The NBC drama Revolution, which premiered last week, is set in a world completely devoid of electrical power 15 years after a massive, mysterious blackout. People go back to traveling by horse and on foot; villages grow their own food; iPhones become useless relics.

Some critics have complained that the show is short on explanations and jumps too quickly to an inexplicable future where we still have not figured out how to get the power back on, skipping over the juicy blow-by-blow of what happens directly after huge masses of people lose all access to electricity. Revolution does offer a few tidbits from the unraveling in its first two episodes, though: planes fall out of the sky, cars lie abandoned on highways, people stranded in the cities perish, and people commit murder for food, among other grim scenes.

In the real world, we have gotten some unsettling previews of what might happen when the lights go out for a long period of time. This photo gallery of the world’s worst power outages offers a few examples of blackouts around the world caused by storms, human error and other factors. Even though most of those outages lasted just a few days or less, they still drive home the mass misery that occurs when millions are left stranded in the dark. Most prominently this year, more than 600 million people in India lost power for two days in July (see photos from the blackout and an analysis of the country’s power situation).  A month earlier in the U.S. Northeast, where transmission lines are particularly burdened, a powerful derecho system of thunderstorms knocked out electricity to more than 4 million.

Aside from inflicting huge costs and disruptions that range from inconvenient to life-threatening, blackouts force us to recognize the many ways we are dependent on reliable electricity from the grid, and contemplate even for just a few hours what life might be like for the 1.4 billion people worldwide who do not have it. Do you worry about the stability of the electricity grid in your country? How would you fare in a long-term blackout? Weigh in on the poll above and in the comments.


  1. reza
    December 18, 2012, 3:07 am

    the world blackout??? its abig lie
    no thing happen i tell u
    u wiil see 1/1/2013 without any problem

    God created all things and all things in his hands
    Whatever God wills will happen
    So God helped him bring only want
    This problem is not due to the hardships of life
    Avoid sin and pray to God
    If God wants good things to happen
    NASA and the corporate world are in play Mason
    Masons in the world to have played
    Nostradamus was a mason ,too

  2. Laura Barnes- Miller
    United States
    October 20, 2012, 11:12 pm

    After Hurricane Andrew struck South Florida 20 years ago, we lived without power in Miami for 3 months. It was hot as usual in Miami. We bought a small window-shaker a/c unit and used it once in awhile to sleep at night. We ran it off our generator. We took showers outside using a portable shower (bag) where the water was warmed by the sun. We ran our refrigerator off the generator as well. He was able to rig up a small ac/dc television we had stored away in a closet – to a car battery. I was able to watch the local news to keep up with what was going on. My husband, now retired, was a Miami cop and I would meet him at 3 A.M. every morning to get coolers full of ice. Life was not easy during that 3 month period – we were the lucky ones. Others had no power for 6 months. You learn to adapt. People are much stronger than they think they are.

  3. C Johnson
    San Diego
    October 20, 2012, 8:15 am

    I started stockpiling supplies from Guy has a real passion for this stuff. Food and water with 5year shelf life guaranteed.

  4. Gladys Crump
    October 17, 2012, 1:15 pm

    My family and I lived in the country, not suburbs, out in the country, 12 miles from the nearest town, 17 in the other direction, until I was 19 years of age, we had no electricity, no plumbing, no running water, no phone, no heat and air, no refrigeration, no indoor plumbing, no automobile. We grew our own food, my dad hunted, fished, we burned wood for cooking and heating, washed our clothes on a scrub board in a tub, hung them on a line to dry, we did fine, perfect health, well fed, perfect teeth and very happy family. Cities might be another story, I haven’t tried surviving in one without the modern convienences, but I survived without, you could too, the human spirit is very strong and determined, I think crime would be the biggest threat, people come into your home now and try to take your stuff, imagine if there were no lights, no cops and no 911, no burgular alarms…..all I can say is you better have a gun on you at all times.

  5. mike edison
    mid ohio
    October 16, 2012, 11:26 pm

    d.r.arthur . really, did you think stringing new lines and poles ,substations ,etc would solve the problem ??? “cheap” power comes from the fact that every state except for texas is interconnected … remember the little error FIRST ENERGY had at the toledo substation years ago ??? wiped out 26mil …

  6. D. R. Arthur
    October 8, 2012, 11:39 pm

    We need a totally new grid.


  7. Larry MacCaskill
    Phoenix, AZ, USA
    October 3, 2012, 6:19 pm

    I think several of the commenters here are painfully naive. Imagine a world-wide blackout due to an event like the solar storm in 1859 that actually started fires in telegraph offices (the only electronic infrastructure in existence). EVERYTHING in our modern world would be toast! NO infrastructure AT ALL — no electricity, no water, no refrigeration, no sewage, no food deliveries (trucks have electric starters and computers regulating every aspect of operation), no fuel deliveries, ALL transportation (except animal power) would shut down. “Electricity is easy to make”? How? Scuffing your feet on the carpet? Remember, no power tools, no electric welding (and how are your gas welding supplies getting to you?). The entire infrastructure would collapse. This would not be a mere inconvenience, it would be collapse and chaos. With no food and water, no lights, power and communication, cities would become death-traps in days. A fire would be catastrophic with no water. The only way to survive would be to flee… How? On foot? and to WHERE? Imagine thirsty, starving millions pouring into the countrysides, looting as they go. And there you are, dying, sitting in your garage trying to figure out how to make “easy electricity” with an old electric motor for a generator, a hammer, hacksaw and a file. Within a month 98% of the world’s population could be dead. “Easy electricity”, my Aunt Fannie!

  8. Bruce L
    Mason OH
    October 3, 2012, 3:17 pm

    Several books (fiction and non-fiction) have been written about electromagnetic pulses (EMP) generated by a nuclear device which would instantly permanently fry out every electronic device. A very scary premise and a very real threat.