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Monday, January 20, 2014

Q: Do Faraday Cages need grounding?
A: No. A Faraday cage designed against EMP, if properly constructed, will keep any charge outside the shield. The shield interior is separate, so anything inside, even though it touches the inside of the shield, is safe. However – if the cage is improperly made and there are wide holes in the mesh exceeding the size of wavelength to be blocked, grounding could help. As an example, this Youtube video link is of EMP testing my company has done with another firm’s professional EMP simulator. You can see a shielded laptop on the left and an unshielded laptop on the right. The left laptop, although you cannot see it due to the lighting, was not affected – in other words, grounding was not necessary at all. The right one was shut down – hard to see, but visible. This also shows you the probable impact of EMP on a computer – just a shutdown – if you do not have wire connections to the computer, like a power cord or a lengthy Ethernet cable. With [external] connections, the damage can be much greater.

Q: Do you have to insulate electronics inside a Faraday Cage?
A: See above. You don’t need insulation for electronics inside a properly constructed Faraday cage. There was no insulation and the computer was fine. Additionally, your electronics are usually in a plastic casing – so they are already insulated anyway. Insulation doesn’t hurt, however.

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.”

Q: Won’t solar flares end everything?
A: If we have an extreme solar flare like the Carrington Event, there is a big chance of damage. What is left unsaid is that utility companies are working to ensure continuity of service. How effective they are is unknown – but the US government already has active early warning satellites. The plan is to notify utilities in advance so that measures can be taken to minimize impact. While these measures are apparently effective so far, there are two areas of concern – 1) instead of hardening the system, our protection relies on utilities taking the right steps every time, bringing the human factor into play. 2) A larger solar flare event could cause significant damage beyond anticipated levels, and there is a scarcity of data on this subject, at least in the unclassified world. However, utilities have hopefully learned from the Quebec area solar flare of 1989.

Q: Will my phone/iPad/electronic device be affected by a solar flare?
A: Not unless they are connected to long conductive cables, antennas, or power lines. If you have a device like an iPad, unconnected to anything, it will not be affected by a solar flare. There is simply not enough energy to break through the devices’ internal EMI shielding (which are there to protect the various device components from affecting each other.)

Q: The military has done extensive research on this topic, won’t it all be fine?
A: While testing individual devices and components, and even vehicles has been done, there has been no testing on a whole-system level of, for example, a city with a power plant. So while individual components might be affected, the exact level of damage is unknown. A grid exercise was conducted last November to try to simulate damage, but this is nowhere near the actual real-world experience necessary to understand the practical effect of EMP.

Q: Complicated electronics are very likely to be damaged, so my laptop is very vulnerable, right?
A: In general, the more complicated an electronic device is, the less likely it is to be damaged. While at the circuit level, a laptop is relatively vulnerable, one must remember that the laptop components – hard drive, CPU, etc all have some level of EMI shielding to protect from interference by the other components. This makes laptops relatively tough. On the other hand, simple electronic devices like a solar cell-powered calculator don’t need EMI shielding so they are actually more vulnerable, in reality.

- Joel Ho, Founder, MobileSec Solutions LLC

Friday, December 27, 2013

I love popcorn tins! I love all the different ways they come decorated – the wonderful Christmas themes, the various John Deere Tractor motifs, professional sports team logos, stock car racing favorite drivers and their race cars, the endless and delightful cartoon characters - just to name a few. They are like time capsules in that their outside decoration reflect what's popular in the culture during any given year. When they are displayed on a shelf, looking at them is like going back in time. I can't get enough of them!

Not only are they decorative, but popcorn tins are versatile. They are the perfect size for storing many prepping items and because they are metal, are especially good for keeping long term food storage safe and secure. Apart from being the ideal size for systematic shelving, they keep out bugs and other vermin. Mice can't chew through steel.

The lids on these tins are typically very tight, which also make them ideal Faraday cages. Just line the inside with cardboard (including the lid) and put in the electronics you wish to protect from EMP.

I have stored a variety of items in Christmas popcorn tins but none more important than my long term food storage. Each of my tins hold a week's worth of food for 3 adults, including coffee, tea, spices, serving plates, cups, utensils, and matches. When I get a shiny new popcorn tin, after sharing and enjoying all the delicious popcorn inside, I turn it into a self-contained no-brainer grab-'n-go little bundle of lovely life-sustaining survival!

There are 3 adults in my immediate household, so I prep for 3. My goal is to pack one week's worth of nutrition in every tin PLUS all the items necessary to consume the food, conserve water, and make life easier during what will no doubt be stressful times. When my tins are packed and shelved, I can see at a glance how many weeks and months of food I have on hand, and it makes rotating the perishables from each tin very easy.

Of all the foods in a long term food storage plan, no better food items have been found to be the overall best for sustaining life than beans and rice. Cheap to buy and easy to store, when rice and beans are cooked and combined they are the supreme complimentary nutritional food creation which gives a human being a near-daily requirement of usable protein, essential vitamins and minerals. When one adds additional protein, spices, and vegetables – it becomes almost a perfect meal. So the core components of my popcorn tin are 20 pounds of white rice and 10 pounds of beans.

A serving of rice has long been held to be “a handful” or ½ cup. When cooked, white rice will expand to be twice it's size, so ½ cup of dry rice expands to be one cup of cooked rice. In a 20 pound bag of uncooked rice, there are 20.154 cups or 40.3 ½ cups. If using long grain white rice, there will be about 200 calories in a ½ cup dry/1cup cooked serving. Nutritionally I plan on serving one cup dry/2 cups cooked serving of rice per adult per day, which translates into about 400 calories per day per adult from rice alone. So a 20 pound bag of rice = just under 2 cups of cooked rice per day per adult for one week.

Now lets look at beans. My household 's favorite beans with rice are black beans, so I heavily favor black beans. I round out my bean varieties with pintos, great northern and red beans as well. Personally, I think black beans are the easiest to cook, even under primitive conditions. And they take seasonings well, giving you a nice variety of tastes.

Nutritionally speaking, black beans are among the powerhouses of the legume family. So long as you don't skew the proper ratio of rice to beans and serve too much rice and not enough beans. When beans and rice are combined they form the almost perfect useable protein. Individually, rice and beans are incomplete proteins. Together, they complement each other and create a complete protein. As such, they are a good replacement for meat at some meals. Rice and beans also contain vitamins, minerals and fiber.

What is the perfect ratio of rice and beans? I prefer 2:1 with beans being 2. If I cook 3 cups of rice for one meal for 3 adults, then I prepare 6 cups of beans. That might seem like an awful lot of beans, but keep in mind that if eating beans and rice alone with no meat, then you need more beans to get enough protein. 1 cup of cooked black beans = about 15 grams of protein. One meal of beans using my portion sizes gives each adult 30 grams of protein. (Recommended daily = 46/60 female/male). With the protein from the additional meat, not to mention the protein in our other snacks and milk drinks, we meet and/or exceed daily protein needs. So, o ne pound dry beans = six cups cooked beans, drained. One pound dry beans = two cups dry beans. There's the 2:1 ratio. By storing a 10-pound bag of beans in the one-week food tin, we would have enough to even feed a guest.

I use different beans, (principally pinto, great northern, and red beans) for each tin to keep some variety and to avoid 'food fatigue.' But it's the addition of different kinds of vegetables and seasonings that truly help to combat food boredom and increase nutrition. But I don't stop there.

At the bottom of my tin, I place 6-7 cans of vegetables that my household personally enjoy with rice and beans, which complement the meal and enhance the flavor. Canned goods such as stewed or diced tomatoes, mixed vegetables, and even whole kernel corn. For additional flavoring I pack salt, pepper, packets of bean and rice flavorings, dry soup mixes, bullion cubes, as well as straight spices individually stored. To save space or add more food, you can store cans of tomato paste.

On top of those canned vegetables I put in a small canned ham, 2-3 cans of white meat chicken and a can of vegan cutlets. Next I pack enough paper plates and plastic utensils for a weeks worth of meals. Having these will save water from having to be used to clean too many dishes. On top of that I pack 10 pounds of beans, and 20 pounds of rice, each in their own mylar bag with oxygen absorbers and sealed. Tucked down in the crevices are my seasonings, spices, breakfast bars, snack jerky, peanuts, trail mix, dried fruit/fruit leathers, tea bags, individual coffee packets, dry coffee creamer, packet sugar, powdered milk, hard candy and daily vitamins, all also sealed in mylar and labeled.

Before closing the lid, I place a few large Ziploc bags on top and tape a bundle of waterproof matches to the underside of the lid. A week's worth of breakfast, lunch snacks and one main meal for each day. Calories per day vary between 1800 – 2200 for each adult. Daily minimum protein requirements covered and/or exceeded. I mark the date packed on the bottom of the tin and under the lid because I don't want to mar the lovely decoration on the outside. Tins are stored on a shelf and rotated through by date. When we empty one tin, I know it's time to put together another one.

In a separate food grade bucket I have my cooking tools: small portable propane stove with fuel canisters, a volcano stove (for boiling water), Esbit stove, fuel cubes, a thermos bottle, a collapsible water carryall, water purification tablets, large spoons, wooden spatulas, cook pot, small skillet, fire starter, dish cloths, ditty bag for cleaning kitchen prep tools Girl Scout-style, plus additional snacks and spices. The various means to boil water and cook the rice and beans also include over an open fire, hence the fire starters, and waterproof matches.

The thermos bottle is for more individual cooking of the rice and beans and for storing food to stay warm. One never knows what circumstances you'll encounter in a bug out situation and separation may happen or be prudently required, hence the various means to accomplish the same task.

My other non-food preps are generally stored in large cargo container-type boxes, but my bug out grab-'n-go items are in #5 food grade buckets with labels detailing what's inside. We have fit everything we need to bug out with in six buckets and will grab-'n-go with as many of my survival food packed popcorn tins that we can fit in the bug out vehicle. Each one of the popcorn tins represents a week's worth of food for three adults. We will know exactly how much food we have and how long it will last.

If rice and beans are not your favorite foods, then consider packing a popcorn tin with foods that will meet or exceed all nutritional needs, combat food boredom, provide for caffeine intake, snacks, and spices. The challenge is to fit enough food in the tin that will meet all nutritional needs 2-4 people. Can you do it?

Unless and until we may need to grab-'n-go with our popcorn tins filled with our survival food, it's comforting to see them all lined up on the shelf. They represent our will to survive and thrive, and they look pretty, too!

JWR Adds: In addition to their usefulness for food storage, steel popcorn tins also make great Faraday Cage containers to protect small electronics from the effects of solar flares and electromagnetic pulse (EMP.) No modification of a tin is required, and grounding a Faraday container is actually counterproductive. Just wrap your electronics in plastic bags, place them in a steel popcorn container and push the steel lid down firmly. If you live in a humid climate, be sure to toss in a bag of silica gel desiccant, for good measure.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

I.  Introduction - Possible Scenarios.  

  1. Your automobile becomes inoperable for a period of time while traveling – it is extremely hot or extremely cold and hours to wait.
  2. A natural disaster occurs and you have to evacuate.
  3. Chaos occurs due to financial collapse or other major event causing civil unrest.
  4. An Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP) or Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) caused by solar flare(s) renders your vehicle dead miles from home.
  5. Or, an EMP occurs as a result of a nuclear strike (with collateral fall-out to follow).
  6. Use your imagination…in reality, nothing is too far fetched.

While these are listed in order from “Bad” to “Worse”, all of these have great commonalities.  The more obvious should be that (1) they are realistic and possible, (2) they can occur and cause mass panic and civil upheaval in a relatively short time, (3) they can land you in a situation that most likely will find you, your preparation, your knowledge and your determination are all you have to survive, and, without a doubt, (4) a lack of planning, preparation, knowledge, determination and the means to employ all will, with reasonable certainty, lead to your death

I'm glad that I have your attention.  Now let us begin to devise some of the basic means, methods and logistics that you will need to exponentially improve your survivability, and with prayer and guts, successfully reach your destination. 

II.   Equipment.  There are a number of “essentials” that you should plan to pack and keep in your vehicle at all times.  The only time these items should be removed from your vehicle is (1) if you need the room to haul other items to/from a short destination (i.e. across town, from the store, etc.), (2) to update/replenish items and then place back in the vehicle when completed, (3) you are traveling with someone else in their vehicle (your essential items go with you). 
Now let’s discuss what those “essential” items might consist.

1.  Pack.    You should purchase a quality backpack that is large enough to comfortably load the items you will need.  The pack can be of military grade (i.e. surplus such as the A.L.I.C.E. pack), or a quality hiking/camping pack that is supported by two shoulder straps and capable of load bearing for extended hiking.  Your pack should be of muted, natural or earth colors such as green, black, desert tan, or brown.  Bright colors will only amplify to others that YOU HAVE A PACK and YOU HAVE ESSENTIALS THAT THEY DO NOT!  Plus you will need the ability to hide your pack during periods of rest without it being obvious to others who may spot you. 

As stated, the pack must be large enough to accommodate all the essentials we will list below yet not too large that you cannot negotiate its weight for long periods. 
Some packs are equipped with waist belts to help distribute and support the load accordingly.  It is your personal preference.  However, most quality hiking backpacks are designed with this feature for a purpose.  Be smart. 

Other important considerations should be the design for accessing the pack.  Is it easy (relatively speaking) to get in an out of?  Can I get to the needed essentials quickly and easily at night and/or during cold or inclement weather? 

The pack should have ample outer pockets in which to store those items you will use most often (i.e. sanitation, fire starting material, maps, compass, binoculars, food, water, weapon(s), etc.). 

There should be the ability to attach additional bulk items (i.e. sleeping mat, coat, maybe a sleeping bag) on the bottom or top by additional straps or para-cord.

2.  Water.   When it comes to sustaining the human life, one must consider the “Essential Threes.”   The order of importance in need is as follows:

  1. Air – 30 seconds
  2. Water – 3 days
  3. Food – 3 weeks     However, in a survival situation where you have to exert extreme energy to travel and stay alert, the time frames on water and food are greatly shortened.

You must plan to have clean, drinkable water at all times.   The amounts will be covered later.  At this time let’s focus on types of storage and conveyance. 

2 liter, 3 liter, and 100 ounce water bladders are very popular for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts, however they may not always be the best choice for the survivor.

Why?  The size alone constitutes added weight that may not be able to be spread loaded especially with a full pack.  Backpacks with separate compartments for such bladders have become very popular but you must consider the ability to frequently access the bladder without having to nearly empty the pack to do so.  Water refills in a survival scenario will often be done on the move when opportunity arises and in the quickest amount of time.  Moreover, a small puncture or tear to such a system will quickly render your main water conveyance inoperable.  

Consider multiple 1-2 quart containers that you can store and attach to various locations on/in your pack.  Give careful consideration as to how you will carry/attach your primary water source. 

For bulk storage of water in addition to your primary containers consider a 750 ml platypus bag that is relatively small, yet flexible and collapsible (like the popular larger water bladders discussed above). 

Nalgene bottles are excellent in that they are tough, lightweight and you can see the contents. 

Likely sources to replenish your water supply will be streams, ponds, lakes, and rivers.  Consider how you will purify water.  A supply of water purification tablets should be carried.  Also, a small plastic vile of chlorine can be carried.  A few drops will sterilize 750 ml of water fairly quickly.  (Research the correct amounts and procedures to purify water by volume and make note of this information to carry in your pack with your purification tools. If using common bleach as your source of chlorine, be sure that it is non-scented with non-additives.)

Small water purification systems do very well and can be purchased for around $80+.   However, they do take up additional space and add ounces to an already loaded pack. 

A very good alternative is the Berkey Sport bottle.  A standard 750 ml water bottle has a smaller Berkey Black filter attached to the drinking straw in the bottle.  You merely have to fill the bottle with water and drink from the straw to get clean and pure water.  Water from your other storage bottles can then be poured into the Berkey Sport bottle as needed.    The Berkey Sport bottle can be purchased off EBay for as little as $15 each, so shop around.

3. Food.    Amounts will be discussed later. For now let’s consider types.

Food is definitely an essential that will become critical in a survival scenario.  It is easy and inexpensive to load up on soups and power bars at Wal-Mart and the local grocery store; however, this may prove to be a very costly mistake. 

In a survival scenario, you will be expending a much greater amount of calories due to

  1. Greater exertion of energy hiking.
  2. Greater exertion of energy due to fear and adrenalin.
  3. Greater exertion of energy due to weather (cold requires as much as twice the calories in order to keep warm.  Hot can have a similar effect.)

As a result, now is not the time to diet.  Caloric intake is key.  Inexpensive soups and quick prepare foods found at the local grocery chain will only yield about 1-2 grams of protein on average.  This is not a good return on your survival investment or on the weight you will be carrying in regards to the nutritional value received.

Consider specialized foods high in protein such as Mountain House usually found in the camping section at Wal-Mart.  Also consider purchasing a bucket of the pre-packaged dehydrated foods from Wise Foods, EFoodsDirect, etc.  While you may pay as much as twice the price of the bargain foods mentioned, the caloric value averages 11-18 grams of protein. 

Also, energy bars high in protein are a good source and easy to pack.  Mix it up. No one likes to consume the same thing over and over again.  A variety of good and satisfying food can do wonders for morale and your ability to keep moving forward another day. 

Candy bars can produce a quick energy boost but should never be your main source of nutrition.  However, looking forward to treating yourself can be a tremendous motivator. 

4.  Clothing.   Pack wise.  Clothing, while an absolute essential, can be a space robber in your pack and add unnecessary weight if not planned well.  Your clothing should be of natural and earth tone colors.  You do not want to stand out. 

a. Clothing with logos representing or making various statements should be avoided.  For example, clothing that depicts or advertises certain messages should not be used.  Examples would be articles that make a political statement, a statement of wealth or your preference for firearms or military should be avoided.  This will only prove to be troublesome on occasions you may have to interact with others you do not know.

Obviously the time of year and season will dictate the type of clothing needed, however be smart about it. 

In moderate to warm weather and in addition to what you may already have on…you should consider packing…

  1. pair long pants
  2. changes of socks (preferably some wool blend for dryness)
  3. changes of underwear
  4. shirts and/or t-shirts
  5. sweatshirt or light fleece

(1) hat

Colder weather…consider packing the same but adding…

  1. pair of thermal or polypropylene (bottoms & top)
  2. changes of wool blend socks (rather than pure cotton)
  3. pair of insulated gloves

(1) fleece or wool watch cap (a fleece balaclava is a good addition)

b. Shoes.   There are areas that you can always cut back and/or take the “bargain route” on… YOUR FOOTWEAR IS NOT ONE OF THEM!

You do not buy a nicely outfitted automobile that you will be traveling long distances in and then put the cheapest tires on it.  This would not make sense.   The same logic holds true for your feet. 
As encountering and negotiating multiple types of terrain while carrying added weight is a given, a pair of quality boots should be your primary footwear.  Only consider sturdy name brands that have a reputation and a proven performance record for the type of activities for which you will be engaging. 

Such boots generally are categorized as “Hiking” or “Military” with a minimum of 8” uppers, aggressive traction and are proven to be good for load bearing (i.e. proven to hold up and support you under the weight of a pack for long periods).    Some boots categorized as “Hunting” boots may be satisfactory but do the research and compare. 

Boot material is really a personal preference.  However, give careful consideration to modern materials.  Modern materials such as Gore-Tex and Cordura offer added warmth in cold weather and greater breathability year round.  Moreover, Gore-Tex is generally waterproof.  Keeping your feet dry and clean is key.

A second pair of shoes is a smart addition.  These are for putting on during rest breaks allowing your boots time to dry and air out, as well as giving your feet a much needed break. 

They also serve as a “back up” to your boots so they should be sturdy. New is not necessary but there should be plenty of life left in them.  A quality pair of running shoes will suffice but also consider sturdier hiking shoes made by companies who specialize in these such as Merrell, Keen, and other proven brands. 

c. Coats.  During cold weather a jacket/parka that is warm, wind resistant and water repellent is a must.  A hood is an added benefit.  Avoid bulky coats made from natural fibers (i.e. cotton, wool, or blend).  Coats made of modern materials are superior in warmth with less bulk and weight. 

During warmer months a light jacket that can repel wind should be packed (or at least a light fleece).  Rain, fatigue, and change of weather can bring on rapid chilling causing lose of body heat and robbing strength. 

d. Packing Clothing.   Most quality packs have some resistance to water.  However, prolonged exposure to rain, setting down on wet ground, or the unexpected “drop” in the creek while crossing can become a nuisance in warm weather and deadly during cold. 

Before packing your clothes, line the pack with a large plastic trash bag and place your articles of clothing within.  Be sure to cinch the bag by twisting, tuck, etc. to seal it from leaking and your clothing will remain dry no matter what occurs. 

5. Other Important Items.    There are numerous other items you will need, some more important than others.  The following list is by no means all-inclusive or absolute.  The order in which items are listed should not be construed as more important than the next.  Some will be obviously critical while others, not so much.  As with anything important, your planning, competency in use and your ability to transport all have to be considered. 

Avoid storage of smaller items loosely in your pack.  Group like items together and place into smaller zip-loc plastic bags. 

  The List:

  1. Direction Finding
    1. Compass.  Does not have to be very expensive, just trustworthy and accurate.
    2. Area Maps.  Laminated maps for your state can be purchased at Wal-Mart. 
  2. Fire Starting.  Redundancy is key here. 
    1. (2) butane lighters
    2. (2) boxes of waterproof matches
    3. (1) fire stick/flint
    4. Fire accelerates (i.e. Trioxane fuel tablets, small camping fire kindling, fire accelerate paste, lint collected from the dryer)

Spread load these so if one is lost, all will not be lost.

Survivor Ideology:  “ Two is one; One is none.”     Think about that.

  1. Sanitation.  
    1. Small bar of soap, small bottle of sanitizer, etc.…
    2. Roll toilet paper
    3. Re-sealable package of wet-wipes
    4. Toothbrush/travel tube of toothpaste and small deodorant
    5. Small vile of petroleum jelly for blisters and chaffed skin
  2. Food Preparation.
    1. Small folding (Esbit) stove with fuel tabs
    2. Excess fuel tabs
    3. Or, a small backpacking type stove such as JetBoil
    4. Fork and spoon
    5. Flavoring – salt, pepper, hot sauce, etc.
    6. Small aluminum pot to heat/boil water.  An excellent choice is

     the standard 1 qt. military canteen with carrier and the “canteen cup.”     
     The canteen cup fits inside the carrier and the canteen fits inside the cup. 
     This saves space and serves multiple purposes.

3. Shelter.  A 1-2 man tent is very useful if you have one already, can pack it accordingly, and it is not a bright color. So a tarp, 6’X8’ in camouflage, dark green of brown, is a very good alternative a tent. It will provide a lot of flexibility on all terrain and can be packed many ways.

100’ of para-cord (thin ¼” nylon rope) in natural colors.

(6) small aluminum tent stakes (able to fit through the grommets of a tarp).

4. Sleep System. 
Sleeping Bag.  One that is light in weight (under 4 lbs.) and is designed for hiking and backpacking.  While “down” filled bags are very warm, extremely light in weight, and easy to compress for packing, a man-made fiber filled bag may be the best choice for the average survivalist.  Down, once wet, is very difficult to dry and loses all warming properties when wet.  The opposite holds true for man-made fillers such as Hollow-fill and other common fibers.  Be selective and do your homework.  A sleeping bag is generally the largest and most bulky item you will carry.  There are quality man-made fiber filled bags under $100 that will pack almost as compactly as the very expensive down filled bags. 

Sleeping Mat.  A very much appreciated item…especially for unknown sleeping surfaces that you will encounter.  Also, great for a barrier to keep your bag dry.  Styles, prices, and quality vary greatly so do your research and be selective

5. Medical/Personal.

First Aid.   Seek a well-stocked kit in a soft carry bag rather than hard.  Soft is much easier to pack and shift around.  Add additional painkillers such as Aleve, Tylenol, etc.  Also, consider adding burn ointment and additional bandages such as an ACE wrap.

    1. Extra pair of glasses/contacts and solution
    2. Medications that you may require
    3. Feminine hygiene products

    4. 6. Lighting.

    1. (2) Small size, quality defensive type flashlight of at least 200 lumens. One to be carried on your person and one packed as a backup.
    2. (1) Head lamp with harness or hat brim clip on light. 
    3. Extra batteries for all lights
    4. (1) Red lens for your primary flashlight. To be used to defuse white light at night when you do not need to be seen.  

      7.  Knife.  At least one quality utility folding knife with a locking blade.  Consider one with a

             partial serrated edge.  Also, a multi-tool such as the high quality Leatherman series with a   
             built in saw is highly suggested. 

8. Money.  Small bills up to about $60.  Consider having a few dollars in silver coinage as well.

             Debit and credit will not be available. 

9.  Small Bible.  Last, but certainly not least, is God’s guidance and comfort.


  III.   Situational Awareness.   You must always remain calm and in control.  You must always be aware of your surroundings and what the general atmosphere is to the best of your ability.   Be observant.  Listen intently.  The little intelligence you obtain from these measures can most assuredly save your life. 

In the event a survival situation occurs, it will be helpful to have an understanding of how human nature most likely will react. 

In large population centers such as cities, riots could break out almost immediately if the cause is fueled by an emotionally charged event.  Think of history and the Rodney King riots of Los Angeles in 1992.   Evacuation from and avoidance of such areas must be done immediately.   For other events the time line of societal decay will go as follows:

Day 1 – people will be in disbelief.  A sense of “what’s happened/happening?” will prevail and folks will generally congregate to get answers.  However, as the day progresses and night sets in, panic may escalate and tempers begin to flare.

Day 2 – Panic is growing.  People become frantic and less tolerate. Fear and uncertainty is fast growing.  The risk of personal danger is rising.

Day 3 – Without clean water and most likely food and a lack of sufficient sleep, destitute people will become aggressive with a large percentage resorting to violence.  They will attempt to take what you have.  Avoid contact.

Day 4+ - People away from the comforts of home will become very dangerous. People in their homes will become very protective and civil unrest (everywhere) is a certainty.  Avoid contact at all cost.  

Day 15 - Studies show that civil people will consider resorting to cannibalism if no other food or possibilities of food exist in their immediate future.  They will surely kill for what you have. 


IV. Protection & Security.  While personal protection is somewhat obvious and should quickly

become a very high priority for anyone who finds himself or herself in a survival situation, it is an area that is often misunderstood, misused and left to chance.  Neither of these will serve the survivor well and will surely leave you, sooner or later, in the category of “Non-Survivor.” 

While movies and books do an insatiable job of glamorizing and even romanticizing the lone survivor who beats all odds to overcome great diversity…like being in combat, one cannot truly understand the experience unless one has experienced it for themselves. 

The truth is a person who finds himself/herself in a survival situation will be consumed with confusion, fear, loneliness, and an immense sense of indecisiveness.  Having the necessary provisions discussed above at your disposal should give comfort that the essentials to survive are in your possession.  This is merely a temporary relief if you have neither the knowledge nor requisite abilities to use your gear properly.  You must continue to sharpen your skills by training and planning for such an event. 

However, no matter how strong your logistics and the know-how to use them are, if you do not have the ability to protect yourself and your life tools from others who are desperate and will, through whatever means necessary, take them from you…you will fail. 

1.  Weapons.  As noted above, you should always have in your possession a knife.  While essential as a utility tool, the knife you choose should also be suitable as a backup defensive weapon.  As a primary means of protection, you should have in your possession a quality and reliable handgun that is familiar and that you have had adequate training and experience in firing. 

While there are numerous types and brands of handguns to choose from, some do stand out as a much better choice for defensive purposes. 

Keep in mind that most attacks are done quickly and in close proximity.  Revolvers, while extremely reliable and easy to use, do have limitations.  Most notably is the number of rounds (bullets) one has available for immediate protection.  This typically amounts to 5-6 before reloading is necessary.  Reloading a revolver requires a series of time-consuming actions that make it less desirable as a primary defensive weapon in the survival mode.  If a revolver is still desired, nothing below a .38 caliber should be considered.  Multiple speed loaders should also be purchased which will aid in reloading quicker. 

The optimum handgun for a survival situation is the semi-automatic pistol in mid to full size configuration.  A mid to full size pistol will generally hold between 10-17 rounds depending on the caliber and make.  The larger bullet capacity definitely provides greater firepower in an attack.  Moreover, mid to full size pistols generally have a longer barrel length over the revolver giving it an exceptional advantage in accuracy and range.  Pistols use magazines to hold/feed bullets to the gun and therefore can be easily stored and quickly accessed for a hasty reload.   

Calibers below 9mm should not be considered.  Calibers above 9mm, such as the .40 S&W and the .45 ACP are excellent defensive weapons but be sure to consider the increased size and weight for carrying additional ammunition and magazines.   

a.  Handgun Carry.  The primary defensive handgun should be carried in a manner that allows easy and fast access in the event it is needed.  It should not be stored in the pack.  A quality holster, that either attaches to one’s belt or to the shoulder straps or waist belt of the pack, should be used.  Note: a backup handgun is an excellent idea and may be carried in the pack, if available.  A backup handgun in the same caliber is even better in that it allows you to consolidate ammunition to one type.

b.  Long Gun.  It is commonly understood in the firearms world that a person with a long gun (typically a rifle) will always defeat a person with a handgun in a straight up gunfight.  The truth of this adage leads many to consider having a long gun, either a shotgun or rifle, as their primary firearm. 

There may not be a right or wrong answer to this: only considerations to be made.
While the long gun of choice has definite and obvious advantages, there are important disadvantages as well.

  1. Added weight and ability to carry in addition to pack, water, etc.
  2. Added weight and bulk of ammunition.
  3. Added visibility or lack of ability to conceal the fact that you are armed in/around others you will eventually come into contact with. 


For example…a person sees you from a distance and may choose to by-pass contact with you.  However, if they see you have a “highly prized article” such as a rifle or shotgun, they may choose to engage you from that distance in an attempt to take it from you or double back for an attempt at a more opportune time.  Again, there may be no right or wrong answers to this question: just serious considerations to make. 

2. Traveling.  It is always best to travel in groups of two or more (like minded/prepared) persons if possible.  This is not always possible so you must develop the skills to protect yourself and provide for your own security.  

       a.  Vehicle.  If able to travel by automobile, never stop or leave your vehicle except when absolutely necessary.  Breaks to relieve one’s self should be done by the vehicle as fast as possible and then continue on.  Do not linger.  Modesty is not an issue at this point. Security and safety are. 

Always maintain a full tank of gasoline.  Try to never drop below a half tank before refilling. 

Other than to relieve one’s self, refuel or the occasional meal preparation (try to eat on the go) you should continue to travel to your destination.  Should you have to stop to rest/sleep, you should take the extra time to drive off the main routes in search of a secure and secluded area that affords protection and the ability to hide the vehicle from passersby.  If you are being observed, travel on until you are not.  If traveling with others, someone must be on watch at all times.  Rotate shifts for sleep and eating. 

NEVER relax your security or let your guard down.  

NEVER build a fire unless absolutely necessary for warmth due to potential hypothermia or frost injury.  Fire is a beacon that will lead undesirables to you. 

Be especially watchful for overpasses, bridges and other various choke points that could make excellent ambush/attack sites.

      b.  On Foot/Hiking.   If you find that you have to travel without the comfort and security of a vehicle, all of the above still apply, but now you have numerous other measures to consider. 

  1. Consider traveling at night when others in the area may be resting and less likely for you to encounter.
  2. Never camp on or near the route you are traveling.  If on a main highway/road you should camp at least 100 yards away hidden from sight in the woods.  Again, make sure you are not being observed when detouring to your campsite. 
  3. Pick a site that provides cover (barrier to shield against firearms) as well as concealment (ability to hide) from others. 
  4. NEVER build a fire.  If a fire is absolutely necessary, do so for the minimal amount of time required (during daylight) then move far away to a different locale to make camp. 
  5. Noise and light discipline is as important as not building a fire (for obvious reasons).  You want to get in and out with as little notice as humanly possible. 
  6. If you sense that you are being followed, you may find it necessary to confront the person(s) rather than continuing on.  Do so with extreme caution and with plenty of daylight left if at all possible.  TRUST NO ONE UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES OUTSIDE YOUR GROUP!
  7. Short of someone committing a grievous act against another, avoid contact with others.  You cannot help them if they are unprepared.  They will be desperate.  So are you and even more so should they harm you and/or take what you have. 
  8. Plan your route(s).  You will most definitely have a planned route if traveling by vehicle.  You should also have routes planned in the event you are on foot. 
  9. Avoid bridges, overpasses and choke points.  They will be prime ambush sites for people traveling by foot.  Bridge crossings, etc. must be done with extreme caution.  You will need to spend time observing from a distance in order to determine the safety and opportunity for crossing. 
  10.  As time progresses you will want to avoid towns and/or any population centers.  Take the time to observe and plan alternate routes around. 


V.  Quantities to Consider.   Above we have talked about the types of food to pack and the means to carry water.  Now let us consider the amounts necessary.

  1. Water.  Clean water is an absolute necessity to survive.  You should drink plenty of water even when you feel that you are not thirsty.  While this should be obvious in hot weather, the same holds true for cold weather as well.  Dehydration is a killer and can attack you in heat or cold. 

Water weighs approximately 8 lbs. per gallon.   Other than your pack and firearm, water will be the heaviest item you carry.  You should have at least three of the containers mentioned above on you.  One should be readily accessible and the other two can be stored/affixed to your pack accordingly. 

Take every opportunity to refill that is available to you.  Take the time to filter properly before consuming.  Illness due to contaminated water is a killer in a survival situation. 

2. Food.  Food will be critical to your health, energy and the ability to make good and sound decisions.  The amount you need will depend on the distance to your desired destination.  Let’s look at an example.


Scenario - 30 miles from your destination – while no one really wants to jump at the chance to hike 30 miles, in a survival situation it seems very “doable”, and it is…if prepared.

Without any problems or delays, the average healthy person with the proper motivation should be able to hike 10 miles per day.  For a 30-mile distance we are looking at a minimum of 3 to 3 ½ days on the road.   Add in the degradation of society as outlined above and we see our 3 day hike easily extend into 5-6 days.  Get the idea?  You have to plan your logistics and train your body and mind accordingly – now.

Ammunition.  Certainly have your firearm(s) and additional magazines loaded at all times.  A box of an additional 50 rounds packed away is not out of the question. 


Additional – Nice to Have:

  1. Radio – Provided you have not experienced an EMP/CME rendering most electronics useless, a radio to monitor news and events is very helpful.  Avoid the temptation to listen to music.  You need to be listening to what is happening around you.
  2. Sunglasses
  3. Work Gloves
  4. Binoculars
  5. Vitamins
  6. Bug Spray
  7. Portable ram radio transceiver (1 for your destination party as well)
  8. Other items to keep your spirits up (depending on your ability to carry)


VII.   Conclusion:

With the proper planning, training, and motivation you can survive such a calamity.
It will not be easy – physically, mentally or emotionally.  There is a great chance that you will see and experience many bad things.  There is a great chance you may have to use violent and/or deadly force.  Now is the time to prepare. 

“Practice makes perfect” – We have all heard this before and most will agree to this simple truth.  If that is the case…shouldn’t you practice the things we have discussed above?  After all, getting these important items in hand and these techniques down to a workable level of confidence and ability is a great deal more important than whether or not you will win a sporting event or pull off a successful performance.  How well you perform here means whether or not you will live or die. 

Finally, I have been told that I should create a checklist to include with this guide.  I have given that a lot of thought and realized that this entire guide is, in essence, a checklist.  To prepare properly you will most likely devise numerous checklist and I can guarantee that you will revise them from time to time based on your needs, plans, location, time of year, abilities, and desires.  The main thing is to get started.  Simply check off items in this guide page by page as you acquire them and you will be well on your way. 

Survivor Ideology: “It is much better to be prepared a year in advance than a day
too late.”

God is always with you.  Good luck and God speed. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

This article is mainly about improvising Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
I have been employed for over 36 years by an international coatings company. I have held several positions in different areas of our plant, including production, maintenance, and raw materials. I also have 35+ years in the field of Industrial Emergency Response. The last few years I have been an instructor for our Emergency Response Team (ERT). Some of the topics we deal with are firefighting, Haz-mat, Medical response, and rescue.

Participating with the Team has been both educational and enjoyable as we develop a closeness and brotherhood (and recently sisterhood).
I have been able to use some of these skills and talents in my everyday life, as well as in other interests that I have.
I was reviewing some information a few days ago for a presentation coming up in the Haz-mat area. Haz-mat basically means hazardous materials. The facility where I work uses approximately 250 different chemical compounds. My present position allows me to have direct contact with most of these either by sampling for analyst, or verification.
The information I was reviewing was decontamination during and/or after an emergency exposure.

It dawned on me that many people of the prepper mindset might find it useful as it closely resembles the decontamination ("decon") of bio, chemical, and radioactive fallout exposures.
Most of us, as preppers, do not have all of the fancy and expensive gear that professionals have available. But please keep in mind that even in industry we don’t always practice with the “real thing”. Instead of expensive haz-mat suits we usually make do we inexpensive substitutes. Also there are times when we do not have enough of the real thing. At these times we use the system outlined below.
I do not recommend using these substitutes except under dire emergencies. Please, please do not ever take unnecessary risks by exposing yourself to bio, chemical or radioactive hazards.
There may be times though that you must operate in these environments. If you do not possess the correct protective equipment then you may have to substitute. These substitutes are what I would like to address in this article.

At this point I would guess that most of us are on a budget in our prepping endeavors and are looking for bargain prices and ways to stretch our prepping dollar (Euro, peso, or whatever).
Whenever I am teaching I always take the time to tell my students, whether they are ERT members, Boy Scouts, adult Scout Leaders, or Appleseed students, to NEVER become a victim. Always stay alert as to what is going on around you. Be Aware!

The secret to staying safe in a hazardous environment is to stay alert. Do not take chances…ever. It only takes one time and its over, death awaits those who are careless.
Statistically most firefighters who are seriously injured or killed in the line of duty become victims while trying to rescue someone else. Many times it is while trying to rescue one of their own.
“That’s my friend down there!”, and so off we go to rescue our pal and fall victim to the same dangerous environment that affected our friend.

Most of the time that first victim is down for a reason… we probably can’t hold our breath long enough to perform a rescue. One way to eliminate some of the danger is have a second person in any hazardous situation, literally some one to have your back.
Anyway…be cautious. ‘Nuff said about that.

Back to basic and inexpensive equipment.
One of the most important items to have is a quality gas mask. It is almost impossible to improvise one of these. It really is a high priority item. These can be purchased commercially through Industrial outlets such as Grainger and Fastenal. They can be expensive, often costing in the hundreds. I have also seen mil-surp  masks at Army-Navy stores and gun shows, often for $40 or less. Please research these before you buy.

If you do buy the mil-surp masks please make sure that the rubber or silicone face piece is not dry rotted or cracked. There are different sizes and you must make sure that you correctly fit your face. Facial hair can also be a problem as it does not allow for a tight fit.
There are two schools of thought when donning the mask. Either can be used and are correct:

  1. Open the straps all the way with the web in normal position. Place your hand inside the web, with the web against the back of your hand. Lift the mask above your head and bring down. Using the hand inside the web to pull the web out and your other hand to pull the bottom of the mask out, the mask should slide over your head and face.
  2. Loosen the straps and pull the web over the face piece so that the web is inside out. Place and hold the mask against your face and with the other hand pull the web back over your head.

After donning the mask you must cinch-up the straps. On most masks there are 5 or 6 straps. I usually tighten the two nearest my temples first, followed by the lower two. I always tighten the top strap(s) last to avoid pulling hair.

The next step is to check the seal around your face. With the mask in place cover the exhaust valve with one hand. Exhale normally to verify that the mask is sealed. You should feel the mask pressurize. If it does not there may be a leak due to improper fit, facial hair or condition of the mask.
Next place one or both palms over the inlet(s). There may be one or two inlets depending on style/manufacturer. Breathe in normally. You should feel the mask shrink into your face.
You may need to try petroleum jelly on the seal in you cannot get it to quit leaking. This is not recommended as it may break down the rubber material in the mask.

A word or two about filter cartridge:. There are basically two different media that I have had the opportunity to use, activated charcoal (carbon) and HEPA.
The carbon filters are used with organic compounds such as solvents, monomers, and isocyanides. I would imagine that they would be effective against most gases.
The HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filters are used for solid particles in the air, including dust. This would be effective in the case of nuclear dust fallout.
Filter cartridges are available with either of these media. However, whenever I have a choice I will use both together. Some filter cartridges are made with both carbon and HEPA. There are also “add on” HEPA filters that attach over the intake on carbon filters. Please be aware when buying mil-surp masks that correct cartridges may not be available.
One other point before we proceed; gas mask type filters do NOT supply oxygen. In a low-oxygen environment you will need to supplement with oxygen and/or breathing air via a device such as SCUBA (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus) or SCBA (self-contained breathing apparatus). Without supplied air you must leave the area immediately if you find yourself in a low-oxygen situation.

Most filter cartridges are good for about eight hours. You must changes filters immediately if you detect an odor or taste.
In an emergency situation you may find yourself needing a barrier suit. These are protective coveralls that are impervious to dangerous materials. They also will not allow radioactive fallout to reach your skin. However, they will not protect you from radiation. Fallout is most dangerous when inhaled or when it comes in direct contact with your skin, eyes, nose, or mouth.

The following is one of the least expensive ways to make a barrier suit:
 It is made from a two piece vinyl rain suit. You’ve seen them…bright yellow, usually with a hood. That’s what you need. I have found them online for $15-20 USD.
You also will need pull-on over boots and some kind of rubber (butyl, vinyl, etc.) gloves. In addition to all this you will need a roll of duct tape.
To do this properly you will need an assistant to help you dress.
Start by donning the pants/bibs. Pull the pants legs up and put on the boots. Pull the pants legs down, over the tops of the boots. Have your assistant tape the cuffs of the pants, with the duct tape, to the boots. You will want to give yourself plenty of slack in the pants so that you can move freely. Note: when taping seals be sure to fold under the last inch of the tape to itself, making a tab. This greatly helps when removing the tape from the protective suit.
Secondly you need to put on your face mask and check for leaks.
Thirdly, don the jacket. Pull the sleeves up and put on the gloves. Pull the sleeves down over the gloves. Have your assistant tape the jacket sleeves to the gloves with the sleeves held back enough to give you slack.
Next have your assistant pull the attached hood up and over your head up to the face piece. Pull and tie the drawstring snuggly enough to hold it on but not choke you.
The assistant should now tape the hood to the mask, making sure all skin is covered. Tape the front of the jacket closed so that the gap is covered.
Finally, tape the hem of the jacket to the pants and the front opening (where the snaps or zipper is) closed, again allowing for movement.
You should now be totally encapsulated and safe from most threats.
Please remember to leave the tape tab on each piece of tape to aid in removal.
If you find it necessary to change filters it is easier to have the assistant change them for you. However, if you are in a hazardous area your assistant must be protected also.

Which brings us to decon (decontamination). In a real emergency it is a good idea to decon in stages. The area that is contaminated is the hot or red zone. This is wherever the suit is needed to protect you.
Next is the warm or yellow zone. This is where the main decon occurs. Finally is the safe or green zone. As its name implies, it is safe without protection. These zones should be well marked so that you do not track in contaminants.
Now for the actual deconning. When you are done in the hot zone you need to communicate to your assistant that you are ready to enter decon.
A very inexpensive way to decon is to invest in three kiddie pools. You know the kind, cheap plastic about 5-6 feet in diameter and about a foot deep.
Place one pool just outside the hot zone in the warm zone. Place about six inches of water in it with a half cup of dishwashing detergent. Note: In a bio situation I would also use a disinfectant. Even liquid bleach would work.

The assistant, who should have on a minimum of a rain suit, face shield, boots and gloves, will use a long handled boot brush to scrub you down.
Next step into the second pool which should be located about one foot away from the first, again containing soapy water. Your assistant should wash you down again with a second brush.
The next step should be into the third pool placed one foot from the second. This will be half filled with clean water. Your assistant will pour this fresh water over you to remove the soap.
A tarp covered with newspaper or another absorbent should be placed next to the third pool. You will step out of the pool onto the newspaper.
Your assistant at this point will help you remove your protective clothing. IT IS VERY IMPORTANT FOR THE ASSISTANT TO NOT CONTAMINATE YOU OR THEMSELVES IN THIS STEP.
Do you remember those tape tabs I mentioned twice? They come into play here. With clean gloves the assistant should remove the tape from around the mask. DO NOT REMOVE THE MASK.

Next remove the tape around the gloves, then down the front of the jacket and then around the hem of the jacket. He should gently assist you in removing the jacket by pulling it off from behind you, turning it inside out. It should be placed inside a large trash bag.
Now remove the tape from around the pants cuffs. By far the easiest way to remove the pants is for him to cut the pants down each side with a utility knife, being VERY careful to avoid cutting you.
The assistant can also slice the sides of the boots for you and help you remove them.
Your gloves are still on at this time to avoid contaminating your hands with the boots. They can be removed at this time if you have another pair to don.
You can now step into the cold zone and remove your mask. Your assistant will now pick up and dispose of all contaminated articles.
He now steps over to the warm/cold zone line. You will assist him in disrobing if needed.
The Protective gear that was in the hot zone, with the possible exception of the face mask, should not be used again, but disposed of. The mask must be totally decontaminated before using again.
Is this method as good as the PPE made specifically for the job? Of course not. It will protect you, however, in an emergency situation. Do not ever expose yourself unnecessarily. Remember: DO NOT BECOME A VICTIM.

If we look around us we will be able to find ways to improvise what is needed. Be safe and be ready.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Good Morning, Mr. Rawles:

After watching part of last night's Blackout Docudrama on National Geographic. I turned the television off in total disgust and went to bed.  What insidious propaganda! 

I could not help but notice that the "prepper" father was a gun toting, autocratic bully who bossed everyone and refused to act humanely by sharing all his wealth with those less fortunate or less willing to be responsible for themselves?  How interesting.

And of course, the compassionate one was the young and hip boyfriend of the prepper's daughter.  He hadn't prepared himself but he was more than happy to live off of someone else's largess.  He was also more than happy to be judge and jury as to how someone else's preps should be treated. 

And the young woman, who was attacked and most probably raped and/or killed, "deserved" it because she was a wealthy "princess" who lived in a penthouse.  She was portrayed as stupid and totally un-connected to the real world in which most of us live.  Also interesting was the portrayal of her rich boyfriend who believed he was entitled to whatever resources were available as he tried "throwing his money around."

And of course, we were all going to be saved by the government as our fearless leader gravely assured us.  I'm amazed I got half way through the program!  Here was an excellent opportunity to impress upon the average citizen that they need to be ready for bad weather or other unforeseen circumstances.  Instead we got the "PC" version of who the good guys are and who the bad guys are.  I think I'll just stick to SurvivalBlog.

Thanks for all you do! - Getting Ready in N.C.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Dear Editor:
In answer to Norm's question: Yes, insulating items that are already inside a Faraday shield appears to be superfluous. As long as the shield works (is unbroken and made of the right materials and configurations to counter the frequencies targeted), the overwhelming vast majority of the energy does stay outside. This has been verified in our tests and is a basis for the products we make. For example, we tested our laptop EMP shield against an EMP simulator made by APELC in Texas - no visible upset was observed despite their machine throwing over 150 kV/m at our shielded laptop. An unshielded computer next to the shielded one was reset - had we attached cables to provide a pathway into the unshielded computer, it's likely that computer would have been permanently destroyed.

To give you an idea of what "overwhelming vast majority" means - we also covered their probe with our shield to protect it from being damaged. At a field strength of roughly 150 kilovolts/m or higher, the probe measured 15 volts - and the closure around the probe was not very good, so it's very possible the probe would have measured even less with a good seal.

We have some videos of the testing on our web site and Youtube channels (EM Starfish Defender) that you can see - while we don't provide the field strengths, they should all be  50,000 -150,000+ volts/meter. Our Marx generator and the APELC device are roughly equivalent - the major factor is the APELC device (outdoors version) uses much more power because it generates a pulse at a distance whereas ours is up-close (and therefore needs less energy to achieve the same field strength). Their machine also produces a spark in a shorter time frame than ours.

I have received a lot of questions being tossed my way. I was hoping to clarify a couple points that I could have written better.

Point 1: I had written that E1/E2 is not significant over large distances. I failed to clarify that this is true on an INDIVIDUAL level, not a societal one. According to Army graphs, field strengths of up to 25,000 v/m of E1 energy can be generated across most of the United States. A field strength of 50,000 v/m covers a far smaller area. The EMP Commission report stated that radios and personal computers require strengths of 50 kv/M or more on average in order for anomalies to start occurring - even then, most of the time these small electronics can be fixed by resetting them. (All numbers are approximate and the report should be consulted for the exact statements). Our own testing results are consistent with this finding - so most small/personal electronics are safe from E1 to start with - UNLESS a "super-EMP" is used. In a Faraday cage, they are definitely safe, even from "super-EMP" weapons.

HOWEVER, societal-scale electronics such as traffic lights, railroad switches, etc can exhibit anomalies, according to the EMP Commission Report, in field strengths as low as 6-7,000 v/m - these are approximate numbers and the full report should be consulted. That said, anomalies does not equate to destruction. A simple manual reset should fix most problems. Repair times are estimated to be relatively short. The main problem is attempting restoration with communications, electricity, and transportation all being down - nobody has tested out the theory, which is the problem with EMP.

Credit to D. Gore for pointing out that this needed clarification.

Point 2: I had stated that one of the biggest fears that we have are that the backup systems at nuclear power plants are not EMP-proofed. According to Ralph Machesky (who works at Applied Research Associates), they are not. This makes sense from our perspective, because the backup generators are supposed to be there in case the primaries fail, which is not supposed to happen; EMP-proofing the generators seems beyond the minimum standard. We also believe this to be the case. However, if any readers work in the industry and have first-hand knowledge of whether this is true or not, they should feel free to chime in.

Thanks again, - Joel Ho

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

As and engineer and founder of an EMP protection startup company , I wanted to explain some EMP basics and also educate readers about current Directed Energy Weapons (DEW.)

Qualifications: My team has developed the first EMP simulator-tested laptop EMP shield that lets you protect and use your laptop (including wireless.) So, over the past year, we’ve learned firsthand what’s true and what’s not regarding radio frequencies. All subjects mentioned are the opinion of MobileSec Solutions LLC but not legally binding.
General Overview
Electromagnetic pulse (EMP) is generated usually when a nuclear device is detonated in the upper atmosphere. Non-nuclear explosive devices work too but on a smaller scale; even a transformer exploding, as in the movie Small Soldiers, generates a localized pulse. EMP is comprised of the fast rise-time E1 component, the lightning-type E2 component, and the solar flare type E3 component. Different things are vulnerable to different components of EMP, so let’s cover what you actually need to know.

The most important concept is wave physics, or the frequency and wavelengths of the EMP waves. Basic physics teaches that higher frequencies equal shorter wavelengths. If a wavelength is larger than the opening, it is blocked. So smaller wavelengths need smaller openings for a blocking material to work. Therefore, in general, if we block high frequencies, we probably block low ones too. In practice, shielding effectiveness does not always work this way, but this is a “good enough” explanation.

An EMP generates a broad band of waves ranging as high as 10 gHz (gigahertz). Our focus is on preventing damage in the range of roughly 200 mHz - 1 gHz, mostly the domain of E1. Above 1 gHz, it becomes increasingly more difficult to create damaging waves, although theoretically possible. As wavelength decreases (and frequency increases), eventually you get into microwave territory, so the shell of a solid object starts to absorb the energy, not the interior electronics. Of course, slightly heating a laptop frame cannot damage it. The E2 and E3 components are far lower in frequency, with E3 having such a long wavelength that, as long as your devices are not connected to any large conductive lines (like power lines or antennae), and are small, they should not be damaged by E3.

These facts have enormous implications for the range of the various EMP components. E1 and E2, have much higher frequencies, so they are basically dissipated in the atmosphere by water vapor over a long distance. In other words, for E1 and E2 to be affecting your electronics, your general metro area must have been specifically targeted by an EMP weapon. One cannot make an EMP with an E1 pulse across the entire continent – the power requirement is beyond even nuclear capabilities. However, it IS possible to generate a wide-ranging E3 pulse (due to its much longer wavelength).

Incidentally, this also explains why, if you search the internet, you can see government buildings use 1-inch copper mesh. This hole size is geared towards E3 only. Apparently, the logic is that a nuke would have to be targeted at that specific area in order for the building to be impacted by E1 and E2 (which require MUCH smaller mesh hole sizes, which increase the cost dramatically). That means that particular nuclear device is NOT targeting anywhere else – so short of nuclear war, the loss of any one single facility cannot significantly impact the US. Furthermore, within each E3-shielded building, certain rooms ARE shielded to a much better standard to protect the really mission-critical equipment from E1 and E2. This provides a high level of protection while reducing costs.

Potential EMP Sources
EMP doesn’t correlate with yield – any nuke can generate an EMP, so “rogue states” can do it – and in fact, some have tested missiles apparently optimized for EMP. The sun can generate a massive solar flare E3 pulse too.

Protective Materials
Our testing has shown that the best materials are copper and stainless steel for shielding purposes. Copper is the single best material that is somewhat cost-effective (however, mixed materials, such as silver-coated or copper-coated stainless steel, can perform even better). It is very good for E3, in addition to E1 and E2, but it is also expensive and very fragile. Stainless steel blocks higher wavelength RF energy slightly better and is much stronger and cheaper. Interestingly, aluminum foil works too. With the built-in EMI (electromagnetic interference) shielding inherent in most electronics, using any of these materials is sufficient protection.

Material Configuration
For all practical purposes, material thickness is irrelevant for EMP (almost any available material is thick enough). Solid sheets are the absolute best. However, if visibility is needed, use many small openings (pinholes) in the material versus a few large ones. 100 OPI (openings per inch) balances visibility and protection - we even use it in our products so we can testify to its effectiveness. Above 100 OPI, visibility degrades, and below it, protection decreases. The main issue with protective materials is creating a solid seal around an enclosed object. Your material must contact itself all around. We use magnets sewn inside the mesh material to force a seal. Conductive thread has not been necessary in our tests.

EMP Best Practices
To minimize chances of EMP damaging your electronics, a few basic steps will help a lot. Turn off electronics not in use. Unplug devices that do not need to be plugged in at that time. For your laptop – disconnect cables connected to USB or serial ports, or all ports for that matter. Our testing showed that striking the USB or serial ports – pathways into the electronics of the laptops – made the laptops much more vulnerable. Have a few backups inside Faraday cages (electrical insulation, we’ve found, is actually not very important because the nature of a Faraday cage keeps all the energy on the outside surface of the shield, not the inside. This also means that grounding a Faraday cage is irrelevant – it just bleeds the energy out faster, but since all the energy is on the outside, there’s no damage to your electronics anyway.

To test protective shielding, put a cell phone inside and try to call it. If you can’t, odds are good that your shielding will withstand an EMP. However, it may be the case that you can get a call through (if you are very close to a cell tower) but the shielding is sufficient. EMP can be analogized like a gunshot sound – without protection, your hearing will be damaged. With earmuffs, you can still hear the gunshot, but it’s no longer able to damage your hearing. By the same token, no earmuffs will help you if you are standing next to a main battle tank about to fire – you will feel it. Everything depends on circumstances.

Directed Energy Weapons
We also wanted to talk about some of the newest known tactical energy weapons out there and how to counter them. We will cover the Boeing CHAMP missile, the Active Denial System, Bofors BAE Blackout system, and the recently revealed NATO EMP system.

Boeing CHAMP Missile – This missile is supposed to create a high-powered microwave (HPM) that disrupts electronics within a single target building. Based on the public video footage (available on Boeing’s web site), we believe counters are relatively simple. In the footage, it’s clear that every computer tested was a desktop. The reason for that appears to be that the weapon attacks through the power supply and building wiring In other words, unconnected laptops may well be unaffected . Simply unplugging devices or having better grounding should prevent damage. Additionally, enclosing electronics within a Faraday cage should enhance protection even further. We actually achieved a similar effect, albeit on a smaller scale, while doing our EMP testing and solved it by grounding. Additionally, careful analysis of the footage reveals that many of the computers remain semi-operational even after the strike while being plugged in. It’s possible that the worst damage from this missile could just a simple reset of your electronics.

Active Denial System – This military program is another HPM device, operating on the 95 gigahertz frequency. It generates heat in the 1/64 th inch of your skin, stimulating nerves and creating an instinctive pain signal. Unclassified demonstrations show soldiers having no choice but to flee. But, based on the data provided, we believe it can be countered with a literal aluminum foil shield or other metal shield. As the wave only penetrates the very outer layers of skin, a very thin metal film should be enough to counter this weapon. Additionally, this system reportedly works only in clear weather – rain or fog apparently reduces the weapon’s effectiveness to merely being a nice warm feeling. A metal shield to block the microwaves, or even a body of water, should reduce this threat significantly.

Bofors BAE Blackout – Not much is known about this device. The range is reportedly relatively high – up to a few hundred meters - but the machine is bulky. It operates on the L-S radio wave bands. Therefore, we believe that a shield made out of stainless steel, or copper, with relatively small holes (100 OPI) should prevent damage to enclosed devices. Again, aluminum foil can be used too.

NATO EMP – This device was unveiled recently – it just made the news within the past two months. It is a vehicle-mountable device that stops cars by interfering with the electronic control systems. It’s touted as a way to safely shut down speeding cars (to prevent car bombs at checkpoints). The issue we see is that, given that it does not destroy the electronics of the cars, the strength of the wave transmitted cannot be very high. In other words, it should be relatively easy to, again, use a metal mesh material or aluminum foil to reduce the effectiveness of the device.

 As you can see, the major directed energy weapons that are being touted as “next generation” are generally not a material threat – assuming you have done some basic preparations.

The Real Threat
In our opinion, most of the threat of current known EMP is overblown.

However, there are two major sources of very serious EMP threats. The first is the rumors of classified EMP weapons. If these weapons exist and can in fact generate significant E1 and E2 over large regions, they are a major threat. Additionally, if these weapons can generate up to 300,000 volts/meter (50,000 volts/m is the limit for military testing as per RS-105) as claimed, they can become catastrophic events. EMP shielding your electronics is critical. As a side note, EMP testing by the US Congressional Commission on EMP showed that most vehicles are either fine or relatively easily repaired in an EMP event, so vehicle shielding is most likely unnecessary – unless these weapons exist.

The second is the effect of E3 on the power grid. Utilities have never been tested against a large scale EMP event – the most recent solar flare that caused major damage was in 1989 in Canada. A perfectly timed solar flare has the capability to fry the power grid – perhaps permanently. A full EMP, not just a solar flare, would have an unknown effect because utilities have never been tested to our knowledge on a full system level, only piece by piece. Utilities themselves acknowledge that cooling systems and fans are relatively easy to affect. Normally, that is not a problem, but if the cooling system for a nuclear power plant was disrupted, it could be catastrophic.

There are almost 200 commercial nuclear reactors in the US. One EMP could cause almost 200 simultaneous nuclear meltdowns if cooling [for the plants and their co-located spent fuel storage ponds] goes offline. At a minimum, the entire Northern Hemisphere would be uninhabitable. This would be an almost extinction-level event and it is a real threat. Even a solar flare could potentially cause damage if this is not taken seriously.

- Joel Ho, Founder, MobileSec Solutions LLC

Saturday, October 5, 2013

I found a surprise at the local Wal-Mart the other day: an American made 6 gallon galvanized metal container with locking lid (the bail is shaped to hold the tightly fitting lid closed when pulled up). With the lid on, it is approximately 15 inches high and about 14 inches in diameter at its widest point. The manufacturer is Behrens Manufacturing in Winona, Minnesota. Besides making a great small container for feed, etc., it could be a great EMP shield for your smaller electronic devices that will easily fit under a counter or bench. The price is good also: $14.97 plus tax. - Steve C.

JWR Replies: Behrens Manufacturing does indeed make a wide range of sizes of galvanized steel containers. Most of them work fine for Faraday cages.

For the budget-minded: Ask your relatives at Christmas for any spare steel popcorn canisters and Danish cookie gift tins. These steel containers have tight-fitting steel lids. As my father was fond of saying: 'Free is right in the middle of my price range!"

Saturday, September 21, 2013

In response to Sunshine's research into gas masks online, I've purchased from Approved Gas Masks.com before. They sell many different brands of masks, canisters and other NBC products. The canisters I've bought use the standard NATO threads, are sealed and dated. They're going to set you back a little more than the mil surplus but they're current production from reputable companies. Hope this helps. - S.M. from Pennsylvania

Friday, September 20, 2013

I couldn’t agree more with the article written by T.Z. regarding prioritized prepping. Many of us lack the needed organization and discipline to distribute our prepping budget evenly between the different survival categories and instead succumb to impulse buys – more ammo, more guns, more dried food, more camping gear. While stocking up on non-perishable supplies that will always have some use may seem like a good idea, what good are 50,000 rounds of ammo if your only water filter just broke, or you ran out of oil for your two-stroke chain saw?

My way of managing these impulse buys is with a plan – a comprehensive list of all gear and supplies needed for various situations, used to ensure every critical survival category is somewhat covered. I document any item me and my family consume on regular basis, as well as needed items for bug-in, bug-out and loss of civilization amenities may require. Following the familiar principals of redundancy I am constantly updating a prioritized list of supplies and equipment that I already acquired and items to be acquired. The lists, or rather “lists” document several things:

Inventory of perishable items – non-long-term food supplies (content of my pantry mostly), toiletries and household items, with expiration dates of items where applicable – this list is also synchronized with my mobile device and serves as a useful shopping list when visiting Wal-Mart/costco and the likes. This is the list hardest to keep updated but an hour a month usually keeps it in decent shape.

Comprehensive gear and equipment list – non-perishable items, every equipment and supply purchase in various categories, covering tools, shelter, water treatment and storage, fire making, portable cooking, communication and many others. This list helps with packing for various scenarios, as well as a reminder of what you already bought (how many emergency candles do I have ? Oh, I forgot I bought a case of 24 100-hour candles on sale last year).

Medical supplies – earned its own list with both non-perishable gear and medication with expiration dates that needs to be updated twice a year to reflect things I used, expired and replenished.

To do list – no explanation needed - various prepping projects.

To buy list – divided to many sections: there’s the affordable stuff to buy next time I am at the store – by store – home depot, Wal-Mart etc. Then there’s a list of big purchases to make when the time is right – yeah, a dirt bike may be a good idea (or a radiation meter, or a chest freezer, or a wood stove) but can’t buy them next time I am at the store. I also have a list of stuff to buy if I feel a TEOTWAWKI event is coming. We may get no warning, but if there was a small window of time to get some things done and buy a few special items I would never buy otherwise – I want to have a list telling me exactly what to do and buy and not start thinking about it for the first time (propane generator? Bio-fuel gear and truck? 6 months’ supply of frozen meats? A greenhouse? That great solar system with a few expensive 6V batteries)

Long-term food supplies – Anything I store that I do not plan to use in the next few years has to be inventoried well. Stocking a 1000 lb of rice with 1 lb of salt is not useful. My long term food store has to be balanced to provide the nutrition needed and fight menu fatigue. Inventory management is crucial and a lot of words were written about it.
And yes, I have my guns and ammo list as well. Have to be able to protect what I have.

My whole prepping activity is centered around these lists. If I read the excellent survivalblog.com web site or others, I update my lists with new ideas of what to buy or do. I go over the lists often and look for ways to improve my prepping, looking for weaknesses, lack of redundancies, expiration of items.
There are so many overlooked items that can be great in a SHTF situation, or useful in other cases, that you should absolutely stock up on if you have the room to store them. The hardware store is an endless source of such preps. Nails and fastening devices were mentioned – how about PVC Pipes? PVC pipes are cheap, if stored in the shade last many years, and have so many uses – they can be used to route water from rain catchment or wells, but also for construction – you can build a greenhouse with PVC pipes, duct tape and plastic sheeting. Various means of water storage and filtration are often overlooked and are essential. Dental treatment kits. Disposable and work gloves. Automotive and 2-stroke oil. Various sizes or garbage bags. Lots of batteries and chargers. Pest and insect control (you can’t call the rat catcher any more). Fuel stabilizer !!! (probably one of the most valuable items post-apocalypse). Siphon tools.

To summarize – balance your preps among categories so you don’t end up having to barter at a disadvantage to get essential supplies you neglected to procure in advance. - Regards From H.P.

A few comments on the thought provoking article Prioritized Prepping by Z.T. I did a bunch of research on gas mask filters a few months back after realizing the filters that came with my 'brand new in box' Israeli masks found at a thrift store were woefully expired. Masks in perfect shape, probably sat boxed in someone's attic for 25 years. Filters generally have a shelf life of 10-15 years provided they are sealed and kept free from moisture. A good quality filter is something worth investing in, not saving a few bucks because it "might" work. An expired filter might help, it might not. Make sure your filter is rated for NBC protection, this covers the whole gamut of potential toxins. These filters protect you from all known biological agents in addition to chemicals like sarin and other nerve gases, mustard gas, cyanogen, arsine, phosgene plus many organic and inorganic gases/vapors and inorganic acids.

I spent hours researching the purchase of filters online and let me warn you that the majority of filters sold "brand new" on Amazon are surplus expired or have no date stamped on them. This was repeated over and over in the reviews posted by people who bought them, always read product reviews before you buy! Also, a lot of the sellers aren't shipping what they advertise on Amazon. I went beyond Amazon and really couldn't find a reputable vendor selling new, sealed filters with a clear expiration date or date of manufacture. I gave up for the time being and would love to see some recommended sources posted on SurvivalBlog. Thanks, - Sunshine in New Mexico

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

I, like so many people across the country, can't walk out of my local sporting goods store without buying the limit of ammunition. Now, before you judge me, realize that most places limit you to small boxes of ammunition, and usually one two per caliber. Is it being prudent or just being obsessed? While the firearm and ammo situation is very much a media-hyped thing,  I have even talked about things you must buy every time you are out, like my article on Things Commonly Overlooked.  But what about those items that you pick up, look at the price tag, but pass on it saying "maybe next time."

In conversations with my other prepping type friends, it would appear that ammunition and firearms are the centerpiece of all of our preparations. While all of us love to shoot and none of us want to cut a good day of shooting short because it will take us weeks to resupply. the truth of the matter is that we are making firearms and ammunition the priority, both in the money and the peace of mind spent to assure our continuation in a world gone bad. But does it really do either of those?

After a few comments from my better half, I got to thinking about how much money I have sunk into my firearms and ammunition in the last year. I have bought at least a half dozen guns. I also make it to my local Academy at least once per pay period and have never walked out without buying the 2 box limit of 9mm or .45, or the limit in .223/.22. Which means the cheapest possible trip in and out is approximately $45. Commonly I buy an additional box of .38 special or .357, which is at least an additional $25. So, let's say I do that once a pay period or twice a month. That's over $1000 a year in ammunition. Again, that's a very conservative estimate. Truth be told, i don't shoot that much and my stock had grown such that I have...well...more than I need.

It was after the crisis in Syria became front page news that I started thinking: What could I have bought instead of all this ammo. More importantly, what things could I possibly need in a split second that guns and ammo couldn't get me. The first thing that I thought of was the one thing that was all over the news. There were scenes of those killed by gas. There were scenes of those luckily to only be maimed by it, usually losing their eyesight. I don't know about you, but that's one sense I'd rather not do without. What did these people not have  that might have saved them? Gas masks.

All of the ammunition in the world couldn't help those people exposed. There was nowhere to run. Once within that poison cloud, you couldn't simply run or hide from it. You certainly couldn't fight out of it or buy/trade your way to safety. But, had those people had access to gas masks, what then? Chances are, they slip them on and escape to live another day. So, while I was on the treadmill at the gym, watching this horror, I got on Amazon to see what gas masks were selling for. In the back of my mind, I assumed that it was just another piece of equipment that I knew I might one day need, would love to buy it for piece of mind, but just couldn't afford to buy it. I'm like everyone else. I am middle class, and while I do believe in being prepared, the pragmatic part of me sets limitations.

What did I find? Amazon has Russian/Israeli/etc military surplus gas masks....to the tune of about $40 shipped to your door.

Now, I didn't forget about the kids. After all, life really isn't worth living if I can't get my whole family. So, still on Amazon, I looked for the same thing in kids sizes. To my surprise, they were also extremely affordable. I was able to buy 3 kids size military surplus masks for under $40 shipped. Not bad, eh?

So, that got me thinking....we spend all this time talking about things we may need, but can't "justify" spending the money on...even though we nickel-and-dime ourselves away prepping on other things. And while I did think of some things.

  • At home water cistern/storage. I had been talking about doing this for a long time, specifically to my dad. See, they live on top of a mountain that's actually above the local water tank. So, there is a booster pump at the bottom of the hill to provide water pressure. It goes out constantly. Well, he has chickens. And dogs. And tons of everything. Not to mention the need for water for himself. He elected to buy an off the shelf version that caught rainwater running off of his shop. I believe it's a 450 gallon unit and it filled up with the first rain. You can get pretty ingenuity with yours and do it fairly cheap (under $150) and go as far as you want to make it work for you. For example, putting it on stilts, adding a 2 way valve to your house water supply, and you can now use your house water system. 
  • Tyvek suits are something that are relatively cheap and very useful to have ready. Will they protect you against many nasty chemical weapons? Will it stop radiation? No. But, it will do an admirable job against most chemical weapons and biological ones. They are water proof. They are easy to find, easy to put on, and cheap. 
  • "Noah's Ark" seed assortments. Tons of places sell heirloom seed assortments. They are around $80-to-$100 and will come with a large variety and assortment of herbs and vegetables. If you are like me and my wife, you normally buy your seeds annually from a catalog. What if instead, you bought one of these a year. And the next year, you planted your old one when you received your new one? This would ensure maximum freshness. While I understand that most people don't have that kind of room and couldn't use a whole set, you can at least use some of them. This way you can save yourself a little money on groceries, but most importantly, get into the practice of growing your own and learning all the little pitfalls.
  • Indoor plant growing station. Even if you live in an apartment you can buy one. Sorry, I couldn't think of a better name for it. The stands and the correct lights (you can't just use standard bulbs) do cost a good amount of money, usually around $100. Maybe that's one of the reasons that I never bought one to begin with. Plus, Alabama has such a temperate climate that starting your own seedlings isn't usually necessary. This year, however, we experienced a deluge of rain that kept me from planting. Plus, a friend was moving out of town and was selling his setup. So, I bought it cheap. With a cheap bag of soil, I was able to easily grow 30 tomato plants in a 48" long tray until they were big enough to separate and grow in their own pots. So, it cost about $125 counting the lights and stand, the soil, cups, and seeds. What would 30 half grown tomato cost you at Lowe's? There you go. 
  • A dirt bike. A used dirt bike can be found easily and cheaply around here. Especially an older one that is carbureted and has a non-electronic ignition. Why would you want such a thing? Well, in the case of an EMP, it would be one of the few rides left around town that ran. You couldn't put a price on being able to ride to and fro when the lights went out. Additionally, if you didn't get out ahead of everyone in another catastrophic event.. For example, let's say that you were in gridlock traffic and you just KNEW something really bad was about to happen. You could unload your little dirt bike off the back of your truck and take off. Paved roads, dirt roads, through the trees, doesn't matter. You could ride almost anywhere. Sure, it would cost you $1,000 up front. But, like we were talking about earlier, I spent that in ammo this year. This is a much more useful tool.

Again, these are but a few things that I thought of in a short thinking session. I hope that I will hear from some of you to point out others. The point is, you simply can't let a once time price stop you from buying semi-affordable things. Especially when you are dedicated to spending the money anyway. There are certainly things that I can't afford. But, I find myself spending money on things I can afford while ignoring things I could afford. So, put things in a price-perspective. Do you need another assault rifle? Another case of MREs? Maybe. Maybe not. But think of all the other things you could do with $1,500 that could buy you precious minutes or hours.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Dear JWR:
I had an interesting conversation with a member of the CDC about decontaminating N95 face masks. The study results can be found here.

You'll notice that the test gives positive results but more research is needed. Here was the conversation I had with Edward Fisher after reading it.

Here are some snippets from our exchange:

1. Did you remove the metal nosepieces from the masks before sterilization?
2. Any updates to this study?

We did not modify any of the tested filtering facepiece respirators
before decontamination. If the masks had metal nosepieces, they were
not removed.
There are no further updates on the study. Currently my lab is
focusing on evaluating the risks associated from handling and/or
reusing previously worn masks.

OK thanks! I thought perhaps they were removed because of the metal in
a microwave. Did you have metal arcing from the metal nosepieces?

We did not experience arcing from the metal nosepieces. The key to
the microwave method is the addition of water. Without water and
steam, the microwave can melt the masks. (See Viscusi et al. Ann.
Occup. Hyg., Vol. 53, No. 8, pp. 815-827, 2009). It should be noted
that the steambags have not been evaluated using Influenza and more
research is required. Currently, decontamination of disposable FFRs
is not recommended. As mentioned previously, we are now trying to
evaluate the hazards associated with handling and reusing contaminated
masks and have moved away from decontamination testing. This
may be helpful for any information you may be seeking
in regards to respirator research and influenza.

Keep an eye on this topic. If it's effective it'll really save on N95 mask costs. I think I'll chance it if we have a pandemic and I'm wearing a mask but am not around anyone confirmed to be sick. - C.D.V.

Friday, September 13, 2013

To further the excellent article Protection from Radioactive Fallout by Tennessean:

The author cites "The Effects of Nuclear Weapons, Samuel Glasstone and Philip J. Dolan, 670 pages, November 2006".  A reprint version of this book is available, but is more
than $50 at Amazon in paperback.

As this book is in the public domain, I have made an on-line version of the 1977 Third Edition available at my site for many years.

The index points to PDFs for the individual chapters which may be printed or downloaded for offline storage.

Accompanying it is a web application which implements the circular slide rule which accompanied the 1962 edition, plus instructions for making your own physical slide rule.

- Kelvin at Fourmilab

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Part One

About me: I’m a retired Ph.D. biochemist who has worked with beta emitters in the laboratory.  I’ve no financial interest in any of the firms or products mentioned below.

This post is dedicated to the late Cresson Kearny and his wonderful hard work in preparing the most essential book Nuclear War Survival Skills available at www.beprepared.com and other sources.  

Dr. Stephen Hawking was once told by his publisher that for every equation he placed in his book the readership would drop by half.  Dear reader the author will harass you with only three equations.  The late great thermodynamicist  Dr. Josiah Willard Gibbs would often observe…”Words are no substitute for equations.”  Dr. Gibbs came up with the “Gibbs free energy change” which describes in which direction any chemical reaction will go at constant temperature and press.

In this essay we do not concern ourselves with the “prompt” radiation from the nuclear fireball itself, nor from the thermal pulse which may set fires, nor the possible EMP effects, nor the blast wave which will damage or destroy structures.  This piece is limited to the dangers of local fallout and the reduction of those dangers.

Perhaps the best guide we have to what we might expect is from reference.  In 1953 there was a series of above ground nuclear tests at Yucca Flat in Nevada.  This series was given the name of Upshot-Knothole.  A total of twelve detonations were made over a ninety-day period.  The nuclear bombs were placed atop a 300 foot tall steel tower.  This short tower allowed the resulting fireball to suck up a lot of soil and rock, adding to the intensity of the fallout.  Each detonation was given a name:  “Nancy” yielded an explosion equivalent to 21 kilotons of TNT.   “Dirty Harry” was 32 kilotons;  “Simon” was 43 kilotons.  The sum of all the yields of the twelve tests was 253 kilotons of TNT equivalent.   On some of these detonations the wind unexpectedly shifted, giving St. George Utah moderate fallout.  This test series caused the deaths of about 4,000 sheep that had grazed in areas west of St. George and ingested lethal doses of fallout.  The main forage of the sheep was sagebrush.  It was later found that the sagebrush leaves retained more fallout than the leaves of any other plant.  The descriptions of the effects on the sheep are quite dramatic and grisly.   Cows and horses suffered beta burns but few died.   Several sheepherders became quite ill.  Many residents in the area lost all their hair.  The subsequent incidence of childhood leukemia almost tripled, as did the deaths of adults from cancer.  Dr. Knapp estimated that from the “Dirty Harry” shot alone that infants in the St. George area received as much as 440 rads to their thyroid glands from the accumulation of radioactive iodine, first by cows from forage into milk, then from milk into the thyroid glands of the babies.   A later analysis estimated that from the entire series of the Upshot-Knothole tests that children up to five years old received a total dose of about 1,200 rads to their thyroid glands

The Atomic Energy Commission(AEC) repeatedly assured the inhabitants that the amount of radioactivity in the fallout was harmless and did everything possible to hide the fact that the sheep died from radiation poisoning.   In 1954 the movie “The Conqueror” was filmed about 15 miles west of St. George.  The Atomic Energy Commission assured the director and actors that there was absolutely no danger from the residual fallout.   In subsequent years many of the film stars and staff died of cancer.  Some years ago there was a “Mythbusters” episode on Discovery TV on this.  The producers went to the places in Hollywood where many of the costumes used in the movie were kept and found no significant radioactivity and concluded that fallout from the 1953 series of tests played no part in the cancer deaths.  Well, this was some 55 years later.  Any fallout not removed when the clothes were washed would have nearly totally decayed.  Note that huge fans were used in the battle scenes to stir up dust storms and all the costumes would have been extremely dusty by the end of the film.  The costumes shown on the “Mythbusters” show had all been obviously laundered.                                                                                        

The “Simon” detonation in April of 1953 caused a “hot spot” of fallout in Troy in New York State.  As the radioactive cloud from “Simon” passed over Pennsylvania, the Hudson Valley, Vermont, and Massachusetts’s heavy rainstorms caused much of the radioactivity in smaller particles to reach the ground.  It so happened that Renssellaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY, measured the amount of fallout hitting the ground.   No doubt there were other “hot spots” along the way, but no data are available as few monitoring devices were in use at the time.  Dr. Harold Knapp testified that infants in Troy could have received a total dose of 30 rads due to drinking milk containing radioiodine.  An updated version of a report from “Project Gabriel” estimated that if the radioactive cloud from a 13 kiloton blast ran into an intense snowstorm or rainstorm enough radioactivity would be dumped to kill most of the inhabitants in an area as large as 100 square miles. 

The idealized, simplified, fallout patterns discussed below and shown in many books are about nearly worthless.  For one thing, winds at different altitudes blow at different directions most of the time.  This fact tends to spread out the fallout deposition.  The central problem is that local, severe, hot spots can occur literally thousands of miles from the detonation event.    One cannot assume safety if the nuke event is far away.  This is why instruments to measure radioactivity are absolutely necessary.  In the former Soviet Union when the Chernobyl accident occurred it was illegal for an ordinary citizen to possess any type of radiation meter.  Many reports have come from Japan after the Fukushima disaster that police confiscated the radiation meters from ordinary citizens who were doing their own measurements.   I, for one, do not trust governments to tell us the truth about dangers from a terror nuke event.  I cannot count the times I’ve seen folks on television say it would be easy and simple to clean up radioactivity after a dirty bomb attack.  A “dirty bomb” is the descriptive term for a conventional high explosive mixed with radioactivity.  Any chemist who has actually spilled a bit of radioisotope on a laboratory bench top will tell you that removing the radioisotope is far from an easy, trivial, task.  Been there, done that.

If you believe that a terror nuke explosion of a fission weapon with a yield equivalent to more than a few kilotons of TNT equivalent is probable, then the book “The Day We Bombed Utah” is surely the best guide out there to risks from radioactive fallout.  I cannot recommend this book too highly.

Types of radiation from nuclear fallout.

