A conservative news and views blog.

Location: St. Louis, Missouri, United States

Monday, December 05, 2011

Surviving the End of the World

Timothy Birdnow

I've written about this before, and I'll probably write about this again, but it bears repeating. This morning I received the newsletter from World Net Daily (one of many such clogging my e-mailbox daily) and this morning's topic was EMP I wrote about EMP back in the study commission did it's work, and it appeared most people didn't know anything about it at the time (I actually had people calling me a liberal scaremonger!) One commentor at American Thinker - who claimed to be involved in the original Starfish Prime tests in the '60's - flat out denied that there even WAS such a thing as the EMP effect. Hardly surprising; the U.S. denied Starfish Prime for decades as official policy. Didn't want to start a panic or anything.

Still, it is real and it DID happen. Starfish Prime was one of many nuclear tests conducted in the South Pacific in 1962, part of a large-scale series of tests called Operation Dominic. SP airburst a 1.5 megaton nuclear device over Johnston Atoll, about 800 miles from Honolulu. Light bulbs, radios, televisions blew out all over the island. Telephone service was disrupted. Also, an artificial radiation belt was created that eventually played merry hell with low Earth satellites, crippling one third of them. Nuclear scientists had suspected this all along; the original atomic tests suggested the presence of EMP. Starfish Prime merely confirmed their suspicions.

And Starfish Prime was a small nuke, and not especially designed to maximize the Electromagnetic Pulse. What happens in an EMP is the bomb is burst at the top of the atmosphere - either high in the stratosphere or in space itself right above the atmosphere - and it emits a high-energy burst of gamma rays. Those rays ionize molecules in the atmosphere and give them a hefty kick, sending the beta particles on in a shock wave that eventually touches down. The EMP moves in a straight line, so anything in line of sight is damaged. Also, the wave comes so quickly, peaks so fast, that conventional surge protection does not have time to work, so your electronics get blown anyway.

And EVERYTHING has electronics now. Only cars built before 1980 will run. Radios, televisions, all forms of communication will be out. There will be no water pumps operating. Food in warehouses will rot, grain in the fields will rot, and nobody will get a crop in. There will be no police or fire protection. It's Road Warrior time.

That's why the proliferation of nuclear weapons is of such concern; you only need a couple of nukes to bring the entire U.S. down - or all of Europe. A nation like Iran, one with missile technology, could do it. North Korea is on the verge of being able to do it. Even our "friend" Pakistan. But Iran is entirely willing to do it to bring that goofy 12th Imam out of the well he fell down into back to Earth. And I'm not at all sure the U.S. would retaliate with thermonuclear hellfire if they did attack us. It wouldn't matter anyway; we'd be finished. The U.S. government projects an 80% casualty rate throughout the country within one year of such an attack.

Yes, that was eighty percent, not eight. Four out of five people will die.

This caught my attention because I was re-reading William Fortschen's novel One Second After, which is a decent story about a retired army colonel trying to save his family and his small North Carolina mountain community after such an attack. The novel is essentially a repeat of the 1975 Novel Lucifer's Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, only with an EMP destroying civilization rather than a comet strike (I recommend both books - they both illustrate the horror of the collapse of civilization.)

I've said this before; it's going to happen someday. There are three ways I know of to trigger an EMP, and only one involves conscious attack. There was also the Carrington Event ; in 1859 a HUGE solar storm (an event called a coronal mass ejection or CME) blew out telegraph lines and started fires in offices across the globe (which pretty much meant in Europe and the United States at that time). Carrington would have brought our entire civilization down.

It should also be possible to trigger an EMP by meteor strike. Certainly the Tunguska meteorite had the effect of an atomic bomb, and should a large meteor graze the atmosphere it should be able to replicate what the Starfish test accomplished. Also, it's possible to make a small gadget that can be used to cause a local EMP on a city.

So, what are the signs and what to do?

If power goes out and nothing is working - including battery operated gizmos, and your car won't start. there is a good chance an EMP of some sort has hit. It MAY just be a local phenomenon, so don't panic. (Sage advice from the "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy".) Don't panic, but put your emergency plan into operation - and you'd better have one!

