Arts/Literature

What happens when all the lights go out?

An S&R exclusive interview

William Forstchen has a bad dream—a really bad dream—that goes something like this:

headshot-bill_forstchenA cataclysmic attack throws the United States back to the dark ages, with no electricity, no communication or transportation networks, and no medicines. The most vulnerable members of society—the very young and the very old—begin to die off first, but soon hundreds of thousands of people, millions of people, begin dying. Rogue bands of lawless predators, living by rule of force rather than by rule of law, prey on weakened communities. The government, crippled, can’t come to anyone’s rescue.

And all it takes is a single bomb detonated high in the atmosphere, two hundred miles above the continent.

“Welcome to my nightmare,” Forstchen says with the kind of grim chuckle usually reserved for gallows humor.

But this is no joke. “It sounds like it’s science fiction, Mayan-prophecy, end-of-the-world stuff,” Forstchen admits, “but it’s dead-on real.”

Forstchen is a professor of history at Montreat College, a small liberal arts school in the Great Smokey Mountains of North Carolina. He’s written some forty books, including a series of successful “alternative history” novels with former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.

His most recent novel, One Second After, outlines his nightmare in chilling detail.

At first thought, it might seem far-fetched to imagine a single bomb wiping out the entire country. But it wouldn’t be the power of the explosion, per se, that would cause the problem. Instead, the real problem would be the electro-magnetic pulse—the EMP—generated by the explosion.

Traveling at the speed of light, the EMP would act like an enormous ripple in the earth’s electromagnetic field. As that ripple hits electrical systems, it would get amplified way beyond anything a typical circuit breaker could handle.

“This energy surge will destroy all delicate electronics in your home, even as it destroys all the major components all the way back to the power company’s generators and the phone company’s main relays,” Forstchen writes. “In far less than a millisecond, the entire power grid of the United States, and all that it supports will be destroyed.”

And if the power goes, everything goes.

“Everyone remembers the aftermath of Katrina,” Forstchen says. “It covered fifty-thousand square miles, but it was basically a local event. An EMP would be a nation-wide Katrina-like event.”

Some experts predict the resulting casualty rate could be as high as ninety percent by the end of the first year.

“This will raise a lot of moral questions, too,” Forstchen says. “Are we going to let people out of maximum security prisons? Do we triage off the elderly?”

The scenarios Forstchen envisions in the book aren’t necessarily fictional, either. “I didn’t want to turn this into some kind of Mad Max thing,” he explains.

Forstchen drew on his background as a historian to look for scenarios of desolation and desperation that would fit his post-EMP world. The WWII sieges of Leningrad and Stalingrad provided a terrible bounty of examples: tiered rationing, bread with sawdust baked into it to make it more filling, vicious bands of murderous thugs, communal graves.

His visit to the cemetery outside of Leningrad proved especially haunting. “There were six-hundred-thousand dead after the siege,” Forstchen says. “And the Russian have a tradition of putting laminated photos of the deceased on their tombstones. I will never be able to shake that.” That trauma, he says, is still on the Russian soul.

And, the novel argues, America would suffer trauma even worse if an EMP strike hit us.

“I imagined my daughter being in that (post-EMP) world,” says Forstchen, a single parent. “I imagined my daughter being ill in that world.”

As a result, he says, “it got really bad for me” writing novel. “I will never be able to shake that.” Other parents who’ve read the book have had similar reactions. “’I saw my kids in the middle of this,’ they’ve told me,” Forstchen says. “Any parent who reads this, it’s going to hit hard.”

But for most people, the threat of an EMP attack is so abstract and remote, it’s hard to get them to take an interest. “Some people look at it and think it’s too big: ‘I don’t want to think about it,’” Forstchen says. “Well, we have to think about it.”

Forstchen has worked with Reps. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) and Denny Thompson (D-Miss) to educate other lawmakers about the potential threat of EMPs, but he admits the going has been tough. Even the House Armed Services subcommittee that was studying EMPs was disbanded. “Unfortunately, this is an issue that doesn’t have a constituency,” Forstchen says.

