Insider

Sounding The Alarm On The Country's Vulnerability To An EMP

Establishment insiders are worried we're too vulnerable
Monday, June 1, 2015, 11:29 PM

In the past here at Peak Prosperity, we’ve written extensively on the threat posed by a sustained loss of electrical grid power. More specifically, we've warned that the most damaging threat to our grid would come from either a manmade or natural electromagnetic pulse (EMP). 

A good friend of mine, Jen Bawden, is currently sitting on a committee of notable political, security and defense experts  -- which includes past and present members of Congress, ambassadors, CIA directors, and others -- who are equally concerned about this same threat and have recently sent a letter to Obama pleading for action to protect the US grid.

Before we get to that letter, here’s a snippet from what we wrote on the matter roughly a year ago:

We talk a lot about Peak Cheap Oil as the Achilles' heel of the exponential monetary model, but the real threat to the quality of our daily lives, if not our lives themselves, would be a sustained loss of electrical power. Anything over a week without power for any modern nation would be a serious problem.  A month would lead to chaos and many deaths.

When the power goes out, everything just stops. For residential users, even a few hours begins to intrude heavily as melting freezers, dying cell phones, and the awkward realization that we don't remember how to play board games nudge us out of our comfort zone.

However, those are just small inconveniences.

For industrial and other heavy users, the impact of even a relatively short outage can be expensive or even ghastly. Hospitals and people on life-assisting machinery are especially vulnerable. Without power, aluminum smelters face the prospect of the molten ore solidifying in the channels from which it must be laboriously removed before operations can be restarted.

Many types of nuclear power plants have to switch to back-up diesel generators to keep the cooling pumps running. And if those stop for any reason (like they run out of fuel), well, Fukushima gave us a sense of how bad things can get.

And of course banking stops, ATMs are useless, and gas stations cannot pump gas. Just ask the people of New Jersey in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

A blackout of a few hours results in an inconvenience for everyone and something to talk about.

But one more than a day or two long? Things begin to get a bit tense; especially in cities, and doubly so if it happens in the hot mid-summer months.

Anything over a week and we start facing real, life-threatening issues. National Geographic ran a special presentation, American Blackout, in October 2013 -- it presented a very good progression covering exactly what a timeline of serious grid disruption would look and feel like. I recommend the program for those interested.

We're exploring this risk because there are a number of developments that could knock out the power grid for a week or more. They include a coronal mass ejection (CME), a nuclear electromagnetic pulse (EMP) device, a cascading grid failure, and malicious hacking or electronic attacks.

Others Are Waking Up To The Danger

Recently, we've been contacted by a well-connected group of powerful people who have formed a commission to study the matter, and have recently made a public and urgent appeal in an open letter to President Obama to take this threat seriously.

This letter was sent to the President over the Memorial Day weekend.  It begins (emphasis mine):

Dear Mr. President,

We need your personal intervention to provide for the protection of the American people against an existential threat posed by natural and manmade electromagnetic pulse (EMP). The consequent failure of critical infrastructure that sustain our lives is a major national security threat and would be catastrophic to our people and our nation.

The national Intelligence Council, which speaks for the entire U.S. Intelligence Community, published in its 2012 unclassified Global Trends 2030 report that an EMP is one of only eight Black Swan events that could change the course of global civilization by or before 2030. No official study denies the view that an EMP is a potentially catastrophic societal threat that needs to be addressed urgently. America is not prepared to be without water, electricity, telephones, computer networks, heating, air conditioning, transportation (cars, subways, buses, airplanes), and banking.

All the benefits of our just-in-time economy would come to a deadly halt, including the production of petroleum products, clothing, groceries and medicine. Think about cities without electricity to pump water to their residents.

(Source)

Given the deadly drama that would accompany a such major and sustained grid-down event, you’d think that the US would be spending lots of money to safeguard against one happening. But you’d be wrong.

A bit further in the letter they warn about the vulnerability of nuclear reactors, a risk that causes me a lot of personal concern:

We urge you immediately to issue a Presidential Study Directive (PSD) directing your National Security Advisor to lead a focused interagency effort to provide, in connection with your current budget execution activities and future budget requests, a specific program to address this natural and manmade threat. In particular, this PSD should direct that hardening technology, well known in the Department of Defense, be exploited by all agencies with responsibility for maintaining the electric power grid. It is imperative that plans are immediately implemented to protect America’s at least 100 nuclear reactors and their co-located spent fuel storage facilities from an EMP. 

As Fukushima taught the world, if nuclear plants lose grid power, they rely on diesel generators to keep the cooling water circulating.  Lacking grid power, they can keep everything working for as long as the diesel generators run. Of course, in a grid-down event nothing works, including refineries and the ability to pump and move refined fuel.  After the diesel runs out (assuming the generators themselves were not completely ruined by the EMP), the nuke plants will experience various forms of distress as cooling systems are compromised, up to and including complete meltdowns as a possibility.

