Of all the catastrophic events that could befall us, I believe that a high-altitude electro-magnetic pulse (H-EMP) is both the most likely and the most devastating. Maybe I'm wrong, but the risk of one of our enemies sending a missile above our atmosphere with a nuclear bomb in its nose, is to huge to ignore. The thing is, the technology needed to effect an EMP attack is not as difficult or as complex as most would think.
For the missile part, a SCUD missile would work. Granted, that's not the most elegant or efficient of missiles, but it's readily available, rather cheap and has enough maximum height to get above the atmosphere. While it wouldn't get high enough for one nuclear device to take out the grid from coast-to-coast, two of them, working together, could.
Tactical nukes aren't that big a mystery either. You can find the information you need to build one online. While it won't make as efficient use of the nuclear material as one a modern nuke does, it will work good enough for the purpose.
Actually, any one of the larger terrorist organizations would likely have the resources needed to make the nuke and set it off, as long as they could find people with the necessary expertise. But that's not all that hard either; and groups like that have no problem with threatening the lives of loved ones, in order to get people to bend to their will.
But the real risk isn't from a terrorist organization, although that risk is quite real, it's from our enemies, particularly from two of them. Both Iran and North Korea have active nuclear programs and missile development programs. If either of them ever get to the point where they have sufficiently good missiles and nukes, there's little to stop them from using them. As both hate the U.S.A. more than anything, chances of them using their weapons against us is fairly high.
The great thing about an EMP attack, at least from the attacker's point of view, is that in one fell swoop they are able to destroy our country and our ability to retaliate. With the electric grid down, communications will go out. That will destroy the ability to coordinate any effective retaliation. At the same time, most of our weapons will be down also; and the few things that are working will be used to attempt to maintain continuance of government.
Don't expect any help from the government either. They'll be too busy trying to ensure their own survival, to have any time to care about you or I. if they bother looking at us at all, it will probably be with the aim of seeing what we might have, which they can take away for their own use.
If there were ever a disaster which would create an "every man for himself" attitude in people, this one is it. Oh, there might be a few people who reach out to those around them, but that will just be on a local level; neighbors helping neighbors or communities pulling together to help ensure their survival. Any government that exists on a higher level will be nothing more than parasites, trying to suck the blood out of what's left of America.
So, what can you do to prepare for this horrific event? How can you make sure that you and your family are ready to survive, in the event that one of those enemies actually manages to get their act together enough, that they are able to set off that bomb? What can you do to make sure that you are part of that ten percent, which the EMP Commission says will survive?
Life Without Electricity
The glaring truth about an EMP is that it would end the use of electric power in the United States for the foreseeable future. People talk about the grid being restored after a year, but I seriously doubt that would happen. The loss of life, due to the loss of electrical power and everything we use it for, will bring about so many deaths, that it may very well be impossible to restore the grid for decades. We would have to become used to a life without electricity.
There is actually some good news in this bleak picture. That is, humans have survived for millennia without electricity. In fact, there are human beings who are surviving today, without the myriad of benefits that electrical power would bring them. If they can do that, then you can too.
The difference between you and those people, is that you are not prepared to live without electricity, while they know no other life. They don't have to learn how to do things without the benefit of modern conveniences, because that's the way they live anyway. Rather than use electrical power, they use muscle power, whether that is coming from their own muscles, or muscles of animals.
I am constantly amazed by the things our ancestors were able to do, without the benefit of modern tools and equipment. Yet, other than modern electronics, they managed to do just about everything we do today. Maybe they didn't have television sets, computer games and the internet to entertain them, but they especially managed to do everything necessary for survival.
So the first thing we need to do, in order to prepare ourselves for survival in a non-electric world, is to learn how to do things the old ways. We need to re-learn that old technology. For everything from cooking our food to building a house, we need to find out how it can be done, without the benefits that electricity and electrically powered devices provides.
Like I already said, the good news is that it can be done. Even better, there are preppers all around us who are re-discovering the old ways of doing things. Following them will give you a head-start in your own quest for ancient knowledge.
But, Why Not Just Make Your Own Electricity?
Many people respond to the idea of an EMP by trying to develop their own electrical power generating capability. I'm all for having that capability, but I'm not in favor of developing enough capability to power your whole home. Being able to produce some electrical power is an advantage, but there are limits to that advantage.
Here's why I'm saying that. If you were able to produce enough electrical power to meet all your needs, it would be taken away from you. Whether the government would come along and confiscate your power generation capability for "the greater good," or someone with enough guns would kill you for what you have, being able to produce 10,000 kWh of electricity per month would only make you a target.
You might be thinking that you can fight off anyone who comes to take your power from you; but the reality is, you can't. Oh, you might be able to fight off the first attack and maybe even the second one. But there will be more of the have-nots out there, than you and eventually they'll gather enough of them together to take what you have. Either that, or you'll attract enough attention that the government will swoop in and take you out themselves. You won't stand a chance against real troops.
