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EMP: The First 72 Hours

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EMP The First 72 HoursSource:

One of the scariest survival scenarios we face today is a potential loss of the electric grid, brought about by an EMP (electromagnetic pulse).

Whether that happens due to enemy action, exploding an atomic weapon above the atmosphere or from a solar event called a CME (coronal mass ejection) is immaterial. The results would be the same.

Not only would the electric grid be shut down, due to the transformers in our 55,000 electric substations; but any electronics connected to the grid would be destroyed. Some small electronics, like cell phones, might survive; but the would be useful without the rest of the system.

We are so dependent on electrical power, that the idea of trying to live without electricity is mind-boggling. Pretty much everything we do requires electricity, making us all but helpless without it.

While our ancestors were able to live normal, healthy, productive lives before the use of electricity, we have lost most of the skills that allowed them to do that. Rather than society being thrown back into the 1800s, like some have stated, we would be in a much worse state, not having the skills or tools to survive.

This is the nightmare TEOTWAWKI scenario that motivates many preppers to become as self-sufficient as possible. It is only those who are able to do things for themselves, without the use of electricity, who will have the wherewithal to survive such a scenario. But just will going into that scenario look like?

Ground Zero – High-altitude EMP Explosion

EMP The First 72 HoursAssuming an EMP caused by a high-altitude detonation of an atomic weapon, there will be little to nothing to give us any idea that our country has been attacked by enemies.

Exploding above the atmosphere, there will be no noise, pressure wave or heat wave to indicate the explosion.

Unless someone happens to be looking in the direction of the explosion, when it happens, it will not be visible from the ground. Even if they are looking, the explosion may not be visible if it is lined-up with the sun.

Our biggest indicator at the beginning will be the sudden loss of electrical power, just like any other power outage. There will be curiosity as to why the power went out, especially if there is no storm to blame it on.

Related: How to Tell in 5 Minutes if It’s a Power Outage or an EMP and Get a Massive Head Start

Many will take the typical actions of checking their breaker boxes, looking outside to see if others still have their lights on and attempting to call friends and neighbors in an attempt to determine just how far the power outage has spread.

At this point, the biggest reaction will be curiosity, not fear.

There are those who have written about EMPs, who have stated that cars will stop running and airplanes will fall out of the sky. But according to the report of the EMP Commission, most cars did not stop running and those that did, merely stalled but could be easily restarted.

While the increase of electronic controls in cars also increases the chances for them to be damaged by an EMP, the steel of the car’s body makes a pretty good Faraday Cage, protecting those electronics. Plastic bodied cars, on the other hand, wouldn’t fare so well.

As for airplanes, most military and commercial aircraft have aluminum bodies, meaning that they are excellent Faraday Cages too. Military aircraft, at least, are tested against EMP.

Commercial airlines are not, but their bodies are made of aluminum, making them perfect Faraday Cages. It is not uncommon for these airplanes to be hit by lightning, which just goes over the skin of the airplane, on its way down to the ground. An EMP would do the same.

Most private airplanes are also aluminum skinned, providing them with the same protection. About the only aircraft that might be damaged by EMP would be World War II or earlier aircraft that didn’t have aluminum bodies. But then, those aircraft didn’t have sophisticated electronics to be damaged by EMP.

As Awareness Dawns

EMP The First 72 HoursDifferent people will come to the realization that something serious is happening at different rates. Some may get the idea that something bad has happened in mere hours, while others will take days.

Those that realize something bad has happened may not know for sure it is an EMP; but fear will drive them to take action.

According to FEMA, the average household has only three days’ worth of food on-hand at any one time. As a society, we’re used to the convenience of just picking up take-out food orders or stopping in the grocery store on the way home.

All it will take is their first trip to the refrigerator, for most of these people to realize how little food they have on hand. Once they realize that, they’ll be off to their favorite supermarket.

Related: The 6 Expired Foods That You Can Safely Eat When SHTF

This is where things are going to start falling apart. American supermarkets stock an average of three days’ worth of inventory on most items. Fresh food, like dairy, meat and produce usually arrives daily.

The larger stores have generators to produce their own electricity if the power goes out, but it is unlikely that those generators will work. Therefore, the stores will be pulling the fresh and frozen food from refrigerated cases and throwing it away, just about as soon as they realize that the power isn’t coming back on.

The lack of electricity is going to cause another problem in those stores; the inability for people to pay for their purchases. Most of us use plastic to pay for our purchases today, especially after the COVID pandemic. We don’t have enough cash on hand to pay for a cart full of groceries.

At this point, people will have to make a decision – do they steal the groceries they were trying to get for their families or do they abandon the groceries, leaving them in the stores. It is widely believed that most people will just leave the store, taking whatever they can with them.

As soon as that starts, it will become widespread, with people cleaning out the stores. There will be a “feeding frenzy” of people stealing for a few hours, then our grocery stores will be left a shambles, with the only inventory left being broken packages on the floors.

