For previous parts of this series, see:
In the first two parts of this series, I laid out why I believe the threat of an EMP attack on the United States is both possible, and feasible. The returns to the attacker far outweigh his investment in time, technology and the sacrifices among his personnel. I described how certain advances in technology and materials allow attackers to produce a weapon suited to the task without the great yields necessary in past decades. The case for an eventual attempted strike is well made, in my opinion.
With at attack almost certain, and a grid-killing result possible, we need to understand that many effects of a strike are beyond our ability to resist – as anything less than a nation. It doesn’t appear that our leaders are willing to do much beyond acknowledging the threat. Congressional studies and reports have been made. Alarms have been raised. Yet the political will to focus on such things like Civil Defense and a hardening of the national grid is absent. As individuals, or even communities, we have no “power” to protect the grid. We may only seek to cover what we can in our own lives.
There is a community plan for hardening written by Mike Mabee. “Prepping for a Suburban or Rural Community”. It will not be applicable, though, to people living near large population centers. The weight-of-need will outstrip set-piece community hardening. Individual preparations must be designed to preserve mobility, communications and life-saving defenses.
Now I would like to make an attempt at answering some questions.
- “What can I do when relying on government assistance is not a reliable option?”
- “How can I preserve mobility, communications and life-saving defenses against possible refugee movements?”
- “How can I not become a helpless refugee when, as I move about, I am also technically a refugee?”
- “What can I expect from people I meet?”
These questions and more are natural concerns in the face of an 1880s reset of our nation, even if it is somehow only a short term situation. As usual, a survival plan is required, and so is the testing of its equipment, response regimen and back-up plans.
To preserve as much of your lifestyle as possible, it is necessary to recognize what you may lose. Here comes another list. Incomplete as it may be, it’s a good place to start.
Beginning with our home location, what we may expect in a dead-grid scenario includes:
- The loss of use of all appliances that make consume electricity.
- Washer /dryer, water heater, HVAC units and blowers, swamp coolers, fans, lights, TVs, stereos, radios, etc….
- Refrigerator, freezer, dishwasher, garbage disposal, trash compactor, range /oven, microwave, etc….
- Can opener, blender /processor, exhaust hood, grill, toaster, hot plate, coffee maker, etc….
- Security systems, cameras, alarms, powered gates, lifts, phones, intercoms, public address, etc….
- HAM radios, CB rigs, base stations, amplifiers, automatic tuners, antenna rotation control, scanners, repeaters, relays, MURS, FRS, wired field phones, etc….
- Water pumps, filtrations systems, well pumps, yard equipment, etc….
- Solar power systems and controls, automatic generator shunts and controls, etc….
- Spas, hot tubs, therapeutic whirlpool tubs, oxygen machines, nebulizers, home AEDs, medical pumps, etc….
- PCs, printers, copiers, faxes, scanners, routers, switches, modems, UPSs, cell phones, PDAs, tablets, notebooks, etc….
- Service and test equipment, automotive diagnostic devices, power tools, etc….
- Computer controls in all types of vehicles, towed RV electronics, CPU controlled wheel chairs, etc….
The above list is incomplete. Various items powered by batteries might seem out of place. Eventually they will need new batteries or a recharge, so they can be considered collateral damage. Individual preferences or medical needs surely add to this list, and because it is intended to reflect the home environment, industrial devices are left out. You can add them as you see fit if you own your own business or have a significantly different lifestyle. The point of that exercise in brainstorming is to illustrate just how deeply we rely on the free flow of electrons.
Out of all of those, you must make judgment calls on which are critical to you, which would be helpful, and which you might do without. This is dependent on how your life is structured. Will you be staying put, or bugging out? How important is mobility to you? Do you prefer to have options both ways? Those things that you determine are must-haves will need spares, or some way to power them.
“What can I do when relying on government assistance is not a reliable option?”
You can fall back on your plan, developed to sustain you as the nation falls apart. The concept of dealing with an EMP strike is simple. You want to protect as much as you can against destruction, from the most important to the least, or have the means to replace destroyed equipment. Other aspects of your plan are much the same as one developed to harden your lives against riot, refugee movement and even martial law. Consider that at some point, people will be on the move locally and regionally. They will be searching for supplies, refuge or targets of opportunity.
One item unique to this type of event is the ”Faraday Cage.” Modified for a pulse event, it is the best tool to protect equipment meant to be stored away until the lights go out. The basic concept is that the contents are held safely in a fully enclosed metal container, with no ground. (After an event, a ground can be applied to the exterior of the cage to discharge any buildup that remains, prior to opening the cage.) A sealed metal container prevents the pulse’s random charges from reaching sensitive electronics. These cages are not your typical Faraday design, utilizing metal mesh, or screen made from perforated metal sheet. By solid, picture a sealed ammunition can, trashcan or metal box. No rubber gasket or loose fitting lid, but a crushed metal gasket made from copper or aluminum, trapped firmly between the two parts of the can, or a bead of solder melted into the gaps between the close fitting halves. It could be called an EMP Cage.
