If you enjoy a really good scare, just read this realistic portrayal of what can happen in the event of an EMP strike. One Second After, by William R. Forstchen, lays out this scenario in terrifying detail. I’m not giving anything away here by telling you that the basis of the story is a type of nuclear attack called an EMP (Electro-Magnetic Pulse). It might sound like science-fiction, but the technology has been around since the 1960’s. A major EMP event can be caused by a nuclear weapon detonated high in the atmosphere. Any nation or terrorist group with access to just one nuclear missile could carry out this type of attack. Two or three weapons could bring down the nation’s entire power grid.
One thing that makes this story so scary, is that “one second after” the attack, most people have absolutely no idea what has happened. There are no explosions, no air-raid sirens, no people dropping dead, not even any radiation fallout. It just appears to be a normal power outage. Then they find out that battery operated radios don’t work either. Car engines on highways across the country quit simultaneously for no apparent reason and will not start. Computers and televisions are all dead. Phones and cell phones don’t work. People naturally assume that help will be on its way soon and everything will be fixed, but they soon realize that no help is coming. The government and first responders are not much better prepared for this than the average citizen.
An EMP does not kill people; it kills electrical and electronic components. Even backup generators would be useless because they also depend on sensitive electrical components in order to work. Almost all cars on the road today have built-in computers and other electronics that would be destroyed by an EMP. There are currently no surge protectors that can protect the nation’s electrical infrastructure from this. Only unplugged devices protected in a specially designed “Faraday cage” would escape the effects of an EMP.
After an EMP, the first victims would be those in hospitals on life support systems. A few days later, we would all realize that we all depend on various life support systems. Electricity and motorized transportation are not just modern conveniences; we depend on them for our very survival. Without electricity and computers, banks shut down, ATM’s don’t work, stores cannot conduct business, and products including food and medicine cannot be bought or sold. Without motorized transportation, there is no way to move food and other products from the farm or factory to the consumer. Most stores only carry a few days of inventory. After a disaster or panic, store shelves would be emptied quickly. Without food, water, and other supplies available to us, we can go from normal life to a battle for survival in a surprisingly short period of time. Some people will try to work together with their friends and neighbors to deal with the situation. Others will become desperate and do desperate things.
One Second After (besides being a great story) gives us a glimpse of what life would be like in the U.S. for all of us in the event of an EMP attack. Some experts believe that this is exactly the type of attack that terrorist groups are gearing up for and that it’s not a question of if it will happen, but when. Are you prepared?
For more info, go to http://www.onesecondafter.com/
A home vegetable garden is a great way to put healthy food on your table and it’s not as hard as you might think. I can remember as a kid going to my grandmother’s house and seeing her unbelievable vegetable garden that I thought was a miniature farm. All of the plants were laid out in neat rows and she had some of just about everything, even stalks of corn! Many of our grandparents and great-grandparents did the same thing. At one time, nearly everyone did, except those in crowded cities. Somewhere along the way we got too civilized. Our kids today don’t even know where their food comes from. It’s not because we can’t do it or we don’t have time. Most of us living in the suburbs have at least a small yard and what do we plant? Mostly grass! It still requires watering, fertilizing, weeding, mowing, and edging, and we either spend time doing it ourselves or pay someone to do it for us. All that time, money, and energy, and not producing anything we can eat. Our ancestors would think we’ve all gone insane! Why not put some of that space to better use?
If you have never tried it, there is a sense of pride you get from planting and cultivating, watching the plants grow, and then putting the food on the table. No professional farmers, no high-tech equipment, no USDA inspections, no factory processing, just good healthy food. You won’t stop going to the grocery store but you will get some exercise and a connection with some of the food you eat. You may even learn to like some things you’ve never tried before. Since vitamins deteriorate quickly with storage, freshly picked fruits and vegetables are also more nutritious than anything you can get in the store.
This blog is not going to be a how-to guide on everything, just enough to hopefully encourage people to get started on a few things. There are lots of great books on home gardening to help you learn the basics. I recommend starting simple. What you can grow depends on where you live and the weather and soil conditions. The local plant nursery or home store is a good place to start. Chances are that most of the plants and seeds sold there have at least some chance of surviving in your area. Here are a few basic tips I’ve learned:
1. Start Small
Begin with a few plants. Tomatoes are always a good choice for a beginner. Buy a few potted plants so you don’t get tired of waiting for seeds to sprout. You can put them in a “grow box” or just put them in the ground. Bush beans and lettuce are also fairly easy to grown from seeds.
