Fear of blackouts: Crisis researchers advise preparing for winter ‘blackouts’
Many people fear widespread power outages this winter. But what would happen in the event of a power outage? How are salads prepared and what do citizens need to know? Crisis researcher Frank Roslip provides answers.
Some speak of “intimidation”, others seriously warn about the dark hours or even days in Germany. This means widespread power outages in the winter of 2022/23.
In fact, concerns about blackouts have never been greater. In the midst of an energy crisis, many people are afraid of suddenly sitting in the dark and freezing for days.
Crisis researchers explain what happens in the event of a “blackout”.
FOCUS online asked Kiel crisis researcher Frank Rozellep what scenarios could be imagined, what measures would come into play, and how citizens should best prepare for such a situation. The expert distinguishes between three phases when a prolonged “blackout” occurs:
- in the first stage The country will first take care of those with special sensitivity – that is, centralizing home ventilation and home dialysis patients and providing additional emergency power generators to hospitals. “For this stage, ‘ordinary’ citizens must make provisions themselves at home. On the one hand, this applies to drinking water, because pump systems will soon fail. On the other hand, a long-term stock of food ready for consumption without electricity and heat is useful – on Crunchy bread and rusks, for example, but also oatmeal, pasteurized milk and fruit preserves, recommends the crunch expert.
Disaster control, installation of “supply beacons”
- in the second stage After about 24 to 48 hours, the Civil Protection then sets up the Supply Beacons. Police, firefighters, and relief organizations are available at markets and central locations. Here, citizens can also see where food distribution starts. “The federal government has about 150 storage facilities in Germany for this,” says Roselieb. The primary products of bread production, such as cereals, as well as rice and legumes for pea soup are stored there. The fire brigade is also opening emergency wells, as drinking water supplies are usually cut off due to pump failures.”
- in the third stage – after about 72 hours at the latest – a curfew will probably be necessary because public safety threatens to collapse in the event of very long “blackout” phases. “Then, frankly, the equation ‘blackout = civil war’ applies here,” Frank Rozellep told the FOCUS website. “Estonia experienced this in April 2007, when Russian Hackers who cut off the Internet. At the same time, the capital, Tallinn, was shaken by violent demonstrations and unrest that lasted for several days. Also at this point, the citizens became increasingly dependent once again on their own supplies.”
When it comes to personal provisioning, given the potential “blackout,” people should again rely on analogue rather than digital provisioning—that is, a supply of drinking water, light bulbs, and candles in the home, advises Roslip. “Even a bag or two of gummy bears or a bar of chocolate can’t hurt and help in dark times.”
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The crisis researcher is convinced that Germany is well prepared for a “blackout”. In a scenario that has always been considered the “worst case” of all disasters in civil protection, the worst case. While infrastructure is largely preserved in a pandemic, everything is collapsing into a “blackout”. No electricity, no water, no heat, no communications.
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The preparation is correspondingly extensive. The expert explains: “Here we differentiate between three” lines of defense “.
- first line It is the area of the municipality – that is, counties, metropolitan areas, and local utility companies. They are often set up on a large scale on the one hand as part of civil protection and on the other hand as vital infrastructure in the context of risk prevention.
Government agencies are already encouraging stockpiling
- Second Level are the lead ministries – eg the Ministry of the Interior’s the police and disaster control, as does the Department of Energy for utilities. This also includes contacts with federal institutions such as the Federal Agency for Technical Relief or voluntary organizations such as Malteser, Johanniter, DLRG and the Red Cross. People and materials are available here at all times. In addition, these organizations often practice “live” in a “blackout” situation during real disaster operations abroad – for example after earthquakes or volcanic eruptions.
- The third line of defense She is the Chancellor of the State – that is, the Prime Minister – and the Federal Government. They’ve been preparing the topic intensely for months. Since September 12, 2022, the Prime Minister of Baden-Württemberg, Winfried Kretschmann, has been calling for energy savings in the “Cleverländ” campaign. “At the federal level, there will be a National Alert Day on December 8, 2022 to raise people’s awareness of potential crisis situations,” Roselip said. The Federal Office of Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance is already advertising hoarding in large posters in supermarket parking lots and making the book “Cooking Without Electricity” available.
Citizens’ concerns are understandable, but perhaps unfounded
Frank Roslieb can understand many people’s fears of “blackouts” in Germany, although he considers the risks of such incidents to be rather low. Transmission system operators in Germany, who went through various energy source security scenarios for the coming winter on behalf of the federal government, see it in a similar way. Don’t expect a power outage either.
In general, Roselieb recommends citizens to keep calm. With a quarter-century of experience in a senior position in crisis research in Germany, I recommend a solid combination of personal support on the one hand and a strong underlying trust in the state and society on the other.