One reason he wrote One Second After, he says, was to “put a voice” to the issue. So far, the strategy seems to be working. The book peaked at number eleven on the New York Times bestseller list and is being developed by Warner Brothers into a film.

“I’m more optimistic than I was six months or even a year ago, when I was working on the book,” Forstchen says. “Lawmakers are starting to get the word again.” In late June, Forstchen met with a group that included members of Congress and intellectuals from various political think tanks to again press his argument, which suddenly has new urgency because of missile testing in North Korea.

“Look at North Korea and Iran,” Forstchen says. “Why are they so interested in building small-scale nuclear missiles? Only one model fits.” It’s the fact that the U.S. is so vulnerable that our enemies are even contemplating such an attack, he adds.

But even beyond the national defense reasons, Forstchen points out that there are significant environmental reasons for protecting ourselves against EMPs. The biggest reason, he says, hangs high above us in the sky every day.

In late August of 1859, a series of solar flares erupted from the sun with such magnitude that they burned out telegraphy grids across Europe and North America. Similar solar storms have taken place in 1921 and 1960. According the Forstchen, research suggests that we’re heading into a period that could see another, similar upswing in solar activity.

“We built this delicate, elaborate infrastructure without thinking about how vulnerable it is,” Forstchen says. “We need to get off the stick and do something about our infrastructure.”

Just one percent of the money allocated in the recent bailout package could be enough to create a survival infrastructure, Forstchen says. “It wouldn’t save the entire system, but it could be used to create nodes of infrastructure that could be quickly built upon. Otherwise, what good is a bailout of there’s no country to bail out?”

Most importantly, Forstchen says, individuals should learn to prepare and protect themselves. “What’s the big lesson from Katrina: Don’t wait for the feds,” he says. His website offers a variety of simple, precautionary things people can do. It also offers tips on how to recognize an EMP should one occur.

“People need to think on three levels: on the level of citizens of America/citizens of the world, the personal level, and the community level,” Forstchen says. “Eight, ten, fifteen people thinking together can do a lot. We have to learn how to think together.”

Forstchen realizes he may sound like “a crazy old crank” for sounding alarmist. (During his first-ever radio interview on the book, the first caller rang it to accuse him of being a paranoid right-wing survivalist.) “I just want to see bipartisan action on this,” he says. “I don’t care who gets the credit. We’re all Americans. We need to get by the partisan bickering, at least on this. Otherwise, we’re all going to be on the same sinking boat the next day.”

Forstchen urges people to contact their congressmen about EMPs. “If enough people do, suddenly the issue has legs, and something can get done about it,” he says.

And that, Forstchen says, will definitely help him sleep easier.

S&R will feature a review of Forstchen’s book, One Second After, on Tuesday.

45 replies »

  1. In general, Forstchen has a point, but there there are a huge number of technical caveats that have to be considered before I’m going to lose sleep over this myself. As an EE who has been asked to design electronics for space, I’m going to have to read the book to see if his technological arguments hold water or not. I’m skeptical that a single bomb of any deliverable size could do what’s briefly described above.

    A solar flare, however, certainly has the power to do what is described above.

    You have certainly grabbed my attention, though, and I’m looking forward to your review tomorrow as a result.

  2. Excellent article! Thanks for posting.

    I’m not so sure we’d have a Katrina situation. At least I hope we’d band together to protect and help each other instead of banding together to prey on others.

  3. People did band together during Katrina and many who traveled to NOLA with aid and supplies and who would have provided greatly needed help were turned away as their government abandoned it’s citizens and worse, sent in armed mercenaries. Aid was not sent because George Bush and Dick Cheney never gave a damn about human beings. That’s the reason someone with no experience whatsoever was placed in a position to run FEMA and with an open road all the way to the Super-dome no one was allowed in or out as people died.

