As public water expert Kevin Morley notes, cities with high-rise apartment buildings that are dependent upon water-pumping equipment are going to become parched deserts. In the event of a blackout, water probably won’t be available above the sixth floor. The problem will be most serious for elderly and disabled residents of those upper floors, who may find themselves trapped and dependent upon others to carry water up the stairs for them. That’s assuming, of course, that they can find some. As a 2013 Associated Press retrospective on the massive 2003 Northeastern and Midwestern blackout noted, as municipal water plants stopped working, jugs of water in stores quickly sold out. Those who haven’t stored an emergency supply in their homes may well end up going thirsty.
But water isn't the only critical resource that suddenly could become scarce. As the AP retrospective noted, refrigerated food also quickly spoiled, leaving people without milk, eggs, meat, fruit and vegetables. Survivalist James Wesley Rawles suggests that most grocery stores today run on “just in time” inventory management systems, in which products are continually restocked and only a small supply is kept upon hand. “In normal times, that works wonderfully, and cuts costs, reduces overhead and minimizes the inventory that’s sitting around, so that consumers get the freshest produce,” he says. “But when there’s a disruption in communications or transportation, the whole system falls apart.” In the event of a sudden crisis, he predicts, store shelves would be stripped bare by panicky customers within 24 hours.
The intermittent blackouts in Tokyo in the spring of 2011, caused by the crisis at the tsunami-damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant north of Tokyo, provided a glimpse of how loss of electricity could also stoke public fear and the urge to hoard food. Keely Fujiyama, a mother of two who lives in a Tokyo suburb, described her plight to a British newspaper correspondent: "I'm scared, and shaky with hunger and really, really tired. I've got two hungry children and just a few crisps, oranges and a can of tuna. I've had some juice today but I'm saving the rest for the children. There is no petrol, no water, no food."