If you haven’t heard yet, things have been getting worse and worse with North Korea every week. First there was the missile test of a true multi-stage ICBM, which is supposed to be able to reach the United States. But the experts told us not to worry, because the North Koreans hadn’t miniaturized their nuclear warheads yet. Then we found out that an intelligence report came out in 2012, showing that North Korea already had miniaturized nuclear warheads. Somehow the Obama administration managed to keep that report hidden.
You’d think that would be enough bad news about the hermit kingdom, but it doesn’t stop there. North Korea has continued their missile testing, firing off three the same day, with at least one of them overflying Japan. That’s probably an act of war, since it entered Japan’s airspace. Then, Sunday September the 3rd, North Korea set of another underground nuclear test, the most powerful to date, causing an earthquake that registered 6.3 on the Richter scale.
It is clear that the earthquake was not naturally caused, simply because it was too shallow. That leads people to think that it was an underground nuclear explosion. But just in case anyone doubted it, North Korea’s official television news stated that they had exploded their first hydrogen bomb.
Hydrogen bombs are much more powerful than simpler nuclear weapons. From what several experts have apparently said, this bomb is strong enough to create a massive EMP, if exploded above our atmosphere. With their new ICBM and now a hydrogen bomb, North Korea has just become a major threat, rather than one which we can laugh off.
It’s also clear that North Korea is actually thinking about using a similar bomb to create an EMP over the United States. Once again, the source for this information is the North Korean official news agency, reporting that information on national television.
In other words, all the speculation and even fear mongering that has been going on, warning us about a potential second Korean War, just got real. Assuming they can build additional missiles and additional hydrogen bombs, there’s really nothing major to stop them from attacking the USA with one or even several of these ICBMs and set off a massive EMP to destroy our electrical grid and anything connected to it.
We are literally standing on the brink of a chasm that we’ve never stood on before. All Kim Jong-un needs is one missile and one bomb to work right and he can put an end to the United States as a world power and as the richest country in the world.
Should North Korea actually launch that ICBM at us from their homeland, it would have to pass over Alaska, where we have considerably anti-missile assets located. That is our main defensive position against such an attack, and our anti-missile systems have apparently failed in three of five tests, according to Politico. But then, tests are scripted; this is real world, not just a test.
While the newest part of that network is the THADD system, which supposedly hasn’t failed a single test, THADD is not the only part of the network. There are other systems in use as well, which give us the three in five failure rate. That’s unacceptable, especially when you consider the possibility of North Korea launching multiple ICBMs at once.
I can’t believe that North Korean intelligence isn’t aware of our THADD system and its capabilities. With all the effort and money that the North Koreans are pouring into their missile and nuclear programs, they have to know what forces we have arrayed against them. After all, the existence of America’s THADD system isn’t any real secret, and it has been deployed for almost a decade.
What that means is that whoever is in charge of planning North Korea’s attack against the United States is making their plans against known defenses. That’s not good for us, as it means that they are able to plan around our defenses, either sending more missiles than we can possibly defeat or sending the missiles from a direction that we aren’t prepared to defend from. A missile launched from the ocean, near Baja Mexico or from the Gulf of Mexico could totally avoid our defenses, leaving us helpless.
When you put that string of thoughts together, it’s pretty scary. We are living in very risky times and the risk just got incredibly larger in the last few weeks. With the minimal intelligence that we have on North Korea’s internal politics, we don’t know if they have plans in place, if they have an inventory of weapons they can use against us or if they have an attack date already set.
Time for Some Quick Preparations
Many of us are including prepping for an EMP as part of our basic preps. EMP makes an excellent scenario for planning your preps around, simply because it is a long-term survival situation where you have to expect to be living an off-grid lifestyle. As such, the things you would do to prepare for an EMP cover a lot of other long-term survival situations.
However, many of those long-term preps are also long-term projects that you might not have ready yet. This is especially true of expensive projects like putting in your own off-grid power and a battery backup system.
