The EMP: The Ultimate Survival Scenario

Photo from NASA

If you’ve been preparing for the zombie apocalypse, you’ve probably just been playing some video games. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But considering that dogs haven’t yet spread rabies to every other mammal on the continent, it’s possible that things might not go the way the zombie apocalypse prepper might think.

In reality, in today’s connected world, the ultimate survival scenario would be one where the world suddenly becomes a lot less connected. An entire continent can go dark. Nearly all electronics and electrical systems would instantaneously cease functioning. Bronies losing access to their DeviantArt accounts would instantly despair.

And all this can happen in an instant.

There are two main ways that this could occur. One is for a long-range, manufactured EMP to be strategically detonated. Such a device could be mounted to an ICBM, then detonated hundreds of miles above a strategically-chosen point. (Detonating one on earth’s surface wouldn’t work as well, considering the curvature of the earth.) A carefully-positioned one could include all 48 states of the continental US, or all of Europe.

Like any ICBM, defense systems would likely detect them as they come, mistake them for having been nuclear-armed, and possibly result in a retaliatory strike. Which would be, of course, vintage bad news.

So, what’s the other main way an EMP can arrive at our collective doorsteps? Via the sun. The closest star to us is mostly stable, but sometimes lets out bursts of radiation in random directions. If one were to go off right now, the odds of it hitting earth in 8 minutes (the approximate time it takes for light from the sun to get here) would be low, as the likelihood that we’d be in its area of effect is low.

But it has happened, presumably throughout human history. In most instances, we would not have had the means to know it was going on. But in the days of the telegraph, there was a point in which the telegraphs were going crazy. It was an anomaly at the time, but at this point, the culprit seems to be solar activity.

If earth were to be hit with an EMP from the sun, the entire side of the earth facing the sun at the time would be hit with its effects. And there’d be pretty much no warning.

Now for the fun question. How would the event go down?

The answer depends pretty much on where you happen to be at the instant the EMP occurs. You pretty much don’t want to be in an elevator, on the operating table, or in traffic.

Suppose you were at work. Suddenly, the lights went out. For an instant, it seems like an ordinary power outage. But then, people start checking their phones to see what’s going on.

But the phones don’t work, either.

None of the electronics work. None of them. Even those with their own power supply, such as laptops and smartphones, go out. And none of them come back on. No desklamps, no florescent lights, and if your room doesn’t have a window, it just went entirely black.

A peek outside shows mayhem. Cars have collided. Traffic lights are out. Most cars are sitting in place, their operators desperately attempting to start their vehicles up again. Some motorists may have already abandoned their cars, starting out on journeys to find loved ones and perhaps get to the bottom of what’s going on.

People in major cities that survive the first few minutes will prioritize escaping from those cities, with roads and bridges being packed with pedestrians, some stampeding.

Schools will be flooded with parents, desperate to find their children safe.

Store shelves will be ransacked, stripped bare by people unable to buy anything.

Marauders will take to the streets, looking to gather up anything that could help their friends, families, and themselves survive.

Electronic money would disappear, vaporizing savings and investments. People would barter with supplies, as money becomes nearly worthless.

Chaos would reign, as what police would remain would hardly be able to maintain order, with many of them prioritizing protecting their own families.

You’ll lose your progress in Pokémon Go.

And it’s going to get a lot worse. It’s been estimated that if an EMP were to occur in the US, as many as 90% of Americans would die within one year of the initial event.

Do you have what it takes to be among the 10% that would make it?

If you have the idea of fleeing to the woods, you wouldn’t be the only one. You’d likely run into other people out there, and any interaction with them could be potentially dangerous.

The Amish would suddenly be the most enlightened people around, as people from all over would turn to them to determine how to get by.

This should be obvious, but mental health would take a massive hit. There will be plenty of people prowling about that won’t be safe to have around.

What makes the EMP the ultimate survival scenario is that it puts people against people. With law enforcement and basic amenities unavailable, cities would transform into battles royale just for the means to survive from one day to the next. No one would be safe, as communities would resort to old-fashioned lookouts to protect themselves. Those who accrued massive wealth might find themselves ordinary people in a hurry.

Those who know each other well enough to trust each other would have to work together as tight-knit communities to survive.

Friends and relatives that live as few as a dozen miles away you might never see again.

Also (and here’s food for thought), a foreign power on the other side of the world might seize the situation for their benefit, and you might not even know your own country is being invaded.

While people are certainly capable of surviving without electricity, most people alive in the connected world today don’t know how. If the lights were to go out, and not come back on, they’d be in a pretty bad spot. When the sun goes down, they might be surprised at just how dark it could get.

A lot to think about, isn’t it? The more survivalist know-how and the better prepared you are, the better off you’d be. But things would still be pretty rough. After all, your goal is to be among the few, the ten-percenters, who survive the first year after the point that things go dark.

Do you think you have what it takes?

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