The Panic Spreads

EMP The First 72 HoursAs people begin to loot stores, the panic will spread. Those who would normally be calm and collected will see what is going on around them and join in, rationalizing their actions in the understanding that if they don’t, they’ll be left without.

Related: How To Looter-Proof Your Home

While the grocery stores and other big box stores that sell groceries will be the first hit, people will quickly start looting other stores which have useful items. Liquor stores, sporting goods, hardware and pharmacies will all be at the top of the list, suffering the same sort of wanton looting, as people grab whatever they think they might need.

If the police show up, they’ll be faced with wonton crime that they can’t do a thing to stop. There just aren’t enough police to protect all our stores. A few police officers showing up at a supermarket full of looters will find themselves outnumbered.

Even if they resorted to shooting people, which would be a violation of the law, they wouldn’t have enough rounds to shoot everyone. Eventually, the mob would overcome them.

By the end of the second day, the looting will have ended, as there will be nothing more to steal.

Violence Begins

Shortly after the looting begins, it will turn violent. Granted, the very act of looting is violent and store windows will be broken to allow people in. But I’m referring to the violence that looters will take against store workers and each other.

Any store employees who even look like they are going to get in the way of the mob will be crushed underfoot. But the greater violence will be looters attacking each other, trying to get something they want, that the other person has.

It won’t take long for this violence to spread to the streets. There are always people in society who are more prone to violence anyway, including people who are already criminals.

Seeing what is happening, these people will realize that it will be easier to hit someone coming out of the store over the head, grabbing their cart full of supplies, than to wade into the store themselves, to see what they can find.

By the end of the third day, that violence will move to residential areas, as criminals organize and start breaking into homes to steal whatever food and other useful supplies they can find. It’s amazing how quickly the criminal element can organize, when it is to their benefit.

That organization may not be formal, but it won’t need to be. All they will need to do is get enough of themselves together in a group, so that they will be able to overwhelm the homeowners.

It’s hard to say just how long the home invasions will last; as that depends mostly on how quickly the criminals reach the conclusion that there are no more houses to hit. But during those first few days, they will be busy, with a good chance that different groups will attack the same homes at different times.

Where’s the Government in All This?

One could easily ask where the government will be during all this. I’m sure that many government workers will be at their posts, trying to do what they can to keep things going or restart things that have stopped. Considering that just about everything requires electricity, it is doubtful that the city water works or sewage department will have much success.

At the management levels of city, state, and federal government, there will be a lot of people running around in circles, demanding to know what is happening. They will be hampered in getting the information they need by the lack of communications.

While the federal government may have some protected means of communicating when the power is out, it is unlikely that state or municipal governments will have that option available to them.

As we all know, the government doesn’t work quickly at any level. While I’m sure they’ll be doing the best they can, without the ability to communicate effectively, I doubt they will be able to do much.

Related: EMP Prevention Plan: Why Our Government Has Done Nothing

Police will be out and about, trying to do their jobs; but as I mentioned earlier, they will be woefully outnumbered, making it impossible for them to protect people and stores. Criminals always seem to know where the police are and just take their business elsewhere.

Ending the 72 Hours

We should actually see things start to settle down at the end of the first 72 hours. While criminal gangs will still be attacking homes, stealing what they can, they won’t be in the commercial areas of town.

There will still be panic, but it will be a quiet sort of panic, as people try to come to grips with the future. Few, outside the prepping community, will have any idea of what to do.

Only a few people will have died in those first three days. Those will be people who were in the wrong place at the wrong time and were either killed by criminal violence or mob violence.  Most will be random people who were the victims of some sort of theft.

The first big die off won’t begin for a few more weeks, as people who need maintenance doses of medications to treat chronic conditions run out of medicine and can’t get more. Another month or so after that, people will begin to die of starvation.

Where Will You Be?

The question we need to ask ourselves, is where will we be during this time? How will we get through that first 72 hours, without becoming victims ourselves?

There will be a great temptation to go to the stores, making a last trip to see what we can get. While that may make sense, it will be a risky venture. If you decide to venture forth, do so in strength, while still leaving a strong force to watch your home. If you can’t do both, then stay home, protecting your home and stockpile.

Expect your home to be attacked, perhaps more than once. No matter how good you are at OPSEC, there’s still a chance that friends and neighbors will have come to the realization that you’re a prepper.

Some may come asking for help; while others come more forcibly. Even those who come asking may return in force, once you refuse their request. Put your defensive plan into effect, keeping your eyes peeled, to ensure you are not taken by surprise.

At the same time, you need to put your survival plan into effect, turning on your own off-grid power, water and sewage, to make up for what the city is no longer providing.

This is what you’re preparing for and it will be time to put it all into effect. Just do so with caution, keeping one eye open for any attack.

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    Total 2 comments
    • Josey Wales

      Psalm 127:1
      Verse Concepts
      A Song of Ascents, of Solomon.
      Unless the Lord builds the house,
      They labor in vain who build it;
      Unless the Lord guards the city,
      The watchman keeps awake in vain.


      • Josey Wales

        1 Timothy 5:8 – But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.

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