Nature Can Play This Game, Too

As a reminder, an EMP can also come from a natural cause such as a coronal mass ejection from our sun -- something we’ve covered in detail here in repeated interviews with NASA scientist Lika Guhathakurta (here and here) as well as in numerous reports centered on the electrical grid and/or warfare:

A coronal mass ejection from the Sun can generate a natural EMP with catastrophic consequences. A geomagnetic super-storm in 1859 called the Carrington Event caused worldwide damage and fires in telegraph stations and other primitive electronics, which at the time were not necessary for societal survival. In contrast, today a Carrington-class geomagnetic super-storm-expected every century or so-could collapse electric grids and destroy critical infrastructure everywhere on Earth.

We know it will happen; we just don’t know when, but we know humanity can’t risk being unprepared. In July 2012, we missed a repeat by only a few days when a major solar emission passed through the Earth’s orbit just after planet Earth passed. NASA recently warned that the likelihood of such a geomagnetic super-storm is 12 percent per decade; so it is virtually certain that a natural EMP catastrophe shall occur within our lifetime or that of our children.

We covered the July 2012 event here at PeakProsperity.com because it was a very narrow miss for Earth. Had it instead hit, I seriously doubt I would be typing this or that you’d be reading it. Instead, more likely, we’d be writing letters by candlelight (assuming someone had a pony available to deliver them).

Now, a 12% per decade chance of a natural EMP occuring per is a pretty high risk. Statistically, it translates into a pretty safe bet that sooner or later on is going to strike. Despite all our advanced technology, we’ll only have, at best, a couple of days advance warning. And that’s assuming that the government decides to tell us, risking a mass panic before the CME arrives.

EMP As A Tool Of War

But the bigger risk, in my mind, is that a military confrontation induces one (or several) players to use an EMP as a means of warfare. With the US poking the Russian bear, and now considering military options to confront China over the islands they are building in the South China Sea, it's not out-of-the-question that one of these world powers could consider using an EMP as a means of retaliation..

The letter to Obama continues:

As we have known for over a half-century from actual test data, even more damaging EMP effects would be produced by any nuclear weapon exploded a hundred miles or so above the United States, possibly disabling everything that depends on electronics for control or operations within a line of sight from the explosion.

Electricity networks could be shut down indefinitely until major repairs could be made, and this could take months, even years. Cascading failures from even a lower altitude nuclear burst over the northeastern U.S. could indefinitely shut down the electric grid that produces three quarters of the U.S. electric power. Computers would be incapacitated. Supply chains would shut down. Imagine Hurricane Sandy affecting a much larger area without the immediate physical damage but also without any hope for relief supplies.

Russia and China have already developed nuclear EMP weapons and many believe others possess EMP weapons including North Korea and soon Iran - and likely their terrorist surrogates. For example, they could launch nuclear-armed short or medium range missiles from near our coasts, possibly hiding the actual sponsor from retaliation. North Korea and Iran have tested their missiles in ways that can execute EMP attacks from ships or from satellites that approach the U.S. from the couth where our ballistic missile warning systems are minimal.

A nuclear EMP device is thought to have the potential to completely ruin an unhardened electrical grid for as long as it takes to repair/replace all the ruined electrical items affected.  This is especially concerning in the case of large scale transformers, which are specially made in just a few places with very low manufacturing throughput capacity that could take a year or more (and that’s assuming the plants are still up and running after the attack).

There is one quibble I have with the letter: I'm not at all concerned about Iran at this stage. Iran has never physically threatened the US nor funded any terrorists that have directly attacked the US like, say, Saudi Arabia.  Perhaps we should be more concerned about the Saudis:

Saudis ‘to get nuclear weapons’

May 17, 2015

SAUDI ARABIA has taken the “strategic decision” to acquire “off-the-shelf” atomic weapons from Pakistan, risking a new arms race in the Middle East, according to senior American officials.

The move by the Gulf kingdom, which has financed much of Islamabad’s nuclear programme over the past three decades, comes amid growing anger among Sunni Arab states over a deal backed by President Barack Obama, which they fear could allow their arch foe, Shi’ite Iran, to develop a nuclear bomb.

(Source)

So, yes, I’d personally be more concerned about a volatile and increasingly unstable Saudi Arabia having a few nukes in their hot little hands than I would Iran. But that's just me. And it's a small point relative to the main message of the letter.

I do agree, though, that the US has plenty of enemies. And its relationships with major powers Russia and China are clearly deteriorating and becoming more hostile:

China state paper warns of war over South China Sea unless U.S. backs down

May 21, 2015

A Chinese state-owned newspaper said on Monday that "war is inevitable" between China and the United States over the South China Sea unless Washington stops demanding Beijing halt the building of artificial islands in the disputed waterway.

The Global Times, an influential nationalist tabloid owned by the ruling Communist Party's official newspaper the People's Daily, said in an editorial that China was determined to finish its construction work, calling it the country's "most important bottom line".