  4. I’d be far more concerned about solar flares and coronal mass ejections (see chapter 2 of “Death from the Skies” by astronomer Phil Plait) than about nuclear bombs in the atmosphere, but either way it would certainly be worth investing in our infrastructure.

    I’ve got to be honest, upon seeing Forstchen’s website, I doubt I’ll be looking into the book. The site is an eyesore (just some all-caps and colored text away from really looking like a crank site), filled with typos, and just plain awkwardly written.

  5. ever consider rebuilding the infrastructure once the wiring is shorted out? Can’t we harden electrical facilities against such attacks, just as we do satellites in orbit against solar radiation?

    come on people, think locally, then act globally!!

  6. Just wondering, what does it take to harden something against an EMP? I’ve seen movies with spy equipment, etc. that’s supposedly somehow able to survive–is that possible?

    But also–is there a company in the district(s) of those lawmakers who’ve been associates of Forstchen, that stands to gain from a massive federal program to protect infrastructure in this way?

    That wouldn’t make doing so wrong, but it would be ‘interesting’.

  7. The US Gvmt wrote a nice paper about this, available as a PDF file. No need to research it yourself, go grab the pre-written paper. It’s scary.

  8. I worked for The Boeing Company in the early 60’s. One of my jobs was testing electronic components for the ability to survive EMP. EMP is not a new thing, and I would believe that critical sites in the US are already hardened.

  9. One reason Forstchen said he’s so concerned about this phenom relates to your point, exactly, jimbo. It’s not a new thing, yet the government hasn’t done nearly enough to protect the infrastructure. He got turned onto that particular bit of encouraging news by his writing partner, former House speaker Newt Gingrich, who had a pretty clear idea of just how underprotected the U.S. is.

    Forstchen said the one lesson Katrina should teach us all is that “The Feds aren’t coming to help.” Don’t assume anything and don’t count on them for anything. And, I’ll add, it IS the Federal government, after all, so anything that should be naturally intuitive is probably FUBAR somehow.

  10. There was a series of pretty big SPEs in October 2003. It knocked out communication with some satellites, but I don’t recall any major issues with that. Certainly not like what the author describes.

    • Thousands of volts per meter on a wire wouldn’t be unheard of from an EMP. Wires that are hundreds of kilometers long – not much will hold up against the kind of currents we’re talking about in this situation. That’s not to say you can’t limit it, or protect against it (devices similar to lightning protection on each and every power pole would help, but getting them fast enough to protect against the pulse would be a challenge). Shielding would work, but you’d have to shield every single wire bundle, and that would make the bundles so heavy as to be un-suspendable from towers.

      Electronics is actually pretty easy to protect, but in our insanely cost-conscious consumerist society, adding protection parts on the cables to the electronics and making the cases correctly to protect against EMP would add too much cost for most applications. Easier to just scrap and replace.

      The biggest problem would probably be how long it takes to repair the damage done to the electricity and communications infrastructure.

      I’m definitely looking forward to Chris’ review tomorrow.

  11. What bothers me with this kind of reasoning is the omnipresent boogie man;

    “Look at North Korea and Iran,” Forstchen says. “Why are they so interested in building small-scale nuclear missiles? Only one model fits.” It’s the fact that the U.S. is so vulnerable that our enemies are even contemplating such an attack, he adds.

    I wonder if all those nukey throwing subs we’ve been paying for are ‘hardened’ and positioned such that they would fall prey to those deeds and be meaningless in the eyes of the axle of evil. I mean given the capacity of one sub has and we have many….

  12. This has been a widely ignored subject for years. Just like New Orleans efforts to rebuild in a flood prone area

    Forstchen’s book should be a wake up calll! Living in the gulf coast region, I personally saw the public panic when local gas stations ran out of fuel due to losing the power grid, which ran the pumps. Could this have been avoided by requiring the fueling stations to have back up generators? Absolutlely….So a EMP happens today. Are you prepared?

