Wilderness trainer Marco Plass survives weeks without electricity on his tours. As a graduate organizational psychologist, however, he believes that chaos threatens German cities in the event of a blackout. Even if an emergency is unlikely, everyone should play through it.

Two weeks in the wintry solitude of Scandinavia? No problem for the wilderness trainer and organizational psychologist (FH) Marco Plass. But how about two weeks without electricity with the family in Hessen at home? There’s a lot more to consider than most people think, says the expert. He has great respect for the possible exceptional situation and therefore prepares it as best as possible.

More on the topic: The light goes out, and then? – Danger of blackout: A week-long power failure in Germany is realistic

FOCUS online: Is a survival freak like you actually thinking about an imminent blackout?

Marco Plass: Absolutely. While I think such a situation is unlikely, I am preparing for it. The worst thing we can do is downplay or dismiss the issue. Because one thing is clear: Those who do this will have the hardest time when it really comes to a total failure. We experience this often in our wilderness training sessions. Of course I know how to use a compass, people say. And then we are in the forest and there is helplessness. The supposed knowledge was pure theory. You have to try things like that!

But it’s hard to play a blackout…

Plass: As a family, we actually want to simulate the power outage in the near future. All fuses out for a day and a night. Most importantly, we want to experience this situation without panic. Our children, four and seven, should also see that something like this can happen and we know how to help ourselves.

As a wilderness trainer, you probably have a clear advantage in such a crisis situation.

Plass: In fact, the feeling of being completely on my own and of being able to cope with very little is nothing unusual for me. I’ve been outdoors for over 20 years. My passion for the outdoors started with crossing wilderness areas in Australia and Patagonia, but now I almost exclusively do winter tours, which excite me the most. Two weeks in Scandinavia in sub-zero temperatures in the tent. All alone, all the time far from any civilization. These are very profound experiences. Especially when you experience how tent poles break and the zipper of the jacket breaks and you know how to help yourself.

But let’s not kid ourselves: if the power goes out here in Germany, that’s something completely different. Chaotic conditions are likely to prevail after a few days, especially in the cities. We live in the country, have chickens in the backyard and a small self-sufficient garden. This is common in rural areas. I don’t think many city dwellers realize what it would mean for them if the supermarket suddenly closed, the water went out, the toilet and the ATMs stopped working.

However, most should have a certain supply of food in the house. Even governments are now recommending it.

Plass: And that’s a good thing, but I don’t think a few tins or packets of soup in the basement are enough. If you really want to be prepared, you have to run through worst-case scenarios.

What are you thinking of?

Plass: I don’t know if people realize that in the event of a power failure, not only does the heating remain cold, the electric stove also no longer works. How can I prepare a simple, tasty meal? This is an important question.

Well, first of all, it’s all about getting full, isn’t it?

Plass: But don’t underestimate the soul. From my own experience, I know how much you look forward to a good meal in a crisis situation. How much power you draw from it. A large, uncontrolled blackout brings the risk of mass panic. Anything that strengthens people mentally is good.

Before you maybe suggest us a few suitable dishes: How do you cook without a stove?

Plass: A lot is conceivable, from the fireplace to the grill in the garden or on the balcony. Personally, I would recommend the gas cooker. It requires little maintenance and is comparatively easy to handle. The risk of fire is lower than with a petrol stove because there is no preheating. Nevertheless, the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning remains in closed rooms.

Are we talking about using the stove inside?

Plass: That could become an issue, depending on the outside temperature. Of course, if at all possible, I would advise cooking outside. However, when the temperatures are freezing, this is not only very uncomfortable, but also energy-consuming. The water for the pasta simply warms up much more slowly at -10°. My concern would be that people might put the cooker on the wooden table out of ignorance. And panic when there’s a fire. After all, no fire brigade can come.

This means?

Plass: A refractory base such as a stone or marble slab is a must. In addition, there should be a fire extinguisher in every household these days. Several cartridges of gas in stock are self-evident. If gas is used for cooking in very small indoor spaces, ventilation is required.

Intermediate question: is that how you cook on your tours?

Plass: No, I have a petrol stove that I place on a wooden plate with an aluminum coating. All around is a windbreak, also made of aluminium, because wind reduces the efficiency of the cooker. Sounds complicated, I know, but I can operate the thing in my sleep, so I would use it in our house in an emergency. And that’s exactly the point: we’d do well to adopt a routine or two. Bake bread on a stick, for example. It’s super easy and delicious. To give just one example of a hot meal that is easy to make over the fire.

Good point. Give more examples!

Plass: Of course that depends on personal preferences. A classic is, of course, pasta. What a lot of people don’t know: In an emergency, all you have to do is boil the water, add the pasta and let it swell. They should be soft in about 20 minutes. This is how I save resources when I’m short on fuel. A great option is couscous or polenta. Meals with minimal cooking time that are well filling. The taste comes, for example, from sauces or added packet soups. I think pesto is a great option. Pesto in a jar keeps forever. Meat, cheese… everything that is perishable, on the other hand, makes little sense.

