Electricity

How Long Could the U.S. Go Without Electricity?

Ted Koppel's latest book explores the effects of EMP weapons.

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The power is still out, and things are getting scary.

The house is so cold you can see your own breath. Some of the food in the refrigerator is good, but there's no way to cook it. The water is still running, barely, but it smells bad and tastes worse. The grocery store is open, but it's only taking cash—which you can't get, because the banks are closed. But it doesn't really matter since the shelves have been picked clean anyway.

You went to work on Monday, but after a couple of hours the boss sent everyone home. Come back when the power comes back on, she said.

That was nine days ago.

The family has been warming up in the car for short stints, and you've been charging your cell phone, but the gas gauge is now sitting on Empty. The gas station closed because there's no power to run the pumps.

The emergency numbers you've called are busy or not answering. Nothing on the radio but static. No wi-fi. Your neighbors are just as clueless as you are.

Somebody better get the power back on soon, or you and your family are going to be up the creek.

But suppose they don't. Then what?

* * *

This cheery scenario is the subject of a recent book by Ted Koppel, Lights Out, which discusses the possibility of a major blow to the nation's power grid—either through a cyberattack or an EMP. An EMP is an electromagnetic pulse caused by a high-altitude (as in 30 or 40 miles) detonation of a nuclear warhead. A sufficient blast over Ohio could fry circuits on the Eastern Seaboard down to Florida and as far west as Omaha, Nebraska. A cyberattack would have less far-reaching effects—unless it were either a coordinated, distributed assault or hit nerve centers hard enough to cause a cascading power failure.

Koppel explores the likelihood of such an event. The experts he interviewed, including former heads of Homeland Security,  rate the chances everywhere from minute to almost inevitable. He asks how effective such an attack might be. The answer to that is: It depends. He also asks how well prepared the country is to cope with a long-term, widespread power failure. The answer to that is: Not one little bit.

Experts in the utility industry contend that fears of a nationwide blackout are overblown. Dominion, Virginia's chief supplier of power, will be spending $500 million to harden its critical infrastructure.

The industry spends billions on cybersecurity. There's no way for an outsider to hack into the control systems, they say. Cyber-security experts seem rather less sanguine. Hackers always find a way—just ask Target, or Sony Pictures, or the Office of Personnel Management or countless other major institutions that have the resources to guard against cyber-infiltration, but couldn't stop it. A terrorist or foreign power that hacks into a power company's network might be able to wreck its hardware, just like the Stuxtnet virus developed by the U.S. and Israel wrecked Iran's uranium centrifuges.

* * *

An EMP attack, which would affect not just power companies but electronic circuits everywhere, is equally feasible—so feasible that more than a decade ago, Congress established a commission to examine the issue. Its findings are not exactly reassuring. They point out, for instance, that a successful EMP attack does not require an intercontinental ballistic missile. As one commission member testified to the House Armed Services Committee in 2008, "such an attack could be launched from a freighter off the U.S. coast using a short- or medium-range missile… Iran… has practiced launching a mobile ballistic missile from a vessel in the Caspian Sea."

The effects of such an attack, the commission says, "could be sufficient to qualify as catastrophic to the Nation." Why? Because every major system of our high-tech society depends on electrical power, and lots of it. And while most of those systems have safeguards against failure and emergency plans if failure occurs, the commission's 2008 report notes that their recovery plans "generally depend on the proper functioning of the rest of the national infrastructure." So, for instance: Even if power companies could find enough replacement transformers—and that is not at all clear; large transformers are usually custom-built by foreign suppliers and take more than a year to arrive—how would they get the replacements delivered?

Or take food: "Tractors, planters, harvesters, and other farm equipment are fueled by petroleum products supplied by pipelines, pumps, and transportation systems that run on electricity," the commission points out. "Food processing—cleaning, sorting, packing, and canning of all kinds of agricultural and meat products—is typically an automated operation, performed on assembly lines by electrically powered machinery." Food distribution needs refrigerated warehouses. Grocery stores need to be able to send orders for more. How?