  13. Wired’s science column has been regularly covering the sun’s solar flare activity, including some appropriately scary predictions for what could happen in 2012 as the sun hits the peak of its next active cycle: http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2009/04/2012storms/#previouspost

    With that said, I’m dubious of any sort of warning that comes to us from Newt Gingrich, who’s been making his current living as a professional global warming denier. It weakens Fortschen’s credibility to be partnered with that bloviating fool, much like the various sane things Ron Paul says get buried in all the kookery.

    I’m also dubious on the emphasis of a foreign nuke being the major cause of this threat, as it seems to be a not-so-subtle call for us to engage in more empire-building by forcibly disarming North Korea and Iran. Not that I would lose any sleep over them not having nukes, but that we (and Russia) are still the world’s largest nuclear powers, and consequently a much bigger threat to the world if one of our nukes goes awry.

  14. Forstchen’s book doesn’t actually identify a culprit–the point being that it could be anyone (foreign country, terrorist cell, rogue nation, superpower, a malfunction of one of our own weapons, etc.). He seemed much more interested in having us be prepared for the possibility of EMP attack rather than anticipating where the attack might come from. In our interview, he didn’t talk about preemptive strikes on America’s part at all.

  15. Whitley Strieber wrote a novel titled “War Day” in the early 1980s based on the devastation of EMPs from 5 high altitude nuclear blasts over the US. The scientific theory is hardly new and it applies to more than just the electrical grid. Anything and everything dependent upon computers is supposed to be vulnerable. In the novel, no cars, trucks, trains, or airplanes remained functional. Banks no longer had any financial records. There were no surviving electronic communications — no telephone, radio, television, nothing.

    • This might still happen, but arguably the main problem would be long conductors producing a voltage potential (and the associated current) that is so great that very little can protect against it. Most really long telecomm links are fiber these days, and fiber would be pretty much immune (it’s glass, after all).

      Data centers and telecomm central offices/cable head ends would be pretty easy to protect, I think. Most of them have battery backup for at least a few hours, and since most of the data coming in and out of modern hubs is on fiber, the protection would pretty much only have to be on the power lines. Of course, that still leaves you with only a few hours to coordinate before the power dies, but it’s better than nothing at all

      Anything can be protected so that, at worst case it just needs to be rebooted, but at higher cost than today’s “save every penny” mentality is going to accept without a major re-education plan.

  16. Worry about the children?! Give me a break! We’ve stopped worrying about the children decades ago!
    And Newt Gingrich was one of the leaders that sabotaged efforts to thwart environmental destruction.
    The children are simply screwed – we’ve left them a degraded, raped and polluted world, EMP or not!

  17. “Otherwise, what good is a bailout of there’s no country to bail out?”

    That about sums it up. Great interview. I’ll incorporate the EMP threat under my disarmament umbrella.

  18. You know what worries me about this scenario (or really any other apocalyptic version out there), 90% of the population gone in the first year according to Forstchen. And who’s going to be left, 30 million right wing gun nuts, the people who have been hoping and praying and preparing for just such a world so that they can rape and pillage and enforce their rule at will. 30 million vicious warlords who have only been kept in check because of the rule of law, a rule that they clearly chafe under. Only their cowardly fear of prison has kept us safe. All those calls for de-regulation, all that hate of the government, all those government shutdowns hoping that it would all collapse domino style. It’s all been because the para-military crowd is yearning to be able to kill at will. The Wild West all over again, only a thousand times more dangerous. Just read their comments on right-wing blogs and you get a sense of what they really are. I happen to live next to one of these people. Hothead with a gun and itching to use it. Would that we could breed these creeps out of existance.

  19. Because they have the guns. And the hate. They are the ones who love guns, whose every other sentence (okay I’m exaggerating a bit) has to do with guns. Guns, guns, guns. Guns, guns, guns. And what does one do with guns? One kills. I don’t seriously think that their love of guns has to do with their fondness for putting holes in cans, do you?

    No, I know that left wingers have guns too but I suspect that if a study were done, and I don’t know, maybe one has, you’d find that right-wingers own guns way more than lefties.

