The threat of a "permanent blackout" across the United States caused by an EMP(electro-magnetic pulse) weapon has received a lot of press in recent months.
Considered an unlikely event by most people in years past, the more it has been discussed in both the private sector and the Pentagon, the more likely it has become that we will one day be attacked by an EMP, seems to be what the data on the EMP threat is saying. The U.S. government has even created a commission to address the threat, EMPCommission.org.
As a result of just one EMP attack on the U.S., in an instant the nation's power grid will fail as anything with circuits (including most automobiles built since the early 1960s when computerized components became more standard in automobiles) will cease to work.
Trains, buses, subway systems and commercial airlines and other modern planes will cease to work also -- even the 4,000 or so commercial flights (think Delta, U.S. Airways, Southwest Airlines, and many others) that are in the sky over America at any given time.
Our electricity driven society, built on a complex web of intersecting wires and computer circuits, will suddenly come to a standstill.
All Hell will probably break loose shortly after.
Chaos Following an EMP Attack on the U.S.
Why chaos after an EMP?
Imagine the world suddenly without TV, radio, phone, internet, refrigeration, microwaves, stoves and ovens, washers and dryers, waste removal, sewage treatment facilities, clean water from the tap (provided by water companies that use industrial equipment to treat water; even water that at a previous time may have been sewage) making it safe to drink; gas companies who provide heat and power gone; or of course the electric company.
Imagine each going offline -- permanently.
Imagine the U.S. unable to transport food from farmland in distant states and counties -- meat, dairy, eggs, produce, grain products, packaged food.
300,000 million people (the population of the United States) will quickly descend on the packaged food left on store shelves in the initial hours of the realization that an EMP had taken place.
Many will hoard -- meaning, get there hands on as much packaged food as possible and then fight tooth and nail to keep it out of the hands of others who may experience panic when they see store shelves emptying and realize they don't have more than a few days of food at home. They realize now they're in trouble. Food is disappearing fast. Everyone is taking it.
Too bad those unprepared for disaster didn't see the signs that America (and other Western nations) are increasingly hated by nations in the world -- nations with the desire and growing means to bring our nation (and possibly other Western nations) to collapse.
There will be additional panic that will become widespread across the states -- a concern that grocery stores are shutting down permanently, due to the EMP.
All Food Deliveries Will Stop
With no vehicles or trucks on the road -- due to the majority of vehicles' fried components as a result of the EMP -- there will be no new deliveries of food to restock store shelves as store shelves empty when there's a mad dash for groceries across the land.
If that's not bad enough, all foods requiring refrigeration will start going bad within just a few hours. A fully stocked refrigerator and freezer will have to be eaten in a very short time frame (frozen meats could be thawed and then smoked using primitive methods for long term food storage, so not all is lost for people who have taken the time to learn how to smoke and preserve meat -- we've covered this in another article).
Lights Out For Good
Lights out in every city. Jails and prisons power down (how are more than 1,000,000 inmates going to respond to that? Probably quite a few riots. There will likely be a handful of mass escapes.)
Nursing homes and hospitals will lose power instantly also -- the elderly, sick, and those requiring medical equipment to simply stay alive will be in immediate trouble. Within minutes and hours people will start dying -- within days many of these people requiring medical devices to live will be dead.
Many other Americans will be in trouble also -- especially those due for refills of important medication they rely on to live; this includes diabetics (which there are a lot of nowadays) who have to store their insulin medication under refrigeration as it goes bad quickly when not kept at a constant, cool temperature. Many diabetics will die as a result of the EMP.
But the biggest initial death toll from an EMP isn't going to come from the sick and elderly -- it's going to come from the skies overhead.
EMP: Death from the Skies as Jumbo Jets Fall
One expert on the EMP threat says that in the first hour we can expect 250,000 - 500,000 people to lose their lives. What? How?
Remember the approximately 4,000 commercial flights in the sky over America at any given time? When the EMP strikes, their on-board computers and electrical components are going to be fried, just like computers and electrical components down on the ground. And when that happens a few thousand commercial jets with 250,000 - 500,000 people on board (when you total the number of flights in the sky at any given time) are going to be on a collision course with disaster, their on-board computers and navigation now dead, zero power.
