The Coastal Post - April, 1999

Y2K: Brownout, Blackout, Or Meltdown

By Kirby Ferris

In his best selling book "The Millennium Bug" (which I highly recommend) author Michael S. Hyatt presents three scenarios that might unfold as the Year 2000 computer glitch begins to rattle our cyber addicted world. "Brownout" is like the most pain-in-the-butt winter you've ever experienced ... plus your ATM machine is screwing up. You're pissed off, but everyone is in the same boat. "This sucks", you say to your friends and the guy in line in front of you "but it sure could have been worse." And you get an "amen" to that. It's sort of like the way the Soviet Union used to be ... at its best. Lines, bureaucratic idiots making it even worse, excuses and inconveniences. Our economy goes into an unmistakable recession. But, and this is very important, you are not fearful. It ain't that bad. Hey, it could have been a lot worse.

This is the level of disruption that the American Red Cross seems to be warning us of ... now. They are advising us each to have a week's worth of cash, food and water (etc.) stockpiled at home. No big deal to any of us who've been hearing this type of advice in regards to earthquakes. Other countries will be doing a lot worse than us here in America and we'll be counting our blessings. Okay, let's be naively optimistic and give "Brownout" a fifty percent chance of happening, and, ipso facto, this infers that there is a fifty percent chance that nothing at all will happen. The point is that you are an idiot if you don't prepare to meet this level of disruption.

The next level is called "Blackout."

This is frigging scary. We're talking telephone disruption, vast electrical grid shut downs, severe problems in the banking industry, overworked and overwhelmed police forces. A major disruption to your way of life. Think of the Soviet Union now. Black markets, shortages of cash, commodities and even the fuel to keep your house warm. The economy is very, very bad, the stock market has made the major "correction" (a.k.a. Crash) that pundits have been predicting even without Y2K's influence. There is a touch of opportunistic looting in major cities, but the National Guard handles it with an iron fist and we enter a period of shaky rebuilding. I'm going to add to Hyatt's scenario a bit and simply say that you would stockpile a month or two's worth of necessary cash, food, and water. Let's give "Blackout" a twenty percent chance of occurring. And the rest of the world is really up fecal creek without a paddle. Japan is sucking stale sushi and no one give's a rat's ass about the much heralded "Euro." This is looking like the Great Depression of the 1930's. Hard times and belt tightening. And, even if there is only a twenty percent chance of this level of disruption taking place, you are also an idiot if you don't prepare.

Then we get to "Meltdown". I won't go into a great deal of detail. Simply imagine what any major American city would be like if the electricity went down for a week or more and there were no telephone communications. Many police radios have non-compliant chips. Remember, you don't know that the grid might come back on in a week. For all you know it will be off all winter long. If you are trapped in a city, you and everyone around you is desperate. Mass rioting and looting. Anarchy.

For argument's sake let's place a five percent chance of "Melt Down" on the table and take a look at what would be necessary on the individual level. First you would want to have a year's worth of food for yourself and every member of your family. Even if it's just rice, wheat, powdered milk, and beans. You want to have warm clothing and bedding so you can "camp out" in your home through the cold of winter (remember that the ominous date is January 1, 2000). You want to have a good relationship with your immediate neighbors. You have to have water stored. A gallon a day per person in your household or access to a lake, river or stream and a way to purify the water.

In short, you have to think as though a time machine has plunked you down in 1900 ... or earlier. It won't be long before you are going to be growing your own food or helping out in a community garden. You are not going to your job. It doesn't exist any more. You may be learning very quickly how to use a gun (if you can get one) when you realize that the National Guard isn't there and the cops have gone home to protect their own families. This level of survivalist living has stricken populations on Earth throughout history, even during modern times. Obviously we have the genetic capacity to deal with this type of hardship. You wouldn't be here if your ancestors four or five generations back hadn't been "survivalists."

The horrible fact about this level of disruption, and its only "silver lining." is that it won't last all that long. Because there will be such an immense and rapid reduction in population (specifically in the cities) that we might be looking at an America in 2001 with only a hundred million (or less) people. Without the computers to make the medicine and the infrastructure to support food distribution and medical systems there is an ominous likelihood of famine and disease taking a ruthless toll. The population of Europe might suffer even greater disaster if a Russian nuclear plant goes up (the Russian government has said they will not shut down their nuke plants, no matter what) and poisons a huge swath. Chernobyl as it might have been. In short, it is the stuff of nightmares. The mind shuts down and refuses to contemplate this level of horrible change.

To even have a chance of surviving the "Meltdown" scenario you need to live someplace safer than a city and have the means to remain completely self sufficient for a year. The more you learn about Y2K the more fearful you might become. But you must attempt to channel that fear into productive energy, and try, even with meager finances, to get the essentials stockpiled. You shouldn't be willing to gamble your life betting against the five percent chance of "Meltdown". Also, if you begin to look closely at those who are really in the know about Y2K (the computer programmers and CEOs of major corporations and banks and electrical power supply executives) you will find that they are making very quiet, significant and deliberate preparations for themselves and their families. The horrible, but completely understandable, fact of the matter is that the people who best understand how immensely devastating Y2K might be won't tell you. They have every incentive to keep you in the dark while they make their own preparations. They will take their cash out of the bank before they warn you on the nightly news. They will buy up the long term storage food before they warn you in Time magazine. They will prepare their own escape before they sound the alert in the Chronicle. It's only human nature. And honestly, what would you do if you were in their shoes? But you don't need them to tell you because the information, the pertinent, verifiable documents (not just rumor and speculation) are on the Internet (start with,, and Then you can understand the immensity of this threat and you can act now. There is still time. Do it.

Coastal Post Home Page