2. Use heirloom (non-hybrid) plants and seeds whenever you can find them
Non-hybrid plants are the same varieties that have been around for generations without modification. I planted several varieties of tomatoes and the non-hybrid “beefsteak” tomatoes did much better than the hybrid ones. They tend to be hardier as well. Also, the seeds from a non-hybrid plant can be replanted to grow more identical plants. That’s not the case with most hybrid plants.
3. Go Organic
Organic gardening is the most natural way to grow. Artificial fertilizers are designed to feed the plants directly. With organic gardening, you keep the soil healthy and let the soil feed the plant. Some of the vegetables you will get may not be as big as the ones at the store but they will be just as good if not better. Avoid using pesticides. There are natural organic fertilizers and insect control products that will do the job and without putting chemicals into your food. You may not even need them. Start with a few bags of organic gardening soil and let nature work. There are books on organic gardening and clubs you can join to learn from the experts in your area. Don’t worry initially about all the science. You just have to watch what is happening in your garden and deal with things as they come. Every location is different and you learn by doing.
4. Tend your garden!
In most places you will need to water to grow vegetables. There is a reason they don’t just grow wild in the field. They require watering, weeding, pruning, and stakes or trellises for taller plants. It’s not a full-time job but you will need to be out there at least every other day making sure the plants have enough water and the weeds are under control. Mulch will help retain water and control weeds. It will also make your garden look nicer. In most subdivisions, you will need to keep it looking “nice” to avoid nasty letters from the homeowners association! You can even disguise it as “landscaping” by planting flowers and ornamental plants along with the vegetables and by not putting everything in straight lines.
5. Don’t give up!
Gardening will take patience. It will take trial and error. Some plants will die. Some seeds will never sprout. Replace them with different ones and try again. Use different soil mixes, and different amounts of watering. Over-watering is as bad as under-watering. Some plants prefer direct sun and others prefer part sun. Books are great but experience is the best teacher.
I am speaking from experience (or my lack of it) that you don’t have to be raised on a farm to be able to plant a garden and put some food on your table. Many of my first seeds didn’t make it but others sprouted and grew into healthy plants with nothing but beginners luck on my side. Once you see actual food growing, you’ll be hooked. Soon, you could be the neighborhood expert. With the rising price of food, it’s a great skill to have.
For financial preparedness, it would be a good idea to have some “real money” as part of your plan. What is “real money”? Today, more than ever, the answer seems to be silver. Silver has stood the test of time as a store of wealth and as one of the only forms of real money. The first silver coins were produced thousands of years ago. The Spanish silver dollar was the most common form of money used in the U.S. and was legal tender until 1857. The original American silver dollar was based on the average size and weight of a Spanish silver dollar. U.S. paper dollars were originally “silver certificates” and could be redeemed for a silver dollar. Dimes and quarters were made out of 90% silver. Then, in 1963, things started to change. The $1 Silver Certificate was replaced with the $1 Federal Reserve Note, no longer redeemable for silver. Starting in 1965, the minting of dimes and quarters using 90% silver was discontinued. Pennies were originally made of copper. Many people assume they are still made of copper but that stopped in 1982. The coins produced today have little or no intrinsic value. Until 1971, U.S. dollars (if you had a lot of them) could be redeemed for gold held in the U.S. Treasury. In 1971, President Nixon put an end to the “gold standard”. Today’s dollar is nothing more than a free-floating currency not tied to the value of gold, silver, or any other real asset. The Federal Reserve, which is NOT a department of the U.S. Government, is free to issue dollars as they see fit thereby reducing the value of dollars already in circulation.
