Friday, March 26, 2010

Prepare: What To Do After An EMP Strike

Recent news stories, popular television shows and books like One Second After left many of us thinking what we could do in the event of a widespread EMP (Electro-Magnetic Pulse) event. While nobody has all the answers, here are some suggestions that might help.

One minute the lights, air conditioner, computer, telephone and other electronics are working fine, the next moment, they are dead. Whether or not an EMP attack will happen, whether or not the effects are as described in popular writing, having a plan just in case is smart.

If you're at home, the first thing you will notice is the lights have gone out like in a power outage or winter storm. The air conditioning or heater, if electric, will cut out. The TV and other entertainment will shut off immediately. Cell phones and land line telephones will end calls and stop working. The silence will be deafening.

The same events will occur in cities, town, in the country, at schools and work places. Cars, not running, will not start or start and run roughly for a limited time. Airplanes in flight, as awful as this sounds, may lose engine power and quickly descend to the ground.

All electrical systems, except the most primitive, will stop immediately. Confusion will reign.

Quick; what do you do?

First things first. If moving, stop. If at work, move to a safe area. If at home. pause and consider if there is anything in your home which may be a threat or pose a danger. Verify that the power is out in the entire home or office and that battery powered devices aren't working either.

Then, where is everyone you care about? Kids at school? Spouse at work or store? How are you going to get them? How will they get home?

Does your car run? Check as soon as possible. If not, is there a neighbor nearby, one block or less, with a running vehicle? Do you have a bike? Can you ride to the kids school and collect them?

Remember, there are no phones working. That relative or friend who lives across town suddenly may as well be living in Africa and there is no quick or easy way to get to them. So forget about contacting Aunt Sue in Baltimore for the time being. Don't be surprised when you catch yourself reaching for light switches that don't work or grabbing that useless cell phone out of habit, though.

If the phones, car and power are all out, you know it's serious. Time to take action.

Go fill the tubs in the house with water. Unless you have a well, all water comes from somewhere else, usually far away, and brought to the house with readily available electricity. Water is still in the pipes and held in place with pressure so start filling the tubs and other containers. Fill everything because clean water will be very difficult to get shortly.

Next, make a judgement call - you can either go get the kids (if that applies) start checking on neighbors, relatives or friends or get supplies.

"The First Things To Go After An EMP Burst"

Pros and Cons - Neighbors are going to be a lifesaver. For instance, the lady across the street can watch your kids while you run down to the market to get more food. Also, neighbors can pool their resources and numbers to watch and protect their properties. A quick check next door with two nearby neighbors is a good start.

But, there's a bad side about spending the initial time after the EMP attack talking to neighbors. Many will be ill prepared to deal with the shock and consequences. Some will believe the power outage is temporary, they may argue and deny the seriousness of the situation. Dealing with these types of people will be a call on your part.

For me, after having the children collected, there are only two neighbors I will speak with before heading to the market nearby to get more supplies. Fortunately, there is a large market within walking distance and I have a bike cart I can use. It will also be a good idea to take along a large backpack and some canvass bags for simple transportation. Having help from a family member or neighbor is wise too.

Speaking of neighbors, I will offer to pool resources, such as money, with one or two neighbors when I go to the market. It's a good policy that will pay off later.

Going to the market - Cash is King. Have a supply of cash on hand for emergencies and an EMP attack is one of them. I keep several stashes of small bills around the house that I have added to each time I get paid. It does not take much to build a home cash reserve. Make it a habit to tuck twenty to two hundred dollars in the back of the wallet, purse or somewhere else hidden on your person. On paydays, take out an extra twenty for the home stash. Also toss in ones, fives and other small bills rather than spend them.

Stores will not be taking credit cards and possibly not even checks if their systems are down so have folding money on hand now. There may be a chance that the stores won't even be selling at all, so be prepared for anything. Most stores will probably allow shoppers to load a cart with necessaries if you make the case to the manager that you need food for the kids or something similar.

Note: I shop at the same store weekly and make it a point to know the worker's names. Knowing the manager or cashier may be useful if there's an emergency. 

If the grocery stores are selling, load up. Here's what to get..

- canned food
- baking supplies
- long term foods like rice and beans
- Over the counter (OTC) medicines
- vitamins
- toilet paper, paper towels, paper plates and feminine supplies
- matches, lighters and cooking fuel
- batteries and candles
- Soap, bleach
- bottled water

You cannot buy enough food in one trip to last during the total effects of an EMP strike; that period will be months if not years. That is why it is imperative that you start stocking now and use this last chance to buy as a "top off" of existing supplies only.

Taking an extra person along makes the trip easier. Have that second person focus on toilet paper, OTC medicines, feminine supplies, etc. since they are often on the same side of the store. Another person means two carts rather than one.

If there are other stores such as hardware or sporting goods stores open and nearby, take advantage now to get any building materials, gardening supplies, camp gear, guns and ammo. Also hit the gasoline station on the off chance that one may have a back up generator to get gas out of the ground, if you have a car or generator which is running. If anything, the rototiller needs gas so get some if possible.

