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Power Outage/Cell Phone/etc... use during apocalypse

Discussion in 'Research' started by Breezybealle, Apr 23, 2013.

  1. Breezybealle

    Breezybealle Dreamer

    I was just wondering, realistically if there were to be a zombie apocalypse, how long would it really be before all communication went out? There are so many ways for us to get a hold of each other nowadays, if some crazy thing were to happen, I know the first thing I would do is try to get in touch with everyone I cared about. There are many ways to do this, I was just wondering how long it would be before things actually strayed from the norm. Now with 3G and 4G and wifi and everything, I would think service would still exist to some point for a decent amount of time, but I could be wrong.

    * Cell phones - I know that circuits would probably be extremely busy, but how long do you think actual cell phone service would last? If they run off of towers, wouldn't it be safe to say they would at least last a couple of days? How does 3G/4G come into affect? Would service on those phones last longer than your basic cell service phones?

    * Power - This would be my number one question. Do people have to actually man the power stations for there to be power? I don't know how the whole power grid system works, so I have no clue what would happen. If everyone abandoned a power plant would electric still continue? Would it be days, weeks, maybe even months before all power was out?

    *Cable/Internet - Would it go down right away, too? and radios? I know that two-way radios and stuff would work, but how do people broadcast on say an a.m./f.m. station??

    Any help would be appreciated, or even if you could point me in the right direction for research. I don't even know where to start!
  2. Saigonnus

    Saigonnus Auror

    I would think that without power, cell phones would fail since the towers themselves require power to function. 3G/4G is still run off the towers I believe, just a different frequency. Perhaps you could have a single tower in a small area functioning if it was connected to some sort of power source and have a very limited reception (within a few miles) anyone in that area could communicate, but that would only last if they had some way to charge their phones.

    I remember watching a series about what would happen if humans just disappeared (Life after People). Three days is about the limit for many power plants before they stop running.

    Nuclear plants have a safe mode that would be triggered by noone using the power it is generating, they only continue producing power so long as its being consumed, without people or a limited number tapping from the grid it would simply scram to safe mode. There is enough fuel in the reactors for about a month if I remember correctly. If you have sufficient people using what it is generating it could potentially last until the fuel source is depleted.

    Coal plants would obviously fail within a few hours, once the fuel it has is consumed; and since no one is there to give it more coal, would fail.

    Hydroelectric plants (Hoover dam was used as an example) or wind turbines could potentially be used by those that are left, probably on a limited basis since the "grid" wouldn't be operational) they keep producing power as long as there is water in the dam/river behind the plant or wind spinning the turbines. Those need a bit a maintenance though, wind turbines needing lubrication to spin the blades and cleaning of the pipes that push water into the hydroelectric station. Potentially one of these types could last 3-5 years depending on the circumstances and environment.

    An AM/FM radio station could easily run from a limited power source (like the remaining water/wind/solar infrastructure) Communication would be a bit difficult and sporradic and would probably be limited to news/official stuff and not used for music or entertainment.

    I would think high-speed/broadband Internet would pretty much neutralized fairly quickly (within a day or two most likely) without a stable power supply controlling the master servers each country has. I suppose if you have two or more locations, each with enough juice to run a computer you could scavenge old dial up modems and create a peer to peer (PC to PC) network for communications; though you would probably need to write/find some program as an interface so the perspective parties could actually use it that way. Probably easier to use AM/FM or HAM radios for the same purpose.
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2013
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  3. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

    With so many things, like Fridges in use all the time, to our gizmo-things left on standby, running 24/7, I guess there would be a significant base load, that would seem to increase as other power stations failed, so I wonder how long a Nuclear Station would run before scramming? You could probably make a case for some running for weeks...

