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Disaster Preparedness Strategies – Part II

ditor’s Note: This is the second in a series of Disaster Preparedness articles written by Capt. William E. Simpson, USMM. The first was an attempt to simplify the subject of disaster preparedness by focusing on risk analysis and can be found here. Part II adds to this approach and to the subject.

Less Frequent Potential Disaster Scenarios
In conducting risk analysis with regard to the less frequent man-caused and natural disaster scenarios, we must take into consideration the extreme severity of such disasters in regard to our measured and proportionate level of preparedness.

Severe Geomagnetic Storming
Geomagnetic storms originate from our own sun, and can occur at any time. Even though the most notable historic geomagnetic storm that hit our planet was in 1859 (known as the Carrington Event), the planet has since been affected numerous times by lesser storms in more recent history. In 1989 a powerful geomagnetic storm wreaked havoc in Quebec.

By comparison to the Carrington Storm, the Quebec storm was a baby. A stronger storm or one as strong as the Carrington solar storm today would quite likely be the end of our modern technological world: Solar storms which gives power can also take it away.

NASA image depicting solar storm impacting earth’s geomagnetic field.
NASA image depicting solar storm impacting earth’s geomagnetic field.

Basically, a severe geomagnetic storm will overload and damage the national electrical grid to such an extent that it will likely be irreversibly damaged. Additionally, most electrical devices that are attached to the grid in any way will also be damaged by very high voltage spikes. As a result, our modern society would be essentially thrust back into a pre-industrial revolution era status, and such a loss of technological infrastructure would create uncontrolled social chaos.

From a disaster preparedness perspective, this scenario is overwhelming, and as such, is not a topic that is very popular in emergency management circles, even though it must be addressed. Of course this is natural; people much prefer working on problems where there is a palatable solution. During a national grid-down disaster, the systems and infrastructure that can normally be utilized by emergency management personnel will no longer be available, not to mention that the civil unrest and lawlessness would severely hamper any efforts for immediate effective response. Since a geomagnetic storm has no direct effect on biologic organisms; the real hazard and threat from such an event stems from people who have made no provisions for any disaster scenario. In fact, once the infrastructure goes off-line post event, and the highly leveraged supply-chains that supply fuel, food and other vital resources stops, these un-prepared people will quickly exhaust the few resources in their homes. As a result of hunger, desperation and hopelessness, many millions of survivors will turn violent in their struggle for the dwindling remaining resources. Added these issues; it is expected that disease will spread quickly as a result of the loss of critical sanitation infrastructure and the unavailability of medicines and medical care.

This is a scenario that requires special planning (strategy and supporting tactics) by people who truly intend to survive such an event.

For average Americans, there is really only one strategy to survive such massive unrest; remove yourself and your family to a location far from any civil unrest. Optimally, having your homestead in an area where there is a low population density, and is distant from any large city is best.

There is another man-caused event that essentially creates the same havoc and therefore requires the same strategy and tactics, which will be very briefly covered below.

High Altitude Electromagnetic Pulse (‘HEMP’) Attack
A HEMP attack on America would be devastating and is very difficult to defend against. Simply; using a low-tech missile (no high-tech guidance system needed), a nuclear weapon is delivered to the upper atmosphere anywhere over the U.S. and detonated. This causes the release of gamma radiation into the ionosphere which initially stimulates the production of an extremely powerful energy pulse which within a few microseconds damages most unprotected electronic devices (anything not in a Faraday Cage). On top of that, within the same extremely brief time period (seconds) the earth’s magnetic field is temporarily disrupted by the nuclear event, which creates the same extreme voltage and power fluctuations in the national power grid as a severe geomagnetic storm, and thus creates the same devastation to the national energy grid and most everything that is connected to it. This video highlights the issues.

It is important to understand that a HEMP attack does not kill biologic organisms on the surface, nor does it destroy any buildings.

With regard to a HEMP attack, most credible experts on the phenomenon of a grid-down disaster are making similar projections as to the civil unrest, lawlessness and disease that will spread after such an event, regardless of how it was caused. The only real difference between HEMP and Geomagnetic Storm is that; in a post Geomagnetic Storm scenario, there will be some usable legacy electronics after the event, even if not protected by Faraday shielding. In the case of a HEMP attack, the only electronics that may be useful post-event would be as a result of proper planning (Faraday protection) that was in place prior the HEMP event. Any availability of these high-utility electronic devices post event, such as some communications devices, will allow those who have survived the civil unrest, and who have prepared accordingly, to advance the use of certain tactics that will certainly enhance their ability to survive such an event, both short term and long term.