Yes, the military has large stores of supplies—for itself. It can't feed half the country. People would get desperate, fast—and local law enforcement likely wouldn't be in much better shape than the rest of us.

On the bright side, many people wouldn't have to worry about starving because they would die first from the lack of clean water. "The water infrastructure is a vast machine, powered partly by gravity but mostly by electricity," says the EMP commission. Without energy to run purification plants, pumps, sewage treatment, and so on, "local water supplies would quickly disappear… People are likely to resort to drinking from lakes, streams, ponds, and other sources of surface water. Most surface water, especially in urban areas, is contaminated with wastes and pathogens and could cause serious illness if consumed." Medical care, however, is likely to be hard to come by—which means even minor injuries, such as a cut that gets infected by tainted water, could become life-threatening very quickly.

* * *

It's nice to think this is all very far-fetched silliness—a bad script for a late-night movie on an unwatched channel. Let's hope so. We've gone decades now without a nuclear attack, after all. A look around the world, though, suggests people  should take the possibility seriously—and think about how to manage by themselves. Because if an event of that magnitude did occur, help might not come for weeks. Or months. Or years.

This column originally appeared at the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

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  1. Is this book recommended reading before or after “The end of Doom”?

    1. After, but before “The End of Snark”.

    2. My first thought as well.

      I can’t believe this alarmist b.s. is appearing in a libertarian newspaper. Scare the populace, collect millions, move on to the next issue.

      Here’s an article on the subject that seemed a bit more even keel.

      http://foreignpolicy.com/2013/…..ikes-back/

      1. How about a link to some Congressional reports and committe presentatons:

        http://www.empcommission.org/

        https://fas.org/sgp/crs/homesec/R43604.pdf

        There’s also a house committee presentation by Dr. Pry from May 2015, but the link is too long for here (it’s over 50 characters). It’s called: The EMP Threat: The State of Preparedness Against the Threat of a Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Event

      2. Scare the populace, collect millions, move on to the next issue.

        Agreed. If somebody doesn’t fund a commission to do *do something* meat inspectors are going to start shitting in all the beef, dairy farmers will go back to poisoning milk, and unlicensed doctors will be allowed to perform involuntary surgeries whenever they like! Infrastructure spending or the zombie apocalypse X 10000? Your choice.

      3. Head firmly inserted in the sand, apparently. It’s called “normalcy bias.” Since you haven’t ever seen this happen, your intuition is that it won’t happen.

        But the physics of this is well understood. As an engineer, I took a deep dive into the reports, and they are accurate and very scary. I suggest you read the reports linked by DontLoseYourHead and understand them.

        Our adversaries certainly believe them. An HEMP attack would be more deadly to the US that 50 or 100 nuclear bombs going off over our cities! Many tens of millions, maybe 150 million people would die from the consequences of suddenly losing our communications and power dependent just-in-time fuel and food delivery systems.

        1. Don’t worry. I’m ready to take on that HEMP attack.

  2. A not-quite-mentioned aspect is that everybody’s electronics would be dead to the point of requiring replacement, not just waiting for the power to come back on so computers can be turned back on. Microwaves, land line telephones, emergency hand-cranked radios — all fried and all needing replacement. All the equipment to build and ship and sell replacements — fried. All the equipment to mine resources, to ship resources — all fried.

    It would be the end of civilization for sure. 50 years ago, civilization would have survived, crudely, but nowadays, 99% of the population would starve to death, and most knowledge of how to resurrect civilization would be locked away in inaccessible electronic storage that could not be unlocked. Paper documentation would not be enough, and even then, most of the techniques it would call for is controlled by electronics — which would be fried.

    The military might have some hardening, but it wouldn’t suffice. How long could they survive without a civilian economy — or civilians themselves to build and ship the stuff they couldn’t make?