First it may be helpful to note two integers associated with the isotope of any element.  The first is the “atomic number” that gives the number of protons in the nucleus.  The second is the “mass number” that gives the numbers of both protons and neutrons in the isotope.  The atomic number is unique to each element.  However any element can have a number of isotopes with differing mass numbers.  Some of these isotopes will be stable.  The radioisotopes have unstable nuclei and will decay (perhaps in a series of steps) to an element with a stable nucleus.  Hydrogen has an atomic number of one.  This means there is one proton in the nucleus.  The most abundant isotope of hydrogen has a mass number of 1, leading to the conclusion that for this isotope has no neutrons in its nucleus.  This isotope has the symbol H1.    A somewhat rare isotope has one neutron in the nucleus and is stable.  Its common name is deuterium.  Often the symbol D is used to represent deuterium.  Heavy water is D2O.  The radioisotope of hydrogen with two neutrons in the nucleus is often called tritium, and symbolized by the letter T.  This is an unstable nucleus.  It is a weak beta emitter with half-life of 12.1 years.  More on decay modes and half lives below

The U235 (the isotope of the element uranium with a mass number of 235) nucleus when hit by a neutron will split into two atoms and several neutrons.  There are at least forty different ways in which this fission occurs, leading to more than eighty possible daughter products (Gl).  The majority of the fission events give rise to two new elements of similar mass.  Generally these new elements are unstable, with a neutron to proton ratio that is too large for the mass of the nucleus.  These will decay over time to a stable nucleus that poses no radiation danger.  It is sometimes the case that several separate decay events must occur before stability is reached.

  • Alpha particles.  These are essentially helium nuclei, two protons and two neutrons.  These have little penetrating power.  For example an alpha particle from plutonium has a fairly high energy and an average penetration in air of about 1.5 inches (1).   Once the energy has dissipated through collisions this particle will capture two electrons and become a harmless helium atom.  The penetration into skin is about 1000 times less than for air.   The energy possessed by alpha particles will cause the formation of ionized molecules and atoms, splitting chemical bonds.  If ingested or inhaled alpha emitters pose a very real health risk.
  • Beta particles.  These are just very fast moving electrons ejected from the nucleus.  These result from the conversion of a neutron into a proton in the nucleus of the radioisotope.  These fast electrons will be absorbed in about ten feet of air (1).  Direct contact of beta particles with unprotected skin causes burns that may be quite severe.  Reasonably heavy clothing will absorb most beta particles before they reach skin (1).  Beta emitters that are ingested or inhaled also pose a very real health risk. Beta burns on the skin could pose a very real problem if the person’s immune system is damaged due to gamma radiation.
  • Positron emission.  A positron has the same properties as an electron, but carries a positive (not negative) charge.   This particle is emitted when a proton in a nucleus becomes a neutron.   Otherwise quite similar to a beta particle.
  • Gamma rays.  A photon with very short wavelength, shorter than X-ray photons.  This can be the result of electron capture, wherein a proton captures an electron to become a neutron.  Note that the energy content of a photon is inversely proportional to its wavelength (Planck’s Law). This is why gamma photons break chemical bonds and infrared photons only change the vibrational states of molecules. Calculation of the attenuation of gamma photons is much more complex.   One reason is the wide variation in energy of gamma photons.   The high penetrating ability of gamma photons means that a substantial mass must be interposed between the source(s) and humans.  More on this later.  And any gamma emitter ingested or inhaled also poses a serious health risk.

I must note here that none of the aforementioned particles can cause the production of a radioisotope in any material impacted by them.   Neutrons absorbed by nuclei often result in an unstable isotope.  This is why ground bursts produce much hotter fallout than air bursts.  In a ground burst tons of surface material are sucked up into the fireball and bombarded with neutrons from the fission processes in the fireball, causing the production of radioisotopes which are rarely produced in fission events alone.  Which radioisotopes, you may ask.  Well, that totally depends on the elements that are most abundant in the surface material and is quite complex and will not be further explored here.  Na24 (the isotope of sodium with a mass number of 24) is the greatest problem as a rule.

Note that only an extremely tiny fraction of the fallout will emit neutrons, a fraction so small as to be insignificant.  That said, if fallout comes into direct contact with material the material may well absorb some fraction of the radioactivity.  To put this in perspective, imagine that fallout has somehow landed on canned food in a grocery store.  The outside of the can may be radioactive, but the contents inside will not be (unless the metal in the can has a hole in it).

Estimating the size and distance of the event.

If you can keep your wits about you, begin counting off the seconds between the start and end of the bright flash (this accompanies the thermal pulse) and you will have an approximate yield.  These data come from the circular slide rule in some early editions of (?).  This will be easier done with a digital watch with a stopwatch function.   As a general rule, the greater the distance from the event, the less fallout.  Please note the modifier “general.”    Some idea of both yield and distance will help you decide whether or not to shelter in place or evacuate.

Estimated yield from                Estimated range from
Illumination time:                     flash to bang time
                                                                       miles to
Seconds:    Yield:                  min: seconds          ground 0:
 < 1              1-2 kt                       :05                1.1
    1              2.5 kt                       :10                 2.2
    2              10 kt                        :15                 3.5
    3              22 kt                        :20                 4.5
    4              40 kt                        :25                 5.5
    5              60 kt                        :30                 6.7
    6              90 kt                        :45                 9.9
    7            125 kt                       1:00                13.7
    8            160 kt                       1:15                16.8
    9            200 kt                       1:30                19.9
  10            250 kt                       1:45                23.0
  12            325 kt                       2:00                26.7
  14            475kt                        2:15                29.8 
  16            700kt                        2:30                32.9
  20            1 mt                         3:00                39.8
  24          1.5 mt                         4:00                52.8
  27            2 mt                         5:00                65.9
  40           5 mt                        10:00                130
  50          10 mt                       15:00                200
  70          20 mt                       30:00                400


Biological effects of gamma photon exposure.

The measurement of radiation can be very confusing, with a multitude of units used.  For biological purposes the unit of interest is the RAD (radiation absorbed dose) which is a measure of the degree of damage to the body through processes that split chemical bonds.  Since water is the major compound in our bodies, much of the damage from gamma photons comes from the splitting of water into two “free radicals.”   A “free radical” is an atom or molecule with an unpaired electron.  When water is split generally an OH free radical and an H free radical are produced.  Free radicals are extremely reactive, and if they are in the neighborhood of one’s genes, breaks in the DNA will occur.  We have enzymes that can repair certain radiation damage to our DNA, like excision and repair of thymine dimers.  Thymine is on of the four “bases” in our DNA’s genetic code.  If there are two thymines adjacent to each other in the same strand these can become chemically crosslinked by a passing gamma photon.  A gene with such a crosslink cannot be transcribed into messenger RNA (with subsequent synthesis of the protein coded for by that gene) nor duplicated (leading to cell division) until the defect is repaired.  The same is true for a single strand break.  If the DNA in the cell does not have double strand breaks it is likely to be repaired and the cell can then function and divide.  If double strand breaks are in the cell the cell cannot divide.  Ever. 

Now we connect failure of cells to be able to divide with the overt symptoms of radiation exposure.  It is critically important that stem cells in bone marrow and the circulating B cells that make antibodies to be able to divide so the immune system can mount an effective response to an infection.  The other issue is that if the bone marrow cells are heavily damaged the production of platelets will be reduced.  If this reduction is too great, one’s blood will fail to clot properly and spontaneous bleeding will become a serious issue.

Nausea is produced by the failure of cell division of the epithelial cells in our alimentary canal.  Severe diarrhea and vomiting can rapidly cause fatal dehydration.   Doses above 300 rems will cause hair to fall out due to (again) failure of hair follicle cells to properly divide.

Now we consider the effects of 200 rem (or rad) total dose. The lymphocyte (immune cells) count is reduced to about 25% of normal with the minimum count at about 30 days (EWS).  By 50 days the bone marrow has recovered enough so that the count is near 90% of normal.  Platelet counts are minimal at about 30 days also, dropping to about 50% of normal and recovering to about 85% of normal after 50 days (EWS).  Red blood cell counts drop off more slowly and recover more slowly and will likely reach a minimum of about 30% of normal at 50 days (EWS).  At this dose fatality is not likely.  At least half of those receiving this dose will feel quite sick with vomiting and feeling very lethargic (4). For this dose level symptoms will become apparent within 2 to 3 hours (Gl).

As the total absorbed dose becomes higher, the incidence of death from bleeding and infection goes up so that at 450 rem  mortality is about 50% in 2 to 12 weeks. (4).  The symptoms will appear within about an hour.  Incident of vomiting is 100%.  Clearly having a supply of antibiotics is likely to be life saving for doses higher than about 300 rem.  

A few relevant comments here…  very few novels or movies about fallout deal with actually measuring the dose.  Two exceptions are the book “Pulling Through” by Dean Ing (later included in The Rackham Files) in which a Kearny Fallout Meter (KFM) is used to great advantage and the movie “The Day After” which shows putting a remote Geiger tube on top of a building. Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank skirts the importance of knowing the dose rate and has the mistake of saying that gold jewelry will become radioactive on exposure to fallout.  In the PBS movie “Testament” no one in the affected town has any means to measure radiation doses and no idea as to how to minimize exposure.  In the Ray Milland movie “Panic in the Year Zero” the father is smart enough to get his family into a cave.  However, they have no way of knowing when it might be safe to exit the cave and to go outside.  And no way of knowing how long they can stay outside without serious radiation exposure.

As the Dean Ing book clearly shows being able to monitor the dose rate is likely to make the difference between life and death.   Simply being able to ascertain the part of your basement getting the least gamma photons could well be a lifesaver.  Note that if one is able to shelter one’s leg bones so that the radiation dose they receive is minimal one will have protected a sizable fraction of one’s stem cells from damage and preserve to some extent a competent and working immune system

So here is the problem… how to reduce one’s total rem dose to less than 100 and avoid significant damage to our bone marrow and gut epithelial cells.


Part Two

Units of radiation amounts and rates.

For most folks the prefixes to scientific units present a confounding challenge.  It is hoped this table will help in that regard.  We use as an example the unit of mass.

1 megagram (Mgm)                  = 1,000,000 grams
1 kilogram (kgm)                      = 1000 grams
1000 milligrams (mgm)              = 1 gram
1,000,000 micrograms (mgm)     = 1 gram
1,000,000,000 picograms (pgm) = 1 gram

There are, of course, other prefixes, but these are the ones used below.

First we need to distinguish between the amount of a radioisotope and the rate at which it produces radiation.  One measure of the amount of a radioisotope is the Curie.   One Curie has a decomposition rate of 3.7x1010 disintegrations per second.  This unit arose because it is the rate at which one gram of radium atoms will disintegrate.  One Bequerel (Bq) is one disintegration per second.  Contamination of liquids is often given in Bequerels or in picoCuries per liter of liquid.   One Bequerel is equal to 37 picoCuries.   Note that a picoCurie is 37 disintegrations per second.  A small amount for sure.

For civil defense purposes one Roentgen is equal to one rem and equal to one rad.  Since it is gamma photon damage that is the main problem this makes the math a bit simpler.  Rem stands for “Roentgen Equivalent in Man” and rad stands for “Radiation Absorbed Dose.”

Yet another unit has become commonplace, the Sievert  (Sv), another measure of dose equivalence and for gamma photons 1 Sievert = 100 Rems.

Radioisotopes decay according to the first order rate law.  The consequence of this is that for any given radioisotope the half-life is constant.  The first order rate law may be expressed as:

Ln(X) = ln(X0) – k*t.

Where ln is the natural logarithm function, X0 is the amount of radioisotope at time zero, X is the amount remaining after time t, and k is the first order rate constant.  Now the half-life is the time at which X =X0/2.   From this we can solve that t1/2 = ln(2)/k or = 0.693/k. 

A one megaton fission air burst will produce about  0.1 MegaCurie of Sr90 (the isotope of the element strontium with a mass number of 90) (Glasstone).  Thus Sr90 is one of the major radioactive fission products.   It has a half-life of 28.1 years and decays by beta emission.   At the end of each half-life the amount of the radioisotope (and the rate at which it produces radiation) drops by half.  If one began with 1 Curie of Sr90 after 28.1 years 0.5 Curies would remain.  After 56.2 years 0.25 Curies would remain.  After 84.3 years 0.25 Curies would remain.  After 112.4 years 0.125 Curies would remain.  It is the radioisotopes with the longest half-life that pose the greatest long-term threat.

In some cases it is the product of the first decay that is the problem.  For example Cs137 (the isotope of the element Cesium with a mass number of 137) is another major fission product.  It undergoes beta decay with a half-life of 30.2 years.  The decay product is Ba137 (the isotope of the element barium with a mass number of 137).   This nucleus then undergoes gamma decay with a half-life of 2.55 minutes with the gamma photon having an energy of 0.6616 MeV (mega electron volts).  While the initial beta decay particle cannot travel far in one’s body, the subsequent gamma decay produces a very energetic photon.   After this gamma photon emission a stable nucleus results that does not undergo further decay. 


Local and delayed fallout… the importance of the size of the fallout particles and the type of weapon.

Ground bursts would be used against missile silos and certain hardened targets.  Air bursts would be used against cities and airfields.  The nature of the attack would have a substantial effect on the amounts of deadly fallout.  A terror nuke attack might take either form.

“Local” fallout comes from the larger particles that settle to the ground in the first few days.   As fallout particles get smaller their rate of descent to the surface decreases. If much of the fallout is injected into the stratosphere these small particles will partially decay well before reaching the ground.  This is termed delayed fallout and will be spread widely over a range of latitudes.  Of course the radioisotopes with long half-lives will eventually reach the ground.  The distribution of this will be over a very wide area.  Very small particles that are injected high into the stratosphere will remain there for a quite long time as the air is far less dense and Brownian motion will greatly slow the rate of descent.

 However, local weather conditions can produce very hot spots in certain areas.  If one is evacuating an area after a nuke event being able to monitor the radiation rate could be life saving in avoiding “hot spots.”

The overall decay rate of fallout over time.

The mix of radioisotopes produced in a fission event and their differing half-life results in a rate of decay that follows the 7-10 rule (Glasstone).  This rule states that for every seven fold increase in time the radiation rate will drop by ten fold.  Suppose that one hour after the fission event the radiation rate from fallout on your roof is 100 rem per hour.  After seven hours the rate would be 10 rem per hour.  After 49 hours the rate would be 1 rem per hour.  After 343 hours (2 weeks) the rate would be 0.1 rem per hour.  After 2401 hours (100 days) the rate would be 0.01 rem per hour.  This rule holds for about the first six months of decay.  After this time (due to the mix of radioisotopes and daughter products that are also radioisotopes with widely varying half-lives) the radiation rate decreases much faster.  After one year the actual amount of remaining radioactivity is only 40% of that predicted by the 7-10 rule (Glasstone).  After five years the remaining is only about 7% of that predicted by the 7-10 rule.  After 25 years the remaining radioactivity is only 0.02% of that predicted by the 7-10 rule.

Now this rule is true for the fallout from only one fission event.  Suppose there are two such events in your vicinity separated by, e.g., three days.  Then the 7-10 rule must be applied to both events.

It would be very useful to have a supply of 4 cycle log log graph paper. If one is handy with Excel one may generate this paper.  For a single fission event the plot of ln(radiation rate) vs. ln(time) will be about linear for the first six months.  If your plot shows an upward break in the linearity then you are receiving fallout from at least two separate events.

The bottom line is that it will be critical to reduce your exposure to radiation from fallout very especially for the first several days.  Cresson Kearny’s book is extremely valuable for several reasons.  First is the complete set of directions and templates for a home made dosimeter that is really quite accurate (the Kearny Fallout Meter or KFM).  This book has instructions for pre event preparations (the most important of which is to make several KFMs). 

Reducing the exposure to gamma photons from fallout.    We cannot control time, but it is our ally in reducing radiation exposure.  Distance from the radiation source is also important.  Consider a spot source of gamma photon production.  If the dose rate 1 foot from the source is 100 rem per hour at two feet the rate would be ¼ of that, or 25 rem per hour.  At 3 feet the dose would be 1/9 of that, or 11 rem per hour.  This is the radial square law.  However. the most important factor is shielding.  Gamma photons are absorbed by electrons.  The greater the density of the shielding the more dense the electrons.  This means it is the mass between you and the fallout that matters.  The relevant equation is (and is very similar to the first order rate law for radioactive decay):

Ln(I) = ln(I0)  -  m.x 

where I is the radiation rate experienced at thickness x of shielding, I0 is the rate outside the shielding and m is termed the ‘linear absorption coefficient.” (Glasstone).  If the thickness is measured in units of feet the value of m would have units of feet-1.  For example, suppose we are behind 3 feet of shielding with a m = 1 foot-1.  Suppose the radiation rate outside the shielding is 100 rem/hr, then the rate behind the shielding would be 4.98 rem/hr.  Now suppose we are behind 6 feet of shielding.   The rate behind the shielding turns out to be 0.2 rem/hr.

The “protection factor” of shielding represents the reduction in radiation.  For example the 3 feet of shielding would have a protection value of 20 and 6 feet of shielding a protection factor of 500.

One consequence of the above equation is that one may define a quantity not unlike the half-life of a radioisotope: the amount of radiation is reduced by one half for every additional “halving thickness.”  From Glasstone we can compute the halving thickness for gamma photons of differing energies:


MeV energy           air     concrete       iron            lead
   1.0                  285’      0.10 feet     0.049 feet   0.029 feet
   5.0                  660’      0.32 feet     0.092 feet   0.046 feet
 10.0                  880’      0.38 feet     0.10 feet     0.038 feet.

So if all our gamma photons had 5.0 MeV energy and the rate outside the shielding was 100 rem/hour the rate behind 0.049 feet of iron would be 50 rem/hour, the rate behind 0.098 feet of iron would be 25 rem/hr, the rate behind 1.47 feet of iron would be 12.5 rem/hr, the rate behind 0.196 feet of iron would be 6.25 rem/hr, and so on.

These data are for ordinary concrete with a density of 2.3 g/cm.  Iron has a density (at 20C) of 7.784 (CRC) and lead a density of 11.35 g/cm.  If one wanted to construct a fallout shelter the overhead concrete should contain not pea gravel, but pieces of iron or lead.

For the mix of gamma photons produced from a fission event the halving thickness of packed earth is 0.30 feet (CK).   If one had, e.g., 0.6 foot of packed earth between you and the fallout the protection you would have two halving thicknesses, and the radiation rate would be reduced by1/4 (protection factor of 4), for 0.9 feet the rate would be 1/8 that of outside (protection factor of 8), for 1.2 feet the rate would be 1/16 of outside (protection factor of 16) and so on.  A thickness of 1.5 feet of packed dirt would provide a protection factor of 32.   It is not impossible that a shielding thickness providing a protection factor of a 1000 would be needed to survive. 

Glasstone provides idealized, simplified, fallout patterns.  Suppose the event is a surface burst of a 1 Megaton fission weapon and that at all altitudes the wind is directly toward you from ground zero at 15 mph. 

                                   Radiation         Total dose
Miles downwind       rate at               in the first
From ground zero    18 hours           18 hours:

  •                         70 R/hr              3,000 R
  •                        20 R/hr              1,000 R

65                          9 R/hr                300 R
120                        3 R/hr                  50 R

If you are unlucky enough to be closer than 50 miles from ground zero for this event without an excellent shelter you would soon be dead (if winds at all altitudes are from the direction of the event).  For reasons discussed above, do not rely on these estimates, they can easily be much higher or lower.

Houses themselves provide a minimum protection factor (Gl).  Consider a house with a first floor area of 2,000 square feet.  A one story brick veneer house would provide a protection factor of 3.0 for the center of the first floor, and 14 in the center of the basement.  It is assumed that the floor of the first floor is level with the ground all around the house and the basement has no windows nor doors to the outside.   A two-story brick veneer with a first floor area of 2000 square feet would provide a protection factor of 4.1 in the center of the first floor and 34 at the center of the basement.  The protection factors for a two-story 2000 square feet first floor house without a brick veneer would be less, 2.4 in the center of the first floor and 29 in the center of the basement.

Part Three

So… let us suppose that a fission event has taken place and you live in a two story house with a basement that has some small windows on one side, and is only half covered with dirt on that side, being all the way covered up to the first floor on the other three sides.  Exactly where in this basement has the highest protection factor?  The only way to discover the best spot to sit in would be if one had a device to measure the radiation rate.

There are many other reasons why a radiation measuring device is necessary.  In references (RDH) and (BC) are nomograms showing  how to estimate the radiation rate at future times from current rate data.  And a nomogram for giving the maximum time one could be outside at future times only if one knows the radiation rate outside.  As Cresson Kearny points out a device to measure radiation rate is absolutely essential.

Now we move on to a comparative analysis of instruments to measure the radiation rate.

Again we must distinguish between an instrument that measures the rate at which radiation is being experienced (a rate meter) and a dosimeter, which measures the total amount of radiation that the dosimeter has received since the dosimeter was reset or zeroed.  The Kearny Fallout Meter is a dosimeter that may be constructed at home with ordinary materials in a few hours.  If kept dry it is a remarkably accurate dosimeter with a range of zero to at least 43 Roentgens/hr.   By timing the separation between the two leaves of ordinary aluminum foil with a watch one can compute the Roentgens per hour.

For example, if the separation between the bottom of the two leaves of aluminum foil decreases by 14 mm over a time period of 15 seconds the radiation rate is about 43 Roentgens per hour.  If the separation decreases by 2 mm over the time span of 16 minutes the rate is only 0.1 Roentgens per hour.

A table of times, separation distance decreases, and the R/hr is cut out from the instructions and pasted onto the KFM.  This instrument requires no calibration of any kind.  After making this instrument charge up the aluminum leaves as directed and make sure the leaves stay separated over time when only background radiation exists.    The usual background radiation rate is about 20 counts per minute at sea level (unless you have radon gas in your home).

A kit for making the KFM is available from some suppliers listed at www.ki4u.com.  A comment I have about this kit is that the metal can is far too flimsy.  A can from a small can of beans is much more suitable. 

Other choices for dosimeters include:

1. The RADSticker: a chemical dosimeter whose change in color reflects the absorbed dose. These are available from suppliers listed at www.ki4u.com.  At the time of this writing (May 2013) the cost was $25 for five of these. These suffer from the fact that they are single use dosimeters and cannot be reset (rezerod). In addition their shelf life at room temperature in the dark is only about two years.  If kept in a freezer the service life is about ten years.  There are color patches to indicate a total exposure to gamma photons and beta particles with energies above 1 MeV.  The patches indicate if the sticker has received 25, 50,100, 200,400, and 1000 rad exposure.

2.  Quartz fiber dosimeters.  There are several sources.  New or used civil defense dosimeters and chargers are often available from military surplus outfits.  Typically these dosimeters have a 0 to 200 Roentgen scale. The surplus CD dosimeter chargers require one D cell battery.  I do not know if the lower voltage (1.2V) rechargeable NiCad or NiMH will work in these chargers.   The American Civil Defense Association (www.tacda.org) has rugged 0 to 200 milli Roentgen (mR) dosimeters.  These are likely to be more useful than the CD surplus 0 to 200 R dosimeters.   www.seintl.com sells a piezo electric dosimeter charger that needs no batteries.  Check with the vendor for current pricing. It is critical to ascertain that one’s dosimeters are not electrically “leaky” by charging them to read zero and going back after a week to see if the dosimeter still reads zero.  If the dosimeter fails this test I discard it.   One reads a quartz fiber dosimeter by holding one end toward a light, and looking through the other end at a scale on which a vertical line is seen.  This is the quartz fiber.  The accumulated dose is given by the position of this fiber on the scale.  www.seintl.com also sells quartz fiber dosimeters with a total range of accumulated dose of 200 mR, 500mR, 2R, 5R, 20R, 2 mSv, 5 mSv ranges.  These are alleged to have an accuracy of better than 10% of the dose from either Cs137 or Co60 (the isotope of the element cobalt with a mass number of 60).   The temperature range is –20 C to 50 C.  An option for these is a protective sapphire lens, much more scratch resistant than glass lenses.   Over time the lens tends to get scratched up with use.  If one is using a dosimeter to record total received dose when one is outside it is important to keep the dosimeter in a plastic bag and clip it onto your belt to record the average dose received by your body.  Since most of the radiation will arise from fallout on the ground, your feet will encounter a higher dose of gamma photos than your head.  The plastic bag keeps fallout from contaminating the dosimeter.  This same idea is useful for any radiation measuring device taken outside after an event.   Note that conventional “electroscope” dosimeters do not suffer from the “saturation effect” that conventional Geiger-Muller tubes do as explained below.


Rate Meters

A very important problem with Geiger Muller tubes is that at higher radiation rates they become saturated so that the meter reading can be seriously in error on the low side.  Cresson Kearny cites the example of a dose rate meter sold in 1982 that when exposed to a dose of 150 R/hr it gave a reading of 13.9 R/hr.  Dr. Bruce Clayton tested another of these same meters at a dose of 400R/hr and the reading was only 16 R/hr.

Some beta emitters, e.g. tritium, produce such an extremely weak beta particle and are not generally detectable by any rate meter.  Even with a liquid scintillation counter the efficiency is only about 30%.

One may often see for sale the yellow surplus CD rate meters from military surplus sources.  These in general have NOT been calibrated and are likely to have very serious error even if the “check” function reads ok. The surplus CD meters were specifically designed to work properly up to 500 R/hr and in general only measure gamma photons.  The vendors listed at www.ki4u.com sell CD meters that have been properly calibrated by the ki4u lab.  I’ve not been able to discover the frequency with which these CD meters need to be recalibrated. 

The www.seintl.com online store sells several types of rate meters.  Their M4 radiation rate meter is said to be accurate up to 50 mR/hr with an accuracy of +-15% for gamma photons from Cs137.  It detects gamma photos down to 10 keV through the window and down to 40 keV through the case (plastic) of the meter.   Detection efficiency for 50 keV beta radiation is about 35%.  Detection efficiency for 150 keV beta radiation is about 75%.   Detects gamma photons down to 10 keV through the mica window of the small Geiger tube. The analog meter has a useful logarithmic scale that provides easier reading at the low end of the ranges of 0 to 0.5 mR/hr, 0-5 mR/hr, and 0-50 mR/hr.  A 9 V battery is used and there is a battery check function.  With continuous use an alkaline battery will last about 2000 hours and there is a battery check function.  There is an audible click for each particle detected.  This may be turned off for silent use.  There is a headphone jack for earphones for the audible clicks.  The manual for this meter is quite comprehensive and useful.  This rate meter is available as a kit.  I’ve assembled two of these kits and both worked the first time.  These are NOT kits for beginners.  The circuit board traces are small and the soldering tricky.  It is easy to have a cold solder joint or a solder bridge between traces.

In the March, 2013, issue of “Nuts and Volts” magazine is an article describing a homemade radiation meter.   As of this writing a complete kit is available to construct this device from www.nutsvolts.com.  This device features a voltage output that can be continuously logged onto a PC with software which uses a $29 Dataq voltage data logger that connects to the PCs USB port.   The device contains a built in timer capable of counting seconds, minutes, hours, or days and a LCD display.  One may select the time interval for recording radiation by means of a momentary switch.  An audible alarm is given if the radiation rate exceeds 30 uR/hr.  An alkaline 9 V battery will last about two days with continuous use.  The unit is mounted in a small plastic Serpac case, which has a built in holder for the 9 V battery.  This is not a kit for the beginner.  I had trouble identifying which transistor was which.  The circuit board has tiny traces.  Two capacitors were missing. 

A very interesting and useful rate meter is the RADAlert, small enough to fit on one’s key ring.  Available from some vendors listed at the www.ki4u.com site.  We keep one of these in the glove compartments of our vehicles.   This detector does not use a Geiger-Muller tube.  Rather there is a compound inside that produces a small flash of light when struck by a gamma photon.  This flash of light strikes a cadmium sulfide photocell, which produces a small voltage spike that is processed in a way that the number of chirps emitted by the RADAlert reflects the amount of radiation.  This detector arrangement is not easily saturated.  At 50 (and above) R/hr 10 chirps will be heard every thirty seconds.  The number of chirps decreases with decreasing radiation rate measured so that if the radiation is 0.1 R/hr only one chirp is heard every thirty seconds.  The internal battery is said to be good for about 10 years.  One may test the device by chilling and then returning to room temperature.  This process produces chirping until the innards of the device all reach ambient temperature.  Note that the upper reading this device will properly measure is 1/10 that of the CD meters and 1000 times that of the M4 meter discussed above.  The RADAlert does not respond to alpha or beta particles, but I do not consider this limitation of any real importance.  The great thing is that this device is constantly on.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of available rate meters. For example, www.readymaderesources.com has a number of rate meters for sale.

 Blocking uptake of radioactive elements:

The concept here is competition.  The body cannot distinguish between a stable isotope of, e.g., iodine and a radioisotope of iodine as they are chemically identical.  If we ingest 1 picogram of radioactive iodine along with 1 microgram of stable iodine we would expect that 1,000 times less radioiodine would be taken up by the thyroid gland than stable iodine, and the subsequent radiation damage would be reduced by a factor of a thousand as opposed to the situation in which only 1 picogram of radioactive iodine were ingested.   The blocking competition below is for ingested radioactivity with the exception of iodine, which exists as a gas, and if inhaled will make its way to the thyroid gland.   The other radioisotopes listed will be inhaled as small particles and for the most part will remain stuck in the lungs.

  • Radioiodine is perhaps one of the greatest threats.  The principal  radioisotope produced is I131 (the radioisotope of iodine with mass number 131) whose half-life is 8.07 days (6).  This is a beta and gamma photon emitter with 90% of the beta particles emitted having an energy of 0.606 MeV.  Iodine is rather rare and is actively concentrated by the body into the thyroid gland, as it is essential for the synthesis of thyroxin.  The other problem with iodine is that it exists as a gas under ordinary conditions. Please note that this radioisotope becomes concentrated in cow’s milk when the cows’ pasture has been contaminated with this radioisotope.  So there are two subsequent concentrating processes that make milk especially hazardous for children after a nuke event.  I’ve read that 40% of children in the Fukushima area have thyroid abnormalities.  Two bad outcomes are possible.  The thyroid gland may literally die or it may develop a malignancy.  The Chernobyl disaster also resulted in a huge number of children with damaged thyroid glands.  For this reason one essential prep to have is a large supply of nitrogen packed nonfat dry milk.  One may protect one’s thyroid gland by taking potassium iodide or potassium periodate pills.  Experiments in the UK have shown that the bioavailability of the iodine is essentially identical for the two compounds.  It is recommended that folks buy and store sufficient tablets for a dosing lasting several months.  For an adult about 100 milligrams of potassium iodide per day is about correct.  Some people develop allergic reactions to iodine and this must be considered in the dosing regimen.
  • Bone seeking elements.  Strontium, barium, and radium are chemically similar to calcium and become concentrated in bone tissue.  And where are stem cells located that turn into red blood cells, immune system cells, and platelets are located?  In long bones.  A serious problem here.  A supply of calcium citrate tablets would be an excellent idea. (4)
  • Plutonium.  This is an extremely dangerous radioisotope if ingested or inhaled.  Uptake from ingested material can be blocked to a limited extent by iron supplements, as these two elements have similar chemical behavior.
  • Cesium.  Cs137 is  chemically resembles potassium and foods rich in potassium will help block absorption.  The good news is that Cs will be slowly excreted and is not concentrated in any one tissue. (4).
  • Zinc.  Zn65 (the radioisotope of the element zinc with a mass number of 65) is a gamma photon emitter with a half-life of 243 days.  Seaweed and certain nuts are good sources of Zn and will help block uptake.  Zn is to some degree more long lived in the body than cesium because it is tightly bound to many enzymes.
  • Cobalt.  Co60 is a very minor product of fission reactions.  If, however, an enemy wanted to produce heavy fallout damage having the bomb casing made of cobalt would produce enormous amounts of Co60  which is a gamma photon emitter with a half-life of 5.26 years.   As far as I am aware cobalt is only needed as the central atom in vitamin B12.  It may be that increasing the amount of B12 in one’s supplements might reduce the uptake of Co60.


When it becomes safe to take short trips to the outside.

The nomograms referenced above will, along with the known radiation rate outside, allow you to decide how long you can be outside your shelter each day.  A dosimeter in a plastic bag worn on one’s belt when outside will serve the same purpose but it would be great to know in advance how long you could stay outside.  The critical thing here is NOT to bring fallout back into your shelter with you.  A “duster” type coat with a hood should be kept outside the shelter, but protected from falling fallout, rain, and snow, along with boots.   A covered porch would meet these requirements. On leaving the shelter put on the duster and boots.   One may buy tyvek thin hazmat suits.  If you wear one of these over the duster you will have even less contamination available to enter the shelter with you.

How not to contaminate the shelter when you return to your shelter.

Before returning to the shelter at the very least remove the duster and boots.   I further suggest keeping an entire set of clothes out on your covered porch and leaving the shelter buck-naked and return the same way.   Obtain a solar heated shower device and keep it handy on your covered porch and shower before entering the shelter naked.  And getting dressed in the shelter with clothes that have not been out of the shelter.  Immediately check your dosimeter and write down the accumulated dose you have received on this outing.  A radiation rate meter should be used once you are inside to check your naked body for residual contamination.  Safety before modesty.  Important places to check are the ends of fingernails, hair, and nasal entrances.  I suggest men stay clean shaven with hair cut as short as possible.   An N-95 facemask should protect you from inhaling fallout.  Remember that the extremely fine particles are (in the absence of a “hot spot” produced by local rain or snowfall) are going to be a very minor issue.

Frequently survey all around the inside of your shelter to insure you’ve not contaminated anything inside.  Pay particular attention to the floor.   Yet another very important reason to have a low-level rate meter in your shelter.

My Suggestions:

Visit www.ki4u.com and download their piece on what to do if you believe that nuke event(s) may soon happen.  Then read it.  Many most excellent suggestions.

Nuclear War Survival Skills by Cresson H. Kearney is a must have book for a great many reasons.  The first and foremost are the field-tested instructions and templates for a KFM.   Included are field-tested instructions for the construction of expedient fallout shelters.  Note that there will not be enough time after the event to construct a high protection factor shelter.  Kearny points out the extreme importance of adequate ventilation in an enclosed shelter and shows that the CD plans for shelters given out during the Cold War would result in the deaths of the occupants from inadequate ventilation.  Living humans emit an overall energy of about 100 watts and a substantial amount of water.  In an unventilated shelter the temperature and humidity levels will rise and become lethal.  His book provides plans and instructions for making a quite usable air pump for ventilation of a shelter interior. 

Build two KFMs and practice using them.  Obtain several dosimeters of various ranges and a dosimeter charger.   Check the dosimeters for leakage.  Consider getting two rate meters: one a calibrated surplus CD meter and a more sensitive rate meter for less than life threatening radiation levels.  All electronics of any kind need to be placed in an adequate Faraday Cage.  See reference (AB) for complete information on EMP and Faraday Cage protection. 

Get a two-month supply of KIO3 tablets for each of your family members.

[JWR Adds: The now dominant school of thought in medical circles is that Potassium Iodate (KIO3), Potassium Iodide (KI) or other thyroid blockers for radiological events are not recommended for anyone over 40.]

I expect most of the readers of this excellent blog already know the importance of having stored a lot of food and water.

Understand how to make an expedient shelter in your basement.  Reference (BC) shows sketches of how to arrange household articles around an area to provide some protection. 

Consider making a basement shelter with filled concrete blocks as shown in reference (BC).  Note that protection factors are multiplicative.  If a location in the center of an interior basement gives a protection factor of 35 then a stack of filled concrete blocks 8 inches wide would itself provide a protection level itself of four for 5 MeV gamma photons.  Inside the 8 inches of concrete around and above oneself the total protection factor would be 280.   Note that any entryway into the area of stacked concrete blocks must have a 90-degree turn so that gamma photons cannot enter the “safe” area of the shelter.   One would have to do careful engineering to design such a shelter whose 8 inches of concrete on the top would not collapse and crush the inhabitant.

If you are concerned about potential blast wave or fire damage the obvious choice is a dedicated underground shelter.   You might consider something along the lines of our shelter.  We are fortunate to be on a 35-degree slope, which made things easier.  We acquired a piece of a large abandoned diesel fuel tank some 64 inches inside diameter, six feet long, with one end cut off.  These may often found in farming areas for the price of the scrap metal.  First I cleaned off the old diesel from the inside and painted the inside white with an oil alkyd paint.  I painted the outside with a similar paint (which bonded well to a slightly rusty surface) and then coated the outside with roofing tar.  I excavated (with a shovel and pickaxe) a place on the slope to place this piece.  With three come-alongs I positioned it into the excavated site. 

The inside was braced vertically by PT 4x4 posts; cut tapered to just fit inside.  Horizontal bracing was with PT 2x4s.   This bracing was used to build shelves at the back end and sides of the enclosure.  A door opening inside (and the door) was framed with PT 4x4 posts for some blast resistance.  The bottom horizontal braces were used to provide a flat floor of deck boards.  A small shed was built over the entrance and camo tarp used to enclose the entrance to the shed.

The tank was situated so that its three openings were at the top.  Two of these were 2” in diameter and were fitted with PCV pipe for ventilation, ending in a 90-degree angle pointing down with a screen wire block for insects.  A third hole, about 1” diameter, was used to run in 12 VDC from a solar array nearby charging a bank of golf cart batteries.  In addition a short-wave antenna lead was passed though this hole and the hole sealed.  I’ve a Drake SW-2 digital radio in a Faraday Cage inside.  There is a 12 VDC lighting system, using vehicle bulbs, which can be turned on one light at a time if need be.  I keep a mechanical windup alarm clock, lots of 4 cycle log log graph paper, KIO3 tablets, first aid kits, HazMat booties, gas masks, dosimeters and charger, sleeping bag, spare clothes, water, food, and other goodies.  If the balloon goes up the radiation meters go into the cave with us.  A solar shower and a small port a potty reside in the covered entrance.

This doubles as a root cellar.  Our saved seeds are stored there in evacuated glass jars, in the cool and dark.  A 12 VDC fan in the door provides adequate ventilation when needed.  This project is not yet complete, as I need more shielding on the top of the tank.


  • The Effects of Nuclear Weapons, Samuel Glasstone and Philip J. Dolan, 670 pages, November 2006  (in print)  (Note: It may be possible to find one of the used early editions that contains a pocket in the back cover with an incredibly useful circular slide rule.)
  • The Day we Bombed Utah, John G. Fuller, New American Library Books, New York, 1984
  • Nuclear War Survival Skills by, 1987 revised and updated edition
  • Life After Doomsday,  Dr. Bruce Clayton, The Dial Press, New York, 1980
  • Emergency War Surgery (NATO Handbook:- Third United States Revision, 2004) by Dr. Martin Fackler, et al. U.S. Defense Department
  • Radiological Defense: Planning and Operations Guide, Department of Defense, Office of Civil Defense, SM-11.23.2 June 1966
  • CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics”, 56th edition, 1975 CRC Press
  • Disaster Preparedness for EMP Attacks and Solar Storms, Dr. Arthur Bradley, 2012 edition

Sunday, September 8, 2013

JWR: I had to ad my own two cents to the Preserving a Digital Library. As a seasoned IT pro myself (one of my early customers upgraded all the the Windows for Workgroups network I setup for him to Windows 95 himself and called me when he couldn't get it working) I have reliance on my systems, be it my cache of reference documents and ebooks to documents I've written myself to my gear and prep inventory spreadsheets.

I see no reason to choose Windows XP over Windows 7 or Windows 2000 or Windows 3.1 when it comes to back doors.  Every version I can remember since Windows 3.1 was rumored to have a back door.  That includes XP, 2000, etc.  A Windows preference you may wish to stick with XP just because it can run on older hardware.

With regard to activation, sure you can over the phone, but we are talking disaster planning. What happens when you have bugged out of the area you lived in due to a storm and arrive at a motel and your drive has crashed and you reinstall and then the phone lines are down when you try to activate.   I've seen a number of desktops, laptops and even servers just decide one day they were no longer activated and require a re activation or reinstall to fix.  I myself also have some laptops with OEM XP which will install and run for years without ever activating, so Windows 7 is not the only (Windows) OS that can do it.

On a related note Windows activation has been cracked multiple times over the years resulting in Microsoft changing and improving the code over time as well as blacklisting some licensed and OEM keys which were widely pirated.  This has resulted in a few combinations of install CDs that would not accept the license key on the computer I was attempting to reinstall.  Many of us IT folk who dealt with end user workstation installs ended up with multiple XP install CDs so we could use one with worked with a customers license.  By the way, a quick call to Microsoft World Wide Fulfillment with a valid license key would allow purchase of a replacement media for around $20, though its been quite a while since I last called.

I've chosen the Linux route.  For the average end user its no more difficult to install now a days than Windows.  I run the oldest distro (Slackware) which comes with a stock Kernel compiled to be very compatible.  I've taken the drive from a laptop and stuck it in an adapter and booted it in a desktop. Sure I might not have gotten all the extra hardware or X windows to work upon first boot but the Kernel was able to figure out the new hardware and load the right modules to get the system up and running.  Try that with XP without a BSOD.

I've seen activation issue over the years with software such as Microsoft Office as well.  I've seen compatibility issues even with Adobe PDFs. I have some scans that were created with an old version of Acrobat that the current versions of the reader have to repair them to open them. When I made the Linux switch I started converting everything to as open a format as I could.  This was I have no software that needs activation or even a license and my files are more portable to new software should the need arise.  One of the things I strongly suggest when you are refreshing your backup media is to test opening various files to ensure the software you have now can open the file you saved many years ago. Lastly there will never be an end to which is more secure, closed (Microsoft, Apple) or open (Linux, BSD) source.  Close proponents argue that its harder to find exploits without access to the source while the open source world says more eyes can quality assure it and fix it faster.  The closed source software still has the highest number of exploits if you look at statistics though there are many other factors such as size of user base, ease of exploiting, availability of tools, etc.  I believe the open source side is a better match to self reliance. - Eugene X.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Many articles have been written on preserving food, weapons, ammo, and various other perishables. While there are also many articles regarding the preservation of digital information, rarely do I see one written with the thought that perhaps the infrastructure itself might no longer be intact. This article will address several key areas, including equipment, media, printing and reproduction, testing, and backups. While books and print materials are critical to maintain, electronics can be preserved and protected even against a Carrington Event or EMP weapon.

My approach here is Keep It Simple As Possible (KISAP). The more technologically savvy may argue their personal preferences on any number of items, but my intent is to provide a minimum level of attainability for the non-techie user. I make some recommendations for preparation that may involve outside parties. This is deliberate to make this task doable for as many people as possible.


Where to obtain hardware I need?

Surplus auctions. This includes schools, municipalities, public utilities, auction houses, etc. When evaluating equipment for this project (specifically computers) look for items marked 'obsolete, works, no Windows 7 support'. What you actually want is older working laptops, preferably identical models for spare parts. Often you can pick these up for very cheap or even free. I've seen entire pallets of 20 or more laptops with CD burners, travel bags, mice, and extra batteries sell for $50.

Ebay and auction companies for asset forfeiture and repossession from failed businesses are also good sources.

What do you need for hardware?


Look for two or more laptops, preferably identical models, which were designed for Windows XP. You don't want Apple systems for this project. One will be operational and loaded, one will be a spare. You can get by with two, one loaded and one spare, but given the cost of surplus laptops you should have a third or fourth. If you can pick up more than two, I suggest that you keep two loaded and ready to use and the remainder for spares.

Look for units that have a built in CD or DVD recorder, or purchase a standalone CD/DVD burner that plugs into a USB port. As always, if you buy a new one, have a spare, and have a spare for your spare.


You will need at least one USB connection style black and white laser printer. No ink-jet because ink goes stale and hardens, print heads go bad, and ink jet printers are quite wasteful. Laser printers have longer lifespan and the cost per sheet is much less. Black and white laser printers can be obtained for under $100. Buy this item new. Budget for or buy a second identical model. I would not suggest a multifunction copier/printer as they are more complex and have a lower (worse) mean time between failures (MTBF).

You will need extra toner cartridges for the printers. Given that most toners for home use laser printers will top out around 2,000 pages you should plan over time to store enough toner for a minimum of 10,000 pages. This sounds like a lot, but if you are looking at a grid down or TEOTWAWKI, this extra reference material may be invaluable for barter or survival.


Lots of paper. Medium weight paper takes more space but is much more durable than light weight. And since printer paper may be in low supply durability is a factor. Store as much as you can make room for. This is an instance where recycled content paper isn’t advisable. It tends to draw moisture more than virgin paper and moisture is going to be your enemy here.

Anti-static storage bags

Various sizes. Ziotek makes some good ones that are resealable. You need a variety of sizes including ones large enough to hold an entire laptop.

Conductive aluminum foil tape

A 45m roll of this runs about $20 USD, and will last for a long time. This tape is also useful for a variety of other things including entry detection (it tears easily), sealing Faraday type storage cages, and grounding sensitive electronics.


Recordable CD-ROMs. The 50 or 100 pack spindles at Costco are perfect. I want to point out that I did say CD, not DVD. While they are slightly less common, CDs suffer less from "bit rot", which I will elaborate on later. You will also need some paper CD sleeves.

Secure USB Thumb Drives

These are useful for holding securely encrypted data. While IronKey is the ‘gold standard’, I personally recommend (and use) DataShur devices. They are somewhat lower cost than an IronKey, but they have a significant advantage over the IronKey in that there is no software required to run on the computer or device to which you are connecting the DataShur. This means less compatibility issues. Purchase at least two. They run ~$120 US. These are where I store supply inventory spreadsheets, scanned copies of critical papers (Driver's License, Birth Certificate, Social Security Card, etc.).


• Windows XP
You will need at one copy of Windows XP for each laptop you want to have in a 'ready to go' state. Many surplus laptops may come with a Windows XP license sticker on them, in which case all you will need is a copy of a Windows XP installation CD. These are now a dime a dozen and are easily obtainable. If the laptop doesn't have a Windows XP License sticker (with the product key), you can either look for one that does, or purchase new copies of Windows XP that vendors are trying to unload since support is being discontinued in 2014.
• Adobe Reader (Free download from Adobe.com)
• PDF Creator (Free download, PDFForge.org)
• Darik’s Boot and Nuke (Free download from DBAN.org if you are a do-it-yourselfer and tech savvy)

Preservation issues
Storing Paper

Paper is very sensitive to relative humidity and moisture. If you are doing any kind of dried food storage you probably know how to handle this already, but if not you need desiccant packets, and airtight storage containers. Store in a relatively temperature consistent location. You can use the dry ice trick to exhaust the air from storage container just as you would with foods.

Storing Electronics

Remove the batteries from the laptops for storage. They won’t be any good over the long run, but you’ll want to keep them to insert back into the laptops when you fire them up and test them every six to nine months. Laptops tend to get cranky when they don’t have a battery inserted, even if the battery is no good. Store electronics in a relatively temperature consistent location. Swings in temperature will cause connectors and chips to work loose from sockets.

Store all items in anti-static bags along with desiccant packets. This especially includes the laptops, and all their power supplies. Don’t over pack the bags. Once packed, seal the bags, then double seal with the foil tape, making sure that the tape wraps at least 1/2 inch around each side to the front of the bag.

Store the bags in a full metal cabinet or a Faraday cage. Do not ground! An oversized ammo can (like a mortar flare can) is also good for this, but you need to make sure that there is metal on metal contact all the way around the interior of the lid and lip of the can. Sand the area around the gasket on the lid down to metal. Then sand the top edge of the inner lip that meets the gasket down to metal. Make sure you don’t have any burrs. Make a double sided layer of foil tape (stick the two sticky sides together) so that you can have a foil on foil seal over the gasket. This will provide the conductivity to provide full electromagnetic shielding. Please note this does make it vulnerable to rust. (It is a tradeoff.)

Storing the printer

This is a little more difficult. There are a couple ways to do this. Cut anti-static bags down and use foil tape on the seams (both sides). Place a layer of duct tape over the foil tape (both sides). Form a large enough bag to store the printer. Another way is to just store the printer in an airtight bag (heavy duty garbage bag with desiccant) and place it into an EM shielded cabinet.

How to put all this together

Unless you are technically savvy or somewhat of a geek, this is where I recommend you involve a third party. I would suggest a local (non-chain) computer tech or your favorite local geek. You’ll usually get better service, and generally they are not going to look too oddly at you when you bring in three or four laptops to have them security wiped. :)

Take the laptops in and tell them you picked them up surplus, and would like them security wiped with DBAN (Darik’s boot-n-nuke) because you want to start playing around with laptop hardware. This will probably cost you no more than $50 in a shop. If you know a local computer geek you can probably get it done for the cost of a six-pack of beer or their favorite caffeinated beverage!

I’d also suggest bartering out having your friendly geek load Windows XP and Adobe Reader on the laptop(s). This will cost more in a shop, but if you tell them they don’t need to be updated or patched as they will never be on a network, it’ll usually save them quite a bit of labor. As far as bartering, a lot of geeks are closet gun lovers and would love to shoot. A day at the range burning some powder can get you a lifelong computer geek friend at your disposal. And if you have gadgets (laser sights, range finders, chronographs) to show off….well that’s like nectar to a bee. :)


I cannot stress this enough: DO NOT, DO NOT, and DO NOT EVER connect these laptops to the Internet. They are never to be connected to ANY network. Software should only be loaded from CD/DVD or USB thumb drive. Putting them on a network (wifi/wireless, wired, or the Internet) will guarantee their compromise. If you can’t listen to this, I suggest you abandon this project entirely. I’m that serious.

Storing your data

Collect your library of data on any other PC. By installing PDF Creator on that PC, you can print any web site, article or other file (word document, excel spreadsheet) as a PDF file and save it on your PC. These PDF files can be viewed or printed on the laptops using Adobe Reader.

Create an index (this can be done as simply as putting it in notepad). You will want to keep a printed copy of this index updated and stored with your data library. The index should list the filename, disc it is stored on, and some important keywords (medical, first-aid, wind power, etc.)

Once you have started your library collection and want to archive your first set of data you will insert a blank CD into your main PC where your files are saved. Windows should open up a box asking you if you want to burn files to the CD. You will answer yes; you want to create a data CD. That will open up a window showing the files on your CD (initially blank). You can copy and paste the files or simply drag them from where you have them saved into the blank window. Depending on what version of Windows (XP, Vista, 7) or what CD burning program came with your computer this process may be slightly different, but there will be a button or selection that says to ‘burn to disc’ or ‘write files to disc’, or something along those lines. Once you have burned them to the disc you can verify the process worked by inserting the CD into one of the laptops and see if it has your files on it.

Long term storage of CD, DVD, and thumb drives

All of these media suffer from a process sometimes called bit rot. This has to do with the chemical (for the CD/DVD) or electro-chemical (for USB thumb drives) properties. In a nutshell, over time the data will lose its integrity. This is why the best practice is to burn three identical copies of the DVD or CD, taking them from three different spindles of blank discs. The statistical likelihood of bit-rot occurring in the exact same files on all three discs in very, very, low.

All CD/DVD and USB media should be redone every three years at most. For the most critical materials I usually recommend 24 months. So every 24 to 36 months, copy a set of the files from the CD/DVDs back to your main PC. Then update them and burn them to entirely new discs. Always, always, always verify each one of these discs before destroying the old copies.

This is also a good time to rebuild your index and consolidate discs as you will gradually accumulate new materials. Every time I rebuild my library I’ll have accumulated with anywhere between 30-45 discs (10-15 discs with two additional copies of each). When I’m done I usually have 3 or 4. I also use this time to delete old or obsolete materials.

Final Thoughts

It is possible to accumulate a good digital library along with a reasonable chance of it surviving EM events. If you aren’t worried about EM events, your storage and preservation process becomes much less cumbersome, with moisture and temperature your primary concerns.

The cornerstone of Information Assurance is CIA: Confidentiality, Integrity, Availability. To quote Gandalf on Confidentiality “Is it secret? Is it safe?” Don’t disclose the existence of your digital library. Multiple copies and spares help verify Integrity. Regular testing of the hardware and rebuilding the media ensure Availability.

Like most preparation, the startup is the most frustrating. Once you have your gear lined up, and your validation and assessment process worked out (how often to test, how often to refresh your library, etc.) it can operate as smoothly as your well cared for firearm.

This is also a good way to preserve and duplicate rare or hard to find items in your library. Purchasing a flatbed scanner (which can be picked up pretty cheap on eBay) will allow you to scan in other materials you own which may be out of print and hard to obtain multiple copies. Just remember that even though they may be out of print, they may still be copyrighted. So don’t give out those electronic copies in violation of the law.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

I have some of the larger military surplus ammo cans and would like to build my own Faraday cages to store my spare electronics [to protect them from EMP or a severe solar storm]. Do you have any sources to guide me?

OBTW, I just finished reading your novel "Patriots". That was a great read and I could not put it down. Regards,- J.L. (Former NYPD Officer)

JWR Replies: What you plan to do is is pretty simple, since the can and lid are already great Faraday shields. The only issue is the gap where they join. That joint needs to be conductive, in order to create a fully protective cage. I recommend that you:

1.) Remove the can's rubber gasket. (Save it, in case you decide to restore the can to water-tightness, at a later date.)

2.) Wearing eye protection, use some coarse sandpaper or a rotary wire brush to remove the paint on at least a 3-inch section of both the top lip of the can and underneath the lid where the gasket was attached. This bare metal will provide a good electrical contact between the lid and body of the can.

3.) Replace the gasket with a continuous thick "fuzz" of stainless steel wool that will just barely allow the lid to to be clamped shut. (Selecting the correct thickness to use takes a bit of experimentation.) The steel wool can be glued in place so long as you do not insulate the short section(s) where you sanded off the paint.

Store items inside wrapped in plastic bags or in heavy duty cling wrap, to insulate them from the can. Use additional padding (bubble pack or gray foam) inside if the cans will be transported loaded with fragile gear.

Do not add an external grounding strap.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Mr. Rawles,
My child is sick. I need to build a Faraday cage to surround my child's bed. We are in a second floor apartment. Can I use wood and chicken wire?

To create a ground [for the cage], can I: Take an extension cord, tear out the double prong but leave the ground post, cut off the opposite end attach the wires to the wire cage. Would that work?

Thank You, - M.R.

JWR Replies: I will pray for you and your child.

Faraday cages have no positive health effects for humans unless for some very unlikely reason that you live in an area of extreme RF field strength. (Hypothetically, living directly under a 230,000 volt AC high tension power line or right next to a poorly-designed high power microwave broadcast tower with errant side lobes.) The fact is that low level RF (such as the field strengths found in a typical house or apartment residence) has no negative health effects. Because there was cancer one one side of our family, I did some fairly extensive research on this subject. There have been many very expensive and extensive studies conducted on low level RF and they have found essential NO correlation to incidents of cancer, or other diseasesNONE! A variety of home electronics such as cordless phones, cellular phones, microwave ovens, CB radios, and wireless baby monitors have all been studied by reputable scientific and medical organizations. But the study results have all been negative of inconclusive. By the way, what used to be the biggest emitters in American homes--cathode ray tube (CRT) televisions and computer monitors--are rapidly becoming extinct, as they are being replaced by relatively low-mission flat panel displays. But even CRTs were fairly safe unless you sat within a few feet of them, and it is noteworthy that the greatest risk was for someone directly behind them.

Now, if it is electronics that you want to protect with a Faraday cage: Chicken wire will stop many radio waves but has has apertures that are far too large to stop microwaves.  (Look at the size of the fine mesh built into the transparent door of a microwave oven!) EMP is very high energy and has frequency components in a very broad range. So a solid metal structure is best. Copper is ideal, but expensive. Galvanized steel will suffice. A steel trash can works fine. You can supplement the seal of the lid by placing a thin fuzz of stainless steel wool all around the lip before you clamp down the lid.)

And BTW, grounding actually hurts the ability of a Faraday cage to stop EMP, because a grounding cable can itself form an unintentional antenna. The general rule is: For lightning protection, do use a grounding cable, but for EMP protection, do not.

If your child is sick, then take him or her to see a qualified medical doctor!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

I would also recommend the Emergency Response Guidebook published jointly by the USDOT and Canadian and Mexican Transportation agencies. This reference (ERG) lets you identify the material being transported by pipeline, tanker truck, or railcar. As a guide for First Responders to a HazMat accident, it also lists specific hazards and evacuation distances in the event of spill or fire.

I use this book to evaluate how at risk I am to accidents involving bulk materials being transported nearby. You need to pay attention to the placard (label) information on the side of the tanker. In my community I frequently see tanker trucks and railcars placarded "2448 Molten Sulfur". Looking up Sulfur, Molten in the Emergency Response Guidebook tells me it is a flammable solid, and that I should stay upwind and evacuate at least 330 feet away from a spill. The evacuation zone increases to 1/2 mile if there is a risk of fire. My homestead is several miles from the nearest train tracks so my concern of exposure after a derailment of cars carrying molten sulfur is limited. I am, however, prepared to stay upwind and leave the proximity of a highway or rail crossing accident involving molten sulfur-carrying tankers.

A search on the internet for "MSDS + molten sulfur" provides me with the Material Safety Data Sheet for molten sulfur. Reading the Fire & Explosion Hazards section tells me that these tankers may vent the toxic gas hydrogen sulfide if exposed to heat , thus the need to stay upwind of an accident.

The NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards is valuable for letting you know how to protect yourself against personal health hazards when working with various chemicals, but alone doesn't address spill/fire/explosion protocols. - Carol J.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

I found an interesting free NIOSH publication concerning recommendations for protective equipment when exposed to chemicals. It is technical so this is something that you will have to read ahead to know how to use. It also gives a listing of what the DOT numbers on placards of transportation equipment mean with a reference to what personal protective equipment is needed. If you scroll to page 379 it will reference a page number which tells what the chemical is including the threat and what protective measures need to be taken. - Bill N.

Monday, June 24, 2013

I appreciate seeing some folks trying to build some sort of fallout shelter, as these may, unfortunately come in handy someday soon.   Since I build these for a living, I thought I’d throw some basic suggestions out there for the readers. For simple fallout shelters, assuming that blast will not be a factor, above ground concrete walls should be 24 inches thick (or better if you can afford it!).  Walls below grade can be a mere 10 inches thick.   Ceilings:  24 inches will provide fair protection, assuming “rainout” does not occur in your locale. [The Swiss shelter building code calls for 30 inches, but public shelters average about a meter of concrete with a meter of earth on top]  A rainout will cause a great deal of the fallout in a cloud that would have fallen to the ground hundreds of miles away to come down promptly, right on top of you, and it will be concentrated.  Dose rates many times higher could result, rendering a marginal shelter totally ineffective (occupants will die).  

We get calls from good folks who have designed and built a nice concrete garage with a shelter/basement.  They usually call to order an air handler to round out their shelter.  The first question I ask them is, “how thick is the ceiling?”.  Most excitedly reply “eight inches!”   My heart sinks, for they have expended a great deal of effort, time, and money to build a nice storage area...but it is totally unworkable as a fallout shelter.  An eight inch concrete ceiling has a protection factor of about 12, at best.  That is inadequate for even a mild dose of local fallout. Gamma rays are very penetrating, and heavy mass is require to defeat them, or reduce them to levels that can be managed by the body’s immune system.  Twenty four inches of good concrete between fallout particles and shelter occupants will do a pretty good job, even it there happens to be a rainout.  I’d be more inclined to push on the 30 inches if it were in my budget to do so.  

Wood is an extremely poor shielding material, but earth is roughly half as good as concrete....and dirt cheap!  If you can cover your shelter room with at least forty inches of earth, you’ll have a protection factor of one thousand...probably adequate for most folks. [Do not use wood in your shelter structure, as it will rot and become dangerous in a short period of time.] The shelters we build typically get buried with ten feet of earth, and have a protection factor of over a billion.  But our shelters are designed to protect to within 1/2 mile of ground zero of the current heavy hitters in the Russian nuclear arsenal. Most folks living in a rural setting will not require this level of protection. If you can afford a good shelter, I think it’s a sound investment.  For those on a tight budget, try to build something that has adequate mass in it that will not collapse.  Don’t forget ventilation, sanitation, and a well-shielded entrance. As FEMA had a great deal of trouble delivering ice after a hurricane, it is clear that should a nuclear event occur here in America, we will be on our own. Plan, and build, accordingly. - Paul S.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Hello James,
I read your blog every day and enjoy finding information that is useful. Recently a posting discussed the use of the 5.56 mm NATO bullet and its poor performance in penetrating automobiles.
I took notice of this information about the penetrating power or lack of penetrating power of the 5.56 in relation to single and double barriers.

We moved onto our five acres of land nine years ago. One of the first building projects was to have a contractor installed tornado shelter set in the ground. Then over the next two years I added a 16’x20’x50” high system of concrete walls around the opening to the tornado shelter. I added baffled entrances and a sturdy roof. The concrete walls are 7 inches thick on the bottom and taper to 5 inches at the top.
I designed this kind of wall to get the greatest thickness on the bottom where any residual radioactive might collect on the ground.

On top of the concrete walls is a 24” tall wooden wall with screened openings 7” along the three sides away from the embankment. The insides of these walls are stacked with bricks to increase the personal protection factor (PFC) against radiation and perhaps the penetration of bullets, slugs and shot.

We have electricity and water in the bunker. The roof has survived a single impact of large hail that we measured at 3.25 inches in diameter. Thankfully we had this hail only fall for 30 seconds and it was spread out widely on the property. One of these large hail stones penetrated completely through our house roof. But I had sheeted the roof of the bunker with 3/4 inch plywood. We call this structure our "Weather Bunker."
I have proceeded to attempt to harden it against weather and other possibilities. The south side of the weather bunker is protected by setting 9 to 11 foot tall discarded electric line poles along the roof edge. They average 8 to 11 inches thick and extend up to the roof ridge in height. I get these discarded poles from the local electric company. The north side and part of the east side are protected by a row of railroad timbers set on end creating a wall. These are for breaking the wind and protecting the shingles on the roof. However they do present an initial barrier for bullets, slugs and shot before coming to the concrete wall. We have a 350 gallon water tank on the north side that sets outside. This barrier protects it from visual observation and perhaps from penetration from light firearms.
The weakest part of the structure are the two doors made of 2x4’s and 5/8” plywood.
Recently we replaced our heat pump and the contractor left the old unit. During the disassembly I discovered that the outside was made up of two louvered rectangular units curved around to encase the unit. They laid out nearly flat when removed. They are good heavy steel units. After measuring I mounted these plates on the outside of the two doors. I now have a louvered steel plate plus two layers of 5/8” plywood on my doors. We will be visiting the contractor who did the installation looking for two more from discarded units for the inside of the doors.
As I read this article about penetration of the 5.56mm NATO I realized that the addition of these louvered plates was the correct thing to do.
We are both 72 years of age. Unless there are some really severe mitigating circumstances we will not be leaving this place if all hell breaks loose. This place is our lifeboat. But we are surrounded by hundreds of acres of range land. Some of which is very rough hilly land covered in sandhill plum brush, sages brush and some shinnery oak. The larger draws support a surprising growth of larger trees.

We have developed rally points close and far. Under certain conditions if we were forced to take to the land we have an environmental set of conditions in which we could hide. We have one ATV to use for transport locally in the rough land. As a last resort we have two pneumatic four tired garden carts that could be pulled. If the situation deteriorates we plan to buy another ATV of some sort quickly.
We have had to adjust our outlook recently. My wife had a mild non-debilitating heart attack last year. She is back to normal now. I appear to be recovering from Leukemia after diagnosis in January. Time will tell us how our health is and time will mark the requirements for our survival.
My thesis for this note is this: you should consider these louvered air conditioner plates as additional potential barriers for doors, windows and walls. They should be available if you can find the contractor who has a junk yard full of old units.
Secondly consider using railroad ties or discarded electric line poles for barriers around your retreat or home. Don’t forget to put a barrier around your outdoor privy area. Nobody wants to get shot with their pants down.

From the red hills of western Oklahoma and America’s most secret redoubt. - Joe C.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Dear Sir,
I work as an firefighter/EMT and Hazardous Materials Tech in the Greater Louisville, Kentucky region. I would like to provide your readership with two examples of 'stabilized' emergencies going wrong in the last year in the Louisville area alone. Both could have been catastrophic had it not been for quick thinking and pure dumb luck.

The first incident began in late October of last year when 11 cars of a 57-car Paducah and Louisville line (a CSX owned company) derailed in the southwest corner of Jefferson County, very near Fort Knox. The cars that derailed were carrying Butadiene and Hydrogen Fluoride. Understand that Hydrogen Fluoride is a very powerful asphyxiant and as an added bonus is heavier than air so it doesn't easily disperse into the atmosphere. The incident was stabilized and just about to leave the front of the news when three days later, workers ignited fumes from the Butadiene car and caused an explosion. Three severely burned forms walked themselves up to the street and and were transported to hospital. Intense flames were feet from the Hydrogen Fluoride car although not quite impinging. Just as the city was getting used to the main highway in the area being shut down and ready to concentrate on other news an entire small city had to be evacuated!

The next incident was less severe, but also nerve racking for the surrounding population. A hydrochloric acid leak at a Dow Chemical plant in 'Rubbertown,' a part of Louisville, caused a one mile shelter in place order to be called for. The leak was contained to a 'drainage pool' (a purpose built concrete lined pool designed to catch chemical leaks. Just as this was winding down, the pool was found to have a crack in it and Haz Mat teams needed to be called out again.

The take-a-way is like this: Know what is going on in your area. What is commonly transported down the railway that runs a mile from your property and be ready to take action even if the situation seems to be mitigated. Even when the authority involved says 'all clear' remain cautious. I encourage all concerned to map the railways, chemical plants, and pipelines in your area. Also be aware of light industrial parks where highly dangerous activities occur on a regular basis. Just because they say light industry doesn't mean they're making teddy bears in there. - Sam H.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Solar [coronal] mass ejections occur most frequently at the peak of the 11 year solar cycle.  Statistics show that Earth will get a direct hit from a major solar mass ejection every about every 500 years. This estimate comes from the number of solar mass ejections we see and frequency. Now figure in the size of the Earth versus the size of the solar mass ejection. The calculation is similar to the odds of a pin landing on a particular point on a globe, except Earth is the pin and the globe is the sun. In the end, we can estimate that Earth will get hit every 500 years or so by a flare large enough to affect our electronics.

This doesn't mean that life will end when the next one hits. Solar storms come in different intensities. The impact of a solar mass ejection our civilization will depend on its strength and the technology we think we need to get by.

Satellites in orbit are the most sensitive when it comes to solar radiation. They lack the protection of Earth's atmosphere. Those satellites on the side of the Earth that is facing the Sun during a major solar flare would have component failures. However, not all satellites would be lost. There are different designs of satellites, with some more shielded [or "hardened"] than others. Satellites on the back side of Earth couldn't be affected unless the solar flare and its accompanying radiation showered the Earth for many hours as the satellite's rotation brought it to the day side. And variations in the Earth's magnetic field could offer protection to some satellites. We would see a mix of charred, failing and fully functional satellites. We can’t know when a flare will hit except for the likelihood of it occurring during the peak of the solar cycle, so no nation can protect all of its satellites by keeping them on the night side of the Earth.
Your Best Defense Against This

Don't rely on GPS or Global Positioning Satellite Systems for navigation. Know your route or know how to get there with only paper maps. And never rely on GPS-based geocaching to find hidden supplies in an emergency. If we see a massive release of solar radiation that is the natural equivalent of an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) weapon, then your GPS capability will probably be gone.
Long AC Transmission Lines

Safety equipment designed to prevent overloads will protect most of the transformers connected to long Alternating Current or AC power transmission lines. However, some transformers will get overloaded by the field strength of a solar flare or solar storm. The bad news is that this means that utility crews will still have to replace hundreds of transformers in addition to resetting thousands of circuit breakers where the safety equipment prevented the transformer from overloading. This is a slow process, and it is hampered by the fact that we don’t have a huge stockpile of transformers for a disaster of this scale. (Although stockpiling spare transformers has been recommended as a step to minimize the impact of a nuclear weapon or EMP pulse weapon unleashed on the United States.) The task is made more complex by the need to bring thousands of [power plants and] power lines back on line and in [phase] sync to restore the [three] power grids in CONUS]. [JWR Adds: The manufacturing lead times for large transformers are as long as 24 months!]

Power distribution systems would be massively disrupted for anything greater than a mid-scale flare, but the power distribution system would be spotty failures for anything less than mid-scale flares.  These failure rates will be affected by any improvements in the overload protection devices that hopefully have been made since the Northeast Blackout of 1965. If the recommended overload protections were put in place and maintained, the size and scope of outages would be reduced.

Your Best Defense Against This
You should know how to disconnect your home from the local power grid as soon as you have warning of imminent power disruptions, [via your main breaker.] At a minimum, have the means on hand to live a few weeks without electricity. It would be better to have renewable power sources or a generator and fuel stores on your property.

The Internet

The Internet itself will go mostly dark. Why? Imagine what happens if 99% of the servers go off line. They have not all been destroyed. They simply need power to be available. Without the power grids up, the Internet will be crippled. 

Many servers will be without power due to the damage to the power grid. Those servers that are still running will be isolated by power outages to the hubs they use to transmit information. A functional server in a computer room is a hub in the Internet. If it cannot connect to the major nodes to relay information then it might as well be turned off. And in an emergency like this, facilities running off of generator-supplied power will focus on properly shutting down rather than keeping extra servers running once they’ve backed up their data.

Fiber optic lines will be okay. However, with the disruption of power in the AC transmission lines, means that the fiber optics will be "dark" until they get power again. Those relying on Skype or Internet access will be left in the dark, since fiber optic lines won't run without power, and the backup option of Internet via satellite will not be an option.
Your Best Defense Against This
Have other methods of contacting family members, such as [FRS , GMRS, or MURS] walkie-talkies and ham radio. Document everyone’s phone number in a [hard copy] address book, and make multiple copies so that you can find their contact information even if the Internet is essentially dead.
Back up your data locally, regardless of whether or not you perform online backups. Have local sources of any information that you frequently reference. And make sure you have entertainment on hand that does not rely on an Internet connection.


Laptops with batteries are relatively immune to solar flares. They receive power from the battery and so will remain operational until the battery runs out. [If disconnected from outside power or data cables] they will not get fried by a solar flare. However, they could be ruined by an EMP weapon [if in very close proximity].  Desktop computers will be in worse shape. The thousands of miles of power, phone, and Ethernet cables connecting many desktop computers act like long antennas, picking up the voltage generated by the solar mass ejection. The cables connecting the computers thus have the potential to damage desktop computers [or any laptops that are connected.]
Your Best Defense Against This
Use surge protectors and UPS in your home network. Keep laptop batteries charged, and have spare batteries. [Leave computers disconnected from power and data cables when not in use.]


Land line telephone [handsets] will probably be fine. Land line phones receive power through the same copper wire bundle that the phone signal travels through. Each land line home phone is connected to the phone company with up to several miles of telephone line.  These lines are generally far too short to be affected by an event like a solar storm, but they are at much more at risk to EMP  The Central Offices (COs) changed over from tradition relays to computerized switching decades ago. So the phone systems are now at greater risk since the computerized systems are less robust.  In short, the phone lines may work but the computers than handle the call routings may go down.

Cordless phones in homes with land-line phone lines will work as long as there is power to the home or the batteries are charged. Households relying entirely on cell phones are in trouble.
Your Best Defense Against This
Keep at least one tradition land line phone handset in your home. Own additional methods of communication like ham radio rigs, and know how to use them. Some of the hand-cranked Emergency Radios can also charge cell phones, and this is a good 'tie-breaker' when deciding which Emergency Radio to buy.

Ham Radio

Amateur radio or ham radio would be temporarily affected by the solar flare, disrupted until the radiation [in the ionosphere] has peaked and passed. After that point, ham radio equipment will run as long as there is power to run them. Those with hand crank radios will be able to listen. Ham radio operators with backup generators or photovoltaics will be able to transmit. 2 meter transmissions that depend on grid-powered repeaters will be limited to line of sight transmission.

Your Best Defense Against This
Find battery-powered ham radio equipment, so that you can always stay in touch. Own at least one method of recharging the batteries that is not reliant on the power grid, whether it is a hand-crank receiver or a PV panels (for transceivers.)

Personal Electronics

Small personal electronics like cell phones, laptops, tablet computers and televisions will initially be fine after a solar mass ejection.
They have the Earth's atmosphere shielding them. Their electronic components will be fine. However, the device's functionality depends on power, whether this comes from a crippled power grid, local generator or renewable power.

The problem for users will come from the damage to the communication networks these devices rely upon. For example, television stations and cell phone towers will be out. Cell phone towers have good backup batteries; they are designed to last 4 to 8 hours off of the battery. This works well during electrical storms that disrupt power [briefly], permitting local users to still make calls. However, in an extended power outage, the cell phone towers themselves will go offline within 8 hours unless they are powered by PV panels [which is very uncommon]. generators or a working local power source. At this point, even those with a working cell phone [handset] cannot complete calls.
Your Best Defense Against This

For each device you cannot live without, maintain at least two spare batteries for it. Better yet, have a battery charger for those batteries so that they will continue to function no matter how long the grid is down. You may also want to buy an antenna to ensure that your television can still receive local channels [rather than relying on a cable television service provider. ] Local television stations often have generators and transmitters on site and will continue broadcasting news even if a solar storm ruins satellites. [Their ability to do so will be limited by the depth of their fuel supplies for their backup generators.]


[Vehicles will be unaffected by solar storms.] The studies I have read say that about 1 vehicle in 10 will be rendered inoperable [by EMP], not the near 100% that some alarmists have predicted.   Older vehicles [with traditional ignition systems nd fuel management systems] will be completely unaffected as long as the owner has gasoline to run them. [JWR Adds: If the field strength of EMP is high enough to destroy a vehicle's electronic ignition system or fuel management system microprocessors, then you would be so close to a nuclear weapon that you would inside of its blast radius. So you would probably be dead before you'd ever have the chance to see if one of the affected vehicles started.]

The greater problems will come from the power outages. If satellites are out, the payment systems that rely on satellites to connect to a bank and withdraw payment will not work. If power is out, most gas pumps will not work. Traffic becomes a nightmare when power outages wipe out traffic control.  
Your Best Defense Against This
Stock up on stabilized gasoline. Carry cash so that you can pay for gasoline, if necessary. Carry maps in your car, instead of relying on GPS.

[JWR Adds: For additional perspectives with greater technical detail, see the EMPACT America web site. My recent blog article, titled Islands in the Darkness: Some Local Power Utilities Have Prepared to Go It Alone may also be of interest.]

Monday, March 4, 2013

Many readers will recall that my 2011 novel "Survivors: A Novel of the Coming Collapse" was partly set in and near Farmington, New Mexico. I chose that region because it has a particularly resilient power grid. In the novel I described how Farmington Electric Utility System (FEUS) has made contingency plans to immediately reconstitute a local power grid, in the event of a western power grid collapse. This was not just literary license on my part. It was based on a face-to-face interview with a FEUS manager that I conducted in 2009, as I was researching locales for the novel. That manager told me that if the western grid collapsed, all FEUS customers could have their power restored in less than a minute. This capability is called "islanding" or "controlled system separation." While not a secret, islanding capability is not well-known outside of the power industry. Islanding is also uncommon in most of the United States. (Most Americans live in areas where the majority of their power is imported from the larger grids. It is only in a few areas such as the Pacific Northwest and the Four Corners that are net power exporters. This zoomable map shows you the Big Picture for the US and parts of Canada.

America's Three Power Grids

There are actually three main power grids in the United States: an eastern grid, a western grid, and a Texas grid. This map shows the dividing lines, and this map shows some planned changes. Within those three grids, there are distinct service areas. And within those service areas, there is a patchwork of large power companies, co-ops, and a few independent power producers.

The majority of Americans depend on power that comes from coal-fired or nuclear power plants. Both of these sources would be problematic in the event of major societal disruption. NERC regulations require shutdowns of nuclear plants for trivial reasons, and coal-fired plants require literally trainloads of coal to keep running. The most stable power in event of an economic disaster will be hydroelectric. The Pacific Northwest has the clear advantage in hydroelectric power and some of the most reliable and least expensive power in the country. Generally, where there are large dams there is plentiful hydro power, and the greatest potential for stable local islanding. (But note that potential does not necessarily mean planned. You will need to check on that with your local power company's management to see if they have made the requisite arrangements for islanding.)

Where Will the Islands be?

Do some online research to find maps like this one: Map of Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) transmission lines. Then call you local utility and find out if they are power exporters or importers. If they are exporters, ask if they have an islanding plan.

Long Term?

In the event of a long term grid-down situation where the coal trains stop running there will just be a few areas that will have reliable power. Most of these will be in the Pacific Northwest, where hydroelectric power predominates.

Black Startup

In the event that one or all three American grids collapse because of something catastrophic such as a major solar flare, or an economic whammy that stops coal train traffic, getting the grids back up might be difficult. Typically a power plant requires lots of outside power to be re-started. The re-starts that done without functioning outside power--commonly called Black Startup or Dark Startup --are a challenge. Here is a quote from the sometimes useful LeftistAgendaPedia: "To provide a black start, some power stations have small diesel generators which can be used to start larger generators (of several megawatts capacity), which in turn can be used to start the main power station generators." In the event of a nationwide collapse of the power grid, the best chance for power plants to be restarted and partial grid restoration will be in the Northwest, where hydro power will be available to feed the grid.

Off The Grid

Home generation is the sure way of knowing that you will have power. (Even if you are fortunate enough to live near a hydroelectric dam or geothermal power plant, you can't assume that your power will be restored in the event of a power grid collapse.) Home power systems that are not grid tied will be the most resilient to solar storms or EMP. This is because grid power lines can act as unintentional antennas. To be fully prepared for a solar storm, it might be necessary to store spare charge controllers and perhaps even spare inverters, for a worst case. These spares should be stored disconnected, preferably in Faraday enclosures.

If you are planning to strategically relocate your family to a safe region, I recommend that power utility islanding be part of your criteria for choosing locales. Places with plentiful hydroelectric power are your best bet. But again, don't just assume that they are ready for islanding. Take the time to call the local power company or co-op, and ask them if they have contingency plans for islanding, and if so what would be the geographic boundaries for their planned island. This could make a huge difference for the quality of life that you will have in the dark times to come. - J.W.R.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Mr. Rawles,
Regarding the letter, Food Storage in the Southern United States by Gary S.,, 
in Florida, from May until October, the heat is merciless, making food storage difficult. Some items, like powdered milk, barely last the summer without electrical cooling. Most folks turn their A/C up or off during the day when they are away from home or pay a very high electric bill. .With the droughts of the past few years, even heavily canopied forest home sites can be too hot. Power outages from wildfires, hurricanes, storms, tornadoes,  or heat waves can cause loss of air conditioning for days or weeks, greatly reducing the storage life of foods.

It seems to me that the best place to store food would be in a fallout shelter, which had better be a cool dry place or it won't be livable for very long. Nuclear warfare may come to the CONUS unexpectedly, like Pearl Harbor, the WTC and Pentagon attacks, or like a thief in the night, from a multitude of enemies. This is pretty evident in the lectures, interviews, and books of Joel Skousen and others, In his book Nuclear War Survival Skills, Cresson H. Kearny, advocated dual use buildings, with one being for a fallout shelter, and the other could certainly be for cool storage. A cool storage building is a lot better explanation to family and friends than a fallout shelter is, just as long as it meets the fallout shelter specifications. We can put some kind of a green energy spin on this, like calling it a planet saving earth cooled utility building, the bureaucrats will love that, and think of all the carbon fuel that will be saved.