(Source)

It’s a far leap from a general risk of ‘war’ to panicking about a nuclear EMP device being detonated on our soil, but reasonable and prudent individuals cannot entirely discount the possibility. I agree that our government should have plans in place for such a shock, and a program to firm US national weaknesses in advance.

As long as I'm making demands, it would also be my wish that the US practice more diplomacy and issued fewer blustery ‘my way or the highway’ ultimatums to major nuclear superpowers. Sadly the current State Department seems to be fully occupied by extremely hawkish Neocons who have a differnet point of view.

China has a very strong interest in the South China Sea (where lots of oil is thought to be found, by the way) and they are very much unlikely to back down to US demands or even direct military confrontation. Both national pride and critical resources are at stake (things that the US should understand quite well).

Protecting Yourself

I'm glad that there is a group of concerned and well-connected individuals that are seeking both to raise awareness at the top of government and to encourage more direct action to insulate our electrical grid from the impact of an EMP. We applaud those efforts.

But as with nearly every major societal risk we face, we don't recommend pinning your hopes on the government to ride to the rescue. Instead, we’ve been carefully and consistently raising awareness among our readers to the threat posed by a loss of grid power (especially due to an EMP event, because the duration of the outage in that case is likely to be long).

It turns out there are plenty of steps you can take to insulate yourself from the worst effects of a loss of power.  We’ve covered everything from building your own Faraday cages, to installing solar and other electricity-generating systems that might themselves withstand an EMP or other acts of warfare and still function in providing essential power during dark times.

In Part 2: Reducing Your Risk To A Grid-Down Event, we reveal the vulnerabilities mostly likely to cause prolonged outages of the national power grid: cyber attacks. The current system in the US has a disconcerting number of failure points that can -- and are, the data shows -- being targeted by malicious agents. 

And more importantly, we lay out the specific steps concerned individuals should take at the home level to have backup support and protection should the grid go down. The cost of such preparation is very low compared to the huge magnitude of this low-probability, but highly disruptive, threat.

Click here to read Part 2 of this report (free executive summary, enrollment required for full access)

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30 Comments

efarmer.ny's picture
efarmer.ny
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Yet Again

Once again, Chris, you have summarized the threats very well.

A couple years ago I read One Second After, a novel about life after an EMP. It helped clarify my thinking about my preparations.

agitating prop's picture
agitating prop
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if it bleeds it leads....NOT

An electrical grid failure is so awful, it's almost beyond imagining. Weighing all potentials for disaster; epidemic disease, running out of oil, nuclear warfare or reactor meltdown etc..this seems to me to be the most possible. It's one of the reasons my husband and I moved to our present locale. I can burn wood for fuel and cook on a wood burning stove here. The water reservoir is just down the street. If all else fails I take a short hike with a bucket, African style, then boil it when I get home. As we lose power frequently, most here are at least prepared for short term loss of power.

Yikes. When sun spot activity starts up again, it could do so with a bang, damage the magnetosphere and then we could see some action...or lack of.

Thank you for excellent article, Chris. You have a level headed scientific approach. You're not fear mongering, just aware and passing what you know on to people. I appreciated your perspective of ebola as a non-threat. So many commentators jumped on the catastrophe band wagon on that one...a perfect and very literal example of, “if it bleeds, it leads.”  

thc0655's picture
thc0655
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EMP technically difficult to execute

Alas, I am simply NOT prepared for an EMP (natural or man-made) and I'm not going to make any progress on that until I get out of the big city.  That is, I'm not well-prepared to do without electricity for long.  I console myself in a small way with the knowledge that a well-executed EMP attack on the US that takes out most of the grid over much/all of the country would be exceedingly difficult to accomplish because it is so technically challenging.  By my count there are only 9 nations with nuclear weapons.  But the real difficulties inherent in a devastating EMP attack go beyond possession of nuclear weapons:

1.  The weapon must be "tuned" to maximize radiation yield instead of explosive yield as it will be detonated  200+ miles above the surface of the earth where there will be no explosive effect on the ground.

2.  There must be a highly accurate delivery and targeting system necessary to place one or more EMP weapons in just the right place(s) over the country to fry the grid everywhere.

3.  The delivery system (missiles) must not be able to be tracked in such a way as to cause the US to launch a counterattack basically while the EMP missiles are still in flight.  For instance, if Russia were going to execute such an attack they would have to launch their missiles from anywhere but their own territory or known military forces so the US didn't respond with a massive counter strike.  The attackers would have to assume US surveillance assets would observe the launch as it occurred.  If I were Russia and I were going to do this, I'd launch the missiles from a container ship in the Gulf of Mexico secretly carrying the weapons in modified shipping containers on the deck.  There would have to be no way to connect this ship to me in Russia.  But just to be safe I'd be sure to obliterate the ship and crew with an explosion after the EMP missiles were launched. 