It's extremely difficult to pilot a jet with zero power and bring it in for an emergency landing -- some might say it's impossible. This isn't a matter of an engine failing and then the pilot getting on the radio and being guided to a nearby airstrip. No, it won't be like a traditional emergency landing.
No Radio, No Navigation, No Controls
You see, when the power goes out in these flights so will communications (there won't be any radio); so will electronic navigation; so will the ability to steer these commercial jets, from what I understand.
While many of these flights will be over rural country and mountains when they start to come down from the sky, many others will be in the vicinity of large cities and urban areas. Imagine the horrible sound of a full size commercial jet coming in for a hard and fast attempted landing -- in most cases resulting in the destruction of the jet as it strikes a neighborhood or industrial area or shopping district or hopefully in most cases, farm land.
Commercial jets do have a fair glide time -- meaning that even if the engines lose total power a plane at 10,000 feet elevation is said to be able to glide right in to an airport like LAX 32 miles distant.
A major problem jets will have though -- without on board computers -- is maneuvering -- especially when the stick (called a control yoke) that they steer the plane with isn't actually connected to the tail or wing flaps -- it's connected to a computer that sends signals to the tail and wing flaps of the plane as the stick is maneuvered. This is a jumbo jet, remember. With no on board computers, that stick becomes useless when there is absolutely no power to send signals to the wings and back of the plane.
The threat of losing power in a jumbo jet exists today, without an EMP -- but because there are so many battery back up systems and generators on board, if one system goes down, another goes online. That is why we don't see commercial jets crashing from time to time due to electrical failure. They are built to always have multiple sources of back up power.
An EMP will fry all chances of any back up power.
Flights overhead -- perhaps a flight you'll be on with your family -- will be dead in the air and begin falling from the sky, counting on glide time, prayers to God, and with luck or God's deliverance, a convenient place to bring the plane down, hopefully in one piece.
One Second After an EMP
Does 4,000 flights falling from the sky sound far-fetched? These reports come from William R. Forstchen Ph.D., author of "One Second After", an expert on EMPs who wrote this book in an effort to bring attention to the threat of EMP and what just one nuclear detonation 300 miles above the earth would do to our nation.
William Forstchen writes on his website, OneSecondAfter.com: "EMP, has managed to 'stealth' its way on to the highly dangerous list and few, except for a small number of personnel in the Pentagon, various research labs, and men like Congressman Bartlett (R., MD) who heads the Congressional Investigative Committee on EMP, are aware of it."
Ultimately -- this isn't a far fetched scenario, unfortunately. If it were far-fetched the U.S. government would not have created a commission to address the threat -- and evolving threat -- of an EMP. See: EMPCommission.org EMP Commission website.
Top 5 Most Dangerous Places to Be in an EMP
If you're in a jumbo jet and you're going down with a few hundred other people and the jet has no on board maneuvering capabilities, that seems to say that the jet will be at the mercy of wherever it happens to be and what elevation it happens to be at when it comes down out of the sky -- flights that make emergency landings on to land are said to statistically fair a lot better than flights that come down in the water.
The only problem with these emergency landings will be that if it's at night, there won't be any lights on the ground to signify cities vs rural country side; nor will there be lights on the ground to signify local airstrips.
If the EMP happens during daylight, at least the pilots have a chance of eyeing what's on the ground as they come down. If the control yoke is useless for steering, I'm not sure what chance at all they have of the jet being directed toward a relatively flat area to land. If this thing comes down on anything other than concrete, most likely everything on the bottom of the plane -- landing gears, wheels -- are going to be torn off as the plane sinks into the soil. Will the force of that kind of impact cause the plane to break up?
Left to chance, my guess is that the majority of those 4,000 approximate flights in the sky when an EMP takes place are going to end in disasters. A few are likely to make it out ok though.
Trapped in an Elevator -- Complete Darkness
An elevator is one of the last places I'm sure most people would want to be when an EMP takes place -- especially an elevator in a tall skyscraper in a large city experiencing a terrorist attack. You might get left in there for a few days.