Please note, I'm not saying that you shouldn't produce your own electrical power; all I'm saying is that you can't practically produce enough to run your whole household. So, don't try. Learn how to live without electrical power and then produce power only for your absolute necessities.
About the only way that you would be able to generate enough power and keep it all, is to isolate yourself from the rest of society. That means moving to a remote area, establishing a survival retreat and living there after the EMP. While that may be something we all desire to do; unfortunately, few of us can afford it.
Besides, does anybody really plan on putting in enough solar and wind power at their survival retreat to provide 10 kWh of electricity per month? I doubt it. While electrical power generation is a good part of any survival retreat, few can afford enough that kind of power production.
Equipment for a Non-Electric Lifestyle
Living without electricity will mean more than having the knowledge of how to do things without electricity, it will mean having the equipment as well. I was surprised when I started going through my workshop with an eye towards having to do everything by hand. While I had already thought of many things I'd need in my house, to survive a short-term or long-term loss of electric power, I hadn't looked through my workshop with the idea of a permanent loss of power.
Once I did that, I started looking around the rest of my home as well. While I had prepared for living without electricity, I can't say that I was truly prepared for a permanent loss of electrical power. Here are some of the things that you might find, as I did, you are missing:
- Hand tools to replace power tools - Most power tools are for cutting wood in one way or another. So, more than anything, this means a variety of different types of hand saws and drills, to replace the power ones we use every day.
- A means of extracting oil - You might have candles and oil burning lamps to light your home, but what are you going to do when the oil for your lamps runs out? You'll either have to extract it from some oil-producing produce, such as olives or corn, or you'll have to do without.
- Means of cutting firewood - For our ancestors, cutting firewood wasn't something that began or ended, it was something that was done year round. The amount of physical work required to cut, buck and split enough firewood to get through the winter is huge. Make sure you have the best possible equipment to work with, or you'll be having some rather cold winter nights.
- Transportation - Even if cars survive the EMP (and there's a lot of disagreement about that), finding gasoline will quickly become a problem. So, you'll need an alternate means of transportation; something reliable that is either human or animal powered. Hopefully, something that gives you the ability to haul cargo, such as firewood, as well.
- Manual well pump, with spare seals - Without electricity to run your well pump, that well will be nothing more than a hole in the ground. Good manual pumps are hard to find, but they do still exist. You'll want to be sure that you have one or the means to make one.
- A means of cutting the grass, without gasoline. Push mowers are hard to find, but they are still available. They provide for some great exercise too.
- Most of us have a grain mill, for grinding the whole grain flour we have stored, but what about a meat grinder, a pasta maker, a butter churn, and a cast-iron Dutch oven?
- If you are raising chickens, goats, fish or any other animals for protein, do you have a source of renewable food for them, so that you don't have to buy it? With the internet down, you won't be able to use debit or credit cards.
- I've even gone so far as to start working on a building a forge and getting an anvil, so that I can do some blacksmith work. My dad was a blacksmith, one of the last, and taught me a little of the trade.
The real key to surviving after an EMP will be homesteading. If there was ever a disaster that would require self-sufficiency, this is it. The general consensus of opinion is that society and commerce, as we know them, will come to a total and complete stop. Store shelves will be cleared of essential items and people will have to find a way to make do with what they have.
Of course, most people won't have enough to make do with, which is why there are so many doom and gloom forecasts about EMPs. But I'm not concerned about those people; I'm concerned about you and I. We will need to be ready to be self-sufficient, for all our needs, from the moment the lights go out.
In this type of scenario, you won't be able to live off your stockpile. About all your stockpile will be able to do, is provide you with food to eat, while you're expanding your gardening operations and turning your home into a homestead. But, if you can do that work ahead of time, then you'll have a huge advantage over everyone else out there.
I don't care if you're planning on suburban homesteading or you've got some property out in the country somewhere, it's going to take some time to get your homestead going. I've been working on my vegetable garden for three years now, and I'm still not getting enough out of it, for what I've got invested. Fortunately, I don't have to live off it... yet.
I bring that up to dissuade the idea of starting your homesteading operation after the EMP hits. Any garden, not just a garden in a hot climate, like I have, requires a couple of years to get going. That's because it takes that long to get the soil in good shape and the subterraneous worker population (worms and beetles) where it needs to be.
Of course, a homestead isn't just a small vegetable garden. You're going to need much more than just a vegetable garden to help you survive. You've heard of people who grow all their own food, so I'm sure you're aware that they use their entire backyard to do so. If it takes them that much, it's going to take us that much too.
The average adult eats about one ton of food per year. In the event of an EMP attack, when you won't be able to get food from any other source, you're going to have to come up with that whole ton yourself. That's not going to be easy.
Keep in mind that if you aren't homesteading now, you're going to need to expand your garden exponentially and you're going to have to do it quickly. That means that you'll have to have everything on hand, that you'll need for a massive garden. By everything, I especially mean enough seed, fertilizer and compost to get the garden going. But you'd better think about insecticides and fungicides as well.