Probably none of the nuclear nations could pull all this off, except Russia... and the US.  Actually, when it comes to man-made EMP attack I'm MUCH more concerned about a false flag attack by the US "Deep State" than I am from an extremely high risk attack by Russia.  The same goes for a cyber attack on the banking system or individual nodes of the grid.  There are many more antagonists who could pull something like that off than an EMP, but I'm still more concerned about US "Deep State" actors attacking our banking and electrical grid in a cyber attack than anyone else.  In both cases, the US "Deep State" could finely tune the attack to create the kind of damage and shock value they wanted while maintaining the US military and other assets necessary to keep control throughout the disaster.  Of course, a false flag attack could leave enough "evidence" for investigators to find later to pin the blame on one of the "usual suspects."

In this respect their going to have to do a better job than they did on 9/11wink

Time2help's picture
Time2help
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Who needs missiles?

If EMP were used, wouldn't it make sense to have the delivery systems already up there, disguised as these? Effective response/counterattack time window = zero.

And would it matter "whodunnit"? Not like anyone is going to report it to their local media outlet (guessing that would be low on the priority list if all of the lights go out).

Makes you wonder what this thing is doing...

Ahh...the mind wanders down the rabbit hole...please ignore the horrible acting and crappy special effects, you get the idea.

sand_puppy's picture
sand_puppy
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Boeing tests EMP weapon (non-nuclear)

EMP weapons now a reality

An event took place October 2012 in the Utah desert that escaped the attention of most. Boeing successful tested an electro-magnetic pulse (EMP) device mounted within a missile. When I first reported on the early development of these weapons back in 2007 many scoffed and claimed all of this hype was pure fiction. Well it became a scientific fact.

The code name give to the program was CHAMP, which stands for Counter-electronics High-power Microwave Advanced Missile Project. A video camera and wiring was shielded and remotely monitored by a room full of computers as the test took place. The video is impressive and I encourage you to watch it. Toward the end of the video the electronics of the camera appears to fails said to be due to the electronic waves penetrating through the unshielded lens.

Here is a link to a Boeing video of a similar, successful test and demonstration of an EMP weapon’s capabilities:

Jbarney's picture
Jbarney
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Disturbing to say the least

Hi,

I think this is one of those areas of preps that consistently goes under emphasized....in my own household for sure.  Have grown up in a society where the longest amount of time I have gone without power was camping trips....and that was by choice.  Short periods without power would certainly be manageable.  I think a lot of people could do just fine, it would be uncomfortable and inconvenient, but people could get by.  Certainly a few weeks or even a month or so....even here in the northeast I *think* we could get through a winter with some power disruptions.  Wouldn't be easy.  Not at all.

The real death trap would be the cities.  How long can hospitals run without power?  How long would it be sanitary without the sewers running?  No body able to pump gas?  In my US History classes I cover an event from the 1970s where the power was out in NYC for about 24 hours and people started rioting immediately.  Not good.

The solar storm threat is there, but I wonder if parts of our energy grid would survive simply by scientists and the press spreading the word prior to event.  Usually we know a day or two in advance of an approaching storm, and you would have to think we could save ourselves a lot of problems by simply spreading the word to the public to simply shut down everything as the storm passes.  Sorry if I have faith that our leaders or scientists would recognize the threat.  Could be niave on this one.  Also, the extent of my knowledge about electrical issues is making sure my lab top computer batter is recharging....

Very thought provoking writing, Chris.  One of the areas most of us could do a lot better with.

Jason

Dogs_In_A_Pile's picture
Dogs_In_A_Pile
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Point of order....

We actually tested these in 1945.

HPRF and directed energy weaponry is not new to the arsenal.  Anyone else find it interesting that the monitors in the video are CRTs and the towers have 3.5" floppy drives?

cmartenson's picture
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I missed that...

Dogs_In_A_Pile wrote:

We actually tested these in 1945.

HPRF and directed energy weaponry is not new to the arsenal.  Anyone else find it interesting that the monitors in the video are CRTs and the towers have 3.5" floppy drives?

I was too mesmerized by the out of phase scan lines to notice....

cheeky

zug007's picture
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Faraday cage and PCs

I am wondering about something, perhaps someone more knowledgeable can help: Are computers really affected or only their screens? Most of the PCs I know are in a metal cage and have therefore already their own Faraday cage and should therefore not be affected. - Am I missing something?

Michael_Rudmin's picture
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I think it might not be too bad

Jason said, "The real death trap would be the cities".  I'm not so sure.  Our oven has been out for months; in my job, I am overworked and have not been able to get it replaced, but it isn't a disaster.  If we really need it, we have both a crock pot and convective oven for use outside.

Now, these require electricity, but this is an example:  we cope. 

If power goes out, people will get their grills, and start grilling outside.  When winter comes, they'll bundle up.  Gone will be the days of working late into the night, but that just means that people will get their sleep, and actually be sane after a while. 

