but will we be as lucky next time?
More importantly, will we be prepared? On March 8th of this year, The
largest solar storm since 2007 sent electronic destruction showering down
upon all of us mere mortals at over 2 million miles an hour. According to
NASA, in the worst-case scenario, this solar storm could: ” disrupt power
grids, radio communications, and GPS as well as spark dazzling
auroras.1 ” Fortunately, it didn't. A little over 150 years ago, a similar-but
much more powerful storm hit earth. If that same storm happened today,
“modern life could come to a standstill 1 ” During the 1859 flare “...U.S.
telegraph operators reported sparks leaping from their equipment—some bad
enough to set fires, said Ed Cliver, a space physicist at the U.S. Air Force
Research Laboratory in Bedford, Massachusetts.”
A visually spectacular flare being thrown out on April 16, 2012.
Think about it. In the year 2012, how much of our life is totally dependent
on satellites and microchips? Without them, your cell phone would be
worthless. Cable TV would be history. Our military would be back to
WWII-type fighting. Although some small, older airplanes will still get off the
ground most of our modern aircraft couldn't fly. Absolutely nothing with
modern avionics would be working. Your microwave oven and maybe even
your coffee pot wouldn't work.
Do your coffee pot and microwave depend on a satellite? No, but they
ARE run by microchips. Anything that depends on computers or anything
else built with microchips could cease to function. And a solar flare isn't the
only culprit capable of sending us back to the dark ages. Let a large EMP (see
below) fire over north America and my 39 year-old truck would coast to a
stand-still because the electronic ignition would be fried. Our water,
electricity, natural gas and even our sewers are completely or primarily
computer controlled. You couldn't even flush your toilet twice.
An EMP (electromagnetic pulse2) from even a small nuclear explosion
could, in the words of the Office of Radiation Protection3 “destroy most of the
electronics that were not protected in the entire Continental United States.”
After this effect was discovered by accident, governments all over the
world began figure out how to “harden3” critical infrastructures against an
EMP. That was a major push behind the development of the internet4.
Various institutions around the country wanted to be able to communicate
even if a few cities were already nuked.
So what can we do to protect ourselves? Are there any measures that we
can take to make sure that our families and ourselves will make it through a
large solar flare or EMP?
Let's face it; the government is going to do or not do whatever they feel
like. And they're probably not going to tell us no matter what they do. For
our personal protection, we're on our own and, although nowhere near
impossible, it's going to be a bit more difficult than you might think. These
days, almost everything is digital and that means microchips.
Let's start with just day-to-day living. We need a roof over our head, food,
water, heat and sanitation. The house is simple, but you need to heat and/or
cool it. You need to store and cook food. You need to wash clothes...and
yourself. And you need to use the camode on a regular basis.
You may already have a wood stove and if you're out in the country you
might have a well and even an old outhouse. If you live in the 'burbs, you're
dependent on city water and sewer. Even in the country, without electricity
your well isn't going to work unless you put in a hand pump. The fan for your
furnace or wood stove won't blow any air and you can forget about the air
To prepare for a 2 to 4 week total power outage, you'll need to get some
water stored; about 1 to 2 gallons per person per day or about 200 to 250
gallons for a family of 4 5. More is better. Any large bucket or basin will
work for personal washing and you can do laundry by hand in the bathtub.
Yes! I know. It sounds hillbilly, but it can be done. I've done it.
Believe it or not, everything you need to survive with no power grid is
readily available close to home and fairly affordable. You can pick up a
porta-potty for camping at the local sporting goods store or even at K-Mart or
Wal Mart. They come with disposable bags which you tie up and store;
preferably a long way from where you sleep and eat. A Coleman stove and a
few tanks of fuel will set you back about $75 and you're set for cooking.
For electrical conveniences you can't beat a 12 volt system. At the local
travel trailer outlet, you can get all kinds of lights, fans and even a small
refrigerator or cooler that run on 12 volts. Marine outlets also have pretty
much anything you'll need as many pleasure boats are totally on a 12V
system. Truck stops carry an amazing array of 12V goodies, too. A couple of
car batteries, a few cans of gas and a small generator to charge the batteries
and you're at least able to make life bearable. Don't try to use the generator
to run any of your regular, 120 volt household appliances. Most wont run
anyway and the ones that do will use up your precious fuel at a ridiculous
rate. Just do the minimum to get by until the infrastructure is back up and
running. Of course, all of this is easier if you live in the country with ample
storage room but no matter where you live; even a small apartment, you can
make some affordable and relatively simple preparations. You don't need a
tinfoil hat. And if nothing happens, you're all set for your next camping trip.
A word about safety. Under no conditions should you run a propane, gas
or diesel space heater indoors. You'll kill yourself. If you don't have a wood
stove install one, move to a warmer climate or stock up on blankets. In an
emergency, you can start a small campfire in the garage on the concrete
floor. Just make sure you open the door and a window enough to ventilate the
smoke. It ain't purty but it'll keep you and the wife and kids from freezing to
Communication and transportation are a completely different set of
challenges. With no Cell phones or satellites and the phone grid down, you're
not going to call, email, Skype or text anyone. They couldn't answer, anyway.
I hate to say it, but communications will be back to early 1800s level. At least
for awhile. Yo can get some walkie-talkies for short-range communication
and protect them from an EMP6. Just make sure you can recharge them with
your generator. Local telegraphs will probably get set up in a couple of weeks
for law enforcement and military use but as for you and I, we'll be limited
talking to people we see on the street. Deal with it.
Transportation is a bit easier. There's always that old stand-by - the
bicycle for short runs and visiting the neighbors. Just think of all the
exercise you'll be getting. Work off those love handles. For longer trips or to
carry more stuff, you'll have to put some gasoline off to the side and have a
vehicle that doesn't use a computer or electronic ignition. Most scooters and
older motorcycles will fit the bill. If you need a car or truck, you'll either have
to buy a pre-70s model or do a conversion on your current ride. For a lot of
newer cars, that will be somewhere between prohibitive and impossible.
Oh yeah. Use up your emergency gas and re-fill the supply every couple
of weeks to keep it fresh. Gas gets stale after about 90 days. There are
additives you can buy that will stretch it, but fresher is better.
Our government as well as quite a few private concerns are actually
putting a lot of thought into preparations for a solar flare7, and during the
cold war we (the USA) and other countries put a lot of critical equipment
underground to protect it from EMPs and radiation. Most of it is very
hush-hush but they are at least thinking about it.
If you've watched all the post-apocalypse movies like I have, you could get
really discouraged about the possibilities of rebuilding our society after a
major flare or nuclear war. The war would bring a whole new set of problems
but in the case of a massive flare or for the survivors of a nuclear conflict, I
don't personally believe that the future would be all that bleak. Humans are
resilient and resourceful We will band together to make it through the initial
shock and rebuild our society fairly quickly. It won't take anywhere as long
as it took us the first time to get where we are now. We've already developed
all the know how. We just have to put it to work.
Like the Boy Scout motto tells us to do: Be Prepared!!! Better to have it
and not need it than need it and not have it.
And for the hats, I hear that tinfoil is on sale at the local supermarket.
At least, that's my opinion. What's yours?.
For more information on setting up a home for 12 volts and other preparations, here are some sites and books to get you going.
12-volt guide book by TECHSTAR
Living on 12 Volts with Ample Power by David Smead & Ruth Ishiarn
12 Volt Solar Power by Michel Daniek
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