Anyone concerned about inflation should think about having some percentage of their savings in the form of “real money” that cannot be devalued. A 90% silver quarter, minted in 1964, has approximately the same or better purchasing power today that it had in 1964 despite inflation. In 1964, a gallon of gas cost $0.30. A quarter could buy almost a gallon of gas. Today, that same 90% silver quarter is worth over $6.00, more than enough to buy a gallon of gas in today’s money. In 1964, a gallon of milk cost $0.95 or approximately 4 quarters. Today, those same silver quarters would be worth over $24.00. The reason for this is that silver is a store of real value and over time will hold its value. How about real estate? Suppose you (or your parents or grandparents) sold an average home in 1964 for the average price of $20,000.00, took the money in silver quarters, and buried them. Even without collecting any interest, those silver quarters today would be worth over $480,000.00. The price of silver does fluctuate like anything else, but over time it has been a reliable store of value. That doesn’t necessarily make it a better investment than other options, or even a “good” investment, however, silver has maintained its value and buying power for centuries. That’s more than can be said for any other type of money ever used or in use today. The only downside is that today, silver has to be taken to a dealer and exchanged for dollars before it can be spent. That can also be a good thing as it makes it a form of savings that is not so easy to get to.
Why are so many people talking about silver these days?
One reason people are buying silver because they no longer have confidence that the Federal government has any solution to the national debt crisis. The national debt is over 15 trillion dollars and it is now to the point that there is no way it can ever be paid off. Economists today admit that there is really no way out of this. The government is paying interest on the debt by accumulating more debt and printing money out of thin air. That is like making the minimum payments on your maxed-out credit cards by taking out cash advances on new credit cards. You can only do this for so long. That means our money is being devalued and could eventually become worthless. There are no serious proposals to deal with this problem. Any real solution would be too painful to even be considered.
A second reason people are buying silver is possibility of an economic collapse or banking system collapse. The banking system had a crisis in 2008 that required a $700 billion bailout to prevent a domino effect in which one bank would fail causing other banks to fail resulting in economic collapse. That is where the expression “too big to fail” came from. If you remember the situation, it was during the election season and the candidates had to suspend their campaigns to deal with the crisis. It was said at the time that we were literally within days of banking system collapse or shutdown. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke proposed the $700 billion bailout telling Congress “If we don’t do this, we may not have an economy on Monday.” For most of us, the crisis seemed to happen without warning. There is no guarantee that this cannot happen again or if it does, that the government would be able to stop it. Today, everything depends on electronic transactions. If the banks shut down, everything shuts down. In that situation, you may need to have some “real money” that you can hold in your hand and that has real value.
What are some of the advantages of silver?
- It has intrinsic value (as opposed to paper money or today’s coins).
- It can be purchased in small quantities.
- It is universally recognizable.
- It does not depreciate, decay, rust, or require maintenance.
- It does not cost you money to keep it (unlike real estate).
- It can be kept in your possession and controlled by you (unlike stocks or bonds).
What kind of silver is best to own?
- “Junk Silver” coins: These are the 90% silver dimes, quarters, half-dollars, and dollars minted before 1965. They are called “Junk Silver” because their value is mainly the silver content. They are not rare enough to be collectable coins but they are worth many times more than the face value. Also, they don’t have to be in perfect condition to have value. As long as they are recognizable, they can be used and traded for their silver content value. This is the least expensive way to purchase silver. They can be purchased by the roll or by the bag.
- Silver bullion coins: One ounce “Silver Eagles” are minted by the U.S. Treasury and are legal tender (for the face value, not the actual silver value). The cost of minting the coins and the fact that they are legal tender adds a premium to the price over and above the “spot price” of silver on the market. Silver Eagles are .999 fine silver. The advantage is that their content and purity are guaranteed by the U.S. Mint and they are universally recognized.
- Silver bullion: Silver rounds and bars (not actual coins) are produced by private mints. They are also .999 fine silver but are not recognized as legal tender. For this reason, they cost slightly less than the Silver Eagles produced by the U.S. Mint. These also cost a little more than “Junk Silver” coins because of the cost of refining the silver and minting the bars or rounds.
What kind of silver should be avoided?
Every week there are full-page advertisements in magazines for “commemorative” coins that are plated with silver or gold. They contain very little precious metal and are not worth the money. Stick with real silver.
What about gold?
Gold also has a long history as a store of value, however, it is a much more expensive and compact store of value. It is also difficult to trade gold in small quantities because of the high value. You may want to consider having some amount of gold if you can afford it but definitely start with silver.
Remember this is not intended to be investment advice. Do your own homework to make sure whatever you do makes sense for your own financial situation. Definitely do not go into debt to buy silver or gold. First, focus on paying off debts and taking care of basic necessities. Then make sure you have cash on-hand for emergencies and a savings plan. Silver would then be a good third step as a type of insurance in case of serious inflation or an economic crisis. Whatever you do, get started on your own plan soon!