With the high water tables, above ground structures seem to be the way to go for cool storage independent of electricity, using thermal mass to keep things cool. However, moving thermal mass is backbreaking work, Below is a list of structures that is by no means complete, but should provide the reader with a starting point. On all of these structures, you will want the entrance facing away from the sun. I would like to hear from other readers who have addressed this issue.

1) Steel drum bunker - I saw one of these at the Patriot's Point museum in Charleston, South Carolina, at the Vietnam Support Base. It is an ammo bunker from the Vietnam War, which has a lot of thermal mass to it, consisting of standard 55 gal drums, which are 22.5 inches in diameter and 33.5 inches high, it is eight drums wide (15 ft)  by two drums high (67 inches), the interior is probably 11ft x 11ft and the roof used either Marsden Matting, Pierced Steel Plank (PSP) or aluminum AM-2 matting, along with about three layers of sandbags, dirt and sod. For root cellar purposes, the door area would have to be expanded out with drums, four on one side, two on the other, ended with two more for a ninety degree turn. This would require about 68 drums and a heavy duty door would be needed. They obviously had a lot of 55 gal drums to spare, lining the whole perimeter with them, for added protection. But, that was how they shipped fuel back then.

2) Hesco/Gabion bunker - A wire and cloth, earth filled structure. In overseas areas these days, there are a lot of hesco or gabions being used similarly, but the kits can be expensive.
Wiki page on HESCOs
Wiki page on Gabions
HESCO corporate page
Defencell corporate page

3) Nuclear War Survival Skills - Aboveground, Crib-Walled Shelter.  I would use treated wood in the South.

4) Low-Cost Multipurpose Mini-building Made With Earthbags

5) Emergency Sandbag Shelter

6) Large culvert pipe - I've seen these in both concrete and metal. Kind of like this one, only one end has a regular door and you berm up around the rest of it, Mini Blast & Fallout Shelter, By Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine (OISM).

7) FEMA above ground Permanent Fallout Shelter - concrete block and concrete construction, back filled with earth. There is also a design that has a building within a building, filled with dirt or gravel.

8) Insulated Concrete Form (ICF) Storm Shelter - the forms are filled with concrete after assembly and can be bermed for additional protection.

9) Thin shell concrete dome - an inflatable form is used to shape the concrete structure until it dries. See:
Monolithic Dome, EcoShell, and Basalt Roving Dome. These can be reinforced with rebar or basalt roving.

10) Thin shell concrete dome panel kit - kind of like an igloo, the panels are assembled to form the dome, and then the concreted is applied.
12' Dome Utility Pod Kit - Out Building - Storage Shed - Well House - AiDomes
They sell a strengthening kit, but you might also be able to use the basalt roving technique as well

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Mr. Rawles,
I have to make a comment about information in this article that is just wrong and I have seen others wrongly assume on the internet before.

There is ABSOLUTELY NO REASON to keep metal within the cage from touching the conductor that makes up the Faraday Cage. The reason is that the cage (assuming it has been constructed without gaps or holes, as it should be) forms an "INFINITE" barrier between the electric fields inside and outside of the cage. No electric field can go through the cage because they are dispersed across the surface and do not propagate through. The inside and outside are electrically isolated from each other.

As an experiment, take a radio that is receiving and you can hear the music, wrap it in aluminum foil and make sure the antenna is TOUCHING the metal. As soon as you make a completely enclosed cage, the radio will go to static because the waves CANNOT reach the antenna. The charge is only on the outside.

People falsely believe things cannot touch the side because the cage is a conductor. As I have explained, when constructed correctly, the outside and inside are in isolation.

Just to qualify my responses, I am an electrical engineer who studied electromagnetics in school and I work in the power industry. I did not list the equations to prove the material, but I can send detailed information about why electric fields do not go through conductors, only propagate on the outside. Or, you can pickup any introductory electromagnetics textbook and read about Faraday's experiments and equations and other information for yourself from people who are a lot smarter than us.
Thank you, - Cason R.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

That was a very good article by Chris C. to get people up to speed on EMP threats and mitigation, there is one very simple thing to add that was shared with me by a former military contractor who was involved in EMP work.   While it's possible to protect equipment in place with shielding, grounding and specialized electronic components, the most economical solution is to store spares.  This has the advantage of protecting (remember, "two is one") with backups from ANY type of equipment failure, EMP or otherwise.  This method uses readily obtainable and very economical materials.  There's really no excuse not to do this, as you'll be protected against a number of different possible problems.

Go through your your gear and determine what you need for spares.  Many, many things now have microelectronics inside.  Low startup power water pumps, tankless hot water heaters, refrigerators, LED light bulbs and flashlights, audio equipment, inverters, charge controllers, solar panel diodes, video cameras, network routers and switches, computers, cars and trucks etc. all have electronics that could be fried.  

According to my source, the best way to store electronic equipment is in it's original box, which provides an insulator from the outside via plastic, cardboard or foam.  Many electronic components come in static protecting bags, which will provide yet another layer of protection.  Double wrap the box with heavy duty aluminum foil, being careful to seal all seams with metal ducting tape in each layer.  The outside of this is then wrapped in plastic bubble wrap and placed inside a galvanized steel 32 gallon trash can.  

The inside of the trash can needs to have the same metal tape applied over the holes in the metal from the handles on the barrel and the lid and an insulating layer of cardboard should be fitted to the inside of the metal trash can.  This is to provide an insulator between the Faraday cage of the trash can and the electronics inside.  

Place all your wrapped electronics (double foil and bubble wrap) inside this trash can and seal the lid with more metal duct tape.  This provides two layers of security from the can and each component is also separately protected inside the can.   You can test this by placing an FM radio that is turned on, wrapping it in a box, layering the foil and bubble wrap, then placing it inside the metal trash can.  If you don't hear any radio signal after it's been wrapped and placed inside the metal trash can, you are good to go. - C.K.


While I appreciate the thought that Chris C. and others put into discussions of EMP scenarios, Chris and others are all forgetting one fact that makes all of this an exercise in futility:  There are dozens of active nuclear reactors operating in the US.  Any EMP burst will travel along the high tension wires that are used to distribute their output and fry them.  It's not going to be the 1850s, it's going to be more like The Omega Man, with most of the population dead within weeks from radiation poisoning when the cores melt down and explode. Those who survive this initial die off will be left with a land that will not grow crops for millennia to come.  That's why I don't worry about EMP anymore: There's going to be nothing left. My family and I live in Butte, Montana astride the Great Divide. That puts us upwind of most of America's nuclear reactors.

If we do ever suffer an EMP, I hope that there won't be concurrent or subsequent radioactive fallout. The fallout from the Japanese earthquake/tsunami/reactor incident has really made me think hard about this.  If memory serves, there are 47 active reactors in the US, if they all overheat their cores [or spent fuel ponds] at once (or within the same week, say) I seriously fear for the population of the US and other countries. 

Wouldn't the Jet Stream eventually carry the fallout around the northern hemisphere and hit us here as well?  I read that it takes several months under controlled conditions to completely shut down a reactor [and disassemble its pile], and that if the fuel rods were exposed to air because the pumps stopped that it might take years for them to cool off and stop spewing radiation. If the grid collapsed due to an EMP, there would be no heroic efforts like we saw in January, with 47 reactors going critical and no communications or transport, Sir Isaac Newton is in the drivers seat. 

I don't want to sound defeatist, I have been following SurvivalBlog for several years, and am doing my best to prepare to keep my family alive in case of emergency.  I'm even working on a Bug-Out Bag article, which is what caused me to really start thinking about what I was prepping for.  The collapse of the grid like in your novel Patriots is obviously the biggie we all try to plan for, and if it goes down like that we all might have a chance to try the 1850s over again.  - Greg C. (A former USMC Captain.)

JWR Replies: These issues were described in detail in a SurvivalBlog article posted back in September, 2010. The only good news is that by the time that fallout clouds circle the globe, they will have already dropped most of their heavier components. In an absolute worst-case situation where all of the nuclear power plants and spent fuel ponds boil off and melt down, the worst-affected regions would be: the northeastern United States, Quebec, Iceland, and northern Europe. (Sorry about that!)

The southern hemisphere would obviously be safer, since there are relatively few nuke plants compared to the more industrialized northern hemisphere. Here in the United States, the least-affected regions would be the Pacific Northwest and the Inland Northwest (The American Redoubt.) I would not want to be living anywhere in the eastern United States!

Mr. Rawles,
We have had a couple telephone consults and I have found your knowledge to be of great use. I try to make your blog one of my first early morning reads here on the East Coast.
Chris C.'s article on EMP was extremely well thought out, comprehensive and full of accurate information. The only thing I take issue with is his statement regarding the reason we are a very likely target. Chris stated, "We now face an enemy who is difficult to put a face on, impossible to identify, and hates us for no other reason that the fact that we are a nation of free infidels."
I find this type of thinking to be all too prevalent in America today. I am in no way a Muslim apologist. I feel strongly that the Islamic community has done little to nothing to denounce terrorism, either through fear of retribution from fellow Muslims or tacit approval of the activities of their radical counterparts. Additionally, my late father was a United States Marine, I was a U.S. Navy Corpsman and my son is presently a Marine Lieutenant attending flight school in Pensacola, so I do not take what I am about to say lightly.
Chris C.'s way of thinking is short-sighted and flat out wrong. The vast majority of Muslims do not hate us for our "freedom". That is a false narrative that [the media] has been trying to create for decades. Just as any red-blooded American would be outraged at the presence of a foreign military on our soil, so do those inhabitants of Islamic countries who have had our military occupy and/or invade their lands. There is no denying that Saddam Hussein was an oppressive and evil tyrant and the world is a better place without his presence, but the same can be said about many dictators throughout the world, particularly on the African continent. The government of Afghanistan may or may not have known the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden, but did its people deserve invasion and continued occupation?
Let's use a fictitious example for a moment. An American citizen or group of citizens plots and successfully blows up the Eiffel Tower. Washington D.C., for whatever reason, states they don't know where the group is, or simply will not turn them over. Would YOU accept French planes bombing U.S. cities, breaking down doors in the middle of the night looking for suspected terrorists or knocking your car out of the way with an APC because they wanted to get through......or would YOU be planting IEDs alongside the road to blow up the French troops?
The hijackers on 9/11 were almost all Saudi's, as was OBL, yet they are our "allies". OBL was found and killed in Pakistan, yet they are our allies. Does anyone believe that OBL lived in Pakistan for years without the knowledge of elements high within the Pakistani government? Let us not be naive. America is a great country, but we serve our interests, as do all nations. That said, we must not be surprised when our actions result in hatred. Most Muslims knew nothing of the United States, but when we bomb their countries, kill thousands and call it "collateral damage", should we be surprised when that hatred is turned towards us?
We have involved ourselves in the politics of oppression throughout the world to serve our own national interests and must realize that the end result is hatred directed towards us. Yes, they resent the encroachment of "Western" corruption on their generations, but don't we resent many of the very same vices that they do: promiscuity, drugs, alcoholism, abortion. Christianity preaches against the same things. They hate us not because we are free, but because we wish them to "be like us". Forcing your ways upon the people of another land is not freedom, no matter how backwards we may perceive them.
Many of us resent the way our own government is trying to force us to comply with their beliefs. Anyone with the slightest bit of intellectual honesty will admit that our country is not the beacon of freedom it once was. That oppression they feel will soon be directed upon those who disagree with our present government. You basically wrote as much in your first novel, Patriots.
America has much to be proud of, its people are kind, generous and caring. Our government is not. If we need to know why they hate us, we need to look no further than those in Washington, D.C. Hatred of freedom? Please, let's not fall into that jingoistic trap of false patriotism. True freedom is when people are left alone to live their lives, safe with their families, to live their lives. It's not having Humvees racing down the street with guns pointed at your children. Let's at least have an honest discussion.
Otherwise, it was an outstanding piece. Thanks, - Ken B. on Long Island


Chris C.'s essay on EMP has some false information and conclusions unjustified even by those falsehoods, and misleading advice. His essay rehashes some myths that have been circulating on the Internet for years in spite of the ready availability of reliable contradictory evidence. He tries to qualify his remarks by saying there is "debate" over situations where "no one is sure what will happen," but in truth we do know. It's just that the facts contradict his opinions.

He clearly wants to believe that "small transistor devices", airplanes, modern cars, laptops, and pacemakers are at high risk from EMP, but the facts show that they aren't. Of course, they shouldn't be. They simply aren't able to capture very much energy from EMP, and the features that protect these devices from electrostatic discharge (whether fingertip static on a cold day, or nearby lightning strikes during a storm) also serve to shunt EMP energy away from their critical systems. - P.N.G.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Those of us who frequent this web site, the prepper community, prepare for a host of potential crises that may befall our nation.  Some are more likely than others, but most share a common background when it comes to being prepared for them.  The event of an EMP strike, however, requires some very specific knowledge and safeguards.  This is a serious enough issue that a study was commissioned by congress several years ago, which found that the threat was real and that we were woefully unprepared. This essay will provide a brief description of the event itself with some supporting history, discuss the likelihood of such an event occurring, and finally go over the potential impact of an EMP strike with recommendations for preparations.
What is an EMP?

EMP stands for Electro Magnetic Pulse, a powerful burst of electromagnetic radiation that interacts with the Earth’s atmosphere and creates a wave of electrons that travel outward at the speed of light.  This “pulse” lasts only milliseconds, but the magnetic field that it produces creates a powerful electric current in conductive material through the Faraday principle.  There are actually three components to an EMP, but only the first, called the E1 wave, is considered a threat.  (The E2 mimics disruption by lightning and is comparatively easy to shield against, and the E3 phase is similar to a solar flare but would typically not reach the ground in a high altitude burst.)

This type of energy occurs naturally in the form of solar flares, but can also be man-made in the form of a nuclear burst.  While a solar event is possible, and strong examples have occurred in the past, it is typically much weaker than a weapon-based pulse, which will be the focus of this article.  EMP energy travels in line-of-sight, so ground bursts actually have much more localized effects.  The most damaging type of strike for EMP production occurs at altitudes of 40-400km above the surface of the Earth, where line of sight extends for thousands of square miles.  At altitudes such as these there is no blast damage, fallout, or even dangerous radiation.  Certainly these are the immediate and disastrous effects of a detonation near the ground, along with the now universally known mushroom cloud.  Why, then, with this kind of damage potential, would someone choose to exploit the EMP effects of a nuclear blast rather than the direct destruction?  Read on…

EMP- The early years:

EMP was discovered by accident to be the byproduct of a nuclear explosion.  In early tests, recording instruments located miles from the blast were destroyed by energy that traveled through cables and power lines, and in some significant early tests there was a demonstrable “practical application” component for EMP production and use.  Many people are familiar with the two historical examples of nuclear tests that resulted in measurable damage from an EMP.  The first is the 1962 American hydrogen bomb known as Starfish Prime, detonated 400km above the Pacific Ocean, and estimated at 1.4 megatons in yield.  The effects of the EMP component couldn’t be accurately measured since many of the instruments maxed out their readings, but the effects were felt 900 miles away in Hawaii.  300 streetlights were knocked out along with the phone exchange and many alarm systems.  It also crippled 1/3 of the satellites then in orbit, including some early communications models.  If this doesn’t sound severe, remember several key things about this test:

  • It was intentionally detonated over the ocean far away from any landmass
  • The Earth’s magnetic field at that location actually minimized the effects because it was located far from the poles
  • The electronics of the 1960s were very simple and robust compared to the circuit boards and microprocessors used today.  Cars were not fuel injected, there were virtually no computers, satellite communication was extremely limited, most electronics were vacuum tube based, and cell towers were non-existent.

The second test of note was a Soviet air burst in a series known as test 184.  It was “only” a 300 kiloton burst, but it took place over sparsely populated Kazakhstan.  The EMP from this blast caused a massive voltage surge in an underground power line, started a fire in the power station and burned up several generators that were not even connected to the grid.  (Presumably due to the lengthy copper winding present in generators that would mimic a long power cable as far as current induction.)

Bear in mind that neither of these tests were tailored to generate EMP, and note the difference in the size of the warheads.  As further research revealed, the size of the yield is not proportional to the EMP energy released.  Smaller warheads are in some cases more lethal in this regard than the big ones, and weapons have since been engineered to maximize EMP production.

So, what’s the point?

The intent of the history above is to demonstrate that the EMP generated by a nuclear device is not just theory, and that it acts as a force multiplier.  During the cold war we had thousands of nukes designed to literally destroy an enemy’s ability to wage war.  If they had been employed, we could have leveled nations and left nothing but a smoking ruin.  Now, with the SALT treaties and efforts to limit nuclear proliferation, only a select few nations have nuclear weapons and with few exceptions, none have more than a handful.  Compared to the still-impressive might of the American nuclear arsenal, small players such as North Korea, Iran, or even well funded terrorist cells might only be able build, buy or steal a small number of weapons.  Two or three would probably be the most they could field.  (Make no mistake, there are weapons available; by most accounts there are over 100 missing Soviet weapons, many of them the small “suitcase” variety of tactical nukes.)  With ground bursts they could clearly decimate our largest cities, kill hundreds of thousands and cause trillions of dollars in damage.  But, if they were to employ even small nuclear weapons in a high altitude burst, three bombs could literally cover most of North America with an EMP burst.  With a design intent similar to the neutron bomb, there would be little to no physical damage done by the actual nuclear blast.  In fact, from a high enough altitude there wouldn’t even be a sound, just a bright flash if you happened to be looking in the right direction.  The damage they are capable of makes ground burst weapons and dirty bombs seem like an almost welcome alternative.

Okay, it sounds bad, but it’s not like this would ever happen…

The reality is that during the cold war, no one fired off a weapon because it would have been immediately apparent who was responsible (through missile launch tracking), and the retribution that America and her allies would have delivered was too awful to consider.  We knew who the bad guys were, but more importantly they knew that we knew and it kept everyone honest.  Even if they had destroyed Washington and all of our land based missiles, we would have had enough warning to alert our airborne SAC bombers and the Navy’s ballistic missile subs, which would have delivered more than enough counterstrike to make the whole thing an exercise in futility.  The old policy of mutually assured destruction really did have merit and it kept an uneasy peace, but the world today is completely different.  We now face an enemy who is difficult to put a face on, impossible to identify, and hates us for no other reason that the fact that we are a nation of free infidels.  Muslim terrorists are unlike anyone else we have fought, and our nuclear deterrent is from their point of view no deterrent at all:

  • They have demonstrated the desire and ability to kill Americans and cripple our country whenever and wherever possible.  Two attacks at the World Trade Center, embassy bombings, The USS Cole attack, and countless smaller events prove that they have the will and can execute complex and lengthy planning.
  • Muslim terrorists have no compunction about dying in the process of the attack; in fact that is their ultimate goal.
  • Those that subscribe to Sharia law believe that it is their duty to convert or kill non-believers
  • Terror groups have now linked with other countries to expand their capabilities and global reach, and we have no shortage of detractors around the world.  There is evidence of communication between Islamic terrorists and Mexican cartels, as well as between Iran and North Korea.

It goes without saying that most of the world’s Muslims have no interest in this, but those that do are sometimes well funded through oil-rich state sponsors.  As mentioned above, there are many unaccounted for weapons from the old Soviet Bloc.  Several countries were left with nuclear weapons when the Bloc broke up, including Armenia, Kazakhstan, Belarus and Ukraine.  Many of them are poorly inventoried and protected, meaning that if they were stolen there is some doubt that the theft would even be noticed or reported.  There is also a strong possibility that they could be sold by cash-poor nations or even individuals to unscrupulous customers.  State run nuclear programs are also not above suspicion;  China, Pakistan and North Korea all have weapons that could find their way into the wrong hands.  In the event of a ground burst detonation, it would take some time to analyze the residue and try to determine the origin of the bomb.  In the event of an air burst EMP strike we may never be able to determine who was responsible.  As we will shortly see, this type of attack has far-reaching consequences that would be far more disastrous than even a detonation in one of our largest cities. 

The delivery method of such an attack is not nearly as complicated as you might think.  Ballistic missiles are expensive, complex and highly technical, as is evidenced by the failures of North Korea to build and launch one in the past few years. The delivery system for an EMP strike does not need to be nearly so precise.  In fact, it might be the simplest part of the entire thing; certainly much less so that building or acquiring a nuclear weapon.  As we will see when we begin discussing the effects of the pulse, the EMP is not a surgical strike.  In fact, it could conceivably be hundreds of miles off course when detonated and still cause massive levels of damage.  If multiple weapons were used to provide overlap, accuracy becomes even less important.  Here are some of the potential methods for lofting a weapon to the appropriate altitude for a successful strike.  For maximum results a high altitude of 40-400km is ideal, but even a burst at lower altitude will cause damage for hundreds of square miles.  If an attack were to include the Eastern seaboard of the US, or the Pacific coast, tens of millions of people would be affected.

  • High altitude balloon
  • Jet aircraft; i.e. a chartered business jet
  • Medium range missile launched from a ship
  • Low satellite orbit

If the methods above seem a little odd, remember that we are dealing with a “simple” nuclear device.  It does not require a complex targeting system, a military aircraft, or any type of specialized delivery system.  Iranian Shahab-3 missiles, purchased from North Korea, and others in development might be candidates.  Also, North Korea just last month put their first satellite into space and Iran has similar ambitions.  While these two options are reserved for nations with substantial funding, balloon delivery and chartered jet are within the range of virtually any group.  This may seem farfetched, but the weapons and the delivery systems already exist, and there are plenty of groups who would be happy to employ them.  This is not science fiction, and is well within the realm of possibility.
So what happens when it goes off?
The impact of an EMP strike on modern society is open to a great deal of conjecture.  The last tests, mentioned previously, were in 1962 and the technology of today is vastly different.  Broken down simply, an EMP has the potential to affect the following:

  • Electrical power generation
  • Communication
  • Transportation
  • Microprocessors

There are many subsets of the four categories above, which will be examined below, and it is important to remember that they are all interrelated.  For example:  Your power has gone down due to an EMP strike and you need replacement parts to get it up and running.  The problem is that you need power to manufacture replacement components, a method for conveying what exactly you need, and the transportation to bring the components to your plant.  As a more local example, with no communication you can’t call and report a fire, the water pressure at the hydrant isn’t maintained because the pumping station has no power, and the fire trucks may not be functional anyway.  A blow to any of the four will adversely affect the other two. 

The E1 component of an EMP is a powerful magnetic wave, and it creates a massive voltage spike in metal components.  The energy is measured in volts per foot, so longer the metal, the more power is generated.  This means that long high-tension transmission lines could generate huge amounts of power, which would blow transformers and cause severe damage to power generation plants.  Let’s break down each of the above three broad categories and see how they would impact life in these United States.

Power generation:

Right now when the power goes out it’s annoying, and we sit and fume for the few hours it takes to replace a downed line or transformer knowing that American Idol is coming on.  An EMP has the potential to knock out virtually all of the power plants and transformers within line of sight from the blast.  (Remember, from an altitude of 40-400km, or up to 250 miles, “line of sight” only ends at the curvature of the earth.  An airliner only flied at 6-7 miles high, so imagine the vast area that line of sight covers from that vantage point).  There is evidence to suggest that the E1 pulse, which travels at or near the speed of light, would not be stopped by most surge protectors, meaning that much of the standard lighting protection equipment would offer no shielding.  Imagine the casualties in the immediate aftermath.  Hospital life support systems would shut down; even those with underground generators that might avoid destruction only have a fuel supply sufficient for a few days.  During the colder months people may freeze to death without heat in as little as a few days.  Food rapidly spoils.  Gas stations can’t pump gas even if the vehicles are operational.  All of the automatic monitoring and management of utilities, gas and oil pipelines, infrastructure down to the traffic lights.  Telephone exchanges and standard radios are useless, as is anything that you plug into a wall.  What could be worse than having all the power out in an instant… and not being able to find out what happened.  No internet, no cell service, no phones.  The water treatment plant is shut down and your toilets may back up.  Depending on where you live, you may immediately lose water pressure when the pumps go down.  As mentioned, there is no firefighting capability and fires which would have been easily contained now rage out of control.  Instead of one townhouse with a small fire, the entire row burns to the ground, or the entire apartment building, high-rise, etc. 


Many of us don’t appreciate our modern communication network, which is heavily satellite based.  While an EMP wouldn’t take out satellites beyond the curvature of the Earth, those within line of sight are at risk.  Also knocked down would be cell towers, relay stations, computers and servers, etc.  There is some debate over whether or not small transistor devices such as two way radios would survive, but even they would provide a very limited range for communication.  Some military hardware is hardened against EMP, but only a small percentage of it.  With no comm systems intact you cannot call for help, check on your family, organize relief efforts, or even find out how extensive the damage is.  The pony express may make a sudden resurgence in popularity.  Satellite damage will also preclude the use of GPS systems and national defense, and with the damage to the power grid and transportation systems it will not be easily repaired.

The effect of an EMP on our national transportation system is up for some debate; it could range from severe impact to negligible damage and there is no easy way to test the theories.  Since this is a forum for preparedness and survival, we will examine a worst case scenario.  Aircraft are one of the biggest unknowns in an EMP; they are designed to absorb lightning damage but as mentioned above, the E1 pulse is faster than lightning and may “leap over” the standard safeguards.  If this is the case, then aircraft would literally fall from the sky.  Modern jets do not glide well at all, and most require computers for operation.  The loss of life would be heavy, not just from passengers being killed but from the aircraft on approach and departure crashing in populated areas and the fires that would result.  Remember the comment above about lack of firefighting ability?  Even a single airliner going down could burn massive areas of a city.  Trains would likely cease to function as well, since most of the controls are computerized and in some cases they are powered by electricity from an external source.  Trains carrying hazardous waste that are unable to stop in time or divert to side tracks could be catastrophic. Cars and trucks are the biggest question mark in this equation.  While most cars produced since the late 1980’s are computer controlled, the electronics are fairly robust.  It is possible that they may experience a brief problem or not function as well, but many may keep driving even if in a limited capacity.  Older models and carbureted vehicles would probably fare much better.  Generally the simpler the ignition system, the less likely the vehicle would be incapacitated by an EMP.  Many motorcycles, ATVs, riding mowers, etc would likely continue to function.  The good news is that even in modern cars the computers are simple and may retain some functionality.  Vehicles parked underground in concrete parking structures may be shielded from a pulse and continue to function.  In the final section, we will mention a few steps that might keep your car running.


Virtually everything electronic today has some form of microprocessor control.  Obviously if the power is down then this is a moot point, but what about the large number of battery powered devices that rely on these controls?  The short answer is that no one is sure what will happen.  Think for a moment about the devices that you may be relying on as part of your preparations that could cease to function:

  • LED lights
  • Electronic optics (EO Tech and Aimpoint are most common)
  • Two-way radios
  • Small battery powered radios
  • Portable computers (Meaning that documents saved might not be accessible even on the hard drive.)
  • Home standby generators with automatic controls
  • Some medical devices such a pacemakers

So what are we supposed to do?
With all of the above in mind, how do you prepare for an event that creates an EMP?  There is not much that you can do to preserve the integrity of your local power grid and communications systems, but you can prepare some obvious backups.  The problem then is how do you shield your power supply, communications, transportation and microprocessors from the pulse when it happens?  What are the first steps you should take to stay ahead of the curve and secure your family?  We will break down your areas of concentration into several categories and dig a little deeper into each one.  The good news, if there is any, is that an EMP is an instant event and you don’t have to worry about overreacting or convincing your family that there is a problem.  In fact, you will have several critical hours, (maybe even days), where the rest of the neighborhood/town/city is trying to figure out what the hell just happened.  (That said, there may be a small benefit to waiting for a brief time before repairing things.  Earlier we talked about the potential for several weapons to be employed and an overlap of affected areas; if another weapon is detonated 15 minutes after the first and you have just fixed your car or taken your secured items out, it will require another fix or potentially ruin your sensitive items.)  Remember, there are no phones, no TV, no internet and most of the population in classic fashion will be sitting on the front porch cursing at the government and wondering when someone is going to come out and fix this for them.  In this case more than most, forewarned is forearmed, and reacting just a little quicker than the population at large can make the difference between life and death.  The primary focuses are going to be the same that we talked above previously; power, communication, transportation, and some concern for microprocessors, with the addition of these:

  • Water
  • Food
  • Security
  • Heat

Let’s go through the list and see what we can do to mitigate the effects of an EMP event both before and immediately afterward.


If you have a bike, you have EMP proof transportation.  Unfortunately you won’t have an advantage over everyone else with a bike.  If you have access to a motorcycle, ATV, or older carbureted truck, it will probably keep on running or at the most require a new ignition box.  If you have a new vehicle, try the following before abandoning it:  First, examine the fuse box and replace any that may have been blown.  (It is not a bad idea anyway to carry extra fuses and relays with you.  For EMP protection, wrap them in a paper towel and then in foil.)  Before you replace them, disconnect the power cable from the battery and leave it off while you work with the fuses.  Most automotive computers have a “reset” function where removing the power supply for a few minutes will cause a re-boot when you energize it again.  If the computer or key sensors have been destroyed by the pulse this will not help, but most systems are also designed with the ability to operate to a limited degree without full capability.  This is why bad sensors may cause a dash light to illuminate, gas mileage to decline or the emissions test to fail but won’t actually cause the car to stop running.  Once the fuses and relays have been replaced connect the battery and try to start the vehicle.  If it runs, great!  If not, grab your GHOB and anything useful in the vehicle and start walking home.  As a side note, security will rapidly become a problem so if it is legal for your to carry a weapon in your car, this is a compelling reason to do so.  It may be a long walk home.


This is the time to fill all of the bathtubs and every other container that you own with water.  The generators at the pumping stations and treatment plant may or may not work; you may only get whatever water is currently in the pipes and can be drained by gravity.  Don’t trust the quality of it either, treat and filter like you would water from any suspect source.  For filtration, a gravity-fed unit like a Berkey is preferable to something requiring a lot of manual labor or electricity.  Make sure you have this prior to the event, since you won’t be placing any online orders for the time being.  Take your water very seriously; simple infections can be deadly with no medical care, and many people will drink from the faucet out of habit not realizing that the treatment plant many not be functioning.


We all know that grocery stores only have a few days supply of food on the shelves, so with the power out and transportation crippled it won’t last long.  If you are prepared, you can capitalize on the slow reaction of the rest of the population to fill in any gaps in your supplies.  Take whatever transportation you have and get to the grocery store, now.  I’m talking about minutes after it happens.  Bring your credit cards and cash, and if possible go to a smaller store rather than a big chain.  Even though the power is out, smaller stores often still have manual credit card devices that create an imprint of the card.  I am not suggesting that you defraud anyone, and when the power comes back on (eventually) you will absolutely be responsible for any charges.  It certainly beats the hell out of starving to death though, so stock up on canned goods, bottled water, first aid supplies and non-perishables.  If the store doesn’t have a manual credit card machine use whatever cash you have on hand, but you probably won’t be bartering with gold and silver at this point.  No one will be all that worried at first and assume it is just a large power outage, so when you try to pay in old dimes don’t expect them to go for it.  Go to as many stores as possible and stock up; with manual machines in use you won’t hit any credit limit.  Crank up your old Jeep, find a trailer, and go shopping before the barbarian hordes arrive.  When you get home, use up all of your refrigerated items quickly.  Cook your refrigerated meat over charcoal to save your propane for heating and boiling water later.  Thaw your frozen meat and salt and dry it, and plant your garden now.  Don’t wait; your supplies won’t last forever.  If you live in an area with game and fish, start shooting deer and spend time fishing, preserving the meat by drying and salting.  Once reality sets in, there won’t be a deer to be found.


Virtually everything now is controlled by some sort of circuit board or microprocessor, which may be at some risk from EMP damage.  Protecting them is easy; it just requires some forethought on your part.  The best way is to place them in a Faraday cage, which channels the electric current around a metal enclosure and shields whatever is inside as long as it is not touching the metal.  The best example is a microwave oven.  It is designed to contain radio waves, and you can usually see the metal mesh in the door.  A gun safe also works, as long as there is no metal contacting the objects inside.  Any metal enclosure will work, even mesh as long as the holes are small.  You can build them yourself use existing metal cabinets, etc.  Store anything in it that you want to survive an EMP pulse.  Medical monitors, LED flashlights and weapon lights, holographic and laser sights, two way radios, small AM/FM radios, etc.  Remember that GPS will be useless if satellites are down and so will cell phones since the towers will be knocked out.  If you have a laptop with critical documents on it try to keep printed copies on hand since you probably won’t be able to access them later.  (You might even consider printing out articles like this from this web site and keeping them in a binder, along with your food storage details and supply lists.)  A steel storage building may also provide some protection, so if your ATV, old car, generator, etc are inside they may fare well and not require any repair.  Home standby generators are generally located inside a steel enclosure, but are connected through a transfer switch to the home; there is no clear evidence one way or the other to suggest whether or not they would survive a strike.


It is safe to assume that the days following an EMP strike will be filled with examples of society at its worst.  People on life support or even those that use pacemakers will be first wave of the dead, along with those killed in fires and accidents.  A progression of disease, injury, starvation, dehydration and predation will kill many more.  It will begin with simple looting, robbery and rape as criminals realize that no one can call for help and the police are overwhelmed and can’t respond.  As the days pass and they realize that there is no food, expect gangs to form and scour the area for resources.  Expect authorities to attempt to confiscate fuel, weapons, and food; resist if possible and with deadly force if needed.  Prescription medication will be unavailable, painkillers will be stolen almost immediately and refrigerated drugs like insulin will spoil.  Suicides will increase exponentially as will violence as hundreds of thousands on anti-depressants and anti-psychotics run out of their meds.  Prisons will likely be emptied of all but the worst offenders since the guards will leave and food will quickly run out.  Lack of basic necessities makes for desperate people, and desperate people are capable of anything.  It will start in the cities, where there are not enough resources to support even a fraction of the population once the transportation system is crippled.  High rise buildings with no power cannot pump water to the upper floors, creating an immediate crisis.  From the inner cities it will spread, as the inhabitants flee looking for resources.  They will swarm over the suburbs and into the rural areas, mistakenly believing that they can “live off of the land” or that the countries rural areas have food to spare.  Many people have no appreciation for the process by which food gets to the table, and the fact is that without modern irrigation, fertilization and harvesting only a small percentage of the grain and livestock will actually be turned into food.

A bug-out shelter in Wyoming is a great idea, but not if you can’t get there, so the odds are that you will have to secure your home.  This is not the place to discuss the ideal types of weapons to use.  What is more important is that you are armed, stocked with plenty of ammunition and spare parts, and most importantly have the training and will to use what you have.  If you have stockpiled food, have a generator running, and are driving a functional vehicle, you will certainly be a target.  Your best defense is to look innocuous; keep to yourself, don’t flaunt what you have, and if possible try to surround yourself with like-minded people so that you can support each other.  Run your generator only at limited intervals and try to muffle the exhaust as much as possible.  There are plenty of resources on fortifying your home; do your research now.  Even plywood sheets over the windows can provide a degree of protection and on most houses can be cut ahead of time and kept on hand to prevent storm damage anyway.  To survive an EMP you will need to have a one year plan as a minimum, and you really can’t have enough food, fuel and medical supplies.  Remember that you will attract friends and family in the area, and take on additional dependents at your own peril.  The food that will feed your family of four for a year will feed eight for six months and twelve for only four months. 

This is just theory, but no one can deny that the possibility exists for an EMP strike and that it is in fact more likely that many other types of disasters.  They key to surviving will be to plan ahead, rapidly identify it when it happens, and then work the plan.  Remember, there is a North Korean satellite in orbit right now and the Iranians have recently practiced launching ballistic missiles from ships.  It may not be as far-fetched as you think.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Dear Mr Rawles:
A follow-up to my last letter: Spiez is where the Swiss have their federal testing lab for Civil Defense.  The lab has an english version of its website.  At this link  your readers may acess the list of tested and aprooved components ( for CD shelters) and in a seperate document, the list of aprooval holders.  Interested readers can then with a search engine find the companies who make components of interest one of which is Lunor. This company also has an English version of their web site.  Readers can from there select blast doors, NBC filters,  valves etc.  Spiez is also the home of the Swiss level 4 confinement lab, ( of which a few pictures can also  be found  on the lab website).
Beste grussen und danke ein andere mal. - Jason L.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Dear Mr. Rawles:
Some of your French, Italian or German readers might like to try this link to the official Swiss Civil Defense web page.  The last five links on the page titled ITC or ITAP are the ones with the specs. The 4th link is also quite interesting, and as you can see, they even have the EMP problem entirely figured out, in typical Swiss fashion
I read somewhere that Oak Ridge might have translated some of these documents, or earlier versions thereof but I have yet to come across these on the net.
Beste grussen und danke ein andere mal. - Jason L.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Rainy Day Root Cellars in Castle Rock, Colorado offers a variety of sizes of root and combination storage cellars using pre-cast concrete components. I had the chance to inspect one of their installed cellars, and I was quite impressed. Their rugged designs are optimized for safe food and water storage, self-sufficiency, security and other 'backyard' or remote site access. In addition to food and water storage, these shelters provide excellent climate-controlled safe-keeping for important papers and sensitive files, firearms, ammunition, batteries, emergency medical supplies, and much more. Standard sizes range from 8′ x 8′ Single Room to 8′ x 24′ Three Room.

Uses and Advantages

The backfill depth of a typical cellar installation minimizes threat from fire, tornados or other strong storms. This depth also provides smaller annual temperature swings than those typical of basements, garages or attics. A typical year-round temperature range for the prescribed installation of a Rainy Day Root Cellar is 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. (Depending on your latitude.) Grains, canned goods, water, medicines, gunpowder and ammunition all store well in a 33 to 70 degree range environment. In addition to an ideal temperature, these root cellars provide optimum sealed, dry and dark conditions without dependence on power. A year's food storage for a family of four may cost around $15,000, which warrants an appropriate investment in a suitable enclosure to prevent or minimize shortened shelf-life, pillage from vermin or other intrusions.


The Rainy Day web site touts their enclosures as a "safety deposit box" in your backyard. Their heavy duty steel exterior cellar doors provide the first line of defense. At the bottom of the thick tread wooden staircase, the cast-in-place steel opening frames a second lockable steel door for excellent security. Ceiling, floor and walls are all reinforced concrete with all seams waterproof sealed inside and out. Pipe penetrations (typically two 4" vents) are also sealed inside and out. These can be fitted with forced-air HEPA air filters, to make you cellar double as a fallout shelter. Each room has an adjustable air intake vent, allowing independent temperature control. For models with two or more rooms, a room can be kept warmer or cooler than the others by adjusting the air intake vents. American made, cast aluminum, self-cleaning Lawler Manufacturing blast gates regulate temperature and air exchange. Turn the non-glued, screened intake ninety-degree fitting in the direction of the prevailing wind to adjust air intake. During extreme below zero conditions, a supplied cap over the air intake (in lieu of the ninety) keeps the temperature at desired minimums.


Rainy Day pre-engineers and designs all root cellars to customer specifications, including individual excavation plans tailored to each location. If desired, they will find a local excavation contractor to further reduce the involvement required from the buyer. In either case, they supply a custom excavation plan to provide a secure, level foundation. They work with a nationwide firm that has numerous concrete pre-cast concrete facilities around the country, which optimizes delivery of primary components and scheduling of on-site work. Delivery is often less than four weeks after receipt of deposit. They also provide other pour-in-place options (less preferable) if the site (e.g. too tight for crane access) or other considerations warrant an alternative to pre-cast components. After assembly, sealing, lock installation and testing, the Rainy Day staff can then install any optional items such as shelving or water tanks. Soil backfilling can be performed by the Rainy Day staff, a local contractor, or the owner. Grass seed and bushes are suggested to hide the protruding stand pipes, the tops of which should be unobstructed and above the anticipated high snow levels of the local elevation. Completion time from crew arrival on the excavated site to key hand-off is a maximum of two days.


Standard lengths for single room 8' wide root cellars include 8', 10', 12' 14' and 16'. Standard lengths for double room 8' wide root cellars include 20', 22' and 24'. There is a 24' long 3-room standard option, with other custom configurations available. For hillside installations, wing walls (for sloped ground retention) can replace the stairwell. Interior options include custom wooden shelves, pre-made steel shelves, specialized food storage units (such as ShelfReliance shelving), or owner provided storage units. Rainy Day Root Cellars recommends either 225 gallon or 525 gallon 2-valve top-filled water tank options. The valve two feet above the floor is optimal for bucket filling, while the bottom valve is for periodic draining. Battery-powered lights or solar lights are lighting options they can provide. Rainy Day staff recommends acquiring two or more D-cell powered LED lanterns which can be suspended on their supplied ceiling hooks.

Rainy Day Root Cellars' web site provides more details and photos. They can be reached at: 303-660-6461.

- L.K.O. (SurvivalBlog's Central Rockies Regional Editor)

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Many are increasingly concerned about elevated radiation levels in their own local areas, but without any way to check & test for local radiation contamination many of them are worrying needlessly, especially about minute, non-dangerous, increases over background radiation levels.

At KI4U we will for no charge test any submitted used air filters from SurvivalBlogger's vehicles or homes. Here at the lab we are utilizing state of the art isotope identification spectrum analysis with dose rate determination and will e-mail lab analysis results back to any that send in their used air filters.

Full details on these tests can be found here. Regards, - Shane at KI4U.com

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

I have a question about the American Redoubt in light of the pending and probable total failure of the Fukushima reactors spent fuel rod pool. When this thing goes, the release will be massive and long term. [I have read that the] radiation release will cover most of the US and Canada and that most of Canada and the northern two thirds of America may be unlivable. How advisable would be moving to the American Redoubt?

I'm not one for conspiracy theories. I don't buy the one about HAARP causing the earthquake and tsunami. However, the sheer lack of any effort to contain this pending disaster like building a coffin around it like Chernobyl to be disturbing. We've invaded many counties that pose less danger to the US, if not the world.

What are you thought on safety should this thing collapse? - Sasquatch

JWR Replies: All of the recent Internet rantings that I've seen about Fukushima's impact on the in the U.S. and Canada are not being written by folks with any background in nuclear physics or NBC defense.

This piece that I wrote pretty well sums up my position: Useful Tidbits on Radiation and Journalists--The Season of Isotopes and Misanthropes

And this piece, posted four days later by the well-informed editor of Modern Survival Blog, echoed what I wrote, with some greater detail: Radiation, Japan, and the Inverse-Square Law (Also be sure to see the follow-up comments.) The rates at which radionuclides (radioactive atmospheric dust) drop out of rain clouds with precipitation are similar. In essence, the radiation risk drops off to negligible levels around 800 miles downwind, unless weather conditions are very unusual.

Friday, May 25, 2012

The recent “discovery”of a small nuclear reactor (only 3.1 pounds of weapons grade enriched uranium) in Rochester, New York started my wheels turning. Like most people reading SurvivalBlog I am concerned about what is around me and what harm could befall my family in the event of a TEOTWAWKI situation. Knowledge is power, and in this write up, knowledge about where nuclear power exists will go a long way.

I have spent 20+ years in the Navy upholding the Constitution, making my living as a Radioman on nuclear submarines, specifically 688 fast attacks. (I'm looking forward to leaving the East Coast and moving to friendlier, wide open spaces.)  I ate, slept, worked out, cleaned (endlessly), communicated and repaired equipment always within 100 feet of a nuclear reactor. At first, it was a big deal, but routine and the demands of the job numbed me to what was there. I find the same sort of numbness in those that live around civilian nuclear plants today and many other industries that have the potential to magnify a major disaster. After a while it is just there. You accept it and don’t pay any attention to it until something bad goes wrong at which point you have that “A-ha!” moment.

Building on what others on this blog have pointed out, know what is around you. Several people have pointed out all the civilian nuclear reactors. What about the military reactors? Those used for research? Prototype reactors? Start doing a serious look around you and you will find them right in your backyard. The mini reactor in a Kodak factory underground bunker (since 1974) is a good example.  The Idaho National Laboratory is another example of a location where nuclear plants exist (experimental ones at that) but is not generally discussed within the mainstream media. The laboratory, just west of Idaho Falls was also home to one of the world’s first nuclear accidents.

Just a small amount of research gives one a taste of exactly what is out there. In the US alone commissioned, decommissioned, experimental, military and research reactors number in the hundreds.

Thinking about reactors around us, let’s take the Pacific Northwest (Idaho, Oregon and Washington) as a point of reference. Basically you have the Hanford Nuclear Reservation [in southeastern Washington] with the Columbia Generating Station. Not even delving into what is buried or mothballed (cocooned) on the Hanford Reservation this gives us a grand total of just one commercial nuclear power plant within the Northwest. Digging deeper though, we find other reactors. From known unclassified (yes it is Wikipedia, but the data collates with other solid information) sources we find that Idaho has four operational research reactors. In various states of decommission, mothball or cocooning we find another 34 reactors.  The University of Idaho operates another reactor, the AGN-201, also located on the grounds of the Idaho National laboratory.

Oregon has zero commercial reactors. Hey, almost good news. Diving into the information highway though shows us two research reactors. The first is located on the Oregon State University campus in Corvallis. A pure research reactor capable of generating 1.1Mw, it has a “low vulnerability to meltdown”.  I used to have the same thing. As it turns out my low vulnerability to meltdown disappeared when I had to deal with 18 year old Submarine School Students on a daily basis who go out of their way to invent new and stupid things to do. But I digress.  The other Oregon reactor is located at Reed College in Portland. As quoted from the Reed College reactor web page, “the reactor is operated primarily by undergraduates”. I am certain in a TEOTWAWKI of SHTF situation, all of these students will come running to the reactor to safely shut it down or otherwise keep it in a "safe operating mode." (The Microsoft Word programmers need to develop a sarcasm font.)

Finally this brings us to Washington State. As previously mentioned, Washington is home to the Hanford Nuclear Reservation and the only commercially operating nuclear power plant in the Northwest.  The lone research reactor within the state is located on the Washington State University campus in Pullman, near Spokane. Take it down to another level. What about military reactors? How many of those exist within the state of Washington? Basically this depends on what ship is underway. Located on the Kitsap Peninsula on the Hood Canal side is the Bangor Trident Submarine base, or Naval Base Kitsap. The submarine base is home to several Trident submarines, three fast attack subs and two SSGNs [which are Tridents converted to each carry 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles with conventional warheads]. Using the Submarine Group Nine web site (under Trident Submarines) and the Submarine Development Group Five web site (under fast attacks) I count thirteen nuclear submarines. Across the peninsula in Bremerton you have nuclear powered aircraft carriers parked there, nuclear powered warships (subs/carriers) in dry dock, etc. Go across the water to Naval Station Everett (just north of Seattle) and throw in some more nuclear powered aircraft carriers. If you spent your time looking for commercial nuclear power plants in Washington you may come across just the Columbia Generating Station. Dive in deep and now you have a variable number of between 2 and 18 (it really depends on which subs are in port).

This is just the information that is publicly available.  Only the Good Lord actually knows everything that is located in just the Northwestern section of the country. We have a bloated government with so many special agencies and projects I have no doubt two highly classified things happen next to each other, both working to the same end and each one doesn’t know about the other; neither  known to the public.

Getting back on topic and thinking about the Northwest, what kind of local TEOTWAWKI scenarios could develop which could jeopardize the reactors? I believe one only has to re-watch video of the Japan Tsunami and transpose that over to the West Coast of the United States in order to get a good idea. The Cascadian Subduction Zone  would be the most likely offender in any Tsunami scenario. A magnitude 8 or 9 quake along this zone has the potential to generate a Japan (2011) type tsunami event. Imagine that water rushing through the Puget Sound and being funneled through a place like the Hood Canal. Rushing water can and does move massive objects. A massive surge of water would easily move a Trident (Ohio) Class submarine off the pier and onto land or some other point. Nuclear submarine reactors were never meant to be operated on land. Cooling water is required, even when they are in dry dock. That cooling water comes from the submarines natural environment (ocean water).  It now becomes a struggle to ensure the core is covered by water.

Add massive tsunami and earthquake damage to infrastructure from a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake and you have the makings for a major disaster. A good portion of the crew would have to make it back to the submarine through massive damage and in most scenarios probably would not make it back. Communications would be down. The minimal crew onboard the submarine would have some personnel injured and would in no way be equipped to handle the potential complexity and magnitude of the crisis. While submarines do have some reserve electrical power to operate and (attempt) to get things in a stable state (battery bank), this is extremely limited. The other emergency power source is the subs own diesel generator. Good luck in operating that if the sub is at any sort of angle on land (and without cooling water).  The number of submarines in port multiplies the potential for disaster.

Saying all this it is also important to remember that US Navy submarines are built to withstand a lot of damage and keep going. The reactor components even more so. The USS San Francisco colliding into an undersea mountain at top speed is a testament to how robustly those subs built after the 1960s are. The Thresher and the Scorpion, two nuclear-powered submarines lost in the Atlantic during the 1960s (pre-Sub Safe era) are regularly monitored for radiation exposure and according to government reports, minimal amounts have been released/recorded. Yes, I know. Government reports. It is also important to know that both of the reactor vessels for these submarines are sitting in several thousand feet of water and did not rupture; a testament to their strength (Thresher is sitting in approximately 8,400 feet of water, which equates to approximately 4,000 lbs per square inch of pressure). It is also a testament to the cooling effect of ice cold seawater.

The potential is there for a massive natural disaster to be compounded by several manmade disasters. Knowing the location of reactors, industrial plants and the like will give you a leg up in any survival scenario. Having a preplanned escape route to avoid these potential disasters and the massive panic that would ensue from them is vital. The Three Mile Island Disaster (scroll down to the Three Mile Island part) is a perfect example of poor communications and panicked people. That was just an isolated incident not caused by some external calamity. Throw in the external calamity and the proverbial fan blades become covered in stuff.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Dear James:

I second the motion - any nuclear power experts on the blog that can comment on the threat from further catastrophes in Japan, or similar catastrophes happening here in the US?

Quite frankly I had not paid enough attention to Fukushima.  What I am finally reading is incredibly disturbing.   To summarize, we have a fragile earthquake, and tsunami damaged building, holding tons of highly radioactive and unstable nuclear fuel rods - on the building's second storey, 100 feet in the air, in an active earthquake zone.

Here is a photo.

Here is a quote: "If an earthquake or other event were to cause this pool to drain this could result in a catastrophic radiological fire involving nearly 10 times the amount of Cs-137 released by the Chernobyl accident."

This would be TEOTWAWKI for Japan.  I would love to hear from an expert how bad this one event would be for the US, especially the West Coast...

Even more ominously for Americans, the US is just as vulnerable to repeating the same catastrophe as Fukushima - because of a decades-long reliance upon insecure on-site water pool storage of nuclear waste.  This was supposed to be a temporary expedient before stable long term removal and secure long-term storage of nuclear waste.   The safer, and more expensive alternative, of on-site dry cask storage, has been resisted (dry cask storage has come through largely unscathed in Japan).

"The Worst Yet to Come? Why Nuclear Experts Are Calling Fukushima a Ticking Time-Bomb"

"Experts say acknowledging the threat would call into question the safety of dozens of identically designed nuclear power plants in the U.S."

It Gets Worse...

Beyond the storage pool dilemma is the fact that nuclear reactors need a functioning power grid to keep the coolant flowing to prevent meltdown.  If the grid goes down, it is just batteries and diesel / propane generators to keep the coolant flowing.  If the fuel re-supply  doesn't show up in time, meltdown occurs...

Natural News has the best overview of the threat I have seen:

"Solar flare could unleash nuclear holocaust across planet Earth, forcing hundreds of nuclear power plants into total meltdowns"

It is disturbing to fathom, but it appears that any disaster that takes the power grid down for an extended time, and disrupts the delivery of generator fuel, could easily turn a large chunk of the US into a nuclear contaminated wasteland.

Any nuclear scientists with a considered opinion on this?

The number of "Black Swan" scenarios that could take the power grid down for an extended time are legion:  EMP strike, or Coronal Mass Ejection (CME), a New Madrid quake, "The Big One" on the West Coast, war or terrorist attack, just to start the list...

Are we living on borrowed time?

Is the Southern hemisphere the only really desirable bug-out location for any scenario involving the power grid going down long term?

See this map.

Regards, - OSOM

JWR Replies: The American Redoubt region is relatively safe from contamination from nuclear power plants. It is noteworthy that all but one of the nuclear power plants in CONUS that are up-wind of the region have either been shut down or are so hopelessly entangled by lawsuits that they are unlikely to ever be operational. (The one operating plant is Columbia Nuclear Generating Station, near Richland, Washington.) In contrast, the eastern United States does indeed have many, many significant spent fuel storage pond meltdown risks, in the event of a long-term grid power failure.

In the west, there is still the risk of minor contamination from Fukushima. At worst, we might have to dump milk from dairy animals for a few months if there is another big radiation release. But thankfully, the inverse square law hasn't been repealed. Distance is on our side!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Mr. Rawles,

Bill W. recently wrote about some of the possible consequences of nuclear power plants when the SHTF. Although I agree that a minimum safe distance during an individual plant emergency is 50 rather than 20 miles, I have to wonder if distance is that important 4 – 6 weeks out during a continent-wide event. I work for an electric cooperative and live less than 25 miles north of the North Anna Nuclear Power Plant in Virginia. During last summer’s earthquake, an electrical engineer told me the plant had tripped offline. I could not find this out from any news outlet on the internet. Nor could the engineer answer my real concern: did the backup cooling systems work? The lack of information left my wife (who was at home and scared from the house’s violent shaking) and I who was another 50 miles northeast at work, in an information blackout.

Nuclear plants have many backup systems from distribution electric facilities to generators and batteries, but in the event of an EMP, what are the chances for all of us on this planet? Obviously, the distribution electric system will be down. Are the generators EMP hardened, will they come online? They did not at Fukushima, and the mainstream media has elected to ignore the ongoing problems at this plant. Are the vents mechanical or do they require electricity that may not be available to operate? I count +/- 36 nuclear plants east of a line due south of Detroit to the Gulf of Mexico. If no safety systems are working and no one is there during a catastrophic event to operate them, will the +/- 36 plants (and a lot more counting all the nuclear plants in the U.S.) melt down, implode and spread an insane amount of radiation into the jet stream condemning everyone to a month-long agonizing death by radiation poisoning except for the political swells in the world’s capitols who will be evacuated to underground bunkers created at our expense? Given no secondary events like an earthquake, are most containment building strong enough to contain an uncontrolled chain reaction? Will the radiation be so strong that potassium iodide pills will not be enough? Would living in our basements for a year be adequate or simply too little too late?

I think it would be invaluable if one of your readers, a professional nuclear engineer could address the truly worst case scenario of an EMP attack over the entire country. Given that most plants store used fuel rods within the containment pools, the meltdown effects of each plant are intensified almost beyond imagination. - George C.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

I’m 62 years old and live in the suburbs of a large town in Georgia (not Atlanta).  I think of myself as an intermediate prepper.  I’ve studied a lot and have plans in place for myself and my family should events turn sour.  I’ve got all the survival manuals in place and have prepared to defend my family should the worst happen.  My family is prepped and ready to go.  Though I’ve not bought much in the way of food stuff, I have all the hardware and I know where to get the food stuff on short order.  I keep an adequate supply of cash on hand.

I already know that unless there is a direct threat to my family or my home I will not be bugging out irrespective of what may happen.  Neither my or my wife’s health will support a bug out on foot.  However we do have bug-out bags ready just in case we should have to leave.  We live in a community of like-minded individuals.  My home is well prepped and a supply of water and other essentials is nearby.

I have a backup location (second home about 80 miles away) that I can go to if there is a direct threat to my family or my home.  I have the capability to load my gear and supplies and make my way there without traveling major road or towns.  My backup location is actually a better physical location (more remote, better water and game, better for gardening) for a long term event.  However I do not have the community support (like-minded neighbors) there that I have at my home.  My backup location is ready should I need it.

I am a mechanical engineer by education and a nuclear engineer by trade.  My principal function at work is overseeing the analysis of risk at nuclear and chemical facilities in the US and other industrialized countries.  This brings me to the point of what I want to discuss.

As we prepare to survive in the unknown world, a world where there are no support systems to keep us aware of what is going on outside our immediate neighborhood, we need to know a lot about what surrounds us.  As we enter into a situation where there are no utilities, everyone will be busy taking care of themselves and their families as they try to survive.  So who will be minding the industrial facilities around us?  My answer is no one.  Everyone will be minding their own retreats and families.  No one will be reporting to the nuclear and chemical facilities to make sure that they are in a safe and stable condition.

As we have become more and more industrialized, our industrial processes have become more complex.  We rely on computers and embedded processors to ensure that nuclear and chemical facilities are in a safe and stable condition.  Granted well trained employees are there to oversee the automated process and to take action if things do not go as programmed.  Without power to monitor and control the nuclear and chemical facilities and no one reporting to work to do the same, many of these facilities will become unstable over time.  Chemical or nuclear releases will become likely.

As I’ve made my plans one of the things that I have done is to take a map of my surrounding area and drawn a 50 mile ring around my house (this is true for both my home and backup location).  Within that ring I have identified the facilities that may pose a hazard to me and my family should the power and employees not be available to monitor and maintain stable conditions at the facilities that use or maintain inventories of hazardous materials.  This is not easy even for a trained professional.  It involves knowing the inventory of hazardous material stored at each facility and the effect that those materials may have on humans and the environment.  Learning the material and quantities is the hard part.  The hazards can be learned from Material Safety Data Sheets which can be found on the web.
As you may expect I was surprised at what I learned.  Even in a semi-rural area in Georgia, away for any large cities like Atlanta and in an area that we don’t typically think of as chemical ally, I found a very large number of facilities that use or process large quantities of chemical that are hazardous and / or deadly to humans and the environment.

A lot of the chemicals housed in these facilities are fairly stable while in storage without much attention needed.  But when left alone for prolonged periods of time, and in a post event period when looting and mischief may abound, they may not be contained and stable for the long term.
Another factor in my analysis is the weather and the prevailing winds.  Most of the facilities where the worst offending materials are located are to the south and east of me.  This is also true of my backup location.  That is good because where I live the prevailing winds tend to be from the west or southwest.  Seldom does the wind come directly from the south and almost never from the east.  I would hardly ever be in the direct path of a wind-blown release of material from one of these facilities.

An additional factor in my analysis was knowing when there may be a release of a hazardous material.  As I said before a lot of the chemicals housed in these facilities are fairly stable while in storage without much attention needed.  If we ignore for a minute the potential of a release due to mischief, then weather, time, and the properties of the material (corrosive, stability over time) come into play.  Harsh weather such as severe cold, heavy rains and flooding, and severe winds can lead to early failure of storage facilities.  The corrosiveness of a material may require constant stirring, cleaning, and maintenance.  Some materials may volatize and give of harmful or explosive vapors while remaining in there containers.  Some chemical are susceptible to becoming unstable when mixed with other chemicals or water.  Some chemicals and processes give off heat which may lead to the early failure of a container.  A lighting strike on a chemical or fuel container may lead to a fire or explosion which can involve other materials and produce toxic vapors and heavy smoke.

In addition to the chemical facilities, within my 50 mile ring are two nuclear facilities.  One is a nuclear power plant which is due south.  The other is a government facility which is southeast of me.  They are both close to the 50 mile ring.

The government facility is mostly shutdown. It is in the process of being decommissioned and closed, although some new, less threatening facilities are being used and constructed.  It houses large tanks of radioactive waste that self-heat and evolve hydrogen.  If left alone, the hydrogen will build up in the tanks.  An ignition source or lighting could cause a large explosion that would result in a significant release of radioactive material.  Because it is so far away and the prevailing winds are in my favor I don’t worry about this facility.

The nuclear power plant is somewhat different.  It is due south and sometimes the winds are from that direction.  If a slowly evolving event were to occur then the reactor cores would probably we off loaded and all of the nuclear fuel would be stored in the spent fuel pools.  Assuming all power is lost and the employee are minding their families then over time the heat generated by the spent fuel would boil off the cooling water and a release of radioactive material would occur.  This process would take weeks to develop.  Again, because of the distance and direction I am not concerned.

Due to both facilities being near the ring and the unknown factors (you can’t smell, taste or see radioactivity) I would not travel very far to the south or southeast of where I live after the SHTF.

My analysis has allowed me to understand that I am not at significant risk of a secondary chemical or radiological event.  Dealing with the new conditions that follow the SHTF event that took away our way of life will be difficult enough without the fear of these types of surprises.

Everyone who expects to survive a SHTF scenario needs to understand the secondary threats around them.  In addition to the issues of no utilities, non-friendlies looking for food and shelter, no health care or support, and an unknown future, we need to know that we will not be blind-sided by a chemical or nuclear release that we are not prepared for.

If you think you are ready but haven’t looked at the surrounding chemical and nuclear facilities then you are not fully prepared.  If you plan to hold up in an industrialized area you must know what the surrounding hazards are.

Take out a map of your retreat area and draw a 50 mile ring.  Go to Google Maps and look at the area particularly on the upwind side of you (look at the Weather Channel and you can understand where your prevailing winds are coming from).  If you find industrialized areas, find out what types of chemical and nuclear hazards are close by.  Make a determination of whether you want to be downwind of a release of these materials.  Bugging out after a chemical or radiological release envelopes you may be too late (remember Bhopal).  Good luck and God Bless.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

 I read in today’s SurvivalBlog, ”David in Israel on Coronal Mass Ejections.”  In it, David mentioned that “good grounding is always a good idea.”  That got me to thinking, as I had read in fairly authoritative reports that normal electrical grounding for EMP or CME, unless it is done in very specific and professional ways, is not a good idea for the average person unless he or she has specialized training and equipment.
I checked the references cited below, which covers the effects of both nuclear EMP and solar storms.  In the references below, one finds that of the three effects of a nuclear EMP burst, E1, E2, and E3, the third effect (E3) is the only one that can be similar in effect to a solar super storm.  The author thus includes protection for solar storms at the same level as the E3 effect of a nuclear EMP attack.  The discussion I think is worthy of study considering the recent news of solar activity.  (He discusses both EMP and solar events throughout the discussion, rather than separately.)
Mr. Emanuelson even mentions the use of galvanized trash cans as protection from EMP--which I have used for a year-or-so--for EMP protection. I do not ground them, but rather I store them resting on cardboard sheets on a concrete floor.  I have also been nesting other electronics gear in these cans as well as foil-wrapped shoe boxes, .50 cal ammo cans, fruit cake cans, etc. in the event of either EMP or CME.  But the author states emphatically that any Faraday cage, regardless of how elegant or primitive, is of no use, whatsoever, in protecting from a solar storm or nuclear E3 event. So I shall quit throwing my stuff in the cans when every solar storm comes up.  He does, however, recommend unplugging the cords from computers and other electronics devices at the “box” rather than at the wall, to reduce the “antenna effect.”   He gives a good rundown of some of the myths associated with these events, of which I admit that I’ve been a victim, in the last link, below.
While I have read pieces and parts of this as well source, as other sources --many of which conflict --  in the last year-or-so, only today have I taken the time to read all of this source, which is quite good, in my view.. Overall, a review of these references seems a good thing to do in light of the current solar activity
The links below are but a few among many on the site:  Nuclear Electromagnetic Pulse, by Jerry Emanuelson, B.S.E.E., Futurescience, LLC, Colorado Springs, CO

Sincerely, - Two Dogs

Monday, February 6, 2012

There are nearly 450 nuclear reactors in the world, with hundreds more either under construction or in the planning stages. There are 104 of these reactors in the USA and 195 in Europe. Imagine what havoc it would wreak on our civilization and the planet’s ecosystems if we were to suddenly witness not just one or two nuclear melt-downs but 400 or more! How likely is it that our world might experience an event that could ultimately cause hundreds of reactors to fail and melt down at approximately the same time?  I venture to say that, unless we take significant protective measures, this apocalyptic scenario is not only possible but probable.

Consider the ongoing problems caused by three reactor core meltdowns, explosions, and breached containment vessels at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi facility, and the subsequent health and environmental issues. Consider the millions of innocent victims that have already died or continue to suffer from horrific radiation-related health problems (“Chernobyl AIDS”, epidemic cancers, chronic fatigue, etc) resulting from the Chernobyl reactor explosions, fires, and fallout. If just two serious nuclear disasters, spaced 25 years apart, could cause such horrendous environmental catastrophes,  it is hard to imagine how we could ever hope to recover from hundreds of similar nuclear incidents occurring simultaneously across the planet. Since more than one third of all Americans live within 50 miles of a nuclear power plant, this is a serious issue that should be given top priority![1]

In the past 152 years, Earth has been struck roughly 100 solar storms causing significant geomagnetic disturbances (GMD), two of which were powerful enough to rank as “extreme GMDs”. If an extreme GMD of such magnitude were to occur today, in all likelihood it would initiate a chain of events leading to catastrophic failures at the vast majority of our world’s nuclear reactors, quite similar to the disasters at both Chernobyl and Fukushima, but multiplied over 100 times. When massive solar flares launch a huge mass of highly charged plasma (a coronal mass ejection, or CME) directly towards Earth, colliding with our planet’s outer atmosphere and magnetosphere, the result is a significant geomagnetic disturbance. 

Since an extreme GMD of such a potentially disruptive magnitude that it would collapse the grid across most of the US last occurred in May of 1921, long before the advent of  modern electronics, widespread electric power grids, and nuclear power plants, we are for the most part blissfully unaware of this threat and totally unprepared for its consequences. The good news is that there are some relatively affordable protective equipment and processes which could be installed to protect critical components in the electric power grid and its nuclear reactors, thereby protecting our civilization from this “end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it” scenario. The bad news is that, as of now, even though panels of scientists and engineers have studied the problem, and the bi-partisan congressional EMP commission has presented a list of specific recommendations to congress, our leaders have yet to approve and implement a single significant preventative measure!
Most of us believe something like this could never happen, and if it could, certainly our “authorities” would do everything in their power to make sure they would prevent such an Apocalypse from ever taking place. Unfortunately, the opposite is true. “How could this happen?” you might ask. “Is this truly possible?” Read and weep, for you will soon know the answer.

Nuclear Power Plants and the Electric Power Grid

Our global system of electrical power generation and distribution (“the grid”), upon which every facet of our modern life is utterly dependent, in its current form is extremely vulnerable to severe geomagnetic storms of a magnitude that tends to strike our planet on an average of approximately once every 70 to 100 years. We depend on this grid to maintain food production and distribution, telecommunications, Internet services, medical services, military defense, transportation, government, water treatment, sewage and garbage removal, refrigeration, oil refining and gas pumping, and to conduct all forms of commerce.
Unfortunately, the world’s nuclear power plants, as they are currently designed, are critically dependent upon maintaining connection to a functioning electrical grid, for all but relatively short periods of electrical blackouts, in order to keep their reactor cores continuously cooled so as to avoid catastrophic reactor core meltdowns and spent fuel rod storage pond fires.

If an extreme GMD were to cause widespread grid collapse (which it most certainly will), in as little as one or two hours after each nuclear reactor facility’s backup generators either fail to start, or run out of fuel, the reactor cores will start to melt down. After a few days without electricity to run the cooling system pumps, the water bath covering the spent fuel rods stored in “spent fuel ponds” will boil away, allowing the stored fuel rods to melt down and burn [2]. Since the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) currently mandates that only one week’s supply of backup generator fuel needs to be stored at each reactor site, it is likely that after we witness the spectacular night-time celestial light show from the next extreme GMD we will have about one week in which to prepare ourselves for Armageddon.
To do nothing is to behave like ostriches with our heads in the sand, blindly believing that “everything will be okay,” as our world inexorably drifts towards the next naturally recurring, 100%  inevitable, super solar storm and resultant extreme GMD. The result of which in short order will end the industrialized world as we know it, incurring almost incalculable suffering, death, and environmental destruction on a scale not seen since the extinction of the dinosaurs some 65 million years ago.

The  End of “The Grid” As We Know It

There are records from the 1850s to today of roughly one hundred significant geomagnetic solar storms, two of which in the last 25 years were strong enough to cause millions of dollars worth of damage to key components that keep our modern grid powered. In March of 1989, a severe solar storm induced powerful electric currents in grid wiring that fried a main power transformer in the HydroQuebec system, causing a cascading grid failure that knocked out power to 6 million customers for nine hours while also damaging similar transformers in New Jersey and the United Kingdom. More recently, in 2003 a solar storm of lesser intensity, but longer duration, caused a blackout in Sweden and induced powerful currents in the South African grid that severely damaged or destroyed fourteen of their major power transformers, impairing commerce and comfort over major portions of that country as they were forced to resort to massive rolling blackouts that dragged on for many months[3]. 

During the Great Geomagnetic Storm of May 14-15, 1921, brilliant aurora displays were reported in the Northern Hemisphere as far south as Mexico and Puerto Rico, and in the Southern Hemisphere as far north as Samoa[5]. This extreme GMD produced ground currents roughly ten times as strong as the 1989 Quebec incident. Just 62 years earlier, the great granddaddy of recorded GMDs, referred to as “The Carrington Event,” raged from August 28 to September 4, 1859. This extreme GMD induced currents so powerful that telegraph lines, towers, and stations caught on fire at a number of locations around the world. Best estimates are that the Carrington Event was approximately 50% stronger than the Great Geomagnetic Storm of 1921[6]. Since we are headed into an active solar period, much like the one preceding the Carrington Event, scientists are concerned that conditions could be ripe for the next extreme GMD[7].

Prior to the advent of the microchip and modern extra-high-voltage (EHV) transformers (key grid components that were first introduced in the late 1960s), most electrical systems were relatively  robust and resistant to the effects of GMDs. Given the fact that a simple electrostatic spark can fry a microchip, and many thousands of miles of power lines act like giant antennas for capturing massive amounts of GMD spawned electromagnetic energy, the electrical systems of the modern world are far more vulnerable than their predecessors.

A growing number of scientists and engineers have become concerned about the vulnerability of both the grid and modern microelectronics to debilitating damage from severe electromagnetic disturbances. These could come either in the form of naturally occurring extreme GMDs, like what occurred during the 1921 and 1859 super solar storms, or an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) resulting from the deliberate detonation of a nuclear device at a high altitude above the earth.

The federal government recently sponsored a detailed scientific study to more fully understand the extent to which critical components of our national electrical power grid might be effected by either a naturally occurring GMD or a man-made EMP. Under the auspices of the EMP Commission and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and reviewed in depth by the Oakridge National Laboratory and the National Academy of Sciences,  Metatech Corporation undertook extensive modeling and analysis of the potential effects of extreme geomagnetic storms upon the U.S. electrical power grid. They based their modeling upon a storm of intensity equal to the Great Geomagnetic Storm of 1921. Metatech estimated that within the continental United States alone, these voltage and current spikes combined with harmonic anomalies would severely damage or destroy over 350 EHV power transformers critical to the functioning of the U.S. grid, and possibly well over 2000 EHV transformers worldwide.[8]

EHV transformers are custom designed for each installation and are made to order, weighing as much as 300 tons each, and costing well over US 1$ million each. Given the fact that there is currently a three year waiting list for a single EHV transformer (due to recent demand from China and India, the lead times have grown from one to three years), and that the total global manufacturing capacity is roughly 100 EHV transformers per year when the world’s manufacturing centers are functioning properly, you can begin to grasp the dire implications of this situation.

In addition to increasing total network size of the High Voltage Transmission Network, the network has grown in complexity with the introduction of higher-kilovolt rated lines that subsequently also tend to carry larger GIC (geomagnetically induced current) flows. (Grid size derived from data in the EHV Transmission Line Reference Book and the NERC Electricity Supply and Demand database; energy usage statistics from the US Department of Energy – Energy Information Administration.) [9]

The loss of thousands of EHV transformers worldwide would cause a catastrophic collapse of the grid, stretching across much of the industrialized world. It will take years at best for the industrialized world to put itself back together after such an event, especially considering the fact that most of the manufacturing centers that make this equipment will also be grappling with widespread grid failure.
Since the earth’s magnetic field tends to protect the tropical latitudes from the most damaging geomagnetic effects, with protection dropping as one travels closer to the poles, perhaps the infrastructure and manufacturing zones in places like Mexico, Malaysia, India, and Singapore will be spared. However, most of those countries probably also rely on goods and services imported from other parts of the world that would be crippled for many months (or years) in the event of  a an extreme GMD.

According to the various Metatech analyses, it is estimated that grid collapse will effect at least 130 million people in the United States alone. However, in a recent personal conversation, John Kappenman (author of the Metatech study) admitted that this estimate is probably grossly optimistic.[11] He noted that “killer trees” and other seemingly insignificant events have been attributed to being the tiny seeds that sprouted into giant multi-state blackouts. The massive Western States Blackout of August 10, 1996, apparently started when sagging power lines shorted against improperly pruned trees in Oregon during a triple-digit heat wave, cascading into a blackout that cut power to seven western states, parts of Baja, Mexico, and two Canadian provinces. Due to excessive loads from millions of air-conditioning units operating during the heat wave, the grid had been operating near peak capacity and the shorted lines threw it over the edge into cascading failure, affecting millions of customers[12].
A similar group of “killer trees” in the state of Ohio were apparently the root cause of the Great Northeastern Blackout of August 2003 that cut power to over 50 million people [13]. Kappenman also cited the recent September 2011 event where a utility technician flipped a switch to bypass a large series capacitor that was not working properly at a substation outside of Yuma Arizona, and for reasons not fully understood this caused a chain of events leading to  a massive cascading blackout that cut power to millions of customers in Arizona, California, and Mexico. This same blackout also caused two nuclear reactors at the San Onofre nuclear power plant to automatically shut down and go off line, which they are designed to do as a safety precaution in the event of a local grid failure. This exacerbated the situation by reducing the locally available generating capacity at the same time as utility workers were desperately trying to restore power to San Diego and other areas[14].

Our Nuclear “Achilles Heel”

Five years ago I visited the still highly contaminated areas of Ukraine and the Belarus border where much of the radioactive plume from Chernobyl descended on 26 April 1986. I challenge chief scientist John Beddington and environmentalists like George Monbiot or any of the pundits now downplaying the risks of radiation to talk to the doctors, the scientists, the mothers, children and villagers who have been left with the consequences of a major nuclear accident. It was grim. We went from hospital to hospital and from one contaminated village to another. We found deformed and genetically mutated babies in the wards; pitifully sick children in the homes; adolescents with stunted growth and dwarf torsos; fetuses without thighs or fingers and villagers who told us every member of their family was sick. This was 20 years after the accident, but we heard of many unusual clusters of people with rare bone cancers…. Villages testified that ‘the Chernobyl necklace’—thyroid cancer—was so common as to be unremarkable.- John Vidal, “Nuclear’s Green Cheerleaders Forget Chernobyl at Our Peril,” Guardian. co.uk, April 1, 2011[15]

So what do extended grid blackouts have to do with potential nuclear catastrophes? Nuclear power plants are designed to disconnect automatically from the grid in the event of a local power failure or major grid anomaly, and once disconnected they begin the process of shutting down the reactor's core. In the event of the loss of coolant flow to an active nuclear reactor's core, the reactor will start to melt down and fail catastrophically within a matter of a few hours at most. In an extreme GMD, nearly every reactor in the world could be affected.

It was a short-term cooling system failure that caused the partial reactor core melt-down in March 1979 at Three Mile Island, Pennsylvania. Similarly, according to Japanese authorities it was not direct damage from Japan’s 9.0 magnitude Tohoku Earthquake on March 11, 2011 that caused the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor disaster, but the loss of electric power to the reactor’s cooling system pumps when the reactor’s backup batteries and diesel generators were wiped out by the ensuing tidal waves. In the hours and days after the tidal waves shuttered the cooling systems, the cores of reactors number 1, 2, and 3 were in full meltdown and released hydrogen gas, fueling explosions which breached several reactor containment vessels and blew the roof off the building housing the spent fuel storage pond of reactor number 4.
Of even greater danger and concern than the reactor cores themselves are the spent fuel rods stored in on-site cooling ponds. Lacking a permanent spent nuclear fuel storage facility, so-called “temporary” nuclear fuel containment ponds are features common to nearly all nuclear reactor facilities. They typically contain the accumulated spent fuel from 10 or more decommissioned reactor cores. Due to lack of a permanent repository, most of these fuel containment ponds are greatly overloaded and tightly packed beyond original design. They are generally surrounded by common light industrial buildings, with concrete walls and corrugated steel roofs. Unlike the active reactor cores, which are encased inside massive “containment vessels” with thick walls of concrete and steel, the buildings surrounding spent fuel rod storage ponds would do practically nothing to contain radioactive contaminants in the event of prolonged cooling system failures. 

Since spent fuel ponds typically hold far greater quantities of highly radioactive material then the active nuclear reactors locked inside reinforced containment vessels, they clearly present far greater potential  for the catastrophic spread of highly radioactive contaminants over huge swaths of land, polluting the environment for multiple generations spanning hundreds of years. A study by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) determined that the “boil down time” for  spent fuel rod containment ponds runs from between 4 and 22 days after loss of cooling system power before degenerating into a Fukushima-like situation, depending upon the type of nuclear reactor and how recently its latest batch of fuel rods had been decommissioned[16].

Reactor fuel rods have a protective zirconium cladding, which if superheated while exposed to air will burn with intense self-generating heat, much like a magnesium fire, releasing highly radioactive aerosols and smoke. According to Arnie Gundersen, former Senior Vice President for Nuclear Engineering Services Corporation, now turned nuclear whistle-blower, once a zirconium fire has started, due to its extreme temperatures and high degree of reactivity, contact with water will result in the water dissociating into hydrogen and oxygen gases, which will almost certainly lead to violent explosions. Gundersen says that once a zirconium fuel rod fire has started, the worst thing you could do is to try to quench the fire with water streams, since this action will only make matters worse and lead to violent explosions. Gundersen believes the massive explosion that blew the roof off the spent fuel pond at Fukushima was caused by zirconium induced hydrogen dissociation[16].

A few days after the tidal waves destroyed the generators providing back-up electrical power to Fukushima Daiichi's cooling system, the protective water bath boiled away from the spent fuel pond for reactor no. 4, leaving the stored spent fuel rods partially exposed to the air. Had it not been for heroic efforts on the part of Japan’s nuclear workers to replenish water in this spent fuel pool, these spent rods would have melted down and their zirconium cladding would have ignited, which most likely would have released far more radioactive contamination than what came from the three reactor core meltdowns.

Japanese officials estimate that, to date, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster has released just over half of the total radioactive contamination released from Chernobyl, but other sources suggest that the radiation released could be significantly more. In the event of an extreme GMD-induced long-term grid collapse covering much of the globe, if just half of the world's spent fuel ponds boil off their water and become radioactive zirconium-fed infernos, the ensuing contamination will far exceed the cumulative effect of 400 Chernobyls.

Most of us tend to believe that a nuclear reactor is something that can be shut down in short order, like some massive piece of  machinery that can be turned off  by simply flipping a switch, or by performing a series of operations in a prescribed manner over a relatively short time, such as a few hours or perhaps a day or two. In spite of my MIT education (BSME, MIT, 1978), until recently I too was under the spell of this comforting delusion, which is far from the truth. You see, the trillions of chain reactions going on inside a nuclear reactor’s core continuously produce such incredible amounts of energy that a single nuclear power plant can generate more electricity than is required to power a good sized city. Unfortunately, these reactions do not simply “cease fire” at the flip of a switch. In general, it takes 5 to 7 days to slow down a reactor core’s nuclear chain reactions to the point where the core may be removed from the reactor.

After removal, the fuel rods are quite “hot”, both from the perspective of temperature and radioactivity. For the next 3 to 5 years these fuel rods must be immersed under roughly 20 feet of  continuously cooled water, both to shield the surrounding area from radioactivity, as well as to prevent catastrophic melt-down from occurring. According to Gundersen, after slowing down the chain reactions inside the reactor cores at Fukushima for a full eight months, the fuel rods would start melting down again if coolant flow was suspended for just 38 hours.