If you have the money (or if the stores still take checks), make multiple trips to the stores as best as you can. In a few days there will be little or nothing moving to and from the stores and warehouses so the window is limited. That means in two or three days, the stores will be cleaned out of everything so get what you can now. For many of us, there are probably two or three stores nearby our homes. Visit each on the first day and get as much as allowed and which can be carried safely home.

Note: Don't forget, many shoppers will be buying short term stuff - cigarettes, liquor, beer, ice, sodas, snack food, etc. Only the older shopper (who remembers the Cold War) or the resident of Hurricane Country will understand which items go first and fastest. Shop wisely.

Don't think for a minute you are hoarding. You are providing for your family. Also, you can share what you have purchased with friends, family and neighbors who were not prepared or unable to get to the stores.

At home, put up the groceries and take a quick stock of what you have and how long it will last. Rationing will now be in effect for the whole family. Food in the fridge is eaten first, followed by the freezer and the pantry last of all.

Meals can be cooked outside if the weather is good, over the barbecue grill or if necessary, over a fire. At this point, you're probably wondering how much charcoal, propane and firewood you have on hand. Make a list because things like this will come up several times a day and need to be addressed.

When it gets dark, there will be more work to do. The lights are out, phones don't work and the car is dead. What will you do if there's a medical emergency? What if a fire breaks out? What if a passerby traveling on foot with others decides to come in the backyard to help themselves to your dinner?

Now is the time to make sure you have firefighting equipment like fire extinguishers, shovel, buckets, sand and water on hand. Same for locks, chains and other means to secure the front and back door, garage and windows. It might be a good idea to have plywood on hand to board up windows too. And items for home protection, such as firearms, will most likely not be available for first time buyers either.

What happens next? Do you have a nearby water source? Toilets will still flush for a few days at least, but you'll need to fill the water box. Only put used water from bathing or washing clothes in the water box. Clean water is for drinking and cooking only! Water can also be collected from rain spouts, from a nearby creek, river or stream. A swimming pool, even an above ground plastic pool, is a lifesaver for collecting water for flushing, clothes washing or bathing.

What about transportation? After an EMP, an older vehicle manufactured before 1972 or so, should still run as will many older diesel powered vehicles. If you have a running vehicle, keep it close (in the garage) and drive it only when necessary. A running vehicle will attract attention and may result in it being stolen or commandeered by local government. Also, what will the neighbors think if you and family have a running 1967 Mustang? Suddenly, you're rich by their standards and their attitude toward you may change.

Avoid attention and use "sneaker power" or a bike for getting around, but try and stay near the house. There is no need to go wandering around town unless necessary.

Find a way to get news. Old radios that run on vacuum tubes rather than transistors should still work. That "antique" tube radio of grandpas sitting on the shelf is more than decoration. With power from a car battery through an inverter and you have a lifeline to the outside world.

With a radio, you may find out that your situation is restricted to a limited geographical area. Or that there is an active government relief effort underway. Or maybe that the whole world is effected and the remaining governments are preparing the population for a new dark age. Without communications, you will never know.

Finally, what will you do when your food stocks run low? If its the right time of year, growing food is ideal. Do you have room for a garden? How about a place for containers such as on the patio? Do you have seeds? Have you ever grown anything? Now is the time to start practicing. Also, many of us don't live in rural areas flush with wild game, but there are options, even in the city. Search out websites now which describe urban hunting or foraging.

Also, think outside of the box where food may be stored for salvage later. Like disabled trucks, train cars, office building break rooms, abandoned warehouses. As always, respect private property and know the difference between looting and salvaging.

Regardless, the first 24 hours of an EMP event are critical to long term survival. Think and act. Afterward, things can go several different directions, so get prepared now.

If it's any help, here's what NOT TO DO after immediately after an EMP event -

- Don't waste time having a two hour meeting with neighbors. As noted, if they can't help, move on. If they can help, start getting supplies and agree to meet later that evening.

- Don't hang around work or school - go home the first chance you can.

- Don't wander around the neighborhood discussing what happened - there is time for that AFTER you have obtained supplies.

- Don't ride or walk into town and see what the government is doing. They will be busy, as lost as you are and bothering them may result in your detention.

- Don't start gardening, cleaning up your garage or inventorying your "preps". All of this should have been done before and there will be plenty of time in the days to come.

- Don't try to show off your preparedness skills - "Who wants to watch me make a solar oven?" - to anyone nearby. You'll have plenty of time to demonstrate skills as time goes on, use your time now wisely.

- Don't start defrosting food (the food in the fridge goes first and freezer will stay cold a day or so longer).

- Don't bother trying to get the 2009 car running. It won't happen.

Preparing for an EMP isn't something that can be done in a single day, but every day the power is on is another day to get ready. Stockpile supplies today, have a plan for day one and pray each day this doesn't happen.

Don't forget about the book which made this subject more relevant today..

One Second After

Good luck,

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