You have to consider the basics; water, food, shelter, rest, warmth, and medical requirements. Oh, and DO NOT FORGET DEFENSE! Good people are going to turn into thieves at minimum, and murdering thieves more likely, as the situation grows more desperate. If you are in a large city, make sure you have a place to go to, somewhere you can walk to if need be, but get moving. Cities are going to turn into starving hellholes in no time, and the worst dregs of society will rule.

Ideally you will have a place in the country, some isolated cabin or whatnot (sort of like my Ozark Hilton, although even that is too close to the road.) Make sure you have a good supply of non-perishable food on hand, and keep some jugs of water. A good way to handle water is to put a drop or two of bleach in it, or use an empty bleach jug. canned goods are better than nothing, but freeze dried is ideal. Remember, you are going on aloooonngg camping trip; you'll need utensils, tools, blankets, extra clothes. Remember that seasons change and summerware will kill you come winter. You are going to want a hatchet, probably an ax, a hammer, several knives. probably a small tent. You are going to have to find a way to move all this stuff, too, which won't be easy without a car. Lanterns, too; you'll need light. And fuel, and extra batteries for flashlights. And matches. And, and, and...

You can save some electronics by putting them into a Faraday Cage. A Faraday Cage is a grounded wire mesh. Put what you want to survive inside it and if you do it right it won't blow. Make sure to have a radio in there. Some walkie-talkies would be a good idea, too.

Again, it would be ideal to have a place where you have this stuff stashed already, and you just have to get yourself there. The early days after such an event may not be so bad, but you'll have to be wary.

It's going to get very, very bad.

People will be starving within weeks, and they will be EVERYWHERE. Hidden retreats will eventually be found and looted. A desperate father will not watch his children die of starvation when you have food, so you will have to kill him or be killed, in all likelihood. He may have been a good guy in a more civilized life, but now he is a mortal enemy. American Indians were known to kill strangers on sight, and that was a perfectly reasonable response to the situation they were forced to live under, because strangers may well kill you on sight. And the Indians lived with far fewer people in a land with much greater bounty. Life is going to be precarious and cheap in a post EMP world.

Some communities may organize and survive. It'll be rough; they'll need some defendable borders, and food will always be scarce. But a small town will likely grow a lot of it's own food and will have enough people to defend itself. They probably won't be too welcoming of strangers. Also, military bases will secure the areas around them; if you don't know what else to do, go to a military base. They'll save your life. Of course, they will also own you and may not be able to feed you, but at least you won't have to worry about murder, rape, and mayhem. You can hide in the woods if you are a good enough outdoorsman, but woods in America are pitifully small these days, and will likely be penetrated by other refugees. Game will grow scarce quickly.

You are going to need at least a year before enough people are dead to make it reasonably safe to pop your head out.

So, what do you eat?

You are going to exhaust any canned food quickly; you need to augment your diet. Growing food requires land, seed, and tools. Farming is tough, and learning in an emergency unlikely. And it will be an obvious target for looters and pillagers. There will be game; learn to hunt, fish, and trap. The game won't last that long, either, though. Learn about local plants. Here in the hardwood forests of Missouri the oak tree is ubiquitous. Oak tress produce acorns. Native Americans used to make flour from acorns, and so did early settlers. You must make it from white oak or you will have too much tannin - an acid that produces a mouth-puckering bitterness (you have tannin in tea.) White Oaks require half a day of boiling before they are palatable. Red or black oak acorns can actually be eaten too, but require several days of boiling. Do cuth them up first. Then they will need to be dried, roasted, and ground into flour. They will use valuable water resources. Don't just pitch that water out; change it periodically during the boil and let it cool, then skim off the oils that come out. Acorn oil is physically similar to olive oil although it has more fat. It will be too tannic to use like olive oil, but it can be burned in oil lamps (I think; it may be too viscous) or at least be used as a fire starter. If you know how to make biodiesel fuel, you could probably do it with acorn oil, but then you'll need a diesel engine that runs...

Oh, and don't forget; scooping up all the acorns will chase away the creatures that live on them. You'll lose your game as the small ones leave and the big predators follow.