My family and I attended the opening of the new movie “Monumental” last night. It was a completely sold-out show and even getting there early, we couldn’t all sit together. It was really amazing to see a sold-out movie on a Tuesday evening for a documentary that was mostly about the pilgrims! Theatres were sold out all over the country for this. I think this shows the condition the people in this country are in. They see real problems for this nation on the horizon and they are looking for answers. “Monumental” suggests that the answers are found in going back to the plan that was laid out for us by the pilgrims who landed on Plymouth Rock. The plan was etched in stone on a huge monument in Plymouth, Massachusetts that most Americans have never seen or even heard of. We learn how the plan was followed by the founders of this nation in the original documents and writings and in the first acts of Congress. The movie also puts to rest some of the deliberate misunderstandings we have been taught about the people who founded this country.
Monumental also takes you back to England and the Netherlands where it all started. You will learn that the Pilgrims journey to America was not an adventure but more like a prison break. It was daring escape plan by people who were political prisoners and outlaws in their own country. They faced dangers that most of us today could not even contemplate.
Why am I writing about this on a preparedness web site? I would suggest that the Pilgrims were some of the first “Preppers”. They could see the conditions deteriorating in their country to the point where they had to do something. They had no choice but to leave their homes, grab their “bug-out bags”, “get out of Dodge”, and make their way to their planned “bug-out” location. Unfortunately, the “survival retreat” they were headed to, even if they made it there alive, was nothing but wilderness. It had none of the things they needed to survive. They had to build it from scratch after they got there in late fall. It was a miracle that any of them survived the first winter.
The main idea of “Monumental” is to take us back to the principles and plan we need to follow to restore our country. For me, I also took away some thoughts on preparedness. I learned that even more important than having a plan is having a set of core beliefs that you will follow no matter what the circumstances. We need to have a faith that is strong enough to help us stay true to those core beliefs. We need to know for sure what we believe, what we are living for, and what is worth dying for.
In case some of you haven’t noticed, preparedness and survival planning, has become mainstream. There are lots of other “Sane Preppers” out there and almost every day I find more. It is no longer a few crazy people hiding out in the mountains preparing for the end of the world. Today, regular people just like you are starting to think about tomorrow and what they can do to be better prepared. They are friends and family and people you know and work with. Some, such as myself are fairly new to the idea but others have been slowly working at it for years and have much we can learn from. One source I recently discovered is “The Survival Podcast” (http://www.thesurvivalpodcast.com). This is a web site run by Jack Spirko who calls himself a “modern survivalist” as opposed to the more recent term “prepper”. He has been working at this for several years. He records a daily podcast with topics such as money and debt, sustainable housing, gardening, renewable energy, and almost anything else you can think of. Podcasts are great if you have a long commute to work. All you need is an MP3 player. Instead of just listening to the radio, you can educate yourself on topics that may help you or at least make you think. His motto is “Helping you live the life you want, if times get tough, or even if they don’t”. The idea is to do things that will help you to be better off financially, physically, and other ways even if you never experience any type of disaster or hardship. Too many people just live one paycheck to the next, spending money on things they don’t really need, and rarely doing anything to make themselves more independent and secure in the long run.
I have only listened to a few of his podcasts and cannot vouch for all of his ideas and opinions but he does have lots of great information there for free. He often interjects his more libertarian philosophy, which some may not agree with entirely (or some may not agree at all). However, you will find these are not either liberal or conservative ideas, but some of the best of both worlds. Even if you don’t agree with his political views (or think you don’t), give it a try and see you don’t learn a few things!
Lucky us. The Republican National Convention is coming to my town, Tampa, Florida this August.
The best the locals here can hope for is that it will be a “well planned disaster”. Mass protests are expected from groups such as the Occupy Wall Street movement and other groups. Local authorities have already made the decision that much of Downtown Tampa will be inaccessible for any business other than the convention (and of course the protests). Most county and city office buildings downtown are scheduled to be closed. A few thousand employees will have to be temporarily relocated to other offices away from downtown. Fences will be erected to close off the area to normal business and traffic. The Secret Service will be on-hand to coordinate security along with local police.