While a cage could be constructed to allow for fast retrieval of the items inside, that is not its primary duty, and it might suffer in its main role in order to provide quick access. There will likely be time enough to retrieve the items within while the majority of people wonder what happened. The cage’s job is simple – seal the good stuff in, and keep the bad stuff out!
With further modifications, an EMP cage can protect equipment that is operated on a schedule, and is stationary. You might risk creating a “slot antenna” at the junction of body and doors, but it is conceivable that a metal closet could be used to protect a computer workstation or a radio communications /monitoring “desk”. The cabinet and doors need to be stiff enough to create a tight closure when everything is shutdown and stored away for the next use. Modifications are necessary unless you have access to military grade enclosures. Sturdy latches are needed to firmly close the door (s) and maintain contact between body and door along as much of their mating surfaces as possible. Power leads, antenna cables and similar connections to points outside the cage need to be disconnected at one end or the other. There can be no wire entering the cage, as it will serve as a Pulse conduit, rendering the cage ineffective. In building your cage, creativity is an asset.
“How can I preserve mobility, communications and life-saving defenses against possible refugee movements?”
The EMP Cage is suited to preserving not only back up electronics, but spare parts, too. Your BOV’s powertrain control electronics manage your engine, transmission and emissions systems. Each vehicle model has unique needs and will require its own set of spare parts. At a minimum, the computer that controls the engine should be stocked. It goes by different names. PCM – Powertrain Control Module. ECM – Engine Control Module. ECC – Engine Control Computer. Some vehicles have a separate TCM, or Transmission Control Module.
There are some things you will want to do to get hold of the right parts. You could…
- Buy a shop manual from a parts house, go through the engine /powertrain electrical section and determine what is installed
- Get friendly with a dealer mechanic and ask him
- Join one of the internet forums dedicated to your vehicle and browse the topics to see what electrical systems you have, and what the parts are called
- Then look for those parts at parts stores, online resellers of new or reconditioned parts, or junk yards if you are sure that you can find the right part
Understand that your vehicle’s VIN (vehicle identification number) has a lot to do with what parts are installed. In most cases, you will need to know the VIN when ordering or searching for replacement parts. Some engine computers need to be “flashed” prior to use. Flashing is the process, usually done at the dealer, where the computer is downloaded with the unique settings required for the installed options on your vehicle. If those settings are incorrect, you could experience problems with power, idle quality, transmission shifting, oil pressure or even overheating.
Since your current electronics work fine, you might want a competent shop to remove them, install the new units and do any flashing required. Take the vehicle home and swap out the parts for the originals. You will know that you have a working set of spares ready for the EMP Cage, and you’ll also have experience doing the replacement – critical for when you have to resurrect a dead BOV when time is important. This is where your shop manual is important. It will tell you where things are. It can be very hard to locate and identify some of these units.
Some other things to remember:
- Keep the prepped and loaded EMP Cage in the vehicle
- Carry the tools needed for the replacement
- Also carry the shop manual, or your own notes and pictures documenting the replacement process
Communications via cell and wired phones will probably be dead, or spotty at best. Do not count on them. If something does survive, it might not last long. There are other kinds of communication available, such as CB and HAM radios. Protected units might have problems getting through to each other due to scrambling of the atmosphere by the EMP weapon. But they will be the most likely candidates. A separate EMP cage for these is a good idea. If you carry two radios, placing one in the engine EMP cage will prevent the loss of both if there is a screw-up with one cage. The mating unit back at home, your “base station”, either needs to be in a cabinet when out of use, with power and antenna disconnected (unrealistic in most cases), or it needs to have a back up in a cage. The back up might be a hand-held unit compatible with the antenna, supplemented with an amplifier if possible.
There is some debate about whether the computer controlled digital safe locks will survive a pulse. I tend to think they will. For those not willing to take the chance, a standard dial lock is the answer. If a computer lock fails, the safe can be still be opened, but it’ll never close again afterward. Most safes can be cut open from the top or sides with a disc cutter, and the cheap ones can simply be pried open. A disc cutter assumes power, which a generator can provide if it also survives. Older generators have no sensitive electronics, and just might be more valuable than you know. All else failing, a good cutting torch will do the job if molten globs of metal bouncing around will not present a fire issue.
Smaller electronic gun safes, such as used in walls or inside furniture, might seem easier to enter, but they are generally well concealed within walls and such if installed properly. They will need to be removed, unless you want great damage to the surrounding structures. Combo safes, again, rule the day. A mixture of safes might provide options, time depending.
If you are an owner of night vision devices, powered scopes, thermal imaging and the like, and if your plans depend upon their availability, you will need to allow for some peace time inconvenience and keep them in a cage. Without long leads attached to them, I suspect they will come through okay. The only rock solid insurance, though, is protected storage.
“How can I not become a helpless refugee when, as I move about, I am also technically a refugee?”
