Letters Re: My Family Preparedness Plan – Part 1, by R.S.

SurvivalBlog had an overwhelming number of people write in about this article. We’ve tried to pick a few of the letters

Reader PWS has a pretty good grasp of the whole EMP issue:

There is much mythology around EMP. Based on testing done by the Congressional Commission To Assess The Threat of EMP To the U.S., only about 6% of the national light vehicle fleet will be EMP-ruined. The main problem for most will be fuel. Second, EMP will not damage solar panels in a significant way. Some suffered up to 10% degradation but kept working just fine. The charge controllers are a different story, but by minimizing the exposure of conductors in the system (panel-to-controller) we can probably prevent damage to the circuit cards in them, as well. Metal conduit or flex will be good shielding for this. Grid-tie solar systems are toast because of the flashover effect from EMP coming in off the grid. Stand-alone solar systems will fair pretty well in my view, especially if one has spare components.

The greatest issue for most Americans will be safe, plentiful drinking water and sanitation, assuming they have some access to food. Be thinking about how your family will be able to get water for the next one to two decades. Backpacking filters will fail quite soon. I recommend taking a look at the Lakewater Filter sold by Equinox in Michigan. (I don’t sell these but use one on my property to filter stream water.) Reasonable amounts of safe water can be processed for minimal expenditures in electricity. It is designed to process pond, lake, or stream water for culinary use. The main carbon filter has a life expectancy of 700,000 gallons. Energy and water are top priorities for most any national crisis. Depend on utilities at your own risk.

However, the issue isn’t as straight forward as it seems. While there is a large amount of ridiculous hype around an EMP event, answers just can’t be known definitively. The amount of damage to a device depends upon the amount of energy dumped into its circuits. Basically, the longer the antenna, or the stronger the EMP field, or the weaker the circuits protection, the more damage that will be caused. Your cell phone or watch will probably survive because those circuits have such small antenna areas and have a base level of protection built into them. If you are close enough to a blast to have issues with small electronics, you probably have other, more pressing issues to deal with. However, the telcom or power distribution utilities have massive amounts of antenna (literally thousands or hundreds of thousands of miles of wire), so even a relatively weak EMP can cause significant damage. If your electronic devices are plugged into their chargers at the moment the blast occurs, you can probably kiss them goodbye. Cars are known to have noisy RF environments and generally have a greater amount of protection, making them more robust. Less expensive electronics probably have less protection. Unless the manufacture reports what they have, you have absolutely no idea what to expect.

Reader B.T. gave a description of what he does to help his odds:

For Faraday cages, I use metal 35-gallon trash cans with towels or blankets lining the inside so my gear does not touch the inside walls.

I built a Faraday cage on my deck by making a table out of 1×6 cedar decking. It is like a box table 3’x8′ long x 4′ high. Then I lined the inside on all four sides with 1/4″ wire mesh and metal screen mesh stapled to the sides. It’s easy to do if not in a hurry. I keep my gas generators in there and solar well pump and solar panels too. I even have two solar fans, costing $100 each. And when I entertain, this is where I serve the BBQ. I keep batteries, radios, short wave, and Honda 2000 watt generator inside the trash cans along with extra wire for solar on roof. Solar is up on roof but not protected. Components are in a basement small cabinet to which I also added wire mesh inside to protect components from EMP. Hope this helps all.

Reader Gigiwigi wrote:

In a grid down scenario, it would take time for the cascading failure, maybe not a lot of time but only a few hours. A few hours could buy time to buy last minute supplies, fill up the water BOB, and can what is in the freezer. This would be in stark contrast to the EMP, which would be immediate. So, a different set of actions would follow the realization this was a cascading grid down situation. Let me know your thoughts.

It would probably take less time than you think for the failure to cascade. The power switching electronics and most likely a significant number of large power transformers will not fare well for the reasons given above. While the system is fairly robust at handling cascading failures from small single point failures, an EMP event would cause multiple failures. Assuming connected networks are not brought down by the energy absorbed and transmitted on the power lines themselves, the transfer load would be considerable. Even assuming undamaged circuits, the cascading failure would be fairly rapid because of the multiple points of failure.