    1. Unlikely. It’s the power grid that is vulnerable. But another Carrington event is far more likely than an EMP attack.

      1. A powerful enough, say nuclear, EMP fries all unshielded electronics, right? Consumer products are hardly likely to be shielded against such effects.

        1. It is a fact that virtually all electronics except some hardened military ones (and not all military ones) are vulnerable to an EMP and would no longer function.

          1. You can, of course, simply build a Faraday cage to store emergency electronics in ? or, you can use an all-steel storage locker/file cabinet to store your stuff. Either method will adequately shield otherwise vulnerable electronics from solar storms or EMP events.

            1. Your car is already a decent Faraday cage and fairly EMP resistant. Moreso, if your garage has a metal roof and aluminum siding.

              The larger worry about an EMP would be the weapon that generated it. That is to say, fuses protect many devices and can be readily bypassed in emergencies. This doesn’t offer 100% protection from EMPs obviously, but if your system suffers an EMP strike that overcomes the fuses to the point that it destroys the device, the device probably wasn’t going to physically survive the attack anyway. Most every car that’s wrapped in metal, not running, and/or parked in a metal enclosure is likely to survive. The phones and radios inside them, even more so.

              Toppling the whole of American infrastructure in this manner would require coordinated EMP attacks of such power and precision that the EMP aspect of things would hardly matter and gets into ideas like, with a force of just 1,000 people a foreign power could occupy the Whitehouse, 2,000 and they could take the Pentagon, etc. …

              1. A nuke detonated for an EMP effect would be detonated high enough up that other than the pretty bright light you wouldn’t likely notice it.

                While I agree that many more things would survive than would be expected were still not gonna be left with much, basically vehicles, and some stuff that was in metal enclosures… anything plugged into a wall is gone.

                1. anything plugged into a wall is gone.

                  Baloney. Most of the stuff you keep plugged into the wall 24/7 is grounded, protected by fuses, already shielded or is itself a shield, and too ‘dumb’ to care. Your microwave, fridge, oven, etc. are already metal boxes plugged into a fused and grounded network. Any induced current capable of destroying them all, simultaneously, would practically have to burn the wiring right out of your house. If you’ve got any sort of functionality to your basement (washer, dryer, water heater, sump/sewage pumps, water purifier, etc.) any detonation that would render those devices useless would either *have* to be targeted *at the house* or would level the house as side effect.

                  A nuke detonated for EMP effect at height is a highly sophisticated and targeted weapon. Sure a nation-state or rogue faction could pull it off. However, if that’s the concern, like I said about the Pentagon, literally *everything* is vulnerable. Odds you’ll lose the HD TV? Pretty good. Odds you’ll lose heat and water? 60-some% of homes use non-electric forms of heat anyway. Even if Iran or ISIS could pull it off they’d better have an aggressive follow-up plan. Otherwise lots of Americans with lots of free time and sympathy are going to be very motivated to do something about the loss of their HDTVs and smart phones.

          2. It is a fact that virtually all electronics except some hardened military ones (and not all military ones) are vulnerable to an EMP and would no longer function.

            That is BS promulgated by ignorati. I have designed military and aircraft systems to withstand lightning strikes. If it can withstand lightning it can withstand EMP. Because the design rules are similar.

            All field military eqpt is hardened against EMP.

            1. +1 Gigawatts, most electronics aren’t going to be affected by an EMP weapon. An EMP pulse would tend to promulgate along large wire and/or metal. So, yes you’d blow the fuses on a lot of the electrical infrastructure and pop the fuses. But it would be affects would be closer to a very bad blackout versus what’s depicted in fiction. Keep in mind that an EMP 100 miles away isn’t going to any more powerful than a bolt of lightning 500 feet away.

          3. They are “vulnerable” in the sense that they may be damaged if they are close to the source of a nuclear EMP. But you couldn’t damage a significant fraction of electronic devices in the US if you wanted to that way.