Between the current risk we’re seeing from North Korea and the fact that we may not really be ready, I think it’s time to do some quick, last minute preparations for surviving an EMP. I’ve written before about how to prepare for an EMP, but I want to take another look at it this week. Specifically, I want to look at the preparations we should be making right now, in case that attack comes next month.
Part of the reason why I want to look at this subject again is that time might very well be limited. So we really can’t think about saving up the money to buy enough solar panels or a massive wind turbine to meet all our electrical needs. Nor can we assume that we’ll have time to build them ourselves. What I’m going to concentrate on here is based upon the assumption that you don’t have a full-blown power system in place and you don’t have a lot of time to work with.
A Quick Review of Living After an EMP
If you’ve never read William Forstchen’s book “One Second After” I highly recommend it. While I don’t agree with all of his assumptions and conclusions, he does a really good job of presenting what a post-EMP world would look like. You can’t apply it 100% to yourself, especially since neither you or I happen to live in as ideal a location as he does for survival, but it will definitely get you thinking.
One of the things that Forstchen talks about in his scenario is how the community came together to survive. That might be true in small rural communities, but you won’t find it in the big cities. For that matter, it’s not all that likely to be found in the suburbs, unless the whole suburb is made up of one extended family.
The big thing we can all expect is that all of the normal services we are used to will suddenly come to a stop. This means we will no longer have:
- Running water
- City sewage
- City garbage hauling
- Natural gas (for heating and cooking)
- Anything useful in the stores (once the initial rush cleans them out)
- Communications of any sort, including news
Basically, if such an attack were to come, we’d find ourselves back in the 1800s, at least technologically speaking. But there would be some huge differences between the life we would find ourselves in, and that which our great-great-grandparents lived.
First of all, they knew how to live without electricity and all the things that electricity does for us. Most of us don’t have the foggiest idea of how to do that. Oh, we in the prepping community put generally put some effort into learning those things, but those around us don’t. They don’t have a clue, and that cluelessness will make them a liability if an EMP ever happens.
Secondly, our homes aren’t built for living in a world without electricity. Few homes have fireplaces or wood-burning stoves, let alone a big enough woodpile out back to make it through the winter. On top of that, few of us live close enough to the forest to be able to replenish our wood supply easily.
If we go back in American history, we find that it was common for families to own their own section of woods. a typical homestead grant from the government was 160 acres, only 40 of which would actually be farmed. With only animal and human power to work with, farming 40 acres was a huge undertaking. That left plenty of land available as woods, giving the family a place to cut their own firewood, without even leaving their own property.
Finally, the whole structure of society was different, with a much larger percentage of the population involved in agriculture. While we will have to return to such a lifestyle if we are going to eat, few of us really have enough land for raising the crops we need.
While we’ve all seen stories about families who live off of what they grow in their backyard, we really don’t have a clear understanding of what they’re eating. Basically, those people are living a largely vegetarian lifestyle, eating mostly vegetables. Unless they are buying food, they have very little animal protein and very little in the way of grains.
Grain crops require massive amounts of land to grow. They are worth the investment of using that much space, simply because they provide a large amount of calories. Vegetables, on the other hand, are usually low calorie, providing mostly micronutrients. So, if we try to live off of just vegetables, we’re going to find ourselves extremely low on energy.
Of course, the other part of society being different is that we are accustomed to having a huge network of businesses which provide the products we are accustomed to using. Few of those products are made locally, and few of them can be made locally. That’s because they require a large corporation to manufacture, with its own network of suppliers, some of which are on the other side of the world.
So, until cottage industries can build up, we will be limited to only those products which we already have. Oh, there might be a few things we can pick up at the hardware store, before it gets totally looted, and there will be the household goods of people who die off which will be available. But that’s about it. Anything else we want, we’ll have to make ourselves.
So What Will You Really Need?
This is why the idea of self-sufficiency is such an important part of prepping. Those who do the best aren’t going to necessarily be those who have the biggest stockpiles, but rather those who have managed to convert their homes to homesteads. That stockpile will run out eventually, so if you can’t grow your own food, all that your stockpile will do is change the date of your death, giving you a few months or years more than those who didn’t prepare.