    If you knew the apocalypse was coming [and before the panic buying set it] it wouldn't be too hard to get hold of enough Solar PV chargers to run radios and rechargeable walkie-talkies [even fridges and computers].
    Wired telephones only need minimal current to work if I remember far enough back [British Army Field-Telephones I'm sure used to work off 24V [LandRover] batteries for days at a time ]
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  4. Saigonnus

    Saigonnus Auror

    Taking into account all the things we have constantly running it would actually take a very short time to scram a reactor; perhaps only a few days at the most. Without the power from coal plants (which produces about 40% of the amount we use) those everyday things would probably overload the grid fairly quickly in most places. Some cities subsist on other forms of energy production (Las Vegas for example) so would probably stave off having no power the longest.
  5. Artemadoris

    Artemadoris Dreamer

    I expect if it only took three days for power plants to fail, any technology would have a limited shelf life. There would be few ways to charge a cell phone and mobile device batteries; and even if you could find a gas generator and rig something up, the millions of servers throughout the world would have long since gone dark without power meaning there is no way to route your call. I guess you have to really consider everything you now take for granted would be useless in less than a week, no power, no phones, no more fuel manufacturing, no food delivered to your grocery store, and no electricity to keep perishables refrigerated. It's like going back to the dark ages.
  6. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

    I used to go to a 'peak oil' site that occasionally dealt with such questions:

    Cell phones are very far from being an area of expertise with me. I can say that even maintaining landline phone systems is a chore that keeps phone companies VERY busy. I also have serious doubts about the physicial integrity of cell towers and the equipment on them - to me a lot of it has a slapped together kind of look. I suspect that if something were to knock out cell service for a year or two, those towers and the equipment on them would need to be totally replaced.

    This was one that a couple of actual power planet operators dealt with on the peak oil site. Basically:

    Most power plants are *very finicky*. New operator comes in, the rule is 'don't touch'.

    These guys gave a number of different (Zombie) scenario's:

    In the first, the Zombies overwhelmed the staffs at the plants, no real warning. In that case, pretty much the whole national level grid goes down inside of 24 hours - everything is tied together, and it really is that finicky. Case in point: a few years ago a minor incident in Ohio blacked out a fair sized chunk of the eastern seaboard.

    In the second case, there's a bit of warning. Here, the operators have time to...program cutouts...into the national grid, see to some stockpiling of coal, and put some automated measures into effect. They'd also try a controlled shutdown of nuke plants. In this case, some places, including some dang big cities, still loose power within the first day or so, but other places retain power for...maybe a week, if they're real lucky. Three to five days is more likely.

    The third case assumes more time to prepare, more automated cut-outs and whatnot set up. This works out pretty much as scenario two for most places, but some - those with hydro power in particular, *might* retain power for as much as a couple months.

    The internet, for the most part, is the same kludged together physical mess as the cell towers. Already lots of virus's out there, and lots of people putting in time keeping the servers and whatnot running. Thats the commercial system. It *might* be a different story with the *hardened* military / government networks, though I have severe doubts here. As far as electronic communications goes, the one most likely to last through this mess would be shortwave radio.

    That said...

    for strictly limited local use, a clever mechanic type could take the alternator and fan mount out of a vehicle, attach long blades to the fan, set the whole mess atop a pole in an area that gets a bit of wind, and use it to recharge a bank of car batteries. That would get him enough juice to run radio's, lights, and maybe a laptop a few hours a day. I've read multiple accounts of this being done. One of the more impressive was by a semi-educated teenager in deepest darkest Africa, using what basically amounted to junk. He was providing half his village with limited electricity.

    Or he could try damning up a small stream and creating a 'micro-hydro electric project' - more labor intensive, but more reliable power as well.

    I'm seeing more and more solar panel settups as well. Two or three of those, and enough batteries...

    Fuel for vehicles would be a major issue - the whole distribution grid in the modern world is 'just enough, just in time' for food, fuel and everything else. Given a few months, you can make a really cruddy 'biodiesel'...but its not good for engines and there won't be much of it.
  7. Breezybealle

    Breezybealle Dreamer

    Thank you guys so much for your input. I'm trying to remain as realistic as possible but without the loss of ALL hope... lol

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