            The power grid is more vulnerable because it has very long conductors strung all over the country. So EMPs in just a few places induce surges in large parts of the power grid. Those surges mostly just damage power distribution equipment, and maybe some devices that are plugged in and turned on. That’s it.

            1. Damaging power distribution equipment, such as large transformers, would be enough to shut down the grid for months if not years. It takes a long time between ordering a transformer and getting it installed. There are virtually no ‘reserve’ transformers.

              1. You made a statement about unshielded electronics, and that was irrelevant bullshit.

                As for the power distribution equipment, mostly it would just trip various protectors, not blow up transformers.

                Furthermore, while people in cities are completely dependent on the power grid, people in the country generally have lots of backups.

                1. You really don’t understand if you think an EMP would simply ‘trip various protectors’….

                2. “people in the country generally have lots of backups.”

                  not really.

        2. It would fry lots of electronics, but not all. Just plain random luck and asymmetries in the pulse distribution would save some. Other electronics would just not have enough antenna to be fried. The same is true of modern car systems. Some would survive.

      2. HOW can you possibly say a Carrington event is more likely than an EMP,that is a manmade event? that’s not rational,it’s denial. Especially since nations like Iran have been looking at EMP closely,and even doing tests of EMP attack modes,while working on nuclear weapons.

    2. All of my tube stereo gear would survive.

      1. Yes, a lot of older tube technology is not as vulnerable. Just like older cars without computer chips and systems are not as vulnerable.

        1. Even modern cars are generally not sensitive to EMP. They generate a lot of noise themselves, they are surrounded by metal, and their electronics are already pretty hardy. It’s not theory, they have been tested.

        2. But it is illegal to produce those cars…

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    1. But what good will that do you if the grid goes down? Huh?! HUH?!!

  4. That was joyous reading for a Monday morning.

  5. The experts he interviewed, including former heads of Homeland Security, rate the chances everywhere from minute to almost inevitable.

    I’m guessing how likely they rated the chances is directly related to how much their agency/ department’s budget would increase if only “those damn politicians would take their concerns serial.”

  6. “Experts in the utility industry contend that fears of a nationwide blackout are overblown. Dominion, Virginia’s chief supplier of power, will be spending $500 million to harden its critical infrastructure.”

    Yes, the fears are so overblown that…. they’re spending half a billion dollars to improve infrastructure.

    1. Protecting against lightning also protects against EMP. Lightning is a common phenomenon. You need to spend that half a billion even without EMP worries.

      1. Lighting is NOT the same. Lighting is a point effect problem that can be contained. EMP is generalized across the whole system at the same time. Let’s get real here.

        1. The electrical effects are the same. when it comes to designing circuit protection.

      2. Lightning protects helps with EMP, but it is not enough.

        EMP has a couple of effects that get around lightning protection. The very fast rise time of the extreme E-field pulse means it can get past shielding that would help with lightning, and it can also get past lightning protection surge protectors. It can get into transformers and cause arcing between windings, resulting in insulation destruction, ruining the transformers.

        The long lasting induced DC currents from the geomagnetic field disturbance can destroy transformers by biasing their cores into saturation, causing high surge currents on parts of the AC cycle, again destroying the transformers. It is hard to make a circuit breaker that trips on 100A of DC currents in a circuit that is moving 100,000A of AC.

  7. Even if one of the 3 major grids was ‘broken’ in some way for an extended period of time, it would be a national disaster that would require a reconfiguration, including mass migration, of the affected area to the remaining ones.

    People in general don’t have weeks, let alone months, of food reserves at home. Grocery stores don’t carry more than a week of inventory.

