Of all of the reasons to prepare, one that we all need to take seriously is the possibility of a catastrophic EMP, or electromagnetic pulse. This is especially true right now, as we face a huge amount of solar activity the likes of which could send out huge solar flares wiping out communication systems and modern electronics.
To be blunt about it, an EMP, if large enough, would affect the entire planet. In an instant, civilization as we know it would change as we get swept backward in time by a century or two.
WHAT IS AN EMP?
For those of you that only kind-of, sort-of understand EMPs, in the simplest of terms, an EMP is is an abrupt burst of electromagnetic radiation.
There could be many causes. To start with, certain types of high energy explosions, such as a nuclear explosion, will cause an EMP. Likewise, an EMP can be the result of a suddenly fluctuating magnetic field. Or, as I have mentioned before, it can be the result of Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) from solar activity. But perhaps most sobering of all, is the possibility of a man-made EMP weapon that is purposely deployed in order to wreak devastation on our planet.
Regardless of the trigger, an EMP can be devastating to the power grid, resulting in rapidly changing electrical fields that can create fluctuating electrical currents and wild voltage surges. Bottom line? The electronic gizmos we have come to rely on would be toast. The microchips would be fried or so severely damaged that they would become useless.
What would life be like following a massive EMP event or episode? There would be no power, no transportation systems, no communication systems, no banking, no internet, no food and no water delivery systems. This would truly be an End of The World As We Know it situation.
Ask yourself these questions:
- What if the power went out and never came back on? Could you fend for yourself?
- Could you keep yourself warm in the winter and cool in the summer?
- Where would you find food?
- What would you use for money if credit cards and ATM’s no longer worked?
- How would you get from one place to another without transportation?
- How would you wash your clothes?
- How would you keep yourself healthy if sanitation systems were no longer functional and medicine could no longer be manufactured?
- And the biggest question of all, how would you communicate with the rest of the world?
An electromagnetic pulse could potentially fry the vast majority of all microchips throughout the world. In an instant, nearly all of electronic devices would be rendered useless.
No American would necessarily die in the initial <EMP> attack, but what comes next is potentially catastrophic. The pulse would wipe out most electronics and telecommunications, including the power grid. Millions could die for want of modern medical care or even of starvation since farmers wouldn’t be able to harvest crops and distributors wouldn’t be able to get food to supermarkets. Commissioner Lowell Wood calls EMP attack a “giant continental time machine” that would move us back more than a century in technology to the late 1800s.
MASSIVE SOLAR FLARES DO HAPPEN – REALLY!
We are risk right now; perhaps not so much from an overt EMP attack by our enemies (although that could) happen, but from at attack by Mother Nature and the sun. NASA readily admits that the number of solar flares increases approximately every 11 years, and that the sun is currently moving towards another solar maximum, likely in 2013.
Will it happen? All I can say is that it has happened before, with the “Carrington Event” of 1859:
At 11:18 AM on the cloudless morning of Thursday, September 1, 1859, 33-year-old Richard Carrington—widely acknowledged to be one of England’s foremost solar astronomers—was in his well-appointed private observatory. Just as usual on every sunny day, his telescope was projecting an 11-inch-wide image of the sun on a screen, and Carrington skillfully drew the sunspots he saw.
On that morning, he was capturing the likeness of an enormous group of sunspots. Suddenly, before his eyes, two brilliant beads of blinding white light appeared over the sunspots, intensified rapidly, and became kidney-shaped. Realizing that he was witnessing something unprecedented and “being somewhat flurried by the surprise,” Carrington later wrote, “I hastily ran to call someone to witness the exhibition with me. On returning within 60 seconds, I was mortified to find that it was already much changed and enfeebled.” He and his witness watched the white spots contract to mere pinpoints and disappear.
It was 11:23 AM. Only five minutes had passed.
Just before dawn the next day, skies all over planet Earth erupted in red, green, and purple auroras so brilliant that newspapers could be read as easily as in daylight. Indeed, stunning auroras pulsated even at near tropical latitudes over Cuba, the Bahamas, Jamaica, El Salvador, and Hawaii.
Even more disconcerting, telegraph systems worldwide went haywire. Spark discharges shocked telegraph operators and set the telegraph paper on fire. Even when telegraphers disconnected the batteries powering the lines, aurora-induced electric currents in the wires still allowed messages to be transmitted.
“What Carrington saw was a white-light solar flare—a magnetic explosion on the sun,” explains David Hathaway, solar physics team lead at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
WHAT CAN WE DO TO PREPARE?
What to do? Here are a few basic suggestions that even the most casual prepper can achieve.
Have plenty of emergency candles, matches, flashlights and extra batteries on hand at all times.
Store plenty of drinkable water plus some method to purify water. Locate supplemental water sources now and be prepared to purify the water on your own.
Stock plenty of basic, non-perishable food that will get you by while you are learning to survive under the most trying of circumstances. (See 20 Items to Kick Start Your Food Storage Plan.)
Live a healthy lifestyle. If stuff happens, you will be much better off if you are healthy and not reliant on exotic prescription drugs or medical procedures. Eat healthy, natural and real foods and get regular exercise. This just makes good common sense.
TVs, video games and computers will not have the power to run. Stock up on board games, books, and puzzles to keep your mind occupied while you wait out the crisis.
Be prepared to defend yourself and your property. You need to decide how you want to arm yourself whether with a firearm, pepper spray, a baseball bat, or a bow and arrow.
Learn to grow food in whatever area you have available. Try container gardening, vertical gardening, hydroponics or a square foot garden. All or viable alternatives when you do not have a lot of space.
Learn to cook outdoors over an open fire.
Seek out like minded folks that will barter for things they need in return for items that you have available.
Consider building a Faraday cage for your spare electronics.
Keep the fuel tanks in your vehicles topped off. Traffic signals may not work but at least you will be able to get around. Note, however, that many modern vehicles may not operate at all due to the electronics controlling their engines and other systems.
We are all members of the 21st century prepper movement. We are learning to be self-reliant and to educate ourselves relative to the ways of old. We are stocking up on essentials and learning to prepare for the worst of times with a positive mindset.
As frightening as a massive solar flare and an EMP may be, we can only do what we can do but even a little bit is better than nothing. That said, I hope an EMP never happens. But if it does, I want to be ready to fend for myself and to continue to live a rich and rewarding life in spite of it all.
For more information on solar flares and EMPs, visit the NASA website. It will make a believer out of you.
Read other articles by Gaye Levy here.
Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!