Gundersen explained that, essentially all modern nuclear reactors are designed with banks of "fuel rods", which contain highly radioactive materials, combined with banks of "control rods", which mesh between the fuel rods like the interwoven fingers of your right and left hands. It is the degree of interweave that moderates and controls the rate of nuclear chain reactions. He further explained that in the event of a significant loss of reactor control, reactors are designed for a "fail-safe" process to occur, where the control rods automatically fall into the fully meshed position with respect to the fuel rods, resulting in maximal slowing of the core's nuclear reactions and beginning the process of shutting down the reactor.

Typically, this action rapidly reduces the power produced by these chain reactions by a factor of 20:1 (to 5.0 per cent of full power), but that still leaves thousands of horsepower worth of waste heat that must be removed if the reactor core is not to rapidly overheat and fail catastrophically. After a day of leaving the control rods in the fully interwoven position, this reaction slows to 1.0 per cent, and after a week it will be about 0.1 per cent of full power. Once the reactions in the fuel rods slow to the point where the rods may be removed from the reactor, the spent fuel rods must be cooled inside containment ponds for 3–5 more years before the nuclear reactions decay to a point where the rods can be moved to specially designed air-cooled storage banks.

As mentioned previously, nuclear power plants are only required to store enough backup fuel reserves on-site to keep their backup diesel generators running for a period of one week. The NRC has always operated from the assumption that extended grid “blackouts” would not last for periods of more than a few days. The government has promised that, in the event of a major catastrophe such as a Hurricane Katrina, diesel trucks will show up like clockwork at all troubled nuclear facilities until local grid-supplied electrical power services have been re-established. Unfortunately, governments and regulators have not considered the possibility that the next extreme GMD  which Mother Nature unleashes upon Earth will quite likely disrupt grid services over much of the industrial world for a period of years, not just days. The chances that the world’s nuclear reactors will receive weekly deliveries of diesel fuel under such chaotic circumstances are practically zero. In a world suffering from loss of fuel and electric power, if any such deliveries were attempted those fuel tankers would be prime targets for armed hijackers.

Had it not been for heroic efforts on the part of Japan’s nuclear workers to replenish waters in the spent fuel pool at Fukushima, those spent fuel rods would have melted down and ignited their zirconium cladding, which most likely would have released far more radioactive contamination than what came from the three reactor core melt-downs. Japanese officials have estimate that the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster has already released into the local environment just over half the total radioactive contamination as was released by Chernobyl, but other sources estimate it could be significantly more than was released by the accident at Chernobyl. In the event that an extreme GMD induced long-term grid collapse covering much of the globe, if just half of the world’s spent fuel ponds were to boil off their water and become radioactive zirconium fed infernos, the ensuing contamination could far exceed the cumulative effect of 400 Chernobyls.

Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack

Many of the control systems we considered achieved optimal connectivity through Ethernet cabling. EMP coupling of electrical transients to the cables proved to be an important vulnerability during threat illumination…. The testing and analysis indicate that the electronics could be expected to see roughly 100 to 700 ampere current transients on typical Ethernet cables. Effects noted in EMP testing occurred at the lower end of this scale. The bottom line observation at the end of the testing was that every system failed when exposed to the simulated EMP environment. - Report of the Commission to Asses the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack[18]

Electromagnetic pulses (EMPs) and solar super storms are two different, but related, categories of events that are often described as high-impact, low  frequency (HILF) events. Events categorized as HILF don’t happen very often, but if and when they do they have the potential to severely affect the lives of many millions of people. Think of an EMP as a super-powerful radio wave capable of inducing damaging voltage spikes in electrical wires and electronic devices across vast geographical areas. What is generally referred to as an EMP strike is the deliberate detonation of a nuclear device at a high altitude, roughly defined as somewhere between 24 and 240 miles (40 and 400 kilometers) above the surface of the earth. Nuclear detonations of this type have the potential to cause serious damage to electronics and electrical power grids along their line of sight, covering huge distances on the order of a circular area 1,500 miles (2,500 kilometers) in diameter, which would correspond to an area stretching roughly from Quebec City in Canada down to Dallas, Texas and reaching almost as far south as Miami, Florida. The geomagnetic effects of extreme solar storms are sometimes also described as a “natural EMP”.[19]

The concern is that some rogue state or terrorist organization might build their own nuclear device from scratch or buy one illegally, procure a Scud missile (or similar) on the black market and launch their nuclear device from a large fishing boat or freighter somewhere off the coast of the US, causing grid collapse and widespread damage to electronic devices across roughly 50% of America. Much like an extreme GMD, a powerful EMP attack would also cause widespread grid collapse, but it would be limited to a much smaller geographical area.

A powerful  EMP  from a sub-orbital nuclear detonation would cause extreme electromagnetic effects, starting with an initial short duration “speed of light” pulse, referred to as an “E1” effect, followed by a middle duration pulse called an “E2” effect, which is followed by a longer duration disturbance known as an “E3” effect. The “E1” effect lasts on the order of a few nanoseconds, and is quite similar to massive electrostatic discharges, much like the sparks that surge from an extended fingertip after rubbing your feet on the carpet on a cold clear winter’s day, except they would surge through the hearts of electronic equipment distributed over a vast geographic area. These types of electrostatic spark discharges are particularly damaging to digital microelectronic chips  that are at the core of most modern electronic equipment.

The intermediate “E2” effects last a fraction of a second, and are similar to many thousands to millions of lightning strikes hitting over a widespread area at almost exactly the same time. Unfortunately, many of the devices designed to protect equipment from lightning damage, such as surge protectors, will be incapacitated by damage from the E1 pulse, leaving millions of electronic devices and systems susceptible to damage from the E2 effects.  

In the case of a nuclear induced EMP, its E3 effect starts after about a half second and may continue for several minutes. The E3 effect can be thought of as a “long slow burn”, and electromagnetically it is quite similar to the effects from an extreme GMD. The main difference between the E3 from an EMP and what occurs during an extreme GMD is that the EMP effect may continue for  a number of minutes, whereas the extreme GMD may continue for a number of hours or days. However, the magnitude of the induced magnetic field strengths from an EMP attack and an extreme GMD are about the same, with similar potential for causing severe damage to EHV transformers across the affected areas.

Inside the affected area, an EMP’s E3 effect would cause a similar degree of damage to the EHV transformers as that from an extreme GMD, but the E1 and E2 effects would cause far greater damage to electronic control systems than that from a GMD of similar intensity. Contrary to popular opinion, most personal electronic devices would probably survive with little or no damage, especially if they were not turned on at the moment of EMP, as would most automobiles. However, most complex electronic systems that contained digital microchips in combination with long runs of Ethernet cables (or other interconnecting cabling) which act like antennas for receiving EMP induced voltage spikes, would experience nearly 100% failure! [20]

A “successful” EMP attack launched against the US would most likely result in the immediate collapse of the grid across roughly 50% of the country, and crash the stock market. For the reasons discussed above, modern digital electronic control systems are highly susceptible to damage from EMP. These systems include programmable logic controllers (PLC), digital control systems (DCS),  and supervisory control and data acquisition systems (SCADA), all of which are absolutely critical for running factories, refineries, power plants, nuclear reactors, sewage plants, etc., as well as for diagnosing problems within those facilities and systems.
Bill Kaewert, President and CTO of Stored Energy Systems, LLC, a supplier of  backup power systems and components for mission-critical structures, such as Minuteman III missile silos, data centers, and critical corporate facilities, recently took part in a “Tabletop EMP” exercise hosted at the National Defense University. Dozens of the nation’s leading first responders, public safety experts, and military personnel took part in this exercise simulating a massive grid-down scenario typical of an EMP attack or an extreme GMD. According to Kaewert, even these highly trained personnel had a hard time grappling with the public safety implications of a disaster the size of fifty Hurricane Katrinas. It was also quite apparent that in an extended grid collapse a large number of emergency responders, military and government personnel would abandon their posts to protect their family and friends from the ensuing chaos[21].

In October of 1962, the Soviet Union conducted three above ground nuclear tests over Kazakhstan to study the effects of EMP. Due to its more northerly location, the EMP effects at the Kazakhstan test site were several times stronger than those observed during the more well-known “Starfish Prime” nuclear test, where the U.S. military detonated a 1.4 megaton nuclear device in July of 1962, 250 miles above Johnston Island, which is 900 miles south of Honolulu, HI. During the Soviet EMP tests, massive current spikes were induced in a 600 mile (1000 kilometer) long high-voltage power line that was buried six feet (two meters) underground. Massive induced currents caused a fire in the Karaganda power plant at the far end of the line, burning it to the ground. In anticipation of power outages caused by the EMP tests, the Russian military had pre-placed a backup diesel generators on site, but many of these generators were damaged by the EMP blast and would not start prior to being repaired. Located at great distances from the test site ground zero, several military radar units were also disabled by the EMP. Due to the use of solid-state devices containing microchips, today’s electrical devices are generally far less resistant to EMP damage than the devices in use during these EMP tests that took place back in the early 1960s. In today’s world, scientists predict that within the heavily affected area an EMP strike would cripple many backup power systems along with the vast majority of digital electronic control systems.

Since his deployment with the U.S. military in the early 1980s, Dr. George Baker has been involved the study of  EMP effects, as well as the design of EMP hardened devices, EMP weapons, and developing EMP standards for military and civilian usage. His resume reads like a “Who’s Who” of EMP, including being a Principal Staff member of the Congressional Commission to Asses the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP). Baker states that, “electronic systems are so complex, from an electromagnetic coupling standpoint, that we simply cannot predict what will fail or survive an EMP event. Actual EMP testing is the only way to know whether or not a particular electronic device will survive an EMP attack.” [22]

The only good news about EMP strike is that its effect will cover a much smaller area than an extreme GMD, so there will be a significant portion of the rest of the US, as well as the rest of the outside world, left intact and able to lend a hand towards rebuilding critical infrastructure in the affected areas. Imagine the near total loss of a functioning infrastructure across an area of about a million square miles (approximately 1.6 million square kilometers, roughly equivalent to 50 Hurricane Katrinas happening simultaneously) and you will have some idea of the crippling effect of an EMP attack from a single medium sized sub-orbital nuclear detonation!

The simple fact of the matter is that approximately 1/3 of the population of the U.S. lives within 50 miles of a nuclear power plant, the vast majority of which are located in the eastern half of the country—the prime target for an EMP attack. If the reactor vessel was breeched at the Indian Point nuclear power plant 38 mile north of New York City, and the city itself was contaminated with four times the safe level of Cesium 137 (a radioactive isotope that was deposited at dangerous levels on areas surrounding Fukushima), which has a half life of 30 years, then it would take roughly 60 years before the local Cesium 137 decayed to levels at which New York City could be safely re-occupied[23]. Given the likelihood that backup power systems will fail at a significant percentage of the nuclear installations within the EMP affected area, and the distinct probability that all utilities and central services would collapse over many of the nation’s population centers, the need to invest in preventative measures should be quite obvious.

Preventing Armageddon

The congressionally mandated EMP Commission has studied the threat of both EMP and extreme GMD events, and made recommendations to the US congress to implement protective devices and procedures to insure the survival of the grid and other critical infrastructures in either event. John Kappenman, author of the Metatech study, estimates that it would cost on the order of $1 billion to build special protective devices into the US grid to protect its EHV transformers from EMP or extreme GMD damage, and to build stores of critical replacement parts should some of these items be damaged or destroyed. Kappenman estimates that it would cost significantly less than $1 billion to store at least a year’s worth of diesel fuel for backup generators at each US nuclear facility and to store sets of critical spare parts, such as backup generators, inside EMP-hardened steel containers to be available for quick change-out in the event that any of these items were damaged by an EMP or GMD[24].

To me, this is a no-brainer. For the cost of a single B-2 bomber or a tiny fraction of the TARP bank bailout, we could invest in preventative measures to avert what might well become the end of our civilization and life as we know it! There is no way to protect against all possible effects from an extreme GMD or an EMP attack, but certainly we could implement measures to protect against the worst effects. Since 2008, Congress has narrowly failed to pass legislation that would implement at least some of the EMP Commission’s recommendations[25].

For more than 50 years, the US Army Corps of Engineers knew that New Orleans was a disaster waiting to happen, and they made plans for rebuilding the aging system of inadequate levies, but those plans were never implemented. Have we learned nothing from the wholly preventable flooding of New Orleans? Will we continue to ignore facts and pretend that “everything will be okay” while our world drifts towards the next inevitable extreme GMD, or until some terrorist organization or rogue state launches an EMP attack? This time, failure to prepare will not just mean the loss of a major city, but the end of the industrialized world as we know it, along with incalculable suffering, death, and environmental destruction.

We have a long ways to go to make our world EMP and GMD safe. Every citizen can do their part to push for legislation to move towards this goal, and to work inside our homes and communities to develop local resilience and self reliance, so that in the event of a long term grid-down scenario, we might make the most of a bad situation. The same tools that are espoused by the “Transition Movement” for developing local self-reliance and resilience to help cope with the twin effects of climate change and peak oil could also serve communities well in the event of an EMP attack or extreme GMD. If our country were to implement safeguards to protect our grid and nuclear power plants from EMP, it would also eliminate the primary incentive for a terrorist to launch an EMP attack. The sooner we take these actions the less chance that an EMP attack will occur!

For more information, or to get involved, see:

...and please contact your congressman.

[1] Bill Dedman, “Nuclear Neighbors: Population Rises Near Nuclear Reactors,” MSNBC.com. Accessed December 2011.
 [2] Dina Cappiello, “Long Blackouts Pose Risk to U.S. Nuclear Reactors,” Associated Press, March 29, 2011.
[3] Lawrence E. Joseph, “The Sun Also Surprises,” New York Times, August 15, 2010. Accessed August 2010.
[4] John Kappenman, “Geomagnetic Storms and Their Impacts on the U.S. Power Grid,” Metatech Corporation, prepared for Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Meta-R-319, January 2010, p. 2—29.

[5] S. M. Silverman and E. W. Cliver, “Low-Altitude Auroras: The Magnetic Storm of 14-15 May 1921,” Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics 63, (2001), p. 523-535. Additionally,  “High-Impact, Low-Frequency Event Risk to the North American Bulk Power System: A Jointly Commissioned Summary Report of the North American Electric Reliability Corporation and the U.S. Department of Energy’s November 2009 Workshop,” June, 2010, p. 68.
[6] Committee on the Societal and Economic Impacts of Severe Space Weather Events: A Workshop National Research Council, “Severe Space Weather Events: Understanding Societal and Economic Impacts Workshop Report,” National Research Council of the National Academies (2008), p. 7-13, and p. 100. Additionally, E. W. Cliver and L. Svalgaard, “The 1859 Solar-Terrestrial Disturbance and the Current Limits of Extreme Space Weather Activity,” Solar Physics (2004) 224, P. 407-422.
[7] Richard A. Lovett, “What if the Biggest Solar Storm on Record Happened Today?” National Geographic News, March 2, 2011. Accessed December 2011.
[8] John Kappenman, “Geomagnetic Storms and Their Impacts on the U.S. Power Grid,” Metatech Corporation, prepared for Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Meta-R-319, January 2010. Accessed November 2011.
[9] Ibid., p. 1—3.
[10] Ibid., p. 4—2.
[11] John Kappenman, interview by author, December 2011.
[12] “Sagging Power Lines, Hot Weather Blamed for Blackout,” CNN News, August 11, 1996. Accessed June 2000.
[13] Bryan Walsh, “Can We Prevent Another Blackout?” Time, August 11, 2008. Accessed December 2011.
[14] Lauren Effron, David Wright, Julie NA and Jason Volack, “One Electrical Worker Blamed for Leaving Millions Without Power in California, Arizona, and Mexico,ABC News, September 8, 2011. Accessed December 2011.
[15] John Vidal, “Nuclear’s Green Cheerleaders Forget Chernobyl at Our Peril,” Guardian.co.uk, April 1, 2011. Accessed May 2011.
[16] NUREG-1738, “Technical Study of Spent Fuel Pool Accident Risk at Decommissioning Nuclear Power Plants,” February 2001, as reported in “Petition for Rulemaking: Docket No. PRM-50-96,” Foundation for Resilient Societies before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, p. 3-9 and 49-50. Accessed December, 2011.
[17] Arnold Gundersen, interview by author, November 2011.
[18] “Report of the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack: Critical National Infrastructures,” April, 2008, p. 6.
 [19] “Report of the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack: Volume 1: Executive Report,” 2004, p. 6.
[20] “Report of the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack: Critical National Infrastructures,” April, 2008. Extensively referred to for EMP definitions and effects.
[21] Bill Kaewert, interview by author, December 2011.
[22] Dr. George Baker, interview by author, December 2011
[23] Victor Gilinsky, “Indian Point: The Next Fukushima?” The New York Times, December 16, 2011. Accessed December 2011.
[24] John Kappenman, interview by author, December 2011.
[25] Dr. Peter Vincent Pry, “Statement Before the Congressional Caucus on EMP,” EMPact America, February 15, 2011.

Additional references not directly cited:

 “Nuke Plant’s Generator Failures Draw Scrutiny,” CBS News, October 10, 2011.
Gary Null, PhD, and Jeremy Stillman, “Solar Storms: Katrina Times 1000? A Real Armageddon Meltdown is Possible,” Progressive Radio Network, October 6, 2011.
Beth Daley, “Markey: Back-Up Generators Failed During Tests at US Nuclear Power Plants,” Boston Globe, May 12, 2011. Accessed Jan 2012.
Yousaf M. Butt, “The EMP Threat: Fact, Fiction, and Response (Part 1),” The Space Review, January 25, 2010. Accessed December 2012.
Yousaf M. Butt, “The EMP Threat: Fact, Fiction, and Response (Part 2),” The Space Review, January 25, 2010.
“Initial Economic Assessment of Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Impact Upon the Baltimore-Richmond Region,” by The Sage Policy Group, September 10, 2007.
Edward Savage, James Gilbert, and William Radasky, “Early-Time (E1) High-Altitude Electromagnetic Pulse (HEMP) and Its Impact on the U.S. Power Grid,” Metatech Corporation, prepared for Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Meta-R-320, January 2010. Accessed January 2012.
James Gilbert, John Kappenman, William Radasky, and Edward Savage, “The Late-Time (E3) High-Altitude Electromagnetic Pulse (HEMP) and Its Impact on the U.S. Power Grid,” Metatech Corporation, prepared for Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Meta-R-321, January 2010. Accessed January 2012.

About the author: Matthew Stein is a design engineer, green builder, and author of two best selling books: When Disaster Strikes: A Comprehensive Guide for Emergency Planning and Crisis Survival (Chelsea Green 2011), and When Technology Fails (Revised & Expanded): A Manual for Self-Reliance, Sustainability, and Surviving the Long Emergency (Chelsea Green 2008). Stein is a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where he majored in Mechanical Engineering. Stein has appeared on numerous radio and television programs and is a repeat guest on Fox News, Lionel, Coast-to-Coast AM, and the Thom Hartmann Show.  He is an active mountain climber, serves as a guide and instructor for blind skiers, has written several articles on the subject of sustainable living, and is a guest columnist for the Huffington Post.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Mr. Rawles,
I read with interest the blog today and then clicked over to the link suggested by Brittany K.: Deconstructing a Safe Room (infographic)

I appreciate all the information your site gives. I wish the writers of the Allstate Blog had consulted your site and listed it in their sources. One glaring item in their graphic is that the door opens outward. If debris falls in front of the door a person may not be able to open it. [As has been mentioned several times in SurvivalBlog, inward-opening shelter doors are the norm,]

Another point worthy of mention: In their “What Should Be In Your Safe Room” section they list that there should be a generator. I can just envision someone without much knowledge or experience trying to start and run a generator in their safe room and not have any ventilation whatsoever; a carbon monoxide death trap.  God Bless, - John in Ohio

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Just a quick note to those interested in obtaining a simple cost-effective Faraday Cage-like enclosures to protect small to mid-size electronic devices. As has been mentioned in SurvivalBlog before, the large steel cans of popcorn sold at the large box stores this time of year make great EMP-proof storage containers. After emptying the popcorn just place your electronics into the can and place the lid on top. No need to ground the container.

I place my Fluke multimeters, spare Solar charge controllers, spare handi-talkies and mobile radios in these tins. Thanks for all you do. - Larry D.

Friday, December 2, 2011

A brand new Hummer or Jeep Wrangler, decked out with every available option may sound like the best, most capable vehicle in an emergency situation. The harsh reality is that they could be one of the worst. Don't get me wrong, they are both very nice, with proven track records, but in an emergency, can leave you and your loved ones stranded.

The problem lies with the tremendous amount of electronics needed for the vehicle to operate. The average newer vehicle (especially within the last ten years) has several computers on board that control not only the engine, but also the transmission, the four wheel drive system, brakes, power windows and locks, and even the lights just to name a few. The fact is, computers have been used in vehicles since the early 1980s. The manufacturers have incorporated them in to more and more of the systems for better emissions, fuel economy, drivability, and creature comforts. The average vehicle has more than five computers, operating on their own network (CANS) sharing information back and fourth, making any needed adjustments for a seamless driving experience. A computer controlled engine will not start and run until the computer commands it to do so. The starter, electric fuel pump, electronic fuel injectors, and electronic ignition system are all dependant on the power train control module (PCM) to function. Unlike aircraft, there are no redundant systems in place in the event of a PCM malfunction.  A computer controlled automatic transmission cannot shift until the computer commands it to do so. Without direction, the transmission [indicator] will engage park, neutral, forward and reverse, but will not shift. Before the computer can command a shift to occur it needs to look at various sensors located throughout the vehicle such as, engine speed, vehicle speed, engine load, engine temperature, gas pedal position, selector lever position, input shaft and output shaft speeds, and probably a few more.

With the ever increasing possibility of a terrorist EMP attack or natural blast from our sun, these systems will probably not survive. The computers are not shielded for such an event. Imagine loading your survival gear and family into your bug out vehicle, turning the key, and nothing happens. The starter, fuel injectors, fuel pump, ignition coils, all receive their commands directly from the PCM. Without a working PCM your vehicle is a 3,200 pound paperweight.

There are several options for a practical EMP proof bug out vehicle. Obviously, many older gasoline powered vehicles were EMP proof. They had carburetors for fuel delivery, mechanical (points type) ignition, mechanical engine driven fuel pumps, no electronics what so ever. Automatic transmissions were also mechanically controlled and needed no electrical controls either. Older jeeps and pick-ups are great choices.  They are pretty easy to find, inexpensiveto buy, and repair.  There is also my personal favorite, the old school diesel. The old school diesel has an all mechanical fuel injection system and no computer either. Modern computerized  fuel injected diesels are in the same situation as their gasoline powered cousins. The starter,  fuel pump, glow plugs and injectors are all PCM operated and will not run without a working PCM.

My personal bug out vehicle is a 1983 ford F350 Pick-up 4x4 automatic with a 6.9 diesel. The truck looks like he**, but it’s mechanically perfect. This truck has two 19 gallon fuel tanks, allowing an over 500 mile range, and plenty of room for my family and all of our gear. I had to take care of some minor repairs to make it road ready. New batteries, brakes, filters, belts, hoses, starter, tires and a front end alignment, all told I have about $2,000 invested in a vehicle that can go anywhere no matter what.  I added some custom features as well such as a cap for the bed, auxiliary off road lighting, police siren with PA system, a trailer hitch, and a 12,000 pound winch. Vehicles such as this can be purchased inexpensively, repaired inexpensively, registered  and insured inexpensively too. There are a bunch of vehicles such as this available from most manufacturers. Ford, General Motors, and Dodge all made diesel pick-ups with mechanical fuel injection and no computers all the way into the early 90s. Ford used the 6.9 until the mid 80s before switching to the 7.3. The 7.3 was used up to the early 90s, before switching to the PCM controlled Power Stroke diesel. General Motors was using the 6.5 during the same time period without any computer, and Dodge was using the 5.9 Cummins, all of which were strong, reliable engines easily capable of 300,000 plus miles. A word of caution though, while there was no computer needed for these engines to operate, some were equipped with computers to make certain automatic transmissions operate. Most automatic overdrive transmissions in these trucks were PCM controlled. Find one with a old style 3 speed automatic or manual transmission, and you’ve eliminated that problem as well.

In my opinion, a diesel has more advantages than drawbacks versus a gasoline engine. Diesels are built stronger with larger bearings, and heavier internal components, A diesel can run on many different fuel types such as vegetable oil, animal fat, and bio-diesel which can be home made a hell of a lot easier and safer than home made gasoline. Getting past the smell of the exhaust and the rattle and hum of the engine are small prices to pay for an emergency vehicle that will work in an actual emergency. - Tony G.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Hi Jim,
I continue to be amused by prepper concerns for the vulnerability of their vehicles to an EMP event.  I have followed the EMP issue closely ever since becoming a NBC qualified officer in the service, many years ago.  In 1984, by accident and through a military book-of-the-month club I received a copy of Warday and the Journey Onwards, by Whitley Strieber. Reading the book was another wake up call for me, another step towards becoming a full-fledged prepper.  A few years later, through my wife, I met a friend who was a top expert on EMP.  He explained about the various wave forms of EMP and the possible susceptibility of electronics to EMP.  He also detailed that hardening of items was not difficult, but often overlooked by civilian engineers.  He had spent many years helping the military successfully harden gear against EMP.    

Fast forward to 2010: I started listening to EMPAct America on Blog Talk radio where I heard my EMP friend speak, and where I have frequently heard authors like you and William Forstchen speak.  Forstchen of course wrote the book One Second After. In that book the EMP event takes out almost all automobiles instantly and gridlocks the roads, streets and interstates.  This led me to discuss the likelihood of vehicle susceptibility with my EMP friend.  He directed me to the EMP Commission results. (This was a commission set up by the US Congress.)  There I read not only the executive summary, but the full report.  Later I discussed the report with my friend.  He reiterated, (and I quote loosely), “If you are focused on the direct and immediate effects of EMP to your automobile, you may be disappointed and you will have missed the main point.  The effect of an EMP event could be the collapse of interdependent and critical infrastructures, particularly loss of the electric power grid and the resulting inability to get fuel for your car.  Only a few cars will stop right away.  But they will soon have no purpose if there is no fuel.”  

So the all the details are laid out in the commission report, for the following areas, Infrastructure Commonalities (including SCADA systems), Electric Power, Telecommunications, Banking and Finance, Petroleum and Natural Gas, Transportation, Food Infrastructure, Water Infrastructure, Emergency Services, Space Systems, and Government.  But I want to quote the automobile transportation section in detail from page 115:

“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.
Based on these test results, we expect few automobile effects at EMP field levels below
25 kV/m. Approximately 10 percent or more of the automobiles exposed to higher field
levels may experience serious EMP effects, including engine stall, that require driver
intervention to correct. We further expect that at least two out of three automobiles on the
road will manifest some nuisance response at these higher field levels. The serious malfunctions
could trigger car crashes on U.S. highways; the nuisance malfunctions could exacerbate
this condition. The ultimate result of automobile EMP exposure could be triggered
crashes that damage many more vehicles than are damaged by the EMP, the consequent
loss of life, and multiple injuries.”

So the bottom line is, yes you should be concerned about an EMP event, either naturally occurring or nuclear induced, but not because it is going to instantly make your car stop running.  Take time to read the whole Commission report and you will know where the real dangers lie.  Thanks, - W.J.

Monday, September 26, 2011

I'm looking for info on the range (radius) of direct electromagnetic pulse (EMP) effects from a nuclear detonation. If you could point me in the right direction, I'd be most appreciative.

Sincerely, - Todd H.

JWR Replies: I have discussed this before in SurvivalBlog, such as in my reply to this letter posted in 2009.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Mr. Rawles,
I'd like to offer a different review of "Contagion" from the one posted by Matt H. First off, I don't believe it would be wise to look for serious survival information in any [Hollywood] movie. We are talking about Hollyweird after all. Nevertheless there were parts of the film that examined what would happen in such a widespread crisis. One character alone witnessed a home invasion, looted businesses, sealed state borders and a local food riot. Another character, a health care professional, was kidnapped and held for a ransom of vaccine. A woman was trampled by stampeding people turned away in a pharmacy line. Then there was the CDC doctor's wife who was attacked in her own home. The desperate home invaders did some homework and found out where the medical insider lived and assumed he had vaccine. In others words, a personal OPSEC failure. Aren't these relevant issues we as preppers discuss on a regular basis?

Beyond that I also disagree with the statement that the film drones on and on. Far from it in my opinion. I found it quite tense as the characters scrambled against time, conflicting national interests, criminals and even a self-centered conspiracy blogger in the desperate  battle against a previously unknown virus. People are dying by the millions and there is no end in sight through most of the movie. I personally found it more frightening than any horror flick simply because the story is so plausible. In short I wholly recommend "Contagion" as a good way to spend a couple hours. Just don't forget your hand sanitizer. Sincerely, - Bill L.


Dear Mr. Rawles,
I rarely  disagree with anything posted on your blog, but I must disagree with Matt H. and his review of the movie "Contagion". My husband and I have been serious preppers for over 10 years and thoroughly enjoyed the movie. The filming was fantastic. The actors wonderful. We enjoyed the plot and the multiple characters were not hard for us to follow at all. We found the scientific research and the process of tracking a deadly virus to be interesting. My husband reached out for my hand and gave me a wink as we sat in the theatre and were reassured that we would be sufficiently prepared for a year long social distancing scenario. I thought it was odd that the cell phones and [grid] electricity were still operational. But, hey, it's a movie. And wouldn't it be nice to have communication and power if you are required to spend an extended amount of time with cranky kids? - Mama J.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Dear Mr. Rawles,
 I have just one brief addition to Dr. Bob’s excellent synopsis of the dangers of anthrax regarding treatment/prevention with antibiotics. First, I must commend Dr. Bob on all of his important advice, and for his courage to offer a much needed service (the prescribing of antibiotics in advance of need) in this highly litigious society.
Understanding that in TEOTWAWKI our current risk:benefit analysis will be drastically changed, and short-course antibiotic therapy may be all that is available to us, I felt compelled to mention the current CDC recommendations regarding duration of therapy. Antibiotic use in inhaled anthrax is slightly different in prophylaxis (prevention of the disease in those who have been exposed, but are yet to display symptoms) and in treatment (those who have already begun the flu-like symptoms described by Dr. Bob).
The adult prophylactic regimen recommended consists of oral ciprofloxacin 500mg twice daily or oral doxycycline 100mg twice daily taken for 60 days.  For treatment of anthrax, either of the two above agents should be started via intravenous administration (cipro dose is 400mg twice daily, doxy dose is the same as oral) in combination with another intravenous agent, such as clindamycin 900mg every 8 hours. As the patient’s condition improves, the oral route of administration may be substituted, and it may be possible to discontinue the additional antibiotic (in this example, clindamycin). Again, the total therapy should be continued for 60 days. Other antibiotic combinations are recommended as alternatives, but these are the most commonly cited and are available generically, that is, they are affordable.
Obviously, intravenous administration will be impossible for most folks if the Schumer hits the fan, so we may have to do the best we can with oral administration – which should stand a decent chance of success if the patient is well enough to swallow and has a functional gut, as most of these drugs are well-absorbed from the GI tract. The uncommonly long duration of therapy is a function of the life cycle of Bacillus anthracis, the causative organism of anthrax. The inhaled spores typically germinate into the toxin-producing bacterium within 7 days; however, some take longer. I am not an infectious disease specialist, nor a medical microbiologist, but I suspect that the 60 day antibiotic recommendation is a bit on the safe side. If the emergency need arises and organized health care is not available, any duration of antibiotic therapy beyond 7 days would certainly be better than nothing. The committed prepper should, however, be aware of the possible need for considerably more antibiotics than the typical 7-10 day course of therapy would call for.
Again, many thanks to Dr. Bob for his frequent contributions to SurvivalBlog! - S.H. in Georgia

Friday, September 9, 2011

Hi Jim, and Readers,
I read the piece about using a CONEX as a Faraday cage,  I made some RF measurements using a 2-meter handheld, and a small portable Sangean ATS-909 receiver quite a while back with that very subject in mind.

I have an S-250 RATT Rig shelter also.  I don't think you can really beat the S-250 shelter, with any other readily available equipment.  But in a pinch even the CONEX will work relatively well for EMI, EMP, and TEMPEST. The reduction of signals even with the wooden floor is  enough to help even with no EMI gasketing on the doors,. It is much better than a metal building like a shop or garage. Now, there are available metal equipment shipping containers available at most military surplus houses around the country many with EMI gasketing installed.  They are also often available at a lot of Ham swaps for reasonable prices. The main thing is to check the gasketing, If they just have rubber gaskets, they can be replace with conductive gaskets, Just searching "EMI Gaskets" on line will bring up lots of resources.

I have elected to make absolutely sure that when I have even the slightest doubt to use large ammo cans, or electronics equipment shipping containers to place my specialized electronics into. Then I place them in my CONEX or my G.O.O.D. trailer. In my shop, I keep handhelds, including light test equipment in shipping containers.

Even in the S-250 shelter, It is important to secure the connector caps for the RF entrance and power entrance connectors, being sure to also ground the unit with the usually-supplied grounding strap and ground rod.
If you want EMP and CME insurance then take all of the precautions possible to protect what important electronics you have.

I have elected to not only protect quite a bit of my ham  gear including several QRP (low power home built radios), but also GMRS, CBs, and test equipment.
I have also placed the business ends of some sound projection equipment in containers too. The reason for this is that I remember in the novel One Second After,  they wished they had some way to make public addresses easier.

It is important too that generators, and solar equipment be protected. I know most solar cells are diode protected, but what I don't know is what the peak inverse voltage is  or the clamping voltage is on those diodes. Meaning how much protection will that actually provide, not knowing the actual estimated energy of a threat, my personal choice is to keep my expensive panels secured until well after an event so I don't have to be concerned weather they will take the punch-thru or not of some unknown current  hitting them.

I mentioned CBs  I got a good deal several years ago with the manager of the Radio Shack, he let me have for five dollars each all of the returned CB sets, I got about 25 units, out of which I was able to repair more than half. I set them all up with Anderson Power Poles and have power cables made up.  Finding cheap antennas around at yard sales for mobiles, and making some basic dipole antennas will provide a neighborhood with fair communications in a pinch. Car batteries will provide plenty of talk and monitor time.

I am not yet fully prepared, and I don't think anyone can think of everything. I do have some old computers that are on my list of needing to be checked out and loaded with some ham radio communications programs, then secured in equipment containers too. that includes the whole computer, keyboards, mouse' mice's little rats, what ever you know where I'm headed, the whole thing.

I might mention the Earth has been hit just in the past two weeks with two moderate CMEs,  And I get a lot of lightning storms around here this time of year,  Now if I leave home for any length of time, I have made it a habit of shutting down and unplugging any equipment I consider important enough to protect. including disconnecting antenna systems.

Something to keep in mind even if your antenna gets hit by lightning and it is disconnected from your equipment. The coaxial cable can get arcing punch through for quite a length down the coax from the antenna, and again at the terminating end. Therefore prepared replacement coaxial cable should be considered as part of your preparations.  I once had to repair part of a very large antenna system and by the time we were done fixing the system it cost many thousands of dollars before it was made right.

So have some type of test equipment to check out your antenna array before reconnecting it to your critical radio equipment. Then when you bring up your transmitter, bring the power up incrementally ,continuously keeping an eye on the VSWR (SWR)  on your antenna. Blessings - Dave in Oregon

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Mr. Rawles,
I was running a detail earlier today when I noticed that we were loading items into an all-steel QUADCON. As we were, I remembered the letter from the other da, asking about the possibility of using a CONEX as a Faraday cage. The dimensions aren't as big as the 40' CONEX are, but four of them put together equal the space of a 20' MILVAN container. The downside to this container is the two openings, one on each end. However, a good solid weld on one side could do the trick. The RF gaskets that you mentioned could work on the door. However, in my experience, more gaps and possible openings make it that much easier for unwanted things to gain entry. Another good thing about the size is that it would be easier to manage moisture in the smaller space. Just a thought.
Thanks for all you do, - Z.R.

Hello Mr. Rawles,
I just wanted to add something about using a CONEX container as a Faraday cage. Unlike most CONEXes, which have wooden floors, the insulated refrigerated containers almost always are a solid aluminum box (with a full metal floor). Only the gasketing and bonding of the doors [and plating or screening over the refrigeration ducting apertures] would have to be addressed. To make it 100% safe, a second interior wall and door (all metal and bonded gasketed) would need to be put in place, and then only one door should be opened at a time. (This is similar to dark room doors.)

I would also suggest looking at these web pages at the Future Science web site to get a better idea of what can happen in an EMP or solar storm , and their similarities and differences:

Thanks, - Solar Guy

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Captain Rawles,
 As most of your readers would say, we thank you for your ministry.  My question is weather a 40' Continental Express (CONEX) shipping containers would work as a huge Faraday cage, and thus we would be able to store most of our sensitive electronics, such as communications gear, battery chargers, e cetera.
Thank you again, - R.L.S.

JWR Replies: There are a few problems with that concept:

1.) The vast majority of CONEXes have wooden floors. Wood is fairly transparent to radio frequency (RF) waves, including electromagnetic pulse (EMP). A metal Faraday enclosure needs to be an integral box. (Polygonal or spherical.) No windows, and no wooden floors!

2.) Creating a good "gasketed" RF seal at the doorway would be difficult. But RF gaskets might do the trick.

3.) CONEXes tend to "sweat." In a full Faraday enclosure, there would be no ventilation available, so the moisture buildup would likely be excessive. (Depending on your local climate.)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

I suppose that I have a “prepper” all of my almost 57 years. The oldest of four children, I was raised by my engineer father who would probably seem quite believable as the father in the bomb shelter in the movie Blast From the Past. My mother went along with my father’s seemingly odd ideas, but I don’t really believe it went past accommodating some ‘strange ideas’.
This article is about the psychology of a perceived ‘survival’ event, at least. First you will need a little background:

I was with my father on the way back from my uncle’s house in a neighboring town one night in the middle 1960s. We were talking about the Cuban Missile Crisis [a few years earlier] and the President’s response to it, when my father asked me if I realized that we lived almost on the “bulls-eye” of one of the nation’s top ten nuclear targets.

At that time, the Phillips Petroleum Refinery in Phillips, Texas, was the largest refinery in the world, and it was about 15 miles downwind from our house. We also lived within a few miles of two carbon black plants, used as one of the major ingredients in manufacturing tires, making ink, and even refining sugar. We were not far, about 50 miles, from Amarillo, Texas, on what had recently become Interstate 40 and had been Route 66, which was the major east to west coast route, and was also on the major route north to south from Mexico City to Canada.

Needles to say, this was a lot for a young kid to take in and assimilate even though I had been aware of all these things peripherally for a long while. Whenever I was able to talk and think again, I asked if that was why he had always been so insistent about my brothers and I joining the Boy Scouts, and learning about first aid, survival, and shooting and such. He just said, “Yes.” A few miles later he told me that if I ever heard on the radio or television of an impending attack on the United States, or anything that would make me think that one might be coming, that if I was away from home, I was not to attempt to return home until I was sure it was safe to do so.

I said "Okay "almost automatically, never thinking it could actually happen. I did start to work a bit harder on Scouts and merit badges than I had been, but even at that age it seems I had already learned OPSEC. I rarely mentioned my father’s odd notions, even to the other Scouts working on badges alongside me.

A few years later, and it still seems incredible to me that so few people know of this incident, there was a mix-up in the tapes used for the Emergency Broadcast System. If you have ever looked at an old car radio from the late 1950s to the 1970s, you might have noticed the two little triangles on the dial for the CONELRAD system. These were where you were supposed to tune to in the event there was actually such an event. This was probably as close as the system ever got to being used.

Like many teens in my area, I was listening to my car radio, tuned to what was then a rock & roll station, KIXZ in Amarillo, Texas. I had been out that morning, scouting on the north side of Lake Meredith, researching where my younger brother and I would try deer and turkey hunting later that fall. It was shortly after noon, and I had just left the lake and was heading back home. The announcer came on stating that there would be a test of the Emergency Broadcast System, which was nothing noteworthy in those days. The test message wasn’t what came across, though. It was the real one. I stopped literally in the middle of the road.

The announcer came back on, saying that he didn’t know what was going on, but to stay tuned and he would let us know. That conversation with my father several years ago, and my promise to him, immediately came flooding back into my mind.

I turned the car around and headed back into where I had been that morning. According to the Civil Defense literature, you were supposed to get to low ground and as protected a spot as you could manage, in no more than fifteen minutes.

I headed for a spot my brother and I referred to as “Lone Ranger Rock,” as it had a fanciful resemblance to a rock that appeared time and again in the old Lone Ranger television program. It was a huge split piece of a soft chalk-like rock, with the split running roughly north and south, and offered probably the best cover I could get within the next fifteen minutes. The split was large enough for me to park in, and I could open one door. I sat there for the next 45 minutes, listening to the radio as they updated us on what they knew, which at first wasn’t very much.

Sitting there, I began to make a list of what resources I did have with me. In addition to my outdoor clothes and hunting boots, I had a standard transmission ’64 Dodge Dart sedan with a 225 slant-six engine in good running condition, with tires that were about 9 months old.
   I had $16.84 in my pockets.
   I had a good jack and just over ¾ of a tank of gasoline.
   I had my Scout pocketknife, a Marlin semiautomatic .22 carbine with a sling, and a grand total, once I finished searching the car, of 224 rounds of .22 LR ammunition. (I had been not-very-seriously hunting bullfrogs that morning without success, and rattlesnakes were also common in that area.) I also had eleven #7½ 12 ga. shotshells.
   I had a wool sweater, a t-shirt, moccasins, and a pair of jeans in the back seat, in a brown paper bag. I had an apple and half of a small bag of potato chips from my lunch.
   I had my brother’s and my backpacks and camping gear in the trunk, from a camping trip with the Scouts. We just hadn’t bothered to take the stuff in to the house after our trip, other than some clothes that we needed to wash.
   That gave me two good sleeping bags; my compass; my sheath knife; my brother’s sheath knife; two mess kits, four filled metal matchboxes with home-waterproofed strike-anywhere kitchen matches, possibly 100 altogether; a couple of waterproof ponchos; two plastic groundsheets; and maybe three cans of food, plus maybe some snack food stuff that was left over and we hadn’t eaten.
   I had three first aid kits; a big one in the car that was like what the Europeans required then in all automobiles, and two pocket first aid kits that would each probably fill a Band-Aid tin. In fact, mine was in a Band-Aid tin. Mine at least, had some water purification tablets, about 20.
   I had three one-quart canteens, only one of which had water in it, and a two-quart canteen, which was full.
   I had a hatchet, and an entrenching tool that stayed in the car at all times.
   And I had three fishing rods and some assorted tackle. And that was it, as best I can remember.
   The event made me think, as you can tell. I remember very well what I had, because at the time I was thinking it might be all that I would have to start the rest of my life, if the world made some bad choices in the next few minutes.
   Quite frankly, I was amazed at how much I did have with me. It could have very easily been far less. I was almost sick, sitting there waiting for the announcer to come back on and tell us what he could find out. I didn’t even know whether I was a coward, or a dutiful son.
   When the man finally came back on and told us it had been a mistake, I sat there for a long time. I wasn’t sure whether I could believe it truly was a mistake, or if his statement had somehow been disinformation that had gotten into the system; in short, if I could believe what I was being told.
   I had no way to check it, other than to listen to other radio stations; believe me, I did. I finally found a second station that mentioned it, almost an hour later. I never found a third radio station that mentioned it.
   Finally, about dusk, I started back to town. [The tape mix-up] was on the evening news on the television. My family had never heard a thing about it, all day long.
   It has been a long time since that day. I never go anywhere without some kind of what is now called a “get-me-home kit”. I had a ‘Bug-Out Bag’ before it had a name.    
   It was a “just-in-case kit”, and its contents have varied over the years, along with my work and locations. I no longer live in that area, and my father is years ago deceased. But I have long had what Dean Ing called a ”tenacity kit” in his underrated book, Chernobyl Syndrome.
   I read Mel Tappan’s articles when he wrote for Guns and Ammo. I subscribed to “Survive” magazine when it first came out, after I figured out how to do it and yet not have my name appear on any list.
   I served my country in the Army, both here and overseas. I was an acting First Sergeant, before I mustered out. I won’t mention my training or assignments, other than to say there were a lot of both.
   But of all my life and career, that hour in the Canadian River Breaks is still one of the defining moments in my life.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Those of us who at all remain connected to the main power grid run the very real risk of having no water following an electrical crisis event, whether man made or natural. That back up generator you intend to switch over to after a power failure will not fire up your well if the pump and/or the pump control box is already fried.
Unless you have not only food, but several thousand gallons of water in a buried cistern (with a hand pump) all the storage supplies in the world will count for naught within only a few days without safe and readily available water.
Even those who are totally off grid may have enough electrical "antenna" exposure via their wiring system to render their well useless. (There are conflicting opinions whether relatively "short" runs of wiring, such as those under the hood of a vehicle, or as part of a solar/wind generator array, might be susceptible to high-altitude EMP bursts, but why not prepare to
be "on the safe side" of the question?)
But what is not in much question is that the hundreds-of-miles of "virtual antenna" which comprises our nation's power and phone transmission lines will act powerfully upon anything connected to them -- perhaps to include your home and vital water well. Even a fence line may constitute a fatal conductor to have your hand resting on should one be so unlucky as to be in
contact with it during the initial main pulse (or pulses if follow up bursts are part of the strategy.)
And although a hugely powerful solar flare event is possible -- and would likely produce a similar result -- my bet will always be on the "human factor" rather than cosmic "coincidence." (That is, the more likely scenario would be a daylight deployment of high altitude EMP weapons (which would be largely invisible/unnoticed by most people) which could then be blamed on whatever a treasonous government felt was in its best interest. They could swear it was a "natural" event, or they could hop up and down in a froth with false-flag accusations against a Muslim or other fall-guy nation -- and who would be able to dispute them? They might even proclaim the grid failure to be the work of "home grown" terrorists supposedly using conventional explosives or suitcase nukes against key points in the grid. Since only government-controlled media would likely be broadcasting (if at all) after such a devastating event, we'd have to take their word for whatever they affirmed -- no more Internet or phones or local stations to counter with the truth (assuming it could even be discovered amid the chaos.)
All of which brings us back to the "mission critical" protection of the homestead water well. Fortunately, a fairly inexpensive "fix" is available for the problem, little more than a few feet of wire, a power relay, a small electrical enclosure box (available at Home Depot) and a modest bit of know-how. Most electricians and most well service companies could do the whole job within a couple or hours, or for those of you who are more technically proficient and adventurous, you could do it yourself with some careful study and appropriate safety measures.
Now before we get started with the details, let me suggest (as others have done in previous posts) a couple of "superior" alternatives to be considered. Perhaps the simplest and most reliable long term answer would be to remove the submersible pump (or surface mounted jet pump) and install a Brumby pump. (Several YouTube videos show how to build your own, very inexpensively!) No wires, no motor, and no moving parts at all down in the well hole to wear out!
Yes, an air compressor somewhere on the property would be required (and could be protected in the same manner as outlined herein) but in comparison to the challenges of protecting/removing/replacing/servicing pumps tens or many hundreds of feet deep, the Brumby approach really can't be beat! Also, the air compressor can do double duty, i.e. power air tools, aerate ponds, et cetera, and should it ever break, they are far easier to come by (and/or repair) than a deep pump or jet pump. Moreover, the air compressor can be hugely oversized (if that's all you could find) and still do just fine, whereas a submersible pump must be properly sized both electrically and in physical dimension, etc.
With the Brumby design there are various considerations regarding overall well depth, actual depth to the water level within the well, etc, but even if your particular configuration would make a Brumby pump problematical, you could still easily construct or purchase a positive displacement style air/water pump that would likewise dispense with motors and wires down in the well, yet still have great simplicity and reliability and ease of repair. There also exists at least one brand of lever-action mechanical pump able to handle a couple hundred or so of depth with no problem. I can post more on these alternatives in a subsequent post, if some readers indicate an interest...
Okay, let's start with the relay, widely available, but not likely to be found in a Home Depot or Lowe's etc. The links below show two variations of the same relay, one with a 120 VAC energizing coil, and the other with a 240 VAC coil. They also are available in other coil and contact voltages, but for now these will suffice for purposes of illustration.  What we are trying to do  here is walk through the general logic and a couple of "typical" installations -- as they say, your own mileage may vary, in which case any competent electrician will nevertheless understand these instructions sufficiently to adapt the principles to your own circumstance.
Most home or small ranch well pumps either run on 120 VAC or 240 VAC single phase power from the main circuit breaker panel. Almost always the pump will have its own "dedicated" breaker that sends the power on to the pump equipment room, where most often the supply conduit first goes to a manual disconnect box with a lever on the right side which can be pulled down to cut
power so as to safely work on the wiring.
Often (but not always) the output wiring of the disconnect box then goes directly to the pump pressure switch, which will not send the power any further unless the system pressure drops low enough to require more water.  If the switch does shift due to low pressure, then the power is switched either directly to the pump down in the well, or in many cases instead is sent first to a pump control box which may contain such additional items as perhaps a start relay, capacitor(s) and other associated items, and from there on down to the submerged pump.
Specifically, for a standard 240 VAC set-up, what we'll be doing is removing the two wires that normally go from the pressure switch to the pump (or to its control box) and let them hang momentarily.  We will then cut two new pieces of same-gauge [and color] wire and connect them from the just-vacated terminals of the pressure switch up to the two terminals of our new 240 VAC relay coil.  We'll also jumper two short wires from those two coil terminals to the two "normally open" terminal connections of the relay, typically abbreviated and molded into the adjacent plastic as "no." (Again, for those without sufficient technical know-how and familiarity with safety precautions it would be best to pass these instructions on to a qualified professional.)
This new relay is commonly termed a "double pole, double throw" arrangement whereby it is essentially two switches or relays in one. No power will flow through the relay unless it is energized by its built-in magnetic coil via the pressure switch wiring, as described.
The two "moving contact" parts of the relay (mechanically linked to each other but electrically isolated) each have their own separate terminals marked as "common" or the abbreviated letter "c" molded into the adjacent plastic.  The two wires that we removed earlier from the pressure switch and left dangling will now instead be routed individually to these two terminals
marked "c" or common.
However we also want to protect the pump from any possible high voltage surge that might come into the home from an outside event. High voltages can "bridge" or arc across even a normally "off" switch or relay contact, so to counter that we will use the "normally closed" contacts on the new relay and run wires from those two terminals to the well casing (or other suitable
earth ground.)
What this means is that whenever our new relay is off, and the pump is not running, the pump is always connected across the new relay to an earth ground, such that even if high voltage does try to bridge the gap between contacts in the relay, the arc will be forced to encounter an easy and relatively safe path to the earth. It's still "possible" for some of the voltage to divide and go down the wires into the well, but those wires will also be effectively "cross-linked" or shorted to each other via the normally-closed common wire connections to the well casing, and therefore the pump windings will be much less prone to damage.
If the pump system happens to run on 120 VAC instead of 240 VAC, it is still very likely to have a disconnect box and pressure switch, but in this instance usually only the black (or "hot") wire is routed through through the pressure switch, leaving the white (and green) to continue uninterrupted to the pump and/or its associated control box. For this system we would have selected a relay whose coil also runs on 120 VAC (per the links) and we would slightly modify our new wiring procedure accordingly.
What we'd do in this case would be to find a way to cut and splice an added length of white wire into the white wire that goes in  and back out of the disconnect box (via a wire nut) and connect the other end of this new white wire to one of the relay terminals marked "coil."
The black wire coming out of the pressure switch and going to the pump or its control box is the one we will now remove from the pressure switch terminal block, letting it hang loose for the moment.  We'll cut a new length of black wire (same amperage size as the one removed) and run it from that just-vacated terminal on the pressure switch to the other "coil" terminal on our new relay.  We'll also jumper a short piece of black wire from that same coil terminal over to one of the relay terminals marked as normally open or "no."  At this point our new relay coil terminals will have a black wire and a white wire, respectively.
The normally open and normally closed and common terminals on the new relay are "paired" individually and separately to either the right side or left side of the relay, so either by following the metal strips and contacts visually, or by using a test meter set on ohms, we need to make sure that whichever of the two "no" or normally open terminals we selected for placing our black hot wire from the pressure switch, we then locate the matching "common" terminal associated with the "no" terminal having that black wire.
That common terminal will then need a new piece of black wire running from it back down to the "hanging" black wire that we had earlier detached from the pressure switch.  We'll wire nut them together or otherwise reconnect them safely.  Thus when the disconnect switch restores power to the system, what now happens is that when the pressure switch senses low water pressure and clicks "on" it will send power up to our new relay coil (turning the relay on) and via the jumper from the black coil lead to the normally open terminal the power will now go across the relay and out the "common" terminal over to the pump, or its control box, thus running the system until pressure builds back up again.
As with the 240 VAC arrangement however, we still must protect the pump from EMP surge, so we finish the project by finding the normally closed terminal associated with our other two wires (common and normally open) and connecting it to our well casing or other equivalent earth ground.
Thus in either instance, whether 120 VAC or 240 VAC, while the pump is off, it's internal wiring will always be connected to a direct earth ground connection, instead of being vulnerable to a surge which could instantly burn it out like an old incandescent light bulb that goes "FLASH" and gone before one can even blink!
Now some of you sharper readers will have already noted that the protection outlined above will not help if by unhappy chance the pump is actually running to recharge the pressure tanks or re-fill the cistern [at the moment] when the EMP burst occurs. Sorry folks -- there really isn't much of a fix of any nature (that I've yet come across) for that rare instance.
Fortunately however, most deep well pumps run for only a small fraction of each day, so the odds of being "hit" during those moments is fairly remote, but still possible. (Thus the recommendation to use a Brumby or mechanical lever pump or have a full back up of all major components and the capability of hauling the entire array out of the well and re-installing it all -- not usually an easy job for amateurs!)
Nevertheless, for only a hundred or so dollars in parts (plus perhaps paying a professional for wiring it all) you will have increased the odds tremendously in your favor, since the alternative is to leave it as is, always at total risk of being fried should an EMP or flare event take place (whether the pump is running, or not!)
I'd be happy to provide a clearly-depicted wiring diagram based on your particular system, plus a suggested parts list, for anyone interested.  Contact me via e-mail.
Here is one source for the aforementioned relays. (An online search will show other similarly-rated items):

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

I often have SurvivalBlog readers write to ask me about vacuum tube technology and its robustness in EMP and CME events, and which antique multi-band vacuum tube radios to look for. I'm also asked how to determine which models can be run on both AC and DC power.

To begin, vacuum tubes are inherently "hard" to EMP and CME but not invulnerable. They are also relatively safe from lightning strikes--but again not invulnerable. Modern integrated circuits are at the opposite end of the scale for vulnerability. In essence, the smaller gates in a microcircuit, the greater its vulnerability. In recent years, chip makers have been creating chips with gates smaller than .3 microns. They are very vulnerable! In fact just an inadvertent discharge of static electricity can destroy a chip.

Often, questions from my readers turn to the now legendary Zenith Trans-Oceanic portable radios. Although I love the older tube type Zenith Trans-Oceanics, I must admit that they're not the best choice for preppers. This is because they require two different DC voltages to operate, and they lack a beat frequency oscillator (BFO). Furthermore, since they are now so collectible they are also much higher-priced than many other vacuum tube multi-band radios. Therefore, as much as I love my G500--I think it's one of most handsome radios designed in the 20th Century--I wouldn't recommend it for a serious survivalist. For details on Zenith Trans-Oceanics, see the book Zenith Trans-Oceanic: The Royalty of Radios.

The tube radio that I recommend most highly is the Hallicrafters S-38E. This is a very sturdy four band radio that has broad coverage from 550 KHz on the AM band all the way up to 32 MHz. This model was manufactured from 1956 to 1961. It has several advantages over the Trans-Oceanics:

  1. It requires only one input voltage that can range from 105 to 125 Volts, AC or DC.
  2. It has a proper vernier scale (horizontal) tuning dial. (Which all of the the early Trans-Oceanics lacked.)
  3. It has a separate band spread tuning dial (which all tube type Trans-Oceanics lack.) Band spread tuning makes fine tuning much much easier.
  4. It has a BFO setting. Granted, this is not a modern pitch-adjustable BFO, but the pitch can be adjusted by using the band spread tuner. You will find that it takes just a bit of practice to become accustomed to adjusting the the BFO for either manual Morse or single sideband voice transmissions.
  5. It has a "standby" setting, which temporarily deactivates the receiver so that a separate transmitter can be used side-by-side, without destroying your receiver's circuitry.
  6. It was a very popular model and hence produced in large numbers for several years. This means that spare parts are readily available and the price of used radios is quite reasonable.

One disadvantage is that a S-38E draws more current than a Trans-Oceanic. But at at least it draws less current than a big 9-tube "Boat anchor" receiver with a huge transformer.

Granted, there are many other general coverage vacuum tube receivers available, made by a variety of makers including Drake, National, Heathkit, and Hammarlund. And many of those have some features that are superior to the S-38E. But most of those radios do not have AC-DC flexibility. And most of them are much more expensive and use much harder to find tubes. And, as I mentioned, most of them draw much more current, which is a poor choice if you are going to power a radio from a battery bank. For the money, I think that a restored Hallicrafters S-38E is ideal for preparedness-minded families. There are very few other radios available for under $100 that will fill the same role. And incidentally, at an average auction price of $65, that is very close to the radio's final catalog price of $59.95. Given the ravages of inflation on the U.S. Dollar, I consider these radios a tremendous bargain. (A product that cost $60 in 1960 would cost $455 in 2011 Dollars!)

The All-Americans
There are many other vacuum tube tabletop radios that can operate on both AC and DC that were made for the mass market. These are often referred to as "All-American Five" and "All-Americans Six" radios. (In auction listings, sometime written "AA-5" and "AA6".) These are typical tabletop radios produced in the US and Canada from the 1930s to late 1950s. They can be identified by simply looking in the back of a tube radio set. If you don't see a large transformer, but instead see only five or six vacuum tubes sticking up from the chassis, then odds are that it is an AC and DC compatible radio. But if it has a big transformer, then it is an AC-only radio. (This is just a general rule for identification, so be advised there are some exceptions. For details, see the book The All-American Five Radio: Understanding and Restoring Transformerless Radios of the 1940'S, 50'S, and 60's.)

Many of the All-American Five" and "All-Americans Six" are two banders that can receive both AM and shortwave. But be advised that many of these have shortwave coverage only from 2 to 5 MHz, which is not particularly useful for modern international shortwave listening in the northern hemisphere. Coverage from 5 to 12 MHz is better, and coverage from 5 to 18 MHz is ideal. Also, be advised that very few of these radios incorporated a BFO. This makes them incapable of the modulating continuous wave (CW) and single sideband broadcasts. I suppose that you could use an add-on BFO module, but that would probably be solid-state circuitry, and hence vulnerable to EMP.) Lastly, nearly all of them lack band spread tuning. This makes precise tuning and compensation for drift very difficult.

The best place to find multi-band vacuum tube radios (such as the Hallicrafters S-38E) is on eBay or at your local ham radio swap meet. Unless you have considerable experience with soldering iron, then I'd recommend buying one that has already had all of it's older-style electrolytic capacitors replaced with modern capacitors. The slang term for this procedure is "re-capping." If you buy a tube radio at a garage sale, even if you're told that operates perfectly, don't take it home and just plug it in. Old leaky capacitors have a tendency to go "bang" with the initial high current in-rush of switching on a radio. So I recommend that you immediately take a new "find" to a friend who's an experienced in radio electronics and have it thoroughly checked out. Make sure that it's been recapped and is safe to operate. It also may or may not need to be "realigned". If it is an untouched tube radio, then odds are that at a minimum it will need a new power cord installed and will need to have its electrolytic capacitors replaced, in order for it to be safe to operate.

Running on DC
To operate an All-American Five" and "All-Americans Six" on DC, all you need to do is obtain nine or ten charged 12 volt batteries, and cable them together in series, (connecting positive terminals to negative terminals, in a chain). Make sure to use proper heavy duty brass screw-type battery cable clamps, and 10 gauge or larger cable. (And if you will be drawing more current than operating just one radio, then you will need even heavier gauge cabling!) If fully charged, a nine battery bank will yield around 108 Volts DC. Once the charge on each battery starts to drop below 12 Volts, simply add another battery to the series chain, to boost the combined voltage back above 105 Volts. A bank of 10 typical 12-volt car batteries will suffice, but a bank of 20 6-volt deep cycle (golf cart or marine type ) batteries would be fantastic. Warning: Keep safety in mind whenever working with batteries. The combined current of a DC battery bank is enough to kill an elephant. (BTW, so can the discharge of a high value capacitor--so even a radio that is turned off can zap you if you poke your finger in the wrong place!) Battery acid spills and vapor explosions are also well-documented hazards. Do not attempt to wire a battery bank unless you know what you're doing. If you have any doubts whatsoever, then please consult someone locally who has experience with DC wiring. Any older ham radio operator or even someone that works of electric golf carts will be able to assist you.

Spare Parts
Depending on your radio, the only spare parts that you will need for most vacuum tube radios are a spare main power fuse and a spare set of tubes. Most of these tubes are very reasonably priced. An S38-E, for example, requires one each of these five tubes: 12AV6, 12BE6, 35W4, 50C5, and 12BA6. You can often buy a full set of five on eBay for less than $30, all still in "new old stock" (NOS) condition.

The low-cost tube advantage doesn't apply if you buy a later Zenith Trans-Oceanic, which includes a 1L6 in the tube line-up. (The 1L6 tube is very scarce and expensive--so scarce in fact that some hobbyists have resorted to some elaborate work-arounds.)

The Sunspots are Coming!
We've just gone through more than eight years of horrible shortwave listening because the sunspot numbers were so low. (Good HF propagation depends on the solar wind charging the ionosphere.) This poor shortwave propagation caused a lot of shortwave listeners to give up on the hobby. But we've now passed the unusually long sunspot minimum and are coming back into higher sunspot numbers--and hence better propagation. Hooray!

I strongly recommend that anyone interested in buying shortwave radio equipment buy it soon, before strong interest in the hobby resumes. Once the good propagation resumes, HF ham transceivers and general coverage receivers gear will ratchet up in price. Buy now, while the gear is still inexpensive!

What You Will Need
Here are the basics of what you will need to enjoy shortwave radio listening with an older tube radio:

  • The receiver itself, properly re-capped and aligned.
  • Some antenna cabling
  • A long wire or dipole antenna
  • A ground wire and grounding rod
  • Access to frequency listings and broadcasts schedules

(There are frequency listings available on the Internet, but I recommend getting a recent copy of the World Radio & TV Handbook.)

In an Austere Environment
To operate in an austere (grid down) environment you will also need:

  • A battery bank. (Preferably deep cycle marine batteries) In the event of an extended emergency you will need PV, wind, or micro-hydro power, for re-charging.
  • Battery cabling.
  • Battery maintenance equipment. (Goggles, rubber gloves, distilled water, baking soda, terminal brush, cable tools, et cetera.)
  • An antenna lightning arrestor
  • Spare tubes and fuses
  • Hard copy frequency listings. (Such as the World Radio & TV Handbook or print-outs from Internet web pages.)


The foregoing represents just one approach to shortwave listening in an post-EMP or post-CME world. Plan B might be to simply purchase several compact battery powered compact modern shortwave radios, and keep them all in separate Faraday enclosures. You can break them out sequentially, as needed. Or Plan C might be to got totally "old school" and build crystal radios or one-tube regenerative radios. (Their drawbacks have previously been discussed in SurvivalBlog.)

My only other proviso about buying and restoring vacuum tube radios is that it is an addictive hobby. (As my late father once told me, "If you're going to have an addiction, make it a positive one.") I have accumulated several of these radios, and spend many hours tinkering with them. They are great fun.

Collecting and restoring old shortwave radios represents a great way to teach your children about electronics, electrical safety, batteries, battery chemistry, battery maintenance, circuit theory, antenna theory, antenna construction, radio propagation, and much more. And once you start tuning through the bands, international shortwave listening is a captivating entree to teaching your children about geography, time zones, geopolitics, and the history of the 20th Century. I highly recommend it.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Mr Rawles,
I have been reading survivalblog.com for about eight months now and have been considering trying to go off the grid so to speak. I have been reading many, many very helpful and interesting articles about "how to" setup and or make your own solar panel system. There is one question that I hope that you can field to your contributors of this subject. How you you protect your solar panels and system from a HEMP should one occur? I have not found info on how to protect against this kind of attack. It does not seem practical if you mount a system on your roof to take it down and shield it in a Faraday cage. There would just not be enough time for that exercise to happen nor would anyone get any "heads up" type of notice. Thanks, - Greg in Salt Lake City

JWR Replies: The silicon panels themselves as well as their blocking diodes are inherently fairly "hard" against EMP.  It is the charge controller and the inverter in your system that are most at risk.   Buy spares and store them in static protective bags inside Faraday boxes/cans.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

All survivalists, indeed all citizens everywhere, should give proper thought and consideration to the threat posed by Nuclear, Biological, Chemical (NBC) and Radiological agents, particularly chemical agents as they are the most likely to be encountered in dozens of possible situations. It is a fact of life that chemicals are everywhere, be they in surplus military storage depots, the local chemical plant down the road, the chemical laden train moving through the county, the semi hauling a tank filled with chemicals, or the nefarious terrorist who has finally realized that all he needed to make some very nasty blood agents was a basic high-school/college level education in chemistry, some basic lab equipment, and precursor chemicals easily ordered online or common found in any college chemistry class. The main defense against NBC threats is knowledge, knowledge which leads to preparations. You have to understand the potential threats and realize what steps need to be taken to prepare/counter them.

I believe there is a certain degree of overlap with preparations for chemical agents and preparations for radiological/biological hazards, and since my knowledge has to deal with chemistry/chemicals rather than specific biological hazards, I will refrain from making too many remarks about biological hazards and instead go with what I know, chemistry/chemicals. Suffice to say, while there are no guarantees in life, the gas mask and NBC suit that buy you time to leave an area rich with VX contamination, should also buy you time to leave an area that has just been contaminated by Anthrax or some other biological agent, that said, I’d still much rather have a full self-contained breathing apparatus when dealing with a biological hazard.

With that in mind, I'll discuss the "C" aspect of NBC warfare.

Broadly speaking there are three primary ways to encounter chemical agents:

Industrial/Military Accident

For regular citizens not actively deployed in a hostile foreign nation or fighting in some other context, the most likely way to encounter a chemical agent is through some sort of industrial accident, be it corporate negligence or equipment failures causing a release at a chemical production/storage facility (as was the case in Bhopal India in 1984 where the leakage of an isocyanate killed 3,000 and injured over 500,000), the derailment of a train carrying chemical agents (as was the case in Graniteville, South Carolina in 2005 where chlorine gas killed several and injured several hundred), or some mishap in the disposal of military held chemical stockpiles (supposedly several bases/facilities throughout the USA are in the process of incinerating or otherwise neutralizing chemical agents, thus creating a potential for a leak/accident, particularly in the transportation process).

It is a fact of life that each and every day there are thousands of trucks on the road hauling tanks filled with chemicals that could kill or sicken thousands if the trucks were to crash, and the tanks were to rupture, in a populated area. It is also another fact of life that there are easily dozens if not hundreds of trains operating on a daily basis that are loaded with similarly dangerous chemicals. In the United States we have been fortunate in that we have avoided major chemical releases along the lines of what happened in Bhopal, India in 1984, although as time goes by, infrastructure begins to wear down, communities become more complacent about what is going on at the local plant, officials become increasingly corrupt, etc, numerous factors may exist for a potential chemical disaster…

At any rate, we should certainly be aware of the daily risk posed by trucks and trains. The main ways to mitigate the risk posed by industrial/military accidents would be to keep a quality gas-mask (with a quality filter) handy in your home and your vehicle, for everybody who lives in your home and everybody who regularly rides in your vehicle, know how to recognize the signs of a chemical incident (to be addressed shortly), know how to properly use your gas mask (to be addressed shortly), and know what your gas mask can and cannot do for you (to be addressed shortly).

It is worth noting that my father was injured in an industrial chemical accident, decades ago, and was incapacitated for over a week after just a few seconds of exposure to a choking agent (specifically he was sprayed in the face with phosgene). Even if you are not outright killed by a chemical agent, a few seconds exposure may leave you an incapacitated chemical casualty for a week or longer


Soldiers in war are exposed to the ever-present threat that an enemy nation may resort to using chemical weapons, particularly fast acting fast dissipating agents (such as Hydrogen Cyanide), that would give a tactical advantage and possibly help sway the course of a battle. However, if you are a serviceman or servicewoman you have doubtlessly endured hours of instruction on NBC defense, although it may help you to continue reading and perhaps learn a few new things. At any rate, exposure via war is pretty much self-explanatory. However, I will address a few aspects about which specific agents people may expect to encounter in a war context, and the particulars of the chemical weapons use policies/doctrines of certain nations.

For example, due to their military doctrine, it is highly likely American citizens (at least those near areas of active combat/fighting) will be exposed to Russian chemical weapons in the event Russians ever invade the USA. Furthermore, any American citizens acting as insurgents/rebels against an occupation by Russians or similarly oriented communist forces (anybody trained/educated by the Russians/Soviets) will likely be exposed to chemical agents. Such issues will be addressed shortly…


Terrorists, the modern bogeymen, few know who they are, where they will strike, or when they will strike. All we know is that they are out there, likely living seemingly normal lives until the point where they make their move to secure their seventy-two virgins. The anthrax scare during the last decade was pretty much a whole lot of brew-ha-ha about nothing, because a few elected officials receiving contaminated letters does not translate into a regional crisis that could infect millions.

Simply stated, whoever was behind the anthrax scare, all they were going for was a psychological victory, their choice of delivery system pretty well proved that they were not out to infect and kill millions. Because well-meaning survivalists and decent American citizens are not the only ones with access to the internet, I am going to refrain from discussing what would have been an optimal delivery system for dispersing anthrax to maximize the causality rate. Suffice to say that the choice the anthrax terrorist made, that of mailing letters to a few officials, revealed that they were not serious about infecting the masses, but rather wanted to scare/terrorize the masses.

However, with all of that said, the terrorist chemical threat is potentially serious because some chemical agents (agents that can kill within minutes if not sooner) can be prepared with commonly available chemicals that have legitimate industrial/commercial uses and thus are easily obtainable, by anybody who has access to basic laboratory equipment. With a few thousand dollars to procure commonly available chemicals, access to a chemical laboratory equipped to at least basic college standards, and a few days time, I could prepare enough chemical agents to cause at least tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of chemical casualties in a major urban area. Again, for security purposes, I will refrain from discussing what agent/s I am referring to, what the precursor chemicals are, and what the optimal method of dissemination is, suffice to say that the threat is potentially very real and it is simply our good fortune that terrorists have not already figured it out.

So, now that you understand that the threat is real, you may be asking, “well what can I do about it?” and fortunately for you, yours truly has an answer…

First, you need a quality gas-mask… Allow me to discuss those that I have experience with…

M40 Field Protective Mask
I have personal experience with the M40 field protective mask and I find the mask quite adequate, with the only possible drawback being that it is a two eye-piece mask instead of a one eye-piece mask, so there is something of a gap or a blind spot in your vision, unlike the new commercial gas masks and some [U.S. Air Force masks]. However, many of the new commercial gas masks take odd commercial filters that are expensive and hard to find, and they may or may not be compatible with a ballistic helmet. I can say with one hundred percent certainty, my M40 field protective mask is fully compatible with my ballistic helmet, it fits comfortably with the helmet, it uses commonly available 40mm standard NATO filters, and with the filter mounting on either the left or right side (as opposed to the front with some gas masks) I can actually shoulder my rifle and aim down the sights. Note that even with a gas mask mounting a filter on the other side, you will still have to get used to cheek placement in regards to how you use your iron sights, it can be a bit tricky at first and some folks may find it easier to just go with an EoTech type sight when using a gas mask. The M40 gas mask also has a provision for using a special tube to drink out of a gas-mask. You can also purchase an adapter kit that will let you hook up your gas-mask to a water bladder, although you must make certain that the water bladder is rated for use in an NBC environment and make sure that your water bladder tube is rated for use in an NBC environment. It is also worth mentioning that you can change the filter without having to remove the mask.

The main drawback of the M40 gas mask is that it is typically expensive when you can find it (usually $200-$300 dollars), although I was able to buy mine in gently used condition for less than $70 dollars because a major urban police department was apparently switching over to something else (probably some new, untested, and incredibly expensive commercial mask, with the bill being footed by the tax-paying citizens) and they were getting rid of the masks that had doubtlessly been given to them for free by the US Army. Supposedly the military is in the process of shifting away from the M40 field protective mask due to the mask’s physical weakness against blister agents (specifically issues with the mask suffering corrosion due to blister agents). However, for reasons I will be addressing shortly, I don’t believe blister agents are likely to be encountered.

One final warning, try to be reasonably certain your mask isn’t stolen military property. To my knowledge soldiers still have to account for their gas masks and they’re not treated like canteens or magazine pouches where if you “misplace” or “lose” it, you get to cut Uncle Sam a check and all is forgiven. Losing a gas mask isn’t as severe as “losing” a rifle or “losing” night vision optics, but if you “lose” your gas mask you’re going to have some problems. There are a lot of M40 field protective masks on the surplus market and they are probably okay to buy. However, if you come across an M50 joint service general purpose mask, unless it is the commercial/police version of the mask, the item is probably stolen government property.

The M50 is said to be replacing the M40 even though most soldiers have yet to see an M50 mask. My best friend, who is active duty, has informed me that most Marines still have the M40 field protective mask although many of them have at least had basic exposure to the M50 joint service general purpose mask. That said, there shouldn’t be too many M50 masks legitimately available for sale because the mask hasn’t even been fully phased into service with the Marine Corps, let alone the Army, as is the intention/plan (the Marines and Army are to both receive the mask). That stated, I will be keeping his eyes open for the first opportunity to legally obtain an M50 joint service general purpose mask. From what I've has read, the military version (M50) is to be preferred to the basic commercial/police version (FM50) because it is more adaptable for use in combat and it has more options/features such as linking to a hydration bladder or a canteen. That said, another commercial version, the C50 looks as though it may be promising. I will be placing the lawful acquisition of either an M50 joint service general purpose mask or a C50 mask, or failing either of those, the FM50 mask, high on his priority list for the near future. If and when successful, I will evaluate the mask and give it a thorough review.

Czech M10 and U.S. M17 Series Gas Masks
I don’t have a whole lot of positive things to say about a gas mask that uses cheek filters that require taking the mask off when it comes time to switch the filters. This is true of the Czech M10 and U.S. M17 series gas masks. (The M10 is a clone of the M17.) Maybe there’s something wrong with me but the idea of taking my mask off in a chemically compromised environment, or an area rich with radiological hazards, so I can spend several minutes switching the filters, seems rather counter-intuitive. What the M10 gas mask has going for it is that it is inexpensive, readily available, and it doesn’t interfere with wearing a ballistic helmet or shouldering/aiming a rifle because it has internal cheek filters instead of the standard 40mm NATO filter that is used by almost every other gas mask. That said, the M10 gas mask should only be considered as a “stop gap” gas-mask, or the “until I can find and afford a better one” gas mask. The M10 gas mask might also function well if the only anticipated threats are CS or CN riot control agents.

M15 Israeli Masks
These are the new style of Israeli surplus gas masks, much more comfortable than the older style (which I would only recommend for those on a tight budget or with nothing better), but they suffer from many setbacks common to gas-masks made primarily with civilians in mind. The filter is in the front and it greatly interferes with the ability to shoulder/aim a rifle, probably because nobody expected somebody wearing a civilian gas mask to need to shoulder/aim a rifle. The main advantage to this mask is that it is cheap (at least they were cheap when I bought four of them back in 2006 for about $100 dollars for all four, each coming with a filter). In regards to filters they use the friendly 40mm NATO standard filter. Also, unsurprisingly, this civilian gas mask does not fit well with a ballistic helmet and leaves the wearer uncomfortable. Obviously the mask was designed with the idea in mind that regular civilians would be sitting around doing nothing other than avoiding exposure to a chemical threat, instead of trying to shoulder/aim a rifle or operate with a ballistic helmet on. I also have an old style Israeli surplus gas mask that predates the M15 series and I find it too uncomfortable to consider seriously recommending for anything other than a “stop gap” gas mask until something better can be obtained. If you can obtain old style Israeli surplus gas masks for perhaps $10 dollars each (with filters), they might be worth considering as “hand out” gas masks or “shelter in place” gas masks, or a gas mask for tucking into the drawer at the office. However, the M15 Israeli gas mask should be considered for those roles if they can be obtained at a reasonable cost.

Commercial Masks
I don’t know much about the various commercial gas masks on the market other than that they appear to be pretty reliable and useful with their single one-piece lens design (very common with commercial gas masks). However, they also tend to use specialized and often mask specific commercial filters that are likely to be expensive and certainly difficult to find in any situation where the supply chain has broken down or otherwise been interrupted. Another mark against commercial gas-masks is that they are generally very expensive (anywhere from $200 to $350 dollars for the basic mask with one single filter) whereas a surplus M40 field protective mask can be obtained (if you shop smart and find a good deal- such as the case with the mask I purchased) for under $70 dollars. Ultimately it will be a matter of your budget, your needs, and your personal preference.

However, I would like to give one final caveat in regards to the commercial masks, while they are supposedly rated for deadly agents (blood agents, blister agents, choking agents, nerve agents) and not just less-than-lethal agents such as CS (tear gas), they seldom find themselves in situations where they might be put to a serious test. They may or may not perform as rated by the company. If a few hundred masks fail then the company has to worry about some lawsuits. If a few hundred or a few thousand American military issued gas masks fail on soldiers in the field, then the Pentagon, Department of Defense, and possibly the Congress and President have to worry about a major scandal on their hands. Gulf War syndrome aside (something that I believe is real and something that I will discuss later), US military issue gas masks/NBC gear probably function as rated/declared. However, from personal experience, there is only one thing I can declare with absolute certainty: The M40 field protective mask protects the user from CS tear gas. I know this firsthand as his M40 field protective mask worked fine when I was in a room filled with CS tear gas. I have also conducted tests with the M15 Israeli gas mask and can certify that the gas mask, with the proper filter, provided fine protection against CS tear gas.

I tend to believe the US military surplus masks will reliably protect against lethal agents (blood agents, blister agents, choking agents, nerve agents, etc) because they were issued in times when the threat of an enemy attack using chemical weapons was a very real prospect (i.e. Gulf War 1 and depending on what you believe about Iraq’s supposed weapons programs, Gulf War 2). If hundreds of thousands of American personnel had gone into combat with less than adequate masks and been killed or incapacitated by sarin, soman, hydrogen cyanide, mustard, etc, it would have caused a huge uproar across the entire USA. If a few thousand soldiers or contractors bought their own commercial masks which they then used and experienced mask failures, the worst the company could expect would be a few dozen lawsuit or perhaps a few hundred lawsuits (depending on how many soldiers used them and had them fail). If government issued military masks were to fail, it could very well cost dozens of senators/congressmen their seats/careers, cost multiple generals their careers/pensions, and become a huge scandal. Gulf War Syndrome aside, it is my opinion that US military surplus NBC gear (designed/manufactured from at least the 1980s onward, 1990s is better) will provide the protection as stated.