Another common tree that is possible to eat is pine. "Ever eat a pine tree" Yule Gibbons famously asked. Yes, many parts are indeed edible. You can find pine nuts, for instance. Then there are the needles; a good source of vitamin C. Make a tea from them; tastes like crap, but it will keep you from getting scurvey. And in the dead of winter the bark can be peeled from young saplings and the white "meat" scraped. Suppodly tastes like turpentine, but it will keep you alive until spring.

You can actually combine the two - acorns and pine - to make beer. Part of the reason the Pilgrims stopped where they did was because they were about out of beer, and knew this trick. You will need som barley malt to get the enzymes you need, but acorn flour is almost identical to barley malt (except, again, for a higher fat content) and by adding some malt to the flour you can brew beer. Nature will provide the yeast, and you'd better have some sealable bottles. You can use pine needles, or pine cones, in place of hops. It may not be good, but you may be able to trade it to others for something you need. Salt, perhaps; salt will be precious in the post EMP world.

I read of a guy who did this but used Beano, the stomach medicine, in place of barley malt. Said it worked quite well. You just have to have the enzymes to convert the starch in the grain into sugars.

If you have something that will run but no gasoline, may I suggest making a wood gas generator? FEMA puts out a free manual telling how to do it. Wood gas is a mixture of methane, methanol, hydrogen, and carbon monoxide that is put out by wood when it burns. A wood generator has a lot of wood with a smoldering fire underneath. the wood converts into charcoal and falls into the firebox, where it super heats and burns all the "smokey" biproducts of combustion off the gas. The gas then is piped through a radiator system of some sort and can be led directly into a carbeurator where it will run an automobile. It's comparable to natural gas, though less energetic. Your car may run poorly, but it will run on wood gas. You could run a generator, too, if you have one that hasn't been damaged by the EMP. You could hook a lawn-mower engine to a car alternator and run it on wood gas and have electric power! Be careful; the gas is explosive. Also, you would have to carry the whole setup on your vehicle.

You can also build a sterling engine; there are blueprints for sterling engines online. They can be quite simple. A sterling engine is an external combustion engine. It has a hot chamber and a cool chamber, and the temperature differential between them moves a piston (or other contraption) that does work. They tend to be very efficient on small scales, not so much on larger ones (which is why they never caught on). Again, you could maybe generate a few watts of electricity for lights with one. Search the internet for details.

But that is assuming you can hold on to your stuff. You are going to need weapons and planning. Weapons; ideally some good rifles and plenty of ammo, as well as a few pistols. If you are good with a bow or crossbow it's better than nothing. The main thing is to plan ahead; set up a campsite where you can defend it and where you won't be surprised. If humanly possible keep someone of guard 24/7. Plan an escape route if you can't defend your camp. The worst thing you can do is let yourself be taken; there will likely be little mercy. If you lose your food you MAY die, but you will die if otherwise. Oh, and it would be smart to stash some food in a couple of hidden places where raiders won't find it. Preparation is the key.

And you can make weapons from common materials. Gasoline in a bottle makes a dandy grenade. Powdered aluminum (two parts) and powdered iron oxide (one part rust) will give you thermite, which can't simply be lit with a zippo but probably CAN be lit with that Molotov Cocktail I just mentioned. It will flash fire. You could build a catapult or crossbow-type device to hurl it, too, giving you some artillery. But these are absolute last resorts; they are DANGEROUS.

You may need to make gunpowder; with gunpowder you can reload shotguns and whatnot. Gunpowder is 60% saltpeter, 20% sulfur, and 20% charcoal. Saltpeter can be found in caves, or where fungus will grow. It is a white powdery substance. It can be made from urine; Napoleon used to make villagers urinate on walls at "nitre works" then harvest the saltpeter after a couple of years. You want your niter works in the shade, perhaps along a low wall. Charcoal is easier; just make it by having a smoldering fire and wood in the center, away from the air. Sulphur is found near volcanic vents and other such. Here in Missouri it should be tricky; we haven't seen vulcanism for a long time. Look for it around hot springs, or salt domes. Or find some in a garden shop or hardware store.