The chances of being trapped in an elevator increase if you work in a downtown skyscraper or other building and regularly take elevators; you need to consider that if the EMP occurs while you're in that elevator, you're going to be stuck, for hours and possibly days; you might want to learn in advance what it takes to get out of an elevator when the power goes down for good.
First tip: Talk to your building management -- make sure they have a plan for immediately rescuing people from stuck elevators in the event of a blackout. They need to be concerned about the well-being of people who may be trapped inside. Keep in mind that they won't be able to simply call a maintenance man to come to the building to rescue tenants trapped inside. If that building's maintenance man lives 20 miles away and his car doesn't work, how is he going to get to the building?
Besides, his phone isn't going to work, so he can't simply be called on the phone. Finally, the last thing on his mind might be his job that he doesn't care too much for anyway -- in fact right now he might be a lot more worried about his children or parents who live thirty miles or so in the opposite direction of that building where he works as a maintenance man.
What does that mean for people stuck inside an elevator in a downtown high rise or other building? They're going to have to figure out a way to get out, and also hope that other people who live or work in the building will also care to take the time to help get them free. Escaping a trapped elevator may involve a few people.
Not only is the elevator trapped between floors, the elevator (and much of the building) may be in total darkness.
If You're Stuck Inside an Elevator
Yell and bang on the sides of the elevator. Make a lot of noise until someone responds and confirms they're going to help you get out.
Where Will You Be When an EMP Strikes?
Do you know where you're going to be when the lights go down for good -- if an EMP takes place? You might want to start carrying a small pen-size flashlight, one that can fit on your key chain for example -- so you always have it with you.
Theory goes that small devices with small components not connected to larger devices should be fine in an EMP; the reason these should be fine is that the "pulse" that fries components is picked up by devices with longer wiring that then acts as an "antennae", picking up the pulse as it goes out from the initial nuclear blast; small devices with small circuits and wires won't pick up enough pulse, as statements I've read indicate. They should be ok.
Do you take a daily elevator? Get yourself that small flashlight. Also get yourself some training on how to get yourself out of an elevator should the power go off and it get stuck in between floors.
If there's no maintenance man around, rescuers (who know you're inside) can also look for the fire department; fire departments are trained in elevator rescue. One unfortunate aspect of an EMP though (or other major disaster that knocks out power) is that the local fire department might be spread thin and already responding to multiple other emergencies in distant parts of the city.
To get people out of stuck elevators after an EMP, other people (who are aware of people trapped inside stuck elevators) will have to search far and wide for the fire department.
See: Storm Caused Power Outage Traps Girl Inside Elevator
Ventilation Failure in Buildings
Final concern for people trapped inside an elevator -- buildings without air conditioning (when the power fails) can turn into ovens during the summer months, especially an elevator in the heart of a building. Additionally, buildings -- especially large buildings -- are built with electronic ventilation systems.
Some of these buildings may become dangerous to be in after a few days of the power being out, due to stagnant air. Rooms will need to be ventilated by hand shortly after an EMP -- meaning, a window in each room broken if need be or holes made through walls.
Last tip for people who take a daily elevator to work or home -- along with that small flashlight (and extra batteries), carry some bottled water and a bit of food. I'd throw a Bible in there also. Here's why: If you live or work in a high-rise downtown in a city experiencing a disaster or terrorist attack -- no help may come for you in time.
Not if fire departments are overwhelmed elsewhere in the city, perhaps a secondary terrorist attack has taken place -- or perhaps massive fires have erupted following a jet falling from the sky or 15 separate pile ups of 100 or so vehicles in each crash.
You might be on your own here -- stuck in a pitch black elevator in the heat of summer with no one to come to your rescue; you're going to need God or an angel to bail you out of this one.
One more thing while you're stuck inside that elevator: Hold on to the hope that this is just a temporary power outage -- and not an EMP.
If You're Stuck in an Elevator After an EMP and Help Never Comes
You can search the roof of an elevator for a service latch to a hatch, but sometimes these require special tools to open; if you can reach the service latch that is -- meaning you're either about 7 feet in height or you're lucky enough to have a second person in the elevator with you, who can give you a boost up. Some elevators do have hand rails though. Use a corner of the elevator to climb up on to the hand rails to look for a service latch.
