There have always been those throughout society who have put a premium on the readiness of themselves and their families to be as prepared as practically possible for disaster.  Some are called preppers, some are called survivalists, some are simply Boy Scouts whose motto is 'be prepared.'  The reality is that the world is a hostile place.  Earthquakes, tornadoes, riots, flooding, ice storms, blizzards, CME / EMP, terrorist attacks, pandemics, financial collapse - these are just a very small handful of the threats we face and their likelihood is much higher than you might think- all you have to do is take a look at history to come to that conclusion.  While you cannot plan for every eventuality, there are a number of things you can do to mitigate issues that may arise and ensure that you and your family have a fighting chance to survive the disaster.  If you love your family, and you're not doing anything realistic to prepare, there really is no excuse for what will happen to you and your family in such an event.  Your family will likely die, and it will be your fault.  That might sound harsh, but it is the truth - no one else is responsible for your family - not government, not neighbors, no one else.  There is no one coming to the rescue and do not expect those who have invested the time and money to prepare to have excess  resources for you and your family.  If you try to take resources from those who have prepared, you will no doubt encounter deadly resistance.  Remember the childhood fable of the ant and the grasshopper.

I'm going to speak briefly about one of the largest threats that I believe many people are still oblivious to - EMP (electromagnetic pulse) or a CME (coronal mass ejection) which is essentially a massive solar flare.  EMP is the byproduct of a nuclear detonation that is often optimized for the maximum electromagnetic effect, or it can be natural- in the form of a powerful CME from the sun. EMP or CME will likely not kill people directly.  I could easily write a 10 page article on EMP alone, but to sum it up, it very likely will 'fry' nearly every electronic component exposed to it, including most modern vehicle ignition systems, water pumping control systems, natural gas pumps, gasoline and diesel pumps, and any other system controlled by electronic systems.  Perhaps most threatening, an EMP will almost certainly decimate the electric power grid, as transformers cannot handle the massive induced spike in current that they will receive from the power lines, which act as large antennas picking up the current reflected off the ionosphere in a process called the Compton effect.  To top it off, there are virtually no backup transformers or other critical parts in the United States to restore power for several years- as all of these large transformers are now manufactured overseas.  One EMP blast detonated in high atmosphere would disable nearly the entire US power grid - and frighteningly, this technology is certainly within the grasp of Iran, North Korea, and a number of terrorist organizations who could simply fire one EMP equipped missile above the US from off the east coast, west coast, or from the Gulf of Mexico.  It only takes one. This is a very real threat to which we have virtually no counter.  On the natural / CME front, the Carrington Event which occurred in 1859 was a massive solar storm that caused telegraph lines all across Europe and North America to fail, even shocking telegraph operators and causing telegraph pylons to throw sparks, and auroras to be seen as far south as Cuba and Hawaii.  No doubt if a CME on this level were to occur today it would cause massive devastation to the power grid, satellites, electronics, and much more.  If you doubt the severity or the likelihood, of the events of which I speak, simply read the reports created by the congressional EMP Commission here.  I have read them, and in summary, there is currently nothing in place to prevent devastating effects from an EMP (be it natural or man made) on the US.  While the report calls for a number of actions to be taken, to date, neither the government nor utilities have taken any appreciable action to harden the power grid to an EMP, or even to stock the spare parts that would be required for it's repair.  Most estimates are that 80-90% of the US population would be dead within six months to a year.  Personally, I believe the odds of an EMP event occurring in North America over the next 20 years to be greater than 50%.  I hope I am wrong, but I don't think I am and many experts agree.

The bottom line is that the area affected in such an event would likely be continent-wide, or worse.  Government and private disaster response at all levels would be paralyzed- without functioning vehicles to deliver supplies, without fuel pumps, without natural gas pumps, without trains running, without planes flying, without electric lighting, without heating, without utility water pumping, without refrigeration, we're quite literally thrust back 150 years before electricity and electronic technology.  Modern society, particularly in the US, simply cannot function without the technology on which we've become utterly dependent for survival.  The average American city typically has 1-3 days worth of food stocks for it's population, including the food in every grocery store.  That's it.  Equally frightening is that the average American home has virtually no food stores beyond a couple of days worth of food.  No doubt our allies such as the British would send aid to America, but it would take months before those supplies could come trickling in and they would never begin to meet the demand required- it would simply be too overwhelming.  Cities, in particular, would become hot zones of death and violence, and would quickly become desolate.  It only takes a about a week without food or water for society to completely break down- when people can't feed their children they quickly resort to theft, violence, and even murder to obtain what they need for survival.  This has been observed time and time again throughout history.  We have become so 'pampered' as a society today that we have a hard time imagining this in the US, but it is a very real threat that can happen literally at any time.