Also, don’t forget to obtain a number of equipment decontamination kits for decontaminating any equipment (i.e. your expensive battle rifle or your night vision optic) that might become exposed to chemical contaminants. I was able to find a pack of four decontamination kits at a gun show for just five dollars. The DECONTAMINATION KIT, INDIVIDUAL EQUIPMENT: M295. It would be a shame if you had an awesome gas mask, a great NBC suit, and you avoided dying from a nerve agent attack, only to die a few hours later after you left the chemically rich environment, removed your suit, and then touched your still-contaminated rifle. Obtain proper decontamination kits and follow the instructions (that come with the kit) for how to use properly use the kit.

So now that you’re well on your way to selecting a gas-mask you may wonder what to do with it once you get it? Well first you need to realize what your gas mask can and cannot do for you… The gas mask does not function as a self-contained breathing apparatus that enables you to stay in an area with no oxygen/air due to the oxygen having been displaced by a chemical/gaseous agent. A gas mask filters out certain chemical/biological hazards enabling you to breathe filtered air. That stated, you still need air/oxygen to breathe. If all of the oxygen in the air has been displaced by chemicals you will suffocate, even if you have a gas mask on.

I’m not sure how to state it any simpler than that, if you are in a confined area you need to get out of the confined area because an area with a limited amount of air could rapidly become an area with no air due to the air/oxygen being displaced by gas. Gas masks do not generate oxygen; they simply filter contaminated air so you can breathe filtered air.

If you’re looking for a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA -- which means you have your own supply of oxygen to breathe from) as opposed to a gas mask then by all means look for one, but such devices are outside the scope of this article and as I have no personal experience with a self-contained breathing apparatus (other than those of the underwater variety, i.e. SCUBA variety) I shall refrain from commenting on which self-contained breathing apparatus does this or that in regards to NBC protection.

I also want to stress that a gas mask by itself does not provide full protection against certain agents (nerve agents, blister agents, etc) because those agents will either be absorbed through the skin (nerve agents) or will burn exposed skin (blister agents).To achieve optimal protection against a nerve agent you need to be wearing a complete NBC suit (with the hood, the gloves, and the boot covers) in addition to a gas mask with a filter rated for a nerve agent (even then you need to be aware that many filters, especially commercial filters, may only provide 20-40 minutes of protection in an area rich with certain agents before they are compromised, the idea is that you get out of Dodge). There’s one thing about nerve agents I really want to hammer home, nerve agents quickly saturate filters. Ditto for blister and blood agents. [So you will need lots of spares and will need to practice changing them rapidly.] It is worth noting that the mask itself should be immediately changed after use if it was exposed to hydrogen cyanide. Against most of the nastier agents the life of filters is often measured in a few hours or less. If you're going to spend a lot of time in a chemically rich environment you're going to need to be able to change filters and you're going to need to know how to change filters in a chemically contaminated environment (a technique useful to know, but one that would not be my first choice--my first choice would be getting out of Dodge).

When selecting a gas-mask make sure that it fits comfortably and is properly sized for your face. You’re going to have to make sure you can obtain a proper seal and it will entail just a little bit of work… Gentlemen, if you’re sporting a beard then now is the time to shave because you will be unable to obtain a proper seal unless you are clean shaven.

When testing for a proper seal have a friend standing by just in the event you become panicked upon being unable to breathe and end up requiring assistance getting the mask off (this may happen the first time you try to obtain a proper seal). Make sure that the filter connector (the place where you screw the filter into the mask) is open and unobstructed. After donning the mask and adjusting the straps to assure it fits comfortably you will then place your hand over the filter connector and attempt to breathe.

You should be able to exhale but unable to inhale and every time you attempt to inhale the mask should slightly collapse in towards your face (try this several times to make sure you are indeed unable to breathe and thus have obtained a proper seal). Note that if at any time during the procedure you feel panicked by a lack of being able to inhale, remove your hand from the filter connector and breathe normally. If necessary your assistant can help you in removing the mask if you feel panicked by being unable to breathe or if you are beset with a sudden claustrophobic attack due to having a gas mask on your face (it may take some getting used to for some people).

Once you have a proper seal without a filter the next step is to make sure you can obtain a proper seal with a filter. I know that conventional wisdom states that you don’t want to open a filter until you are ready to use it; however I believe that if you’re going to have a gas-mask ready at hand you’re going to have to have the filter opened, on the mask, and ready to go. The gas mask I keep in my bed-room has a filter on it, ready to go, otherwise it wouldn’t be particularly useful (try donning a gas mask, unsealing/uncapping a filter, and then screwing the filter into place when under stress, all while holding your breath with your eyes closed, you’ll see the merit in keeping your gas mask ready to go).

Speaking from my own personal experience I had a standard 40mm NATO filter, unsealed and open, sitting on my closet shelf for about four years and when I finally screwed it into place on the gas mask and used it in a room filled with CS tear gas, it worked beautifully. That said, I wouldn’t necessarily rely on that filter as my “go to filter” for protection against anything more serious than CS tear gas, because it has already been used to filter one chemical agent, it may have a diminished ability to provide protection against other chemical agents (i.e. lethal agents).

However, I have no problem with the idea of using an unsealed and opened filter, that has never been exposed to any sort of chemical agent, as a “go to filter” that is kept in place on the mask to wait for the situation that you hope never comes. I don’t doubt that an open and unsealed filter will provide the protection it is rated to provide because I have seen the filters do that (although only in regards to CS tear gas, I have never been exposed to nerve agents, blood agents, blister agents, choking agents, etc).

Filters that I have opened/unsealed and exposed to CS tear gas go into the pile labeled  “save these for use testing future gas mask” and they will stay there, serving that function, unless there is a dire emergency.

To make sure you have a proper seal with the filter on the mask, make sure you open and unseal the filter (you don’t want to suffocate yourself by trying to breathe through a sealed filter), then carefully screw the filter into the filter connector on your mask. After you have done those things you should don the gas mask and then place your hand over the opening on the filter (the opening that was previously covered by the seal that you removed before donning the mask).

Again, as was the case with the seal test without the filter in place, you should be able to exhale but you should not be able to inhale, when you inhale you should be unable to breathe and the mask should slightly move inwards to your face. After doing this inhale/exhale business two or three times (being able to exhale but not inhale) it should feel as though you are unable to breathe and that you are suffocating (because if you have a proper seal you won’t be able to breath while blocking the intake for the filter). Simply remove your hand from the filter opening and breathe normally. If you encounter any problems remove your mask immediately or have your friend help you remove it.

Once you’re satisfied that you can safely and effectively obtain a proper seal with your gas mask and that you can breathe properly with the filter in place, I suggest that you wear the gas mask around (at first without a filter in place, later with an open filter in place- use a filter at your discretion, depending on your supply of filters) so you can become acclimated to the burdens of operating while wearing a gas-mask. Try shouldering a rifle, try aiming with your rifle, try aiming your pistol, if you have access to a shooting range where people won’t give you funny looks for wearing a gas mask, trying shooting while wearing your gas mask. You might be surprised how difficult it becomes to do something as simple as shouldering a rifle or properly aiming a rifle. If you have a gas-mask with a filter that is off to one side or the other you will certainly appreciate it. If your gas mask filter is in front of the mask you’ll probably be cursing yourself and wishing that you had obtained a gas mask with a side-mounted filter.

If you really want to have some fun try doing some light exercises or household chores while wearing the gas-mask, it will help get you used to wearing one. Although I would again like to remind the readers that the purpose of a gas mask is not to allow you to go about business as usual for the next 6-12 hours or however long it may be, the purpose is to buy you the time needed to get out of the chemically (or biologically) contaminated area. Even still, it will help if you have some basic conditioning for operating in a gas mask, not to mention it will help gauge your overall physical condition and probably help boost your physical condition to a degree.

That said, if at any time while wearing a gas mask you ever feel panicked for any reason, be it difficulty breathing or an attack of claustrophobia, remove your gas mask or have your friend help you remove it (one of my gas-mask rules is that you shouldn’t use gas masks when alone, the only exceptions being emergencies or if your training is sufficient that you know how to avoid suffocating yourself). There have been instances where people had difficulty breathing while wearing gas masks and they believed it was because they had been exposed to contaminants, giving them all the reason in the world to believe they needed to keep their gas masks on, when the problem was that they had failed to unseal the filter connected to the mask.

So now that you know how to properly obtain a seal and how to safely wear a gas mask you might wonder what sort of agents are you likely to encounter?

There are several broad categories of chemical agents and they can be broken down as follows: Blood agents, Nerve agents, Choking agents, Blister agents, and Irritant/Disabling agents

Blood Agents
These agents operate primarily via inhalation (theoretically you could also ingest them) and they are absorbed into the bloodstream. Death can often result within several minutes depending on the manner of exposure and the level of exposure. Death is usually caused by respiratory failure. One of the most useful (from a tactical perspective) is Hydrogen Cyanide, although there are other blood agents (such as cyanogen and cyanogen bromide).

A key sign of exposure to a blood agent is the breathing cycle is stimulated to such a severe level that the exposed individual cannot hold their breath. According to Jared Ledgard in A Laboratory History of Chemical Warfare Agents, violent convulsions usually follow within 30 seconds of cessation of respiration starting after 1 minute of exposure. One of the early indicators of exposure is a rapid increase in heart rate combined with the onset of deep breathing. Death will usually occur within 5 minutes of inhalation of a lethal level.

It is my opinion that in a war with a major power, blood agents (specifically Hydrogen Cyanide) are very likely to be encountered. For protection against blood agents, for the most part, a gas mask with a quality filter will suffice, although blood agents can quickly compromise many filters. Fortunately hydrogen cyanide is usually neutralized by nature in normal weather conditions within 60-120 seconds, although it can persist for upwards of 12 hours in colder weather (cold as in approximately 40 degrees). Make sure that you are not relying on a charcoal based filter as they are insufficient/ineffective against most blood agents.

Be aware that the cyanide agents (i.e. hydrogen cyanide, cyanogen, etc) can be absorbed through the skin although the primary method has always been intended to be inhalation. Note that basic clothing will provide some level of protection against hydrogen cyanide although an NBC suit is to be preferred. Also note that if all you have is basic clothing and you are exposed to hydrogen cyanide (or other blood agents), you must carefully strip off your clothing and dispose of it as soon as you can safely do so. You must also be aware that exposure can occur via the eyes of other mucous membranes. If you are decontaminating after exposure to a blood agent and you fail to decontaminate properly, and then rub contaminated hands or fabric over your eyes, you may very well have just exposed yourself via your mucous membranes.

Basic clothing will probably buy you a few moments to get out of an area although you want to make sure as little skin as possible is exposed (blood agents aren’t as nasty as blister agents in getting through clothing - so additional layers may be worth the effort here), and you’re also going to have to accept that you’re going to need to strip down and dispose of your clothing in a very timely fashion. You’re also probably going to have to part with your footwear unless your footwear was covered by chemical covers or you are able to properly decontaminate your footwear. As an aside, I wouldn’t ever wear any previously contaminated clothing and I would only wear the footwear if I had no alternative and had thoroughly decontaminated the boots in question.

As an additional note, realize that hydrogen cyanide is lighter than air; it will naturally rise to higher locations.

Author’s opinion - Likely to be encountered in war, very likely to be encountered via terrorism since blood agents are easy to synthesize, less likely to be encountered via industrial accidents (depends on how bad infrastructure decays). Due to the doctrines of several major militaries, hydrogen cyanide (and other blood agents) will likely be very freely used in any conventional war fought in North America (more on this later).

Nerve Agents
These agents basically kill by interfering with an enzyme known as Acetylcholinesterase that allows the body’s nerve system to send out the right messages/impulses in a timely fashion so your muscles relax. With a nerve agent binding to the site of the enzyme and crowding out the proper enzyme so it cannot bind to the site, your nervous system is unable to send the proper messages to make your muscles relax. The end result is that your muscles continually contract, to the point where you die.

Nerve agents include (but are not limited to) to so-called G agents (so named because they were originally designed/developed by the Germans) primarily Tabun, Sarin, and Soman.

Nerve agents have been known to be able to contaminate vegetation, water, and even become absorbed into vegetation. Extreme care should be taken when entering any area that may have been exposed to nerve agents.

Possible indicators of exposure to nerve agents- Runny nose (without congestion and without sore throat), tightness in the chest, difficulty breathing, stomach cramps, loss of control of bowel functions (i.e. defecating in your pants), loss of bladder control (i.e. urinating in your pants), profuse sweating, muscle weakness, muscle cramps, tremors, any uncontrollable muscle twitching/spasms, etc.

Nerve agents can range from the VERY persistent VX agent (which can linger on the ground, on surfaces, in puddles of water) for literally MONTHS, to the much less persistent Sarin, which may only persist few several hours (outdoors) and even less on a warm sunny day (according to Ledgard). Additionally, as Ledgard points out in his book A Laboratory History of Chemical Warfare Agents, 4 MILLIGRAMS of Sarin can kill five soldiers and it can kill them within minutes of being disseminated. Soldiers exposed to non-lethal amounts of sarin will become incapacitated within 10 minutes of exposure and will be unable to perform their normal duties as soldiers. Anybody exposed to a lethal dose will be dead within 10 to 60 minutes.

Readers should note that Sarin is far less toxic than VX, the only good thing about Sarin (if you could even call it good) is that it tends not to be persistent (except in confined areas such as bunkers, buildings, trenches, etc). Also note that Sarin is heavier than air and will be particularly deadly/persistent in enclosed areas, especially if they are low lying areas. VX vapor is also heavier than air and as an agent, VX is particularly likely to be encountered in liquid form (i.e. a shell loaded with VX liquid being burst over the top of a trench or a fixed position).

In all cases exposure to a lethal dose is fatal. However, according to Jared Ledgard in A Laboratory History of Chemical Warfare Agents some people have a natural immunity to low and/or chronic doses. Furthermore, it seems that his view of Gulf War Syndrome is similar to my view. It is my belief that Gulf War Syndrome is the result of exposure to of nerve agents (possibly soman) at levels that were not sufficient to kill or immediately incapacitate and were possibly even too low to be immediately/readily detectible. It is probable that soldiers away from immediate combat areas were not suited up or they were allowed to remove their suits after the Republican Guard was smashed and the ground campaign to liberate Kuwait was over, meaning they would have had the opportunity to be exposed to low levels of nerve agents from Iraqi chemical depots that were being destroyed or had just been destroyed. Exposure to even low levels of nerve agents, levels below that at which you become an immediate chemical casualty, can cause long-term problems (and there are documented cases of low level exposure to nerve agents causing a decades worth of health problems).

It is worth noting that there is a window of treatment for exposure to nerve agents, approximately 5-15 minutes long, although knowing about the antidote (atropine/pralidoxime- along with diazepam/valium to mitigate the convulsions) is almost a moot point since the military is not fond of handing out their atropine/pralidoxime combopens. And even so, some nerve agents (such as Soman) are not impacted by oxime, not to mention that you would have to be absolutely sure that you or the person you are injecting with the combopen has been exposed to a nerve agent or else you’re essentially poisoning them with atropine.

I have some advice for nerve agents, avoid them at all costs. If you’re a trained EMT, paramedic, Navy corpsman, Army medic, RN, physician’s assistant, a physician, or even perhaps a chemical engineer, and you know what you’re doing and can legally obtain atropine, then it might be worth considering obtaining the items. However, if you’re just a regular guy or gal reading this to learn about gas masks and some basic defense ideas, please resist the urge to rush out and try to obtain an atropine-oxime combopen from one of your military buddies. If you’re really concerned about nerve agents and you’re not going to stop preparing until you have a few combopens, then please get some serious education and training. (You might be able to get such training via the Red Cross or via a State Defense Force/State Guard depending on the state you live in and whether or not your state governor maintains a State Defense Force).

If you are going to be exposed to a nerve agent you must note that a mere gas mask alone will not provide proper protection. You will ideally want to have a self-contained breathing apparatus (NBC rated and protected from direct exposure to NBC agents) in addition to a full NBC suit, NBC hood, gloves, boot covers, etc), failing that you will want a full NBC suit (gloves, hood, boot covers, etc) with a gas mask and filter specifically rated for nerve agents. If all you have is a gas mask it is better than nothing but be aware, be very aware, of the simple fact that nerve agents do not have to be inhaled to cause death, indeed in many instances they operate more rapidly/effectively if absorbed through the skin.

Author’s opinion- In a war situation VX is most likely to be encountered in an “area denial” role since it will contaminate an area for weeks/months at a time, causing enemy personnel to generally avoid the area, funneling them through other areas. In the tactical/operational role it is most likely that Soman and/or Sarin will be encountered. The production of nerve agents requires complex laboratory equipment, reasonably skilled/educated personnel, reasonably controlled/regulated precursors, and as such they are not likely to be encountered outside of a war/military setting. Not to mention that any storage/delivery system worth its salt (i.e. an artillery shell or an aircraft bomb with a binary storage/delivery mechanism) wouldn’t be particularly easy for any idiot to whip up in their basement. Granted that the cult in Japan launched a Sarin attack on the subway but their Sarin was low quality, if they had been using military grade Sarin of a higher purity, and/or if they had a better delivery system, the resulting death toll may have been dozens of times higher.

Choking Agents
These agents incapacitate/kill by interfering with the exposed person’s ability to breathe. They are not to be confused with riot-control agents that cause discomfort. Rather choking agents cause a build-up of fluids in the lungs which ultimately leads to death by suffocation. The two most common are chlorine and phosgene.

At this time I should mention that my father was exposed to phosgene in an accident at a chemical factory (specifically, he was sprayed in the face by a stream of phosgene) and was incapacitated for several weeks. Generally speaking there is no treatment for phosgene exposure other than to keep the exposed person calm and let them rest, aside from administering oxygen to reduce the impact of pulmonary edema, although virtually all those exposed to a lethal dose will be dead within 48 hours. It is not for nothing that phosgene accounted for almost 80% of all of the chemical/gas fatalities in the First World War.

Fortunately most choking agents, such as phosgene, have fallen out of favor in most major militaries; unfortunately it is because they have been replaced with things that are arguably at least twenty times worse. Phosgene is virtually impossible to detect by smell, no test strips are available to detect it, and generally you have to wait for people to exhibit signs of exposure to know that you are in an area rich with phosgene. Immediately after the gas is inhaled there should be coughing, choking, feelings of tightness in the chest, nausea, and vomiting. However, it remains possible that phosgene may be encountered in some capacity because it is very easy to produce. Although it should be considered that any hostile nation capable of putting an army in North America is going to be capable of supplying them with better chemical agents than phosgene.

The other main choking agent is chlorine, which could easily be encountered in an industrial accident and indeed it was encountered when a train derailed in Graniteville South Carolina (in 2005) and released 60 tons of the gas.

Chlorine gas is unlikely to be encountered in a war although it is certainly possible that an air or artillery strike may damage/destroy an industrial facility where chlorine is stored, causing its release. Fortunately a simple gas mask (no need for an NBC suit) will protect against chlorine gas. Also it is worth noting that chlorine (like phosgene) is heavier than air (get to high ground if trying to avoid chlorine or phosgene).

Your basic quality gas mask will provide protection against phosgene and chlorine, there is no need to don your full NBC suit.

Author’s opinion - You are unlikely to encounter a choking agent in a war situation, you may encounter them in a terrorist situation because it would be relatively easy for terrorists to cause a spill/leak at an industrial facility. Likewise the potential exists for a genuine accidental leak/spill or a transportation accident resulting in a release of a choking agent. If you keep your gas mask ready at hand in your vehicle you should have adequate protection against the possibility of an industrial/transportation accident involving a choking agent.

Blister Agents
These agents are primarily used to incapacitate/maim/disfigure although they can kill. They primarily are intended to incapacitate and cause casualties, in addition to having a very nasty impact on morale due to the manner in which they cause casualties. The exposed soldier seldom dies (although death can occur from exposure under certain circumstances).

Blister agents are typically very persistent especially in dry/cold areas. They are known to be able to penetrate standard clothing, rubber, vegetation, some plastics, and even some NBC suits (standard US NBC suits generally do not prevent all blister agent penetration, allowing some penetration, with the result being some degree of blistering or worse). The only solution to that problem is to regularly change your NBC suit or utilize a special full body polymer suit (although this will destroy your combat effectiveness).

Blister agents are horrible and viciously disfiguring to any exposed to them. Fortunately they are about a century old and are mostly obsolete, aside from the fact that they are very useful as an area denial weapon since they have such a high level of persistence. According to Jared Ledgard, during the First World War a British soldier sat down on a patch of grass that unbeknownst to him contained several droplets of mustard gas and within hours he had severe blister burns on his buttocks and back.

Blister agents primarily burn the skin and cause damage to the mucous membranes (eyes, lips, mouth, ears, nose, rectum, genitals, etc). Yes blister agents can cause chemical burns on the genitals, not a pleasant prospect.

There have been accounts of blister agent chemical munitions (i.e. artillery shells) that were dumped into the ocean following the end of the First World War causing blister burns on people who discovered the shells throughout the 1990s-2000s.

Blister agents have no real cure, antidote, or treatment (other than the potential for skin grafts to deal with the skin ruined by blister burns), and that is part of what makes them truly terrible weapons. Fortunately blister agents are easily detectible by commonly available military indicator paper (check the surplus market or check survivalist circles) although if exposed symptoms of exposure may take 2-6 hours to manifest themselves in the case of the mustard gases while exposure to Lewisite will result in symptoms manifesting themselves almost immediately.

There is some good news as far as blister agents are concerned. Specifically, I am of the opinion that blister agents are unlikely to be encountered outside of trench warfare. Unless the USA is invaded and it bogs down into trench warfare, you as an American/Canadian survivalist are unlikely to encounter blister agents. The critics of the M40 field protective mask who suggested it may have a weakness for blister agents are forgetting a few things, one of those things being that trench warfare is pretty much a thing of the past. If you’re being hit with a blister agent it is probably because you’re in a trench/static position which begs the question, “why are you in a static position?” Blister agents just aren’t that useful at this day in age, although they would make a very effective psychological weapon for a defending force to use against an attacking force, causing soldiers to worry not about a quick and painless death but rather a horrible and painful disfigurement.

Also, please note- sulfur mustard vapor, nitrogen mustard vapor, and Lewisite vapor are all heavier than air, they will naturally settle in low areas.

Author’s opinion - You’re much more likely to encounter nerve agents and blood agents (in a war/invasion context) and choking agents (in an accident/terrorism context) than you are to encounter blister agents in any context. That said, if for some reason you come across artillery shells that look like they were produced when Woodrow Wilson was halfway through his second-term, don’t go near them!

Irritant/Disabling Agents
These agents are primarily used for crowd/riot control or for “civilian law enforcement” purposes, -please excuse my use of the term “civilian law enforcement” I probably should have said “citizen peace officer operations” but our society is a far-cry from the days of Sheriff Andy Taylor, so I picked a term I felt more fitting. Anyway, I’m not here to preach about political issues…

Your basic irritant/disabling are not designed to kill you but they can kill you if they displace a sufficient amount of oxygen, leaving you an insufficient amount of oxygen to breathe. Your gas mask will protect you against the harmful effects of all known irritant/disabling gases, such as CS tear gas and CR gas. However, you still need to have oxygen to breathe because your mask operates as a filter, filtering out the gas, it doesn’t produce oxygen for you.

You don’t need an NBC suit to obtain protection from irritant/disabling agents, all you need is a quality gas mask (indeed you could probably get by with a 1960s or 1970s gas mask but why chance it, get a quality gas mask and you’re set for irritating agents and other agents).

Expect to encounter irritant agents from any variety of sources. In a post collapse situation you might find a number of individuals who were previously on some SWAT team have suddenly realized that they don’t have any stocks of food, medicine, water, etc, but they have some rather neat weapons, close quarters combat training, and a lot of tear gas that was previously stored in their station. They might decide to try to smoke people out of their home with CS gas, shooting them as they exit. Likewise any random thug might get the idea to do such a thing.

It is possible, but unlikely, that you will encounter CR gas, CR being a riot control agent that was used mainly in South Africa in the 1980s to put down the uprisings in the townships and homelands. Strictly speaking CR is non-lethal but it is recognized as toxic and since it is approximately 10 times more powerful than CS tear gas it is capable of causing instant incapacitation. In poorly ventilated areas (i.e. confined spaces- think indoors/basements/bunkers/etc) death may result in several minutes due to suffocation and pulmonary edema. The most common and immediate affects of CR gas exposure will be blindness (temporary), coughing, struggling/gasping for breath, and tremendous panic. If exposed to the agent you should remain calm and begin your chemical reaction drill (to be covered shortly). If you panic and begin inhaling large amounts of CR gas, expect it to induce further panicking and expect it to possibly/probably incapacitate you.

Patriots can use disabling/irritant agents to their advantage in numerous situations. It is possible that CS tear gas canisters can be rigged with trip wires to cover certain areas of approach, so the good guys can focus their initial fire on attackers coming from one main area and cover it accordingly. Likewise, if you arrive at a bug-out location and find that squatters have taken up residence, you might consider using CS tear gas to flush them out (as much as I'm a fan of dynamic entry and room to room fighting, I recognize that such tactics usually pose a major risk of suffering casualties, and the local hospital may be a charred ruin at this point). Once you flush them out you can either negotiate with them or deal with them as you see fit. That said, if you deploy CS gas canisters into your bug out location and flush out a nun and six orphans from the county orphanage, you might want to think about helping them because A- it’s the Christian thing to do and B- you can probably trust them not to try to cut your throat in your sleep. If you deploy CS gas and a half-dozen outlaw bikers come running out, you might want to think about neutralizing them as they’re exiting your structure, because trusting publicly declared criminals would be the height of folly.

I'd also like to point out that in many states (check your state/local laws) it is legal for law-abiding citizens to purchase and possess CS tear gas. Indeed, in accordance with the laws of my state, I lawfully possess multiple canisters of CS tear gas. I have also tested several of canisters and was sufficiently impressed with the results. Patriots would do well to buy three or four “clear out” CS gas canisters from KeepShooting.com as they are readily available and only about $16 dollars per canister. Note that while the canisters have “best by” dates printed on them, I used a canister that was 2.5 years expired and it was sufficient to cause myself a rather nasty experience. For safety purposes I conducted my test with others nearby ready to intervene if necessary, fortunately they did not have to intervene. I don’t recommend testing CS tear gas on yourself but he also doesn’t recommend against it. As a free man (or woman) in a free land (well to be correct -- a previously free land -- but I’m not here to preach about that) you are free to decide whether or not you test CS tear gas on yourself. However, if you’re going to do it, please make sure you won’t be violating any state or local laws governing the release of such gases, and above all make sure you can do the test safely. I had my mask with me (I was wearing my mask before I removed it and exposed myself to the gas) and I also had other people nearby ready to intervene if I needed them. After I removed my mask and exposed myself to the CS I had the option of being able to put my mask back on, clear my mask, and resume using my mask, leaving the area, or having my friends intervene to help me. If you want to see the impact CS tear gas can have then feel free to test it as long as you do so legally and safely.

Author’s opinion- You are likely to encounter disabling/irritant agents in the context of high-style home-invaders/attackers who were formerly members of police tactical units or who happened to be in the right place at the right time to loot police armories of their stockpiles of disabling/irritant agents (especially CS tear gas). You are likely to encounter CS tear gas from a variety of private citizens (but as long as you’re not trying to invade a man’s ranch you’re unlikely to be tear gassed by him or his family members). However, you are not likely to experience a disabling/irritant attack by terrorists (except terrorists of the “specialist/one-issue” variety, such as earth-first types, who may deploy such agents at select facilities to try to bring the facility to a standstill and gain attention for their cause. The Islamic Jihadist types are unlikely to use disabling/irritating agents as such agents do not produce the desired results, they don’t bring the dread that blister agents bring due to the prospect of maiming/disfiguring, they don’t bring the death toll that blood/nerve agents bring, all they do is cause people to feel compelled to remove themselves from the impacted area. Likewise industrial accidents are probably unlikely as CS tear gas is not something that is made at your local chemical plant, as it is a specialty item that is likely manufactured at a small number of centrally located plants.

As a final note, I would like to take the time to repeat one very important thing, disabling/irritant agents can kill you if they displace enough oxygen in the enclosed area where you happen to be located. In such a situation you would die from suffocation due to a lack of oxygen in the air. That said, in regards to most disabling agents, there properties are such that they are not designed to kill through direct exposure (only through displacing air/suffocation). That doesn’t rule out the possibility of somebody who is already weak due to illness or advanced age, becoming even weaker due to CS tear gas exposure and succumbing to their illness from it (in other words, if you have pneumonia or any sort of lung ailment, avoid exposure to disabling/irritant agents).

To Summarize
A quality gas mask is sufficient to protect you from most threats posed by BLOOD agents, CHOKING agents, and IRRITANT/DISABLING agents. Note that some blood agents can cause exposure via the skin, basic clothing will help mitigate the risks but a quality NBC suit (with gloves, hood, boot covers) is the best way to go.

An gas mask, in conjunction with full NBC gear is required for basic protection against NERVE agents and BLISTER agents. When I say basic I mean just that, basic, because optimal protection would be provided by either an NBC rated self-contained breathing apparatus or a military vehicle’s positive overpressure-based filtration system. Let me put it this way, as cramped and uncomfortable as the Soviet/Russian BMP-2 is supposed to be, I’d much prefer to be inside a BMP-2 during a nerve gas attack as opposed to walking around outside and having to rely on my gas mask and NBC suit.

At any rate, make sure you know what your filter is rated to do and how long it is rated to last with a given agent. Be prepared to have to change your filter and/or NBC suit at least once if you plan on lingering in a chemically rich area for half a day or longer, depending on the agent/s the area is contaminated with. If you’re anticipating having to do such things, make sure you know how to properly change a filter in a chemically contaminated environment and make sure you have provisions made for being able to safely change your NBC suit (nothing would be worse than stripping off your NBC suit in an environment rich with something such as nitrogen mustard or VX).

I should also take this opportunity to mention that if you have a charcoal based filter it will typically be neutralized by normal environmental conditions in about one week’s time, even without exposure to any chemical agents, just due to the impact a normal environment has on charcoal. Once you open your sealed charcoal based NBC suit, you have one week to use it before it is neutralized regardless of whether or not it is exposed to a chemical agent. Also recall as I stated earlier, some agents are not resisted very well or at all by charcoal based devices.

Now that you have some basic background information about the categories of agents and signs of exposure, how can you recognize a chemical attack and what should you do if you recognize or suspect a chemical attack is underway or you are entering a chemically rich area?

First of all you have what is called your chemical/gas reaction drill… If you or anybody in your team suspects or recognizes a chemical/gas situation, at any time, you or anybody in your team should by all means call it out. You will loudly shout, GAS! GAS! GAS! (yes- shout it three times), after that you will immediately close your eyes and stop breathing. You will then don your gas mask (with your unsealed, open, and ready to use filter already screwed in place on it), make sure it is on tight, and then exhale hard once or twice to clear it of any possible particles, then you breathe normally.

But how will you know when to call out a gas situation? There are many different ways in which a gas situation may be recognized…

Some agents have distinct odors (it would be too time consuming for me to discuss every possible odor of every possible agent, not to mention you would probably forget them, if you want to learn more about the particular smells of particular agents then please purchase a copy of Jared Ledgard’s book A Laboratory History of Chemical Warfare Agents in which he gives a detailed analysis of all of the main chemical warfare agents, even touching on the colors, odors, etc, of those that have colors and/or odors). As far as odors are concerned, a general rule is this, “if you smell something you probably shouldn’t smell, you’re in trouble.” If you’re in the field tending to chickens and all of the sudden a fighter-bomber zips by overhead and moments later you’re smelling bitter almonds, you need to call out GAS, GAS, GAS, go into your drill, and get out of the area because you’re probably in trouble (bitter almonds is usually indicative of a cyanide agent, especially hydrogen cyanide). I decided to mention that specific smell because hydrogen cyanide is an agent that I expect is very likely to be encountered in any war/invasion scenario. However for every agent that has an easily discernable/distinct odor it seems there is another agent that is odorless…

Some agents have distinct colors although just as many agents are colorless. A good general rule for determining a chemical attack via the color or lack of color of an agent could be as follows… If any sort of attack aircraft flies overhead and sprays any colored liquid, assume it is a chemical attack and react accordingly. If an aircraft drops a bomb and it explodes in the air and you see liquid it is almost certainly a chemical attack. If the aircraft drops a bomb and there either is no explosion or a very subdued explosion, with nothing present after (i.e. no liquid can be seen) it is almost certainly a chemical attack in the form of a colorless vapor or a colorless liquid. When an aircraft is using a bomb you should see some sort of conventional explosion, or the warhead should be splitting open and releasing cluster/sub-munitions, it shouldn’t be a subdued and barely evident conventional explosion, if it is then it is indicative that the warhead was probably a chemical warhead and the shell had limited conventional explosive power.

If a shell or warhead bursts over your area and you see a less than spectacular explosion, nobody was impacted by fragments or any sort of cluster/sub-munitions, then you must assume it was a chemical attack and immediately go into your chemical reaction drill.

If you ever encounter animals, such as chickens, cows, horses, deer, cats, dogs, birds, etc, that are dead with no signs of external trauma (i.e. no gunshot wounds) then you should assume they were killed by chemical (or biological) agents and immediately go into your reaction drill. If you are part of a group of six individuals moving through a field an area and you come towards a clearing where you can see a half-dozen dead deer and a few dead song-birds, you should immediately call out, “GAS! GAS! GAS!” and go into the rest of your reaction drill. Then you should get away from that area.

The same goes for encounters with human bodies that show no signs of external trauma. The immediate assumption should be that they were killed by chemical or biological agents.

It is also possible to obtain detection strips that are specific to certain agents and will change colors when exposed to certain agents. However, it is worth noting that some agents (i.e. Phosgene) are not capable of detection via detection papers. It is also possible to use electronic equipment to detect gas.

Why are chemical agents something to worry about? Would anybody dare use them in modern war? Well they’re something to worry about because some of them are so deadly that an amount that can fit on the tip of a pin can kill you in a minute if it is placed on your skin. As to the question of whether or not anybody would dare to use them in a modern war, consider what happened in the Iran-Iraq war, although arguably that had a lot to do with the fact that the war bogged down into trench warfare. However, that isn’t to say that a frustrated counter-insurgency force won’t resort to using chemical weapons, as the Soviets allegedly did in Afghanistan in the mid-late 1980s.

Standard Soviet doctrine allowed for and encouraged the liberal use of fast-acting and non-persistent agents, such as Hydrogen cyanide. The benefit to hydrogen cyanide is that it is neutralized within 1-2 minutes in normal weather conditions, so if an attacking force bombards the enemy with hydrogen cyanide just before the attack begins, they force the defenders to mask up and fight in masks (diminishing their morale and combat effectiveness) while the attackers typically won’t have to mask up and can arrive unhindered by masks/NBC gear, taking the fight to the enemy, within just a few minutes after the end of the bombardment.

The idea was that hydrogen cyanide would be used against targets situated along the Soviet axis of advance, while persistent agents (such as blister agents and in some cases nerve agents) would be used against installations/facilities key to NATO conducting a proper defense, but that whose seizure was not key to the Soviet advance. Supposedly the Soviet Union has dissolved and collapsed but the utility of hydrogen cyanide has not diminished. For an army looking to pepper the enemy with an agent that is very lethal but very quick to be neutralized by normal weather conditions, they need look no further than hydrogen cyanide. It would cost an army virtually nothing to use hydrogen cyanide as the threat to their own personnel is virtually non-existent, the cost of the agent itself is ridiculously low, and it is easy to deliver in a fashion (i.e. artillery) that doesn’t expose friendly personnel to excessive risks (as might be the case with planes using spray tanks).

Blood agents are very effective for tactical use to help clear the way for a rapidly advancing army, while nerve agents are effective for hitting areas that the army is not advancing through and is mainly concerned with denying the use of such areas to the enemy. In that sense, both blood and nerve agents are likely to be encountered in an war/invasion situation.

You mat ask yourself why I have devoted very little to discussing decontamination procedures. The answer is very simple and I hope the reader will try to understand my reasoning. The decontamination procedures can vary widely depending on the agent and the type of exposure/contamination. The decontamination procedures for the various agents are different, although there will always be some similarities… The main similarities being that you need to get out of the contaminated area, get out of your contaminated clothing/NBC suit (when you can safely do so- and without exposing yourself to any contaminants that may be on the outside of your NBC suit), change your gas mask filter, and probably decontaminate the outside of your gas mask. Don't forget to use decontamination wipes on any/all contaminated equipment (rifle, scope, magazines, etc).

As for the specific procedures for the specific agents, if you want to find an exhaustive list of what the procedures are, I strongly suggest that you obtain a copy of Jared Ledgard’s book, A Laboratory History of Chemical Warfare Agents. I know I have repeatedly referenced that book throughout this article but it is a very handy book to have if you want to learn more about chemical agents. He gives a detailed analysis of each agent, signs of exposure, possible treatments, the chemical properties, etc. Although this author has one request to make since Ledgard also gives a step by step process for how to prepare every chemical agent he discusses. My request is to heed Ledgard’s advice and my advice and refrain from attempting to produce any of the agents covered in his book.

It is my sincere hope that you have been able to take away something worthwhile and useful from this article and that you will take the threat posed by chemical agents seriously. My main regret is that I am unable to discuss the specific threats of specific biological agents and radiological hazards because his area of interest has tended more towards chemistry/chemicals instead of biology or other areas. At some point in the future the author may give a review of the M50 joint service general purpose mask (military or commercial version) depending on whether or not he is able to obtain one.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Mr. Rawles:
I own a pretty densely-wooded 40 [acre property] in the Upper Peninsula (U.P.) [of Michigan]. The land on 2.5 sides of ours belongs to a timber company, and the land across the road belongs to the state. We live in a typical "stick built" house. It was built in the 1980s, with lots of big windows and two double-glazed sliding [glass] doors. We are four miles out of a town (about 2,000 population) but our house is only 60 feet from a somewhat heavily traveled county road. So our house is what you would probably call a tactical disaster!!!

My wife recently inherited $212,000. We also have about $60,000 saved in silver and gold. We want to use the cash and liquidate a small part of the gold to very quietly (using some contractors from 90 miles away) build a 1,420 square foot aboveground hardened house/shelter at the back end of our property. I'm presently having a civil engineer link up with my architect for the design. My wife calls our little project "The Hatch", in honor of [the bunker in the television series] Lost. It will be our "fall back", in case everything goes to heck. It'll be set up like a regular house with kitchen, bedrooms, and bathroom--all the comforts of home, except windows!

Because we've got a high water table here, we plan [to build] it above grade, and then haul in soil to make an artificial hill. The entrance will be hidden by a fiberglass "rock", like you talked about in one of your old posts [about concealing cave entrances]. (Thanks, for that.) Inside of that [camouflaged door], the main door will be an inward-opening vault door we'll be getting through Safecastle. The nuclear [fallout protective] ventilator (A.C., with a pedal frame backup) will be out of Ready Made Resources. And we plan to get a Pelton wheel DC generator to power The Hatch. We have a blessing: There is a small river going through the back corner of our land just 90 yards behind [the construction site]. (Yeah, yeah I know, with the [low voltage DC cable] line loss we'll have to invert to 120 Volts, AC.)

So here is my question: How can I construct a temporary road to the work site, without laying down rock and gravel? It is almost dead level between our house and there. I'll cut as few trees [to clear the roadway] as possible in a bunch of S-shaped turns so that it won't look obvious. Here's what I'm picturing: I want to make the road disappear, after the construction is a done deal. We just want a little footpath that winds through the trees. If I scrape the road gravel back off, it will leave traces of the road, even if I plant trees. And we can't skip on [using gravel], because the construction will likely start late in June and continue until about October. It would be axle-deep muck if we've got all those trucks going back there [with no gravel on the roadway]. So here I am, racking my brain... How do I make a temporary road that I can remove, and not leave a trace? Help! - B.D. in the U.P.

JWR Replies: I believe that the best answer is buying or renting a quantity of military surplus AM-2 airfield matting. These aluminum mats were designed to be laid down on leveled ground and linked together to form military runways and taxiways. Earlier generations were made of steel and are often called Pierced Steel Planking (PSP) or Marsden Matting. (The latter is after the name of the town where it was first produced.) There is also now some Soviet-era Russian military surplus runway matting now available in the U.S.

After you are done with your construction project, you can very likely re-sell the matting, probably at just a slight loss. (Since it is always worth at least its scrap metal value.) AM-2, or its earlier generation steel equivalents can often be found at little more than scrap metal prices through DLA/DRMS sales yards and their auctions.

Good luck with your project.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

After reading several articles on EMP in the form of a CME/solar flare, my understanding is that we would have hours or even days in which to prepare for such an event. Although I imagine that a massive CME would still cause damage to our electrical grid, I would also think that many homes could be disconnected from the grid and electrical equipment shielded in metal containers before the CME reached us. Any thoughts?

JWR Replies: Yes, there will be 12+ hours of warning, but do not depend entirely on the mass media. At times, they seem clueless about space science. (And thus they have a habit of either under-reporting or over-reporting events.) So be sure sign up for free solar flare alerts from the Australian Space Weather Agency.

As I've previously mentioned in SurvivalBlog: Any radios and other modern electronics with microcircuits that you don't use on a daily basis should be stored in Faraday enclosures. (Wrap them in plastic bags and put them in a galvanized trash can with a tight-fitting lid.)

Immediately after you get warning of a big solar flare, disconnect all of your home electronics from both grid power and antennas. And, as your storage volume permits, also store those in Faraday cans/boxes, until after the solar storm subsides.

Monday, April 4, 2011

After the first few days, it was possible to get some idea of what had happened. The initial numbers of fatalities had been fairly low, and it was hard to know how many had survived in the coastal towns. As the phone systems and many roads there were devastated, a big effort was going to be required just to scope out the damage. Sadly, it became clear that well over 10,000 lives were lost. In terms of life in Tokyo, though, it was electricity and basic supplies useful during disasters that became somewhat hard to come by. The other major factor that seriously damaged daily activity was that many train lines were not running.

I went to work on the Monday after the quake, in many ways just to see how co-workers were doing and what my company was planning to do to deal with the disaster. Many had suffered property damage, but the real damage was to those who had relatives along the coast or near the Fukushima facilities. My wife had relatives in both of these areas, so she spent time on trying to figure out if everyone was okay. They were, but news that a cousin had been forced out of his house due to radiation was a sign that things were looking bad. At first, I wasn't so worried about Fukushima, and was far more concerned with getting more cash out of the bank and trying to get more supplies for possible disruptions. As it turned out, disruptions were going to become normal, and Fukushima was looking less and less like it was under control, or even within its expected disaster scenarios.

The week after the earthquake was one of verifying that property was undamaged and businesses working to figure out their workarounds for problems like employees who couldn't ride the trains or the big issue of just-in-time systems having almost no room for failure. And we just had dozens of failures, whether it be destroyed factories and roads, or a new reality of inadequate refinery capacity or electricity. In my case, the initial observation of property damage looked fine, but the shock meant that I missed something. This may be one of the lessons of the disaster. It's hard to judge things accurately when you've just had your life changed dramatically.

During this week, we tried to obtain many things, such as mineral water, and large orders were no longer possible. Small amounts, such as water in supermarkets, were still possible, but that was fading, and vanished once the story about radiation in tap water came out. And a troubling story with a major bank being unable to handle ATM transactions came out. On a personal note, my bank had old banknotes, which was a first. I'd always received new banknotes before. Tokyo Electric announced a rolling blackout system to cover for the loss of power due to the tsunami. This system exempted the central part of Tokyo, and the suburbs had to suffer. The real shock was hearing that the blackouts would likely last for years. A high-tech, just-in-time society cannot function efficiently with blackouts, and the harm to business will be off the charts if this actually goes through the Summer. The loss of electricity and nuclear contamination could end up costing dramatically more than the loss of infrastructure due to the earthquake and tsunami.

As the situation at Fukushima seemed to deteriorate, a rush to get out of the nearby areas occurred. Foreigners generally had a more pessimistic view of the situation than most Japanese, probably due to the different way news described things, so flights out of Japan became ridiculously expensive. Still, I know several Japanese who sent their families outside of Tokyo because they do not trust Tokyo Electric and the Japanese government. Like many others, I decided to spend a week in Osaka to see how things played out, but had too many things to take care of for at least a few more days. A particularly troubling thing has been that it was never clear what was going on, and there are many reactors in question, and even speculations about problems at other facilities. This leads to the question of when one should take emergency nuclear precautions, such as consuming Potassium Iodide. In my case, I had lots of iodine products, such as sea vegetables, as well as products that many recommend for protecting against radiation, such as miso soup. It was clearly time to consume these. It was also time to break out masks and to create a clean area at the entrance of the house. I had N95 masks, but nothing that could be expected to do much for radioactive particles. So part of dealing with this series of disasters was going to be research. (To be continued.)

Friday, April 1, 2011

It would appear that very low levels of radioiodine (I-131) have been detected in Western US milk, as could be expected.

Presently, the contamination from Fukushima is taking over a week to cross the Pacific, and that time, combined with dilution effects, reduces the contamination from the Fukushima disaster to point far below the level of concern. At the present time. It also appears that the fukushima fallout plume is not rising high enough at present to become entrained in the jet stream

However, reports from Fukushima, and analysis of the data available, indicates that a containment breach may have already occurred, and that it is possible that re-criticality events have already occurred in the melted reactor cores. Assuming that the emissions of radioactive material from the former Dai-ichi nuclear plant do not significantly exceed their present rate, it is likely that this will remain a largely regional horror. The Japanese continue to place their power plant workers, and military and construction teams assigned to the Fukushima site, in harm's way to attempt to prevent this from further deterioration. And these people continue to be willing to risk their lives and suffer significant exposures to do so. Take a moment to keep these people in your thoughts and prayers; they are truly heroes.

However, should the re-criticality inside any of the damaged reactors accelerate, and make the immediate area around the plant unsurvivable, the spent rod pools (#4 is at greatest risk) will dry out, and could also melt and suffer re-criticality (keep in mind that there are over 800 tons of recently used spent fuel rods stored on site, with another 6,000 tons of older used rods stored in a common fuel storage pool.) The spent rods have no robust containment at all.

The radioactive release from such an event would dwarf Chernobyl, and while the fallout from such an event would probably not be serious here in the USA, (absent a large enough plume to be carried across the Pacific in the jet stream,) the deposition of Sr-90 and Cs-137, which substitute for calcium, would pose a potential health risk, especially for children and women of child-bearing age. If you have not already purchased a supply of powdered milk, I suggest you consider it, especially if you have small children in your household. - L.M.W.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Days Two and Three I slept well the night of 11-3-11, which was good, because I hadn't the two previous nights. A premonition, perhaps? Like the day after September 11th, there was an eerie feeling everywhere. The weather was nice, at least in Tokyo, but a cold front was coming in from the North, so the folks near the Tohoku coast were going to be suffering even more. It was obvious that the damage was off the charts, but the television downplayed the likely deaths, and a big question was whether the government had learned from its poor performance during the large earthquake in Kobe in 1995. We didn't know at this time, but the unfortunate answer was "no". In fairness, this disaster was much more difficult to handle, but the whole world will be asking about the inability to get resources to the Fukushima plants ASAP.

In the morning, many stores were closed. When they did open, they were packed with folks buying everything that might come in handy for hunkering down. This was the last chance to get a lot of things. By the end of Day Three, many things were gone, and announcements were made on television that supplies would have to be rerouted towards the most damaged areas. At this point, most convenience stores and supermarkets resembled photos from the worst days in the Soviet Union, at least for most necessities. The power was reliable, and trains and subways started to return to some semblance of normality by the evening. There was no panic but it was easy to see that gasoline and types of food were not going to be available within days.

The news was focused on the immediate damage. Besides the tsunami, there was cleaning up the fires and making major roads passable and fixing train tracks. All kinds of equipment had to be verified, so disaster preparedness teams in businesses and governments went to work. This seems to have gone well, and the volunteer groups did a good job, but it seems that most groups are a lot more effective in local areas, and the hard-to-get-to areas were too devastated to do much more than try to go through what was left of their own houses. My wife wondered about volunteering, but there was no way to get to the hard-hit areas, and one would just be an extra burden by getting there.

Up to this point, things still looked manageable. Soon, though, the topic of electricity came up. A lot of Tokyo's power comes from nuclear plants, and those were near the ocean. The assumption was still that everything was under control. Wishful thinking. On the street though, the feeling was mainly that the economic future had taken a huge hit, not that a nuclear crisis was at hand. That was to come soon enough. And refugees from the impacted areas were coming in to stay with relatives or hotels, and some passed through on their way to western Japan, where no damage had occurred. For me, though, it was time to get more cash out of the bank and think about whether our plans to leave Tokyo needed to be expedited. (To be continued.)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Many readers have been sending me questions about radiation. One, from a reader in Los Angeles asked: "Mr. Rawles, Should I sleep in my basement for the next few weeks?"

Please don't over-react, folks. I must state, forthrightly:

1.) The gamma emitters at the Fukushima reactors (and more importantly, their spent fuel ponds) are a long, long way from America.

2.) In my opinion, the only significant risk to health here in CONUS is possibly a chance that a bit of radioactive dust (with isotopes like Strontium-90 or Iodine-131) could end up deposited on pasture grasses and then subsequently become concentrated in cow or goat milk. (Remember what I posted the day after the first news report about the Fukushima reactors--about keeping powdered milk on hand? Stock up.)

3.) It won't hurt to spend a little extra time washing fresh fruits and vegetables.

FWIW, I was stationed TDY in Stuttgart, Germany and was working a live intelligence mission with the 2d M.I. Battalion (AE) in the Spring of 1986. So I was down-wind when Chernobyl melted down. Been there, done that, got the isotopes. But I still ate a lot of white spargel, after Chernobyl. Coincidentally, we were bombing that same misanthropic dictator in Libya, then too. (Operation El Dorado Canyon.) History doesn't repeat, but it often rhymes. So I think of early springtime as the season of Isotopes and Misanthropes.

Radiation, By The Numbers

Here are some useful numbers to file away in your Key References binder:

First, for those not familiar with the term Gray--the standard unit of measurement for radiation, and Sievert ("Sv"--the now standard unit for an absorbed dose) that replaced REM (Roentgen Equivalent, Man), and RAD (Radiation Absorbed Dose). The metric SI system makes a lot of sense, but some of us are still wet-wired for the Old School units of measurement. So for us Blast From The Past era dinosaurs who still think in Roentgens, conversion from Grays to RADs are as follows:

1 Gy equals 100 rad

1 mGy equals 100 mrad

1 Sv equals 100 rem

1 mSv equals 100 mrem


And here is how Sievert numbers relate to REMs (found at Wikipedia):

1 Sv (Sievert) = 100 rem

1 mSv = 100 mrem = 0.1 rem

1 μSv = 0.1 mrem

1 rem = 0.01 Sv = 10 mSv

1 mrem = 0.00001 Sv = 0.01 mSv = 10 μSv

Now what does the foregoing really mean, in terms of human health? That is best visualized with a good summary chart, posted over at Next Big Future. Please take the time to look at that chart, and ponder it.

To Journalists, All Math is Fuzzy Math

I must warn you, folks; beware when watching news reports in the mainstream media that mention anything related to radiation. Keep in mind that most of these people are hired because they look handsome (or pneumatic) and have pleasant speaking voices, not for their technical knowledge.

Remember that in general journalists:

  • Are typically mentally challenged when it comes to any sense of scale, (like 10x and 100x multiples). They find logarithmic scales particularly daunting.
  • Are clueless when it comes to decay rates.
  • Have little understanding of fallout deposition rates versus distance.
  • Have no concept of distance and the inverse square law.
  • Don't understand the difference between alpha, beta, and gamma radiation. For instance, I once had a reporter ask me about "Tyvek gamma ray protective suits". (No, I'm not making this up.)
  • Have no sense of proportion when it comes to a momentary dose of radiation versus cumulative doses. (Back during the First Gulf War, I spent some time repeatedly trying to explain the difference between a dosimeter and a ratemeter, to a reporter. She kept saying: "But they look the same." Then I had her look through each type pen, and she she exclaimed, "Oh, I see, they have different thingies, inside!")
  • Only vaguely "get it" when you try to explain concepts like inhaled dust versus isotopes deposited in thyroid glands, via the food chain. (And subsequent food or drink ingestion.)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

There's a lot of folks around the country who bought surplus Civil Defense radiation meters.

What they don't understand is the CDV-715, CDV-717 and CDV-720 meters WILL NOT measure background radiation and are useless if they are watching for increased radiation from Japan. Only the CDV-700 will measure background radiation.

According to an LAFD document: "Radiological survey instruments, if available, are recommended for initial entry to the site. Before entering the accident area, determine the background radiation level using the CD V-700, or a similar survey instrument."

Background radiation levels cannot be determined using the CD V-715 or other high-range gamma-detecting instruments; therefore, a 'positive response on high-rage' meters such as these should stimulate immediate rescue and medical intervention.

I found this misunderstanding by my fellow man to be of concern and thought you might post it. Best regards to you and yours, - John

Saturday, March 19, 2011

In the wake of the Japanese nuclear plant melt-down situation, I called a safe room manufacturer for a hand cranked air filter.  It was over $2,000.  Too much.  I did learn that you need both particulate (HEPA) and gas (carbon) filters.   I have jury-rigged an NBC air filtration system.  Here it is:

Go to a hydroponics store or find one online.  Yes, the one's that people go to in order to grow marijuana. You will need an inline fan.  I used a  continentalfan.com AXC150B-C fan.  It is a little more expensive but German engineering costs more.  (Quieter too). You will need a carbon filter.  I used a Can-33 activated carbon filter (made in Canada) You will need a 6 inch Greenhouse HEPA filter.  It can be washed and reused but only put it back in your system if it is completely dry.

Total cost about $450.

The HEPA filter is attached to the air intake of the fan. The Carbon filter is attached to the air exhaust of the fan.

This is a recirculating system, not an overpressure system. At 300 CFM, it will clear the air of a 10'x10'x10' room in 3 minutes and 20 seconds.

It stands completed at 30" high and 16" wide at it's widest point. It uses 130 watts of current. - SF in Hawaii

JWR Replies: A HEPA filter system with air pushed by an electric fan is best suited to someone that has a fairly capable alternative energy system. Anyone without a large power source that can be relied upon for weeks should substitute a hand-cranked fan. And even those that do have a large alternative energy system should always have a "Plan B": An electric filtered ventilation system should have a hand-cranked or pedal-cranked backup. There are too many potential points of failure to entrust our lives to continuity of electric power.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Hello James,
It is with a heavy heart that I watch the nuclear incident unfold in Japan. I am watching my nightmare come true, and I pray for the safety of the people in Japan. As you know, my article that was published in your blog last September was primarily written to alert the public about the possible EMP effects on nuclear power plants. While the initiating event may have been different, the results of the loss of all AC power at the site results in virtually identical consequences. Events are playing out very similarly to those that I had described. There are certain differences, however, since I had described the events for a pressurized water reactor (PWR). The reactors involved in the accident in Japan are boiling water reactors (BWRs).

I would like to take the opportunity to both alert your readers about the truth of what is happening and also dispel some rumors and incorrect assumptions regarding the events at the nuclear plant in Japan. I have seen many “talking heads” on the news this past week that have virtually no nuclear background and frankly are not qualified to be making assumptions or assertions.

The Fukushima Units #1 through #5 at Daiichi are older GE designed BWR-3 and BWR-4 Mk.I, boiling water reactors that were all built in the 1970's.  I used to design fuel for these types of reactors when I worked at GE some years ago.  In general, I would say that BWRs are actually inherently safer than PWRs.  When I was at GE they used to say that BWR stood for "BEST Water Reactor."  This older design, however, is not the best design for accident scenarios.  It has a torus or "doughnut" for the suppression pool and it is limited in its capacity.  Also, these containment structures are smaller than later designs, and generally considered not as robust.

I found these excellent papers on the internet about Japan's BWR reactor designs:



Also, this from Wikipedia regarding the older BWR-3, Mk.I containment: 

"Though the present fleet of BWRs are less likely to suffer core damage from the 1 in 100,000 reactor-year limiting fault than the present fleet of PWRs are (due to increased ECCS robustness and redundancy) there have been concerns raised about the pressure containment ability of the as-built, unmodified Mark I containment - that such may be insufficient to contain pressures generated by a limiting fault combined with complete ECCS failure that results in extremely severe core damage. In this double worst-case, 1 in 100,000,000 reactor-year scenario, an unmodified Mark I containment is speculated to allow some degree of radioactive release to occur. However, this is mitigated by the modification of the Mark I containment; namely, the addition of an outgas stack system that, if containment pressure exceeds critical setpoints, will allow the orderly discharge of pressurizing gasses after the gasses pass through activated carbon filters designed to trap radionuclides."

I found this document in the NRC reading room.  Basically, a Station Blackout Event (loss of off-site an on-site AC power), is perhaps the worst event that these types of BWRs can face. 

Here is an excerpt.  I added the bold type:

"For station blackout accidents, containment systems will not be functional and the drywell floor will often be dry, leaving the plant susceptible to drywell shell melt-through. In addition, the reactor vessel will normally be at elevated pressure, which increases the containment loads at vessel breach. This means that station blackout accidents pose a severe challenge to Mark I and Mark II containments, and therefore, these accidents are often important contributors to the frequency of containment failure."

I will say that even though the 9.0 magnitude earthquake was beyond the design basis of the Fukushima 1 nuclear plant, the plant actually weathered the earthquake itself quite well and shut down as designed. It is the tsunami that caused the bulk of the problems that the plant operators now face.

The backup emergency diesel generators actually started as designed and began to power the auxiliary pumps designed to circulate cooling water in the reactors. However, the tsunami arrived at the site and overflowed the seawall that was created to protect it from a tsunami. The height of the tsunami was also beyond the design basis of the plant. It is my understanding that the seawall was about 6.5m tall, and the height of the tsunami was above 7.0m. The tsunami destroyed the diesel fuel tanks for the emergency diesel generators and then flooded the below ground switchgear rooms that contain the diesel generators themselves. Therefore, the diesels stopped running about an hour after they started.

The loss of both AC and DC power and the flooded switchgear room also meant the loss of most of the instrumentation that tells the operators what is going on inside the reactors. (Imagine trying to drive your car blindfolded.)

To their credit, the operators at Fukushima understood their predicament. They quickly made the decision that they had an emergency on their hands. They also made the decision to pump sea water into the reactors to stem the overheating cores. This decision was a fateful one, and one I am sure was not taken lightly, since it meant that they understood that the reactors would be permanently ruined. Their once multi-billion dollar asset was turned into a multi-billion dollar liability. It is my understanding that the sea water was pumped via fire suppression system diesel pumps and fire trucks. However, these pumps cannot generate the kind of pressure that was needed to overcome the rising pressure inside the reactor.

Without the added cooling water, the reactor units experienced what is known as a Loss of Coolant Accident (LOCA). Water level fell, exposing the fuel rods. This lead to fuel damage and release of radionuclides into the containment.

Water levels continued to drop, uncovering the reactor cores by varying amounts. The exposed fuel rods caused the temperature and pressure to rise rapidly, generating steam.

Operators were forced to vent pressure from the reactors. This lead to very high pressures in the containment structures. It is my understanding that pressures inside the containment structures reached about 120 psi, about twice the design basis. This could cause the containment structures to fail.

This steam reacted with the zirconium fuel cladding to form hydrogen. It is this hydrogen that is believed to have caused the explosions seen in reactor #1 and reactor #3 buildings. It may also be responsible for what may be an explosion that potentially has caused a crack or leak in the containment vessel in Unit #2, perhaps in the region of the suppression pool.

In Unit #4, there were no assemblies currently in the reactor vessel. All assemblies had been off-loaded into the spent fuel pool. It should be noted that all spent fuel pools at the Fukushima Daiichi plant have not been properly cooled since all power was lost. Just like fuel in the reactors, spent fuel also retains heat for a long period of time and must be cooled. There was also an explosion in reactor building #4, and a fire was seen. It is not yet clear what the cause of the fire was or if the fire has actually been put out. There have been conflicting reports on this issue. However, it is my opinion that the fire may have been caused by the interaction of the zirconium fuel rods with the steam in the then boiling spent fuel pool.

Measurable amounts of Iodine and Cesium have been detected even more than 30km from the plant, which indicates that fission products have been released and that fuel cladding has been compromised for at least some of the fuel rods. Radiation levels inside the control room reached over 1000 times normal.

Radiation levels around the reactor buildings are currently too high for personnel to respond properly to ongoing issues such as possible spent fuel pool fires. On Tuesday, radiation levels just outside of the reactor buildings had reached a high of 400 milliseverts (equal to 40 REM). Twelve to fifteen hours at this level is a fatal dose of radiation. All but essential operations personnel were evacuated from the plant site as result of this level of radiation.

Currently, the concerns revolve around two issues, 1) the status and integrity of the containment vessels surrounding the three reactors that were operating, and 2) the status of the spent fuel pools. In fact, since the reactor buildings are no longer intact, and there is no containment structure surrounding the spent fuel pools, it is actually the spent fuel pools that are the greater danger.

It is clear that there has likely been fuel damage in all of the operating reactors and possibly also in the spent fuel pool in reactor building #4. Spent fuel pools in reactor buildings #5 and #6 are also still heating up.

We have seen continuing variation in measured radiation levels at the plant. This may be because of fluctuating winds blowing the airborne particles around to various directions, sometimes toward detectors and sometimes away from them.

It should be noted that this event is far from over. As of Wednesday morning, Japan time, white smoke or steam was coming out of the #3 reactor building, and higher levels of radiation were being observed. It is unclear if the increased levels of radiation are coming from reactor #2, where the containment vessel may be compromised, reactor #3, from which steam or smoke is being observed or reactor #4, where fire was observed yesterday. There are large holes in the side of the #4 reactor building which may have been caused by the fire or from the explosion of hydrogen. The spent fuel pool in reactor #4 may also be boiling or may be on fire. This fuel in the spent fuel pool will melt if the water boils away and it may even catch fire. Preparations are being made to inject water into this spent fuel pool as soon as possible. Helicopters from the Japanese Self-Defense Forces (SDF) have already attempted to drop water from the air into the spent fuel pool in the Unit #3 reactor building.  Attempts to use water cannon from police riot trucks apparently failed due to the inability of the personnel to get close enough to accurately place enough water into the desired location.  However, special fire trucks used to put out hazardous aviation fires were successful in getting at least some water into the Unit #3 reactor building.  How much of this water actually made it into the spent fuel pool is not clear.  Certain Japanese experts have declared this as “somewhat effective,” since steam was seen rising from the building and the levels of radiation around the unit supposedly dropped very slightly, but the volume of water required to completely re-cover the fuel rods is higher than what has so far been sprayed or dropped onto the site.

It should be noted that this is an unprecedented situation. Japanese officials are struggling to contain and resolve this situation. Lack of functioning instrumentation is hampering both interpretation and mitigation of this event. This is event will go on for many weeks, if not months.

TEPCO has now started efforts to restore high voltage power lines to the stricken plant. This would be the best chance to regain control over the situation, by restoring AC power to the cooling systems.

What everyone wants to know is, what are the best case and worst case scenarios and other possible outcomes?

The best case is that TEPCO operators regain control of the plants by adding adequate cooling water to the reactors and the spent fuel pools and the containment vessels remain intact. There will still be a huge cleanup effort required, and the plant will never operate again. This event will still last for many months as removal of the fuel at least from the spent fuel pools must occur (since the spent fuel pools are now exposed to the environment) and most operations will initially need to be done remotely due to the radiation levels. The cost of even this best case will be in at least the tens of billions of dollars, and may be in the hundreds of billions.

The worst case is what everyone fears, but those in the know don't want to talk about. Officials are all trying to put on a good face and spin things in a positive way. However, the worst cases are these:

1. One or more of the operating cores meltdown, the containment vessels fail, and at least part of the contents of the contained fuel is released into the environment. This would be a disaster exceeded only by Chernobyl. Chernobyl is still a worse disaster than this, since that reactor had no containment at all. I believe that it is still likely that the containment vessels will contain most of the radioactive fission products.

2. All of the fuel assemblies in the spent fuel pools, which have no containment structure, either melt or catch fire, and release much of their contained fission products into the environment. This is an absolute worse case scenario, and locally could even be worse than Chernobyl, since the volume of fuel contained in the spent fuel pools exceeds the volume contained in any one reactor core. However, since there has not been a large explosion at the site that has lofted large amounts of radionuclides into the air, the area which will be affected is likely to be much smaller than the area affected by Chernobyl.

People are asking if a similar accident could happen in the USA. The honest answer is yes, but it is not nearly as likely.  Many lessons were learned as a result of the accident at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania, and modifications were made to all US reactors as a result of these lessons learned.  The east coast of the USA is not generally prone to tsunami. There are only two reactor sites on the west coast of the USA, the plant at San Onofre in southern California and the Diablo Canyon plant, located near San Luis Obispo.  Of these two, the San Onofre site is perhaps the more at risk.  The Diablo Canyon plant has its critical systems far above the level of the ocean. Per haps the most vulnerable sites in the USA are the St. Lucie plant on the east coast of central Florida, the Turkey Point plant, south of Miami, and the Crystal River plant, on Florida's west coast. The most likely risk to these sites is hurricane storm surge. Hurricane Andrew in 1992 greatly affected the Turkey Point power plant and that event became the NRC standard for hurricane storm events and Station Blackout events.

There has been a run on potassium iodide and potassium iodate pills in the USA as a result of the event in Japan. Let me dispel some misconceptions and alleviate some of the fears of your readers. How radiation (or rather, radioactive particles that give off radiation) travels is highly dependent upon the direction, speed and altitude of the prevailing winds, and the weight and size of the particles. The closer to the area of the incident that you are, the more likely that there will be particles which fall to the ground in that area.

Californians have nothing to worry about from this incident in Japan, and anyone there who purchases KI tablets for this event is wasting their money. Any possible radiation that might reach there would be so diluted and dispersed by the time that it arrived that while it may be measurable, it will have virtually no health effects.

Also, the event at Chernobyl involved an explosion that lofted particles much higher into the atmosphere than anything that has so far happened in Japan. While there were apparently several hydrogen explosions in Japan, these apparently did not contain significant radionuclides, as the reactor containment structures were at that time still intact.

Even the fire in reactor building #4, which had assemblies only in the spent fuel pool, did not have a large explosion. Therefore any radioactive particles that were released from this fire will likely be deposited much closer to the site itself and are not likely to travel very far before falling to the ground. The latest radiation readings at the site boundary are currently only between 2 to 3 millirem per hour. This is not a significant dose rate, and workers could work in this environment for many days or even weeks without experiencing any radiation symptoms. (See the NEI web site for the latest updates.)

At this time, prevailing winds seem to be taking any particles directly out to the open ocean due east of Japan. I see no cause for alarm for any US mainland state (or even Hawaii).

Calculations have been performed which show that the area of maximum danger area is 50 miles or less, and safer areas would be in the 100 to 200 mile range. Beyond 300 miles from the site, I wouldn't be concerned. If I were the Japanese officials, however, I would recommend extending the evacuation zone to at least 50 miles.

We have seen how significantly that not just Japan but the world has been affected by these events. While panic has generally been averted in Japan, and people there are behaving in an orderly manner, there have still been shortages of food, water, fuel and other commodities. Many people have been displaced from their homes. Financial markets have been roiled. There is even a shortage of salt now in stores in China, as people there are [mistakenly] afraid that the sea will be affected and the sea salt which they obtain from the sea will be contaminated!

All of this from an incident at just one nuclear power plant.  What would happen if this incident happened in the USA?  What if it happened at dozens of nuclear plants at the same time?  What if communications, banking, power, water distribution, sewage treatment, internet access and transportation were all crippled at the same time?

I would like to again emphasize the point that an EMP event resulting in an extended grid down situation could cause a very similar event. There is only adequate diesel fuel on site to power emergency diesels for 7 days for most commercial nuclear plants in the USA. After that, you are in essentially the same situation as the Japanese find themselves - lack of power to provide any cooling to either the reactors or the spent fuel pools. Imagine if this event were to happen at multiple sites in the USA simultaneously!  How to mitigate this? One way is to ensure that additional diesel fuel and spare parts are available at all commercial reactors.  Diesel generators and their fuel tanks should be shielded and protected (many reactors in the USA have already done this). Another is to pre-stage diesel electric locomotives and a train load of diesel tank cars that could be brought to each reactor site in time of emergency (most reactors sites in the USA have a railroad spur). Diesel locomotives are very robust against EMP, and could act as an emergency generator.  There is also a petition that is now before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) which recommends certain modifications to nuclear power plants to ensure their continued safety in the event of an EMP event.  Write to them and urge them to take this petition seriously!

What is the best way to protect against EMP or a catastrophic infrastructure collapse? Write your Congressman and urge them to join in the passage of the SHIELD Act! The EMP Commission has already outlined what can and must be done to protect our national infrastructure from catastrophic collapse. I urge that these recommendations be carried out with all of the swiftness that the nation can muster. Protection of the grid is the best defense. Sincerely, - B.Z.

In the wake of the Japanese nuclear plant melt-down situation, I called a safe room manufacturer for a hand cranked air filter.  It was over $2,000.  Too much.  I did learn that you need both particulate (HEPA) and gas (carbon) filters.   I have jury-rigged an NBC air filtration system.  Here it is:

Go to a hydroponics store or find one online.  Yes, the one's that people go to in order to grow marijuana. You will need an inline fan.  I used a  continentalfan.com AXC150B-C fan.  It is a little more expensive but German engineering costs more.  (Quieter too). You will need a carbon filter.  I used a Can-33 activated carbon filter (made in Canada) You will need a 6 inch Greenhouse HEPA filter.  It can be washed and reused but only put it back in your system if it is completely dry. You will need a can flange 6".

Total cost about $450.

The HEPA filter is attached to the air intake of the fan. The Carbon filter is attached to the air exhaust of the fan.

This is a recirculating system, not an overpressure system. At 300 CFM, it will clear the air of a 10'x10'x10' room in 3 minutes and 20 seconds.

It stands completed at 30" high and 16" wide at it's widest point. It uses 130 watts of current. - SF in Hawaii

JWR Replies: A HEPA filter system with air pushed by an electric fan is best suited to someone that has a fairly capable alternative energy system. Anyone without a large power source that can be relied upon for weeks should substitute a hand-cranked fan. And even those that do have a large alternative energy system should always have a "Plan B": An electric filtered ventilation system should have a hand-cranked or pedal-cranked backup. There are too many potential points of failure to entrust our lives to continuity of electric power.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Dear Editor:
With several Japanese reactors threatening to meltdown, knowing that I am downwind and would have less than a few days' notice, I quickly did some research on how to protect my family. The choices for thyroid protection (apparently the most common disease) are either Potassium Iodate (KIO3) or Potassium Iodide (KI).

I found an old SurvivalBlog article that showed that KIO3 has advantages to KI. So I placed an order for enough pills to cover our family, plus extras to give away. But while doing some additional research I happened upon the bulk form of KIO3 at PureBulk.com. I then found an article describing the process of capping your own supplements from powder.

I knew I'd need a capping machine, some caps, a precise scale and some filler to balance out the capsules. Without the filler it's next to impossible to get a consistent dosage.

For about $75 I bought the following items, enough to give the recommended adult dose of one 170 mg pill for fourteen days to at least thirty people:

1 - Potassium Iodate 100g (KIO3-00100)
1 - EDTA Calcium Disodium 250g (EDTAC00250)
1 - Scale, Digital Gram, Blade Series, 0.01g x 100g (BLADE)
1 - The Capsule Machine & Tamper (0) + 500 Gel Caps (CAPMC0+500GEL)

On the plus side, I'll have the machine and scale and experience for capping my other supplements. I'm on quite a few supplements so this will save even more money.

Alternatively to EDTA, you can use Dextrose for a filler, though I couldn't find any on PureBulk.com. EDTA is very harmless (found even in baby food) and has the added advantage of chelation which is the process of removing heavy metals from your body, something which could potentially be found in the fallout. The amount of EDTA per pill should be 330 milligrams, or one twentieth the daily maximum of a person weighing 200 lbs; check your other medications for EDTA before you proceed, to make sure you're not getting too much.

I plan on keeping the bulk powder in the refrigerator until needed, though I will produce a practice batch first -- I don't want the moment of panic to be the first time I attempt this.

Follow the procedure to get precise measurements. There are some YouTube videos which also show some of the procedures.

I am no doctor, so consult yours for advice before proceeding as KIO3 interacts with your thyroid. Do some research, too.

Enough pills for 30 adults, for $75 bucks. Not bad, eh? - C.D.V.

JWR Adds: That sure beats the current very high prices on eBay, where folks are re-selling products that originally came from one of our advertisers. (One seller had a $1,000 per bottle asking price!)

Friday, March 11, 2011

I spent three years working through college as part of several emergency response teams dealing with hazardous materials (Hazmat) containment and cleanup.  There are simple lessons that can help prepare for various emergencies and materials that might be encountered.  This is not a do-it-yourself type of endeavor nor is it safe unless you are properly trained, equipped and monitored.  Safety is most important and your responsibility: Never put yourself or others in danger when a substance or environment is unknown or dangerous.  Take basic precautions and obtain all information about any potentially dangerous materials you may encounter or store as part of your preparations.  Some of my experiences have given me a lot to consider in my emergency preparations and hopefully will be of interest to others.  

Almost any material you might store or encounter around you will have a data sheet available providing details on each substance, their health risks, precautions, and basic instructions on how to deal with it.  These Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) are also available online for free.  As part of your personal or family preparation, create a list of all potentially hazardous materials and gather their MSDS.  Study them.  Businesses must have MSDS on hand ready access and display placards of other regulated materials.  Become familiar with those materials you will likely encounter.  It is also worthwhile to collect MSDS for materials manufactured in your area that you might encounter in an emergency.  

Another important step is to do a site assessment of your home or site, to determine what potential hazardous materials are around.  Some suggestions may include old mining sites (especially in the western US), railroad tracks, highways or interstates, old manufacturing sites, steel mills, regional chemical plants, power lines, and especially pipelines.  All of these pose risk of chemical spills or contamination and should be considered.  Each county will have records as will the BLM or even the EPA to help you determine any possible risk.  Often I was called on to assist law enforcement when unknown chemicals were discovered along highways or in public places – often with drug paraphernalia.  Any main highway or roadway that connects large populations will have drug or other harmful chemicals discarded at rest areas, parking lots, or on-ramps.  

A simple list of personal protective equipment (PPE) can go a long way for basic hazmat needs.  These should include latex gloves, heavy PVC gloves, PVC boots (preferably with steel toes and shanks), Tyvek coveralls, and of course duct tape.  Eye, face, and skin protection such as safety glasses, goggles, or splash shields are good to have on-hand.  90% of our professional hazmat PPE consisted of these items.  The Tyvek suits are readily available, and I recommend getting the ones with booties on them.  Duct tape works well to reinforce knees and other locations from tearing easily.  The Tyvek was adequate for all dry materials we worked with, and a coverall jumpsuit can be found on eBay for about $7 each.  

If you have the need or availability, a good heavy PVC coverall and full-face respirator are also valuable for more difficult hazmat situations.  The PVC coverall works well for oil or petroleum materials.  For dirty cleanup we would wear latex gloves taped and sealed to a Tyvek suit, then put on the PVC coverall and heavy gloves and boots.  Again we would use duct tape to seal our gloves and boots to the PVC suit.  The hood of the PVC suit was also sealed with duct tape to our respirator or air mask during difficult or dirty work.  Our respirators of choice were full-faced masks by MSA which used dual filter canisters, and are easily available from mine safety sources.  The most common cartridges used for these masks were “Combination Cartridges” that were used for Organic vapors, Acid gases, and particulates.  Petroleum products, acids, and any wet materials required the PVC protection in our work.    

Full-face masks are common on eBay for under $100, and cartridges run about $5 each.  Whenever PPE is used to clean up materials, always dispose of the PPE with the hazardous material – never reuse contaminated PPE!   Mine tailings with heavy metal contamination is an invisible risk.  A friend was renting and trying to purchase a beautiful piece of property with a large shop on it and later discovered that a small manufacturer had used the site for casting lead bullets.  Most of the site was contaminated with lead in various forms to depths of up to 3 feet deep.  This posed significant risk to his plans for a garden and young children.  Many cleanup sites in the western US I’ve worked on consisted of replacing all exposed dirt and topsoil with several feet of ‘clean’ dirt.  Most of the contamination of these sites was capped by simply covering the bad dirt with a foot of clean soil.  When performing cleanup of heavy metal or mine tailings, we typically did not require protective breathing gear such as respirators if we could keep dust under control with water spray.  Our PPE was simply Tyvek suits to keep dirt contamination off our clothes.   Many counties will provide testing options for your soil, and if you find information that leads you to believe there may be a hazardous material, it would be best to document your findings and seek some lab testing.  With conclusive results you can then work to address or evacuate the area of concern well before your plans depend on the location.

I spent several months cleaning up radioactive materials at a Manhattan Project site – including contaminated dirt, cinder block walls, and underground pipes.  Our PPE was the Tyvek jump suits and respirators when needed.  Most of the time we did not require the respirators when the dust and dirt could be adequately suppressed by water spray.  We were constantly monitored by safety personnel with Geiger counters and air monitors, so this may be a tricky situation to call in a personal situation.  One day we were called outside to a grassy lawn that tested for low-level radiation.  The day was warm and sunny, so we kept a spray hose on the dirt as we loaded our wheelbarrow which kept the dust down, allowing us to work without respirators.  As we dug deeper, the soil became more and more radioactive.  After we had dug two feet, the Geiger counter was “lighting up” and we nervously put on our masks even though there was no dust.  Then, my shovel struck something and I reached into the hole, pulling out a very radioactive asbestos tile.  I was very glad to have my mask on!  A whole pile of these tiles had been buried out in the yard of this government campus, years earlier.  

Asbestos is another material we wore Tyvek suits with respirators to clean up in various buildings and ships.  Whenever asbestos is encountered, always vacate the area and allow professionals to deal with this material.  It is not safe nor is it legal to clean up on your own.  If you may encounter it, especially in older buildings, get more information on what to look for so you are aware of it.  It is best not to disturb it at all.   Acids are another hazmat you might encounter – especially if you have vehicle batteries around in your inventory.  While often not requiring breathing protection, eye, face, and skin protection are important.  If you have batteries, solvents, citric acid (for food preserving) I’d also recommend keeping baking soda and water near by.  Make sure you know what you need and have it close.  For most typical acids the soda and water will adequately neutralize any spills.  Another suggestion is to buy some simple PH test strips from a pool or hot tub supply store.  These strips are great for a quick check to see if acid is leaking or has been neutralized.  

Another common hazmat category would be explosives.  Gunpowder is usually stable and safe when stored properly.  I’ve responded to several sites where old Tovex or “Minerite” sticks were discovered.  Tovex is a modern replacement of dynamite and is much more stable and safe than dynamite.  Numerous federal, state, and county permits are required to transport this material, so engagement with appropriate authorities is necessary.  Ammonium nitrate (AN) is the main ingredient in most varieties of Tovex. It is still commonly available in agriculture or mining.  One response I participated in was for a semi-truck which was hauling a load of AN when it crashed into a mountain stream in a winding, mountainous canyon.  The trailer split open, spilling most of the AN load into the swift water.  The AN settled in pockets of thick, pink paste at the bottom of the river.  We used a vacuum truck to extricate the AN from the river bottom where we could.  It was easy to handle but sticky.  Since it is a fertilizer, our cleanup was not for safety but for the cosmetics of the fishing stream.  The recovered AN was interned at the local landfill.  When the trailer was removed from the river, we wiped the AN off with thick absorbent pads, which resembled thick paper towels of cotton.  These absorbent pads also worked well with oils and petroleum materials.  I’d recommend keeping a bundle of these pads available for an emergency as they are handy for many uses.  