One way to solve this problem is to start spreading mulch, worms and other beneficial insects around your yard now, before you need them. That way, even though you aren't gardening your whole yard, you're preparing it for gardening. Then, when the time comes, it will be much easier to expand your garden, because your soil, the most important part of any garden, will already be ready.
Build yourself a compost heap or compost bin as well. Composting is a great way of recycling leftovers, as well as the parts of plants that we don't eat. You can also compost human waste, glass clippings and a host of other organic materials. Doing so will provide much of the nutrition your garden and your yard need, at a fraction of the cost of buying fertilizers.
For most of us, the bigger problem won't be growing vegetables, but rather, growing grains. Grains are an important part of the diet, providing the vast majority of the carbohydrates we eat. Yet few of us grow any grains in our gardens, sticking mostly to vegetables.
The first problem with growing grains is that it takes so much space to do so. But that's mostly because we need a lot of grain to get us through the year. The flip side of that coin is that if we don't have those grains to eat, we're going to need more fruits and vegetables to provide us with the carbohydrates our bodies need for energy. So, whether we grow grains or grow vegetables is a bit of a tossup.
In addition to the problem of space, grains also require threshing to be usable. This is the process of separating the edible grain from the plant which is grows on. While we humans can eat the grain itself, the plant doesn't provide us with any nutrition. However, it can be used as feed for animals.
Storing grains is easier than storing vegetables. Grains are typically dried, which can be done in the sun. once dried, they only need be protected from insects and rodents, as bacteria aren't interested in dried grain. That means you can store them in five gallon buckets or galvanized trash cans. You don't need to can all your grains, in order to keep them through the winter.
Grains are also necessary for feeding any animals you are going to have on your homestead. Whether you're going to raise chickens or goats, you're going to need to feed them. While they can free range in your yard in the summer, they won't be able to do so with snow on the ground.
Then there are animals. Contrary to what our vegetarian friends say, it's hard to get the proteins our bodies need out of veggies. We were created to have some source of animal protein in our diets. So, you really need to have some sort of animals on site.
The question really boils down to deciding what sorts of animals you are going to raise; and that will depend a lot on the amount of space you can dedicate to raising them. Goats might be a great source of meat, but they take a lot more space then chickens. Cows are even better, especially for those of us who love our beef; but raising cattle means having a large spread for them to graze on.
For most of us, especially those of us who are going to be doing suburban homesteading, the best sources of animal protein are going to be chickens, rabbits and fish. All three of these can be raised fairly easily, in a minimal amount of space. They are also small enough, that it would be possible to raise the feed for them on your homestead.
In this article, I've limited EMP preparedness to two main areas. This is not to say that I don't think a prepper needs to do everything else they would normally do, as part of their EMP preparedness. You'll still need to stockpile food, water, and all the other supplies that are a normal part of being a prepper. I've talked about these two areas, because they are what make the difference between being prepared for a short to medium term loss of the electrical grid, and a permanent loss of it.
That's the one overriding factor about an EMP; the more or less permanent loss of the grid. There will be no "return to normal" after an EMP, or if there is one, it will take decades to achieve. Therefore, we'll have to be ready to survive on our own, without outside help, for that long.
Obviously, you and your family or you and your survival team, won't be the only ones to survive. Others will too. In time, some new level of community will surface and even some level of commerce. But that will be a slow process, especially in the cities. Smaller, rural communities may accomplish that much quicker, simply because of the closer relationships that the people living there have.
If you manage to survive the first year, have your homestead up and running and manage to protect it from others who would want to steal what you have, you will have won. But there will be many dangers to face in that year. First and foremost, will be the two-legged predators, who will be desperate to get their hands on your food. Some will come like thieves in the night, to raid your garden and slip away. But others will go for a frontal attack, hoping to take you out and gain all that you have.
According to the report by the EMP Commission, as much as 90 percent of the population will die in that first year. The first wave of deaths will be those who cannot survive without medications. This will include many of the elderly, as well as type 1 diabetics and others who are on life-support medicines. After that, the biggest killer will begin its work; that of starvation. The vast majority of the people who die in that year, will die of starvation. But there's a third killer out there, and it will be triggered by the massive deaths. That is disease.
Surviving the effects of the EMP means being able to survive all three of these waves of death, as well as the aforementioned two-legged predators. But once that year is over, deaths should slow. Wild animal populations will slowly increase, recovering from the wholesale slaughter by starving people. The country will arrive at a new level of "normal."
In that time, rebuilding will begin. The critical infrastructure which was lost through the attack will slowly be rebuilt, in some cases, by cannibalizing what survived. In others by adapting old technology to the needs of the reduced size communities. But in the vast majority of cases, it will require rebuilding equipment and systems which were damaged in the attack.The one good thing that will help in this rebuilding process will be what the dead have left behind. There will be homes and warehouses filled with a plethora of useful goods; everything from clothes to tools. Engineers, technicians and others with the necessary knowledge will be invaluable to the community, as they work to put America back together again. In the mean time, those goods that are left behind, will provide much of what we need, outside of the food we grow and the other things we stockpile.