You and your family are on your own in such a scenario for months to years. Are you ready?  Personally I have created what I call a redundancy grid to analyze our family's options for survival.  While I won't lay ours out in detail for all to see, I'll give you the tools necessary to make your own in this article.  First, you need to list the basics that everyone needs to survive, here are a few you can use to start your list:

  • Food
  • Water
  • Cooking
  • Heating
  • Security
  • Communication

Now, for each of those systems, you need to list the methods you have on hand for each of these.  You may have heard the saying 'one is none and two is one' - that certainly applies when preparing for disasters because one method is often not enough, and you need backups for your backups.  How many backups you have depends on your level of comfort but I recommend 3-5 if possible.

For example, for food, you hopefully have at least a couple of months of food in your kitchen in the form of canned goods, Ramen noodles or other food.  That would be what I would call primary food stores.  Then you should have several more months or years of emergency food stored.  You may have other food options such as livestock, eggs from chickens, fruit trees, perhaps a garden (or at least seeds stored to plant a garden if necessary), or maybe a lake stocked with fish.  These are all multiple sources of food you can utilize in an emergency, hence backup methods beyond your 'primary food stores.'

The same goes for water- what happens when utility water stops, or your well runs dry, or you run out of water stored in your home?  Ensure that you have have backups for each of these systems.

Cooking- you might have an electric or natural gas stove- but what do you do to cook when you lose electricity or natural gas?  Do you have cookware you can use in your fireplace?  Or a propane stove with ample propane reserve?  Maybe a solar oven?

Heating is extremely important - what do you do when your electric or natural gas furnace or heat pump no longer has power or fuel to run.  Do you have a wood burning fireplace, stove, or furnace?  Perhaps a large propane heater with ample propane reserves?  If wood is part of your plan, make sure you have plenty of split and seasoned wood available, and the means and availability to cut and split more.

Electricity, natural gas, propane, gasoline, etc. - These are fuels that are required for the other items in your redundancy grid.  Carefully consider each item you list in the grid- what does it need?  If it needs a fuel, list that fuel as another item in your reundancy grid and make sure you have multiple sources or stores of that fuel and whatever you need to process that fuel.

This is not a complete redundancy grid, but it's a good example of what one looks like to get you thinking in the right direction.  The idea here is to ensure that you have multiple backups for each of the key things you need.


Primary Food Store
Emergency Food Store
Cattle & Pigs
Chickens & Eggs
Utility Water
Water well
Water Cistern
Bottled Water Stores
Electric Stove
Propane stove
Woodburning stove
Fireplace cookware
Electric furnace
Electric heaters
Propane heaters
Store of 10x 20 lb. propane tanks
500 gal. propane tank w/ fill station
Utility power
Solar power / inverter

Security, communication, gasoline, and wood are a few more of the systems you should probably add to your list, each with their own redundant systems.

You can see how complex these systems can become, but also how important they are to the survival of you and your family.  Since I work in information technology, I have been involved in designing disaster recovery plans for a number of multi-million dollar companies over the years.  I have been astounded by the lack of foresight that many individuals and companies have given to their survival.  One high-level executive I spoke with years ago said he has a generator on his home, so he is "good to go" in the event of a power outage.  I asked him what his fuel source was?  "Natural gas" he replied smugly as if it was a source of magic.  I asked him what his plan was if there is an earthquake and the natural gas lines rupture, or the electronic control systems on his generator or the natural gas delivery system fail?  I asked if he at least has a large propane tank for backup (provided it's an LP/NG unit)?  He just looked at me quizzically, apparently shocked that anything could interrupt the operation of his 'magic backup box.'  You owe it to the lives of your family to give more thought to your survival than that.

I hope this article has at least served to get you thinking about what you and your family would do in the event that your power went out today and didn't come back on for a year or more.  Your vehicles won't run, stores are empty, and people who haven't prepared are panicking.  That is the world we could all be thrust into from one quick and brilliant flash from above.



Anonymous said…
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