Water reactants are a very dangerous and scary material to deal with in an emergency, and any risk or exposure to them should be identified well before it starts to rain.  Water reactants are chemicals that react to water itself, often very violently.  Though not common, they are serious and should never be dealt with except by professionals.  Indulge me in one story that may not have direct value to emergency prep which is vivid in my memory.   Late one night we got a call from the local fire department of a fire at a small chemical plant.  The firefighters, upon entering the building, discovered a large quantity of old, crystallized picric acid – very explosive with water or mechanical vibrations (i.e. shock).  The firefighters backed out, called us, and then performed fire suppression while we carefully carried the containers out to the police bomb trailer for later disposal.  As we were removing the acid, we noticed one of the burning walls had a small, hidden room with several weapons inside.  In less than 15 minutes, we had BATF agents escorting us and the firemen as we finished removing the acid and began removing the guns, cocaine, and other ‘evidence’ while the building burned around us.  That was a really exciting night for a young college student!  Apparently the ATF was already watching the place, and the cache of hidden guns was enough for them to pursue it further.   

If you have explosive materials such as gun powder, fuels, or fertilizers in your area, one suggestion would be to protect those materials with sandbags and concrete blocks.  Do not stack materials on the hazmat materials, but form blast walls in layers that will give protection in the event of a detonation.  Fuel vapors are very dangerous and will travel so learn of and take precautions.  It is beyond the scope of this discussion to give details, but take the time to ensure you are safe and legal.   Liquid mercury is another hazmat material we ran across often in my work.  Though not common it is still around in most communities and should be handled with minimal exposure.  Mercury vapor is the most serious threat.  Vaporized mercury can enter through your lungs and collect in your blood.  In our cleanup we used special vacuums with HEPA filters to keep vapor out of the air and always wore respirators with appropriate filters.  

We were called one day to a large warehouse where someone had shipped a quart jar full of liquid mercury.  The jar had broken, spilling material all over the shipping van, the parking lot, and pools were spread throughout the inside of the warehouse.  Our PPE was Tyvek suits, respirators, and heavy PVC boots and gloves.  We entered the warehouse (where work was continuing as normal) and found a young woman trying to help the company by using a common shop-vac, standing in the pools in her tennis shoes trying to vacuum up the mercury.  We had our masks on and quickly shut off the shop-vac, which was spraying mercury vapor into the air, and sent the young woman to the hospital.  I never heard about what happened with the young woman.  

Pipeline accidents seem to becoming more common in the news.  Please be well aware of any pipelines in your area of interest.  Neighborhoods are crisscrossed with gas lines in many residential areas.  One summer while removing neighborhood yards because of heavy metal contamination from an area steel mill, we found many houses where the gas lines were not buried sufficiently or where the gas company said they were buried.  We dug many of the gas lines up with our backhoe, and after a while provided our own first response to a cut gas line.  Most new gas lines are plastic “poly” line of 1 to 2” in diameter, and when cut by a backhoe blade, we would simply bend the broken end of the pipe over itself, crimping the end shut.  Then with duct tape or bailing wire we would tie the pipe end to itself, keeping the leak crimped closed on its own while we evacuated the home and waited for the gas company to respond.   In an emergency break, crimping the line will save valuable time and risk to the area.  If we couldn’t get a good crimp, or those times when the gas pipe was older metal, we got everyone evacuated a safe distance as soon as possible.  

Besides pipelines, railroad tracks are one of my personal concerns.  Many of my Hazmat calls were to respond to railroad accidents throughout the western states, and any railroad accident is a serious accident.  It is amazing the amount and variety of chemicals that are shipped daily around the US.  In the event of a railroad crash, toxic gases could be released and force evacuations.  Evacuation routes themselves are often affected by the crash.  The local environment and groundwater can also be at risk.  The good news regarding a railroad issue is that they typically are responded to quickly and effectively because any closure to the track line can cause serious financial losses.   Two coal trains collided in the canyon of a western state.  Fortunately no one was hurt.  Two of the engines derailed (along with many empty coal cars) and their diesel tanks ruptured, posing a threat to the water supply of 50,000 people.  The clay soil sealed the fuel tanks where they sat, giving the railroad time to repair and open the tracks.  Finally, two cranes hoisted the engines up, allowing us to capture and remove the fuel before it could get to the water supply.  My personal feeling is to stay 25 miles (and upwind) from track lines, and check on possible impacts a spill of any type might pose.  

Sometimes even a harmless spill of corn in a railroad incident can have dangerous effects.  In the remote mountains of Montana several cars of feed corn were derailed.  No other dangerous materials were on the train, so our response ended quickly.  About a week later, however, the feed corn had gone sour and attracted two black bears, which became quite attached to their lucky stash of sour mash and caused some problems with the cleanup crew and locals.  I was told that the Fish and Game Department had to intervene for the work to complete.   Petroleum spills are the hazmat materials most people will be exposed to.  Most of these items are extremely and violently explosive in gaseous form, so any potential risk of gas you must get away!  This goes without saying but is worth stressing again.  For most heavy weight oil spills, we would use Tyvek suits underneath an outer PVC suit, with gloves and boots.  Having several large bags of absorbent clay granules (Kitty Litter is great) is very helpful, as are the absorbent pads mentioned previously.  I’d also suggest some industrial strength citric cleaner that is readily available and works great to clean up.  Some times we’d be called to clean up drums of vegetable oil, and other times it would be 90-weight petroleum oils.  All of them were easy to clean up in warm weather, but thickened up in colder weather and required a lot of scraping.  Another suggestion if you have large quantities of heavier oil is to place several feet of gravel underneath.  In the event of a spill the gravel holds the oil well, easing the cleanup effort.   Hydrocarbons also pose an explosive risk when temperatures and vapor / oxygen levels are at sufficient levels.  Most of our cleanup equipment was specialized for explosive environments, including sealed light sources and brass hand-tools to eliminate spark sources.   

Many gas stations or places where vehicles are frequently located can become contaminated with even small amounts of hydrocarbons.  When these oils get into the soil, they can contaminate the ground and groundwater badly.  As the groundwater travels along streams, or as the water table rises or falls in the soil, these oils are spread upwards and downwards as they ride on the top of the water, contaminating many feet of soil when “pushed” up.  It is worth considering this as you evaluate your location in proximity to gasoline sources.   One job was running test wells at a heavily contaminated gas station.  Several buried gas tanks had leaked for years, contaminating the soil for many yards around the gas station itself.  As part of our work to monitor the cleanup, we had several test wells dug in the area and were pumping ground water out into large tanks where we could test the water for the amount of hydrocarbons present in each well.  All of the test water was contaminated and had to be treated before we could dispose of it.  

Our water treatment for this contaminated water consisted of three 55-gallon drums full of “activated” charcoal plumbed in-series together and gravity fed out of the holding tanks.  Activated charcoal is very porous or powdered to give it a high surface area for exposure.  The gasoline tainted water simply ran out of the tanks, into the top of the first barrel, out of the bottom of the first barrel into the top of the second barrel, and so forth.  Finally, when it emerged from the last barrel it ran out into the street.  We continually monitored the exiting water for any signs of contamination.  All of the water – even the last few gallons from the tank were “clean enough to drink” after running through the charcoal.  We processed more than 12,000 gallons through those three drums.  I was really impressed with the ability of the charcoal to cleanup the gasoline.  I don’t recall what amount of gas was originally in the water.  This experience has been great food for thought over the years.  

Industrial sites have a wide variety of solvents and hazardous chemicals.  Food processing sites also have a fair share of dangerous materials, including ammonia and acids.  Late one evening a coolant line busted at a frozen seafood warehouse leaking ammonia throughout the freezer area.  Much of the downtown city block around the warehouse was evacuated for more than two days while we cleaned up the spill.  Ammonia is a very powerful material and surprisingly difficult to deal with.  All seafood and ice in the warehouse was contaminated by the strong gas and had to be thrown out.  Less than 100 gallons was spilled, but contaminated more than 80,000 square feet of storage and hundreds of tons of food, not to mention all the other buildings around the vicinity.  While using steam cleaners in our efforts, our respirator cartridges would quickly fill and clog up with the steam if we weren’t careful so keep in mind the environment breathing PPE will be used in.  

One last story to share that hopefully will help someone else avoid a painful lesson.  One emergency response I was called into was to clean out a hotel room where a couple of drug fiends had taken an undercover police officer hostage in a bust-gone-bad.  Long story short- a lot of teargas was used to resolve the situation.  So much tear gas that when we entered the room, gas droplets pooled up at our feet in the carpet.  The room had to be gutted, and when the cleanup was over we were told to dispose of all of our PPE – including our respirators.  I was quite fond of my closest facial friend, and thought I would try cleaning it off instead.  The lesson I learned was that water does not wash off tear gas – it just spreads it… all over the rest of the mask.  Putting on a contaminated mask is not pleasant except to the others working with you to get a good laugh out of.  Lesson learned and I got rid of my old mask for a new, cleaner friend.   Decontamination (Decon) of equipment and yourself after a cleanup incident is as important as containment of the original spill.  Take time to plan out your exit strategy and ensure your PPE does not spread the contaminant outside of the containment area.  We used travel trailers with front and rear exit doors to allow us to Decon at one end of the trailer, shower inside, and exit the rear of the trailer in the clean zone of the site.  All work was done in pairs with multiple support people monitoring us at various distances.  While we did occasionally run out of supplied air and some minor injuries, I never encountered any other serious situations because of the redundancy and attentive care. 

Only one incident of contamination is worth noting that required first aid.  I was inside 10,000 gallon tanks cleaning them for old Chromic acid contamination.  Again, because of the steam, I was required to frequently exit the tank for my respirator cartridges to be replaced.  While having my cartridges replaced, the acid slurry was deep enough to enter the top of my boot through the duct tape seal as I knelt at the tank's opening.  I immediately noticed the irritation and quickly exited the tanks and PPE, quickly washing my leg in clean water that was on-hand for just such a situation.  My injuries were minimal and required very little first aid, because of the planning and quick action.  

Finally, the most important suggestion I can make to someone regarding Hazmat cleanup is don’t do it!  Don’t mess with any of these materials, and if you believe you have discovered something potentially dangerous, get everyone away and notify authorities.  In many situations we have may have no choice but to do something this may give you something to think about for your own preparations.  As professionals we had extensive training, re-training, safety monitoring, regular blood work to monitor for exposure, and more training.  The best way to deal with hazmat materials is bug-out and get to a safer location.  That will keep you safe, and that will keep you legal.  Hopefully some of these ideas and experiences I’ve shared will help you do both.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Mr. Rawles,  
I recently have been going through the PCM/ECM/ECU vehicle engine/transmission control module nightmare. And it is a nightmare. Dealers typically won’t warrantee or allow return/refund on the vehicle computers unless they perform the diagnostics first. That’s a couple hundred bucks right there, before you get to buying the computer – which in my case for a 10 year old truck was $480, before sales tax. Then you have the labor to install it. Oh, and only the dealer can program it.  

So I started snooping around on Google.  Using the search terms “remanufactured PCM” and “remanufactured ECM” I found dozens of links to companies which sell preprogrammed vehicle computers [from wrecking yards] for all makes and models. And they are “plug and play”.  Meaning that a reasonably able person could put one in themselves.   And the prices seem to run about $150, rather than $500 or more.   All the caveats posted by earlier contributors about multiple computers on a vehicle, and other factors, still apply.   I only wanted to point out that there are other sources besides the dealers.  And their return policies, warrantees, and delivery beat the pants off the dealers to boot!   As always, caveat emptor – perform your own due diligence- YMMV.  - The Homesick Idahoan (Still behind enemy lines)

Friday, February 25, 2011

Most computerized gas engine vehicles built before 1996 (OBD-I) have a permanent computer memory module called a Mem-cal or PROM (programmed read-only memory) which can be stored indefinitely or used as-is from a parts house or junkyard. OBD-II vehicles, generally 1996 and later, all use the writable E-PROM which requires a specialized program and equipment to re-write. Also, the newer the OBD-II vehicle, the more computers it is likely to have. However only the module(s) for the power train are mission-critical. E-PROMs are more delicate than the older PROMs and sometimes require "re-flashing" to restore functionality. Obviously, the older style would be preferable in a grid-down situation. - Dave B. in Texas


Greetings JWR:
Thanks for all your hard work on SurvivalBlog, I look forward to reading it every day.

This is regarding Jim S. in Ohio's letter on EMP prepping his 2006 F250 Diesel. There are multiple modules on the vehicle that would need to be purchased, "flashed" and stored for EMP "Disaster Recovery", just to make the vehicle run. Many of these modules are vehicle specific due to calibrations, and would need to be "flashed" by the dealer at an additional expense.  To do this properly, one would work closely with their Ford Service Center to procure the proper parts and arrange to have them installed and flashed.  Once tested and verified, you could reinstall the originals or keep the new working pieces and store the originals in EMP protective cases/containers with the tools needed to replace them. The saving grace in Jim's case is the F250 Diesels did not have the Passive Anti-Theft System (PATS) keys, I believe that started in 2008 for the F250.

This would require additional key programming and another "interrogator" as it is nothing more than an antenna, and possibly subject to EMP itself. You can find the interrogator coil in a plastic "halo" surrounding the shroud on the ignition switch.  Ford vehicles use different models of PATS over the years, each is specific to the vehicle model and year.  Each key has a specific code (128 bit or 3.402823669209e+38), which must be programmed in to the Powertrain Control Module (PCM) by the user, or dealer - depending on the version.  Without the proper key type and code, there is no fuel or spark initiated at start up - it just cranks.

My recommendation for PATS type vehicles is to use the two factory keys to prepare three additional keys. Keys 1 and 2 are the factory keys and get locked in a safe - do not use them. Key 3 is used as your "daily use" key.  Key 4 is your "EMP Event" key - treat it accordingly and store it hidden, inside the vehicle. Key 5 is a non-PATS key, cut twith teh intent of opening the doors, unlocking the steering and running accessories. It is stored where accessible (home, work, wallet).

If and when the 3rd key gets lost or destroyed, the 5th key (or a rock) is used to gain access to the vehicle and the 4th key is used to get you home. Later, keys 1 and 2 are used to add an additional key.

Notice "add", since not all vehicles let you remove keys. This is a potential security issue as the person with that key could still operate your vehicle, just not to make new keys.

Should our region be hit with EMP, I have a flash programmer that can be used to install a custom tune which removes PATS, all limiters/codes and allows me to run on substandard/alternative fuels.   This is my cost effective alternative to purchasing a specific, EMP resistant vehicle.  This will work for file corruption, but not for a total PCM failure. Thanks, - Fred in Washington

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Thanks for the great blog and everything you do for us.   I was at my local Ford dealer getting some work done and ask the service manager about computer modules for my 2006 F250 diesel. He told there are three different modules; engine, fuel and transmission. I ask how much they cost and he told me “a lot” but they are fairly simple to install, basically unplug the old and plug in the new one. What he told me next I hadn’t thought about and had not read; the computer modules must be programmed to work. Also if you get one from a junkyard and plug it in it will still need to be programmed. So if anyone is thinking about getting backups for EMP events you still need to store a computer that can program the modules for newer vehicles.   Do you know if this is correct? Is there any way to remedy this problem short of buying older vehicles? I guess this is exactly why you tell us to get older vehicles! - Jim S. in Ohio

JWR Replies: In most cases the CPUs that you store can be pre-programmed to match your particular vehicle before you put them in storage. This will be a bit expensive and time consuming (requiring swaps and tests), but it sure beats storing a computer to program them, post facto!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The three main factors in determining who lives and who dies WTSHTF are situational awareness, overcoming inertia, and dumb luck. The first two you have some control over. The third is always going to be beyond your control, except for Divine intervention, so don’t worry about it. If you are at mid-span on the Golden Gate Bridge when Al Qaeda sets off a nuke in San Francisco, or “The Big One” hits. In such cases, acceptance of God’s will is all you have to do to prepare.

For those who are lucky enough to not be killed immediately when disaster strikes, how you have trained yourself to handle the first two factors will make all the difference in the world. The first two of these factors are well known and accepted. Believing and accepting what has now become inevitable should motivate the serious survivor. There are three parts to being adequately prepared:

First: Acceptance of the seriousness of the situation. Most of us are already there or you wouldn’t even be reading this. You have to accept the probability that there will be a major crisis befall our nation in the near future.

Second: Initiate Preparations: Having accepted the first premise as a literal fact, you must start as soon as possible to “put away the things of a child” and start behaving as a responsible adult. This means beginning to acquire those supplies that will give you and your family the very best chance of surviving the impending collapse.

They are: Water; Food; Weapons; Medical Supplies; Transportation; Fuel; Shelter; Skills.

Third: A Backup Plan. The third level of preparation is distinct from the first two. If you have already taken care of the first two parts, this will be supplemental to your plan. If not, this will offer your best chance of surviving the crisis. You have to put yourself in the best possible position to to take advantage of what I shall refer to as “the golden hours” which occur at the very beginning of any crisis. The “golden hours” is a concept that has gotten very little, if any, ink in all the survivalist literature, both real and fictional.

Anyone familiar with emergency medicine is aware of the term "the golden hour”. This refers to that first hour following an injury until the initiation of medical treatment. In most cases, the ability to get the patient into a medical facility within the first hour raises the chances of survival exponentially.

The same will be true of those last minute preparations an alert person can make who recognizes the magnitude of the impending crisis in its’ earliest stages. As in most things in life, the majority of the population will not be able to process and accept the severity of the crisis until it is too late to do them any real good. In other words, most people won’t recognize “it” when “it” first happens. And most of those who do get a glimmer will in all probability delay acting, and that delay will most probably be fatal in any real TEOTWAWKI scenario.

Even for those few who do get a sudden dose of clarity, most will also fail absent prior planning.

Why are almost all last minute actions doomed to failure in major crisis situation? Because by the time the average person realizes there is a real crisis, their ability to mitigate the effect will be so severely compromised as to be almost useless to them. e.g. if you need a six month supply of food to survive, it is too late to acquire it once the trucks have stopped running and the markets have been emptied.

Think of it this way: You, having been jolted out of your American Idol reveries, finally decide the national and world situation dictates you order a years worth of freeze dried food for your family. You immediately place your order. You are informed that due to the increased demand, there will be a delay of 60 days in shipping. Being aware that all suppliers are experiencing the same delays, you go ahead, place your order, and hold your breath. You are now at the mercy of fate for at least 60 days. 59 days into your waiting period TSHTF. No food is shipping. No trucks are running. You now find yourself in the worst possible position, appreciating how serious the crisis is, and unable to do anything about it, except for those golden hours I mentioned earlier.

Effective preparation requires forethought and planning, but forethought and planning are not sufficient in and of themselves to keep you alive in most long term crises. Thinking and planning are only a prolog to action. “Think; Plan; Act” needs to become your credo.

The concept of “the golden hours” encompasses at least two aspects of survival preparation. First, as a supplementary action for a person who has already made some preparations, and second, as a last ditch back up plan for those who foolishly waited too long to start their preparations.

There are basically three approaches to preparation from which to chose, and these three approaches will encompass virtually the entire population, whether they want to be there or not:

Approach Number One: Preparations made well in advance of a crisis, which provide the very best chance of survival whatever the crisis might be;

Approach Number Two: Preparations made in the last golden hours at the very beginning of a crisis supplemental to a preexisting survival plan, or as a second best alternative, but only for those who are smart enough to quickly grasp the situation and act decisively thereon;

Approach Number Three: Attempted preparations that are made too late to provide any security to those poor individuals too unaware or slow witted to anticipate and/or recognize the crisis for what it is.

The place you do not want to be is in the third category. Being in the third category will in all probability get you and your family dead in very short order in a TEOTWAWKI crisis.

So what kind of planning will help you take the maximum advantage in the golden hours? Here are a few a examples, and I want to stress these are just my own examples, and how I have addressed potential problems for my own family. You might have totally different priorities, but regardless, the better you can position yourself to take advantage of the golden hours, the better your chances are of surviving.


I have assessed the potential threats to my own families transportation as being a fuel shortage crisis and/or an EMP attack on the U.S.

We have an 1992 GMC 2500 Sierra 4x4 which is our primary G.O.O.D. vehicle. I keep it well-maintained and topped off all the time. (For those of you too young to remember the 1973 gas crisis, you missed what can only be described in the words of our “Dear Leader” as a really good “teachable moment”.) Being well aware of the probability of a major natural disaster (I live in earthquake and wild land fire country) and to the impending economic collapse, I have taken other precautions so as to cover as many bases as possible.

EMP Preparations:

(For those readers who don’t know about electromagnetic pulse (EMP), do a web search. This is something you need to know and understand.)

Being aware of the possibility of an EMP attack on the US, I have acquired spare electronic control units (ECUs)--also known electronic control modules, CPUs, or simply "computers") for all of our vehicles, and secured them in an EMP shielded Faraday cage shielding metal can along with the necessary tools to swap out the units, and printed instructions for doing the job for each specific vehicle. Each vehicle also has a Chilton’s Manual on board.

The easiest way to ascertain the part you need is to call the local dealer parts department, give them your year, make and model, and the VIN, and they will be able to look up your part and give you all the specifics. If you feel the price from the dealer is too high, then get on Ebay and find and order your part from a wrecking yard. Some newer vehicles have more than one computer, but the one you need is the one that controls the engine/fuel/ transmission. I have not ordered the computers that control the cabin heat and gauges as, quite frankly, in a G.O.O.D. situation I really don’t need to know my mpg, mph, etc. I just need the vehicle to start, run, and get me to where I need to go.

The units are stored under the seats of each vehicle in a Faraday cage. The Faraday cage container is made by first wrapping the unit in some kind of non-conducting material: rubber, plastic bubble wrap, anything that is non-conductive. Next, wrap the whole thing in duct tape. Then wrap the whole with two or three layers of aluminum foil, and then another layer of duct tape. It is important that each successive layer completely covers the each prior layer. Then insert the whole into a steel ammo box, along with the instructions and change out tools. If the time comes you need to open and use it, don’t forget to first ground the ammo box and yourself.

A possible alternative solution that I have not elected, at least not yet, is to own and maintain as your principle G.O.O.D. vehicle one which was manufactured before 1986, as those vehicles did not have computers or other electronics that are susceptible to the effects of EMP.

Fuel Crisis Preparation:

For most of us it is impractical (not to mention unsafe) to store large quantities of fuel. We are 300 miles from our retreat location, which is located in another state, and under normal conditions it takes us about six hours to get there. However, keeping in mind the value of the golden hours, I am fully prepared to take advantage of those hours. I did this by acquiring two 55 gallon steel fuel drums from a local distributor, and a 12 volt fuel transfer pump with hose and nozzle from Ebay. I don’t keep the drums full, but rather readily accessible for loading in the truck and a quick trip down to the local all hours gas station.

Those who recognize the crisis for what it is should have enough lead time to make last minute purchases of critical supplies, such as fuel, medicines and food. One problem for most people is they have not positioned themselves to take advantage of those golden hours for immediately acquiring a last minute emergency fuel supply. The additional hours they might have to waste acquiring portable storage containers could easily lose those critical golden hours.

When I see on the 11:00 PM (or whenever) news what I deem sufficient information to make the final call that the crisis is really starting, I will load my drums into the truck and drive to my local CardLock station and fill up. (I just joined a local CardLock station for this very purpose.) If I didn’t already have my drums, I would either have to wait until the next morning to go out and try and acquire some drums or fuel cans, or if it happens during the daytime, go out and try and acquire some before I head to the fuel station. This means that by the time I can get to the gas station it could already be pumped dry, rationed, confiscated or requisitioned by the government for the “common good”.

By having the necessary containers already on hand, we will be able to beat the rush, and be literally hours ahead of the masses which will by then be approaching a full scale panic mode.

The point is, I have put my family in a position to be able to act quickly and decisively to take advantage of those golden hours at the very beginning of a crisis, thereby increasing my family’s chances of survival. By anticipating a need, I have made a plan and acted upon it. When TSHTF I now have in place not only a plan to make use of those golden hours, but those items needed to fulfill that plan.

Costs? The fuel drums were free from my local fuel oil and lubricants dealer. Mine originally held methanol alcohol. I purchased a nifty little 12 volt fuel pump, complete with hose and nozzle that I can screw into the barrel bung, attach to my truck’s battery and will deliver up to 20 gallons a minute. “Little” is a relative term. The whole pump and hose system weighs in at 39 pounds, but it is smaller than a regular service station fuel pump, and a lot more portable and, since it is being carried in the truck, the extra weight doesn’t bother me.

The cost of the pump was less than $150 on eBay. Don’t have $150 to spare on an emergency fuel pump? Try a simple siphon hose costing a couple of bucks. Every vehicle we own has a 20' section of 3/8" I.D. clear plastic tubing. Why clear plastic tubing? Because I have never acquired a taste for petroleum products. Keep in mind the tubing needs to be small enough in diameter to get past the “unleaded fuel” barrier in the mouth of the filler tube which is now a standard in all modern vehicles.

In addition to the two barrels I also have five 5 gallon red plastic gas cans. Best price I found for these is at Wal-Mart which, while anathema to left wing ideologues, is most often the prepper's best friend. Between the 25 gallon tank in my GMC; the 110 gallons in the drums, and the 25 gallons in the gas cans, I have now provided my family with yet another benefit: options. A military maxim states “No plan survives first contact with the enemy.” This is why the more options you can provide yourself, the better off you will be in a crisis.

Medical Crisis Preparation:

What holds true for fuel, also holds true for last minute medical and prescription acquisitions. Have a friendly doctor write you some undated prescriptions for antibiotics and for several months worth of your regular prescriptions can be a lifesaver. If you don’t have a relationship with a physician that would allow you to acquire these, check out the SurvivalBlog archives for an article on veterinary pharmaceutical equivalents.

Remember the golden hours rule. Be prepared to pay cash or write a check for the necessary drugs, as you probably won’t have the luxury of time to negotiate with your insurance company. Wal-Mart and other competing chains offer $10 prescriptions for a 90 day supply. Try and acquire prescriptions for at least 180 days on hand. Tell the pharmacist you are going on a trip out of the country if they question you.

I was discussing survival preparation with my best friend many years ago when he was in medical school, and he commented that very few people understand that civilization is only about one micron thick. The very same germs that killed our great grandparents are still alive and thriving in the dirt just outside our window. The only reason they don’t kill us now is we have magic bullets in the form of antibiotics, vaccines and pain controllers that keep them in check. Take away these and we will die even quicker than our antecedents because as a civilization we have lost so many of our natural immunities.

Our nation functions on a continuous re-supply system for medicines and food. All of this is kept in motion by an increasingly high tech system of computers and coding. It all works because of a myriad of interconnecting symbiotic systems. For example, most pharmacies (including those in hospitals) only keep about a three day supply of drugs on hand for their normal patient load. If anything in the supply chain breaks at any juncture the whole chain grinds to an immediate halt. Overload a hospital with injured disaster victims and the medical supplies will be gone in less than 24 hours. Without resupply, and a steady supply of power from the grid, modern medicine reverts back to the 1800s in just a few days.

The weakest link in our entire social construct is our total dependency on computer driven data, and the computer’s total dependency on an uninterrupted flow of electricity. Shut down the grid for a day, and things get very bad. Shut down the grid for a month, and the result will be catastrophic. Shut down the grid for a year, and the estimates are that, absent outside assistance, 50% to 70% of our population will die from starvation and disease in that first year!

There was an article on the net last week about there being approximately 26 million insulin dependant diabetics in the US. If the supply system stops, absent a backup supply, the majority of these people will die within 90 days. How can they prepare for this situation? A little forethought and preparation can give a diabetic a chance of at least surviving long enough for the restructuring of the supply chain.

The whole plan keys on two points: 1.) Having sufficient insulin stored away to keep a diabetic alive for an extended period of time; and 2.) having a way to keep the insulin refrigerated and usable for an extended period of time.

For example: Humilin N, a common OTC insulin, has a three year shelf life if kept properly refrigerated. Humilin N comes in 100 Unit vials. One vial lasts a diabetic X number of days, depending on dosage. A diabetic can easily calculate how many vials they will need for whatever period of time they wish to prepare, up to 3 years, under refrigeration.

So, what is the most effective way to maintain refrigeration in the event of a grid collapse? Propane refrigerators.

Because we have two family members who are insulin dependent, we have prepared as follows:

Our RV, which is stored on site at our retreat, has a propane/electric refrigerator already installed. Additionally, and in my own penchant for redundancy in all things survival oriented, I acquired a full-size propane refrigerator for our retreat, through Craigslist

For those unfamiliar with propane refrigerators, let me say they are probably the most energy efficient appliance ever built. Energy companies don’t want people to know just how cheap it is to run a propane refrigerator. The amount of propane necessary to keep a full size refrigerator cold is about the same as a pilot light. We have a 500 gallon tank at the retreat and are adding another one this summer. With that much propane we can run the fridge for many years.

Note: If you are thinking about using your RV fridge as your backup insulin storage, remember to acquire the necessary fittings and hoses to fill your RV tank and also to attach it to larger external tank(s).

Another Note: Why is propane the preferred fuel for making long term preparations? Because, unlike gas and diesel, it doesn’t get old and it requires no treatment to stay usable. As long as the tank holds pressure, the propane is good. Additionally, when used to power a generator, there is no residue to foul and damage the filter and diaphragm which stay clean, extending the life of the power plant.

The existing current national disaster plan calls for the requisition, by force if necessary, of all existing food and drug stocks from outlying, lightly populated, rural areas, for transport to and use in more densely populated (read “voting bloc”) urban areas. This policy will, however, take a few days to implement. Once again, an alert and informed person will have golden hours they can use to their advantage. Make a list of your local all night pharmacies, markets and fuel stations. Then, make lists of what you need at each location, print them out and keep them handy. Use the golden hours to fill out your list.

Food Supply Crisis Preparation:

In times of disaster or emergency the demand for everything in our culture will spike, exhausting local existing supplies in less than a day. Our markets resupply daily. If the resupply stops, even for a few days, the effect of the resulting shortages will magnify. The time to go to the store is before the crisis hits or immediately upon recognizing it for what it is. Don’t delay! These are the golden hours. Go and shop immediately! Once the reality sinks in to the general public, stores will be cleaned out in a matter of hours.

I have prepared a shopping list I distribute to friends and family for either just before or just after a national emergency occurs or is announced. Once the truth sinks in to the general population, there will be a run on the stores. Re-supply to the stores will be either unlikely or irregular. If you have failed to prepare adequately before now, this may be your one and only chance to provision your family for an extended period of time.

I won’t bore you with my own list, but I will say that we have given it quite a bit of thought as to quantities and types of food we will acquire, and they are all easy to prepare, non-perishable foods needing no refrigeration. I have even gone one step further to prepare my family to take advantage of the golden hours. My wife and I regularly mentally map what foods are where in our local markets to assist us in making the best use of time in the stores.

When TSHTF, while I am down at the Card-Lock filling the fuel drums in the truck, my wife will be at the closest market filling the shopping carts. After the fueling is completed, I will meet her there to help finish up the shopping and loading the purchases in the SUV and to provide additional security. Hopefully it will not be needed as all of the foregoing last minute preparations should be taking place well before the masses even realize the severity of the crisis, in those “golden hours” which are the focus of this article.

In Summary:

Last minute preparations are not a panacea for a previous lackadaisical approach to preparation. But people should realize that even this late in the game there are still options to see them through a major, extended crisis. The sooner you start serious preparations the better chance you have of surviving what is most certainly headed out way.

The real key to your family’s personal survival is recognizing the true nature of the crisis before too many others do. Even a few hours lead time on the majority of the population can mean the difference, literally, between life and death. Those few hours are, truly, the golden hours.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

SAA Joe makes some good points in his article. He states however that “Hopefully 3 minutes without oxygen is self explanatory.  You have to breathe to survive!” then offers no solutions to a scenario where that may become a problem.   Scenario: You are stuck in traffic on the interstate due to an overturned tanker truck a few hundred feet in front Of you when a cloud of unidentified gas starts rolling towards your car from the overturned tanker. What do you do?   Scenario: You are at home which is located ¼ mile from a heavily used rail line. You hear the sound of a train Derailment and subsequent explosion. Looking outside you see large amounts of smoke and strange colored clouds rolling Towards your house which is downwind from the accident. What do you do?   These scenarios are not farfetched. Some version of these occurs on a regular basis in the United States.   In both cases gas masks stored in an easily-accessible spot in the home or vehicle can be life savers. Perfectly serviceable units are available at reasonable cost from a variety of sources. As with most preparations, discretion is advised when letting Others who may not share your mindset regarding preparations know of you precautions. Better safe than sorry!   Regards, - Jack C.

Monday, January 24, 2011

While working on my preps I found electrical specifications in the data sheet for the mylar-foil bags I was investigating for my food storage.  This reminded me that many computer components (e.g., motherboards, hard disk drives, and expansion cards) are packaged in mylar-foil bags for ESD protection.  I reasoned that since the ESD protection is provided by the conductive foil layer in the bag one should be able to use the same mylar-foil bags as Faraday cages to protect electronic devices and components from EMP.

One of the perks of my engineering career at defense contractor is that I work with genuine experts who deal with EMI and EMP issues on a regular basis.  I ran my mylar-foil Faraday cage idea past a co-worker to make sure I wasn't missing something.  In addition to designing EMP hardened equipment this individual is very like-minded with respect to survival and TEOTWAWKI topics.  His response was that the mylar-foil bags offer good protection against EMP events due to their continuous and highly-conductive foil layer.

I think that mylar-foil bags offer several advantages when compared to the commonly recommended popcorn tins and ammo cans.  First and foremost, sealed mylar-foil bags provide the water resistance near that of an ammo can without the bulk and weight.  With one bag you can protect the gear in your BOB from both moisture and EMP!  Also, the mylar-foil bags can be much more space efficient, especially for irregular shaped devices.  Finally, these bags are inexpensive.  Even if you don't have extras left over from your food preps you can visit your local computer store and usually find an assortment of them for the cost of your time.  

If you choose to use salvaged bags make sure to stick with the mylar-foil style ESD bags.  Avoid the bags that are clear, pink, or blue and those with printed patterns of conductive ink.  If you can find them, I would recommend the mylar-foil bags with “zip-lock” style seals.  These will allow one to periodically rotate the rechargeable batteries in their emergency gear without consuming material in the resealing process.  

A word of warning: DO NOT use electronics grade mylar-foil bags for food storage!  Bags that are not made specifically "food grade" for food storage may contain harmful chemicals and compounds that could leech into your food.

Many thanks for the great blog! Sincerely, - Kron

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Let me introduce your readers to propane and the many possibilities it offers your planning and TEOTWAWKI preps, that you will likely never have thought of before. Over the last number of years I have carefully thought out and planned a “system” if you will of key pieces of equipment which all operate on a single, inexpensive and highly efficient and large mobile fuel storage system. Naturally, I have the standard wood stove and gasoline operated family vehicle(s), but what is most interesting is some of the items I have been working on and extensively testing/ using on the side.    

1986 Chevrolet 3/4-Ton Pickup on Dual Fuel    

I have recently finished building my ideal Bug out vehicle (BOV) and a number of other very interesting and related items of interest which all fit in with a "one fuel system" for my preps.    I own a customized flat tan-painted 1986 Chevrolet/GMC pre-CPU or fuel injected 3/4-ton 4x4 pickup truck with a long bed on 33 inch high performance tires. It has the very tough NP 205 transfer case. This truck has a manual transmission without the hydraulic clutch (easier to repair), 4 inch suspension lift, custom built heavy duty roll bars and light bar, custom built heavy duty Front bush guard, bumper/ grill guard made from oil field drill stem. My spare tire mounts directly in the center of this heavy duty grill guard. All of this is great and the many features and modifications are too many to mention. But what is interesting about this truck are the most recent modifications which have the greatest impact on this trucks ability to be a high performance BOV. I have recently had this truck;s fuel system modified to a "dual fuel" system. The truck now runs on propane and gasoline.

Directly in the front of the truck bed, I have a 230 liter propane tank mounted between the roll bar mounts. It sits just out of sight below the top of my truck box. With the pull of a manual cable  just above my left knee while driving, I can switch between gasoline and propane in a moment's notice, moving from my 150 liter reserve of gasoline between my two twin gas tanks, to my 230 liters of propane and back again.

I specified manual "IMPCO" brand propane controls installed as opposed to easier to use electronic controls which are slightly more convenient to use but that are less reliable and have the potential to "fry" during an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) event. The system is old school and has been used and tested in many thousands of vehicles for about 30 years. My mechanic tells me that the fuel efficiency difference between gas and propane in a Chevrolet/GM 350 engine with a manual transmission is hardly noticeable and not a concern. The difference in power is also barely noticeable from my findings as well. However, the savings in cost for me are substantial which I will explain near the end of my posting. 

As a side note, my truck starts and runs much better on propane than it ever did on gasoline even in the coldest months. The last thing I’ve done is to ensure an adequate level of EMP protection is that I decided to purchase a GMC 3/4 ton pre-1987 vehicle. You see, 1987 was the first year Chevrolet and GM introduced electronic fuel injection. Although more fuel efficient than a standard carbureted engine, they are vulnerable to EMP as they are CPU/ Microprocessor controlled.

Even though it was a pre-1987 model it came standard with a high energy ignition (HEI) system which is prone to vulnerabilities and issues during an EMP event. I’ve recently had my mechanic swap the HEI ignition system out for the older style points, rotor and coil ignition system which can be easily fixed or replaced with spare parts stowed away in a Faraday box under the seat of the truck. The total cost for all of these brand new ignition parts and complete system was less than $150. A spare set of replacement condenser, points and coil will run me less than $90. In the event of an EMP, I have the ability to quickly replace these parts within minutes while on the road and I’m back up and running. My fuel capacity would take me well over 1,500 kilometers with a single fill up.  

Propane Heaters      
I did a fair bit of research into propane heaters for use in a home, cabin, tent, etc. The two models of heaters which I settled on were infrared radiant propane heaters made by "Mr. Heater" brand. The first one I bought was a "Big Buddy" portable heater which I can run off 1 pound propane "camping" bottles or a 20 lb barbeque tank or larger if I really wanted to. Currently I use a 20 lb propane tank with this heater in my home office which happens to be an atrium which tends to get a little cold in the winter otherwise with this heater. This unit is an 18,000 BTU per hour unit and can easily heat my un-insulated atrium/office from -20 degrees to + 20 degrees Celsius in under an hour.   The second heater I purchased was a 30,000 BTU per hour wall mounted/free standing with included legs heater. Currently I have this heater mounted to wall on the main floor of my three-storey 8 bedroom home and it heats my entire home even on the coldest night thus far. I am presently running this heater from a 20 lb. barbeque tank and find that I have to refill or swap out tanks about every 48 hours.

My heating costs are approx $150 per month at this point give or take a few dollars. In the event I need to bug out, I can simply grab the heater off the wall and go. Both of these Propane heaters have all the stamps and badges of approval from both the Canadian Government and the US safety agencies. They both use a catalytic conversion process which vaporizes or burns all the dangerous carbon monoxide (CO) from the burning process. I run three separate CO detectors in my home and none of them have ever registered a single reading thus far except one day early on when I had a very small propane leak from a poorly threaded propane hose line to which my alarm promptly let me know that it was "Sniffing" propane. The main advantage to these units is that they don;t require an exterior vent. Unlike your furnace which sends a plume of wasted hot exhaust into the atmosphere, these units send that clean, moist and very hot air into your home as opposed to wasting it. When the heater claims 30,000 BTU per hour as its output rating, its likely much higher when compared to the output rating of your furnace or wood stove simply due to the fact that its a vent free system and not wasting significant amounts of hot air by pumping it out the chimney stack as a byproduct.

In deciding on the generators to own and use, I did a lot of research. I wanted to have a mid-sized generator (5,000 to 7,000 watts) that could run nearly all of my home systems at the same time if need be.( Well pump, sump pumps, furnace, a few lights, fridges, deep freezes, washer and dryer et cetera.) This unit also had to be easy to start, use and move around in the event my wife or children had to use it for whatever reason. In preparation for this I had a generator backup electrical panel installed next to and in conjunction with my current grid power panel. Basically, the power goes out, you flip a big switch on your power panel disconnecting you from Utility power, and fire up the generator. Using this type of panel eliminates the risk of a "back feed."

The generator I settled on was a dual fuel (Gasoline and Propane) 5,000 watt unit from Northern Tool for around the $700 price. It came standard with wheels and handles to move it around, an electric start battery system with a backup pull cord system and all the propane lines and fittings a guy needs to hook up to a standard 20 lb barbeque tank. I’ve tested it out numerous times with 100 lb propane bottles and 20 lb tanks. Everything seems to run very well thus far and my 10 year old son has no problem wheeling it around, hooking it up and operating it with ease after a little safety instruction.  

The second genset I have on hand is a Honda 2,000 watt inverted super quiet model. I purchased a propane conversion kit online for about $150 and within an hour had it converted easily to run off propane. Works like a charm off my 20 lb tanks.   The last thing I’m hoping to do and I have not had any success in finding any reliable information is to convert an ATV to burn propane as there doesn’t seem to be much information out there. If there is anyone that knows a reliable method or where to obtain information it would be much appreciated if they e-mail JWR a reply.  

I mentioned that I would get into the cost factor of the propane I use. I live in the country and there are many farmers who use mobile propane tanks mounted on trailers for irrigation and construction. I contacted my local propane dealer for more information. After a little discussion, here is what I found out:   My dealer leased me a brand new 1,000 gallon (3,600 + liter) propane tank mounted on a brand new 16 foot dual axle trailer for $260 per year. The trailer has a standard 2-5/16 " ball hitch and trailer brakes. When asked by my dealer what I was going to use the propane for, I told him I would be using it for a number of uses but mostly filling propane bottles and tanks. Because I didn’t mention it would be used to fill up my vehicle the rate was significantly less. He charged me only 40 cents per liter to fill the entire tank up ($1,400). Currently this is 60 percent less expensive than filling up my vehicle with gasoline at the pump and I get about the same mileage.

The benefits of using propane in these ways are substantial just to name a few:

  • Low profile purchasing. Unlike home gasoline tanks, propane tanks create no suspicion
  • Virtually unlimited shelf life
  • Large volume fuel storage on hand (1,000 gallons / 3,600 liters per tank) in most jurisdiction with no restrictions.

Propane offers mobility and bug out possibilities in a grid down situation where transportation legalities won't matter. A number of key pieces of equipment are available which operate using propane.   The possibilities with propane are endless and in my opinion its a far superior option for fuel and flexibility than gasoline or diesel fuels. The cost savings alone would make a person do a double take and reconsider all options.  - M.B. writing from the Frozen North

Monday, January 10, 2011

I recently got an irate letter from an outspoken Peak Oil commentator who often stresses "community agriculture" and "sustainable development." He castigated me for "advocating a fortress mentality..." and "encouraging gun-buying..." I think that he meant those as insults, but I took them as compliments.

I am indeed an advocate of the fortress mentality, and fortress architecture. The two go hand-in-hand. As I pointed out in my book "How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It", modern American architecture with flimsy doors and large expanses of windows is just a 70 year aberration from a global norm that dates back many centuries. The real tradition in architecture outside of the tropics has always been to build homes with small windows, very stout doors, and lots of mass in the walls to absorb projectile impacts and to delay entry by evil-doers. Since 1945 we've been blessed to live a country that is relatively safe and peaceful. But don't expect that to last forever. Plan and build, accordingly.

Just look at the long history of the mote-and-bailey and castle in Europe and Fujian Tulou (Hakka) in China. Or look at the stout walls that are still the norm in Afghanistan and Pakistan. And consider the HESCO bastions that are almost always used by the U.S. military when deployed in any of the world's hot spots. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: There is no substitute for mass. Mass stops bullets. Mass stops gamma radiation. Mass stops (or at least slows down) bad guys from entering a home and depriving its residents of life and property. Sandbags are cheap, so buy plenty of them. When planning your retreat house, think: medieval castle.

The fortress mentality necessitates adopting fortress architecture. Whether you turn yourself into a moving fortress (with body armor), or you decide to design fortress features into your next home, I recommend that you prepare for as many different threats as possible. If you cannot afford to build your house like a fortress, or if that would "stick out" where you now live, then at least add a combination vault/shelter basement room to your house. (Either via new construction, or by remodeling.) Several SurvivalBlog advertisers can supply the know-how and crucial components for such a project such as inward-opening vault doors, blast valves, and HEPA filters. These companies include: Hardened Structures, Safecastle, and Ready Made Resources.

The bottom line is that in the event of societal collapse, looters will prey upon those who are obviously weak and defenseless. Unless they are suicidal, looters will consciously pass by any well-defended retreats. Why would they go up against an Alpenréduit when they could instead go pick on some defenseless granny living in a veritable glass box, a mile down the road? Why would they risk getting ventilated by a group of well-armed Rawlesians who are standing behind ballistic protection--especially while living in a world without readily-available medical care?

Planning ahead for bad times isn't paranoia. It is prudence. An integrated national defense should start with every hearth and home, and proceed systematically all the way to national borders. This is the true and righteous fortress mentality. The Swiss call this an "intellectual defense of the homeland" (Geistige Landesverteidigung). Their well-armed citizenry and their extensive system of réduits (many of them very well-hidden) have kept them free and essentially independent for 720 years. We should learn a lesson from that.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Mr. Rawles,
The U.S. government has released new advice for what to do in the event of a nuclear attack. What's really disturbing is that with the low protection factors cited, someone essentially needs to come and rescue. On the plus side at least they're thinking about what ought to be done. - Jake in Massachusetts

Dear Editor:
It shouldn't come as a surprise to SurvivalBlog readers but the newest research in the June 2010 document, "Planning Guidance for Response to a Nuclear Detonation" concludes that rate of survival to a nuclear disaster climbs if people shelter in place. I thought this line from the CNBC news was interesting: "disasters planners should forget trying to evacuate large cities and instead urge people to shelter in place." Oh the good old days of digging out a basement under our house in the early 1960s. - C.A.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The reality of the situation is that tactical combat, survival and self defense training is not something that can be mastered in a week or a month.  Training needs to be consistent to the point where the drills become as a reaction that you don’t even have to think about it…. The point is that terrorists and threats to you have been in serious training for a long period of time while many of us still see the concept of learning the inner workings of firearms as being premature.
Private survival training in the present day has often been seen as an invitation to police repression.  Examples such as the Black Panthers in the 1960’s and the Militia movement of the 1990’s are often sighted.  For the most part these organizations stayed within the law and were mainly small groups of private citizens trying to exercise the same Rights as the founding fathers did at Lexington and Concord.  The focus of these organizations was to make an expression through show of force.
Private firearms ownership in America for anything other than target shooting and hunting has been made to appear unwise and even illegal.  For that reason people have become more dependent on the government for their defense than ever before. The reality is that in every one of the 50 states in the Union it is Legal to own and use a firearm in defense of life.   What happens when the National Guard is called up and sent overseas?  Do you know 30% of most local law enforcement are members of the Guard and reserve.  We are becoming more and more dependent on Federal Law Enforcement… and a dependant, defenseless people is an enslaved people.
So you have a desire to train, to become confident in what you carry, how you carry it and what to do with it but you are not a member of the law enforcement community or the federal military. What can you do? How can you train?
Unregulated Live Fire Self-training
“Grab some rounds and head to the local dump or the woods and Go shoot”- NO
This is the worst thing you can do. Worse even than not training. If you go to the local shooting pit and blast a box or two of shells out all you are doing is shortening the life of your weapon and reinforcing bad habits. If you typically are doing something incorrect, odds are- without the proper practice to correct that bad habit- all you accomplish is building the wrong muscle memory. Guess what you are going to do when the SHTF? You will fall back on your worst training which is this.
Avoid this!
Regulated Self Training of Firearms
Research your courses of fire that are available. Go online and Google ‘course of fire” and you will find any number of courses plainly outlined. These include Cooper Drills, Shoot and Move drills, Dozier Drills, the El Presidente, various courses used by law enforcement agencies such as the NYPD and LAPD, military courses of fire for rifles, pistols and shotguns. Go to an actual range (or build your own safe one using established range safety guidelines) and run these drills until you can do them correctly. Exercise your fundamentals of Sight picture, trigger control, good solid position, and breathing. Use actual targets instead of beer cans, washing machines and the like. Paper plates can be substituted.
Inquire around at local gun shops and sporting goods stores for local rifle and pistol clubs who offer regulated ranges and competition shoots in exchange for nominal fees. Many State Departments of Wildlife have free ranges that are open to the public at no fee. This will also introduce you to the best part of training which is networking. Make contacts with like-minded individuals that can help point you in the right direction for your goals.
Live Fire is only a small part of firearms training. You need to spend hours training with an unloaded and safe weapon for every minute you spend sending brass downrange. Again, exercise your fundamentals of sight picture, trigger control, good solid position, and breathing. Practice tactical reloads, administrative reloads, one-handed reloads (for if injured), drawing from cover, firing positions etc.
The Boy scouts
Yes I am speaking of the ubiquitous organization that is the Boy Scouts of America. They are faith based and are represented in every community large and small. They also are a cornerstone of one of the few organizations that still attempt to provide firearms training without profit. Get with your local troops and find out the contact for the Shooting Sports Council for your area. Volunteer your services as a Range officer for the Marksmanship classes they have during semi-annual jamborees. Many councils offer full fledged certified NRA Firearms Instructor certification classes at reduced cost (sometimes as low as $25) to volunteers willing to give up a few weekends of their time to help local scouts learn to shoot.
You can learn valuable skills, gain an expanded knowledge base and provide a legacy for our youth in the process. Again, you see the chance to network your training opportunities by making more contacts and sharing information.
Appleseed Groups-
The non-profit Revolutionary War Veterans Association (RWVA) offers nationwide Appleseed Clinics that generally cost $70 for two days however, it is free for active military/guard/reserve, people who are under 21 years of age, and currently for 2010, women are also free. These provide training in long arms to a ‘rifleman’ qualification. They also offer longer week long courses and 30-hour instructor courses for much less than what you would get from the custom for-profit training academies.
Bring a rifle and a few hundred rounds of ammunition and put in some legitimate training. Spend your down time networking and making contacts to further your training.
PoliceOne Training Articles- http://www.policeone.com/training/articles/ with hundreds of free articles such as “Training Police Recruits to Think”, Relevant and Realistic Firearms Training on a Tight Budget” and “Watch Behavior Indicators for Potential Violence” this resource is vital to anyone who is looking for training needs. While these are written by law enforcement and security professionals for use by law enforcement and security professionals many of the same concepts hold true for a TEOTWAWKI situation, CCW holders, and anyone who just wants to gain the upper hand in a bad life or death situation when the zombies come.
Emergency Management Institutes-
Government and National organizations in partnership with colleges such as the University of Alabama- Birmingham Texas A&M and Tulane University officer online web interfaces such as the South Southern Public Health Partnership, FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute, and the National Emergency Response and Rescue Training Center
These institutes lean mainly towards Health and Safety aspects of Homeland Security and Counter Terrorism with dozens of amazing free courses such as “Food as an Effective Weapon of Terrorism”, “Preparedness: Factors for the Emergence/Reemergence of Infectious DiseasesApplied Epidemiology of Terrorist Events”, “Agro-terrorism”, and “Medical Effects of Primary Blast Injury” while they are dry are some of the best online training available from accredited sources.
Spend one night a week and devote four hours to one of these free classes. In a single year that is 52 classes under your belt. Take extensive notes that you can understand and create a chapbook with lessons you learned from each class. When the lights go out and the phones die the notebook can be your reference back to those night classes you took.
State Defense Forces
About half of the States in the Union offer a State Defense Force. These range from small relatively top heavy cadre groups such as the Mississippi State Guard to the large and very well organized 1000-manVirgina State Defense Force. Some 23 of these organizations are chartered by the state military department and work hand in hand with the local National Guard AG to perform “State’s only” service as directed by the governor. 
Many of these organizations offer membership regardless of physical conditions to residents with clean criminal records. They typically have monthly drills and an annual summer camp much like the regular National Guard. While some offer limited weapons training most are good for at least an introduction into basic military courtesy, field craft, land navigation, communications and other tasks that will come in handy post- TEOTWAWKI without being in danger of a federal call-up or the unfortunate stigma of ‘militia groups’.
The Red Cross
Well known for more than a century of community outreach the American Red Cross is in every community. Contact your local chapter and inquire about joining their Disaster Action Team (DAT). In exchange for agreeing to help with local disaster response inside your own county the Red Cross will provide all the necessary training. A DAT team member is required to have the following training, at no charge to the volunteer: Orientation to Red Cross, Introduction to Disaster, Disaster Team Training, Standard First Aid, Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), Mass Care, Shelter Operations, Damage Assessment, Family Service and Providing Emergency Service.
Some of these courses will be more involved than others and each will have its own opportunity to learn lessons and new skills. Networking with individuals on your team can pay great dividends.
So what are we looking at for training as far as an outlay in money?
 You can join your local State Defense Force for free, take classes online from the EMI, NEERTC and other agencies for free, catch the nearest Appleseed shoot for free (in some circumstances), help with the Boy scouts, browse online courses of fire and read your Police training articles all for free.
How about time?
Set up a schedule. Allocate one (four hour) night a week for online classes and articles. Schedule one full day a month (eight hours) to drill with your State Defense Force. Set aside one (four hour) night a week for regulated unloaded training with a safe weapon. Spend one (sight hour) full day a month on the range following a course of fire. Attend an Appleseed or Boy scout range when they come up to help brush up your skills and pass the knowledge along to others. Go to your Red Cross DAT team training dates.
This totals some 48-hours per month on average. This is a part-time job to learn the skill-set now that will be literally invaluable if the worst case scenario evolves and you have to utilize it.
As the old saying goes- it’s better to have it and not need it, then to need it and not have it.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) risk assessments have been published by journalists, defense analysts, and foreign policy experts. Unfortunately, some of these assessments rely on incomplete or incorrect information and give the mistaken impression that EMP is not an immediate threat. For example, STRATFOR Global Intelligence recently published a report titled “Gauging the Threat of an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack.” The report assesses that the risk from an EMP attack is low because “the EMP threat has been around for more than half a century and there are a number of technical and practical variables that make a HEMP [High Altitude Electromagnetic Pulse] attack using a nuclear warhead highly unlikely.”

STRATFOR is a well-respected organization that publishes many excellent reports on national security threats. However, this particular report is badly flawed, suffering from both analytical misconceptions and factual errors. Below I quote from the report, describing why this assessment should not be relied on. (STRATFOR generously allows republishing of its reports with the following statement: Gauging the Threat of an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack is republished with permission of STRATFOR.)

"Only the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia and China possess both the mature warhead design and intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capability to conduct such an [EMP] attack from their own territory, and these same countries have possessed that capability for decades. (Shorter range missiles can achieve this altitude, but the center of the United States is still 1,000 kilometers from the Eastern Seaboard and more than 3,000 kilometers from the Western Seaboard — so just any old Scud missile won’t do.)"

The report makes the error of assuming that any EMP attack would be carried out with a single nuclear warhead that must be centered above the continental United States for maximum effect. An immediate result of any EMP attack would be the destruction of power grids within line-of-sight of the nuclear detonation. The continental United States has only three power grids—Eastern, Western, and Texas. Therefore, an effective EMP attack need not be a single detonation over the center of the US, but could instead consist of two separate detonations over the Eastern and Western power grids. Such an attack could easily be carried out by Scud missiles. Moreover, as the 9/11 attacks showed, it is well within the capability of terrorist organizations or rogue states to conduct simultaneous attacks.

The STRATFOR report states: "Countries that build nuclear weapons do so at great expense…Nuclear weapons also are developed as a deterrent to attack, not with the intention of immediately using them offensively. …In other words, for the countries capable of carrying out a HEMP attack, the principles of nuclear deterrence and the threat of a full-scale retaliatory strike continue to hold and govern, just as they did during the most tension-filled days of the Cold War."

The report assumes that any country or group capable of conducting an EMP attack would share the mindset of the Soviet Union during the Cold War. There is a substantial body of thought that Iran in particular would not be subject to these same principals of nuclear deterrence. Bernard Lewis, the noted Middle Eastern scholar, has stated, “MAD, mutual assured destruction, [was effective] right through the cold war. Both sides had nuclear weapons. Neither side used them, because both sides knew the other would retaliate in kind. This will not work with a religious fanatic [like Ahmadinejad]. For him, mutual assured destruction is not a deterrent, it is an inducement.” While there is substantial debate over whether the position of Bernard Lewis and other scholars is correct, this position cannot be lightly dismissed.

The STRATFOR report also states: "One scenario that has been widely put forth is that the EMP threat emanates not from a global or regional power like Russia or China but from a rogue state or a transnational terrorist group that does not possess ICBMs but will use subterfuge to accomplish its mission without leaving any fingerprints. In this scenario, the rogue state or terrorist group loads a nuclear warhead and missile launcher aboard a cargo ship or tanker and then launches the missile from just off the coast in order to get the warhead into position over the target for a HEMP strike. This scenario would involve either a short-range ballistic missile to achieve a localized metropolitan strike or a longer-range (but not intercontinental) ballistic missile to reach the necessary position over the Eastern or Western seaboard or the Midwest to achieve a key coastline or continental strike…Any use of a nuclear weapon would be vigorously investigated and the nation that produced the weapon would be identified and would pay a heavy price for such an attack (there has been a large investment in the last decade in nuclear forensics). (Emphasis added.)"

Their conclusion is factually incorrect. First, a nuclear weapon detonated at high altitude would likely not leave sufficient material at ground level for forensic analysis. Second, the ability of the United States to conduct forensic nuclear analysis has been degrading, as made clear in a recent report by the National Resource Council titled “Nuclear Forensics: A Capability at Risk.” This report reads in part, “Although U.S. nuclear forensics capabilities are substantial and can be improved, right now they are fragile, under-resourced and, in some respects, deteriorating.” Lastly, any nuclear forensic analysis would require continued functioning of national labs such as Los Alamos National Laboratory and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory—a dubious proposition if the Western power grid is down.

The STRATFOR report concludes:

"When considering the EMP threat, it is important to recognize that it exists amid a myriad other threats, including related threats such as nuclear warfare and targeted, small-scale HPM attacks. Some things are more likely to occur than others, and there is only a limited amount of funding to monitor, harden against, and try to prevent, prepare for and manage them all. Clear-sighted, well-grounded and rational prioritization of threats is essential to the effective defense of the homeland. But each dollar spent on these efforts must be balanced against a dollar not spent on, for example, port security, which we believe is a far more likely and far more consequential vector for nuclear attack by a rogue state or non-state actor."

Here the authors confuse the likelihood of various attack scenarios with the consequences of an attack. An EMP attack is of special concern because it would destroy one or more power grids, which are the underpinning of every other critical infrastructure. In contrast, a nuclear attack on a port city—even one as important as Los Angeles/Long Beach—would have a dramatic but localized effect.

In summary, the STRATFOR analysis of the EMP threat fails on two counts. First, the analysis misstates the likelihood of an EMP attack, in both the technical feasibility and motivations of rogue nations such as Iran. Second, the report never explicitly states the consequences of an EMP attack should the US power grids remain unprotected—the likely end of the United States as a functioning country.

The United States Congress is currently considering legislation to protect our power grids against EMP. While Survival Blog emphasizes individual and small group preparedness, another important means of preparation is government action. Should you find the EMP threat credible, please contact your elected representatives. If even 1% of preppers did this, it would represent the equivalent of a tidal wave of letters to Congress. - Thomas P.

Monday, September 6, 2010

It is with some trepidation that I write this article, since what I write will be controversial and will alarm some members of the public as well as your readers. Some of my colleagues have urged me not to bring this subject into the open or to even discuss it in public. However, I think the topic is important and needs to be brought to the attention of the public. The issue is the effect that an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack, or for that matter, even a great geomagnetic storm created by a coronal mass ejection (CME) from the sun, would have on a nuclear power plant. Personally, I believe that an EMP attack from a rogue nation such as Iran or North Korea or even a terrorist organization is perhaps the most serious security threat that we face as a nation today.

As many readers may know, nuclear power provides about 20% of the electricity generated in the United States. It is an important component of our energy mix, reduces our dependence on foreign oil, and although some people are concerned about what to eventually do with nuclear waste, nuclear power plants emit no greenhouse gases and are generally quite benign. [I would rather live next to a nuclear power plant than say a chemical plant. How may people recall the incident in Bhopal, India? Over 6,000 people died or were maimed in that tragedy. No member of the public has ever been killed (or even injured) by a commercial nuclear power plant in this country.]

Many readers (if they are old enough) will remember both the Three Mile Island incident (where a Babcock and Wilcox reactor actually partially melted its core) as well as the Chernobyl accident, where an explosion damaged the core of a Soviet-era RMBK graphite-moderated reactor and spread radioactive fission products over a large portion of Europe. We in the nuclear power industry have been saying for years that a Chernobyl-type accident could never happen in the USA. All of the commercial reactors in the USA have concrete and steel containment structures that would prevent (or at least greatly reduce) any release of radioactive fission products to the public. The reactors at Chernobyl had no such containment structure, and the explosion literally blew the roof off of the reactor building.

As a nuclear engineer who has worked in the industry for nearly 30 years, I have agreed with this premise – that all of the US commercial reactors are very safe. Under normal circumstances, I still believe this. However, as I have been studying the effects of EMP for the last several years, my concerns have grown.

I have recently been in contact with a member of the intelligence community who is highly knowledgeable in the area of EMP. I have communicated my fears regarding the effects that an EMP attack might have on nuclear power plants, and this person has confirmed (through independent sources) that my concerns are well founded. I have also gotten concurrence from eight other engineers of various disciplines at my power plant (such as transient analyses, simulator, reactor engineering, a Shift Technical Adviser and nuclear analyses) that the scenario that I describe here is accurate.

Nuclear power plants are not isolated electrically. They are tied into the power grid and are also dependent upon it. There is a postulated accident for nuclear power stations called “Station Blackout,” where all off-site power is lost. Every nuclear power plant must prove to the NRC that they have the ability to withstand this event without core damage. Every US nuclear power plant has emergency diesel generators just for this purpose. These are designed to start automatically in the event of the loss of off-site power. This kind of event has actually happened before in the USA, and the systems responded as designed, and off-site power was restored within a reasonable period of time.

However, in the event of an EMP attack, the grid will come down, and it may not come up for many months, if not years. It is likely that a substantial number of transformers that are used to link power plants (and this applies to all power plants – coal, gas, oil and nuclear) to the grid will be “fried.” There will be no way to obtain off-site power to restart the nuclear power plants. Most station blackout events are assumed to be concluded (i.e., “over”) within 24 hours. No one that I know of has seriously analyzed the effects of prolonged station blackouts.

Assuming that the emergency diesel generators will start after an EMP event (and this is up for debate), most power plants only have enough diesel fuel on site to keep them running for about one week (though some may have up to 30 days of fuel). If they don't start, or if the controls systems do not operate, then everything that I describe here will still come to pass, only much more rapidly. The power from the diesel generators is needed to operate the pumps that circulate the water in the reactor (called the “primary side”) and that also feed the steam generators with water (part of the “secondary side”). If power to the reactor coolant pumps in the primary side is lost, the reactor will likely begin what is known as “natural circulation.” However, in order to remove heat from the reactor core, water still needs to be continuously pumped through the steam generators so that the heated water in the secondary side can be cooled either via cooling towers, spray ponds or some other ultimate heat sink. If these secondary side (feed water) pumps will not operate, then the steam generators will dry out and then the cooling effect for the core is lost. (A steam generator is just a very large heat exchanger. Think of the steam generator as the “radiator” in your car. If your water pump goes out, water will not be able to flow through the radiator, and your car will overheat.) The result is that the reactor core will heat up, pressure will build to the point that the reactor coolant system (RCS) will not be able to withstand the pressure. Special spring-loaded valves will automatically lift and vent steam to the containment building to reduce the pressure in the primary system. Loss of pressure control will occur eventually, the coolant inventory in the RCS will drop to the point that the core becomes uncovered. Charging pumps normally would pump additional water into the primary system, but without power, these will not be available. Essentially, this event is similar to what is known as a Loss of Cooling Accident (LOCA). Again, all power plants are designed to “survive” this type of accident with minimal fuel damage. However, that assumption is based on having power available to operate the safety systems, including the High Pressure and Low Pressure Safety Injection (HPSI and LPSI) pumps to pump additional water into the primary system. There are other emergency systems, such as Safety Injection Tanks (SIT), which are passive and will inject water into the core when the pressure is reduced enough such that the SIT tank pressure is greater than the RCS pressure and then the check valves will open automatically. [It should be pointed out here that there are also steam-driven auxiliary pumps that will still function for a while to run the auxiliary feed water system to feed additional water into the steam generators (until there is no water left in the secondary system to turn into steam).]

The HPSI and LPSI pumps are designed to ensure that the core remains covered (as much as possible) by injecting water into the core so that the core can still be cooled. If these pumps are not working due to lack of electrical power, then no additional water is being injected into the core. When the water level in the reactor drops below the top level of the fuel, the core will begin to melt. This is what happened at Three Mile Island. However, the containment structure prevented large releases of radioactive fission products to the public.

You might ask, “well, if the containment structure can contain the melted reactor core, is there a real danger to the public?” The answer is, “yes,” but not from where you think. The reactor core may well be the focus of most people, but the real concern is somewhere else.

What many people don't know about nuclear power plants is that when spent fuel is off-loaded from the reactor core, the fuel is then placed into what is essentially a large, very deep swimming pool called the “spent fuel pool.” Fuel that has been removed from an operating reactor core is still very hot (both in the sense of temperature and radiation level). In fact, if you were to stand within even 50 feet of a spent fuel assembly with no shielding, you would receive a lethal dose of radiation in just seconds. The water in the spent fuel pool, in addition to cooling the fuel assemblies, acts as a biological shield. In fact, water is an excellent shielding material. You can stand at the top of the spent fuel pool in virtually any nuclear power plant in the US and receive virtually no dose of radiation, so long as the fuel assemblies are covered by about 25 feet of water.

The building that houses the spent fuel pools at nuclear power plants in this country is usually a simple building, with concrete sides and floors but usually with nothing but a thin, corrugated steel roof. This is the root of the problem. Just like the fuel in the reactor, the fuel assemblies in the spent fuel in pool must also be cooled. These pools have their own independent, multiply redundant systems for cooling, separate from the systems that cool the reactor core. However, these pool cooling systems can be cross-tied with the reactor cooling systems in an emergency. The water in the spent fuel pool must be continuously circulated through heat exchangers (again, like your car radiator) to reject heat. Loss of off-site power will also cause a loss of spent fuel cooling. Normally, the temperature in these spent fuel pools is somewhere around 100 to 110 degrees F or so (similar to a typical suburban “hot tub”). When the spent fuel cooling system pumps stop operating, the fuel assemblies in the spent fuel pool will immediately begin to heat up. These fuel assemblies will continue to heat the water in the spent fuel pool until it boils. The best case scenario of “time to boil” for these spent fuel pools is perhaps 90 hours. The worst case, such as just after a core offload, would be much shorter, perhaps as little as four hours or even less. At that point, once the fuel assemblies in the spent fuel pool become uncovered because the water has boiled off, the effects mirror what would happen in the reactor core. The spent fuel assemblies will heat up until the fuel cladding starts to melt. As bits of the melting fuel fall into what is left of the water in the pool, the process will just accelerate as the heat source is now more concentrated since it has fallen back into the water and the water may flash to steam and this may cause the pressure in the building to increase, and radioactive steam, carrying radioactive particles, will now begin to exit the building through the non-sealed penetrations, portals or doors in the building.

Of course, there are usually multiple sources of water than can be called upon to re-fill the spent fuel pool before the water all boils off. But virtually all of these systems are dependent upon working, electrically operated pumps to move this water. If control systems have failed due to the EMP and there is no power to operate the pumps (either to add additional water or to pump water through the heat exchangers), then the fuel will ultimately become uncovered. Exposing the hot zirconium fuel cladding to air and steam causes an exothermic reaction, and the cladding will actually catch fire at about 1,000 degrees C. Even the NRC concedes that this type of fire cannot be extinguished, and could rage for days (Source: Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Vol. 58, No. 1, Jan./Feb. 2002).

The bottom-line is that if the spent fuel cooling pumps cannot be operated or the system cannot be cross-tied with the reactor shutdown cooling system, then the fuel assemblies in the spent fuel pool will melt, catch fire, and radioactive fission products will be released into the atmosphere and much of the countryside downwind of the nuclear power plant will be contaminated for many years. Thus, an EMP attack has the potential to cause a Chernobyl type accident at every nuclear power plant in the country!

There are a lot of “ifs” to this scenario. IF there is an EMP attack or solar event. IF the emergency diesel generators will function (or not) and IF the spent fuel pooling system can get power from the diesels or be cross-tied to the shutdown cooling system. Perhaps the emergency diesel generators will still function, but what happens when they run out of fuel? In the event of an EMP attack, can tanker trucks with diesel fuel get to all of the nuclear power plants in the US in time to re-fuel them before they stop running? Will tanker trucks even be running themselves?

I think it also bears noting that the volume of fuel in the spent fuel pools is many times greater than that in the reactor cores. Most nuclear power plants have 10 to 20 years or more of spent fuel stored in their spent fuel pools. Therefore, the consequences of a spent fuel pool melting down and subsequently spewing radioactive fission products into the air is potentially worse than if just the reactor core were to melt and its fission products releases into the air. Assuming all of the spent fuel in the pool melts, catches fire and the radioactive isotopes are released into the atmosphere, lethal dose rates may be accumulated even 5 to 10 miles from the plant site (>500 REM), with dose approaching 50 REM even out as far as 50 miles. Since Cesium-137 would be the largest released isotope in terms of curies (which the body preferentially uptakes over potassium), it will be about 300 years before the area might be habitable again. This is because Cesium-137 has a half-life of about 30 years, and the “rule of thumb” is that you need to wait ten half-lives before the isotope has decayed away to a negligible level. (Results for dose were calculated for a typical pressurized water reactor (PWR) spent fuel pool using the RASCAL radiation dose code from Oak Ridge National Laboratory assuming 100% release over two days, winter conditions, calm winds at 4 mph.)

I urge anyone living within 50 miles downwind of a nuclear power plant to be prepared to bug out in the event of an EMP attack. You will likely have a few days to pack and leave, but no more than a few. If the reactor near you has just refueled, and the emergency diesels do not start, you may have less than one day (since the heat load in the spent fuel pool immediately after a refueling is much greater than normal, and boiling will occur much faster). Many people have already expressed here the importance of having a G.O.O.D. bag and a plan to leave their current location if required. However, many people may need to evacuate on foot or by bicycle if the EMP attack renders their vehicles useless. I think this puts added emphasis on having a G.O.O.D. vehicle that is not reliant on computers or complex electronics.

For those of you who commute long distances to work I would also suggest that you have and maintain a G.O.O.D. mini-bag. (Nutnfancy on YouTube has produced an excellent series of videos on this – he has called it an “Urban Survival Kit” or “USK”). If your primary commute vehicle fails due to an EMP (or if your train or bus fails to function) while you are at work, then you may have a long walk home. It is wise to have pre-positioned (if you are able), a bag or backpack which contains items that may help you to get home more comfortably and safely.

I will cover what is in my mini-bag that I have pre-staged in the event that an EMP happens while I am at work at my power plant. (I would need to walk more than 30 miles to get home) in another letter. But I certainly hope that I never have to use it! - B.Z.     

JWR Adds: At a minimum, in addition for G.O.O.D. and "get me home" kits, I recommend stocking up on potassium iodate pills, for thyroid protection, in the event of a nuclear accident. These are available from several SurvivalBlog advertisers. In some locales, they are made available free of charge to down-wind residents.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Mr. Hayden presented an outstanding, almost-verbatim review of the commission reports. After having read in the last few months both of the reports, I sought to find as much corroboration of them as I could find. My motive for doing further research was pretty elementary and is simply stated: "This is a government commission, right? Since when have I believed the contents of a government commission?" (I am a former and long-time employee, now retired, of a technology-heavy government agency, and so I am naturally skeptical when I read any government report.) That research has led me into some pretty technical and sometimes jargon-filled essays and writings that at times I was challenged to understand.

I came upon some, however, that were easier for me to read, and that offer direct challenges to the EMP Commission report. One tacitly accuses the commission of being secretive in the release of its numerical data to the extent that independent reviews might find it very difficult to duplicate its findings. Another challenges the findings regarding automobiles and trucks, stating that the simulator used by the EMP commission generated much lower kV/m values than those we would likely see in a realistic attack. Thus, many more cars and trucks might be affected in a real event than what is stated in the latest report. Who is right? I surely do not know, but I am learning more as I read more.

See the excellent article at "The Space Review". This essay is pretty technical in places, for the subject lends itself to technical explanation, but I found that its presentation was logical and overall very understandable.

Note that E1, E2, and E3, as I interpret them, are the respective electromagnetic yields of a given event from the strongest to the weakest; but not necessarily in their major effects upon large areas of infrastructure. According to the author, a solar event, while considered to be primarily an E3 event, might have much greater consequences to the infrastructure than an E3 (or even E1 or E2) event caused by some lower-yield thermonuclear devices.

I encourage blog readers to peruse this as well as other independent studies for additional knowledge over-and-above what is provided in the EMP commission reports.

Thanks to Jim Rawles for the "chalkboard" upon which we are at liberty to express, and even to "screech" out, our thoughts. - "Two Dogs", Lt.Col. USMCR (retired)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

An Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP), is generated from the detonation of a nuclear device. A similar waveform is created by extreme solar activity, such as that which was experienced in 1859, 1921, 1989 and as recent as 1994. The US Government and military have studied these phenomenon extensively and several reports have been issued regarding EMP effects on vehicles, computer networks, critical infrastructure and more. In this report, we'll briefly cover many of the topics discussed and researched in regards to geomagnetic anomalies, solar storm activity and the effects of an electromagnetic pulse. It should be noted, however, that Congress has largely ignored the EMP Commission's warnings and our hospitals and critical infrastructure remain highly vulnerable.

In the late summer of 1859, a great solar storm hit the planet. This storm was the product of a coronal mass ejection from the Sun. While the science and physics behind these coronal ejections is interesting, it can also be long winded for some readers so I'll keep this brief.

Once in a while - exactly when scientists still cannot predict - an event occurs on the surface of the Sun that releases a tremendous amount of energy in the form of a solar flare or a coronal mass ejection, an explosive burst of very hot, electrified gases with a mass that can surpass that of Mount Everest. I encourage you to research this more if you would like a deeper understanding of the charged plasma that is ejected from the Sun's surface occasionally.

What you need to realize is that these solar storms are not only electrically and magnetically charged, but they bring radiation – across the spectrum, from microwave radiation to gamma rays.

On September 1st and 2nd, 1859, Earth's inhabitants experienced the greatest solar storm in recorded history. "The grid" was in it's infancy, consisting mainly of a few telegraph wires, mostly in larger cities. This storm short-circuited the wires and caused massive fires. The typical light show in the far north, known as the Aurora Borealis, was seen as far south as Cuba, Rome and Hawaii. Due to society's light dependence on any form of an electrical grid at the time, this did not disrupt the world substantially.

In 1989 and 1994, minor solar storms knocked out communication satellites, shut down power plants and disrupted the electrical grid. These were minor solar flares. Imagine if a solar storm the size of 1859's struck our modern society? Delicate wires run everywhere nowadays. Filaments, computer chips, hard drives, cell phones and electrical lines that stretch thousands of miles. Have you stopped to think about your vehicle's computer system? The details might surprise you. We'll get to that in a minute, but first, let's talk briefly about a man-made version of the Perfect Solar Storm – the nuclear EMP event.

Electromagnetic Pulse Attack

According to the 2004 Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States of EMP Attack (Executive Report), “Several potential adversaries have or can acquire the capability to attack the United States with a high-altitude nuclear weapon-generated electromagnetic pulse (EMP). A determined adversary can achieve an EMP attack capability without having a high level of sophistication.”

It goes on to briefly address the effects, “EMP is one of a small number of threats that can hold our society at risk of catastrophic consequences. EMP will cover the wide geographic region within line of sight to the nuclear weapon. It has the capability to produce significant damage to critical infrastructures and thus to the very fabric of US society...” The Commission's chairman has testified that within one year of such an attack, 70% - 90% of Americans would be dead from such causes as disease and violence. It is also highly plausible that many Americans would die of starvation due to the interruption of the national food supply.

According to the Washington Department of Health, Office of Radiation Protection, “A 1.4 Megaton bomb launched about 250 miles above Kansas would destroy most of the electronics that were not protected in the entire Continental United States.”

So, as you can see, both a massive solar storm and an EMP event could quite possibly end civilization as we know it. I know that sounds drastic, but in the United States and other technologically advanced countries, how would the mass population handle a prolonged event with very little or quite possibly, no electricity? As the Commission noted, our society is utterly dependent on our electrical grid for everything.

Trucking and transportation

Gas stations and refineries

Information and communications

Commercial production of food and goods

Water purification and delivery

Most of our military capability

These are only a handful of things that we take for granted because they are always there. If the gas stations were out of order, and no refineries able to produce more fuel, can you imagine how quickly our “civilized society” would break down? With that event alone, grocery store shelves become empty within a matter of days and farmers can't transport any goods. If you were not aware, grocery stores do not stock much extra produce or food “in the back of the store.” In order to maintain a high profit margin, stores maintain only a few days worth of staples until another shipment arrives. This not only conserves space, but allows for them to keep their overhead lower, among other things.

Once the gas stops flowing and the shelves are wiped clean, how long will your neighbor remain civil?

Several tests and scenarios have shown that cell phones will be one of the first tell-tale signs of an electromagnetic event because of the enormous percentage of the population carrying one. If the power grid were to simply go down, this wouldn't effect your cell phone. Depending on your location, your local cell towers probably have back-up power systems, as well. The cell towers, backup power and your cell phone will all be disabled after an electromagnetic event, offering you a clue as to what has just happened.

The Commission went on to assess just how our society would be impacted from an EMP event, including how well cars and trucks can handle the burst of electromagnetic waves.

The Automobile and Trucking Infrastructures

[brief excerpt from the Commission's 2008 report]

"Over the past century, our society and economy have developed in tandem with the automobile and trucking industries. As a consequence, we have become highly dependent on these infrastructures for maintaining our way of life.

Our land-use patterns, in particular, have been enabled by the automobile and trucking infrastructures. Distances between suburban housing developments, shopping centers, schools, and employment centers enforce a high dependence on the automobile. Suburbanites need their cars to get food from the grocery store, go to work, shop, obtain medical care, and myriad other activities of daily life. Rural Americans are just as dependent on automobiles, if not more so. Their needs are similar to those of suburbanites, and travel distances are greater. To the extent that city dwellers rely on available mass transit, they are less dependent on personal automobiles. But mass transit has been largely supplanted by automobiles, except in a few of our largest cities.

As much as automobiles are important to maintaining our way of life, our very lives are dependent on the trucking industry. The heavy concentration of our population in urban and suburban areas has been enabled by the ability to continuously supply food from farms and processing centers far removed. As we noted above, cities typically have a food supply of only several days available on grocery shelves for their customers.

Replenishment of that food supply depends on a continuous flow of trucks from food processing centers to food distribution centers to warehouses and to grocery stores and restaurants. If urban food supply flow is substantially interrupted for an extended period of time, hunger and mass evacuation, even starvation and anarchy, could result.

Trucks also deliver other essentials. Fuel delivered to metropolitan areas through pipelines is not accessible to the public until it is distributed by tanker trucks to gas stations.

Garbage removal, utility repair operations, fire equipment, and numerous other services are delivered using specially outfitted trucks. Nearly 80 percent of all manufactured goods at some point in the chain from manufacturer to consumer are transported by truck.

