Live Free or Die #1
by Thomas Icom

It is a Sunday morning at a gas station & convenience store in Westchester County, NY. The prices of gas grades are 87 octane: $1.95/gallon, 89 octane: $2.07/gallon, and 93 octane: $2.16/gallon. Last week they were 10 to 17 cents/gallon less. It costs about 30 cents/gallon for individuals to produce their own bio-diesel in small quantities. The prices in neighboring Connecticut are up too. They are what New York was last week; again 10 to 17 cents/gallon more. Approximately 5% of the customers have said something about the gas price increase. I suspect many more are thinking the same thing. They still however, continue to take out their wallets and fill up their SUVs and luxury sedans, and pay maybe $2 more per fill-up. I cannot have any sympathy for someone who makes more in a week than I do in a month, drives a >$40,000 vehicle that (still) has a Gore/Liberman bumper sticker on it, and complains that they have to pay an extra amount for fuel equal to the cost of a McDonalds Big Mac. Filling up an old diesel sedan or pick-up truck on bio-diesel would cost about $3.60, plus a little time and effort that a "normal person" would spend watching TV during the evening. A guerrilla capitalist could sell it for $1/gallon and make a pretty decent profit; assuming some human piece of trash masquerading as a customer didn't turn him in for violating whatever regulation. As this is bring written, a geriatric subhuman with Christian bumper stickers on her fairly new Volkswagen Golf came in, bought $6 worth of gas, and told me that she was buying the rest of her gas in Connecticut where "it is $1.50 a gallon". I asked her where it's bring sold for that amount, as yesterday I paid $1.81/gallon for 87 octane gas in Connecticut. She wasn't too sure, but she knew for certain, she "wouldn't be buying gas here again". One can only hope. What makes this even more interesting is that there are two gas stations right down the road where gas is a few cents/gallon less, giving them a viable option if their were really as thrifty as they claim to be.

Meanwhile, back on the power grid the rumors are beginning to circulate. The government has promised they will conduct an investigation, but everyone with a functional brain knows where that'll go (nowhere). I was at work (in SE NY) when the power went out. We sold out of ice (approx 100 5 lb. bags) in about 30 minutes. Likewise, larger sizes (1 gal and 24 oz) of bottled water and D-size batteries went within a couple hours. We would have sold out of gas, but the lack of electricity or generator kept us from being able to provide that product. The one station down the road that did have a generator had a half-mile long line of cars going to it. We did have the contingency kit in the trunk of the car, and adequate gas to take the "long way" home if needed. What we DIDN'T have this time around was communications gear. (That deficiency has since been corrected.) We did hear details about the blackout from customers who came in. We did have a portable 12V power pack which was able to operate the store's police scanner (More on that later.), as well as a 120V 225 Watt inverter that would have provided limited electricity if needed. Upon determining that a quick bug-out wasn't needed, we proceeded to call home to find out that our residential locale was one that was not affected by the blackout, and that my wife was already implementing some last-minute preparations in the event we did lose power. On the telecommunications side, the store's phone system was electronic and therefore died when the power went out. Fortunately, we have a payphone on premises that worked just fine, and a lineman's "butt-set" in the contingency kit that we could have clipped into one of the store's phone lines if need be. Those of you who have cordless, or other electronic phones at home should take note of this, and keep an inexpensive basic one-piece phone or old K500/2500 desk set handy for when the power goes out so you can still use the phone line. The phone system was designed to survive a nationwide nuclear attack, and you will usually still get dial tone when the power is out. The problem is when the inter-office phone trunks get overloaded from too many people placing calls to an area. The store's police scanner was an excellent source of information about local conditions. During that evening's commute, we listened (as usual) to a few AM radio stations, but these started getting repetitious after a while.

Lessons Learned

1. Most preparedness experts say to keep at least a half-tank of gas in your car. I say keep at least enough gas in your car for at least one round trip to and from your location to your home, safe house, retreat, or whatever destination. This will ensure you can get home if you have to take the long way. In my case, I had a half tank, which was more than enough to get home, BUT there were many people who were running on empty (or pretty close to it). Most gas stations only have enough gas for no more than a day or two of regular business. (My store usually gets a full tank of product delivered every evening, and our tanks are pretty low when it comes.) The few gas stations that have generators going WILL run out of gas in short order.

2. A Grundig FR-200 emergency radio, Radio Shack HTX-202 2-meter handheld, Icom R-10, and extra batteries are now permanent parts of the contingency kit. This ensures that adequate communications capability will be available if needed. These radios were chosen mainly because they all operate on AA batteries. (The Grundig also has an internal rechargeable battery pack that is charged by the crank-handle.)

3. I'm staying the hell out of New York City! Imagine how it would be to evacuate out of there if there were a real problem instead of a short-term blackout during the summer.

4. Every survivalist should have some form of alternative energy available; even if only a few 12 volt gel-cells and some small solar panels to charge them. I suspect that this outage is only the beginning, and that as things continue to degenerate we will see more of the same. There is an excellent magazine out there called Home Power that everyone should subscribe to. Their website URL is at and contains lots of useful information.

5. Don't forget your contingency kit - all of it!

The Blackout of 2003 made one very important point for the new millennium. If you love your life, stay out of large cities, especially ones that are built on an island. There is an old saying that “If you can survive in New York City, you can survive anywhere.” I feel that if you can survive anywhere, why would you pick New York City? When it comes to SHTF scenarios, you have to love NYC for its worst-case ranking. Take Manhattan for instance. It has a population greater than that of the state of New Hampshire (1.5 million vs. 1.2 million) in an area that is less than 1% the size. (22 square miles vs. 9,200). The population of NYC is generally not oriented towards self-reliance and preparedness, and would rather think “the government” will take care of them, or taker a fatalistic approach towards a potential disaster. I have a friend, a fellow old-school hacker from the 1980s, who runs his own business in Manhattan within walking distance of Grand Central Terminal. When asked after 9/11 about future attacks, he replied, “I’ve got life insurance. That’s what it’s for.” Insanity and a general lack of common sense prevail down there, and the best advice one could give any survivalist who lives in, or close to NYC is “Get out now.” The area doesn’t deserve you, and there are better places to live that would welcome you with open arms. That is not to say that a workable contingency plan could not be formulated and successfully implemented in the event of a problem. Tom Brown in his book The Way of the Scout showed that it is possible for a survivalist to operate in NYC. Not easy by any stretch, but possible. Consider however, that one of the main entry/exit points for Manhattan Island is Grand Central Terminal at 42nd. St. & Lexington Ave. It is within the blast radius of a suitcase nuke detonated at UN Headquarters, which is also 42nd. St. on the East River. If you can’t make the train, it’s a long walk and a swim if bridges are not accessible. The bridges are in North Manhattan and South Bronx, which are not pleasant neighborhoods in normal times. Firearms are virtually illegal in New York City. You’ll have several hundred thousand other people trying to do the same thing. I hope you get the point.