New Mexico Urban Homesteader

Hello, I am A 50 Something, Prepper ;-}; former 60's Flower Child, don't believe in taxpayer subsidized special interest groups (political parties), DO believe in the Constitution and Bill of Rights (1st 10). Long time Independent & Informed Voter. Lover of the outdoors and firm believer that History Teaches - if only we will listen!

(No longer Urban or in NM. Now Rural in the mountains of Maine.)

This blog was started at the request of some dear friends that wish to become Preppers.

“No man who is not willing to help himself has any right to apply to his friends, or to the gods.”

Demosthenes (384–322 BC, Greek statesman and orator of ancient Athens)

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Preparedness Probability Scenario # 1 - Americas Failing Infrastructure

In a previous article on How to be a Prepper, I stated that one had to evaluate their own individual concerns and that each of us would have a different set of those concerns and priorities. This is very true and knowing what to prepare for is a big step to actually being prepared.

“Preparedness is not just about stockpiling, it's about having an actual plan.” Mike Ryan

Today the History Channel replayed a program called “The Crumbling of America”. This program shows what I feel is our top probability of danger and disaster - our failing infrastructure. The summary of the show is as follows:

America's infrastructure is collapsing. Tens of thousands of bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. A third of the nation's highways are in poor or mediocre shape. Massively leaking water and sewage systems are creating health hazards and contaminating rivers and streams. Weakened and under-maintained levees and dams tower over communities and schools. And the power grid is increasingly maxed out, disrupting millions of lives and putting entire cities in the dark. The Crumbling of America explores these problems using expert interviews, on location shooting and computer generated animation to illustrate the kinds of infrastructure disasters that could be just around the bend. – The History Channel web site.

What is even more disturbing is the side by side comparison of the 2001, 2005 and 2009 ASCE (The American Society of Civil Engineers) report card of America's infrastructure in fifteen categories found at:

Infrastructure Category 2001 2005 2009 Notes from 2009
Aviation D D+ D Outdated traffic control system.
Bridges C C C 26% of the nation's bridges are deficient or obsolete.
Dams D D D 4,000 deficient dams. 1,819 are high hazard.
Drinking Water D D- D- $11 billion needed to replace aging facilities.
Energy (National Power Grid) D+ D D+ $1.5 trillion needed investment by 2030. Physical
deterioration increasing rapidly.
Hazardous Waste D+ D D Superfund cleanup of the worst toxic waste sites has declined steadily.
Inland Navigable Waterways D+ D- D- $125 billion needed for replacement of locks.
Levees D- $100 billion needed to repair the nation's levees.(Not graded prior to Katrina)
Public Parks & Recreation C- C- $7 billion maintenance backlog.
Rail C- C- $200 billion needed for growth.
Roads D+ D D- 4.2 billion hours lost per year stuck in traffic cost $78.2 billion. $186 billion needed to improve the nation’s highways alone.
Schools D- D D $322 billion needed for repair.
Solid Waste C+ C+ C+ Public safety threatened by increasing disposal of electronic waste.
Transit C- D+ D $15.8 billion needed to maintain conditions, $21.6 billion needed to improve from current to good conditions.
Wastewater D D- D- $390 billion needed over the next 20 years.
Overall D+ D D Investment needed $2.2 trillion.

You will notice that these report cards are on the “Public Work Projects” that are controlled, supplied and paid for by city, state and federal government funding. Also note the categories that do not have any grades prior to 2005 or 2009 and then go and check news archives after 2001 on those categories. You will find that some kind of catastrophe occurred that resulted in injuries, illnesses or deaths in each of categories.

This is nothing new and is our highest probability threat in America today followed closely by an unfriendly attack on one or more of these systems by a threatening faction. On top of this a lot of these categories rely on each other at some point. Think about it – America is second to none in centralized production and mass distribution from energy, to food, to water, to waste. Sooo ...

If a road or bridge fails or is flooded it is of no use and nothing moves very easily in or out of that area. If electricity or the Grid fails (our worst case scenario); no power to pump gas or get cash from your bank or ATM and most urban water supplies become unreachable; planes cannot fly because radar is not working; trains cannot run because all the safety lights and switches are not working; food and supply lines literally stop dead in their tracks; oil and gas cannot be pumped or transported around the country so there goes heating and cooling and manufacturing; no power for cell phones , landlines or the internet so communication is halted; the economy of the United States is virtually at a standstill.

Where would you and your loved ones be? What would you do? Remember the “What If” game from the “Being Prepared” posting? Go back and play the game again and this time add at least one infrastructure category to each situation. If you use a GRID failure as your scenario, this will at least be regional in scope.

I’ve said it before and I will stress this again: In a disaster or wide spread emergency - You CANNOT count on any government or emergency agency to come to your rescue in a timely fashion. The only things you can count on are yourself (physical, emotional & spiritual), your knowledge and skills, supplies and tools you have on hand at that time!