One of the big problems you’re going to encounter is having enough fuel to cook and to keep your home warm. Even if you have a wood-burning stove or fireplace, with a pile of firewood, your problems aren’t over. Depending on how far north your home is, you could use as much as four to six chords of firewood getting through the winter.
But even if you have that much firewood, what are you going to do for the next winter? If we’re talking self-sufficiency, you need to be thinking about that too. Where is the nearest place where you can harvest wood? How will you get there? Even more important; how can you haul that wood back home, without the use of your car or truck?
Even if you stockpile some gas for your car or truck, it will only stay good for six months or so. Adding a fuel stabilizer can extend that to a year, but that’s about it. After that, you can forget about using your vehicle to haul wood. You’ll need something else.
This probably means some sort of cart. It would be nice to have a wagon, with a team of horses, but few people have enough land for that. If you don’t have that much land, you’re going to need something that you can pull yourself, or with the help of one other person.
You’ll also need the appropriate equipment for cutting down trees and bucking them into sections to carry home. We’re talking, doing this by hand here, as your chainsaw won’t work without gasoline either. So you’ll need a good axe and either a bow saw or a bucksaw. Personally, I prefer the bucksaw, as it is easier to use for prolonged periods of time.
Water will become one of your biggest concerns in a post-EMP world. The myth of needing only a gallon of water per person, per day is just that, a myth. That’s the quantity you need for drinking and cooking, nothing more. If you happen to be in a hot climate, say somewhere in the Southwest, you’re going to be drinking more than that.
But you’re going to need water for more than just drinking and cooking. You’re going to need it for cleaning as well. If you don’t keep yourself and your home clean, you’re simply asking for disease. A dirty environment is one in which it is much easier for disease to spread.
You’ll also need water for gardening. Unless you live in a part of the country which receives enough rainfall to water your garden, you’re going to have to water your garden. While grey water can be used for this, you probably won’t have enough gray water to go around. So don’t count on just that.
This is one of the places where most of us are lacking. The good news is, in most of the country all you need to do to solve that problem is turn to rainwater capture. That’s quick and easy to do, unlike drilling a well. So, your first solution is to install a rainwater capture system on your home. If you live in a state where rainwater capture is illegal, put it in anyway, either burying the rain barrels in the ground or just stockpiling them, without hooking them up.
If you don’t get enough rainfall, you’re going to need to put in a well. That’s a lot more work and a lot more expense. I’d try for a shallow well first, doing a driven well. If that doesn’t work and you don’t have a lot of subterraneous rock or clay to worry about, you can probably drill a well yourself. There are simple systems online that you can buy for this.
As I’ve discussed in previous articles (see my article on Preparing for Survival Gardening), growing enough food to feed your family is going to take a whole lot more than just a 12 foot vegetable garden. You’re going to have to convert your whole backyard into a vegetable garden. That means having the necessary materials on-hand to drastically expand your existing garden.
But as I mentioned earlier, just growing vegetables isn’t going to be enough. You’re going to need grains and animal protein as well. Both require space and work. So you’ll need to start early on preparing for that.
One of the easiest grains to grow in bulk is corn. Corn was one of the earliest plants domesticated. You get a fair amount of grain per plant, or per square foot, it’s easy to grow, gives you 606 calories per cup, and is pollinated by the wind. This means you don’t just want a row or two of corn, bordering your garden, but rather an area that is all corn.
Coming up with animal protein isn’t as easy as growing plants, although it will probably require you growing plants, so that you have something to feed the animals. The big problem for most of us is space and the law. Most cities just don’t allow you to keep cattle in the back yard for some reason or other.
However, there are still things you can do. If you can raise chickens, that’s worth doing and fairly easy to start. Raising chickens for eggs is easier than raising them to butcher; as you don’t need a rooster and don’t have to worry about hatching and caring for the chicks. Laying hens will provide you with eggs two days out of three, so a half dozen mature chickens will give you enough eggs for a family of four to each have an egg a day.