Do we need computers?  No.  Computers do not enhance productivity; they enhance quality.  They decrease productivity, and enslave -- that's all.  But moreover, all the methods in computers, were developed with paper, drawers, chalkboards, staplers, and pencils. 

I really think that if the EMP is used as a false flag, the ones who launch it will have an unpleasant surprise:  that they made things better, and whomever they blame will suddenly increase in popularity.

So I'm really not going to worry about this one.  I'm going to try to be generally ready, but if there's an emp, I'm going on holiday.

Michael_Rudmin's picture
Michael_Rudmin
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Metal cage PCs

To be quite simple, if signals can get out, signals can get in.  The difference between signal and warhead is intellectual only:  Pick they EMP to do the damage, and the damage will be done. 

Time2help's picture
Time2help
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zug007 wrote: I am wondering

zug007 wrote:

I am wondering about something, perhaps someone more knowledgeable can help: Are computers really affected or only their screens? Most of the PCs I know are in a metal cage and have therefore already their own Faraday cage and should therefore not be affected. - Am I missing something?

Most modern commercial and personal computers are wide open relative to a broad spectrum EMP. Just as one example, imagine all of the little cables that attach to the computer...Ethernet, input power,even the mouse if its a wire type...all of these will act as antennae, picking up the EMP pulse and conducting it into the computer and on to the different electronic sub-assemblies. Now add in all of the little antennas used for Bluetooth wifi, e.t.c. Now add in any plastic covers that are not backed by metal, think of these as wide open for an EMP pulse to pass through. Most commercial devices are not hardened against this type of event.

In the avionics world electronics are hardened to withstand multiple lightning strikes. Even aboard these "hardened" platforms the broad consensus among electrical engineers I have talked to is that they would not want to be on board an aircraft during an EMP pulse.

efarmer.ny's picture
efarmer.ny
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Cities

Michael Rudman said

Jason said, "The real death trap would be the cities".  I'm not so sure.  Our oven has been out for months; in my job, I am overworked and have not been able to get it replaced, but it isn't a disaster.  If we really need it, we have both a crock pot and convective oven for use outside.

Now, these require electricity, but this is an example:  we cope. 

If power goes out, people will get their grills, and start grilling outside.

What are you going to grill? The rotting meat from your non-functional refrigerator? Where will you buy the replacement meat? In the store with the employee that can't make change when the cash register is not working? Their freezers have turned off too. No trucks are coming with food because their engines have circuit boards that are now non-operational.

What is the population of a high-rise apartment complex? Can they all fit on the front lawn with their grills? How hot will the upper floors get without fans or air conditioning?

With no electronic security systems, how long until the looters break into businesses and homes?

How will you report a break-in to the police?

Etc. and etc.

Jbarney's picture
Jbarney
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Ya

My point was to express that population centers would have a much more difficult time with a grid down scenario, although it would be a problem for all of us.  Thinking about it though, wouldn't it be much worse in a major populated area?

Take, for example, the disease and unsanitary conditions which usually develop after a crisis.  No power, no running water.....if those conditions develop in a low population zone, you don't have to worry about other people's need to go to the bathroom.  There is land and space.  In a city, if some of that infrastructure starts to break down, hundreds of thousands of people are going to start going to the bathroom in the same areas.  And it could get pretty messy beyond that, disease, bacteria, etc.

In low population densities....meat might be easier to come by.  Even in the winter.  Ice fishing.  Hunting.  Meat birds.  Those things already don't exist in the cities.  With no power to 'fridges or freezers the supply of meat would go down pretty quickly.  I am not arguing the circumstances would be great in the country, but they just seem to be more manageable. 

People should take a look at the incident in 1970s in NYC.  I don't think the power was out for more than a day and the rioting started.

Jason

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Worse Fear

A large scale EMP event that takes out most computer operated equipment in addition to taking down the electrical grid is one of my nightmare scenarios.  I have spent years preparing for economic collapse and social unrest.  Each of these eventualities would hopefully have some early indicators that could allow putting plans into action and give a small window to gather and move people and supplies. A sudden, massive EMP, particularly if it took out most ground transportation, leaves me with the angst of wondering how to gather together family and supplies from our far flung daily pursuits. (Even though we all live and work on most days within a twenty mile circle {It's a Rhode Island thing.  The state is small.  We don't have room to move around much} twenty miles is a long way to go on foot with elderly folks and young children). I have thought about this for some time and have yet to find any answer.  Even my 1989 Chevy Silverado pickup, which is equal to a tank in most other respects, is supposedly "too new" and has computer components that could be compromised.

JT

Michael_Rudmin's picture
Michael_Rudmin
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I will grill pigeons

Need meat? Collect some pigeons, and start with eggs first, meat later. As an experiment in Vilnius, I put my hand around the neck of a pigeon as I walked by... then removed it. I had approaced from the back. She gave a cry of shock, fright and outrage, but no harm was done.