Anyone on the move after society has begun its horrific readjustment is technically a refugee, prepared or not. It doesn’t matter if you have a real destination in mind or some backwater corner in Oz. Until you get there, you are just another body on the road or in the woods. What distinguishes you from the rest is your level of preparedness. On the road, you need those things that will enable you to safely arrive at point B. Distance, terrain, population density, crime and interference to free travel work against you. This is a bug-out in the extreme. You will need reliable transportation, even if that is a good pair of boots. You will need defensive capability. You will need portable shelter and a means to feed and hydrate yourself – safely. You will need a planned route, and at least one alternate, and the knowledge of both to enable transition between them. Remaining a self sufficient refugee isn’t easy. The key to not becoming helpless (or encamped) is to know your expected conditions and planing for them. Be realistic. If it’s too much to plan for, locate a better BOL or route and stick to reality.
You should be able to see that your mental attitude is key to surviving during a relocation.
“What can I expect from people I meet?”
You can expect the people you meet to grow increasingly desperate for supplies and shelter as the event ages. Unfortunately, many of our countrymen will depart from civilized ways and use whatever means they have “to feed their family”. This, of course, is open to extremely wide methodology in its application. Their degree of desperation is reliant on individual perceptions – be they based on real input or not. The woman begging for food might very well be concerned for her kids, but she and her husband, who is lying in wait in the bushes, have no concerns for you or your kids. The man asking for help with his truck may have a revolver he’d like to show you. The government official seeking “community volunteers” might also be seeking private resources. You don’t really know. People quickly turn into self justified liars and thieves when pushed into the dark realm of fear and desperation. Not all, but enough to make your life dangerous without solid and trustworthy community. Expect their numbers to grow, and to include some acquaintances and neighbors.
You might also expect to meet true angels, people with integrity real enough to trust with your life. It’s hard to determine that until your life has been risked, and not lost. But it is possible. Such might be those you will take in, or defend, or join up with as you move down the road. They are the ones worth your while. They are the ones that will care for you when needed.
But the most likely thing you can expect from people, if you are not standing out somehow, drawing attention, is a guarded distance. Those that come right up to you, after things have shown that they are serious, are after something. You’ll know them by their aggressive stance, hard stare, friendly smile when no familiarity exists, or the usual accouterments of the “thug”. Regular people, while willing to do that which is an affront in normal times, will either ignore you completely, or watch you with caution. If you are not doing anything to stand out, or something that screams “Hey everyone! I’m a prepper! I got it down, y’all,” you should at least be doing something to appear like the rest. If you are out-of-place, you will draw attention, and that’s a very bad thing when everyone is looking for salvation or quick satisfaction. Do not allow yourself to become a mark, and absolutely do not allow yourself to become boxed-in.
Do not expect to find a prepper community that magically sees and understands your value to their group. Do not expect to come out on top in an armed conflict. Do not expect to become the hero because you are “prepared”. Do not expect that law enforcement will stick to their oaths, recognize what you believe to be rights or “serve and protect” you on an individual basis. Expect that advancing time will corrupt power that manages to survive. Left to their own devices, the powerful will do what they see fit to preserve their positions, possessions and lives.
Successful community will exist where there has been significant prior relationship between members at all strata, either personal or professional. Where there is a hope for continued working relationships, there must exist a previous foundation of experience and trust. That goes for the “good guys” in uniform, town leadership, professional services and the neighbors up and down the street.
Summing it up, you can expect that the bad will become worse, the average will become less agreeable, and the good will teeter. Those that rise to the occasion will quickly learn that they need to be discerning in their actions and watchful over their lives. Those with the best chances for survival and even good living will be the visionaries that saw fit to create real community before the event.
Other Items of Interest
Grounding. In many prepper circles, grounding the cage is recommended, so that the charge building up on the outside of the cage will have “some place to go”. This might make some sense if the cage is actually one of those constructs so often described – a frame with a screen cover. As the charge moves about and changes, it might actually enter the cage through the mesh. Additionally, the E3 component of the pulse attack travels through the earth at many points, and a ground cable will allow that energy to reach your box. It will try to do to your box what it does to transformers and generators with heavy leads – melt them.
I do NOT believe a ground is a proper part of situating an EMP Cage. Any charge that builds up on the exterior of the box will dissipate with time. A box makes a lousy capacitor. If you are concerned that the charge will travel through you or some other thing as a connection is later made to some kind of ground, then ground it out with a length of cable after the pulse has passed. You can safely discharge it, and relieve yourself of concerns. No charge will penetrate a solid wall box.
An excellent article on EMP and protection from Future Science.
An EMP Detector is something a person with basic electronics experience should be able to build. In reality, it is a power loss detector. When power to an outlet in your home is lost, this device will create a loud racket. At that point, it’s up to you to fire up a radio and see how many stations are off the air. Count on there being very few running, if any. The EMP Detector has one circuit that receives power from the wall outlet, and energizes a relay. Another circuit is held open while that relay is energized, and closes when the relay shuts off during an outage. When it closes, it makes a 12 volt circuit feeding a car horn. Power drops, horn turns on – and you get a rude awakening. A switch in the horn circuit allow you to turn it off as needed during installation and during a black-out.
Part IV will deal with various means of building or sourcing EMP Cages, or adapting some other items for the same purpose.