  20. While it may take several nuclear warheads detonated together to create an EMP that turns out the lights for the US, it is still worth preparing for. Vehicles in production today have so many computer parts that would get burnt out in an EMP, but vehicles pre-1970 would be ideal if you want to have a vehicle that works. While it is possible to “harden” equipment, your best bet may be a faraday cage to protect your necessary equipment, such as batteries, walkie talkies, laptop, etc. More info on faraday cages here: http://bit.ly/FCHU8

    • Preparedness Pro – Depending on a couple of factors, a Faraday cage might not be enough. The cage has to be thick enough and made out of the right kind of material to effectively block electric or magnetic fields – electric fields can be blocked relatively easily so long as the frequency is high enough, but magnetic fields are very, very hard to block with the same materials that block an electric field. Also, let’s say you’ve got a cage that blocks 99% of incoming energy. If 1% of the energy may still enough to hose the electronics inside the cage, the electronics are still toast.

      Mirrors and high-energy lasers have the same problem – if you’re laser power is high enough, it literally doesn’t matter how reflective the mirror is, the mirror will still melt or explode when the beam hits.

  21. Another thought:
    Don’t underestimate the value of storing up food and water for an emergency. Bottom line folks, there are plenty of real life scenarios which don’t take a lot of imagination that would require food storage, like an earthquake, or a tornado or a hurricane or simply job loss. In a mass emergency, the grocery store shelves will be empty within a half hour. Having a couple months worth of food set aside will help you be better prepared for whatever comes your way.

  22. Just wondering. Maybe someone knows. We biological beings also have our own personal electrical fields. If the EMP is strong enough what might it do to the human, and animal body?

    • EMP should be pretty harmless to people, Care. You might get electrocuted as a result, or burned, or cut by shrapnel, but that’s from the secondary effects of the EMP (high currents on wires, hot metal, exploding bits of electronics due to thermal shock), rather than from the pulse itself.

  23. Followup. I envision that within a certain radius, those not killed by the nuclear blast might simply fall dead (after some grotesque shaking and jerking that is). What a species we are to have to worry about such things from our own kind.

    Side journey. There is a band of rocky debris orbiting between Mars and Jupiter called the asteroid belt. Here’s a rendering:

    Scientists tell us that it is a planet that didn’t form properly. It looks to me very much like a planet that blew up. In my ravings I’ve wondered if we were once there, eons ago and, like now, just couldn’t get along. Eventually we blew ourselves to smithereens. However realizing the inevitable their scientists launched a ship or ships toward their nearest neighbor, Mars (which would have the closest approximation to their planet’s living conditions). Either the planet was already living or it was terraformed by these people. We know that water once flowed there and there is still a remnant of an atmosphere left. However, again the time came, ages later, when they were at each others throats, and once again their scientists looked toward their nearest neighbor, now the earth. A third chance. The people on Mars detonated weapons such that most of their sky was simply blown out into space. The great seas and all life quickly disappeared. Meanwhile a group landed here. Probably children, thus our myths that sound like spacemen and gods. They were given no direct knowledge of their background in the hope that with a fresh start, this time, maybe this time, we might be able to get our act together.

    But guess what, here we are again, at the point of annihilation. Ready to indulge in our mass death wish. This would truly be a sad vindication of the saying, “those who don’t know their history are destined to repeat it”.

    I think I’ll write story.

  24. Ann: “Why will they be the ones surviving in your scenario?”
    Because they think outliving the liberals and minorities means they won.