You can get pigeons, believe me, and grill them fresh.

Also you can grill corn, watermelon, lambs-quarters, brassicas, pine nuts, mulberries, blackberries. .. just for starters.

I revert to my point: as you encounter a need, try to figure it out. If you try, you will. If you DON'T try, you will before too long see someone who did.

Life isn't going to end.

Michael_Rudmin's picture
Michael_Rudmin
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So how do you deal with waste?

Much better point this time, Jason.

In fact, there will be those in cities who make a mess of human waste.

Early on, some will go into milkjugs, but it needs to be taken out of there.

O what happens when someone gets the bright idea to take a 50'x50' x 10' basement room, line it with a heavy plastic bag, and then put portajohn seats in the room above? One sitting can create 1/27 cu ft of humanure. So that room can hold the waste of 1000 people for a year.

And in cities, there are lots of immigrants who know how it is done.

My point: we'll figure it out. Don't worry. Lights out doesn't mean lights out. It only means lights out.

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A good dose of slightly fatalistic determinism helps.....

Michael_Rudmin wrote:

My point: we'll figure it out. Don't worry. Lights out doesn't mean lights out. It only means lights out.

Precisely.  Whatever is going to happen is going to happen.  You're either going to manage and get through it, or you're not.

I worry more about shifting from ionian to mixolydian when playing B scales and arpeggios on my mandolin than I do an EMP event.
 

In the immortal words of Publilius Syrus, ~100 BC.... "Tis foolish to fear what cannot be avoided."

Whatever "it" is....

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thc0655
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EMP and automobiles

On James Wesley Rawles' survivalblog.com there was a guest post citing some research into the effect of EMP's on cars.

http://survivalblog.com/guest_article_emp_myths_and_faqs_by_joel_ho/

The author and the research indicated that most cars would be unaffected by an EMP, though a small percentage of cars that were running when hit by the EMP would shut off and merely have to be restarted. 

Q: I have read that you have to have an EMP-proof car to survive. Is that correct?
A: Your car will probably okay. If you were not actively driving at the moment of the strike, you are even more likely to be unaffected.

From the EMP Commission report: “We tested a sample of 37 cars in an EMP simulation laboratory, with automobile vintages ranging from 1986 through 2002. Automobiles of these vintages include extensive electronics and represent a significant fraction of automobiles on the road today. The testing was conducted by exposing running and non-running automobiles to sequentially increasing EMP field intensities. If anomalous response (either temporary or permanent) was observed, the testing of that particular automobile was stopped. If no anomalous response was observed, the testing was continued up to the field intensity limits of the simulation capability (approximately 50 kV/m).

Automobiles were subjected to EMP environments under both engine turned off and engine turned on conditions. No effects were subsequently observed in those automobiles that were not turned on during EMP exposure. The most serious effect observed on running automobiles was that the motors in three cars stopped at field strengths of approximately 30 kV/m or above. In an actual EMP exposure, these vehicles would glide to a stop and require the driver to restart them. Electronics in the dashboard of one automobile were damaged and required repair. Other effects were relatively minor. Twenty-five automobiles exhibited malfunctions that could be considered only a nuisance (e.g., blinking dashboard lights) and did not require driver intervention to correct. Eight of the 37 cars tested did not exhibit any anomalous response.”

In another place on survivalblog.com (no link, sorry) Rawles stated that if you just wanted to be real sure you're car would still work, you could buy a spare for the car's main computer and one for the fuel system, store them in a Faraday Cage in the trunk, and if the EMP disabled your car simply replace these two parts (best to practice in advance).  Of course, getting fuel out of the gas station's tanks would still be a problem since most stations don't have emergency generators to run the pumps when the electricity is out (Hurricane Sandy taught that to many in the northeast.).
 
For what it's worth.  I'm an electronics idiot.
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That said, EMP blackout not all goodness and light...

That said, although I expect we'll figure our way through an EMP blackout -- and I call that a when, not IF event--, I don't think it'll be all goodness and light. There WILL be deaths; there likely will be 100 or more fukushimas in an area the size of the US; the shock will be astounding.

But it isn't going to be the society killer that the villein in “Escape from LA" makes out. We won't go back to the dark ages; we'll go back to the 1880s. Steam locomotives didn't use electricity. Air powered hand tools don't either. And whatever the motive loss, the basic structure of the tools will remain.

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Lessons from Post-EMP Novels

efarmer.ny mentioned one of the great post-EMP novels, One Second After, and I wanted to add a couple more that I thought were very good.

Novelists and poets "imagine into" potential futures.

It is my experience that we slip past denial in little steps as we start to envision a way to live and cope with the new situation.   For example:  A little garden plot and a few chickens lets us start to contemplate coping with a disrupted food system.  

These kinds of novels can help with that.