(If you take a daily elevator in a high rise downtown I'd suggest you find out what those special tools are for the hatch in the type of elevator you ride and you start carrying them -- just in case.)
Also -- don't ride that elevator alone -- you may have a hard time reaching the hatch, without someone else to give you a boost up, even if you do have tools to open it.
Dangers After Escape
Once you've climbed out of the top of the elevator, you're only partly out of danger. If the power comes back on you can get crushed -- so I wouldn't make this escape unless you know for sure that the power is down for good:
Be sure to pull the "STOP" button in the elevator before you climb out through the top. That way the elevator doesn't start moving again if the power comes on.
Once in the elevator shaft you also risk electrocution (depending on the wiring for the building) if the power comes back on.
Some elevator shafts have no way to escape. Once in an elevator shaft though your cries for help might be heard easier -- perhaps a few people with sledge hammers and manual concrete breaking tools can chip their way through the elevator shaft and get you out that way -- though the best way to get to an elevator will likely be to break through doors in a floor above the elevator and drop rope down (headlamps would be a handy tool to have to provide light); rescuers could then climb down the rope to the top of the elevator and break open any service hatch -- unless it opened from the top.
If an EMP occurs during day or early evening hours, we can expect tens of thousands of people across the U.S. to be stuck in elevators in thousands of cities.
If you live near buildings with elevators, consider rounding up a number of people to do a search for anyone who may be stuck in an elevator.
Hospital / Nursing Home Care Requiring Machines
Hospitals are going to be a disaster following an EMP -- people needing medical attention will show up on foot; aid workers will likely be sent to nearby emergencies and other aid workers will stay behind to help with the many people on critical systems that are now without power. People in surgery and connected to machines will be in trouble. Hospitals in major cities are going to be a mess.
Nursing homes with elderly patients requiring critical care (machines and scheduled medication) and also hospice are likely to become a disaster also. These will be some of the first people to die across the nation -- after all those flights from the skies come down to earth and initial car wrecks take place.
Near a Nuclear Power Plant After an EMP
Nuclear power plants operate in a "controlled meltdown" -- rods in a state of meltdown emit high amounts of heat, generating steam from fresh water that is pumped over these rods, which then turn turbines, which produce electricity.
When electricity fails at a nuclear power plant backup generators come online to keep everything operating safely. But like a commercial airplane these backup generators will end up fried in an EMP, as everything is wired to everything else, and it's this wiring that allows an electro-magnetic pulse to do so much damage to so many systems.
With the power failure and fried generators, we now have a nuclear meltdown on our hands. In the coming days high levels of radiation will soar into the air, dusting the land and lakes and streams and any people for miles around -- especially those people downwind of a nuclear power plant.
Do you live nearby any nuclear power plants? Do you have plans to "bug out" in the event of a disaster to a remote location? You might want to study prevailing winds first, and look to see where in relation the nearest power plants are to those prevailing winds so that you can predict what direction radiation will be carried and how far. Compare this path to where you live and also to where you plan to flee to in the event of disaster.
In a Highway / Freeway Tunnel when an EMP Occurs
When the lights in the tunnel go black from an EMP, so will most vehicles controls, so will your headlights -- and so will most lights in most vehicles in that tunnel, large trucks with tractor trailers and buses included.
At 60 MPH freeway tunnels filled with traffic that is suddenly in the dark could immediately end in crashes where cars, trucks, semis, and buses pile up, one on top of the other -- glass breaking, metal and fiberglass colliding violently -- sheer devastation.
Think about that the next time you're driving through a long tunnel that is lit by traffic and overhead lights.
Good news in this? It's very possible that gas that spills on the roadway from crashed vehicles won't ignite from sparking vehicle wiring -- unless sparks are created from metal grinding on the concrete. That might ignite a fire ball that turns that tunnel into an instant furnace.
Some reports indicate that it's likely that not all vehicles will be effected by an EMP. These reports say that many will lose power and that some will not. They back these claims off of reported tests that have taken place.
What If You're the Only One with a Working Car?