Of course, you need to check with your city code, before rushing out to buy chickens. Not all municipalities allow it. In those that don’t, you might want to consider rabbits, as those can be classified as pets, they breed and grow quickly, and provide a fair amount of meat.
Another thing to consider is putting in a pond or tank in your backyard and raising fish of some sort. What sort of fish you choose to raise will depend a lot on where you live, as you need fish that will handle the climate there well. Fish take little effort to raise and if you have enough of a population, will provide you with a fair amount of food.
All of these animals are types that you can start now, and would be useful to be raising, even if we don’t end up receiving an EMP attack from North Korea. They go a long way towards your self-sufficiency, without a lot of work.
One of the things that stood out to me in One Second After and the sequels, is that medicine was a major problem for them. Pharmaceutical houses will be shut down, without power, so there won’t be anything made or shipped. That means that you’re either going to need a really good stock of medicines on hand, or you’re going to need to use what nature provides.
The roots of our modern pharmaceutical industry are in herbal medicine. Of course, they don’t sell herbal medicines anymore, because they can’t patent them. Without that capability, they can’t really make any money. So what they do is to find chemical substances in nature that work for whatever need they are studying, and then develop artificial chemicals, based on those natural chemicals, which they can then patent.
If you don’t already have a massive stockpile of antibiotics and other medicines, now is the time to stock up. While you’re at it, it would be a good idea to get a few good books on herbal medicine and plant recognition. That way, you’ve got a backup.
What About Electronics?
The only electronics that survived the EMP in One Second After were old items, such as the radio in the main character's Etsel and a manual telephone switchboard that was hiding in someone's basement. But the reality is that there will actually be more than that which survives. In the third book in that series, they had built their own hydroelectric dam and found some old computers that they were using to hack into government communications and find out what was going on.
Interestingly enough, restoring their electronic capability was a major sub-theme throughout the three books. A lot of that is because we are so accustomed to the benefits that electronics give us, that it only makes sense to try and restore them as quickly as possible.
But you and I have an advantage over the characters in those books. Being preppers, we are already working on doing the things we need to do, in order to be better off than they were. As part of that, we should be thinking about the electronics that we'll need, after the EMP shuts down the grid, as well as being able to produce our own electric power.
Putting in an entire off-grid power system is expensive; so expensive that few of us can afford it. But there's no reason why we can't buy or make a few solar panels and have them on hand. Granted, a few solar panels aren't going to provide enough power for everything we need, but any power we can produce will put us way ahead of everyone else.
Allow me to let you in on a little-known secret here. That is, EMP won't destroy solar panels. Oh, it will damage them to some extent, but it won't destroy them. Rather, it will reduce their efficiency by somewhere between five and ten percent. Since they are overdesigned to start with, you should still be able to get enough power out of them to charge your battery backup system and power whatever you need.
The problem isn't the panels, but the solar charge controller. That will be destroyed by the EMP. Your voltage inverter might be as well. So you need to have extras of these stashed away in your Faraday Cage. That way, all you'll need to do, to get your system online, is to replace the solar charge controller and voltage inverter with your spares.
While I'm giving away secrets, allow me to add another. That is, you don't need to build a special Faraday Cage for your electronics. All you need is something metal to store them in. I have a roll-around toolbox, made of steel, which has some things in it. Other spare electronics are stored in a steel cabinet in my workshop. Still others are stored in an enclosed metal utility trailer that's sitting in my backyard.
Those three things, as well as a metal filing cabinet in my office, all work as Faraday Cages, because they are made of metal. So, they'll block off any EMP emissions, protecting the delicate electronics inside.
That doesn't mean that I have those things filled with electronics, but rather, those just happen to be the storage locations that I use for those items. So, while I am storing them normally, I happen to have them protected. As such, I don't need a special Faraday Cage to take care of them.If you don't have spares for your most critical survival electronics, I'd recommend buying some now. Even a few extra things could make a huge difference in surviving in a post-EMP world. Take advantage of the time that we have right now, to make sure that you have the things you will need, so that you can take care of your family's basic survival needs.