EMP

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EMP. What the heck is an EMP?  Electro-magnetic pulse.  A what?  You know, I was actually wondering the same thing about a month ago.  One would think that an electrical engineer would know all about this, but I really didn’t. I had heard about solar flares and how they could harm the electrical grid.  I have had discussions about conspiracy theories and HAARP (in my home state of Alaska) with my co-worker.  However, I guess since I don’t have cable or the sci-fi channel, I just haven’t been exposed to it.  Honestly, I’m a little embarrassed and feel very under prepared if an EMP occurred.

I won’t go into all the history or details about EMP’s, Wikipedia does a great job explaining it. At our recent Lookout Babywearing meeting, one of the dad’s was talking about EMP’s and suggested I read a good book called, “One Second After,” by William R. Fortschen.

This is a story of a man and his family that live in Black Mountain, North Carolina.  They are at home on a spring day, when the world changed.  Someone sets of a nuclear EMP, high up in the atmosphere causing all electronic devices to no longer work.  Think about that for a moment….nothing that we know for our current survival works.  No refrigeration, no cars unless they are older, no air conditioning, no lights, no cell phones, no phones, no internet, and the power grid no longer functions.

This books goes through what it is like for this small town and the father when all he wants to do is protect his diabetic daughter and keep his family safe.

I won’t spoil the ending for you, it says most of the above in on the book sleeve.  This book sent my mind reeling.  What would we do if we had no way to communicate with our loved ones to make sure they are okay?  What if something like this happened while I was away from my boys?  How would I get to them and ensure that we had enough food?  If the United States, or for that matter any country, were attacked with an EMP, that country would be put back in the 1800’s with very few tools on how to actually survive.  If an EMP were to be used against the United States, we would not have power for a very long time.

I work for a large power company.  As I was reading this book, I started to think about the power grid and how vulnerable we are. Would the nuclear plant near my home be able to shut down safely?  I hear the words Smart Grid, electric cars, and even alternative energy.  These terms make me smile, however they all have electronics in them.  None of them would work anymore if an EMP was detonated.   A lot of people think that this kind of an attack is too unrealistic, but who would have ever thought that terrorists would have flown planes into the World Trade Center towers?

This book describes all the things that could go wrong if we as a society were not ready to deal with an EMP attack.  Lack of food because we are so dependent on our food being shipped from far away.  People would be dying off because they ran out of their heart medications, their insulin, etc.  Nursing homes would become cesspools, hospitals would be dangerous to visit because of rampant bacteria.  Depending on where you live, you may not have a fresh water source for sanitation.  We are not accustomed to making sure that we keep our water sources clear of human excrement which could spread disease.  Starvation would begin in a few short months depending on the season and the stock piles of food that each family had.  As a breastfeeding mother, I thought about all the mom’s that had chosen to switch to only feeding with formula.  How would they give nourishment for their very small babies when water was unclean or the powder ran out?  (I disliked a part in the end of the book where a mom was successfully feeding her newborn and she ended up being given a can of formula.)

Then you would have human nature setting in and people would begin to fight for food.  If something like this happened, one might be hundreds of miles from home, but with no transportation, they would have to walk or find some other means to get where they are going.  If you were lucky, you had a buddy with an old-time radio to try and find a signal being broadcast from far away. With that signal you might be able to find out what is going on, but more than likely there would be no one able to broadcast.

This book made me want to go learn how to shoot a gun and I hate the thought of holding a gun.  They scare the crap out of me.  I want to go preserve any and all food that I can get my hands on.  I want to find out what would happen to the nuclear plants. What would happen to them since I would think that their back up generators would not be able to shut the units down safely?  When I’m driving to work, I think about how I would pile my kids and my dog into my bike trailer and start riding as fast as I can away from this area.  I think about how long it would take me to walk or run home from work.  How long would it take me to recognize what was going on?  What would I steal from the grocery store when I realized that everyone was about to start looting?  What would feed my family the longest? Shouldn’t I be learning about wild crafting and how to forage my food?  Shouldn’t I learn how to hunt?  Or at least know how to prepare the meat if someone were to kill it so that it wouldn’t all spoil.  My mind just spins from this book.  What would we do as a family? As a society?  How would we recover or would we even recover?  How would I protect my family from starving?  From disease?

Some of my friends have already suggested more books to read and I will have to check them out from the library.  Check out this book, I’m about to return it to our local public library.

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2 thoughts on “EMP

    Leah Spencer said:
    September 26, 2011 at 11:03 pm

    Honestly, I didn’t care so much for One Second After. It’s an extremely negative book. It focuses a lot on taking care of “the man” (yourself), and not so much on reaching out and trusting others. Yes, it has some valid points, especially the medical thing. But I’d like to think that humans are adaptable and we’d learn to survive. Things like fast food wouldn’t be so readily available, people might actually try to eat plants to survive.

    I liked Terri Blackstock’s Last Light series. There’s 4 books, and I think it has a little more realistic portrayal of an EMP reaction. Yeah, people are going to go haywire at first, but I also think that there’ll be helping hands and survivalists popping up. Not all of them can afford to head to the hills. 😉

    Another book is Lights Out, by HalfFast. It’s been available online for free, and you might find some chapters out there. The last time I looked, the author said he was approached for a book contract and needed to take his novel offline. I’m not sure what’s happened since, but I liked that story. He was good at adding twists.

    bcb1961 said:
    September 27, 2011 at 11:01 am

    So basically the EMP would fry all the existing electronics? But stuff could be rebuilt, right? I’m not sure about the nuclear plant issue, but it would be a great question for Open Line :).

    I’m not a worrier, I guess I just figure I’ll be in the same boat as everyone else around me if something like that happens. At least I will have eggs, that is if we don’t run out of water to give the chickens 🙂

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