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Plass: A good idea for the pantry. Also smoked, bacon for example. Margarine does not need to be refrigerated and is a great substitute for butter. When it comes to shelf life, canned bread is unbeatable. This can be stored for many years, I always have a few boxes in the house. If nothing happens, no crisis comes, it’s not that bad. We could then maybe eat the bread for the silver anniversary (laughs).

Is there anything else you stock in bulk?

Plass: honey. This makes sense because it provides energy and is healthier than white sugar. It can also be used to treat wounds as it has an antiseptic effect. And as we said, let’s not forget the soul. A freshly baked slice of bread with honey makes your heart smile.

Stick bread you mean?

Plass: That is one possibility. Out in nature I make flatbread in the pan. There are also bread baking attachments for gas cookers, many motorhome lists know that. But again: these are all things that need practice. By far the easiest way to prepare for a blackout with food is expedition food.

Where is this?

Plass: In outdoor stores. Expedition food is a bit more expensive in terms of price, but there is no easier way to prepare meals. Spaghetti Bolognese, chicken curry… The offer is impressive, the menus actually have a certain freshness character. If I were a couch potato, I would definitely do some research at the moment. I do not consider the preparation of two or three emergency menus to be paranoid. If you’re consistent, you don’t wash the pots in the dishwasher afterwards, because that wouldn’t be available in the event of a blackout. In winter you can use snow or wipe out the pots with some toilet paper. I don’t do the dishes for 14 days on tour. There is no washing, except for brushing your teeth. If you only use the water you have stored away for a day, you will get a feeling for what is important.


Plass: You can’t do it with less than a minimum of two liters per person per day. Only for food and liquid intake, mind you. We’re not talking about washing here, let alone things like flushing the toilet.

Right, how do you solve the latter?

Plass: An important question! What to do with the faeces in the apartment building? Now it’s getting really uncomfortable, but it’s no good. The fact is: without a strategy, we will have a real hygiene and therefore health problem here. Camping outfitters offer toilet chairs for around 20 euros. They look a bit like camping stools with a hole. Underneath is a garbage bag. You can tie it and put it in the corner or outside. Until the flush works again.

Speaking of which: Did you actually store canisters of water?

Plass: No, I have an outdoor water filter and a water bag and can fetch water from the nearest stream or river. Even small pump filters for around 40 euros bring drinking water quality. My filter, which cost around 400 euros, has a higher flow rate and is comparatively stable, so it should last a long time. Since I’m on tour a lot, it’s worth it. But in an emergency, the smaller version will do. Which is also worthwhile, by the way: to see where the next source is. With spring water we are independent of the water filter. Sources are usually marked on topographic maps. Of course, especially in the cities, you have to assume that these places will be heavily frequented in the event of a crisis, so they should only be a possible option.

Also read:Load shedding relevant for German consumers – Small and regular power cuts should prevent blackouts in an emergency

How do you take precautions when it comes to the cold?

Plass: We have a wood stove, which is lucky these days. If we didn’t have one, I would think about gas heating, like the ones available from camping providers in combination with large gas bottles. A first emergency measure is warm clothes and sleeping bags. And: the more people are in the room, the better. Keyword body heat. It makes sense that life in a crisis would largely take place in one room. This used to be the room, which was usually above the stable. The animals gave off additional heat from below.

We talked a lot about food. What else belongs in the pantry?

Plass: candles. medication as needed. Addictive substances such as cigarettes should also be kept in stock, otherwise this can quickly become very uncomfortable for everyone involved. Cash – card payments are no longer available – and having barter goods such as coffee or chocolate in the house is certainly a good idea. Of course, batteries shouldn’t be missing either. Of course, a power generator with sufficient fuel or a large power bank with a solar panel are ideal.

Batteries… for the radio?

Plass: For example. We ourselves have a solar powered radio. There are also models that work with a hand crank. They are not expensive and are existential in the event of a blackout. The radio will be the only way to find out about the status of the situation. Also about whether and where the military is moving out to bring food, for example.

The “if” doesn’t sound very confident…

Plass: .. I simply cannot imagine how 80 million people are to be supplied if the supply chains are interrupted. And whether trucks can still get through in the cities at all. Let’s not fool ourselves: After a week without electricity, anarchy will reign in Germany. Everyone is closest to themselves, there will be fights over distribution, looting. It would be possible to manage reasonably well for two weeks – we will leave out the continued operation of hospitals, power plants, etc. at this point. I’m talking about the essentials.

And I am convinced that if we are prepared, we can significantly minimize possible risks. Communities could develop, people would support each other. One cooks while the other fetches water – something like that. No, I don’t think that’s an illusion. Rather, the question is: how many are unperturbed when they play through a potential blackout and are declared insane as a result? The more the merrier, I mean.