One Second After (my summary --adapted from a review on Amazon)

In a small mountain town in North Carolina, where residents rarely lock homes, retired army colonel John Matherson teaches college, raises two daughters, and grieves the recent loss of his wife to cancer. When phones die and cars inexplicably stall, Grandma’s pre-computerized Edsel takes readers to a stunning scene on the car-littered interstate, on which 500 stranded strangers, some with guns, awaken John’s New Jersey street-smart instincts to get the family home and load the shotgun. Next morning, some townspeople realize that an electromagnetic pulse weapon has destroyed America’s power grid, and they proceed to set survival priorities. The novel then follows the residents of this valley as they work to survive over the next year.  The town is set in a defensible mountain valley whose roads are sealed off.

They discover that the natural carrying capacity of their valley is 10-15 pre-industrial families -- but now 100s live there.  The valley is profoundly unprepared to feed themselves locally with minimal farming/gardening.  Deer and wildlife are rapidly hunted to extinction over the first months and forgeable edibles consumed. In fact, much of the town has starved to death by the end of the year long story.

Temperatures are moderate in North Carolina and rainfall collected in swimming pools is adequate to meet water needs.  Sanitation is with latrines outside the house in wooded area.

Within the town there is excellent cooperation. However, they must absolutely limit influx of immigrants.  Borders are sealed and defended and no aid of any kind is offered to outsiders.    

Social organization is suddenly altered.  Our protagonist, John Matherson, becomes a one person commander (who listens to the city counsel) to get the efficiency and decisiveness needed.  Fortunately, he is smart, moral and genuinely wishes to shepherd everyone through the ordeal.

Outside the valley, things are not going so well.  Some revert to gang structures where ruthlessness and brutality are the keys to "leadership."  People fight for food. Some groups adapt cannibalism, as the one super-abundant meat animal available is other humans.

Lights Out by David Crawford

After an EMP destroys modern technology, a suburban neighborhood subdivision bands together to make a defensible area where they can live.  Empty houses and undeveloped lots are converted to garden spaces.  The desperate and hungry from a nearby city must be repelled and the borders defended.  Hero's include those who can fix cars, tractors and water pumps, cook, garden and work very hard.

Similar to One Second After, Lights Out is a story of cooperation within a community and forceful exclusion of outsiders.  Later in the story, other communities begin to band together.  A single leader guides the community (with input from a counsel).

Knowing how to shoot and fight are central skills in the initial stages.

Jeremy's Run: LA Dark

Five friends. West L.A. The power goes out, and everything with it. And it's not coming back. They are normal people, not survivalists, caught in the worst place they could be, surrounded by looter gangs and 4 millions who will soon be desperate and dying. No food. Little water. No toilets. No refrigeration.  A city set in a geographical desert.

Young, fit, but ill-prepared, their choices are few and stark.  They must leave LA.

-----------

Central themes from these novels that I see:

1.  The EMP event is a sudden, surprising and devastating disruption.

2.  Social structures immediately change with a single leader arising (by merit or by brutality).  The leader can make quick and hard decisions.  (Forget the model of processing feelings as a respectful group of equals that will not act until consensus is reached.)

3.  Beatings, rape, prisoners and slaves are parts of creating and holding a brutal domination hierarchies which may flourish in some settings.  Each will need to have the power (physical strength and weapons) to effectively stand up to this. 

4.  Form teams.  You can't be an expert in everything or guard the front and back doors at the same time.

5.  Stored water and food let people get through the initial days.

6.  Estimating ammo requirements:  find your house on a map and draw a 1 mile circle around it.  How many desperate people inside that circle?

7.  Migrations:  People figure out that they cannot survive where they are and must move.  Some seek to move to government camps.  Others to plunder the homes of farmers in the countryside. Others to find a place to farm.

8.  Enforce your boundaries.  Both the boundaries of your community and your personal space.

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Tasty Meat Sources

Dogs_In_A_Pile said

I worry more about shifting from ionian to mixolydian when playing B scales and arpeggios on my mandolin than I do an EMP event.
 

In the immortal words of Publilius Syrus, ~100 BC.... "Tis foolish to fear what cannot be avoided."

I don't fear an EMP event. I "fear" having my family hungry. That could come from loss of employment, severe weather, EMP, etc. I can also take reasonable steps to avoid it.

New York City's 38 million plus population won't last long on its one million pigeons and 1.1 million pets. But at least until DeBlasio's program gets underway, there should be a bunch of rodents available.

As another BC writer said:  "A sensible person sees danger and takes cover."

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Michael_Rudmin wrote:Need

Michael_Rudmin wrote:
Need meat? Collect some pigeons, and start with eggs first, meat later. As an experiment in Vilnius, I put my hand around the neck of a pigeon as I walked by... then removed it. I had approaced from the back. She gave a cry of shock, fright and outrage, but no harm was done. You can get pigeons, believe me, and grill them fresh. Also you can grill corn, watermelon, lambs-quarters, brassicas, pine nuts, mulberries, blackberries. .. just for starters. I revert to my point: as you encounter a need, try to figure it out. If you try, you will. If you DON'T try, you will before too long see someone who did. Life isn't going to end.