Whatever ends up happening, I don't think it would be a great idea to own a working vehicle when most other cars have stopped working. You might become a target for a heist.
Emergency Transportation: Mountain Bikes and Bicyle Trailers
Rather than counting on your car or truck, you may want to have some mountain bikes and bicycle trailers in your garage back at home (which of course may also make you a target of a heist).
If you do want to run the risk of owning a running vehicle -- and if you're a mechanic -- you can disassemble electrical parts to things like an ATV or motorcycle and then store these electrical components in a device known as a Faraday Cage (more on that below) -- which is a "do it yourself" metal box that can be used to protect small electronic devices from the effects of an EMP.
This is reported to be a way to get older vehicles (early 60s for example and before) operating after an EMP has taken place. You may not be able to get a newer car back on the road -- due to the sophistication and number of electrical components needing to be replaced -- however an older vehicle with a lot less electrical related parts could get back on the road.
You just need to make sure you have those electrical parts on hand and the ability to replace these parts.
As part of your preps for an EMP, buy yourself an old car or truck that runs and then remove key electrical components; store these components in a safe place.
Which brings us to:
How to Protect Electrical Devices from an EMP: Build a "Faraday Cage"
As reported in a previous article on our site on Doomsday Preppers prepping for an EMP, there are steps a person can take to protect electrical devices at home -- that is to build (or purchase) a metal box called a Faraday Cage.
What is said to happen is that the metal box protects items inside from an electromagnetic pulse -- causing the pulse to flow around the box and unable to reach electrical devices inside (as long as they are wrapped in a non-conductive material).
Electrical devices placed inside a Faraday Cage could be an emergency AM/FM radio, two-way radios, solar battery charger, small generator, emergency medical equipment, inverters, and a laptop or external hard-drive (should either have important documents or ebook downloads you want to hold onto and not lose).
A Faraday Cage can be built out of scrap metal or other metal containers you have on hand -- even an old microwave could be used is what one writer claims.
Wrap each device you want to protect in plastic, newspaper, cardboard or other non-conducting material and place inside.
While you can build a Faraday Cage from scrap metal, you can also use things like metal filing cabinets, metal safes (like a gun safe), and even ammunition boxes. Building a copper mesh around each box adds another layer of EMP protection to your contents inside. A metal tool box would also work well. In fact you could have a tool box (wrapped with plastic or carboard) with electronic devices inside (each wrapped with plastic or cardboard); this small tool box could then be kept inside a second larger tool box -- now you have multiple layers of protection from an EMP.
Which Electrical Devices to Protect
If you have an early model car or truck or motorbike (for example, 1960s and before), key electrical components could be stored in a Faraday Cage. After the EMP strikes, the components taken out and then put back into vehicles so they'll start again.
Other electrial devices to protect:
* Ham radio
* 2 way radio
* Solar battery charger
* Small generator
* Emergency medical equipment (if you or a loved one require it)
* External hard drive
* Emergency AM/FM radio
* Extra batteries for operating each device for several weeks or months.
* Watches with hour / minute hands (being able to keep track of time can be an important survival tool; your ability to coordinate meeting times and locations with others after splitting up into different groups will likely call for precise time keeping in certain situations -- don't forget the importance of a watch -- I should say "watches". You'll want more than one watch for different people in your party).
How to Store Battery Back Up Power
One terrifying aspect of an EMP is the loss of communication with family -- your children, your parents, your wife, your husband. In fact it's possible even likely you will never again talk to loved ones who live in distant states (if not in this life, hopefully Heaven; have faith in God, and your loved ones also, if you want that of course).
But is there a way for you to have communications, even after an EMP?
Possibly. Using a Faraday Cage and a few stored batteries kept charged for emergencies, you may be able to reconnect with loved ones using a series of two way radios or Ham radio / CB (CBs have a much shorter range though than two way radios; though it may not hurt to have both, if you have that capability).
Related Articles: Communications After an EMP: Two Way Radios - Following An EMP, telephones, cell phones, and the internet will be a thing of the past. Two way radios will be a valuable tool for a few people. Learn how to protect your two way radios from the effects of an EMP as well as a communications "system" for re-connecting with loved ones.