It's a bird! It's a plane! It's an EMP!
Preparing for the unknown effects of an EMP scenario.
I had just finished reading One Second After when those pesky balloons started showing up in our heretofore lackadaisically monitored (or so they claim) skies.
The balloon story reminds me of that 1984 song by Nena, 99 Red Balloons. The lyrics are eerily apropos:
99 red balloons
Floating in the summer sky
Panic bells, it's red alert
There's something here from somewhere else
The war machine springs to life
Opens up one eager eye
Focusing it on the sky
The 99 red balloons go by
Personally, I’m not buying into the hype. When your president promises to destroy another country’s pipeline (which is, by the way, a war crime) and then that same pipeline is “mysteriously destroyed”, pointing up at the sky and shouting, “Look! Aliens!” can be an effective distraction.
The timing is also suspicious, especially since a report detailing the who, what, and how of that mysterious explosion coincided with the “balloon” appearances.
But don’t look at the report. Just keep watching the skies.
Whether we solve the mystery of the balloons or UFOs or whatever… at least one good thing has come out of this latest psy-op: more people are talking about EMPs.
The book I mentioned earlier, One Second After by William R. Forstchen, is about a man and his family living in a small North Carolina town. Suddenly, an EMP hits and all hell breaks loose.
With a foreword written by Newt Gingrich, the book was recommended as a vital reading for all Americans. The threat is that real.
The best description of an EMP I’ve read is from the Afterword of the book. Here’s an excerpt:
An Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) explosion over the continental United States would have devastating consequences for our country. The denotation of a nuclear weapon produces high-energy gamma radiation that travels radially away from the burst center. When the detonation occurs at high altitudes - greater than twenty-five miles- the gamma rays directed toward the earth encounter the atmosphere where they interact with air molecules to produce positive ions and recoil electrons called Compton electrons…
The gamma radiation interacting with the air molecules produces charge separation as the Compton recoil electrons are ejected and leave behind the more massive, positive ions. The earth’s magnetic field’s interaction with the Compton recoil electrons causes charge acceleration, which further radiates an electromagnetic field as an instantaneous electromagnetic pulse (EMP).
Additionally, a high-altitude nuclear burst also produces a relatively slow magnetohydro-dynarnic EMP, whose effects are like those from geomagnetic solar storm disturbances causing the flow of very low frequency current into the earth and into long transmission lines….
The intense and invisible energy pulse cannot be sensed by people and doesn’t damage the human body. Unlike a lightening strike, an EMP explosion is both much faster in producing damaging power surges and much broader and far-reaching in causing simultaneous burnout and failure of electrical and electronic systems over a large area.
Captain Bill Sanders, U.S. Navy
In layman’s terms, everything that contains electronics gets fried. Vehicles, pacemakers, phones, inverters, generators, CPAP machines, well pumps, your electric toothbrush - everything. It’s a really bad day.
Perhaps the most alarming aspect of an EMP is the unknown: Where might it detonate? How high? Is line-of sight necessary? Who would be affected?
We just don’t know.
In an EMP situation, even having an established off grid system with solar, wind, and your own well doesn’t make you impervious. For example, our solar panels are obviously above ground but most of our solar equipment is underground. Is it deep enough to survive a pulse? Who knows.
Our well pump is certainly deep enough at 600ft underground but even if the well pump survives, the pump controller might be fried. We just don’t know.
John and I started discussing these potential pitfalls and weighing our options. Buying an extra everything and storing all those extras in faraday cages is not happening! Can you imagine having a spare freezer, inverter, pressure tank, water heater… the list is endless and our budget is not!
Another option is to buy shunts (short to ground), devices specifically designed to protect against EMP surges. Standard surge protectors will not work, since EMPs are faster than lightening. A standard surge protector is automatically tripped by a pulse in the line; however, an EMP happens faster than the standard trip mechanism.
“The fastest protection that we typically have on the grid reacts against pulses at one millionth of a second, to protect against lightning. For EMPs, we’re talking ten billionths of a second, a hundred times faster.”