For additional information on Americas Infrastructure Systems see the items below:

There was a very interesting article by Tom Black at in 1998 called “Salvaging our failing infrastructure: A public works challenge” that is well worth reading. Just ignore the politics and stick to the physical facts of the article. (

It stated that: “…but perhaps the most visible and immediately threatening decay is taking place on and below the country's roadways. Americans love their automobiles, gas prices are cheap, and the economy is humming, so roads and bridges --- many built decades ago when vehicles were lighter and fewer --- are taking a pounding. … Moreover, aging water and wastewater pipes, which often spring leaks or burst open beneath city streets, worsen the problem. In cities large and small, water mains have broken, sewers have overflowed, contaminants have crept into drinking water, and roads have caved in …. Earlier this year, the ASCE released its "report card" for America's public infrastructure, giving an average grade of "D" for the various components, which include schools (F), roads and hazardous waste (both Dem.), drinking water and dams (both D), wastewater (D+), bridges, solid waste and aviation (all C), and mass transit (C). The grades were determined by a panel of civil engineering experts whose criteria included the condition and performance of each category, needs vs. capacity, and needs vs. available funding."When 1,200 people die each year from drinking tap water, our school buildings are literally crumbling, more than half of our roadways are in substandard condition, and we will face gridlock at our airports by the year 2004, it is fair to say our infrastructure is in pretty bad shape," ASCE President Luther Graef said in a press release … Unglamorous spending Infrastructure problems often fester unnoticed until a major catastrophe occurs or public health is seriously jeopardized, making politicians, who generally prefer to spend money on visible, high-profile projects, reluctant to allocate money for repairs.”

It goes to cite the following examples and remember this was printed in 1998:

” Infrastructure maintenance, while sometimes the responsibility of state transportation or highway departments, often falls on cities and counties (particularly if it involves drinking water or wastewater facilities). And, even if it does not, local entities still can feel the effects. Numerous examples of casualties or widespread damage serve to illustrate the point:

* A 1993 cryptosporidium outbreak in Milwaukee's drinking water is believed to be responsible for killing more than 100 people and for making 400,000 people sick. Although the exact cause has not been determined, suspicion centers on Milwaukee's old, outdated water treatment plant. Heavy rains in the spring of 1993 and the ensuing runoff from upstate dairy operations may have contributed to contamination of the plant's reservoir, according to a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources study.

* In Midtown Atlanta five years ago, following several days of heavy rains, a giant sinkhole swallowed up an entire parking lot, claiming two lives. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that a 78-year-old sewer line had collapsed, the effluent apparently loosening unstable soil underneath the parking lot. City workers labored furiously around the clock to dig a trench from an adjacent parking lot to the bottom of the sinkhole, then hastily poured concrete walls and laid a stone foundation. Heavy equipment was put into the trench to reach the base of the 200-foot-wide, 50-foot-deep pit.

* Chicago has experienced two infrastructure-related floods in the past six years. The worst was in 1992, when a contractor accidentally drove a piling through the Chicago River bottom, causing a leak in one of the city's underground freight tunnels. Water rushed into the 50-mile network of tunnels that was built at the turn of the century to provide underground freight service to stores and businesses. The water flooded sub-basements and disrupted utility service throughout the Loop business district.

* In Fort Worth, Texas, a 36-inch water main broke in the midst of July's searing heat wave, leaving two major hospitals without water or air conditioning for nearly 12 hours. High demand for water, extremely dry conditions and metal fatigue were blamed, according to a report in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Flooding at a pumping station and water treatment plant saturated motors and forced the plant to close down temporarily. Two hospitals were forced to use bottled water and disposable plates and utensils, while firefighters pumped water onto the hospitals' coolant towers to keep air conditioning running. Less than 24 hours after that break was repaired, the same line ruptured again, further disrupting operations at hospitals and throughout the downtown area.”

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” Charles Darwin

CNN reported in January 2009:

Patrick Natale of ASCE stated: “The bottom line is that a failing infrastructure cannot support a thriving economy."

"Poor conditions cost motorists $67 billion a year in repairs and operating costs. One-third of America's major roads are in poor or mediocre condition and 45 percent of major urban highways are congested,"

"America's drinking water systems face an annual shortfall of at least $11 billion to replace aging facilities," the report said. "Leaking pipes lose an estimated seven billion gallons of clean drinking water a day."

"With an increase in development behind these levees, the risk to public health and safety from failure has increased."

"More than a third (of solid waste) was recycled or recovered, presenting a 7 percent increase since 2000."

One in four of the country's bridges "are either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete."

Natale says there's been a mentality in the United States of short-term fixes and hoping that they work -- "patch and pray," as he puts it. "By under investing, the price tag escalates,"

“It goes without saying that when survival is threatened, struggles erupt between peoples, and unfortunate wars between nations result.” Hideki Tojo

By far Popular Mechanics had one of the best articles ( also published in January 2009. In a series of articles in 2008 the offered some “fix” ideas in “REBUILDING AMERICA: How to Fix U.S. Infrastructure” (

For a true understanding of Drinking Water and Society see Where it states “…The U.S. drinking-water infrastructure (collection, holding, treatment, and distribution systems) is aging. Much of it has been in place for most of the twentieth century, and is becoming subject to frequent failures. Recent federal government studies indicate that repairs to, and replacement of, the drinking-water infrastructure will become a multibillion-dollar item in federal, state, and local budgets…. Moreover, competition for water for domestic, industrial, and agricultural needs can only be expected to accelerate in the years ahead…”

“By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail.” Benjamin Franklin

Another great article is “Failing Infrastructure by the Numbers” from 2007 centered on roads and bridges ( stated “…The Interstate Highway System turned 50 last year … The government at all levels consistently underfunds infrastructure projects, from dams, bridges, and highways to aviation, railroads, and water systems…. The tragic collapse of the I-35 bridge in Minneapolis was a wake up call … this bridge is the third wake up call for the United States to reevaluate how we treat critical infrastructure. The first was 9/11, which showed us that infrastructure is vulnerable to terrorism. Hurricane Katrina was a second wake up call, which showed us that infrastructure is vulnerable to natural disasters. This time, we know that infrastructure is vulnerable to use, age, and neglect….”

"What we anticipate seldom occurs; what we least expect generally happens." Benjamin Disraeli

From a 50 something, soon to be rural homesteading Prepper

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