- Associated Press - Friday, April 25, 2014

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (AP) - Dave Noack was shaped by catastrophe.

From 1973 to 1975, Noack served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in an Ireland torn by civil unrest and chaos. The turmoil got so bad, employees from the region’s nuclear power plant stopped going to work and Noack experienced his first major blackout.

“It opened my eyes to things I had never even thought about before,” Noack said.

Noack was living in the Seattle area when Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980. Meteorologists predicted the ash cloud would drift north and subsequently he found the supermarket shelves barren.

A short time later, he weathered a storm that cut off power for 10 days. Noack’s former Seattle-based pest control business was unable to take calls for new business. He said he lost about $3,000 per day.

“I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to have a backup plan?’” he said.

So, Noack took a couple years off work to learn about alternative energy. He moved from Seattle to St. Anthony in 1996 because he liked the region and thought it would be a nice place to raise his children. When he built his house, he did it around a solar power source completely off the grid.

In the years since, Noack, 59, has started Self-Reliant Living Co., where he consults clients on how to prepare for the worst. Although he is not a professor, he has taught community education courses at Brigham Young University-Idaho, Eastern Idaho Technical College and Idaho State University. He estimates he has provided guidance to more than 1,000 people and personally set up more than 100 alternative power systems.

Noack said he has seen increased interest in getting off the grid.

The website off-grid.net defines living of the grid as “living without utility power or water or waste disposal,” but many living off the grid go beyond alternative energy. Often, those living off the grid also will supply their own food through gardening and hunting. Most still rely on fuel for vehicles.

Noack lived off the grid in St. Anthony for 13 years. Early on, the area was hit with a particularly bad storm. He looked outside and all he saw was black in every direction.

“I thought, ‘Holy mackerel, we’re lit up like a sore thumb up here.’ I felt kind of naked, so I started shutting all the lights off,” he said.

From that point, word started getting around about Noack’s home-built power system. He started to receive calls from area residents wanting to hear more.

John Wickel, 56, who was moving to the hills of Star Valley, Wyo., was among those making inquiries. He was out of the service boundaries for the power company and was looking for a solution. Noack set him up in 2006 with a solar-based system to charge enough batteries to run his entire home.

Initially, Wickel went off grid due to necessity, but it didn’t take long for the former Marine and American Airlines pilot to begin enjoying his new-found independence.

“I got a real feel for the effects of consumption,” Wickel said. “You see just how much energy you use. Living in a primitive style like that, you just become more aware of how much you consume. I guess, in a way, I have become more environmentally friendly. You really keep an eye on the effect of turning a switch on.”

Today, Wickel said he loves living an “authentic lifestyle” in a modern world and will accept no substitutes. If the area surrounding his property, accessible only by snowmobile for about half the year, gets too heavily populated, he plans on moving to Alaska.

But not everyone with a backup plan has resorted to the extremes of Noack and Wickel.

Rusty Kappel, owner of The Preparedness Store in Idaho Falls, has made both a business and hobby out of prepping.

As a member of the Mormon church, Kappel is expecting the second coming of Christ. That’s only one of the scenarios for which he’s prepping, he said. A possible long winter storm is another event for which he wants to be ready.

To prepare, Kappel has stored enough food, wood, water and fuel in his Ammon home to supply his family for about two years. He has solar and gas generators, as well as a mobile camper, in case he needs to be on the move. To test his preparedness, Kappel twice has turned the power off at his home for a week at a time.

But it’s not his food storage mostly putting Kappel at ease, it’s his neighborhood. In a worst-case scenario, Kappel plans to band together with his mostly Mormon neighbors for protection, but isn’t excluding anyone.

“Really, what I have belongs to all of us. Not LDS? I could care less. I’ll give them everything I’ve got,” Kappel said pointing at the house of a non-Mormon neighbor. “I think if we are all pulling our own weight and working together, what I’ve got belongs to everybody.”

While those stocking up for disaster invest in a backup plan for various reasons, all are quick to speak about the peace-of-mind it brings.

“I love the feeling of not being vulnerable,” Noack said. “I love the feeling of being able to live more organically or holistically. It’s just a feeling of empowerment. It was tremendously peaceful and a very hopeful situation.”

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Information from: Post Register, https://www.postregister.com

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