Reader Carl wrote:

I maybe wrong, but I think a lot of the talk of issues from an EMP are over blown. An EMP or CME causes damage because it causes a electrical surge in long wires, i.e. power lines or other antenna. Your computer, phone, car, or anything not connected to the grid would more than likely not be affected. Granted, if the grid goes down you won’t be able to charge your phone or computer and you won’t be able to fill your car at the gas station, but your car is not going to die in the middle of the highway like is shown in the movies.

I would agree that issues to smaller electronics and vehicles may be overblown, but how often do you have your small electronics (phone, radio, computer, laptop, et cetera) connected to their chargers? If it’s connected to the power grid, it’s probably toast. Cell phones without cell towers are pretty worthless. There are some options for local use but not really anything that works well. Furthermore, the long-term issues present some significant logistics problems. Most grocery stores do not have more than about 24 to 48 hours of food on the shelves in normal conditions. If there is no fuel, then there is no trucking or rail. How will they restock? How will a large city feed itself if they don’t have gardens or livestock? In addition, the large power transformers likely to be destroyed on the power distribution are heavy, expensive, and usually custom built. How will they be replaced if there is no trucking or rail service? How will we replace as many as could be destroyed if there are not that many spares within the boundaries of the U.S. boarders?

Reader M.A. wrote:

Good morning HJL!

I was just checking on my regular web sites and emails this morning when the first Survival Blog entry/post from R.S. caught my eye. I had been asked to give some classes on Emergency Management and Preparedness and I was starting to work on my initial slide deck. I have a lot of left-leaning folks who have suddenly seen the light for some reason. RS’s opening is perfect for the first class! I have other material I would put in there as well, but his opening is a great summation, and I wanted him to know how much I appreciated it.

Reader OneGuy wrote:

I think the risk of and from an EMP is overblown. First of all, I do not think that anywhere near 100% or even 50% of the electric generation/distribution system will go down or even stay down. Secondly I don’t think it will result in 90% deaths or even 1% deaths. I know that in the event of damage to the electric grid that there are 1000’s of linemen and others who will work around the clock to restore service. I think the EMP is a prepper’s wet dream in that it doesn’t kill them outright but allows them to survive exactly because they prepped thus validating all their beliefs. For this reason it is typically at the top of a vocal prepper’s list.

Refer to the explanations above for the type of damage that can be caused. The 90% deaths are, of course, an estimation, but they are not directly attributable to the blast. It is the aftermath that would cause the casualties. No electricity, no sewer, no food, no transportation, and no preparations will cause the majority of casualties through disease and starvation. Remember, if the entire country’s power distribution is down, there will be no help coming. You are on your own. How long can you go without having to purchase something at the grocery store? What will you do with our waste or the inevitable filth and disease that results when you can’t dispose of it? What about heating your home when it is freezing weather? Yes, people lived without electricity and oil for a long time, but we have our habits, and we have formed our lives around these things. Changing your lifestyle to live without those is no small thing.

Reader Gabriel wrote:

Just wanted to note that it’s not known entirely if cars will cease to function. Some may; some may not. I believe it depends on the model, how dependent the vehicle is on its computerized systems, and how powerful the EMP is. That’s not to mention Providence. My point? Cars could be an asset in a post-EMP event. As for coins and precious metals, I personally don’t think a post-EMP society will use that form of currency. Let me ask you. Will you trade grain or seeds for some gold or silver coins or would you trade it for cans of food or duct tape? I think old school bartering will come back and in force. Keep in mind, the average Joe won’t understand gold and silver values and so forth. And then, not everyone will have these coins, so getting change for a gold coin won’t be realistic. Those are some of my thoughts.

Reader just_AC also wrote:

Re the article, one thing I am always saying is don’t worry about stocking gold. Why? If 90% of the population is dead as reported, how many tons of gold will there be available on the fingers and necks of the dead?

This is one of the reasons that we recommend other preps first. When you’re hungry, you can’t eat gold and silver, so take care of food, meds, and protection (bullets, beans, and band-aids) first. After you have those taken care of, then you can talk about precious metals. Those precious metals are to ensure your wealth survives “The Crunch”, and then on the other side when the PMs have value again you have a leg up. History has shown that PMs will not just be lying around on the fingers and necks of the dead. If you are in a position to collect such valuables, you are probably causing (or involved in) those deaths, and that’s an ethical/moral issue.