Why am I writing about this? I happen to be one of the people in charge of planning for expected disruption to the organization I work for. For us, the planning started months ago. I attended an early planning meeting with local first responders. Since I’m just an IT guy, I probably didn’t even belong in this meeting. The group was organized to brainstorm the possible problems that could occur such as traffic gridlock, protests, and violence. Even the possibility of a terrorist attack occurring during the convention was included as a scenario that needed to be planned for. The emergency personnel in attendance were taking all of this very seriously and leaving nothing to chance. With this last scenario, they had to consider the possibility of mass casualties and plan for the setup of emergency treatment centers and even temporary morgues. I left that meeting with a new found respect for the police, firefighters, and EMT’s who willingly put their lives on the line to protect us. For them, planning is the key. They must be willing to seriously consider possibilities that most of us would not even want to think about. They have to think the unthinkable and work through it on paper as if it has actually happened.
After being shaken up from attending this very large meeting of emergency responders and listening to all of the frightening discussion, I expected to read about it on the front page of the local papers the next day. Not a word. I guess they figured there is no reason to scare people when there is a good chance that nothing major will happen other than some traffic jams and a few arrests. Besides, the authorities have thought of everything and have all the bases covered. Even though I have all the confidence in the world in our local police and emergency personnel, there is no way for them to fully prepare for every eventuality.
Compared to what the police have to prepare for, my organization’s preparations for this seem relatively minor. We just need to find “bug out” locations for everyone, identify what items need to be taken with us, setup and way for everyone to communicate, figure out how to get the work done in these alternate locations, and then get everyone prepared to “bug out” ahead of the event. Come to think of it, this is a huge undertaking! And we even have the advantage of knowing exactly when this “disaster” is scheduled to occur. For most disaster planning, we have to plan without knowing when or if the problem will happen.
We could all learn some lessons from this. To be prepared, we need to be willing to think through the possibilities and ask ourselves the tough “what-if” questions. Next come up with a plan. Then determine what things we should actually start doing today in order to prepare. Finally, start executing the plan. All the planning in the world is useless if you don’t take action while you still can!
Most people think of a tornado as a very local type of disaster that just appears suddenly, tears off a few rooftops and then disappears. The February 29 and March2 tornado outbreaks showed otherwise. At least 79 tornadoes (some EF3 and EF4 scale) caused major damage and at least 39 deaths in 11 states. 279 tornado warnings were issued across Kentucky, southern Indiana, and southern Ohio. Several entire towns were completely destroyed. Many people narrowly escaped by taking cover in the basement, under stairs, or in a closet. In the aftermath, thousands of people whose homes were not damaged are now without power.
Tornadoes happen so quickly and are so violent that you may think there is nothing you can do to prepare. Being aware and having a plan is the best way to prepare for any emergency.
- Pay attention to weather warnings and know the signs to be aware of such as hail, rapid change in humidity and temperature, ears popping, and the loud freight-train noise that accompanies tornadoes.
- Decide where in your home to retreat to in case of a tornado. If you live in a two-story home, have everyone stay downstairs near the retreat area when a tornado warning is issued. The safest place to be is in a basement. If you don’t have a basement, get into an interior room away from windows such as a bathroom or closet.
- Have a first-aid kit, fire extinguisher, and other supplies handy as you may not be able to get help immediately from emergency personnel.
- Have a 72-hour (or more) emergency kit located in a safe place in your home. You may have to leave quickly with no time to go and gather necessities.
- If you have gas service to your home, find out the procedure for turning it off and make sure you have the proper tool to do it. If you turn it off, you may need the utility company to turn it back on.
- Know how to shut-off the main water supply to your home in case you have a major pipe break. This may help prevent further damage to your home and the water will be needed by firefighters to put out fires.
After a tornado:
- Check for injuries and administer first aid.
- Use the telephone only for emergency calls.
- Be aware of gas leaks and fallen power lines. Report them to the utility company immediately.
- Shut off water, power, and gas if necessary.
- Stay out of damaged buildings.
- Use flashlights if needed to check buildings – do not use candles.
There are many other things you can do to prepare for a tornado and to deal with the aftermath. Having a plan and being prepared may help you and your family to survive and you may be able to help your neighbors as well. Even if you never experience a tornado, the preparation and awareness will be useful for almost any emergency.
These major tornado outbreaks should serve as a reminder to everyone that disasters and emergencies can happen at any time. It’s too late to think about preparedness after the emergency.