Blackout-from power failure to civil unrest

Posted: February 13, 2012 in Simulation, TV Show

I just saw the german tv show “Quarks & Co” (don’t laugh at the title 😉 ) which always is very informative. This time it delt with the german/european power grid and it’s challenges for the upcoming years. Very interesting was the part where they hypothetically showed the effects of a Germany wide blackout. Since it is in german I would like to translate the facts*.

It could be a normal day when all of a sudden everything turns silent; no phones ringing, no public announcements, no vacuum cleaner, no tvs etc…then from silent to dark. No traffic lights, no trains and no elevators. Dozens of people get injured in traffic accidents, thousands of people trapped in trains, subways and elevators.

The landline would fail immediately. Without electricity no computer or server is able to run, hence no email, no google, no twitter and no world wide web. The cell phones might continue to work for a few hours as the  radio towers have backup generators but soon they would be on overload. Shortly after a major blackout all communication would fail. No phone, no internet, no emergency calls.

All over Germany only 15(!) out of 14.000 gas stations have a backup generator so a power failure means no fuel immediatly. First trams & trains would stop and without fuel cars, buses and trucks. Our society would be immobilized within few days.

Due to lack of power cooling systems in supermarkets will shut down and deep frozen & fresh food will perish very soon. Some goods will be sold at discounted prizes and in general people will have the tendency to buy large amounts of supplies. This is a huge problem since cash registers and ATMs won’t work. The long queues and frustration will leed to an aggressive tension.

After 24h without electricity the functional capability of Germany’s health care system is considerably affected. Hospitals may be able to provide a certain amount of help due to their emergency generators, but  retirement homes and medical practices are forced to close or evacuate.  The blackout will also cause a shortage in pharmaceutical supplies such as medication, insulin, blood preservations etc.

No electricity also means no productivity. Assembly lines, machinery, whole factories…everything will be still. While this means immediate breakdown of our carefully scheduled just-in-time production it will also mean painful death to thousands of  farm animals. Thousands of dairy cows that can’t get milked, thousands of pigs & chickens that will suffocate or starve. Most animals wouldn’t survive a power failure of more than 48 hours.

Since water works and water treatment plants need electricity our water supply would dry up. Personal hygiene & preparation of food is only possible on a smaller scale. Soon hygienic state of things would become worse. Human waste removal and clean clothing are not warranted anymore. Some skyscrapers and appartment blocks need to be evacuated because of danger of epidemics, which results in a lack of emergency accomodations.

People would try to heat their appartments with camping stoves, cook a meal on them or use candles for light. This means a higher risk of  fires, which once out of control are almost impossible to extinguish. No water supply might mean to leave fires to themselves and to watch & burn.

While the situation in the cities escalates the clock is ticking for a way bigger catastrophe. Due to the blackout cooling & controlling systems of nuclear power plants and other industrial complexes would fail. Without permanent cooling reactors might overheat and eventually melt. Within a week a nuclear catastrophe is to be expected.

As a result of all above mentioned a civil unrest and chaos are imminent. In some places it might lead to more cooperation and helpfulness among people, but somewhere else people would get more ruthless and aggressive.
A major blackout would not only engulf Germany, it would also mean a threat to it’s society.

*Sorry I might have switched tense a lot 🙂 Not a native speaker.


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