One of the big problems in dealing with any potential disaster is knowledge. Can you imagine living in Florida in the 1800s, when the only warning you’d get of a pending hurricane were the clouds on the horizon? By then, you’d have mere hours of warning before the wrath of that storm fell upon you. Not exactly much time to get ready is it?
Then there are the disasters that happen without any warning, like an earthquake. One moment, everything is fine and the next moment you’re fearing for your life, while wondering if the earth is going to stop moving under you.
An EMP is something like that earthquake, in that there would be no warning, unless it were to be in the rhetoric we heard coming out of Pyongyang or Tehran.
We wouldn’t see the missile that was carrying the nuke up into the upper atmosphere and we probably wouldn’t receive any notification about it from our new Space Force. Rather, the lights would just go out, along with everything else.
On the surface, it would look just like any other power outage. So what do you do?
Verify That It Was an EMP
The first thing any of us is going to have to do is verify that it really is an EMP that we’re dealing with and not just a normal power outage.
Typically, we all look outside, checking to see if our neighbors are having the same problem we are. After that, we might call a friend or family member, seeing if the power is out where they are too.
But even if we do manage to get through, that’s not going to be enough to make a determination.
We can’t expect an announcement from FEMA telling us what’s happening. For that matter, we can’t expect anything else out of FEMA or any other federal agency. I imagine they’ll all be trying to survive the situation, just like we will. So how can we find out?
The best test for an EMP is to check services which are required by law to have backup power to see if they are operational, such as:
- Radio stations
- City water (water may exist for a while, due to water in towers)
- Telephone service (landline)
If these are all out, then chances are that it was an EMP, which would have taken out their power generators and other electronics, while it was taking out everything else. Some larger chains of stores, like Wal-Mart and some of the grocery chains also have their own backup generators for power, so if they are dark, we can assume that their generators went out too.
Keep in mind that there’s always the possibility that some of those generators could still be working, even with an EMP.
Most are installed in steel cases, which can serve as an effective Faraday Cage if the generator inside the case isn’t touching the case.
You’ve got to look at the overall picture and make an evaluation based on that.
Okay, so you decide that it’s really an EMP; then what do you do?
Get Your Family Together
Once you know that it really is an EMP and not just another power outage, it’s time to put your family’s survival plan into effect. That starts with gathering your family together at your home. If your vehicles are still running, this shouldn’t be much of a problem; but if they are toast, you may find yourself forced to walk all the way home from work. I hope you have your get home bag in the trunk.
Chances are that you won’t be able to contact your family in any way, other than by physically going to wherever they are.
Again, that’s not a big deal if your vehicle is running; but we can’t be sure that they will be.
I’d recommend having a standing part of your plan be that if the schools ever make an announcement that an EMP has happened, your children find a way to ditch class and head for home.
It’s doubtful that there will be many preppers heading for a cabin in the woods at this time. Few of us even own such a thing; but even if we did, getting there would be a problem. So it will be time to hunker down at home for your survival.
Gather Last Minute Supplies
In every scenario I’ve seen, it’s assumed that people will rush the grocery stores, grabbing whatever they can, usually without paying. Panic will cause looting to become rampant, even to the point where food is destroyed by being trampled underfoot.
But even if that scenario plays out, it will take some time for it to start. Most people won’t realize that the power is out due to an EMP, so they won’t rush to the store for a day or two.
This gives you and I an opportunity to get to the stores before them and do some last minute stockpiling. Granted, you’ve probably already got a good stockpile in your home; but whatever you have clearly won’t be enough to last you the rest of your life. So you might as well get whatever you can.
Plan on needing cash for this purchasing excursion, as the internet will be down, which will mean that you can’t use your credit or debit cards. The cash registers won’t be working either, so add up your purchases as you go. That way, you can tell the people running the store how much you got.
Even if they don’t believe you, it will at least be a starting point for negotiations.
You shouldn’t limit your thinking to just food here. Some gas stations have backup power, just like the big stores do. While there’s a good chance that those generators will be out, keep your eyes open as you shop. If you see one open, be sure to top off the tanks.
Deal with Frozen Food
If you’re anything like me, you’ve got a freezer full of meat. The freezer will keep that meat frozen for a good 24 hours, even without electricity; perhaps longer if it is cold out. But after that, it will start thawing and will either have to be cooked and eaten or dehydrated.