    Two shows on TV covered a hypothetical ‘blackout’. One was “American Blackout” on the National Geographic Channel. The other was “Blackout” on the BBC. Both were hypothesized as the result of a cyberattack; both were limited in time, but societal breakdown quickly occurred. Think of it. No alarms work, there are no lights in urban areas (or anywhere for that matter). Hospitals have limited generating capacity. Food and water runs low quickly and your kids are clamoring because they’re hungry/dehydrated.

    The third vulnerability of our electrical grid was not mentioned, and that is a physical terrorist attack. The grid is a sophisticated network where the very large, difficult to replace (on the order of 18 months) transformers are not that many. Koppel’s book mentions an attack close to San Jose one night perpetrated by two individuals who effectively put out the transformers in less than 20 minutes. 10 such attacks on important substations could take out one of the major grids. 30-50 such attacks could take out the country.

  8. To answer the headline title of the article: whole country? About 10 days in the summer, about 5 days in the winter before the societal breakdown gets really bad.

  9. Millions would die in a short time – more if it hit in extreme winter or summer temperatures.

    No new food coming in, no water from the taps, criminals would own every area.

    It’s a real threat that nobody is prepared for.

    1. What are the criminals going to eat or drink?

      1. Whatever you have. That’s what they’ll do. Come and get it from those who are not criminals.

      2. They’re going to eat lead and drink bile.

        1. they will come in hordes,and you will be so busy defending (if not overrun),you won’t have time to do anything else towards your own survival. Cities would become unlivable,and those people would flood out to the suburbs like locusts,and once done there,move out to the farmlands,en masse.

  10. I’ve been told some interesting stories about my great-grandpa, who was a wheat farmer in central Kansas in the 19 20s and 30s.

    My grandma said she didn’t remember a time when they didn’t have electric lights and power. No other farmsteads had electric lights.

    My great grandpa had, on his own, created power generation and storage for his farm. He had a bunch of wind chargers (the old-fashioned looking wind mills) that pumped water and charged batteries. Evidently he had large banks of batteries he had strung together and figured out the wiring for the house and some out buildings.

    But then the central grid came on line! Awesome! Government subsidies provided for all the distribution infrastructure. It was a huge centralized effort brought about by the experts in government. American progress in action!

    Everybody had power and economic growth took off. My grandpa shut down his wind chargers and batteries.

  11. You went to work on Monday, but after a couple of hours the boss sent everyone home. Come back when the power comes back on, she said.

    That was nine days ago.

    WTHF?!?! This is some alarmist bullshit. Who are these zombies that try to live off one tank of gas for weeks at a time?

    Where I grew up we would routinely lose power for 3-4 days at a time due to snow. This was back before the internet, but it is far from abnormal in the N. Hemisphere, even today. I can’t imagine between the increased abundance of communications devices and their ability to fit toolboxes, cars, metal sheds, basements, etc. that literally *zero* communication would happen beyond word of mouth.

    I don’t disagree that people will/would die, but the overwhelming majority will be the people who are having trouble staying alive with all the accouterments of Western Civilization. They will be followed by the people who don’t take the hint when the electricity’s out and bodies are piling up. Then, maybe, we’d get into the people who’d migrated and been caught somewhere without enough resources to survive.

    If the internet evaporated tomorrow, you’d have hoards of engineers (plenty of whom are at the core of the prepper movement) clambering over each other to get it back. At the very least, this sort of fiction should wait a couple generations until kids are raised by the public school system and won’t know how to boil water without Youtube or Pinterest.

    1. Losing power in a very limited area (on the scale of the US) for 3-4 days is NOTHING compared to a blackout that would last months on the Eastern Seaboard or West Coast. NOTHING is set up to deal with such a huge scale problem. This would make Sandy or Katrina look like the pee-wee league.

      1. I’m sure you looked at the same before/after Katrina photos that the rest of us did. There won’t be any before/after photos of the EMP attack. Not because the satellites won’t work, but because the after picture will look like the before pic. Houses will still be standing, streets won’t be flooded, beaches won’t have washed away, and levies won’t have broken.