The consequences of an EMP attack on the automobile and trucking infrastructures would differ for the first day or so and in the longer term. An EMP attack will certainly immediately disable a portion of the 130 million cars and 90 million trucks in operation in the United States. Vehicles disabled while operating on the road can be expected to cause accidents. With modern traffic patterns, even a very small number of disabled vehicles or accidents can cause debilitating traffic jams. Moreover, failure of electronically based traffic control signals will exacerbate traffic congestion in metropolitan areas.

In the aftermath of an EMP attack that occurs during working hours, with a large number of people taking to the road at the same time to try to get home, we can expect extreme traffic congestion."

EMP Vulnerability of the Automobile and Trucking Infrastructures

The Commission tested the EMP susceptibility of traffic light controllers, automobiles and trucks.

The summary of the tests conclude that traffic light controllers will begin to malfunction following exposure to EMP fields as low as a few kV/m, thereby causing traffic congestion.

For automobiles, approximately 10% of the vehicles on the road will stop, at least temporarily, thereby possibly triggering accidents, as well as congestion, at field levels above 25 kV/m. For vehicles that were turned off during the testing, none suffered serious effects and were able to be started.

Of the trucks that were not running during EMP exposure, none were subsequently affected during the test. Thirteen of the 18 trucks exhibited a response while running. Most seriously, three of the truck motors stopped. Two could be restarted immediately, but one required towing to a garage for repair. The other 10 trucks that responded exhibited relatively minor temporary responses that did not require driver intervention to correct. Five of the 18 trucks tested did not exhibit any anomalous response up to field strengths of approximately 50 kV/m.

In regards to the airline industry, “Although commercial aircraft have proven EM protection against naturally occurring EM environments [such as lightning], we cannot confirm safety of flight following [severe or hostile] EMP exposure. Moreover, if the complex air traffic control system is damaged by EMP, restoration of full services could take months or longer.”

In conclusion, you have a very good chance that should an EMP or severe solar storm occur while you are driving home from work, you will be able to make it home as long as you are careful to avoid collisions. Once home, however, is an entirely different story!

There will be no more fuel available. There will be no more food and water for purchase. There will be no more iPhone or internet. And if you do find these things, what will be the price? Your dollars will very likely mean nothing to anyone with common sense. The art of bartering will very quickly take on a new importance for your own survival.

If this event were to occur, you could count on a very prolonged period of great civil unrest, riots, theft and wide spread violence. Repairs will be very slow and new parts for the large generators and power plants will likely have to be manufactured overseas and delivered to the United States. Furthermore, these foreign factories would have to retool their machines to create the specific part that we need if they are not already our supplier. And that is if the other industrialized nations aren't effected, as well.

As for the military and police, you can expect high numbers of deserters, placing an even greater strain on the limited resources of government order. This is not meant as an insult to our uniformed personnel, but from my personal experience of being a New Orleans police officer before, during and after Hurricane Katrina, I witnessed 1/5 of the police department simply walk away the first day. Some chose to leave for family reasons while others left due to stress. I also saw how quickly those we entrust with public safety can become an armed street gang and simply take what you have at gun point. These are all valid topics to consider when speaking about an event such as an EMP or severe solar storm. These are valid points even when the disaster is very localized, such as Hurricane Katrina was.

If you would like to learn more details about the actual tests, continue reading below.

Traffic Lights

In testing the traffic lights, the Commission used the 170E controller which is in use in 80% of all signal intersections. They noted four different types of effects, depending on the power level of the electromagnetic pulse.

The following effects were observed:

1. Forced Cycle: At field levels of 1 to 5 kV/m, the light was forced to cycle from green to red without going through yellow. This is a transient effect that recovers automatically after one cycle.

2. Disrupted Cycle: At field levels of 5 to 10 kV/m, the normally programmed cycle times became corrupted and change to a cycle different from that originally programmed. The controller had either been damaged or needed to be manually reset.

3. No Cycle: At 10 to 15 kV/m, the side street lights at an intersection never turned green. The controller had been damaged.

4. Flash Mode: Also at 10 to 15 kV/m, the intersection went into a mode in which the lights in all directions were flashing. This mode can cause large traffic jams because traffic flow is severely reduced in this situation. The controller has either been damaged or needs to be manually reset.

Based on these results, it can be anticipated that an EMP will trigger moderate to severe traffic congestion in metropolitan areas. The traffic congestion may be exacerbated by the panic reactions possibly attendant to an EMP attack. None of the data predict or suggest life threatening conditions; conflicting green lights did not occur during the tests. All the observed effects would cause less traffic disruption than would a power outage, which results in no working traffic lights.


The potential EMP vulnerability of automobiles derives from the use of built-in electronics that support multiple functions within the vehicle.

With more than 100 microprocessors in modern vehicles, one might think that leaves newer cars more susceptible to being disrupted by an EMP, but due to higher standards in electromagnetic compatibility, this weakness has been mitigated.

The Commission tested a sample of 37 cars in an EMP simulation laboratory, with vehicle years ranging from 1986 through 2002. Automobiles of these vintages include extensive electronics and represent a significant portion of the vehicles on the road today.

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.

Based on these test results, the Commission expects few automobile effects at EMP field levels below 25 kV/m. Approximately 10 percent or more of the automobiles exposed to higher field levels may experience serious EMP effects, including engine stall, that require driver intervention to correct.


As is the case for automobiles, the potential EMP vulnerability of trucks derives from the trend toward increasing use of electronics. The Commission assessed the EMP vulnerability of trucks using an approach identical to that used for automobiles. Eighteen running and non-running trucks were exposed to simulated EMP in a laboratory. The intensity of the EMP fields was increased until either anomalous response was observed or simulator limits were reached. The trucks ranged from gasoline-powered pickup trucks to large diesel- powered tractors. Truck vintages ranged from 1991 to 2003.

Of the trucks that were not running during EMP exposure, none were subsequently affected during the test. Thirteen of the 18 trucks exhibited a response while running. Most seriously, three of the truck motors stopped. Two could be restarted immediately, but one required towing to a garage for repair. The other 10 trucks that responded exhibited relatively minor temporary responses that did not require driver intervention to correct. Five of the 18 trucks tested did not exhibit any anomalous response up to field strengths of approximately 50 kV/m.


- Kevin Hayden, Editor of the Truth is Treason blog

Monday, August 23, 2010

I believe that in a severe crisis, most of the problems are going to have to be solved at the local level. State and federal government are too big and dependent on technology to survive a severe crisis once the grid drops and all services start to erode. Local governments, too, are ill prepared to assume this crushing responsibility, but they are much more resilient because their scope of control is smaller. Most of them have never even considered what they would do.

This article is a discussion piece to stimulate thought on the subject of small community recovery after TEOTWAWKI. I hope it will also be useful as a rough blueprint or checklist for local community leaders, or at least a starting point for a comprehensive plan. I wrote it from the perspective of a fictional town mayor. Most of the issues I mention apply to many levels of local government and law enforcement. I realize that A mayor never acts alone or has absolute power. They have a lot of people helping and advising them. I am hoping you will help yours make and implement the right decisions and that this paper will help in some small way.

Before I start spouting off about what I think will occur, I need to tell you who I am. I am a retired Army Electronic Warfare and Signals Intelligence Warrant Officer. I spent over a decade working on Army planning staffs at various levels, and was a professional action officer on the USAREUR DCSINT planning staff for more than four years. I got the rare opportunity to see many failed states and regional crisis and how people, communities and economies react. But I have never held any office in local government. Also, unfortunately, I am not a wizard who can see into the future. The following are my own conclusions and suggestions drawn from my own experiences. I may be wildly wrong, or overlooking factors that seem obvious to you, especially if you have a lot of experience in local government. So, take this for what it's worth. Hopefully, it will provide a basis for discussion and planning and generate a dialog. I am hoping to hear corrections and other ideas. I am never insulted by disagreement, so if you see things differently, I would be very happy to hear it.

First, we need to define what kind of crisis I am talking about. I am talking about a large scale disaster of some kind that effects a huge geographical region and forces local communities to solve their own problems and precludes getting help from outside. I am talking about an event that would cause a complete failure of basic services such as finance (banking) or the electrical grid and prevent the Government from repairing it quickly enough to prevent a general cascading breakdown of other services. I will use a major EMP event as my example because that would be just about a worst case event. Some of what I say will be applicable to regional or short term events, but some of it won't.

I believe that most communities are doomed. Many American and European communities are artificial constructs entirely dependent on modern society to keep them running. You can tell if your town cannot survive by looking at the population density, arable land, water supplies and other resources. If your community is in a desert and trucks in all their water, you can't possibly survive long term. If your whole population is suburban or urban and you have no working farms or farmable land, then you are doomed. Sorry. If you live in a doomed community, I don't know what to tell you. For this article, I am assuming a smallish town with a good water supply and a lot of working farms that don't require electric irrigation. Even a perfectly situated town will have huge problems and may not survive a major EMP event. Anything less than perfection is going to require superhuman effort, no mistakes and a large touch of luck.

Somebody has to take charge quickly:
Anarchy is the dirtiest word in the English language and should be avoided at all costs. Whenever I see some teenager wearing a T-shirt espousing anarchy, I get a strong urge to show him a little anarchy by beating him up and ripping it off his back..and then ask him if he still thinks Anarchy is "cool". I have seen chaos and virtual anarchy up close and I was frankly astonished at the depravity of mankind. Without law and order of some kind, the strong will take from the weak. The cruel will torture and kill wantonly. Rule of law is essential to any progress or recovery. I am writing this in the firm belief that when our society crashes, some communities will maintain order and some vestige of humanity. That's going to require a delicate balancing act because the two concepts are not mutually reinforcing and can be at odds with each other. Communities are going to have to make some very hard choices if they are to maintain order and survive. Lets hope they can maintain their humanity and Christian values while they are doing this.

Let's imagine that you are the mayor of a small town when this horrible event occurs. The lights go out, most cars don't work, and personal battery powered electronics malfunction. How quickly would most small town mayors realize it was EMP? I am guessing that most of them will figure it out within minutes or hours. There are enough smart folks around to advise them even if they are not knowledgeable. So what are your actions going to be?

What are your resources? The town owns some land and some buildings, some vehicles and maybe some utility equipment. But by far, your biggest asset is a limited amount of capital in the form of authority and good will. You represent a body of voters, which gives you more legal legitimacy than anyone else. You have a police force of some kind and the authority to spend money on behalf of the government...sort of. Your authority is real, but it's based on some fairly fragile cornerstones. Some of them may not exist anymore. The monetary system may be completely wrecked. You may not be able to pay anyone for anything. The Federal and State Governments are both out of communications and may not exist anymore. Any indecision or misstep on your part could destroy your authority, leaving nothing in it's place.

What, exactly is your authority? Where does it overlap with county or other governments? What gives you the authority to maintain order? Impose martial law? Appoint armed deputies, Set up roadblocks? Commandeer fuel and food stocks? The Army NCO academy teaches that there are five types of power that an individual can wield. You will need to use all of them.

a. Legal: You have limited direct "Command authority" in a military sense. Unless you have a body of laws to back you up, you can't lean on your command authority too much. Check on this, but your town is unlikely to have bylaws giving you much power in an emergency. Instead, you have to assume that you possess Delegated authority. You are the representative of both State and Federal government and have to assume their roles and responsibilities until you can re-establish a chain of command. In the absence of orders or directives, you are free to "assume" responsibility and authority. At least that's a good legal theory and may be enough. If this were ever tested in court, it might not be upheld, but by that time, the crisis will be over, right? Everything you do is "Legal" until you are overruled by a court...or ousted by a mob of your constituents. Your real authority is your mandate from the people. It rests on your ability to make sound decisions and convince others that you are doing all the right things. That buys you more authority in a crisis than all the documents ever printed.

b. Coercive: Unfortunately, brute force is always a factor. As long as you maintain control over the police force or sheriff's department, you have authority. You must gain firm control of your police and public employees first, before you try to do anything else. Without them, your authority can be dissolved by a few hot-heads with weapons. You are going to be forced to make some very unpopular decisions and part of your community is going to be extremely angry with you. Get your troops in place first or you won't keep your authority long. You must also be very careful not to abuse this authority or let your troops abuse it. A good way to do this is to immediately beef up your police force with out of work, solid citizens. You can take on a fairly large number of deputies from the community. That gives the community a sense of ownership in the police and helps prevent excesses.

c. Reward: You will initially have almost no ability to reward anyone. If the finance system is gone, you have nothing to trade for goods and services. You will need to change this immediately by setting up some kind of economy for your town. (This topic is covered below). If you don't lick this problem immediately, your police and city employees are going to stop showing up for work very quickly. They have to feed and protect their families somehow.

d. Charisma: Unfortunately, (or fortunately perhaps) personal charisma and magnetism are much more important than we like to admit. If you can sway a crowd or argue persuasively, it doesn't matter if you are right or wrong. This sword cuts both ways, of course. You are going to have to face very charismatic personalities around town and persuade them to go along with you, or at least stay neutral. You need to gain the immediate support of community and church leaders. Figure out who can cause you political trouble and approach them to get them on your side or otherwise neutralize them, or you will be facing a "minority party" that will eventually oust you.

A good tool for dealing with dissension is to trap your opponents into stating a preferred way to resolve some problem and then enlist them to oversee it. There are a lot of ways to "skin a cat". Let them try their way if it can work. Pull them into your administration. Remember, you are all on the same team at some level. Find that level and stay on it. I believe that in a crisis, everyone has a tendency to follow anyone with a firm voice and the appearance of a plan. Just be sure you have a good plan and you will keep dissension to a minimum.

e. Expert: Knowledge is power. Anyone with unique and useful knowledge has value and power. It's much easier to sway an audience if you have a degree in the topic or an acknowledged expert in your corner. You should surround yourself with experts. When a new problem arises and an expert or two are identified, pull them into your circle of advisers. Doing this not only makes you a better leader with better decisions, it gives all of your followers the sense that you are open to suggestions and good ideas from any quarter.

So, you take charge quickly and start issuing orders. What are those orders?You have a lot of things to worry about, and all of them are urgent and critically important. The following is my list of issues that you need to address immediately and some suggestions on how to address them. Local conditions, laws, resources and public opinions are variables that effect how you must react. Think it out in the context of your local conditions and try to at least have a tentative plan to put forward immediately. The venue for putting forth your agenda should be as transparent as possible, either a public meeting or a written decree or order. That way, everyone not only knows your decisions, they know the reasoning behind them. If you can get consensus from a town meeting before you put out an emergency decree, you will have less trouble,but some of these issues require immediate action.

1. Communications:
Without communications, you are powerless. You must be able to communicate with your police department and other public service folks, the people of the town, the county seat, the State, and lots of others. Unfortunately, a big EMP event will wipe out electronic communications in a blink and leave you isolated, just when you need to be at the center of activity. There are a couple of things you can do to mitigate this if you plan ahead, but you are still going to have to somehow establish some kind of communications with your neighboring towns and other polities...and hopefully higher echelons of government.

If you can store some short range radio equipment and maybe some old-school TA-312 or TA-1 type telephones in a Faraday cage, they will be worth their weight in gold. Even a few old telephones (and wire) can enable you to keep in touch with the town down the road, or your own guard posts. Another thing to add to your Faraday cage is a couple of battery-powered shortwave receivers. These will allow you to catch long range HF broadcasts from working stations possibly overseas. Shortwave may be your most reliable source of news. A ham radio rig, if it survives, might be very useful too.

If you don't have working radios, think back to a time when radio and even telephone didn't exist. Our founding fathers didn't have those luxuries and still managed. The solution is a central, easy to find headquarters, official written communications, and messengers. You will need plenty of paper, (with your office letterhead if possible), envelopes and some kind of official seal you can use. You might even consider a wax seal, like they used in the 18th century, but a notary seal (or something similar) with your signature over the top will look a lot more official than a blank paper. You will also need carbon paper or a working copier, but probably won't have them.

Small communities in the past used church bells, beacon lights, gongs, bugles, whistles, sirens and flags to communicate locally. These methods require some planning, but they still work.

Public notice boards were a major tool of government in the days before electricity. Designate a board outside city hall or somewhere convenient and section it off into five sections (or more if you wish). Post public policies and directives in one section and "good advice" such as water purification procedures in another. A third section of the notice board should contain a calendar or event log to keep people advised on upcoming events. (Also, you should somehow let people know what day it is). A fourth section of the board can contain news items picked up on the shortwave or from other communities.

The fifth [and very large] section should be made open to the public. Remember, they have no reliable communications means and may need to link up with missing relatives or communicate privately with other community members. A board is a good way to do this and can substitute for a public mail service. Set up a drop box for personal messages (controlled by someone at city hall or at the post office or whatever) and maintain a list of people with "refugee mail" on the public notice board. That way, if someone wants to send a letter or something to anyone else, they drop an envelope in the drop box and write the addressee's name (and a date) on the public board. When the addressee picks up his mail, he crosses his name off the list. Any person traveling to a nearby town can carry mail to that town.

You may need to regulate your public notice board by requiring people to date their notices and limit the time something can remain posted. Otherwise, the public board will quickly get out of hand, no matter how big it is. Try not to get too draconian. Allow people to post anything they want (subject to whatever constraints make sense to the town). Your board may be the best and only information service most people have.

You should also expect to do a lot of face to face meetings with crowds and individuals. Consider setting up a weekly town meeting where you can put out orders and public service information in person and invite discussion. Town meetings used to be a great source of entertainment and gave everyone a chance to blow off some steam about things that bothered them. When electronics fail,You will need to be able to do a lot of business face-to-face. If you move your headquarters to an easily accessible area, like downtown main-street, or near a marketplace, everything may be easier. Unfortunately, messengers and face to face conversations require working transportation of some kind (as discussed below).

2. Building an emergency economy
You are going to have to set up some kind of economy to replace the crashed finance system. You are not going to be able to rebuild the crashed economy, but will have to build an entirely new system, almost from scratch. If you get this one wrong, everything else will fall apart very quickly. This is a huge undertaking, but it must be done quickly. You simply cannot use the existing financial system or hope to rebuild it. About 4/5ths of your town will need food and most of the town's food will be owned by a very few individuals or controlled by a store manager in the case of a corporate chain store. If you allow the market to "work itself out", these few store managers or individuals will suddenly control all the wealth and be able to charge people anything they see fit...or withhold critical resources as the whim takes them. Some people will have nothing of value in the new economy [except their labor]. How will these people buy what they need? "Money" is not the fiat currency we are used to dealing with. It is something of value exchanged for something else of value. Any finance system has to be able to allow people to exchange what they need for what they have or it will fail. In this example, the likely results might be a riot and immediate looting.

Mitigation: None possible? I don't know how you can prepare your town for a total financial crash. If anyone has a suggestion, I would love to hear it.

We might as well deal with this topic right away. Are you going to try to have a strictly capitalist system? If so, a lot of people who don't currently have exactly what they need, or anything that happens to be valued in your new economy, are going to die. (More likely, they are going to revolt and try to take the resources they need.) A free market is a wonderful thing, but it requires time, security and communication to form. You won't have any of these. People who don't have food won't wait long enough for you to form a fully functional free market system, which could take months or years. Without perceived equitable distribution of "wealth" in the form of whatever your community members need, you will have violence and mayhem very quickly. A free market capitalist trade system will never get a chance to form without a precursor system to hold it up until it gets established.

In my humble opinion (after seeing many different monetary systems over the years) there is no alternative to adding a very large socialist component to a post-collapse emergency economy. If you don't strictly regulate critical resources, they will not be distributed equitably and many people will needlessly suffer and perhaps die. Even if that's okay with you, consider what you would do in their shoes. Would you watch your family starve while there was food on the shelves down at the Wal-Mart? Not very likely. You might decide to gather some like-minded folks up and storm the Wal-Mart. If the police try to stop you, what will you do? You will fight to the death because there is no valid alternative. For that matter, the police force may be leading the charge. What are you planning to pay them with? Patriotism? Whoever controls the food and other scarce resources controls the reins of power. It simply cannot be left in the hands of random individuals.

To avoid total anarchy in a societal collapse, you will need to form a centrally controlled economy in the short term, designed to equitably re-distribute and manage critical resources. You will need to slowly build a free market as you are able, but trying to do it immediately will undermine everything you must accomplish during the crisis.

In order to form a centralized economy or even pay for the services the town is going to desperately need, you need to gain control of most of the "publicly available" critical shortage resources and use them as your basis of wealth. Scarce resources are the basis for a currency system. At a very basic level, Food is cash. Once you have a warehouse of food under your tight control, you can pay for labor and other commodities and resources with that food. A better system might be to pay for labor and services with "ration cards". That ration card entitles them to eat a single meal at a community soup kitchen, or entitles them to a set amount of grain or other commodity on demand from the town warehouse. In essence anyone needing community resources "works for the community" and gets to eat at the mess hall...and earns a little surplus to use for other necessities. This arrangement will also give you a huge manpower pool to work with almost immediately. You may find that you will need most of them.

Avoid giving "handouts" to anyone. You need everyone to work as hard as they can. You need them to use their incentive. Handouts that compete with the local economy are counterproductive and destroy human dignity.

Without machinery, manpower is your biggest resource. Cherish each unemployed citizen. Make them work for their pay and use them to build capital for the future (see below), food production, military duties, messenger services, trash collection or anything else that needs doing. Remember, these are not freeloaders, they are solid citizens who want to work and feel like they are part of a larger effort. Don't worry about having so many people on "welfare". Most of them will get to be self sufficient as fast as they are able. Pay them a slight surplus and they will feel that they are working toward something and not living hand to mouth. You may find that they invest the surplus and build your free market economy for you.

If you let private citizens keep their food and fuel and other scarce resources and only confiscate and control corporate or "large retail or wholesale stocks" (explained below), any citizen with resources can also hire help at roughly the same rates you are paying, which helps the whole community and drives down demand for public stockpiles. (You have established a minimum wage of 1 ration card per hour). Everything else could be bartered using food or the town ration cards as currency. If you establish a set value for your ration cards and a safe marketplace in town (perhaps even a market day, where other communities can join in the trading), you have the beginnings of a free market with as little pain as possible and almost no stink of socialism. Since food is established as the gold standard, you also add incentive to immediately start farming, hunting, and otherwise adding to the public larder.

So where do you get the resources you are going to control? I am not talking about collecting up everyone's food and gasoline. That would be an economic disaster in the long term. People need to feel secure in their property rights or they won't be willing to invest in the future. And you need a lot of private investment to get your community through the crisis. You will need to collect taxes later, but not until there is a harvest or something to collect.

You have to be careful which resources you initially confiscate and only gather large retail or wholesale stocks meant for re-sale. Anything owned by an individual for his own use is his property and must not be touched. Any critical and scarce commodity owned strictly for resale should be confiscated for the common good and held by the community. Make sure you provide a receipt to any owners you can locate or at least keep records of what is taken. This will allow much easier accounting if someone ever tries to rebuild the old

Our free enterprise system has provided the opportunity for some families and even individuals to amass huge fortunes. It also allowed groups of individuals to "incorporate" to form legal entities that own vast resources. In normal times, this is an overall goodness that generates wealth and (at least in theory) raises everyone's standard of living. In normal times, an individual is free to own thousands of acres of land and all the minerals under it. He is allowed to farm it, bulldoze it, burn it, deny it's use to others or use it pretty much any way he wants. It's almost certain that critical resources in your community are "owned" by a corporation or private investor. In theory, a single individual can legally "own" all the arable land in a community and prevent anyone from farming it, even if they are starving.

In an emergency, I feel that this cannot and must not be allowed. Moral imperatives and common sense must prevail over law in some rare cases and this is one of those cases. Private property for use by the individual is morally different from corporate property or privately owned property that is held for the "wealth" it generates. If someone "owns" something and has no intention of ever using it himself (or even seeing it), he cannot morally control it in an emergency. I believe that corporations are legal fictions that have exactly as much validity as the rest of our complex finance system. When the dollar crashes and all the banks close, (IMHO) they cease to exist in a moral sense.

Any corporate or investment property belongs to the state in an emergency. Did that sentence scare you? It does me. But I believe it will come to pass. The state has the ultimate responsibility to answer to the people and has legal power over all corporate entities. The government's charter (by constitution and a huge jurisprudence system) is to provide for the common defense and promote the general welfare. In normal times, this is best accomplished by jealously guarding a clearly documented body of property rights for individuals and corporations. But this is not a universal law of nature. If corporate interests collide with public welfare needs, the government has the right and the responsibility to negate corporate or individual rights for the common good.

As mayor of a community, you are going to have to make some hard choices and convince others that you are right. One of these choices might be to confiscate corporate property and redistribute it as needed for the common good. That specifically includes local merchants who hold stockpiles of needed resources meant for resale, such as gas station and grocery store owners. The whole retail system with it's complex accounting and "ownership" laws are part of a finance system that no longer exists after a severe EMP event. You (and your community) need to sit down and determine a whole new set of ownership rules. I urge you to think hard about this and perhaps appoint someone wise and respected to arbitrate individual cases. Farmable land owned by a absentee landlord is easy; he's not there and owns it only as an investment, therefore it now belongs to the community. Large corporate holdings, like the stock of a chain department store are easy matters. That corporation is dead and gone and the goods now belong to the community. A large Agra-business hog farm is easy, confiscate the hogs and their feed. But what about a silo of corn owned by a Co-op of local farmers? What about a local farmer with 1,000 acres of standing corn clearly meant for commercial sale? What about a rancher with 100 head of cattle? You really have to be careful where you draw the line between private ownership and "retail goods", but draw it you must. Your new government is going to need a lot of capital to survive the tribulations coming.

3. Transportation and fuel
Your police and city vehicles may not work after an EMP event. In my opinion, the testing of EMP effects on vehicles outlined in the congressional EMP report "2008 Critical National Infrastructures Report" was flawed. Their simulator was only capable of generating 50kv EMP and only generated a E1 event, not the (perhaps) more damaging E3 wave. The cars were tested only until they exhibited a fault of some kind and then the testing was halted. Many of the vehicles showed some kind of failure or "faults" at lower voltages, but were never subjected to high voltage EMP, yet the conclusion includes these cars as having survived with no permanent damage.

Also, there is no reason to assume that 50kv is the upper limit in a real world HEMP event, it was simply the limit of the test gear available. I believe the test gear used was strongly influenced by the Master's degree thesis by Louis W. Seiler, Jr., "A Calculational Model for High Altitude EMP, report ADA009208". That thesis, while brilliant, computes E1 gamma burst for the peak EMP at ground zero for a burst above the magnetic equator, where the Earth's magnetic field is far weaker than it is at high latitudes (nearer the poles). Further North or South, the magnetic field lines converge (increasing the magnetic field strength). It's generally accepted that the peak EMP is almost directly proportional to the power of the Earth's magnetic field. That means that real world voltages in real world equipment may easily exceed 50kv. In fact we have some evidence of this. The Soviet above-ground warhead test #184 produced ground zero EMP intensity estimated by Soviet scientists at 350 kV. Also, remember that the cars used in the commission's testing were older cars build between 1986 and 2002. Have cars gotten more EMP resistant since then? No. My conclusion is simple. A lot of cars may not survive a real world event.

If a lot of vehicles survive, fuel stocks may be depleted almost immediately unless you take steps to protect them. I know this sounds draconian, but the police force and emergency vehicles should have priority for fuel and the only way to assure this is to implement some kind of rationing plan immediately. Fuel stocks are a public resource owned by private citizens. Once they are gone, your community may never get any more. This is a case where you are going to have to exercise some emergency powers and appropriate property from private citizens. If possible, you should "pay" for the fuel immediately. If you cannot, at least make sure you give the rightful owner a receipt so you can pay him back later if someone manages to re-build the economy.

Keep your town's vehicles in good shape and look into storing them inside a shielded garage when off duty. Being indoors may prevent some of the damage. If you are able to afford it, buy a reserve fuel supply for the police department. I don't know how much this would cost for a specific town, or how much fuel it should hold, but if you could somehow talk the town into the merits of a municipal reserve to last even a few weeks, it might someday prove very useful. If you bought two tanks, sized to last the police department a month or less, you wouldn't have any extra expense for fuel additives. You could rotate your fuel.

As distasteful as this is to Americans, I can't see any alternative likely to work. You need to seize and ration all bulk stocks of gasoline, Diesel, propane, fuel oil, coal and other fuels used or held by the town. The town will desperately need these fuels for heating, emergency services and agriculture. You may also be forced to confiscate privately owned vehicles if yours are damaged or you need specialty vehicles (like fuel tankers, for instance). You need to work out a method of doing this without stealing. Any time you confiscate resources from any private citizen, you need to somehow reimburse them as fairly as possible. A better approach may be to exclusively hire them as the driver and let them retain ownership.

Your town may also have a stream of refugees pouring through or past it from a nearby city. This is a very bad situation that has to be dealt with immediately. If they have access to your town's fuel stocks, they will drain every drop in a day or two. This may need to be your first order in an emergency. Every hour you delay may be critical. (Refugees are discussed below).

Another distasteful, yet lucrative opportunity you may have is to confiscate fuel (and other resources) from passing highway traffic. Whether you call this piracy or taxation, If trucks are still moving on the big highways, they may contain resources your town really needs to survive. I am not suggesting that this is a moral or desirable option, but someone in your community is bound to bring it up. Think out your position in advance and be ready to argue your point. Personally, I believe that any interference in long range commerce or transportation is detrimental to all of society and also undermines the very laws that prop up your own authority. No matter what you call it, the act of a government stealing is a slippery slope.

4. Water and sewage

Modern towns are very wasteful of water, but can't survive without it for more than a few days. Most people have never thought about how to purify water or deal with waste. If you don't do something quickly, a lot of your citizens are going to start defecating outdoors and many of your citizens are going to drink unsafe water. The results will be catastrophic in terms of public health.

Your town may be in good shape, but probably not. You will want to get some expert advice on this immediately. Many towns rely on pumped water, often from towers in or near the town. If so, you have a few days until the tanks run dry. You will need to figure out a way to keep this system going if you can. You still need to add chlorine and get the water high enough to maintain water pressure. If the machinery for doing this is broken, you need to set a crew working on water immediately.

Some towns won't be able to keep their water flowing and will have to use extreme measures to provide water for their people and deal with wastes. You may have to haul water to a central point and purify it manually, or even set up public latrines and wash points. Without ready supplies of water, most private residences are going to be uninhabitable in the long run. The folks with homes you cannot supply may need to move closer to your water point.

Talk to your water providers now and get them thinking about it so they can come up with options for you. Ask them to do a formal assessment of your town's situation and resources and suggest mitigation strategies for emergencies. What do they need to manually run their system during a power outage? If they can't run manually, you might consider buying a backup generator to run pumps and machinery. (Make sure you budget for a good Faraday cage to protect this generator and keep it disconnected and keep all cables inside the cage until needed). You may need to stockpile fuel or extra chemicals or buy extra equipment that can be run manually. If your town can't afford any of this, You may need to buy some mobile water tanks for the town. Any of these preparations could be very useful during a whole range of situations and natural disasters.

These will depend on your town's system. But you need to keep your eye on the ball. You need to provide at least a gallon of water per resident every day, just to keep them alive. You will need much more than that to keep them healthy in the long run. You also need to tell the community how to get pure water and warn them against drinking or using tainted water. Is your area dependent on irrigation agriculture? You will need to figure out how to supply that water too.

5. Solid waste disposal and burial of dead.
Without fuel, trash collection and burial can be very laborious. These problems would be a lot simpler if everyone lived within easy walking distance of town, but unfortunately this is almost never the case in the US. You may need to solve this by distributing simple instructions on how to do it using old-school techniques. Old homesteaders had an outhouse to deal with sewage, a compost pile to deal with organic waste and a burn barrel (or fireplace) to get rid of burnables. Anything else, they threw in the "trash pile" out back. (The solid trash pile for non-rotting, non-burnable trash was often a used outhouse cesspool, which was then covered over with dirt). On the bright side, municipal rubbish volumes are going to diminish and be replaced mostly with compost-able plant waste. Anything that can be recycled and reused, like old cardboard boxes will be treasured and kept. Our throw-away society will be over.

Burial and funeral services used to be handled very locally at the neighborhood church or even on your own property. Embalming and cremation are modern innovations that will be too expensive to maintain. [JWR Adds: The only exceptions will be in heavily-timbered regions or in coastal communities that are in driftwood deposition zones. There, perhaps there will be plentiful firewood for use in outdoor cremation pyres.] You will need your medical people to oversee and recommend procedures for burial. Make sure they consult the church leaders or you may make problems for yourself.

Actions: Check with a local doctor and have him recommend procedures for waste disposal. Find a way to distribute them and encourage people to follow the procedures by explaining why.

6. Food. (Short term provisioning)
This is going to be a real problem. You need to provide some minimum of calories and nutrition for all your citizens until the community can grow (and the free market can distribute) all the food needed by the community. This is going to be a tall order. Most people don't store a substantial amount of food in their homes and will quickly be dependent on town stocks. Most of the food in most communities is owned by very few people or corporations.

The only way you are going to save a substantial percentage of your population over the short term is to gain control of and ration most of the food centrally. You are going to have to locate and safeguard as much food as possible. you will need to establish a warehouse of some sort and guard it well. Pre-historic villages and other primitive cultures always locate their food stocks in the center of their living space to ensure it is guarded. This might be a wise choice. You may be able to use a church, school or other public building close to the town center for this purpose. If that building also has a substantial kitchen and cafeteria that you can get working again, it will save a lot of transportation problems.

Don't be shocked if your town is forced to fight some other town to keep the food you stockpile. Historically, when food gets scarce, communities fight and take what they need. Be ready for this behavior. I would station my police force inside my granary, in the center of town if possible.

Sources of food you can confiscate or otherwise control:

a. Department stores and food stores: Large food stores are the most obvious place to look for food. They will not last long whether you confiscate the food or not. People are going to either buy or loot everything in a matter of days or even hours. Unfortunately retail stores don't maintain much stock these days. If it's not on the shelves, it's probably not in the back room either. With modern stocking practices, nobody maintains a well-stocked warehouse on site anymore. The non-refrigerated foods should all be salvageable, but if you hurry, you might be able to make use of much of the frozen foods and fresh produce or even salt some away using other preservation techniques before it goes bad.

b. Co-ops and large commercial farms: These may have livestock and large amounts of feed grain and other dried foods on hand. Whoever manages these establishments are also probably experts at food preservation, storage and a whole range of agricultural issues. Seek them out and get their input and help to secure their food. You want to avoid spoilage and loss as much as possible and these people can help. Hire them. You may need to keep the grain right where it's at (and guard it) or provide power (if possible) to dry out the grain or you may need to provide manpower to manually harvest crops. Listen to your experts.

c. Feed stores: Most animals in your community are going to have to be slaughtered during the first year. Save as much edible feed as possible for human consumption. Most feed mixes are good for humans to eat. Even the big bags of dog food should be preserved. You will probably need them. They are mostly grain and if ground into flour and thoroughly cooked, all of them are safe to eat. Alfalfa pellets and other "non-human-food" products may be used to feed livestock.

d. Pet stores. Bird seed is nothing but grain and oil seeds. Most pet foods are edible and should be saved for human consumption. The issue of what to do with pets is going to be a hard one, but logic dictates that the community refrain from using up useful food stocks on animals unless they add substantially to the local economy. However, keep in mind that people get very emotional about their pets. If you try to get people to give up their animals, they may lynch you. (Your commissary should sell the pet foods, just like they do people food. If the pet owners work hard enough to support their animals, you should not try to get heavy handed. Any other approach will put you at odds with part of your population.)

e. Regional distribution centers: If you are fortunate enough to have one or more of these in your reach, you should act immediately to secure them. These centers typically have very substantial stocks of food on hand. Unfortunately, much of this food requires refrigeration and will go bad very quickly. The centers with dried and canned goods will be in big demand very quickly, so you need to dispatch work parties (with lots of trucks) as quickly as you can organize them.

f. Standing commercial crops: Depending on the season, one of the first tasks you need to tackle may be to help farmers with their harvest or planting or other tasks. Modern farms are only manageable with the aid of heavy machinery. Without this machinery, even routine tasks are not possible. Without combines, farmers couldn't possibly complete their own harvests. Without security of some kind, their crops may never make it to maturity. Refugees would strip them bare without your help. You can strike a deal with farmers to bring in their crops and help in return for some kind of payment in kind or a cut of their crop and others in the area. (Remember, most farmers are mono-crop farmers with little use for 60 tons of corn with no market). They may be more interested in what you can provide in the form of machinery, power or labor. Talk to them, explain your situation and strike a deal that benefits both of you.

g. Lakes and rivers: Fishing resources are very limited, but important sources of food in many areas if you can protect them. You need to prevent poachers from destroying their production capacity by over-fishing (maybe with dynamite) or polluting water resources.

h. Bakeries and food processing plants: Processing plants usually have very limited stocks of food on hand, but may have quite a lot depending on what they are making. They may also have usable machinery that can be converted to use.

i. Colleges, Libraries and bookstores. These don't contain food, but they contain knowledge about foraging for wild plants. You may be able to extend your resources by sending out forage parties to collect locally growing wild resources. If you get lucky, you might be able to gather a large harvest of acorns or maple seed or some other highly prolific food species. Appoint someone (maybe a survivalist or old hippie) as "wild food forager" and cross your fingers.

Things to watch for are large grain mills and industrial cooking equipment. You may also find water pumps, power generation equipment, specialized vehicles, lathes, mills, presses and other industrial tools. If you can repair the EMP damage, power them and get them working, they can speed the recovery of your community and really enhance your economy.

Actions: Appoint a good commissary officer. Someone is going to have to oversee collection, storage and disbursement of not only food supplies but fuel, tools, fertilizers, seeds and other resources. Your commissary officer needs to be a very smart, honest person and he or she will need a fairly large staff. They are going to have broad powers, so find somebody that is morally good. Whoever you appoint needs excellent people skills and the meticulous attention to detail of a banker. This same person is really in charge of your whole economy and will probably be in charge of printing currency if you use it. A bank manager might be a good choice. If you have political opposition in the community, this is an excellent place to put them if they are up to the job. Once they are "holding the baby" they will be on your side and won't be able to accuse you of any misbehavior.

7. Heat and shelter:
When winter hits, you may be faced with a grave heating fuel shortage. People staying in private homes may not have access to heating fuel at all. The town council is probably going to have some number of refugees to care for and they require heat too. Your community may use oil, gas, wood or something else for heating and each of them pose their own problems. You will need to think this issue out in the context of your own community situation and come up with some kind of solution. The most efficient solution, of course is to co-locate everyone in a few larger buildings and heat them at 65-68 degrees. Setting up a shelter has it's own problems, but it's easier than trying to heat 500 single family shelters. The public shelter model of setting up in a big gymnasium can work, but it provides a very efficient vector for respiratory and other diseases. If you can provide each family (or multiple families) with a classroom or office room of their own, they will be much more comfortable and resistant to diseases.

Providing a warm place to sleep may be all you can manage. Some homes are going to be difficult or impossible to heat once the power grid goes down and the oil trucks stop delivery. You should make every effort to conserve liquid fuels that will be needed for spring planting and emergency machinery.

Mitigation: Location specific. You may be able to encourage your citizens to switch over to an alternate fuel source (like wood, if your community has a lot of forests nearby). Stockpiling fuel for the town may be a good idea if you can afford it, but this is a temporary solution. Look around your town for some suitable shelter buildings and food storage facilities and check out their heating and ventilation equipment. You may be able to improve your chosen buildings or buy alternate heating systems for them within your budget constraints. Laying in a large supply of cots and blankets is a good idea.

Actions: You should immediately set up a shelter and cafeteria of some kind after the emergency. Schools are probably your best choice for this. You will probably have homeless almost from the start, so you need to get this done quickly. Home fires are bound to be more common and some people who live too far from town will need to move closer to the cafeteria. The more people you can get to move into your shelter, the easier it will be to heat. (Each human radiates roughly the same heat as a 100 watt light bulb. It adds up fast.) Make things easy on yourself and appoint someone competent (a school principal for instance) to administer your lodging and cafeteria. The principal already has a staff dependent on the city payroll. You will probably have to feed your teachers and school staff anyway, so hire them to administer your shelters. Administration of a shelter is a big, frustrating job, so make sure you appoint someone level headed to oversee this effort.

8. Security and public order:
Whatever your town's current situation, you will probably need to greatly expand your security forces. In fact you will probably need an Army. During normal times, your town doesn't have it's own foreign policy or the need to defend itself. With a general society collapse, that changes. Your town will need the ability to fight off raiders or even other communities.

a. Some of your own civilian population is going to get unruly. Even a small percentage acting up can overwhelm your current police force. You need some way to punish them and bring them in line. Jails are inefficient and expensive and not very effective at curbing bad behavior. I suggest a simpler system of corporal punishment (whipping or caning) and for serious infractions or repeat offenders, expulsion from the community. Find a judge or other competent person to set up a simple system of justice that fits your circumstances, take a vote at a town meeting to get public buy-in and then appoint someone to run it. Your police force should be distanced from both judgment and punishment. Judgment and punishment should be accomplished by a different group, perhaps a randomly selected jury or something equally simple and fair.

b. You are going to have additional requirements for officers (or someone) to act as "messengers" to put out policies and community information. Without electronic communications, much more of your business has to be done in person.

c. You are almost certain to have extensive guard duty requirements. You will need to provide point security for foodstocks, livestock, roadblocks and critical resources like fuel, power generation, etc. Your uniformed police force is too valuable to bog down with these security positions. You need to hire out of work locals to augment them with a reliable guard force. (I recommend handing this responsibility over to your military...see below).

d. You may need to put a 24 hour presence at roadblocks or traffic control points to divert refugees away from your town. (see below for a discussion of refugees).

e. You may face a threat from outside polities. If so, you will need an Army or you will be destroyed. You may have to mobilize the entire population to fend off other communities. (see below for a discussion of inter-community politics.)

Your security forces are your "face" to the community. They will represent the town and embody your decisions and authority. You need to keep a tight reign on your police forces or some of them are going to be tempted to take unwarranted liberties and abuse their authority.

One of your first actions should probably be to call your security forces and emergency responders together and reaffirm your covenant with them. You need to reassure them that they are still going to be paid and their families taken care of. You need to get buy-in from them and make them feel they are part of something important and bigger than mere survival. Let them know your plans and your thoughts as clearly as possible so they can represent you well. You should also let them know that you will tolerate no misbehavior. They are your knights and have to act the part.

You should also set up some kind of "military" arm to deal with extraordinary requirements. Call it a militia or a town guard or whatever you want. In essence it's an army. If you have any doubts about the loyalty of your police chief or sheriff, the military arm should report directly to you or one of your representatives rather than falling under the police. All of your authority rests on the shoulders of your security forces, so you can't tolerate any dissension in the ranks or misbehavior. Choose someone loyal and skilled with a military background and good people skills to head up your military. Hopefully you have a retired officer or senior NCO available. Whoever it is will have to be able to effectively give orders to perhaps hundreds of people in an emergency, so choose someone charismatic and smart. He will also need an excellent grasp of tactics and the ability to plan for small scale military operations. Let your military commander hire his own personnel, arm and train them and instruct your commissary and police force to assist him in anyway possible.

Your military commander's first task will be to do some kind of terrain analysis and COA products to determine how to defend the community and try to predict future issues. His second task will be to build an effective military force. It should probably be a small offensive force backed up by a larger irregular militia comprising most of the town. He will need to set up some kind of training program and be able to pay people to participate. Military training is hard work, so don't expect anyone to take it seriously or work at it if you are not paying them. You can put your military commander in charge of all the guard duty requirements to assist the police as well as messenger duties.

9. Foreign relations and refugees:
Every community is going to face the same challenges you have. I expect most of them will fail and fragment. I also expect a huge outpouring of refugees from every city in the USA. City based communities have huge challenges that small towns won't. They have limited options and maintaining order will be desperately hard, perhaps impossible. Every community and group of people are going to face terrible, unsolvable provisioning problems. The ugly truth is, most citizens of the USA are going to starve to death after a society crash. It's simple arithmetic. There will not be enough food for everyone to live. Even if most of them last through a whole season until the first harvest, there is no chance that the first [post-collapse] harvest is going to be bountiful enough to sustain everyone.

The following is going to read like science fiction [a la Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank], but I call em like I see 'em. If anyone can find a flaw in my analysis, then please tell me about it. I believe you can expect large polities to attempt to take resources from smaller ones. If you are the mayor of a city with 100,000 or more people, you have no other choice. During normal times, the countryside (agrarian areas) produce all the food consumed by cities. Once the provisions stop arriving, your city is going to starve very quickly unless you can procure more. Your normal sources of supply are perhaps a thousand miles distant and might as well be on the moon. Your actual chances of sustaining your population long term are zero. If you are a smart leader, you will attempt to save most of your people by sending them to other communities that have more food and water. If you are not so smart, you will attempt to take what you need to keep going from the surrounding countryside and small nearby communities. The best a small community can hope for is that all the large polities (cities) nearby will fail and fragment quickly. If they don't the small communities may be forced to take in refugees or surrender food stocks to support the cities. Either way, the city people are mostly doomed, but if this occurs, so are the small communities.

A medium sized city could potentially muster an enormous army. I am not saying every city is going to manage the level of cohesion, organization and discipline needed to do this, but it's at least a possibility in some cases, especially for cities that have a military base nearby. You also need to consider smaller polities like boroughs or neighborhoods or even church congregations making demands on your community. How will you react when the mayor of a nearby town or city asks you for provisions?

Another probable development I expect to see is the "professional army". Groups may attempt to provision themselves by threatening small communities and extorting "protection" from them. This is another layer of taxation you probably can't afford, but if you choose not to pay, you must be prepared to fight. Think about it and make sure you discuss your concerns with your security leadership so they can form plans.

You can also expect to see a large stream of refugees pouring out of heavily populated areas. If they have vehicles, they will move outward from the cities along major roadways until they can't get more fuel and then stop. If the finance systems are still working, this refugee stream may burn up most of the available liquid fuel in the USA in a few days. If your community lies on a major line of drift, you can expect to have many thousands of thirsty, hungry refugees knocking at your door hoping for a handout. These are going to be US citizens, mothers and fathers, sons, daughters, and grandparents who are desperate and begging. If begging stops working, they will get hostile and dangerous. Maybe very dangerous.

I know this is a very disagreeable topic, but almost every refugee is doomed and you are powerless to change that fact. Think it out carefully and you will see that you simply cannot feed everyone. You are going to have to prevent refugees from consuming your community resources or you will perish with them. You need to stop the stream of refugees from entering your community. Once they are inside your community, they will exponentially harder to deal with. Effectively killing someone by evicting them from your town while looking them in the eye and listening to them beg is going to be hard to do. If you get soft hearted and let too many stay, you will be condemning your community to slow death by starvation. Discuss this topic with your community leaders, especially your security leadership and make them see that there are no alternatives to a strict quarantine. You need to have a plan and execute it immediately or you may be overwhelmed within hours.

One final note on turning back refugees: Do it as far from town as you can. The refugees are going to be truly pitiful and seeing this level of misery will cause your community a lot of pain and distention. You need very hard men to man your line and you need to be careful to leave the refugees another place to go. Don't block a major road. Instead, block a turn-off. It's okay to be as humane as possible and provide water at the roadblock, but you simply cannot afford to give away food or medical supplies. The only people you can let into your town are town residents. All others will have to continue down the road. The men on your roadblock are going to crack up fast, so rotate them often and watch them. This will be the most traumatic thing they have ever had to do.

10. Long term provisioning:
You need to appoint someone to oversee food production. This should probably be completely separate from your commissary department. You need someone with expertise in farming and more specifically, small scale gardening. They need to organize and assist everyone in the community with planting their own gardens and teaching such basic topics as drying, pickling and canning produce. They will also have to oversee a lot of coordination to grow and harvest grain crops and figure out the most efficient ways to store surplus.

Mitigation: Heirloom seeds and fertilizers are going to be in very short supply. If you can somehow trick (or talk) your town into stocking up on these, perhaps as part of a 4-H or school project, your town will be much better off. If you have any say in public plantings for parks or landscapes, try to plant as many food bearing plants as possible. An apple tree is just as attractive as a pine or elm and produces fruit every year.

Actions: Every piece of arable land in the community needs to be planted with something edible ASAP. Without power machinery, this is going to be a real challenge. Every lawn and every empty lot should be dug up and worked in order to build soils, even if it's not planting time. Working leaf litter and plant materials into the plots needs to begin almost immediately. The "Garden Czar" will probably take up the lion's share of the spare manpower in the town just planting city owned lots. He will need to procure hand tools by the hundreds and garden seed, both of which may be in short supply. The tools can be loaned or rented to citizens as needed for their own plots and the seed will need to be rationed out carefully until a stock of good seed can be built up.

The town's citizens may have no horticultural knowledge or gardening skills and will likely not be conditioned for long hours of manual labor. The sooner they start getting their hands dirty the better. Try to hire some skilled gardeners to assist and advise your citizens with their own plots. Building a surplus and a working economy depends directly on their success at working small private gardens.

You may need to pass some resolutions about gardening to prevent land from sitting idle. You can't afford a scrap of idle land as long as you have any seeds left to put in the ground.

11. Building a manufacturing capacity. At some point, equipment and tools will begin to break down. Before that time, you need to establish a manufacturing base that can support your community.

You will eventually need a machine shop capable of founding, forging and machining metal parts and tools. You may need this immediately to repair critical equipment for pumping water or grinding grain et cetera A simple blacksmith shop will be needed to create plows and simple hand tools like hoes and scythes that you are likely to need. You may also need a small foundry and machine shop to create replacement parts for critical machinery. Keep a lookout for likely skilled individuals and hire them to build the town a metal working capability. [JWR Adds: As science fiction writer S.M. Stirling aptly pointed out in his Dies the Fire novel series, leaf springs from abandoned cars and trucks make ideal steel stock that can be used to re-forge into crossbows, plows, small hand tools, knives, and even swords. Leaf springs should be very plentiful for at least one or two generations in a truly post-collapse society.]

You should have someone begin building hand plows and other animal and human powered agricultural tools ASAP. You will need as many as your metal shop can manufacture and I guarantee you will be able to trade surplus plows to other towns within a few months.

You will eventually need to replace or repair clothing. You will have a long grace period while you go through existing stocks from department stores, but within a few years, you will need new fabrics. Appoint someone to worry about fabric production. How do you build a loom? In less than four years, you are going to need a source of fiber and a fabric production capability, especially in cold climates.

Other manufacturing capabilities may be needed as you go along. You may wish to set up a pottery shop or produce adobe brick for building materials or set up a sawmill for lumber and firewood. Brainstorm this with your staff or at a town meeting.

12. Preserving:
A lot of irreplaceable things are going to be destroyed or lost if you don't make some kind of effort to preserve them.

a. Animals: A lot of people are going to be very hungry. Most of them are going to die. I expect most species of large animals in the USA and Europe, including livestock, to be slaughtered for food until they are scarce or even extinct. Think ahead. You are going to need draft animals desperately in a few months. You simply must preserve as many animals capable of filling this role as possible. Dogs are peerless burglar alarms. Cats keep vermin numbers down. Once all the chickens are gone, where are you going to get eggs and poultry? Saving even a small breeding stock of all the useful animals in your community is going to be hard when people are literally starving to death all around you.

Actions: You are going to have to put livestock under guard or they won't last long. Someone will poach them. Any private farmer trying to keep livestock is going to find out just how sneaky hungry humans can be. Someone also needs to start training your working animals immediately. It takes time to produce a working plow team out of average untrained cows or horses.

b. Knowledge: If you don't take steps to prevent it, people will burn most of the books in your town for fuel. I recommend keeping your library open for business. Your town or local school libraries may turn out to be very important for both entertainment and reference.

c. Records: You need to secure public and as many private records as possible. Without them, repairing our current culture will be much more difficult. Birth records, tax records, bank records etc. All of these may have
tremendous value in the future.

d. Art and historical treasures: If your town has any, you should safeguard national treasures for future generations. The very fact that you are making this effort will send a powerful message to your citizens.

13. Medical:
Your existing health-care facilities and drug supplies need to be safeguarded quickly. You will have a very limited stockpile of opiates and other painkillers and mind altering drugs that will be very attractive to some
criminal (or simply addicted) elements of society. Every pharmacy and clinic in town should be carefully confiscated and put under guard. Don't forget the pet hospitals and veterinarian clinics. Appoint a doctor or pharmacist to oversee this effort and support them with whatever resources they require (if you can). Some drugs require refrigeration and may not be salvageable if they are ever warmed.

Hire as many doctors and nurses as possible and set up a public health clinic near the town center. Have them take charge of public health and start an outreach program for self help and public sanitation. If your town has vaccines available, you will probably want to use them up quickly before they go bad. Your community may be able to avoid a lot of misery and casualties if you organize your health care.

Have someone in your manufacturing base or commissary department work with them to replace or recycle medical supplies. Something as simple as a building wood-fired autoclave might be beyond the capability of your health care folks but easy for your artisans.

Also, hire as many pharmacists, chemists and any other scientists you can find. You probably won't have too many of these once they are all accounted for. If you have a few, don't be afraid of tasking them to do some very difficult tasks for you. They are very intelligent folks and can perform miracles if you challenge them. Challenge them to set up a lab and try to synthesize antibiotics, or opiates. Or challenge them to figure out how to improve agriculture in your town or synthesize liquid fuel for your vehicles, or explosives. They may surprise you with spectacular results. These folks are valuable property, so try not to use them as unskilled farm hands or guards. The same goes for engineers. Give them challenging work and have them tackle real problems.

I recognize that most of us are not mayors. We are probably not the ones who will be called on to shoulder the numbing responsibilities of command during a crisis. I really wouldn't care for that job, even in peacetime. When the balloon goes up, it will be hardest on the leaders. Your mayor and police chief will need help. As a prepper, you are in a position to provide that help. How many of the jobs that I mentioned above could you competently fill? I implore you to help them. Having you available as adviser (and commissary officer or military leader, experienced gardener, metal smith etc) could literally make the difference between life and death. Your efforts could make a huge difference to a lot of people.

If your community has any chance at all to survive, those odds will increase exponentially if your leaders have a well thought out plan and make good decisions. Community leaders will need to make timely decisions on a host of issues they have never considered and have the conviction to act ruthlessly. You, as a prepper, have the advantage of thinking about it ahead of time and working out all the details in your mind. That and the skills you have learned can allow you to make a real difference. Will you step up to the plate and try to save your whole community? It seems like a superhuman job and daunting for a mere human. But if anyone can do it, maybe it's you.

Win or go down swinging, - J.I.R.

Friday, August 6, 2010

There was a bit of excitement when we flew the Earth through this last coronal mass ejection (CME) it might be useful for people to understand how the 1859 event was set up to cause such a powerful hit as well as its effects on Earth.

The 1859 Carrington [CME] Event was a very rare perfect storm in space where sci-fi type examples are probably the best language to illustrate what happened.

The sun is a big bubbling liquid death star, it can spew and splash at times with great power. Since we orbit the sun and it has its own spin the plasma splashes will project outward from wherever the solar surface event occurred. Since there is aim involved the "death star" has to be pointed at us, otherwise it just makes an interesting event for solar observatories.

The second factor in a perfect storm is shielding, just like you imagine with the fictional starship USS Enterprise. The first shielding the Earth gets is the existing low speed solar wind. This slow moving plasma literally creates a traffic jam around the sun. A big CME can push this out of the way but it expends much of its energy to do this. The late August 1859 CME knocked the path clear of the low energy/speed solar plasma.

With the way swept cleared by the late August CMEs the early September events were able move at full speed against the earths magnetosphere, our secondary shields in only 18 hours moving at over half a million miles an hour!

Once the high energy plasma strike arrives and sweeps across the earths magnetic field it acts like a a magnet waved across a coil of wire in your third grade science class, electrical current is produced. Any antenna long enough to receive this quasi-DC wave this will resonantly couple and a current will be detectable on the antenna, just like when we receive radio signals, the longer the antenna the better the electrical capture.

To conclude with the abstract science there needs to be a line up of several events to get an 1859 type event affecting you.
1- Sun has to eject a CME directly into the path of the Earth
2- The pathway has to be cleared of low speed plasma, probably by an earlier CME
3- Your electronics must have connection to wiring, pipe, structural conductors, or antennas which will resonate on the longer frequencies a CME produces

The two biggest EMF concerns I read on SurvivalBlog are for automobile ignition and electrical systems and broadcast radio receivers although my greatest concern is for the power grid.

Since it is literally not directly our problem but that of the utility companies we do not much discuss the power grid preps which are now part of the engineering standard for grid power components like transformers. The phone system has been surprisingly well prepared since the 1960s. Gas and oil companies and utilities do a good job of grounding their pipelines. Many parts of the power grid will be disabled in an 1859 event but most components will likely not explode in an flaming explosion, and could be repaired once the manpower is available. I would expect social problems in some areas especially where people feel disenfranchised should the power go out so expect infringement on your civil rights.

Cars and trucks should fare reasonably well since their wire runs are protected by the metal body(exception is plastic and fiberglass body cars) and the runs to vital engine components are mostly less than a meter, a bit short to induce much voltage from EMP/CME versus the energy they must survive every day from startup voltage spikes and induced voltage from the ignition spark system. I question the wisdom of switching over to a points and condenser system for a survival vehicle. I owned many older vehicles in high school and college this may have been a GM problem but wetness in western Oregon off-=road driving always ended up damping out my distributor and required popping the cap and spraying down with WD-40 to displace the water and get running right. Once I installed an HEI (high voltage electronic ignition) system I never had to worry or adjust it beyond timing, my survival escape vehicle would have been at risk were the point dwell out of tune, wear out, or I were to cross water, not so with the replacement HEI system.

Many people speak of having only tube radios for survival should there be an EMP attack. Tubes are fragile and have a very high power demand, but they are very much fun for hobby purposes so I have some tube powered gear myself. If there were an EMP or CME event your tubes would almost surely survive as the inert gases inside the tubes would ionize becoming conductive and allow the high voltage to pass right through just like a neon bulb. A tube radio has other components which are sensitive to damage, I would suspect that some kinds of capacitors and diodes especially on old antique radios would blow in a very high electromagnetic field environment. It is worth noting that the solid state PRC-77 had a higher EMP rating than the similar vacuum tube-equipped PRC-25. There are things you can do with your home electronics like proper grounding, using high quality power line power protectors, using properly rated gas discharge dissipaters on all transmission and antenna lines, and of course disconnecting power, cable television, telephone, and antenna lines during any event. Metal pipes, pipelines, electrical fences, and other long conductors can be sneaky paths for unwanted induced electrical current to enter your home and equipment.

So what to do about CME and EMP emergencies? Prioritize this emergency and the amount of money and work you budget for it against other events of varying likelihood. Earthquakes, economic upheaval, invasion, civil war, energy shortage, mismanagement and misallocation of resources, epidemic, neighbor has a homicidal intent, home burglary, or your driveway is covered in a mudslide and the power lines are knocked down. Some of these are more exciting in a Hollywood action movie way and thus more fun to prepare for, some preps make you more vulnerable to other emergencies. Use a systematic approach using researched and documented information and not just folk wisdom and hearsay for planning your preparations; don't get caught up in emotions like unreasonable fear or fantasies of becoming the regional sheriff or strongman leader.
Shalom, - David in Israel

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

I read the report in the government document regarding the effects of EMP on vehicles. The vehicles were only tested at 20k V/m then up to 50k V/m if they survived the first test. The reason that they were not tested beyond 50k V/m is that is what is the "known" maximum that would be released. The Russians have purpose-built EMP warheads that are speculated to emit 1m V/m to 2m V/m (100k V/m to 200k V/m). These weapons would completely destroy sensitive engine management controls. To put this in a little more perspective, the Starfish Prime test in 1962--that blew out street lamps [hundreds of miles away] in Hawaii--was only 5.6k V/m.

Setting all of this aside we still have a greater threat from an coronal mass ejection (CME) from the Sun. If the United States were to be attacked with EMP weapons it would be bad, but localized to our continent, Canada and Mexico would feel some of the results. If we have a massive CME it could have the same EMP effects except worldwide, and at a higher V/m than any weapon could produce. Nuclear weapons emit 50k V/m voltages in milliseconds, a CME hit could last for minutes. If we were attacked it would be possible we could get help from allies, but if it were to be a solar event the whole planet could be in the same boat.
Here is a segment from a Future Weapons episode that shows a vehicle experiencing just such an event, and it does not restart.

This is why I am keeping my non-computer controlled 1980s era 4x4 diesel truck. - The Last Conservative in California

Hi Jim,
Michael Williamson provides some very usable data, and considering the already existing, grounded shielding built-into vehicles, this resistance of automobiles and trucks to EMP makes sense.

However, most EMP measurements I'm familiar with, particularly after a nuclear detonation, occur in the hundreds of thousands, not just tens of thousands of volts. I think we still need to actively prepare for an EMP event. Besides, the way I store my unused electronics (in Mylar bags, placed in ammo cans, connected to earth ground) and electronic motorcycle components also helps to protects them from fire, flood, etc.

While an EMP event would be classified as "seldom" in a risk assessment matrix, its severity would be off the scale, to the point where those of us with anything electronic, and working, would be perceived as gods. Cheers, - J.E.

Dear James,
I'm responding to Michael Z. Williamson's letter "Real World EMP Effects on Motor Vehicles" regarding the likely outcome for our transportation system after an EMP event. Based solely on the simulations he cited, his is a reasonable view. Unfortunately, simulations aren't the real world, and I doubt our transportation system would hold up.

In all transportation concerns, I place heavy emphasis emphasis on the word system. It's reasonable to regard the transportation system as a living organism, and we all know there are numerous ways to kill any organism. In the simulation, all the cars restarted, and that's comforting. But - one out of 18 trucks had to be towed in for repairs. Here's a thought experiment based on the 1/18 failure rate: I'm assuming that the disabling damage was to electronics, and that the damage rate held nationwide. First, the backlog for replacement electronic parts would stretch into months or years.

Sure, you'd probably find a handful of electronic control modules (ECMs) or the various sensors for any given engine at truck dealers in any major city. Problem is, there are tens of thousands of trucks in proximity to any major city on any given day. If one out of twenty of those trucks failed, it would take a week or two just to tow them all in to the shops. Available parts would quickly disappear into the trucks towed in first. (The lucky recipients might be the tow trucks, for all we know.) And, if components failed on the truck, who's to say any replacement parts on dealer's shelves will be any good? Then there's the still-running fleet's need for ongoing repairs, including plenty of their own electronic issues. Sure, those trucks survived the initial burst, but what would happen to the failure rate of their electronics? Also, how will the electronics manufacturers function after EMP? Will they be able to produce more parts, and what's that time frame? There are further issues, but at least the problem is in focus now.

If one in twenty trucks nationwide were inoperable it would put a serious crimp in just in time (JIT) deliveries. As your readers know all too well, JIT inventories/deliveries are already stretched to the breaking point. Combine that with a bit of nervousness on the part of the unprepared...

Trucks also carry fuel. Minus fuel distribution, the transportation system grinds to a halt in a matter of days. I'll skip past the distribution challenges, and pipeline/refining SCADA issues (all very real, but hard to relate to) and focus on a link we all know well: gas pumps. When you stick your credit card in that slot, you're effectively operating an ATM - an ATM that dispenses liquid gold instead of paper money. ATMs depend on a working power grid, along with functioning Internet/telecom and banking systems to operate. Don't bet on using cash, either - if electronics at the station or in the pump are fried or if the power grid is down, the pump simply won't run. The brain (car computers) may survive, but if the blood (fuel) doesn't flow then your car is dead anyway.

In survival planning, we generally deal with icebergs. It's small comfort that a visible part of this iceberg fared well in a simulation - a government simulation at that! Cars/trucks in close proximity to miles of conductor (power lines, pipelines, rails etc.) may experience much stronger pulses than were simulated. How will they fare, and does it even matter? I say it doesn't. I remain convinced that the transportation system will collapse after an EMP event, and that it will fail at multiple weak links. At least some of the cascading failures would have nothing to do with the vehicles themselves, and some of those would occur in systems I haven't even addressed here.

EMP is a grave scenario, and I'm praying we never find out about it firsthand. As always, James, thanks for your yeoman efforts on the SurvivalBlog.

Regards, - Fred H.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

I distilled the following from another forum:

See the EMPCommission.org links. The auto testing results are on page 112 of that report. They tested a sample of 37 cars. Here is a summary of the results:

Most cars will not even stall. In a test, where cars were subjected to EMP conditions, they tested both with cars turned ON, and cars turned OFF. I quote "No effects were subsequently observed in those automobiles that were not turned on during EMP exposure." NO EFFECTS FOR CARS THAT WERE TURNED OFF during the EMP, they just started right up.

EMP effects on cars that are running: "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." In other words, 90% of the cars would not even stall if they were running when an EMP happened. There were some further effects, blinking dashboard lights on some cars, etc.., read the report to see them described. Over 20% of cars experienced NO effects while running, not even burnt out radios, and to reiterate, for the cars that were OFF, there were NO effects.

Here's the conclusion of the commission for trucks: "Of the trucks that were not running during EMP exposure, none were subsequently affected during our test. Thirteen of the 18 trucks exhibited a response while running. Most seriously, three of the truck motors stopped. Two could be restarted immediately, but one required towing to a garage for repair. The other 10 trucks that responded exhibited relatively minor temporary responses that did not require driver intervention to correct. Five of the 18 trucks tested did not exhibit any anomalous response up to field strengths of approximately 50 kV/m."

An EMP could cause some cars to stall, which could definitely lead to accidents when the EMP happens. Most cars will run just fine, we will not likely see a breakdown of our auto transportation system from an
EMP. - SurvivalBlog Editor at Large Michael Z. Williamson


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Mr. Rawles:
Regarding the recently-posted article on EMP, while some of what Tom S. says is true, some of it is just plain silly. The results of a nation-wide EMP pulse would be catastrophic to be sure. Banking, communications, even food supply
would in fact be disrupted. But to suggest that well organized gangs with armored vehicles would be systematically destroying farm homes and lake cabins is simply preposterous. Please consider:

1. If fuel production is halted, no one is going to get further than one tank of gas outside the city limits.

2. If fuel is still being produced then law enforcement will operate and food production will not be halted and the point is moot.

3. There is a reason the US Army moves its [tracked] vehicles by rail. They can’t drive more than a few miles without the things breaking down.

4. Existing gangs are mostly composed of ignorant teenagers who, while fiercely loyal and ruthlessly violent, do not possess the foresight or the organizational capability to run a sustained campaign based on
foraging. While the older, more structural gangs (such as the Hell’s Angels) might be able to pull it off, once the gas runs out they, like the inner-city Crips and Bloods, will be on foot.

5. In the event of a power outage, jail cells will be locked shut, not open.

6. In order to run a successful raid on even an isolated farm house takes meticulous planning, thorough preparation, lots of supplies, and the ability to perform small unit infantry tactics. If you’ve ever done it, you know that even in the best of circumstances, it is extraordinarily difficult, because it is physically demanding and takes real discipline.

7. The idea that the neighborhood gang is suddenly going to turn into a disciplined force, operating with military precision out to get Tom S. is simply delusional

A fundamental tenet of preparedness is cool headed planning. We can not afford wide-eyed optimistic sentimentalism. However we do not need wild-eyed hysteria, either.

Respectfully, - Andrew B.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Noah may have questioned God about why he should build such a big boat.  To quote the comedian Bill Cosby, God might have asked: “How long can you tread water?”

In the event of an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) burst 250 miles above Kansas or a super solar flare, the loss of the electrical grid would stop almost all food production and importation in the USA.  Some estimate there is, at any given time, more than 1,000 pounds per capita of food in consumable form available in the USA.  Unfortunately, it is very poorly distributed and will not be available to the populace in a “Grid Down” scenario.  So the question is then, if you personally have not stored at least a three years supply of food per person (and, no, a one year supply just won’t due), “How long can you live on a zero calorie diet”?   

Iran, as this is written, has a small satellite circling the earth 250 miles high.  They are building a satellite launching facility for larger rockets.  They have launched missiles from a barge in the Caspian Sea and detonated them at high altitude.  They have tested a sophisticated two point detonation method which allows a much smaller nuclear bomb (reduced payload on a rocket).  They have enough material right now, if further enriched, to build at least 2 nuclear bombs (although too heavy for missiles).  North Korea has enough plutonium for at least 10 bombs, they are making more every day, and they successfully detonated a small nuclear bomb (Hiroshima size) in 2009.  As well, they are developing missile and space technology.  Chavez just met with Putin to obtain nuclear energy and space technology.  Pakistan’s nuclear guru A.Q. Khan is known to have shared nuclear bomb technology throughout the Middle East.  According to Times Now, “Already Pakistan has 60 nuclear warheads, and now with two new plutonium reactors nearing completion in Khusab, its weapons grade plutonium production will jump seven-fold, according to latest figures released by Swedish institute SIPRI.”

North Korea needs money, a lot of money.  Plutonium is one of the most precious commodities on the planet.  Will Pakistan or Korea sell their plutonium or complete nukes?  It does not take a rocket scientist to figure that one out.  Syria has transferred Scud [SS-1] missiles to the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah (Jihadi terrorists).  North Korea is suspected of transferring nuclear technology to Syria, Iran and Myanmar (Burma).  In short, the nuclear genie is out of the bottle and it is all over the globe.  We have simply lost control and now it is only a matter of when, not if.

A super solar storm can do the same thing as an EMP and would have done so in 1859 and 1921 if our electronics had the sensitivity that they do today.  As reported by NASA Science  in May, 2010, “The sun is waking up from a deep slumber, and in the next few years we expect to see much higher levels of solar activity. At the same time, our technological society has developed an unprecedented sensitivity to solar storms….”  Such an event just recently took place.  On April 19, 2010, Science Daily Online observed one of the most massive solar eruptions in years. Earth was not in the line of fire ... this time.”    Again, it is only a matter of time.

A massive cyber attack to the Grid:  "The severity of what we're seeing is off the charts," said Tom Kellermann, vice president of security awareness for Core Security Technologies and a member of the Commission on Cyber Security that is advising President Obama. "Most of the critical infrastructure in the U.S. has been penetrated to the root by state actors." Joe Weiss, a security expert and managing partner of Applied Control Solutions, who has testified before Congress about such threats, said “The industry has failed to address these vulnerabilities.” He said “The long-term ramifications of such an attack would be severe: If electrical equipment were destroyed, power could be lost for six to nine months, because the replacement gear would take so long to manufacture.”   Note:  As you read the following, consider what that six to nine months without electricity and what the power grid really means to our society.

EMP is optimized by the detonation of a nuclear weapon at 25 to 250 miles above the Earth's surface.  An electromagnetic field radiates down to the earth, creating electrical currents.  These instantaneous currents accumulate and migrate on long electrical lines and overheat transformers, large and small.  Breakers are of no use due to the speed of the pulse which is 1,000 times faster than lightning. EMP will cover the wide geographic region within line of sight to the nuclear burst.  A 40 mile high detonation over Virginia would black out the entire East Coast.  A 250 mile high detonation over Kansas would take out most, if not all, of the continental USA.  

The lead time for obtaining a single replacement of the very large “step-up or step down” type transformer is two to three years from overseas (Total worldwide production of these huge transformers is less than 100 per year); there are about 2,000 in the USA that would need to be replaced plus the millions of small transformers (frequently mounted on utility poles) in the distribution system.  There is a huge and perhaps insurmountable problem with almost all electrical power generation plants.  They must be shut down gradually according to carefully designed procedures.  A sudden shutdown from an EMP or super solar flare would cause the destruction of major components of most power plants and, in a grid down scenario, it would not be possible to repair them.  Further,most that survive must have outside power for start up and that outside power won’t exist.  

The point is Noah only had to contend with a boat ride and live off of stored food with no one coming to his door asking for a handout.  We, on the other hand, will be without electricity for many years, able to create very little new food, and will have to defend against a continuous onslaught of attackers.

Even a small nuclear weapon at 250 miles high would permanently take down the electrical grid by shorting out transformers, large and small, because they are all tied into long distribution lines which would pickup, magnify and transmit the surge.  Although cars, computers, televisions, generators, etc. may or may not continue to be operational, a regional or national grid failure would cause a cascade of failures throughout the broader infrastructure due to our highly interdependent systems and “just in time” delivery systems. Even if cars and trucks still ran there would be no new fuel supplies.  The disruption would include communications (radio, television, phones, GPS), banking (including ATM machines and credit cards), cash registers at stores, medical, police (911 dispatching), fire fighting support, fuel and energy (including gas stations), transportation, food production, processing and delivery systems (including farm equipment, fertilizer and insecticides), water for consumption and irrigation, emergency services, satellites and the Internet. The fundamental force behind any and all modern industrial societies is electricity.

A small nuclear weapon specifically designed to produce a very powerful EMP would take out virtually every electrical device that was not protected.  In either case, effectively, the U.S. would be thrown back to the pre-electrical age and 99% of US food production and processing would cease.  Such an event is frequently referred to as “The end of the world as we know it” (TEOTWAWKI) or “When the Schumer hits the fan” (WTSHTF).

There would be immediate loss of access to our money.  Under Martial Law, if communications existed to transmit the orders, there would be extreme limits on access to our money, they would allow maybe a maximum of 5% of funds on deposit to be withdrawn per month, but banks would run out of currency almost immediately, if they were open at all, and would not have access to more.  Currency itself would only have value as long as people believed the government could restore the electrical grid and get things back to normal.  Within a few weeks, when people realize the power will not be coming back on, currency would have no value.  Further, the rest of the world, seeing our hopeless condition, would realize we would have no ability to generate revenue and they would deem the US dollar worthless.  Investments in US stocks and bonds would be worthless.  The value of real estate would be at or near zero.  There would be no access to funds held off shore.  The loss of wealth as we know it today would be nearly total.  Wealth after TEOTWAWKI would have its basis in clean water (and the means to make it), food (and the means to grow and preserve it), fuel, tools and arms and in the knowledge and skills useful in a world without electricity.  Gold and silver may have their place, but “you can’t eat gold” e.g.  If I only have enough food for me and my family to survive, I won’t be trading it for gold or silver.

After an EMP or super solar flare, except for those on life support systems or perhaps in airplanes, there would be no immediate loss of life due to the burst(s). There would be no shock wave or radiation.  For awhile it would seem to be just an ordinary power outage, but gradually, hour by hour, the seriousness of the problem would be realized. Water from the tap would stop very soon if not immediately. Most emergency generators, if they worked, would run out of fuel within 72 hours.  Food in freezers would last a few days then spoil.   Grocery stores would be looted within a couple of days.  Most food in the USA is stored in regional warehouses, and some of it requires refrigeration.  Most people, probably 80%, would choose to stay in their homes for as long as the food in their pantry lasted and they had access to clean or treatable water.  They would be hoping, day by day, that the power would come back on and they could resume their everyday lives again.  When the water and/or food ran out or they were overrun by looters, they would have no choice but to hit the road in hopes of finding food somewhere.  Ninety percent of the US population will run out of food in their homes in less than two months, many in a week or two. They would become refugees.  A refugee is a person who is carrying with them all of their means for survival and cannot survive more than a few weeks without help since they cannot produce new food.  Many would loot, burn and destroy the cities and suburbs while most would hope to find survival in the country believing that farmers have an abundance of food.  Eventually virtually all must leave the cities because there will be nothing left to eat and the means to produce new food there will not exist. (Often referred to as the “Golden Horde” which would follow “Refugee Lines of Drift”. See: SurvivalBlog.com)

Vladimir Lenin is often quoted as saying, "Where there is hunger, there is no law."  In their struggle to survive refugees would first be beggars, but very quickly, with the increase in hunger, they would become looters and spread out like locusts stripping the land of everything edible.  Remember, these people would not be on a simple weekend camping trip. Rather, they and their children would be starving, desperate and probably sick.  They would have lost everything.  They would face a horrific and uncertain future and they would pretty much do anything to survive.  A few may indeed maintain their moral integrity and quietly watch their children starve to death, but the vast majority of refugees will become looters, most of them violent?  Many would be in loosely formed bands for the purpose of overwhelming homes or retreats.  They will resent and hate those who have stored food in advance and feel it is not fair that preppers should “hoard” food while their families starve.  From the preppers point of view they may only have enough food for their own family to survive and to give it away would doom their own family. 

Some “Preppers” will have stored food, fuel and arms for themselves and their loved ones, but unfortunately most will have chosen to do so in their suburban or country home, hobby farm or cabin on the lake.  First, when WTSHTF, the neighbors that knew of your prepping will come to your door when they run low on food, first asking then demanding your food; see the Twilight Zone episode “The Shelter” by Rod Serling who understood human nature.   Second, looting attacks (violent home invasions) will take place again and again and again on every house, occupied or not, as the locust like hoard spreads across the land looking for that last morsel of food.  Remote homes/retreats will be least susceptible but eventually every home/retreat that can be found will be looted.  It may take some time for them to reach the mountain lake cabins, but they will reach them, and overwhelm them all.  The defenders of homes and retreats will be forced to repeatedly kill and dispose of the bodies of the attackers and deal with the heartbreak of their own dead and wounded until they themselves are eventually overwhelmed by a superior force.  No matter how well prepared, the retreat will be overrun.  Why?  There will be a great many attacks from random groups large and small, day and night, day after day, week after week for months.  Also, well organized and well armed groups may note your solid resistance and plan your demise over time since they know you are not going anywhere.  Eventually they will use tear gas, explosives, armored vehicles, etc.  When they want you, they will take you.  The other contingency is that the “attackers” may be the U.S. Military or a local government enforcing Martial Law for the confiscation of food and arms.  Frankly, I do not foresee long term survival unless the retreat remains unknown to all.

Typical homes and cabins cannot be defended well.  A high velocity .308 projectile will pass through the entire house unless it hits a wall stud or appliance and wall studs are typically spaced 16” apart.  Eventually a large enough group or gang will take the house, kill/rape/plunder, transport the goods to their lair and then move on to other targets.  They would systematically attack every home/retreat they can find.  Any surviving defenders will become refugees.  Even with a remote food/equipment cache, the defenders will still be refugees with insufficient food to survive until food could be grown and without the means to preserve it if they could grow it.   Almost everyone who becomes a refugee will surely die quickly from exposure, violent mobs, physical attack, starvation, disease, infection or dysentery (which would be epidemic due to fouled water). 

You may think this is an exaggeration about the vulnerability of your home and our society, but just take a minute here to step out of your house, walk to the street and study your home for a minute.  Imagine you, your brother, and your friend from down the street trying to defend your house at night with two deer rifles and a 12 gauge shotgun against 20 guys with semi-automatic assault rifles, night vision goggles and maybe tear gas and an armored vehicle.  You would be surrounded.  There would be no help from anywhere and you would not have a “snowball’s chance".   They will tell you that if you just give up your supplies they will leave you unharmed.  When you surrender they will have you haul your goods to their vehicles with smiling gratitude then they will tie you up and torture your wife or children in front of you until you tell them where your “secret supply caches” of food and gold are located, even if you do not have one. (For an example in fiction, see the movie Nevada Smith with Steve McQueen.)  The thing is they already know that many retreats have such caches so, until dead from torture, they will not believe that you do not.  They will kill the men, children and older women and take any young women with them.  Yes, in many cases it will be that horrific.  Throughout history it has always been such.

