue to run the current program, and I could manually adjust the temperature from the unit itself.

    • That’s interesting! Mine was completely off: black screenlet of death!

      Maybe the one I have is an older model than yours. As soon as the router was reconnected, it came right back online.

  4. I was going to second MD’s comment: https://nest.com/support/article/Do-I-need-Wi-Fi-to-use-Nest Nest should work even without wifi, according to their documentation.

    My house has the standard hot water heater with a tank. That will be a good source of water (at least 35 to 40 gallons worth) if an earthquake disrupts my water supply. I do still stockpile some bottled water as part of my earthquake kit, along with food, dog food, TP, etc. Keeping an extra propane tank on hand is a good idea, though, and I can take care of that soon.

    As for a cooking stove, a simple camp stove burner or the kind of burner that hooks up to a propane tank could work. No need to overdo it with multiple burners. And any of us with gas ranges will still be able to use them if gas lines are working but electrical isn’t. Just use a match or lighter to start the stove if the electric ignition is out.

    • True, the water heater will store a supply. How long it would take to go through 30 or 40 gallons if you’re not bathing is anyone’s guess. We used to carry a couple gallons car camping. If we bathed in a stream or pond, it would last several days.

      I have three five-gallon carboys of water in the garage. Probably redundant…but better too much than too little, IMHO.

      One of those single-burner camp stoves, which we used to use when hiking in the back country, would do the job for the short term. If utilities were down for more than a few days, though, it could be a PITA. Ideally, I’d like to have a camp stove with two burners…that actually work.

      My gas stove has a safety device on it — which I think most do, these days, because we MUST be protected from ourselves — that shuts the gas off if the little sparker doesn’t work. So yeah, you could start it with a match. But it wouldn’t stay on.

      Could’ve been just a coincidence that the Nest went out at the same time that the router and modem were disconnected. This site suggests there’s some connection, though: https://nest.com/support/article/Troubleshooting-adding-the-Nest-Thermostat-to-a-Wi-Fi-network

      Maybe some models of the Nest work on some other connection than WiFi?

    • True, the water heater will store a supply. How long it would take to go through 30 or 40 gallons if you’re not bathing is anyone’s guess. We used to carry a couple gallons car camping. If we bathed in a stream or pond, it would last several days.

      I have three five-gallon carboys of water in the garage. Probably redundant…but better too much than too little, IMHO.

      One of those single-burner camp stoves, which we used to use when hiking in the back country, would do the job for the short term. If utilities were down for more than a few days, though, it could be a PITA. Ideally, I’d like to have a camp stove with two burners…that actually work.

      My gas stove has a safety device on it — which I think most do, these days, because we MUST be protected from ourselves — that shuts the gas off if the little sparker doesn’t work. So yeah, you could start it with a match. But it wouldn’t stay on.

      Could’ve been just a coincidence that the Nest went out at the same time that the router and modem were disconnected. This site suggests there’s some connection, though: https://nest.com/support/article/Troubleshooting-adding-the-Nest-Thermostat-to-a-Wi-Fi-network

      Maybe some models of the Nest work work on some other connection than WiFi?