I urge you to consider the scale: available pigeons compared to hungry humans.  I don't think it even comes close.  Yes, there are crows, rats, raccoons, etc., but there still won't be enough food in large cities.

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A Small Correction

Okay, I can't help it having worked as an engineer in the alternative energy space for awhile. It's Stirling engine, not Sterling. 

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EMP

I believe we must begin the process of manufacturing and inventing new ways to produce the old Locomotive Steam Engine.

A traditional 1800's Steam Engine Locomotive would allow us to at least keep supplies and critical life saving equipment across the country if there was a devasting natural solar flare or EMP Event.

Without trains, we would lose the ability to help millions of people across the country.

What we need to do is invent ways to do things the old fashion way that uses equipment that is not effected by such solar flares or advanced warefare.

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thc065

Thanks for the input. I have always envisioned an EMP event as destroying all electrical devices and all vehicles as well as the electrical grid. The information you point to on James Wesley Rawles's site seems to indicate it will not be quite that encompassing.  Gives me a little more hope of finding a way through such an event.

JT 

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It's slightly more complicated...

jtwalsh wrote:

Thanks for the input. I have always envisioned an EMP event as destroying all electrical devices and all vehicles as well as the electrical grid. The information you point to on James Wesley Rawles's site seems to indicate it will not be quite that encompassing.  Gives me a little more hope of finding a way through such an event.

JT 

As it turns out, "EMP" is a very complex event and there's both a lot of detail and some range of possibilities to cover.

This article linked here is a very digestible, eminently rational, and even slightly humorous read on the subject. (the first 3 short pages of this article describe the EMP process while the individual threats begin on pg 4 (for those who want to cut to the chase).

The super reader's digest version is that for EMP events that are mediated via the ionosphere (nuclear and CME) there appears to be an upper limit to the strength of the event set by the ionosphere itself that translates into a major risk for very long conductors (power lines and everything hooked up to them) but increasingly less risk for shorter conductors and anything housed in a metal box.  So cars should be fine.  Ditto cell phones.  

The main risk is that transformers are blown and the repair/replacement cycle takes months if not years.  Social breakdown, and much hardship will result and having a 'working' cell phone or a car that can turn on will be of little value if the cell towers are down and refineries are not refining fuel because the larger grid is down.

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Always Learning

Thanks Chris:  I will take some time over the weekend to read the article you suggested.  I think I have digested too many EMP, end of the world, disaster novels (I have read all that Sand-puppy suggested and they are good thrillers) which all tend to over play the worse case scenario.  It's time I applied some science to my thoughts on this subject.  JT

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Experiential Learning filtration helps

jtwalsh wrote:

....which all tend to over play the worse case scenario.  It's time I applied some science to my thoughts on this subject.  JT

Good call JT.  I went through this a few years back.  I figured if you planned for the absolute worst scenario possible, anything less would be covered.  That quickly approached overwhelming.....So I applied the concept of experiential learning - the What?, So What?, Now What? lens.

1. Define the "What" first - what is the event/issue/problem?

2. Outline the "So what" - why do I/you/we care about the "what"?

3. Identify an actionable "Now what" - Assuming the issue gets through the "So What" filter, what can you do about it?

Each step was a filter.  If it didn't get past the "So What" or there wasn't an realistically actionable "Now what?" I saw little utility in wheel spinning.

The law of unintended consequence quickly revealed that many of the worst case scenarios were windmills that were useless (IMHO) to tilt at.  So I started backing up from the theoretical worst case scenario, to what I determined to be the highest probability scenario.  In almost every case I was able to come up with an actionable plan to take care of the "Now what".

Good luck.........

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Ready or Not

Dogs in a Pile:  I have to say that I am more attracted to the ideas of sustainability and passing on a habitable world than I am to the whole Teotwawki, great collapse meme. I am not one of those eagerly awaiting the mad max vs. the good guys paradigm that floats in the air of many "prepper" websites. My goal is to work at a better world and society by evolving into a simpler life, more in tune with nature and each other; away from the consumption and happy driving world we now inhabit.  My "preps" tend to be in areas that support these goals.  Usually, I can take each day, do what can be done and then start again tomorrow. 

The idea that everything, everywhere, could just stop in a second, hits some deep felt fear, probably because it is so big, so drastic that there is not a lot you can do in the present to mitigate the possible damages.  I was glad to read tch065's information that mounting an EMP attack is a difficult proposition and that not everything will cease to work instantly.  I will spend some time reviewing the report Chris referred to to see if that will help lessen my dark fears.

My education and training cause me to often over analyze situations, but I have never heard the process put into the terms of  What?, So What?, Now What?. I like it. I may stick it on my computer monitor for awhile until I internalize it.  Thanks.

JT  

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