Your home was built completely dependent on services, including sewer, water, electricity, heating fuel and the fuel for your car to get you to and from work and stores.  Without electricity you have no heat, no air conditioning, inability to cook (a large propane tank is an exception), no lights, no water, no sewer (requires water for the toilet).  Without these services your home is a poorly located weatherproof shell that was built the way it was and where it was only because of the “absolute certainty” that there would always be electrical service.  Here is an eye opening weekend experiment:  Turn off all the electricity to your house (except the refrigerator and freezer which would be taped shut), turn off the gas and water and prohibit the use of your vehicles.  You will find out in a hurry about life without electricity.  Now look at your neighbor’s house, think about the houses across town, think of your parents or brother’s house across the country.  All across the nation homes are about the same (about 99%), they all depend upon services that will not be available after the loss of electricity.  And almost all will only have a few weeks to a few months of food on their kitchen shelves, pantry and refrigerator.  Translation, almost all of their occupants will become refugees when the food runs out or when they are overwhelmed by attackers and will die soon thereafter.  All of them.  Again, the fundamental force behind any and all industrial society is electricity.

Think about it:   When you are forced out of your home or run out of food and there is no new food to be had anywhere, what are you going to do, where are you going to go?  This won’t be like in the movies or books, there will be no cavalry, no supplies parachuted in, and no relief trucks arriving just in time.  There will be no help at all.  Over 310 million people in the U.S. will be on their own just like you with almost no new food being produced or imported.  Think of the total USA food supply like a giant hour glass being filled with food production and imports just as fast as it is being consumed.  After an EMP or super solar flare the consumption will continue at the same rate while food production and importation will essentially stop completely.  That means no more new food added to the hour glass!  Perhaps one third of total US food supply will rot due to the lack of refrigeration and 80% of the balance is somewhere in the production, storage or distribution system, none of which still function.  The balance available to the masses will be consumed as it is looted.  The hour glass will be essentially empty for the masses.  For anyone to survive they must have enough to eat until new food could be grown, perhaps the second summer after TEOTWAWKI, assuming you have the means and know how.

Hansel and Gretel were dumped in the forest to die or fend for themselves, probably so their parents could try to feed the then smaller family.  During severe famine in the middle ages this forced reduction in the size of families was not unheard of.  Most of us have no concept of real famine.  If we did, each and every one of us would have at least three years supply of food while obtaining it was so simple, so easy. The representation of the Witch as a cannibal is not a coincidence.  Cannibalism was widespread in the past among humans throughout the world; in many cultures it was an everyday thing even without famine.  Severe famine and cannibalism, however, go hand and hand, for example the Uruguayan Air Force Flight 57, the Donner Party, Siege of Leningrad, etc.  So, when the masses are starving, be careful, they may not look on you as either friend or foe; they may think of you as dinner.
New food cannot be grown until after the violent gangs are gone and those with seeds and know how are no longer afraid of having their gardens discovered.  The first new food probably could not be safely grown until the second summer.  The first crop by inexperienced gardeners without insecticides, fertilizer, equipment or pumped water will be a disaster.  You had better have enough food to get your family through at least until the third year and way more (non-hybrid) seeds than you think you need.  My mother was a teenager in the Great Depression.  She said they would plant one seed for the birds, one for the bugs and one for themselves, but since they could buy seeds, you should add one more category, production of the seeds for next year’s crops.  By the way, do you know how to avoid cross pollination and loss of the usefulness of the seeds?  Do you know how to collect and store the seeds? If you are not doing it now, you probably won’t be able to do it later when your lives depend on it.

After the burst, widespread looting would begin within a day or two in larger cities without containment due to limited communications and totally inadequate law enforcement.  Within a week there would be near total anarchy except in some small towns and military bases.  Well armed gangs and escaped prisoners, with the most brutal and ruthless taking leadership, would essentially take over and loot, rape, kill and plunder every house and food source within their territory no matter how well defended.  In only a couple of weeks these well armed gangs would become very proficient at taking homes and farms and all they could find would be overrun.  Over time, every farm animal of every description would be consumed.  Wildlife and fisheries would be wiped out.  The seed grains needed for next year’s crop would be consumed. Unspeakable atrocities, cannibalism, and torture would be rampant.   The desperate conditions will unleash the darkest side of human nature.  Throughout history, such atrocities consistently take place when there are no consequences in desperate times.  Absolute power corrupts absolutely. 

As we go about our day to day lives it is very difficult to comprehend that any of the people we know or those that live down the street would do such things, but studies such as the “Stanford Prison Experiment” and others have shown perhaps one third of a random selection of emotionally stable individuals will, within a matter of a few days, show brutal tendencies.  Think of that!  One third of the “problem free, mentally stable” people!  Further, these guys were not trying to survive, they were merely placed in a position of near absolute power over others. In the anarchy after “Grid Down”, if the above is any indication, one third of the population (or much more considering the survival circumstances) would become violent predators plus virtually all of the neighborhood nut cases, criminals, perverts and those in prison.  It would be the worst nightmare of the zombie horror films.   The [Los Angeles] Lakers [basketball team] recently won their umpteenth season and there were riots, even with a huge law enforcement presence.  One news report read: “Despite a massive Los Angeles police presence Thursday night, sporadic violence broke out near Staples Center after the Lakers defeated the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals.  Crowds hurled bottles and other objects at police, smashed marquees, jumped on vehicles, broke windows, and set rubbish dumpsters and vehicles on fire…”  But, what if there had been no police presence?   This was a happy mob.

Eventually, over a year or so, these gangs would be killed off by a variety of means such as losses taking retreats, heavily armed organized communities, occasional army units, rival gangs trying to survive, fighting amongst themselves or, when there were no more places to loot or stored food to eat, they would starve to death.

In six months to a year 90% of the US population would be dead.   The higher the current population density of an area the higher percentage death rate since the density of looters and gangs would wipe out almost every prepper, farmer, or retreat no matter how well defended leaving nothing to survive on until food could be grown and leaving very few who have the supplies and know how to grow it.  A much higher percentage will survive in rural Kansas while almost no one would survive in densely populated areas.

What about help from overseas? The USA currently exports a great deal of food to feed a hungry world.  Without those exports the rest of the world will have food shortages.  Some countries may send aid over the short term of a month or two, but over the long term of a year or two, it would be very doubtful since what country is going to starve its own people so that food can be shipped to the USA?  Even if ships are sent, what captain will dock his ship amongst a mob of looters. Even if they docked, how do you unload a container ship with no operable cranes?  Even if you could unload ships, how could you move goods inland with no fuel for trucks or trains?  Even if food could be moved inland, what coastal community would export food when they need it desperately for their own survival?   

It would be far far worse for us now than it was in 1890 because then they had systems in place that worked without electricity such as steam locomotives, horse drawn wagons and plows and lots and lots of work horses and mules.  Most important, they had era farming tools and the knowledge of how to live their lives and store food without electricity.  Just as vital, they had a functioning society with on-going production capacity and supply lines for basic staples. Even the Amish buy staples, they do not produce everything themselves.  After TEOTWAWKI almost no one will have those tools, supplies, sources for staples or that knowledge.  Realistically, the USA could not even begin to support the 1890 population of about 64 million people.  Unfortunately our existence might be more like the Jamestown colony, circa 1609-10 or so with hostiles at the gate, starvation, disease, and massive die offs so severe they called it the “Starving Time”.  It could be like that for us without adequate food storage.

What about the military?  The nation’s military is largely unprotected from an EMP.   Since the early 1990s, “Essentially all our new weapon systems have been built with a waiver for EMP hardening,” says Bartlett, a scientist and inventor who is the ranking member of the House Armed Services’ Subcommittee on Air and Land Forces according to a NewsMax article.

The Military would be pretty much immobilized although they would have more stored fuel and supplies than most.  The good news is that if the soldiers who remained with their units could maintain order in the immediate area of their base, food could be grown the first summer.  Therefore, if you cannot afford to have a hidden retreat, relocating to be close to a military base in a farming area with good rainfall may save you.  The bad news is that while the military won’t rape and plunder, they will take your food, fuel and guns “for the common good”.  Since they could defeat gangs that had taken over regional food storage warehouses they may be able to accumulate a very large supply of food.  They would balance out the food supply and your only hope then is that enough food could be produced for everyone or else everyone would starve together.  Still, it is better than being a refugee with no future at all.

The consequences of an EMP burst are consistently understated. Writers of reports or articles don’t tell the whole story because they either worry about being accused of “Fear mongering” or they are in denial themselves, being unwilling to let their mind take them to the inevitable consequences of a modern society suddenly finding itself permanently without electricity.  Frequently there are articles about the possibility of an EMP and they state that the consequences would be “catastrophic” or “disastrous” or “devastating” without going into detail about what that really means.   What they don’t say is this:  Considering our limited ability to create, process and transport new food without electricity and doing so in a state of near total anarchy, the survival rate would be maybe 10%.  Even Dr. William R. Graham who is Chairman of the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse Attack and who is intimately familiar will all aspects of EMP and the vulnerability of our infrastructure and the EMP effect on transformers, etc. has concluded that a 250 mile high burst over Kansas would cause the death of about 80% of the 310,000,000 US population.  The actual report to Congress, however, just says “Catastrophic”.

Who will survive?  Primarily those who use the "The Art of War" tactics of avoiding a direct conflict with superior forces by using deception and concealment  “The general who is skilled in defense hides in the most secret recesses of the earth”.  Without electricity the majority of the population will either kill each other off or die from disease, exposure or starvation.  The survivors, for the most part, will be those who do not fight at all.  The Golden Hoard or a Government entity cannot fight you or take your supplies if they do not know you exist.  The key is to be well hidden during the six months to a year or so after TEOTWAWKI, then keep hidden as much as possible while you grow food but maintain a high level of surveillance and defense.  This tactic is completely contrary to the Rambo survivalist types with an arsenal at their disposal and an attitude of “Bring it on” for the Golden Horde and gangs.

“There are a few possible survival scenarios presented here in no particular order since each individual must adapt their skills, knowledge and resources to their situation. 
1.  Very remote, well hidden, well armed, well trained and well stocked retreats with enough people to guard and defend the retreat and the equipment and other resources to produce food. Food production could begin by the second summer but if it is far away from where you live, you might not be able to get to it.   ("Patriots"). 

2.  Very small towns that are cohesive enough to band together, consolidate resources and defend against gangs or refugee throngs (as in the novels One Second After and Lights Out).  This is a tactic that would allow food production to begin ASAP.  A defendable town on the coast or a large river would be best to allow fish to supplement the diet.  However, because it will be ruled by a government, they may also confiscate your supplies for the common good.  The Alaska panhandle would be ideal but you “gotta like the rain”. 

3.  Areas in the immediate proximity of military bases where good gardens could be grown.  You would still have to survive some home invasions and looting early on but the military presence could provide the security, technical knowledge, tools, equipment and fuel for food production to begin ASAP following TEOTWAWKI.  You will be under their “anal” direction and have few freedoms, but you and your family may survive.

4.  Those who have stored food and fuel, have access to good water and can stay completely out of sight for up to a year (undetectable fully serviced basement or bomb type shelter).  This would allow a family to live in quiet comfort while the rest of the world kills itself off.  It is much more doable than one might think, see the references section about “Basements”.

5.  Those very rare few who could survive in the wilderness well off any trails and undetectable by smoke, smell or sight for a year or more by placing a large cache of food and survival equipment at a wilderness hide.  While I could survive year around in the Alaska wilderness if I did not get sick or hurt and if properly prepared (having done so), here in Georgia, the forests would just be too “crowded” to keep hidden; the survivor in the woods here would simply be “The Last Man Standing”.

6.  Those who had a well stocked sailboat that could be sailed to the tropics (Watch out for Pirates).  This is a situation where having gold and silver would pay big dividends.

7.  The Amish are wonderfully equipped with tools and knowledge to survive and thrive in the long term without electricity, however, they will be wiped out and their food stocks taken since they do not have guns or knowledge of defensive tactics.  They do not have the ability to survive in the short term against armed gangs.  This is a classic example of the skill sets necessary to survive early in TEOTWAWKI are much different that those required much later in TEOTWAKI but that for anyone to survive in the long term, they must have both sets.  Since the Amish farms function without electricity, when they and the gangs are dead and gone, the tools and systems will still be in place if you know how to utilize them.  Of course, all of the animals will have been consumed.

Others who may survive are refugees with skills useful in a post TEOTWAWKI world who may find refuge in one of the above.  What skills?  Read books about life in 1890 (Lawyers, politicians and stock brokers need not apply but those who could fix a tooth or build a steam engine would be in high demand… a steam engine fired by wood or coal could power a generator to create electricity).  Travel tip:  have a map showing the nearest military base and be there very soon because even the military will have its limits of how many people they can handle.
WTSHTF, at some point each and every one of us must decide if we actually want to survive to a life that would be harder than any we have ever imagined.  But more than that we must decide if we are willing to kill other human beings to defend our food cache and loved ones?  Are we willing to kill others to take food so our loved ones could survive?  What about witnessing the killings, rapes, torture of our friends, neighbors and loved ones and enduring the smell of rotting bodies that goes on without end.  Are we strong enough to mentally go through all of that and keep our sanity and our will to live?  Will we survive the guilt of our own survival when the vast majority has died?  Further, the mental stress after an EMP burst would be monumental.  People would have to instantly transition from the availability of vast amounts of information at their fingertips and information overload to a near total information vacuum.  A great many will not be able to handle all or even part of it.  Even highly trained military personnel do not handle such events well, how can ordinary citizens hope to live through it and stay sane.

What about Mutual Assured Destruction that kept USA and USSR from war?  Maybe but MAD might not work.  There are some fanatics in Iran.  Ahmadinejad has said that he wants to bring about the coming of the 12th Imam: "Our revolution's main mission is to pave the way for the reappearance of the 12th Imam, the Mahdi" – Ahmadinejad. (So what then are the conditions for the Mahdi's arrival? The destruction of Israel and world conflagration).  The threat of our retaliation and the destruction of Iran and the Middle East may not be much of a deterrent in Ahmadinejad’s belief system.  If Ahmadinejad could simultaneously detonate a bomb in Tel Aviv and 6 to 10 nuclear satellites around the globe at 250 miles high to cause the eventual death of the majority of the world’s infidel population and significantly level the playing field, do you think he would?  Are you kidding?  In a New York minute.  He can’t do it yet, but, even though it may take years, Iran is working feverishly on the satellite delivery system and in making bombs themselves.

Of course, our own Sun could beat Ahmadinejad to the punch.  Severe space weather events that we know about originating from the Sun with the Earth in the “line of fire” have occurred in 1989, 1921 and 1859 (geomagnetic solar super storms).  In 1989 only one of the very large difficult to replace step up/step down transformer was destroyed.  The 1921 event was 10 times stronger and if it happened today it would probably destroy all of the large transformers.  The 1859 event was much stronger than the one in 1921.  Such an event could easily destroy the huge transformers that would take years to replace (If the capacity to produce them still existed) which means years without electricity for most of the population.  The problem is, we can’t survive that long.  Scientists consider the recurrence of such a solar super storm as not just a possibility but as inevitable.  Indeed, if the Earth had been in the line of fire on April 19, 2010 we quite probably would be living “Grid Down” in TEOTWAWKI right now.  How prepared were you and your family on April 19? 

Can an EMP burst be prevented?  The Heritage Foundation has written extensively on the subject and it is well worth the read.  At present defensive missiles are in place in Alaska and California to take out intercontinental missiles in the atmosphere from N. Korea.  We must have defensive missiles around the entire USA that are capable of taking out long and short range missiles (such as a Scud  or Iran’s new 1,200 mile missile launched from a freighter like Iran did in the Caspian Sea).  When the “Star Wars” defense was proposed in the 1980’s there were those who said such a defense was not possible because “you can’t hit a bullet with another bullet”, but now the experts say “We can hit a spot on a bullet with another bullet”.  We have the technology to do this.

We should protect our transformers by requiring all new ones to be EMP and solar flare protected (it adds about 5% to the cost).  We could use that stimulus money to retrofit existing transformers, if possible and protect our railroad engines and systems, fuel production, transportation, and electrical generation systems. 

If we prepare now, quickly, two things will be accomplished:  First, there would be a good chance that the civilized world we know today would survive an EMP burst or super solar storm and, two, there would be far less incentive for an EMP strike.  But, as it stands now, if you wanted to destroy the USA whom you perceive to be the devil, you would be salivating at the prospect of launching a few missiles off a freighter in the Gulf of Mexico and causing the death of 90% of the US population.  For those who wish to destroy us it has to be positively orgasmic and we should absolutely not underestimate their resourcefulness.  Remember, they have access to all of the EMP information you and I do and probably much more.  They also have the ability to coordinate a massive cyber attack on the electrical grid which is extremely vulnerable.

That said, the nuclear genie is indeed out of the bottle.  Al-Qaeda is said to control 80 freighter ships.  It is only a matter of time before organized terrorist groups obtain a bomb that they can sail into one of our port cities.  A crude bomb from Iran’s uranium would weigh a few thousand pounds.   The fact is, we will have to accept the horrific reality that, from time to time, a major coastal city will be nuked from a freighter or small submarine, terrorists have both.  Such is the reality of the failure to contain the nuclear genie.  They have the desire to kill every man, woman and child in the USA and they have the means to deliver a nuke to our coastal cities; they just need the nuke.

What would be so difficult about having someone like “Jihad Jane” purchase a good sized boat with a dock slip at Gangplank Marina on the Potomac River in Wash. D.C., motor out through Chesapeake Bay to the ocean to pick up a nuke from a freighter at night then arrive at Gangplank Marina on a weekday afternoon and detonate it ?   

If one of our cities is nuked, the nation will be under martial law.  If your retreat is very far away, the police or military may prevent you from getting there.  If you live anywhere on either coast they will probably not let you exit inland.  Both politicians and the military have shown their propensity to confiscate guns at such times and most certainly will do so again.  Further, the “temporary” martial law may well become permanent.  Your stored food may be deemed “Hoarding” and be confiscated in an unconstitutional but nonetheless real house to house search performed by guys who are looking for secret hiding places.  You do not want these people to be able to find either your beans or your bullets because, even under permanent martial law, we may still be hit by an EMP burst or solar storm or another coastal nuke.   

The world is different today than ever before.  The basic problem in our psyche is that we have the “white hat” cowboy mentality; we never throw the first punch, we never draw the gun first; we wait for the bad guy to shoot or draw and only then do we react.  This time, if we wait for them to strike first with an EMP without being well prepared, this country, as we know it, will cease to exist.  Our military may well destroy their country in retaliation, if they knew where the nuke(s) came from, but the above EMP scenario will still take place here regardless of what happens to the other guy later.

During the cold war we lived with the fear in the back of our minds that one day there may be Global Thermonuclear War that would destroy the world.  However, while Global Thermonuclear War is still a possibility, a super solar storm, EMP burst and/or nuked coastal cities are eventual certainties.   Nuking a coastal city is easiest and most likely, of course, but our unconscionable lack of preparation makes an EMP burst so appealing they will do everything in their power to make it happen.

Noah knew he could not tread water for long and built the Ark.  Since people cannot live on a zero calorie diet for long and the Federal Government, who’s primary duty is to protect us, is doing nothing to prevent or prepare for an EMP, super solar flare or cyber attack, we all had better store at least three years of beans, band aids, bullets and benzin.  In other words, become a “Prepper”, but do so wisely, very well hidden and very very secretly.

“If you think the unthinkable and devise plans to survive, then when the unthinkable occurs, you are prepared and will make the correct choices automatically.” (SurvivalBlog.com)   A basic rule of thumb in survival situations is that 10% will do the absolute wrong thing, 80% will do nothing and wait to be led, while 10% do the right thing. 

An EMP, a massive cyber attack, and a nuked coastal city are all possible but a super solar flare is inevitable.  Just a word of caution here, once you let yourself think about such threats and project the inevitable outcomes of life here in the USA without electricity, it is very difficult to get your mind back inside that “denial” box."- Tom  S.

About wood stoves:  Having lived in an Alaskan cabin with only wood heat for four years I know that the smoke makes it very difficult to keep your presence a secret.  Even a year or two after TEOTWAWKI you still will want to keep your existence as secret as possible, therefore do not use just any wood stove; use the 95% efficient and virtually smokeless wood stoves available that, with very dry wood, produce almost no smoke.  Further, use wood fuel that does not have a strong odor such as birch and avoid those that do such as cedar or some hardwoods.  For wilderness survival there is nothing better than a small fan forced wood stove such as the Sierra stove or similar.  I have used these on extended Alaska camp-outs with the Boy Scouts with great success and always unlimited fuel.  Because they are fan forced they are very good at burning any wood and producing almost no smoke.  This type of fan forced fire is very useful for surviving in the wilderness or, with larger versions and side feed, using outside your retreat to process food.

Basements:  Undetectable fully serviced basements/retreats:  A family or group in an undetectable basement or bomb shelter can survive in quiet comfort while the rest of the world kills itself off without the tear jerking confrontations from starving beggars, violent confrontations with gangs, looters or the military.  And yes, it is very possible. 

I once saw an article about a family who bought a house and after living there for two years discovered there was a full basement under the house.  The previous owner had sealed up the stairs going down and filled in the small windows that had previously been visible.  Why did he do that?  He was hiding a flooded basement.  So, if a basement can be invisible to someone who actually lives in a house for over two years, what would it take to make a basement invisible to looters and gangs who would be there for less than 30 minutes?   That will be the subject of a separate article.

Selected References:

SurvivalBlog.com, numerous writings

Electromagnetic Pulse Weapons: Congress Must Understand the Risk” by Baker Spring, Heritage Foundation WebMemo #2822

"Report of the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack," Volume 1: Executive Report, 2004

"Report of the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack: Critical National Infrastructures," April 2008
Executive Report (See the EMP Commission web site.)

From the Executive Report Summary:  “However, now even a single, low-yield nuclear explosion high above the United States… can produce a large-scale EMP effect that could result in a widespread loss of electronics, but no direct fatalities, and may not necessarily evoke a large nuclear retaliatory strike by the U.S. military. This, coupled with published articles discussing the vulnerability of U.S. critical infrastructure control systems, and some U.S. military battlefield systems to the effects of EMP, may create a new incentive for other countries to rapidly develop or acquire a nuclear capability.”

“The electrical power system has become virtually fully dependent upon electronic systems working nearly flawlessly. The overall system reliability is testimony to the skill and effectiveness of the control systems. However, the lack of margin (combination of generation and transmission margins) results in making catastrophic cascading outages far more likely, and should the electronics be disrupted, the system is highly likely to fail on a broad scale. Thus, the small margin and reliance on electronics give rise to EMP vulnerability.”

“All production for these large transformers used in the United States is currently offshore.  Delivery time for these items under benign circumstances is typically one to two years.  There are about 2,000 such transformers rated at or above 345 kV in the United States with about 1 percent per year being replaced due to failure or by the addition of new ones. Worldwide production capacity is less than 100 units per year and serves a world market, one that is growing at a rapid rate in such countries as China and India. Delivery of a new large transformer ordered today is nearly 3 years, including both manufacturing and transportation. An event damaging several of these transformers at once means it may extend the delivery times to well beyond current time frames as production is taxed. The resulting impact on timing for restoration can be devastating. Lack of high voltage equipment manufacturing capacity represents a glaring weakness in our survival and recovery to the extent these transformers are vulnerable….”

“Many electric generating plants would be severely damaged by uncontrolled shut down.  Almost none, even if not damaged, would be able to restart without external power.”

“EMP is one event that may couple ultimately unmanageable currents and voltages into an electrical system routinely operated with little margin and cause the collapse of large portions of the electrical system. In fact, the Commission is deeply concerned that such impacts are certain in an EMP event unless practical steps are taken to provide protection for critical elements of the electric system and to provide for rapid restoration of service, particularly to essential loads.”

“The current strategy for recovering from such failures is based on the assumption of sporadic failures of small numbers of components, and for larger failures, drawing on resources from outside the affected area. This strategy leaves us ill-prepared to respond effectively to an EMP attack that would potentially result in damage to vast numbers of components nearly simultaneously over an unprecedented geographic scale.”

“The Commission has concluded that the electrical system within the NERC region so disrupted will collapse with near certainty. Thus one or more of the three integrated, frequency-independent NERC regions will be without electrical service. This loss is very large geographically and restoration is very likely to be beyond short-term emergency backup generators and batteries. Any reasonable EMP event would be much larger than the Texas region so basically the concern is the Eastern and Western regions with Texas either included or not depending upon the location of the weapon. The basic threat to U.S. society that moves an EMP event from a local or short-term adverse impact to a more prolonged and injurious event is the time it takes to restore electrical and other infrastructure service.

North American Electric Reliability Corporation three regions, Texas, West and East.  All of these collapse mechanisms acting simultaneously provide the unambiguous conclusion that electrical power system collapse for the NERC region largely impacted by the EMP weapon is inevitable in the event of attack using even a relatively low-yield device of particular characteristics.

EMP attack on the electrical power system is an extraordinarily serious problem but one that can be reduced below the level of a catastrophic national consequence through focused effort coordinated between industry and government.”

Independent Working Group, "Missile Defense, the Space Relationship, and the Twenty-First Century," 2009 Report, p. 130, at

Rawles, James Wesley, "Patriots: A Novel of Survival in the Coming Collapse", Ulysses Press, 2009           

Forstchen, William R., One Second After, Tom Doherty Assoc., 2009

Lights Out, by Half Fast (formerly an Internet e-novel, now being published)

CBS Twilight Zone episode The Shelter

Brieitbart.com  “Spies compromised US electric grid”, Associated Press

Severe Space Weather Events—Understanding Societal and Economic Impacts Workshop Report Committee on the Societal and Economic Impacts of Severe Space Weather Events: A Workshop, National Research Council

“EMP Attack Would Send America into a Dark Age”  “EMP Attack Would Wipe Out U.S. Military”, NewsMax, Monday, 28 Sep 200

Some key quotes:

“An estimated 80 percent of the population would die within a year of an EMP strike from starvation or disease or would freeze to death, according to William Graham, who was chairman of the congressional Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse Attack.”

“The nation’s military is largely unprotected in the event an enemy launches a nuclear bomb that would fry microchips and the power grid with an electromagnetic pulse (EMP), Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., tells Newsmax.”

“Since the early 1990s, “Essentially all our new weapon systems have been built with a waiver for EMP hardening,” says Bartlett, a scientist and inventor who is the ranking member of the House Armed Services’ Subcommittee on Air and Land Forces.
“If an enemy used an EMP enhanced weapon — and Russian generals told our EMP commission that they had developed weapons which emit 200 kilovolts per meter weapon — I’ve been assured by experts in the area that everything would be down,” says Bartlett, who has been the leading member of Congress fighting to recognize EMP as a threat.”

In fact, “One of the first things [an enemy] would do is an EMP laydown to deny you the use of all your equipment which is not EMP hardened, which is essentially all our equipment,” Bartlett says. “They don’t harden against EMP any more.”

The Stanford Prison Experiment:

The Stanford prison experiment was a study of the psychological effects of becoming a prisoner or prison guard. The experiment was conducted in 1971 by a team of researchers led by Psychology Professor Philip Zimbardo at Stanford University. Twenty-four undergraduates were selected out of 70 to play the roles of both guards and prisoners and live in a mock prison in the basement of the Stanford psychology building. Those selected were chosen for their lack of psychological issues, crime history, and medical disabilities, in order to obtain a representative sample. Roles were assigned based on a coin toss.

Prisoners and guards rapidly adapted to their roles, stepping beyond the boundaries of what had been predicted and leading to dangerous and psychologically damaging situations. One-third of the guards were judged to have exhibited “genuine” sadistic tendencies, while many prisoners were emotionally traumatized and two had to be removed from the experiment early. After a graduate student (prisoner #819) broke down from the inhumane conditions in the prison, and realizing that he had been passively allowing unethical acts to be performed under his direct supervision, Zimbardo concluded that both prisoners and guards had become too grossly absorbed in their roles and terminated the experiment after six days.

Milgram, Stanley, 1974 book, Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View.  Milgram described experiments conducted at Yale University in 1961after the start of the trial of German Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem. Milgram devised his psychological study to answer the question: "Was it that Eichmann and his accomplices in the Holocaust had mutual intent, in at least with regard to the goals of the Holocaust?" In other words, "Was there a mutual sense of morality among those involved?" Milgram's testing suggested that it could have been that the millions of accomplices were merely following orders, despite violating their deepest moral beliefs.  He set up an experiment and showed that most ordinary people can become accomplices in killing totally innocent individuals. 
Tom Peters and Robert H. Waterman Jr wrote in 1981 that the Milgram experiment and the Stanford prison experiment were frightening in their implications about the danger which lurks in the darker side of human nature.

33 Minutes   Protecting America in the New Missile Age (2008) by The Heritage Foundation, 214 Massachusetts Avenue, NE, Washington, DC 20002 Ph. (202) 546-4400

Food production and life styles in the USA in 1900 compared to life today:

In 1900, 39 percent of the U.S. population (about 30 million people) lived on farms; today that percentage has plummeted to less than 2 percent (only about 4.5 million people).  The transformation of the United States from a nation of farmers to a nation in which less than 2 percent of the population is able to feed the other 98 percent is made possible only by technology.

Human survival without food:

Physical condition, age, amount of fat, and air temperature are major factors but an absolute deprivation of food, on average, will greatly diminish a person’s capacity for physical work within a few days. After 4 to 5 days without food, the average person will suffer from impaired judgment and have difficulty performing simple intellectual tasks. After two weeks without food, the average person will be virtually incapacitated. Death typically results between 30 to 60 days with a few being able to last up to 70 days.  This is without any physical activity and plenty of good water.

Irish Hunger Strike of 1981

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

I've often written in SurvivalBlog about the over-dependence of modern societies on technology. Our level of dependence on high technology is large, and steadily growing.

Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle summed up over-dependence on technology in their novel Lucifer's Hammer:

"Whole nations depends on technology. Stop the wheels for two days and you'd have riots. No place is more than two meals from a revolution. Think of Los Angeles or New York with no electricity. Or a longer view, fertilizer plants stop. Or a longer view yet, no new technology for ten years. What happens to our standard of living? Yet the damned fools won't pay ten minutes' attention a day to science and technology. How many people know what they're doing? Where do these carpets come from? The clothes you're wearing? What do carburetors do? Where do sesame seeds come from? Do you know? Does one voter out of thirty? They won't spend ten minutes a day thinking about the technology that keeps them alive."

So what happens when the grid goes down? Thirty or forty years ago, if the power grids collapsed, there could still be considerable commerce transacted. But today? I think not. It would be la fin du monde tel que nous le connaissons. So much of our daily commerce is tied to electronic cash registers, ATMs, computerized inventory control systems, point-of-purchase credit card transactions, debit cards, and the Internet that I have doubts that there would be an easy transition in reverting to "the old way of doing business." Furthermore, many retail stores in the US and Canada are now housed in almost windowless buildings constructed with tilt-up slab architecture. So even if businesses wanted to stay open in the midst of a power failure, they couldn't, because there wouldn't be enough daylight to see the merchandise.

Technological Complexity

Part of our dependence on technology is tied to the increasing complexity of the technologies themselves. With each passing year, the complexity of high tech systems increases. Some of this complexity contributes to redundancy and robustness, but most of it does not. Do you really need an electric clothes dryer with microprocessors? Or a toaster with a microprocessor? Don't laugh, many of them are now made that way. As an illustration, when I recently bought a slightly used pickup truck , I felt obliged to buy an extended warranty, but only because it was a 2009 model with an absurd number of "bells and whistles." It seems that there are no longer "stripped down" models available. Almost all the new rigs come with power windows and so many electronic gadgets that the owner's manual is nearly an inch thick! There is so much complexity built into this vehicle, that the likelihood of a failure of some sort (electronic, or mechanical) seems very likely. This a is a far cry from my fondly-remembered 1968 Ford Bronco. There wasn't much that could go wrong with it, and the few items that did fail were all owner serviceable.

The miniaturization of microcircuits has changed considerably in the past 30 years. The typical gate sizes of microcircuits has been reduced from two or three microns, to far less than one micron. The smaller the gate, the easier it is for a stray voltage to "weld" it shut. This has made microchips increasingly vulnerable to static electricity, electromagnetic pulse (EMP) and solar flares.

Many systems in a variety of industries have been developed that are completely dependent on computer controls. There is no reversion available for "manual backup." Without the CPUs, you have a dead system.

Logistical Complexity

As I've discussed before in SurvivalBlog, we now live in a world with very long chains of supply and just in time (kanban) supply chain management. Meanwhile, container ship docks are now being transitioned to computerized management.

Financial Complexity

Derivatives. That sums it up in just one word.

Medical Care Complexity

One of the blessings of the modern age of science is life extension through medical technology. But it has also become one of our vulnerabilities. If the grids go down, so will millions of Americans with chronic illnesses. Here are some examples: Millions of people now depend upon medical oxygen--both in clinical environments and at home. At least 11,000,000 people in the US and Canada have been diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) -- the catch-all term now used for chronic emphysema and bronchitis. Most of them are on medical oxygen, and some of them 24/7. More than 100,000 patients get heart pacemakers implanted each year in the United States. Nearly 24,000,000 people in the United States have diabetes, many of whom require regular insulin injections. More than 500,000 people in the U.S. are classified as having End-stage Renal Disease (ESRD). The number of newly diagnosed cases has roughly doubled in the past 10 years and the same has happened in Canada. Without regular kidney dialysis (or a kidney transplant), many of them would die within a few months. There are also millions of Americans that have severe sleep apnea, who use CPAP machines. For a small percentage of them, without a CPAP machine running every night, they would have complications and die. There are about 500,000 Americans that have had various "ostomy" procedures like urostomy, colostomy and iliostomy. Many of these patients are on very restricted diets, and many need specialized appliances. And of course there are also many millions of Americans that are dependent on daily doses of various medications.

In summary, any large societal disruption that interrupts the power grid and/or the supply infrastructure would result in a large die-off of patients with chronic illnesses.


We've built ourselves an enormous complexity trap. And for most of us, the severity of this won't become apparent until after the grids go down.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

One question comes to mind, does his basement have a restroom, or is he relying on a honey bucket? Also, how does he intend to deal with cooking odors [both good and bad?] Might be a huge tip off in a SHTF situation. Thanks, - Greg L.

Most of us have furnaces, A/C and hot water heaters in our basements, and they require seasonal maintenance by outside contractors. The description from Jeff W. sounds like he may have restricted access to these devices (180 degree turn at the bottom of the steps), or they're not in the basement...

How did Jeff W. overcome this problem? - Dave in Missouri

Hi Jim,
I just had to respond to this piece. There are three glaring omissions that will turn this place into a nightmare in short order. The first is air circulation. Without an air exchange system, there will be CO2 build up that will make the place unbearable and dangerous. Cooking will be out of the question. The second problem is waste management. In a month, the smell will be bad, the flies worse and the prospect of disease a reality. It would take a power source to run a pump to push sewage into an existing system. The final problem is likely to be moisture. Even if rain does not actually run into a basement, moisture is a reality in underground living. Best wishes, - Kathy Harrison (author of Just in Case: How To Be Self-sufficient When The Unexpected Happens)

JWR Replies: The challenges mentioned are significant, but not insurmountable. A fairly small DC "muffin" fan that is powered by an alternative power system battery bank can provide plenty of outside air, but of course you'll need a corresponding size outlet. Ideally, a more sophisticated DC and hand-powered air pump (with a HEPA filter for NBC events) should be added, as your budget allows.

See my lengthy response to a 2007 letter in the SurvivalBlog archives for some recommendations on minimizing cooking odors.

Depending on your water table and time of year, and manual sump pump, or one powered by an alternative power system battery bank would be appropriate.

For most family shelters, I recommend getting a Luggable Loo Portable Toilet. These toilet seats fit on a standard 5 or 6 gallon HDPE bucket. Depending on how many people you will have in your shelter, and the expected duration, you'll need to lay in a corresponding supply of additional buckets with lids. (The inexpensive non-food grade buckets from places like Home Depot work fine.) For planning purposes, keep in mind that the accumulated volume of urine will be greater than the volume of fecal matter and toilet paper. When each bucket becomes nearly full, move the toilet seat to a new bucket, and tightly seal a lid on the full one. To cut down on odors, keep a sack of powdered lime available, to sprinkle over the feces, immediately after each use. The lime you'll need is the calcium hypochlorite type, a.k.a. Ca(ClO)2, which is made from chlorinated slaked lime. this is available from many feed stores and farm/ranch co-op stores.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

James Wesley:
The House of Representatives yesterday passed the "Grid Reliability and Infrastructure Defense Act" which is "intended to bolster that national electric grid against terrorist attacks, cyber threats, electromagnetic
pulse weapons and solar storms. The Act authorizes the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to issue emergency orders to protect critical electric infrastructure, and to take other measures to address current
and potential vulnerabilities."

Given the speed at which government moves, I don't think I'll be unpacking my bug out bag or getting rid of my food stores! - Michael H.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The article on perennial food sources was both timely and excellent! Kudos. We are already planning to introduce many of the species into our farm.

Next, a question. Since your book "How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It" has caused me to re-think several things -- and after I have spent 20 years being a prepper --I figured I should buy your book "Rawles on Retreats and Relocation". Chapter 14 is of special interest to me right now as we are building a snug little adobe house on the farm we just bought. We don't want to call it a cement bunker do we?

Chapter 14 [of the book] is a good starting point but I was wondering if you have a source of more detailed information. I've researched many different "housing styles" around the world and across time. But turning them into a modern grid independent house.

There is the crux of the matter: I was wondering if in addition to the books you listed there might be others. Or if you know of a good architect you have worked with to create a "green" off grid bunker?

We envision a semi-buried adobe style house that will have a full basement and a bunker off of the basement (for NBC protection) as well as a flat roof. We are in a low rainfall area. This provides a place to mount PV panels, and a flat roof with a solid wall around it gives us a good "high ground" to defend the house from.

But we are open and interested in contacting anybody who might have professional experience building such a retreat house.

JWR Replies: Three of SurvivalBlog's advertisers could assist you:

  • Safecastle specializes in combination walk-in vault/fallout shelter/storm shelter rooms, both below grade and above grade.
  • Hardened Structures is an engineering and architectural firm that does "start to finish" hardened retreat home design and construction management.
  • Ready Made Resources can help you specify and assemble a complete off-grid power setup. They do free consulting on alternative power systems.

I also recommend that you get a copy of the book The Secure Home by Joel Skousen. Also, keep in mind that there are also more than 450 articles in the SurvivalBlog archives that relate to retreat security. There are some real gems there--everything from thorny bush and cacti plantings to ballistic hardening.

Friday, May 28, 2010

I have been reading the novel One Second After by William R. Forstchen. I just finished it. Whew, what a heavy book. I decided to write it up as a "lessons learned" book review. A couple of you may be wondering why I sent this to you. Well, I just thought of you and know you to be like-minded ... I think. That is, concerned about what the future holds for us as a nation, as crazy and uncertain as things are getting in the world. I've been following the elctromagnetic pulse (EMP) threat for a couple of years now and regrettably, just now made myself purchase my own copy of this novel and read it.

My initial reaction, to get to the point, is that it is my hope is that each of you will buy a copy of this novel for your own personal libraries. It should go on the "Mandatory Reading" list, right next to "Patriots: A Novel of Survival in the Coming Collapse" , by James Rawles.

EMP is a very real threat, as is the threat of a major economic collapse, as addressed in Rawles' novel, "Patriots".

Since I expect most all of you will acquire your own copy, I'll spare the commentary of the characters' specific experiences, and get to what I gleaned as "lessons learned." I'd love to hear feedback from each of you and know your thoughts.

This is an insightful, well-thought-out and researched novel. Dr. Forstchen is extremely knowledgeable and is a respected subject-matter expert on the topic of EMP and has a web site dedicated to his research.

Also, consider checking out this video. There are lots of videos of interviews with Dr. Forstchen

Also, separate from the book and author, this piece on future weapons.

In my opinion, this author has a keen sense of human behavior, especially in stressful and traumatic situations; an acute sense of the sociological implications of an event such as an EMP attack. I think that he is extremely accurate in his assessment of what our culture could be reduced to in the event of this type of catastrophic event. The novel gives one a lot of food for thought regarding steps that could be taken to lessen the blow of such an event ... at least, on a personal/family level.

Lesson 1: Never, ever, ever, if you have any choice at all become a refugee. Do everything within your power not to let your family become refugees. Remember the television series, Jericho? But we've seen it real world, in Sudan, Haiti, Chile, Mexico, Hurricane Katrina, and as far back as WWII, through Korea, Vietnam, and on and on. If you think you've got it bad in your hometown or neighborhood, you should count yourself lucky to have one (home or neighborhood).

Lesson 2: Have enough supplies stored up to last you and your family one year. That means food, water treatment capability, first-aid/medical supplies, toilet paper, .22 ammo, etc. Do not depend upon wild game (deer, elk, grouse, squirrel, etc.) in your survival plan. In a serious situation, such as described in this novel, 30,000 other people are going to have the same secret idea, and there will be no wild game to be had, and in short order.

Lesson 3: Be able to produce your own food when your food stores run out. Seeds, saws and knives for dressing game, chickens, rabbits, etc. The supplies are there to last until you can start producing your own. Be able to preserve it, as well. Learn about canning and preserving and stock up on the supplies.

Lesson 4: Security: Be able to defend your family if you have to. The ol' lever action .30-30 is great for knocking down a deer. But have something serious on hand. Perhaps one of those kinds of firearms that make the uninitiated ask, "why would a civilian ever have a use for something like that?" Because when you do need something like that, there is no substitute. And then pray you never have use for it.

Lesson 5: Security 2: If you think you can make it on your own in a TEOTWAWKI situation, you and your family will die. That simple. The exception is some family living remotely in a valley in Alaska somewhere. Otherwise, better start figuring out now who you might want to band together with ... friends, family, etc.

Lesson 6: Keep a survival kit in your vehicle. If for some reason you have to abandon your vehicle to get home, have the supplies to get there fast. Don't forget loose, non-descript clothing and comfortable shoes. Food, water, shelter, tools, and a weapon of some sort. You can go to YouTube and look up keywords such as G.O.O.D. Bag, Bugout Kit, Urban Survival Kit, etc.

Lesson 7: As with many natural disasters in the past, and a worst-case scenario such as an EMP attack, computer banking systems go down and cash transactions will be the only transactions. Have cash on you at all times. At least $100 in small bills. ($1's, $5's, $10's, and a $20 bill or two.) Never bring it all out at once. Make it appear that it's the last of your money. If you know something bad went down, and you are safely able to, make a B-line for the store and stock up on perishable items that you couldn't stock up on much, such as cooking oil, brown sugar, batteries, gasoline, medications, etc. Make a list of "grab from the store" items now. Purchase those items in the first minutes or hours while everyone else is still dumbfounded and trying to figure out what just happened.

Lesson 8: Try to protect electronic equipment now. Even if you purchase a couple of FRS radios just to stash away. A short-wave radio, a ham radio transceiver, or a scanner, etc. There is a ton of information out there about EMP hardening, such as Faraday cages to protect electronics from EMP. Those with communications will have huge advantages over those who do not. Do you have an old ([early] 1970s or earlier) car, motorcycle, mo-ped, etc. that does not have electronics built into it? Hang on to it, or get it running and stash it away. Mobility would be a valuable resource.

Lesson 9: Have a safe place to go to. If you have family or friends with property, or know someone who lives a self-reliant lifestyle, develop that relationship and learn from them. More importantly, it would be better if they would allow you to come there and use it as a sanctuary location if things got that bad. But be prepared to take care of yourself and them as well. In other words, bring something of value to the table. Don't be a leech. The best bet is to have a huge store of supplies already there, just in case. Rawles' novel "Patriots", covers that in great detail.

Lesson 10: Learn! We all agree that things are getting volatile; in the world, in our country, economically, strategically, politically, socially. Get rid of distractions, such as television, sports, entertainment, and self-indulgence. At least for a season, prepare to be self-sufficient. Then, go back to all your "fun" stuff. Learn how to take care of yourself and your family if (when) things get worse.

It's estimated that 90% of the US population would die within a year if we were struck by an EMP. This is a very real threat. I know it seems like something out of a Stephen King novel. And although Forstchen's novel is fictional, he simply took a real town, with fictional characters, and wove a story around the real threat of EMP with uncanny insight into the social effects of such an event.

Our enemies have been working on such a weapon for a long time. This already exists, by the way. This isn't something "being developed." It has been developed! What's more is that very similar effects come from the sun in the form of solar flares. It happened in the mid-1800s, but the extent of the damage was limited to telegraph lines bursting into flames. We weren't living in a vulnerable electronic age, as we are now. Scientists are monitoring the sun and claim that we are over due for this type of solar activity. Some scientists assess that similar EMP-producing solar flares are highly probable, and expected in 2012. How they know that, I haven't a clue. But it might be worth watching closer.

NASA Warns Of Super Solar Storm 2012

2012 may bring the “perfect storm” – solar flares, systems collapse

I don't get all caught up in the 2012 hype garbage. If anything happens in 2012, it is coincidental, in my opinion. Everything will happen in the Lord's timing, and if He decides to end it all in 2011, 2012, or 4015, then that's when it will happen. Until His Word reveals something different, and I can't find it anywhere in the Bible, there's no specific date given the end of the world, or his return, or armageddon, etc. I think the Lord let's up come up with our little date formulas just to confound us. We'll all be surprised when He comes. And make no mistake about it, He is coming. Until then we need to be ready to defend the defenseless and provide for the needy when danger comes.

As far as I'm concerned, my children are at the top of the needy and defenseless list, by the way. In the novel, One Second After, it was amazing how many people were unprepared to take care of themselves. To position themselves in their preparations and lifestyles ahead of time. To not become victims, refugees, and casualties. Of course, the author wrote it that way to highlight the point that not being prepared has catastrophic consequences. Still, amazing.

The novel did a great job of bringing awareness to the reader about this real threat, and in such a way as to (I hope) motivate the reader to action. Toward self-reliance in a proactive way. It was a stark contrast to Rawles' Patriots, which followed a couple groups of characters through TEOTWAWKI who had prepared in advance, who did not become refugees and didn't need to, because they took action ahead of time. There were definitely some strong parallels between the novels though, in regard to a societal collapse and the cultural effects and personal triumph and tragedy that would be inevitable in either scenario.

It's a must-read and although a fast read it is insightful. For those of you who have already read it, and for those of you who are about to, I'd love to hear your thoughts. I'd be happy to pass them along to the others as well, for everyone's benefit. God Bless, - Jack R.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mr. Editor:
Might I humbly suggest a couple additions for Eric? First, a copy of Nuclear War Survival Skills. Second, build a couple Kearney Fallout Meters (KFMs) as instructed in Nuclear War Survival Skills. These meters are not that difficult to build, but do take some time to build if you do so carefully. Two pound ice fishing line for the suspension threads work very well. A charged KFM with Stren-type monofilament line still had noticeable leaf separation three days after charging this last winter using drywall core as drying agent. A KFM would allow a person to survey the unsheltered surroundings to determine with certainty when leaving (and for how long) is safe. Nuclear War Survival Skills seems to be the best of the choices for information dealing with a nuclear attack situation.

Hopefully, someone will be able to toss out the KFMs I have built after I die of old age; all of them unused. - Dave W.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

A serious letter to my dear beloved son, Eric,

It is quite possible that the USA will soon experience a terrorist attack in the form of a nuclear detonation. The city just west of the University you are attending would be a high profile, terrorist "trophy" to attack.

If a nuclear detonation by terrorist occurs in that city, you will notice a bright flash of light and, then feel the blast wave a few seconds after. Although the University is somewhat distant and shielded by terrain from that city, train yourself to not look toward the flash and immediately duck behind a solid barrier. Expect glass to be flying from any windows and plug your ears. Once the blast wave passes note the time. Your goal is to be inside a fallout shelter within 40 minutes and with enough supplies to last 2 weeks. This will only be possible if you prepare in advance.

Given that your location is 25 miles east of that big city, and the prevailing winds blow east, lethal levels of radioactive fallout could begin falling on your campus within 50 minutes.

Right after the blast wave hits, a strong wind will start moving back toward ground zero. Depending on the size of the nuke, the reverse wind could be strong enough to knock down trees and people. If you are outside, you need to decide in the short 15 seconds between the blast wave passing and the reverse wind if, you can make it to a temporary safe place. If you are near a building, get in it. If you are in a building already, stay in it. If you are outside get away from tall trees. Wait for about three minutes for the wind to pass, then start for your dorm to get your packs. If it is a small detonation, the wind will be manageable. By this time you will have only 35 minutes left to shelter "Lock Down".

To prepare before an event, pack your back pack with things like long lasting candles, matches, Bic [butane] lighters, flashlight with extra batteries, portable radio, first aid kit, basic medications, toilet paper, water bottles, bucket, washcloth, towel, bar soap, dust masks, gloves, duct tape, some basic tools or a mufti-tool, pry bar, hammer, small trash bags for making a toilet, big trash bags to wear as a fallout suit. As for nutrition, pack instant foods like oatmeal, trail mix, beef jerky, nutri-bars, raisins, nuts, dried fruit, vitamins, etc. You should still have the water filter, hatchet and sharp knife in the back pack from our last camping trip. There is already Potassium Iodate in your respirator kit I gave you. Do not pack more than one change of clothes except, underwear and socks. You will only need to change clothes if they get wet. . Get extra dust masks which will help the others who join you at the last minute. Be sure to include a sleeping bag or some warm bedding and something to read. Prepare to be in the shelter for 2 weeks minimum. Since you will be mostly sedentary, you can eat and drink on a small daily ration. Clean water will be more important than food. You will need to drink at least 2 liters a day.

Pack everything in two large trash bags, one inside the other, and keep them packed. You will not have enough time to pack everything and then get to the shelter within the remaining 35 minute window, so it is important to prepare your packs in advance .

Prepare with a team of other people who are of like mind. Keep your team small and, if an event happens, each team member can bring a few other persons with them to the shelter. Evaluate the capacity of the shelter and supplies to accommodate the final number of people. You can expect that number to grow during an event when people see that you have an effective plan in the process of implementation.

If a detonation occurs, there will not be enough time to try to contact each member of the team or to figure out what happened. If You hear a "boom" and all power goes out, assume it is a detonation and, everyone just shows up at the shelter area with their packs. A small detonation is just as deadly with fallout, even if you do not experience much flash, pressure wave or wind.

Inquire at the University Office about the fallout shelters and how well equipped they are. Do they have any windows and are they high up? How deep is it submerged below ground level and how thick are the walls? Are there toilets? Is there a water tap to a storage tank? Does the University have gravity water pressure from an elevated water tank? Usually the boiler rooms are well built and submerged below ground level. Decide which one your team will meet at and, what each team member will bring to it in the event of a detonation.

I would not rely on the Official Plan of Action from the University Administration Office. Even if they have a plan and, assuming they have considered and planned for this kind of situation, the effect of shock, panic and, lack of regular drills will make it non-effective. Remember lethal fallout could reach your area in less than 50 minutes. It may take them that long just to find out what happened and by then, it will be too late.

Evacuating the University in the event of a terrorist nuke is a big mistake. Most fallout at first is invisible. Latter it is mixed with ash that falls like snow. It is carried by upper winds which are faster than surface winds. Roads will be clogged with traffic, and they who are stuck there will not make it ahead of the fallout. The fallout is eventually going to travel down wind for more than 100 miles. Sooner than you think traffic will start getting heavy, so, traveling fast to a shelter will be the best decision depending on the wind direction.

With a compass, map and looking up at the clouds for a few minutes, you can tell if the wind is blowing from ground zero toward your location. To evacuate the area you would need to travel in a direction at a right angle of the wind direction blowing from ground zero. In your case, since you have large natural barriers north and south of the University, and you will not be able to outrun a fallout cloud going east, you should plan to head for the shelter.

Who has the keys to the shelters? If phones and radios do not work, how will you contact them? If the key cannot be found in time after a detonation, break the lock and get in. You will need the pry bar and hammer. Maybe you can use the selected shelter for a student film project. In that case you can get the keys and covertly make some copies of it for a few members of the group.

What do you think it will be like with several hundred people, most of them sick and dying in one crowded room, with little or no water, no bathroom, not enough air, no ma tresses, no lighting, and no effective leadership or medical care for two weeks? Any of the larger shelters that are easily access able to the greater population will be over crowded, under equipped and, they will probably let everyone in no matter how late and contaminated they are. Living in this condition may not be survivable, so, be somewhere else.

Select the smaller shelter like a boiler room or a more distant building basement and equip it yourselves. These more distant buildings will be less crowded and more manageable for your team. Locate and check the water spigots but, be aware that unless the system is gravity fed from a water tower, the water pressure will be decreasing to zero very quickly. If no water tower or if the tower is damaged from the blast, the water coming out of the tap will only be the amount that is still left in the pipes. If there are water spigots in the shelter area, you can stock up empty water bottles in a big plastic trash bag and fill them immediately upon arriving at the shelter. You should also keep four liters in one of your packs ready to go.

Look for any hot water tanks that supply showers or sinks, they usually have a drain tap at the bottom or on the pipe coming from the bottom of the tank. If you find one of these you will have plenty of drinking water. At first the water from this lower tap may be a rusty color. It is still okay to drink, it is just Iron which, you can let settle to the bottom of the water jug. Avoid using water from hot water heating systems for institutional building radiators or fire sprinkler systems that may contain antifreeze which, is poisonous. These pipes are usually labeled.

If the fallout shelter does not have a water tap, you should consider stocking it in advance with some water jugs. This will lessen the weight of your packs and reduce your tasks within the remaining 35 minute time window. You also do not want to be making more than one trip after a detonation to the shelter if, it is distant from your dorm. If the shelter is close to your dorm, you will be able to make a few trips. Practice now by timing these trips.

You can also establish an alternative location for a shelter. Maybe a basement area that can be barricaded easily. It needs to have at least 14 inches of solid masonry or concrete structure between you and the fallout that will be settling on the flat surfaces outside. Your shelter should be below ground level as much as possible. Radiation is also dampened by distance, especially when there are right angle corners between you and the radiation source outside. The more right angle corners consisting of solid masonry between you and the radiation source, the better. Select alternative shelter areas now, so, it does not have to become a panic decision latter.

You should have a few drills with your group. From the time the group leader calls everyone on the Mobile phone, how long does it take for everyone to go to their dorm, get stuff and go to the shelter?

Make sure group members keep the plan secret. Refer to shelter locations by a code name or letter. Before leaving your dorm for the shelter place a note on your door stating that the group is meeting at location "Alpha" . In this way, only members of your preparation group will know where to show up with the pre selected number of people.

The travel route to your selected shelter should not be a direct route so, people cannot figure out where you are going. If possible, take some detours around barrier objects like buildings and landscaping, keeping in mind the elapsed time since detonation.

For the shelter, if possible establish two separate areas; one primary area for those who show up on time and, a secondary area for those who show up late and who are contaminated. A slightly contaminated person will survive but, be sick. and, the more contaminated person will not live very long. Those who show up late, should not be admitted inside the primary shelter because of contaminating the healthy survivors. A secondary area within the building which is well shielded from the primary area like around the corner of a masonry wall or, a separate room should be used for contaminated people arriving late. If the shelter room is large enough, you can place them at one end of the room. In a boiler room they can be placed on the opposite side of the boiler. Boilers are made of thick, heavy iron and make a good radiation barrier. Consider how you can barricade the primary and secondary shelter entrances after everyone is in.

All backpacks for gear should be sealed in a trash bag for the trip to your shelter. If you get to the shelter late, before entering the primary shelter remove the trash bag cover from your gear which is inside another trash bag, then throw the clean bag with your stuff inside the shelter and discard the outer bag outside. This procedure keeps the inner bag from being contaminated by fallout. Then remove the trash bag covers from your pack and yourself and also discard the bags outside. Wash thoroughly all exposed skin with soap and water.

Be sure to wear the full face respirator I gave you beginning at about the 30 minute mark. You should be at the shelter by then. Wearing it too soon could draw attention from "wrong doers" who might want to take it from you. Remember that desperate people will do desperate things.

Anyone showing up late without wearing protective bags, and contaminated, strips off all outer clothing and cuts off as much of their hair that was exposed as possible. They do this inside the building but outside the primary shelter entrance. Carefully throw the contaminated cloths and dust mask outside. They are to wash down previously exposed skin with soap and water if, water is plentiful and, discard the towel outside. Then they can change into the extra clothes that you brought along in your sealed trash bags.

Once inside everyone should wear a fresh clean dust mask or respirator for at least three days, and after three days when briefly visiting the secondary area. Make a dust masks using cloth and duct tape if necessary. As people show up to the shelter, dispense the potassium iodate; first come, first served. Dosages are on the bottle I gave you in the respirator bag.

All contaminated people should be segregated from each other by some distance and according to their exposure i.e. the lateness of their arrival.. This procedure limits unnecessary exposure to the less contaminated people who are more likely to survive. Slightly contaminated people if, they are still alive in a few hours can wash down thoroughly again and, be integrated into the primary shelter area.

Consider what your fresh air needs will be. Fallout settles down toward the ground so, you can open a window or crack a door open after 48 hours has past, as long as it is not windy. Minimize your exposure to the outside radiation by staying away from windows, exterior doors and thin exterior walls. After two days it is permissible to open some more ventilation. The further away from the opening you are, the better. If the shelter is small or crowded, do not use candles for the first two days unless you can establish filtered ventilation. Using candles in enclosed spaces uses up your oxygen along with normal breathing so, you will need to consider this in balancing your ventilation needs with exposure to the fallout outside. It is better to suffer for 48 hours and wait than to risk unnecessary exposure.

The best situation apart from filtered ventilation, is a fallout shelter entrance which is located within a larger building like a gym or an auditorium. The larger building space acts as a secondary area outside the primary shelter and allows the fallout to settle far away from the shelter entrance. This makes it possible to open the shelter door for ventilation if the building glass remained intact during the blast wave. Many school gyms and auditoriums do not even have glass windows so check for this when selecting your shelter.

After two weeks you can carefully venture out beyond the shelter to set up an S.O.S. message for the military who will be looking for survivors. Before going outside, place plastic bags on your feet and tape securely with the duct tape. Use curtains or white sheets to spell out S.O.S. on the ground large enough to be seen from the air. Secure them from the wind with rocks or wood stakes you make with the hatchet. Make a white flag using a sheet and hang another white sheet out of an upper window facing the approaching road. Listen for rescue trucks or helicopters. Remember that a distress signal is to wave only one arm or a single white flag. Limit your exposure outside to only short and necessary visits. Remove the bags from your feet before reentering the shelter. Be careful not to respond to just anyone, make sure they are government rescue.

If a helicopter lands do not run out to meet it. The prop wash will be kicking up a lot of dust with some fallout into the air. Signal them from inside the building and let them come to you. Once rescued, you will be taken thru decontamination, given a physical and given new clothes to wear. The rescue unit will probably not allow you to bring your packs so, take anything valuable out with you in your pockets.

After all these years of camping and discussing survival scenarios with you and your brother, I've tried to prepare you the best way I know how. Now that you're both adults, living independently, I hope some of it stuck.

You may not need to use any of this information and I hope it never becomes necessary but, it is better to be prepared now. You will not have time to prepare after an event if, it happens. You will only have time to act quickly. If it is never needed, you will all have learned and practiced survival skills that very few people in this world know. I

Monday, May 3, 2010

In looking at your blog on survival it revealed to me a major problem with safes with digital combo locks. If there is an EMP, those locks would most likely be fried and one could not get to guns, funds, et cetera! Do you know of a process or method of guarding against this? Is there some shielding that can be put around the combo unit that will protect the electronics? Thanks. - R.C.

JWR Replies: This blog topic seems to pop up just as regularly as dandelions. I've mentioned the following several times in SurvivalBlog, but it is worth repeating: A steel gun vault body itself makes a decent Faraday cage. (Although a finger mesh RF gasket at the door perimeter would make it even better.) All that you really need to add is a flat steel can (such as a peanut can or Danish butter cookie tin) to cover the safe's electronic keypad assembly. Taping the can on works fine, but it will look tacky. A hinge attached with epoxy to a tin (allowing the can to swing to the left or right) might look better. Ideally, the tin should be grounded to the vault body. (Again, this looks tacky, but there is no way around it if you want a fully effective Faraday enclosure.)

If EMP is a major concern where you live (i.e. if you live within 250 miles of a major nuclear target), and your vault has an electronic lock then you should use silica gel rather than a 120 VAC rod-type dehumidifier inside your vault. This is because the power cord for a dehumidifier can act as an unintentional antenna that might "couple" EMP to your vault's electronics. (One of the major no-no's with Faraday cages is to have any conductor that can carry RF penetrate the cage or container body.)

And, needless to say, to have a gun vault lock that is absolutely safe from EMP, the next time that you move, you should sell your current vault as an included "bonus feature" with your house. Then, after you move, replace that vault with one that has a traditional mechanical combination lock. Coincidentally, I should mention that I prefer S&G Group II locks. Oh, and speaking of moving, I prefer Zanotti Armor brand six piece gun vaults that can be disassembled for ease of transport. We have a Zanotti ZA-III six-foot tall vault here at the Rawles Ranch that we've moved several times over the years.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

When you finally die and I know your not eager to, the world will certainly go on. You might be so lucky to have someone cry at your funeral. Regardless of how important you thought you were, your death will not be as special to the world or to yourself. You will be dead like the billions of animals and species before you.  After a week, maybe two, life here on planet earth will be the same as before you died. Most, if not all, will not miss you in the caring ways that you would want to believe. Like many, you didn’t have a say coming in this world, and you won’t have a say leaving this world. I and most of the people in the world would like to live, this life, without the need for suffering. When your time comes, time will take you out of this life. You will not escape this certainty.  There are a million ways to go. Nobody knows how it happens, until it does. I think it and wait for it to appear. Not knowing when, is the greatest mystery. It could be in a second or a hundred years. It will come. The law of death is simple. All living things shall perish. The containment of your life force energy and/or soul is part of the law of thermodynamics, the transformation of energy.

Imagine, if you will, a tree full of leaves that has fallen to the ground. The energy it took for the leaves to fall gently is the same amount of energy to rake them up. Just displayed differently. A second instance of energy transformation is a 300 pound man losing 100 pounds. His weight was lost because he used it as energy. One third of him is gone forever in a different form--somewhat painless.
Another instance of thermodynamics is a bottle of propane ignited under a small stove heating water. The propane turns to fire transferring to heat energy thus boiling the water. The water then changes to steam. The steam evaporates into the air and/or atmosphere. The vapor then gets absorbed or diminishes and turns to rain or condensation, consumed by a living creature or living organism then used as energy
again and made whole to earth once more. (This is another transformation of energy.)

Life is quite simple in living terms. Energy can’t be created nor destroyed. Just transferred to different forms.. I’m not saying your death will be painless but I am telling you that your pain, if any, will only last a short time compared to time of existence. Some great writers have written that death is as easy as stepping out of your body. The smarter you are, the easier it will be to guide yourself through your one and only [mortal] life. I hope you read, learn, teach and guide, through the different and strange times which lay ahead. The one thing I have learned about emergency preparation is don’t waste time trying to convince anyone of their needs that don’t want convincing. No matter how much you love or care for somebody, prepare for your own immediate survival should be your top priority! You must take care of yourself in order to help take care of others.

To help keep you alive, I'll focus on one key preparedness step:

Prepare a laptop inside a Faraday Box”

You should store the following references on your laptop hard drive [or on memory sticks, CD-ROMs & DVDs that you can access with your laptop]:

To include valuable information on what people will need for survival trades and efficiency, for day to day living wants and needs.

Boots and Clothing:
How to repair boots and clothing, to include various sewing techniques, glues, patches, laces, buttons, zippers, sew kits, Velcro and items needed or stored.

Civil Defense:
Technical operation and/or procedures on how the civil authority will lead. Establish and support an authority figure during the crisis, which may mean you.

Combat Skills:
Various skills to lead and teach realistic offensive tactics and defensive tactics and positions. Don't overlook weapons training and weapons repair manuals. [JWR Adds: There are now some excellent training videos available on DVD, such as The Art of the Tactical Carbine, but of course they are no substitute for hands-on training and the hours of practice needed to create muscle memory. For some free assembly/disassembly manuals in PDF, see the manufacturer web sites, as well as Steve's Pages. (BTW, you'll also find a lot of useful military manuals at Steve's Pages, such as FM 3-105 Survivability. )

How to organize, maintain and discipline as a leader, how to give orders and create and maintain a disciplined organizational structure. See the military organizational manuals that describe Unity of Command and related topics.

Various types of radios, CB, Morse code [HF ham radio], American Sign Language (ASL). Also to include antenna fabrication and/or makeshift communications devices.

Computer Programs: 
In addition to backups of operating system and word processing/spreadsheets, include specialized programs related to radio communications, propagation, ballistics calculations, and others.

Information on how to:  Shelter building, carpentry, plumbing, electrical, welding, mold making and casting of raw materials.


How to maintain good teeth and dentistry with the correct tools when need be.

You must be knowledgeable and have key references.

Economics and References:
What brought us to this economic crisis and who are the money masters? How long has the monetary system been around? You could download thousand of pages and help teach the truth. Store your own economic data. [JWR Adds: References on the standard weight and composition of various silver and gold might be crucial.]

Encyclopedia Britannica:
The entire world at your finger tips such as, science, discovery, arts, crafts, math, English, videos, writings, and so much more.

Federal Emergency Management Agency- procedures, operations, expectations and what to expect for various disaster assistance.

MRE, freeze dried, dehydrated, stored foods, canned foods, canning, bottling, cooking, preparation, recipes, gardening, raising animals, making your own bread, sprouts, cookware, medical care with [soft] foods.

Various games to keep you [and your children] happy and keep morale up.

Health And Fitness:
Exercising, fitness, eating correctly, not being lazy - work, work, work.

Herb and Vitamin Cures:
Store massive amounts of data on herb and vitamin cures and personal treatments for all types of ailments. Don’t forget your vitamins.

Making your own soaps, bleach, laundry soaps. Learning to use household remedies. Toiletries, solutions, disease fighting techniques, and sanitary solutions to include corpse handling/burial.

Items Wanted/ Needed:
Keep notes and massive data on you need, not want, no matter how long it is. [JWR Adds: The Alpha Strategy by John Pugsley is a great starting point. The book is out of print, but a PDF is available for free download.]

Local Government Readiness:
It’s wise to be prepared. The government is a small number of people. Governments like to dictate how to, but you should learn how to, without the government.  It’s a never ending battle of learning to live and to expect the unexpected. Remember, what can go wrong will go wrong. Often, it will be something you would have never of thought of.

Maps (Road and Street), U.S. and Canada:
Collect massive amounts of data on streets and/or other geographical data for your region, to include railroads, bus systems, sewers, drains, taxi depots, bus depots. Getting lost is no fun.

Collect references on home remedies, medical and human anatomy. There are plenty of downloads out there. [JWR Adds: Start with a free download of Where There is No Doctor,and Where There is No Dentist, from The Hesperian Foundation.]

Monthly Checklist:
Include chores from every day to every month, month to month, year to year maintenance and up keep on grounds, machinery, equipment, tools, weapons and/or perimeter establishment and grounds.

Nuclear Biological Chemical (NBC):
What to do in the attack scenario for nuclear, biological, and/or chemical attack or mishap. How to recover from the NBC situation. Recovery is your only option. There are lots of references on the Internet. I urge you to figure out what works best for you. Download it now and store it. You can always read more later. You must be able to retrieve data if the power grid is down, so plan ahead for alternate power source , inverters, and DC-to-DC adapters for your laptop. [Nuclear War Survival Skills by Cresson H. Kearney is available for free download.]

Outdoor Survival: How can you survive in the woods, desert, jungle, sea, ocean, lake, mountains, brush, bush. How will you gather water and food? Get videos and download as much info as you can because you will never know where you could end up.

How to get rid of particular bugs, pests, rodents. How to attract them for your advantage and how to use them as bait.

Pets: Store food, water, medical, shelter, for your pets. Download veterinary guides to fix your pet's problems. Get antibiotics now and store them..

Pictures and Videos:
Store photos, pictures, movies and videos to look at and watch later. You will be surprised at just how much entertainment is out there. [JWR Adds: Instructional videos can also be stored--even ones found on YouTube.]

Power Heat Fuel:
How are you going to keep warm? How are you going to create power? Candle making, bio-fuel, liquor, wood, heat rocks, make a tent inside your home? Create electricity, solar, wind, hydro, Sterno, generators, steam power, Sterling engine power, making batteries, inverters, charge controllers, drawings, diagrams, schematics.

State the exact protocol or direction on how to handle the situation that just arose. Rule of thumb is to stay where you are for as long as you can safely.

Reading Materials:
Download books you might think you will like in the future. You may want to start downloading survival books, medical, nutritional, gardening, recipes, how to manuals, et cetera.

Download various Bible translations for future reference. The Grim Reaper may approach you sooner than you think. Laugh now but tomorrow may be another story. You will want the hands of God to guide you, even if you are presently a little skeptical.

Security Intelligence:
Who, what, when, why, where, how many, what are your intentions, weapons, who is the leader? What are you facing? The biggest threat are your neighbors and/or neighborhood. Where are the hideouts in your area? Is it the church or the stream bed? The best defense is a great offense.

Download various shelter building techniques-- underground shelters, bunkers, domes, ICF block construction, wood construction, adobe, rammed earth, straw bale and anything else you can get your hands on.

Invisibility is a great benefactor, ghillie suits are great, but if your opponent has thermal night vision gear, you are screwed. The best enemies are ones that will fight themselves. Camouflage is the greatest tactic.

Nuclear, biological, chemical, accidental, rail collisions, confusion, what to do and how to do it.

Buses, taxis, planes, trains, automobiles, animals, skateboard, foot/feet, bicycle, mini bike, moped, motor bike, electric skateboard, ski’s, camper, motor home, class A, B, &C, recreational vehicles, military vehicles, gyrocopter, helicopter, hot wiring, and so on.

Water filters, distilling, bleach, containers, pills, can you purify sea water? Do you know what to do if water is contaminated with nuclear fallout? How can you kill pathogens and bacteria? Water is the most vital information of all. Don’t take it for granted. What will you do if the tap stops working?

Manuals, drawings, spare parts, directions, tools needed for repairing weapons, oils, lubrications, cleaning supplies, gun safes, holsters, sights, extra ammo, extra magazines, and such.

Information and understanding of earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes, summer’s extreme heat, winter’s extreme cold, fall, spring, ice storms, volcanoes, wind-driven wild fires, heavy snowfall, landslides, tsunami, thunderstorms, floods, droughts, severe climate shifts and wind storms. Are you ready for all of these?

Personally, I’m not as prepared as I should be, or would like to be. Many people that I have spoken to feel the same way. Money is presently very tight, and most people in reality are living week to week if not day to day.
Information in the United States or the World Wide Web thankfully costs nearly nothing. For me, knowledge right now seems to be the most important way I can prepare because it is free. I can help guide and teach people through their situations. Which to some may be more important than having worldly possessions.

If I had more money I would love to buy weapons, a month’s worth of  food, a piece of property, a house or a smile on someone else’s face.
For now I can only try to prepare by gathering the knowledge others never thought of, but may someday need.

JWR Adds: See the SurvivalBlog archives for a wealth of information (more than 8,000 archived posts) that will be useful in disaster situations. In addition to making digital archives as Dakota Diamond has suggested, I strongly recommend printing out or purchasing commercially printed hard copies of the most crucial references. (See my Bookshelf page, for some suggested "must" reference books.) Hard copy is the only sure way to have references at your fingertips, when the Schumer hits the fan.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

James Wesley:
Just a short note on the S-250 information. The original writer made an error in assuming all of these are shielded. There are several manufacturers of the S-250 and models differ in not just shielded or non-shielded, but also the level of shielding. NSA shelters (not generally available) have the highest level.

Here is a link to one of the manufacturers. My point is that a buyer should investigate the National Stock Number (NSN) of the unit they are interested in and contact the manufacturer to confirm that a specific level of EMP/EMI shielding is installed, if any.

Best regards as always, - Bob S.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Letter Re: The S-250 Vehicle Shelter

Dear Editor:
Now available from your local Federal Government through GovLiquidation.com is what is commonly known as the S-250 shelter. In essence, this is a highly sought after, well constructed, insulated truck shelter used by the military as a radio shack or electronics shelter.  [They were designed to be mounted in pickup beds, but more recently have been mounted on Humvees.] When looking online you’ll find most of those seeking these shelters at auction are either military vehicle collectors or those seeking a super heavy duty slide in truck camper.  Thirdly you’ll find some hams wanting a mobile radio shack.

What is overlooked for the most part is that these shelters are RF-shielded and therefore EMP shielded as well. Whether it’s the coming of the solar storms in 2012 or the real world threat of an EMP detonation in the USA, having a S-250 loaded and sealed could be a survivalist's dream come true.
In essence this is a big Faraday box!

Last march I picked up an S-250 at auction for $800 with the intention of converting it to a heavy duty camper.   After getting it home and looking at the layout, it became clear that the best use would be in keeping the shielding.  My S-250 will be used an outpost at our retreat complete with a bunk, and outfitted with appropriate survival equipment.  It will also be a storage location for nearly any electronic device I can afford to stock here. Spare 12VDC power inverters, shortwave radios, spare vehicle electronic control modules (ECMs), extra solar panels, multiple CB radios, and anything else I can afford to stash protected from the effects of EMP.
When looking at these at auction, look for the newest models with the fewest box accessories mounted through the walls. If possible, look for the one with the fewest internal accessories as well. This will prove to be a great time saver.  As it turned out for me, I ended up with a 2001 model fully loaded inside. Of the original equipment I kept a few switch panels, rifle rack (which holds two M16s or AR-15s), and the overhead lighting. The 24 volt power inverter was missing so I am going with the commonly available 12 volt system.

Having only weekends to work on this project it took me several weeks to unbolt all the aluminum rails and mounting hardware stuffed into the shelter.  The one I ended up with was indeed a radio shack and had miles of wire routed for the 12 or more radios that it once housed.  Once I basically had the shelter gutted, I was able to better see how much room I was going to have to do the conversion. Where once there was a radio/com desk I now placed a bunk. The power supply corner was going to remain at the same location as well as the rifle rack.

I am using the original switch panel having rewired the unit for my 12v system. Using the original vented battery box holding two 12V deep cycles, I have employed an 800 watt 12VDC inverter. I picked this up on sale at a Love's Truck stop for $40. Most shelters will already have a power supply source and internal lighting.

Preserving the integrity of the shielding means installing no windows but as a camper or retreat outpost it really does not need one [and this has advantages in maintaining light discipline]. There is an exhaust fan already installed and they all have a unique door system that would prevent anyone ever being locked inside the box while clearly locking others out.

The only thing I had not yet decided is whether or not to put this on a trailer, for extra mobility. - F.J.B.

Monday, March 22, 2010


The magazine Infoworld is a fairly trusted source in the information technology (IT) field. They recently posted an article titled, "Tech apocalypse: Five doomsday scenarios for IT".

Here is a quote:

"What could happen [from a wide scale EMP attack]: Workstations? Dead. Data centers? Gone. Cell phones might still work, but the cell towers probably won't, rendering them useless. Your car won't start. A large enough attack will also shut down automated controls at power substations, leaving everyone in the dark. Think pre-industrial revolution days. In our scenario the New York Stock Exchange shuts down, causing shock waves to reverberate throughout worldwide markets."

That is not bad for a mainstream IT magazine, though in this scenario they downplay the aftermath. in my opinion. However, they call it "higher than you might think" when talking about chances of this happening.

Their description of the effects of a massive coronal ejection (their last scenario) is pretty good, with a prediction of a recovery time of 4 to 10 years, if at all. - MP

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Good Morning Sir,
My question pertains to a February 24, 2010 blog post, where there was mentioned an EMP ground for one’s vehicle. This is the first I have heard of a ground wire for today’s vehicles that would prevent electronics from being damaged. Is this true sir? Thanks for providing us all the education to survive. - Tim S.

JWR Replies: A grounding strap offers only marginal EMP protection for a vehicle. The type that were mentioned are the sort that you can see used on many trucks, especially fuel delivery trucks, where the concern is a buildup of static electricity.

With a quick web search, I found one vendor on the Internet with straps at reasonable prices. They do eventually wear out, so you should probably buy several. But again, they are more for static electricity discharge protection than EMP protection. Sadly, the only way to make your vehicle truly safe from close proximity EMP is to convert it to a traditional ignition system. Alternatively, if you leave the electronic ignition system installed, you'd have to carry spare ignition components in a couple of layers of Faraday protection. ( Alternating layers of aluminum foil and ziploc bags should work fine.

I should also mention that once parked, while preparing to unload fuel, gas tanker trucks use a separate grounding cable, for even greater protection, from a static discharge kablooey.

It is important to note the EMP is a different animal than lightning, so the grounding rules are not quite the same. For example, a ground connection can actually be counterproductive to EMP shielding if you use a lengthy linear object underground, such as a water or sewer pipe. For anyone with a basic understanding of lightning protection, it may sound hard to believe, but EMP can actually couple with underground linear metal objects! So if you do decide to use a ground for any of your electronic gear, then don't use anything longer that a six foot long ground rod.

A SurvivalBlog reader who is an Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) engineer added these comments:
"Many people are under the false impression that a ground connection is some sort of magic sump into which they can dump electric current and electromagnetic fields they don't want. To some degree this impression comes from the fact that power lines and other electrical wires entering our buildings are grounded at the point of entry. The reason for this ground is to give a path for lightning strikes to wires external to the building a lower resistance path back to the source of the electric current (in this case the Earth) than though something inside the building. The service entrance ground rod does not play a part in electrical safety insidethe building provided by the ground wires run with the hot and neutral power wires. The key issue here is that the ground wires are connected to the neutral wire at the service entrance bond point. That same bond point is where the ground rod is connected, but the physical path to earth ground is not why the ground wires in the house help safety.

By the way this is why portable generators do not need to be grounded per the National Electrical Code (NEC). All they need is the internal bond from neutral to the ground wire.

In a similar way, when it comes to electromagnetic energy (radio waves) the important issue is shielding rather than grounding. The most effective shielding is made of a continuous conductive surface that totally surrounds what we want to protect. This is why the advice to wrap equipment that we wish to protect from EMP in aluminum foil is excellent. The continuous conductive surface of the foil with joints that overlap each other provides extremely effective shielding from all types of electromagnetic waves including those from EMP. Grounding the foil to an earth ground makes no difference in its effectiveness.

Static electricity also is stopped by shielding, and discharges to a conductive shield flow around the outside surface of the shield and do not damage equipment inside the shield. Again a connection to earth ground will make zero difference in the protection provided by the shielding.

Ground straps on vehicles provide a path to equalize the local static electric potentials and reduce the chance of a static discharge that might cause fuel fumes or other explosive or flammable gasses or liquids to ignite. A separate ground wire as you mention is even more effective. In both cases they work because they reduce or eliminate static electric potential differences that could cause a spark, not because they are tied to the physical earth."

Monday, February 1, 2010

I know your time is valuable,so I will get right to it. The recent post on buying [decommissioned underground US Air Force Intercontinental Ballistic] missile sites raises a question. Aren't these sites vulnerable during nuclear attacks/exchange with a foreign country? Thanks for your site and your service. - John

JWR Replies: They would only be pinpoint targets if the Soviets are still using ancient targeting data, and that is very unlikely. From all that I have read, they simply are no longer included in the "target structure" for any nation states that are potential combatants. (Like Russia, China, and North Korea.) I cannot imagine a nation state being that inept. The only significant threat to some of these decommissioned sites is that they are contiguous to--or immediately downwind of--newer, currently-deployed missile sites. That was case for a old Titan I silo that I researched on behalf of a consulting client, who was considering buying it. This site is near Chugwater, Wyoming--which is also the home of a fairly new, active Minuteman III silos!)

On a related note, I should mention that I was forced to use out-of-date nuclear targeting data in my book "Rawles on Retreats and Relocation", but only because there has been no declassified targeting data (that is, CIA assessment of likely Soviet targets) released since the late 1970s.

Sunday, January 10, 2010