Jerky is one of my favorite things and I have a dehydrator at home. Along with my off-grid battery backup system, I’ll still be able to do at least some dehydrating of that meat. But even though I have a large dehydrator, it’s not big enough to handle everything. For that, I need a large solar dehydrator as well.
Related: The 10-Dollar Jerky Maker
If you don’t have enough capacity for dehydration, then consider doing what the American Indians did and hang strips of meat over wood poles to dry in the sun.
As long as the meat has been soaked in brine before hanging it out to dry, it will be protected from bacteria and won’t go bad. Since marinating meat before drying it is a normal part of making jerky, that shouldn’t be an issue.
Some other frozen foods can be canned, especially vegetables. But there are some foods, like ice cream, which will either have to be eaten or disposed of. I’m sure if you ask your children, they’ll give you the solemn advice that it is better to eat that ice cream, than see it go to waste.
Get More Meat
If there’s one thing that’s usually short in our survival stockpiles, it’s meat. Buying meat is expensive, especially the freeze-dried meat that’s packaged for survival food. So we stock a minimal amount, expecting to do something about it after the disaster strikes. But what?
I know this might sound a little out of place; but if you live close to some good hunting grounds, you might want to fit a quick hunting trip in, after you’ve hit the stores and before everyone panics.
Many others will turn to hunting for food, greatly diminishing the game population.
Even if it would be considered poaching, going before them will give you an opportunity to stock up on meat, while it is available.
Another thing to consider, especially if you have a truck and plenty of cash on hand, is to find a local farmer or rancher and buy a steer, pig or whatever else they’re raising. This is usually cheaper than buying meat at the grocery store anyway, and may be your last chance to make that purchase. There’s a good chance that whatever government is still in existence will confiscate that meat for the public good.
Don’t forget that you’re going to need to preserve all this meat one way or another. Chances are, you’re going to have to use a combination of all available means; canning, smoking and dehydrating to ensure that none of it goes to waste. So your family is going to be very busy, while everyone else is coming to grips with what’s going on.
When it comes time to use that meat, eat the smoked meat first. It will not last as long as the other preserved meat, so you want to use it before it can go bad.
Get All the Water You Can
Municipal water authorities build water towers to alleviate stress on their systems during peak usage hours. At the same time, the towers help maintain water pressure, as the gravity feed of the water from the tower creates that pressure.
What this means is that water might still be flowing for a while after an EMP, even without their generators running. But it won’t be flowing for long.
Taking advantage of that, you’ll want to fill up every water container you can find, ensuring that your family is going to have water to use.
While that still won’t be enough, at least it will be water that you don’t have to purify, before using.
Put Defenses in Place
Most of us have little in the way of passive defenses in our homes. We don’t build barricades and booby traps to keep people out.
Part of that is the inconvenience of having such things around our homes and part is because setting booby traps is illegal. Nevertheless, if you have such things as part of your defensive strategy, this is the time to use them.
That doesn’t mean that you need to rush into setting such things up.
It will be a few days before people start to panic and possibly as long as two weeks before anyone tries breaking into homes in search of food. Better to put these items into place slowly, so as to not attract attention, rather than making a show of fortifying your home.
Share the News
You might be the only one in your neighborhood or even your town who figures out what’s going on. While most people have heard of an EMP, they really don’t understand it.
Not only that, but they aren’t thinking of the reality of an EMP strike, like you and I are. When it happens, they won’t accept it until someone tells them what’s happening. That someone might be you.
Start out with your friends and neighbors, suggesting that they do the things you are, buying up food and filling containers with water. These are the people who will most likely come knocking on your door. Everything you can get them to do for themselves elongates the amount of time before they start asking you for help.
On that, you might want to consider organizing your neighborhood as a survival team. Part of my survival planning is several hundred pounds of rice and beans, over and above what I have for my family’s consumption.
While that might not be much; it will give them something to eat, keeping body and soul together. I also have a goodly stockpile of seed, with the idea that I will be able to help my neighbors start growing their own food.
While this may look like charity, it’s really more a form of enlightened self-interest. If I can help my neighbors help themselves, I will be able to keep them from begging from me or stealing food from my garden. So not only will they be better off, but I will be too.
But your friends and neighbors aren’t the only ones you have a responsibility to inform about what’s happening; you should tell your city’s authorities as well. They probably don’t know you; so make sure you go prepared, with the information that they’ll need.
That includes information about the technicalities of what an EMP is, what it does, and what the prognosis for the future is. Don’t be surprised if they ask for your advice, even if they don’t follow it.
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