Jack Flicker, Sandia electric grid resiliency expert, Sandia National Laboratories
We’re still looking into shunts and which equipment we’ll focus on protecting, if we go that route. More to come on that decision. Meanwhile, if you’re in the radius of the affected area of an EMP, plan to go back in time to the 1700’s, way before electricity became a common household convenience.
As the book One Second After unfolds, the most dangerous threat to life becomes other people. Most people are easily panicked and, without an official authority to tell them what to do, they freak out. We’ve seen a lot of this since 2020: “Wear a mask”; “Don’t wear a mask”; “Wear two masks”; “Wear two masks and a face-shield and body armor”… on and on. Finally overloaded, most folks relinquish independent thought and trust instead the talking-heads on television. Blindly following orders is easier than thinking and, pitifully, it’s what some prefer. Without direction, they crack.
If you find yourself without electricity, remember that for centuries people lived full and happy lives without it. It’s not the absence of electricity that threatens your survival, it’s your reliance on it in the first place.
I’m not forgetting those who rely on electricity for medical interventions. Those people actually do rely on it to live and, in a grid-down scenario, this means facing harsh realities. I’ll quote Doc Kellor from the book as he explains the first wave of deaths to hit their small town:
“You forget how fragile we really are, the most pampered generations in the history of humanity…. To put it coldly, my friends, all the ones who should have died years ago, and would have died years ago without beta-blockers, stents, angioplasties, pace-makers, exotic medications - well, now they’re dying all at once.”
First, the medically fragile go, along with the panicked and suicides; then murders begin, starvations, theft/self-defense; then disease sets in; then all the folks taking anti-depressants and anti-psychotic meds run out of their pills and start acting insane…not to mention the cannibalism.
It happens in waves.
Basically, it’s a horror show of humanity without filters. Comforts and conveniences drop away and what ensues leaves you questioning whether humanity should survive, after all.
Regardless, the story moves quickly and presents an image of what could be if everyone does everything wrong and no one preps. It’s a cautionary tale.
After some evaluation John and I decided that, in the unlikely event of an EMP, we’re in relatively good shape. Although we might lose some luxuries, we’d still have the important basics: shelter, water, food, and heat. All else is gravy.
Here’s what we looked at:
Location: In addition to being located far from any major city or military installation that might be targeted by an EMP, we’re located very far from the nearest town and the walk (because they’d probably be walking) to our property is not at all welcoming. The county road is usually maintained but, after an EMP, that stops. So, that means walking for miles in deep snow in winter. It’s also hot and dry in summer, with no sign of water or houses nearby.
Our house is in a valley and isn’t visible from the road. Or the side road. Or even most of our driveway. I can’t think of any reason someone in need might risk walking this far in this direction. And if they did, it’d likely be a one way trip.
Heat: We have a woodstove and plenty of firewood. We also have our own trees for future firewood, as well as hand tools for cutting and chopping. In a pinch, we could use the woodstove for cooking , although our kitchen stove should still work. It’s propane - only the ignitor is electric, so we’d just need to light the burners and oven manually.
Water: This one is tricky because our well is 600 feet deep and our well pump and/or controller might be fried. That means water in the well might be inaccessible. Our static level is 60 feet so we might be able to access it via old school bucket and rope.
As a back-up, we have reserve tanks in the hill above our house (so we can use gravity, if needed), and a second gravity well we usually reserve for the greenhouses. So, we’d have water, just not pressurized water. Another luxury.
Transportation/hauling: We have a pretty good fuel reserve and one vehicle that should still be functional. Modern cars have electronic ignitions, as opposed to points which are found in older cars. Most people who restore older cars replace these points with an electronic ignition since points require occasional adjustment. If you want to have your older vehicle running during an EMP, don’t replace these.
Important to note is the danger of having one of the only operating vehicles in town. That alone could make you a target. We have no desire to go to town if an EMP strikes - why would we? So this vehicle would probably be used on the property for hauling water, etc.
