Generally, while the electrical system fails, the survivors can find isolated pockets (such as intact cars with enough gasoline to run electric tools like radios, or to scour the area for supplies. In other words, the collapse of civilization takes time, so the survivors have time to prepare for it.
That right there is one of my problems with the whole PA setup. It simply isn't realistic that available local gas supplies in most areas would last more than a few months.
Refining capacity is really tight in the US these days, the US is importing not just crude oil, but refined gasoline. At normal usage levels there is only about a week or two worth of gas in inventory nation wide.
Once the electric grid fails, gas refineries stop (assuming they didn't fail sooner) and the long distance pipeline that move refined gas across the continent shut down as well. You are stuck with what ever is left in local inventory.
Unless you have access to a tanker truck, it won't take nearly as long as you think before you run out of gas that you can reach without burning more fuel than you can bring back.
The challenge thus became convincing survivors to band together to survive, when all they want is to grieve in private.
The only good reason to band together is long term survival.
Of course, if you write your own PA story, feel free to place impossible odds before everyone. Then you can watch them all die before the fifth chapter.
The odds are not impossible. However, for the survivors of the initial cataclysm there will be little time for leisure, simply surviving day to day will take hard work through all their waking hours.
I haven't seen a PA story yet that doesn't make simple survival unbelievably easy.
By the way, in my "Great Death" series, the Survivalists are among the first to die, leaving their food stores unavailable to everyone else.
If they are real survivalists, their food stores are well protected, locked away behind tons of concrete and steel and no one else is getting to them without high explosives, heavy equipment or both.