How long do you think a pandemic quarantine could go on with power, running water, the internet, and trash pick-up continuing to run as normal?
If Covid-19 (also known as the Wuhan coronavirus or nCoV-2019) were to spread where you live as it has in China, it's possible that extreme measures could be taken. Possibly even a China-style lockdown, where people are told to stay in their homes and where businesses are closed. I'm referring to something much more extreme than just a handful of us self-isolating.
While I certainly hope such a situation is unlikely, it's something we should all consider a possibility and get prepared for, just in case. Considering whether or not this would be an off-grid scenario would play an extremely important part in your preparations.
Selco and I had a very interesting chat about this after I'd raised the point in a group discussion. I thought you might be interested in our thoughts. Of course, there's no way to know exactly how this might go down, so it's pure speculation on our part based on the research of similar situations, knowledge of our systems, and personal experiences.
Would we have utilities and services during a quarantine scenario?
A lot of things are automated, which makes me believe we could potentially have a month or two of relative normalcy with regard to utilities, even if folks aren't going to work. Garbage pickup would be another matter.
First things first, electrical power, natural gas, water, and the internet could run a long time automatically or with just a bit of input from someone on a computer. A pandemic isn't going to fry our circuitry like an EMP would, for example. There's nothing general-infrastructure-wise that would immediately compromise these utilities.
But this assumes that everything besides the pandemic is smooth sailing – that we won't have any tornadoes, any hurricanes, any blizzards, any earthquakes, unfortunate bolts of lightning, or accidents. And it also omits manmade problems like riots that damage the infrastructure or even deliberate sabotage.
In a full-on pandemic, there's likely going to be nobody to go out there and repair potential damage. And it's possible that even if people were willing, they might not have access to the necessary supplies or equipment if these are items that they get on a "just-in-time" basis.
As for water, it could run for a long time but it might not be safe to drink. We'd need to be alert that there's nobody there testing the tap water and adding chemicals. I don't love chemicals like fluoride in my water but I do love essential chemicals better than I like amoebic dysentery and shigellosis and cholera. That being said, even if the water wasn't drinkable right from the tap, it would certainly make life easier if folks not on septic systems could still flush their toilets, and water could be purified in a multitude of different ways.
The government would want utilities to remain functional.
Also, the government is going to WANT people to have utilities in the event of any kind of quarantine. People who can zone out in front of the television or play video games are going to be a lot tamer and easier to manage than people who are detoxing from their cell phones and Facebook and 24-7 television. If there's a way to keep the lights on, I feel fairly confident the government would prefer that.
Karl Marx once said religion was the opiate of the masses. These days, I think television and Netflix wear that crown.
It also makes it easier for them to whisper sweet nothings of propaganda into our homes. "Don't worrrryyyyy. It's going to be okaaayyyyy. We're here to heeelllppp."
Governments love stuff like that.