    The gun hoarding doomsday militia types also tend to have a stash of other supplies.
    Most of my family fall into this category, with one having gone so far as to put everything he’s made in the last 10 years into creating a bunker out of railroad shipping cars. Last I saw he had about 30 of them buried and welded together into one big structure. He’s also got a ton of army rations/nonperishable food stocked away down there. (Not a lot of them. At least a literal ton. It was one of his goals.) Oh, and guns. Ridiculous amounts of guns, given he has the normal amount of hands. He’d have explosives if he could get them. In his ideal world, when he finally emerges from his bunker he’d find one liberal left so he could tell them he told them so before he shot them. Of course he didn’t take any way to grow food after the world ends or water purification, but far be it from me to argue with an insane person until he shoots me.
    So yeah, he’s pretty much an insane hateful waste of space…and probably exactly the kind of person Care was talking about. The only good side is that he’s so paranoid and delusional he never managed to get married and procreate.

    @Care: I’m a gun owning liberal. The difference isn’t the amount of guns or the kind of guns owned, it’s the attitude behind owning the gun. Mine is a last desperate resort if I have no other option. The conservative attitude is that should some terrorist (insert race/religion here) strikes, you can shoot him down and be a hero. Just like in a Western.

  25. JThompson, I would beg to differ. As a prepared survivalist, the firearms I own are there to protect my family and fellow citizens if the opportunity arises, not to go hunting down people who have differences of opinion. Just because someone can legally carry a gun with a Concealed Firearm Permit, doesn’t mean it’s a human hunting license. For me, a firearm is a last resort as well. It’s about stopping the threat, not to go looking for one. http://bit.ly/hcOVm

  26. The last bunch of nitwits were way, way worse.

    JThompson, I have wrestled of years with the idea of getting a gun. I somehow think that were I to I would be abandoning hope in whatever good forces exist in and behind nature to protect my family. I don’t want my buying a gun to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. I know that sounds nutty.

    On the other hand, I am haunted by visions of our house broken into by thugs and me helpless to do anything to stop them. I’ve been sort of waiting for either: 1) things to begin to get better, which I hope will the be the case or 2) things to take a turn for the worse such that I become certain that I had better buy a gun right now.

    We’ve done a few simple things. We have some food stocked up but really it wouldn’t last that long, maybe a few weeks. We have a garden. We have water in a holding tank but if the electricity went out no way to pump it. I guess I’d have to get a bucket. Oh well. I’ve built a solar powered hot water heater that works good 5 months of the year and hit n miss the other seven. But again that needs a pump. Not much else.

    I imagine that “off the grid” solar and wind systems would be okay in an EMP situation. For a long time I’ve felt that home energy should be “decentralized”, everyone with their own. Not only for EMP’s sake but also so that people are not forever dependent on buying their electricity from some power station. Free energy. The problem is that it’s so expensive to get an alternative energy system.

    The frightening part is, as you say with that member of your family who has invested heavily in an apocalypse, is that having put so much of their time and money into planning for the end they wouldn’t be too happy with the prospect of things improving. A lot of them have their reputations on the line here. They have been eating, drinking and talking apocalypse for so long. They are ready to bust.

    I happen to think that the world can stand to loose many billions of us – if just for the sake of future life on this planet. We are devouring the earth. I just wish depopulation would happen in a civilized way, say with people agreeing to stop having so many children. If every couple decided to have but one child population could be halved in a generation or so. If many decided to have none even faster. It’s clear that something needs to happen, but what path will we take toward depopulation, the brutal savage way or the gentle civilized way? Time will tell.

  27. Nevermind. On more research it looks like anything electronic not protected would be burned out, off grid or on. But my next question then, and maybe I’m just dense here, is, we know that EMP travels via transmission wires and thus whatever is plugged in gets fried but does it also travel on the air such that it wouldn’t matter if Congress protects the power grid since ANY electrical device NOT in a faraday cage will fry in any case? That’s what I seem to be reading.

    http://preparednesspro.wordpress.com/2009/06/18/emp-101-part-iv-faraday-cage/

    So what would be the point in protecting the grid if you can’t use it because almost all of it, things lights, medical equipment, refrigerators, heaters, cars etc. etc., anything too big to fit in a faraday cage, are all toast? Besides, 99.999999 percent of the population doesn’t even know what a faraday cage is so what would we be protecting?