Food: I posted about Food Security several months ago, with tips on preservation methods like canning, dehydrating, and freezing. Our refrigerator and freezer would likely go down, so we’d need to can all our frozen meat as soon as possible. Again, our gas stove should still be functional and would be used to heat water for canning. If an EMP were to happen in winter, that’d buy us time since we could store food outdoors in the snow temporarily.
Eventually, whatever foods you stock will run out so be prepared to grow your own food. The time between planting and harvest can be months, so don’t dilly-dally. Fast growers include spinach and arugula, radishes and carrots. These can be harvested within weeks of planting.
Buy heritage seeds, since these seeds can be saved to grow another season. Most store bought seeds are hybrids which cannot reproduce. Seed Savers Exchange is an excellent source for heritage seeds.
While we’d probably lose the convenience of our tractor, we have plenty of hand tools (hoes, shovels, rakes, hoses, saws) to do the same jobs. We’re also stocked up on fertilizer, seeds, and compost.
Speaking of compost, all ten of our chickens are doing fine and continue to provide up to five eggs per day (even now, in the midst of winter).
First Aid: In an EMP situation, hospitals will be overrun and possibly no help whatsoever anyway. Be prepared to treat anything from respiratory infections and UTIs to lacerations.
We’re stocked with all the common first supplies such as gauze and bandages, bleed-stop, alcohol and other sterilizing agents, cold medicines and OTC pain relievers, as well as a variety of antibiotics, suture repair kits, potassium iodide, vitamins and herbal remedies like dandelion teas and echinacea tinctures.
Security: Once we started talking about EMPs, John noticed that our safe is EMP resistant. Lucky for us, as we didn’t plan for that when we bought it. In the event of an emergency, could you get to the important valuables in your safe?
Regarding other security measures, let’s just say we’re heavily invested in lead and steel.
Night time: Our emergency lighting consists of oil lamps, standard flashlights, and candles. As I mentioned, we’d be back to the 1700’s - going to bed and waking with the rhythms of the sun.
No more movies in the evenings, although we have a wide range of books, puzzles and games. Don’t discount the value of low-tech crafts to maintain your sanity! Most of my artwork is already very low-tech, including paintings, collage, mosaics…
Knowledge: Lastly, all the supplies in the world won’t help if you don’t know what to do with them. We can’t possibly remember everything so we also stock up on educational books. In addition, I have a couple binders full of recipes and gardening info. John has binders on solar, wells, and just about everything else. An EMP will wipe out internet access, so no more last minute Googling or YouTube videos.
In One Second After, one of the most difficult challenges the characters face is not knowing. An EMP knocks out communications so there’s no way of knowing whether the damage is confined to your community or reaches the whole world. Is help coming? And, if so, when? Not knowing can be psychologically traumatizing.
On this end, we feel pretty secure in the event of an EMP. We feel pretty secure in the event of anything, really, because we trust that God is in control of the outcome. We do what we can and then let it go.
As a society, most of the things we’ve grown accustomed to having are luxuries, not basic necessities. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying luxuries, but realizing the difference can help you keep your wits about you if those things suddenly disappear.
Personally, aside from the obvious large-scale loss of life, I believe an EMP might not be the worst thing for us. Too many people are buying into beliefs that are unnatural and untrue. These falsehoods, which often stem from excess, don’t stand up to reality and they’re driving our society off a cliff. Maybe we do need a reset.
Just not from you, Klaus.
There was a study done in the 1960’s in which researchers gave mice everything they ever wanted (food, sex, treats, toys). The mice eventually became self-obsessed and, although they turned to sexual deviancy, they lost all interest in reproduction. They became increasingly violent and preened themselves incessantly.
If they’d been given phones, I’m sure they’d have been making their own TikTok videos.
The only mice who kept their sanity in this mouse-utopia were the mice who carved out a space for themselves, setting themselves apart from the masses. I’ll devote an entire post to this study some other day but, for now, learn from those mice.
Set yourself apart from the masses before it becomes a life-or-death necessity. Use your common-sense, along with a bit of cynicism, and follow your God-given instincts.