Occasionally when people start talking about the marauding lawless masses and about ’shooting-it-out’, I am forced to remind them that:

“Rule-1 in Survival; Don’t Get Dead” …. Seems too obvious right? Even so, some people continue to proffer survival strategies that encompass planned combat during competition for resources, which is an excellent way to sustain casualties and to ‘get dead’.

There is a quote by Bernard M. Baruch that applies here; “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”
There are many former military operators who are providing information into the disaster preparedness and survival arenas these days. And of course their primary field of experience relates to combat… which is the last thing you need to be engaged in while trying to survive, especially when you are out-manned and out-gunned by thousands of armed survivors in a grid-down scenario.

I am constantly amazed by some people who think a lot of guns and ammo solves the problems related to survival during civil chaos. Any soldier who’s been on a battle field can tell you about all of weapons and ordinance lying around the corpses. As my father use to say; “it doesn’t matter how well you’re armed or how big your guns are; sooner or later someone comes along with more guys who are better trained with bigger guns, and then you get dead“.

Each problem has a specific solution; and that tends to be the case here. If the grid goes down, you’ll have a tiny window of time (maybe 24-hrs.) to extract your family and relocate them away from the dangers related to the hordes of desperate grid-down survivors.

And the preparations to achieve that evolution must be made now or certainly at least well before any such event.

An example of the appropriate logic is this:
If you live under an active volcano and don’t want to die, then you move away, before it erupts… not while it’s erupting. The same correct strategy goes with surviving a grid-down situation and with making grid-down preps.

Preppers need to decide a few things right off:
1. Are the experts right? Do you believe their assessments of the risks posed by HEMP and Geomagnetic Storms? If you don’t, then good luck. And if you do, then;

2. Do you really think you won’t be overcome, out-gunned and out-manned by the thousands of people (also armed) who will sooner or later likely find your location if you are too close to a large city? If you don‘t, then you may be watching too many Rambo movies.

3. How serious are you about saving your family and/or yourself? Are you willing to do whatever it takes now, including relocating your homestead now to an area with a low population density; there are places in the U.S. with low population densities, and these places are ideal for surviving a number of disaster scenarios (including deadly viruses). Or having a special provision in place for emergency relocation? (sailboat, long-range airplane, etc. See williamesimpson.com/the-nautical-prepper)

There are undoubtedly some readers who live in the city or urban areas who are thinking; ‘if we’re overrun, we’ll just bug-out to our secondary location’. That is much easier said than done! You could do that if you have a sailboat or a long-range aircraft ready-to-go and you left within hours of the onset of a grid-down scenario. But if you are thinking in terms of walking or driving to another location after you’re surrounded by the masses of survivors pouring out the cities, you better think again! The psychological impact of a large-scale event precludes any orderly evacuation. Keeping in mind that there would be hundreds of thousands of armed desperate people in your area of operations, once you lose cover, you’ll be traveling over open ground and will become part of the ongoing shooting gallery. Sure, a few lucky ones might make it to their ‘secondary’ Alamo… only then to possibly be overcome there as well if it is a poor compromise as far as location.

Sure, some people will get lucky and survive despite their mistakes. That’s not my survival model.

There’s nothing wrong with being lucky; I just don’t depend upon luck as my first line of preps for emergency management and survival.

In the next article, I will discuss the dynamics of a ‘large-scale’ continental sized disaster and possible survival solutions.

Cheers! Capt. Bill

William E. Simpson spent his formative years growing up on a working ranch in the Applegate Valley of Southern Oregon. William (aka: 'Capt. Bill') is a retired U.S. Merchant Marine Officer with decades of boating and expedition sailing experience, having logged more than 150,000 miles at sea. Capt. Bill has successfully survived long-term ‘off the grid’ at sea and at remote uninhabited desert islands with his family for years at a time. In early 2013, he appeared on National Geographic’s hit TV show Doomsday Preppers (Season-2 ‘A Fortress At Sea’) and received the highest score in two seasons for disaster preparedness and survival, earning the title of ‘Best Prepper’.

Capt. Bill is also a commercial airplane and helicopter pilot and a PADI DiveMaster. Simpson is an accomplished writer covering all aspects of disaster preparedness, including a recent book ‘The Nautical Prepper’ (Ulysses Press). His articles have been featured via numerous magazines and websites and he has been a featured guest on various disaster preparedness radio talk shows. More info at WilliameSimpson.com

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