    • Care, as an electrical engineer, I can say with some confidence that not all electronics will be fried. Much will, but not all.

      EMP from orbit is essentially a gamma ray blast that irradiates the top of the atmosphere. This blast kicks off electrons that pulse through the air and down until it hits the ground. These electrons produce massive currents on wire, so anything plugged into a wire that can’t react fast enough (lightning arrestors aren’t generally fast enough) could be damaged. However, the electrons also don’t penetrate well – they’re no different than beta radioactive decay, which penetrates about a foot of material, depending on the density. The difference is that there’s a LOT of them, and thus the massive, if temporary, currents.

      Smaller electronic devices are less likely to be damaged than larger ones, devices in basements are less likely to be damaged than devices on the top floor, devices in concrete buildings are less likely to be damaged than devices in open frame construction (a la standard residences).

      Again, though, protecting electronics from EMP effects is very easy and inexpensive, even without a Faraday cage. The problem is that adding a few components to protect the electronics is not acceptable to a “cost is everything” business mindset.

      And while electronics that are turned off might still be damaged, they are MUCH less likely to be damaged. Anyone who claims otherwise is misinformed or is passing on insufficiently nuanced information.

  28. Thanks Brian. Then it sounds like not only should Congress protect the national power grid they should also require manufacturers to build protections into all other electronic devices as well.

    What’s the verdict on “off the grid” alternative energy systems?

  29. “Again, though, protecting electronics from EMP effects is very easy and inexpensive, even without a Faraday cage.”

    Any link to how this can be done? Are we talking about wrapping everything in foil? Yuk.

    “And while electronics that are turned off might still be damaged, they are MUCH less likely to be damaged.”

    Then why do we even need a cage? Just unplug everything (providing there is some warning ahead of time of course).

    • I wish I could go into detail about the methods, but I can’t due to a number of non-disclosure agreements I’ve signed. A faraday cage is a starting point, but it’s not necessarily sufficient. Most of the things I’m talking about have to be done at when the electronics is being designed and built, rather than after the fact.

      There are several effects of an EMP. A Faraday cage helps with one by keeping incident EM fields from directly interfering with the electronics. However, most electronics already has one because the FCC requires that your computer not interfere with your radio or your TV. Putting your electronics in another cage will certainly help, but how much is a question I don’t immediately know the answer to. It depends on a large number of factors that I can go into if you’d like, but it starts getting technical fast.

      Really fast surge protectors also help, but they need to be designed into the electronics up front – they’re very difficult to add after the fact. I’ve also gone into a couple of possible ways that transmission lines might be protected in a prior comment.

      I do wish I could go into more detail, but I can’t.

  30. This is slightly off subject, though with North Korea’s recent threats not really that much. It’ might be a ridiculous question but maybe you know. I’ve been wondering if an electronic “net” might be able to stop radiation in the case of accident or war. Something like a faraday cage, say, surrounding a house or shed, that is electrified. Could that “catch” and/or deflect radioactive isotopes?

  31. Just finished the book. I’ve been reading post-apoc fiction the last several decades. This one was extremely weak. The dialog was painfully amatuerish. The plot was… there was no plot, since the aftermath of the “event” is the same as any other post-apoc story — panic, hoarding, banding together, possible cannibalism, reversion to a feudal society… this author needs a lot more practice before he can make this much-refried topic interesting again. And he might want to have some of his high-falutin colleagues edit the thing before it gets into print. Not even worth reading. D+

  32. Preparedness Pro — here are some post-apoc titles I enjoyed. Most will be available at the library, others at Amazon.com. Ill Wind / Kevin J Anderson — Lucifer’s Hammer / Larry Niven — Last Gasp / Trevor Hoyle — Into the Forest / Jean Hegland.

  33. If anyone remembers the TV series Dark Angel (Jessica Alba’s big break), its post-apocalyptic setting was premised to take place several years after terrorists detonated an EMP over the US, wiping out all electronic records, creating mass panic, and essentially destroying life as we know it.

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