If you have a place like my Ozark Hilton, you can heat it with fire, of course. But it is a LOT of work to gather firewood. Without a chainsaw you will be limited to what you can cut with a saw or ax, and your portions will likely be small. Also, the smoke from a fire is a dead giveaway. You may want to look for a more efficient heating technique. I am going to try to build a Rocket Heater for my cabin (when I get better). A Rocket heater is a firebox with an insulated chimney that greatly increases the airflow. You use smaller wood, and it combusts much more completely, so there is no smoke and no smell. Unfortunately, there won't be much longevity to the fire, either, so it will need to be in conjunction with a regular fireplace. And it gets very hot, so caution will have to be taken. I should be able to build a prototype for the price of one well insulated pipe. I can insulate that pipe with wood ash, I might add. They say a rocket heater cuts your wood use in thirds, at least. And it can be made with scrounged materials (except I would worry about the main chimney pipe, which has to be up to temperatures over 1200* F.

If you don't have a place to go but can get out in the woods, at least try to have a tent, or at least a tarp. Try to think like an Indian. The woodland Indians build structures by cutting flexible saplings, plantin pairs of them in the ground opposite each-other, then tying them together. These main members were then connected by a series of cross beams of similar thin saplings. Cover this with tarps, or with brush, or with bark, if you are up to peeling tree bark. You could also tie some long saplings together tipi style and cover that (I did that when I first started building my cabin, and the resulting structure had limited headspace but was very good.) If you are making a wikiup (tipi structure) you have a natural smoke hole and can build a small fire. I used to do that, and it wasn't smokey at all (except when you were standing). Even though it has a large opening on top, rain just barely came in; I was there in a downpour and had just the slightest of spray on occasion. In the Wigwam structure you need to leave a smokehole and can cover it with a towel or whatnot. Be sure to make your fire small, and keep constant watch lest you burn your structure down.

Water is going to be a problem, and it will be a problem that will only get worse. Virtually no water sources in North America are safe to drink from untreated. Either boil the water or use bleach. There will be many deaths from water born diseases.

And speaking of diseases, people will be carrying them o-plenty. Terrible epidemics will burn through the refugee populations, and any strangers you meet may be death on two legs. There will be limited supplies of medicines, and nothing perishable will last. It's a good idea to keep some antibiotics on hand. Take sanitations deadly seriously. Wash all cuts. Make sure all biologically active wastes (feces, dead bodies, etc.) are properly disposed of. Creamate the dead. Do what you can to keep flies, mice, other rodents, roaches, and all parasites away. That will be difficult; you will have ticks and nothing to keep them at bay in the woods. Ticks carry many diseases. Try to make sure you have a good supply of Off or other bug repellent. Moscal is ideal; everyone should have that on hand. It's hard to find, being almost entirely DEET.

Make sure your bathroom is well away from camp. If you are settled you could use the waste to make methane; put in a fermenter with leaves, other waste, and water and capture the resulting smelly gas. It can be used to run machines, or light lights. If you can get a compressor running you can put it into proopane tanks. Ditto the wood gas.

Animals will eat your waste; at least they always do that at the Ozark Hilton. That will help draw game. It is a wise policy to hunt well outside of your camp, so when you REALLY need the game and are too weak to pursue it you will have it.

Remember; the best defense is not a good offense, but to not be bothered. You want to climb into a hole and pull it in after you. Obviously most people aren't going to build a secret underground bunker stocked with three years supply of food. But some preparations make sense; if nothing else, extra food is a good hedge against inflation. If you know of a secret cave back in the forest it would be ideal; warm in winter, cool in summer, and hopefully unknown. Be careful of animals; bears often inhabit caves, and bats certainly do. Bats can carry rabies and other nasties.

In the end, the people who have thought things through and who do not panic are the more likely to survive. More likely, which isn't all that likely. Still, half a chance is better than none. The ones who will die will be the city people who rely on government to protect them. Government has shown it is incapable of handling most tasks well.

Something wicked this way comes; whether it is EMP, asteroid strike, regular old nukes, economic collapse, what have you. A prudent man makes his plans.

I hope this was fun and informative for everyone.

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