        Not only is NOTHING set up to deal with such a huge scale problem, NOTHING is set up to induce it either. You’re talking about dozens, if not hundreds of coordinated and precisely timed attacks. Moreover, as indicated above, even if something does induce it, the mass of humanity isn’t going to sit around twiddling it’s thumbs waiting for things to get better. And, due to the unusual nature of the attack an unusual amount of humans are going to have an unusual amount of time to be unusually productive. So, to put the power out and keep it out for large swaths of the country for months at a time will require not only an exceedingly sophisticated force but one of arguably dominant numbers as well.

    2. Hoards of engineers? I’l wager Spelling Bee Champ here could not recite the definition of energy, much less generate a watt-hour.

  12. With everyone using digital money all commerce will stop causing instant shortages.

    1. Even cash would only last for so long. Who would accept the value of the US Dollar if half the country can’t go to work for months on end? Let alone the outright chaos after just a few days.

      1. We would find something to trade with. Some commodity with a degree of usefulness or scarcity. What I keep thinking of is, .22 cartridges. Either loose or in a box.

        1. As scarce as .22 is in some places, it could be used as currency now!

  13. Electrically EMP is not too different from a lightning strike. Chips and power lines are protected much better than they were 30 years ago. Protection against ESD will help considerably against EMP. Today almost all chips have protection against ESD. (ESD = ElectroStatic Discharge).

    On top of that thee is the orientation effect. You “antenna” needs to be properly oriented to pick up the energy of an EMP blast. That means given random orientation only about 1/3rd of devices will pick up enough energy to matter (trigger what amounts to a significant ESD event).

    EMP is over rated.

    1. Look up the Carrington Event of August 1859. Famous last words: ‘It’s different this time!’.

      1. The problem is econazis and their dupes making power plants illegal. Blackouts are a health hazard by the definition of the term, and make all other health hazards short of thermonuclear warfare pale by comparison. This I testified before the Nuclear Licensing Board on behalf of the Texas City reactor. With any luck we’ll have smaller ones, and the survivors will make a point of tarring-and-feathering every econazi and looter politician within reach.

        1. The problem is econazis and their dupes making power plants illegal.

          Either gphx is being sarcastic or he’s in with the lot of doom-cultist econazis.

          Either the industrial revolution, urbanization, modern medicine, etc., etc. that happened between then and now will produce significantly different outcomes or we’ve wasted the last 150ish years on stupid stuff automobiles and vaccine and we *should* go back to limited amounts of highly-reinforced and shielded power and telco.

          Keep in mind, the event didn’t really kill anyone and much of the *telegraph* equipment, *some* of which was rendered unusable due to interference during the event, was readily operable once the storm had passed. The pieces that were destroyed took *much* longer then, when civilization was more susceptible to collapse, to repair.

          If literal, it’s only slightly better than (and about as sensible as) saying, “Better stock up on penicillin and be prepared to enslave a bunch of Chinese immigrants to pull telegraph wire when the next solar storm hits! Remember the last time!”

    2. You have no idea. Maxwell Laboratories managed huge EMP testing facilities to test military equipment back in the 1970’s. All that is pretty much gone. ESD is not even close to being able to cope with it with a nuclear blast EMP from the upper atmosphere. Read the Congressional reports on the subject.

    3. from an electronic tech,you’re full of misinformation.

      1. I’m a non-degreed EE. I actually designed protection for military eqpt in the early 80s. ESD protection is quite helpful.

        1. I should add that I did lightning strike protection for aircraft in the late 90s.

  14. What exactly would happen to your nearby nuclear power plant if its controlling and cooling units were fried by an EMP and then it was deprived of power for weeks? My thought is nothing good.

    1. Since all those components are buried in a large concrete structure that’s shielded and grounded, there’s virtually no way to get a damaging pulse, unless the nuclear power plant is within a few miles of the nuclear blast. In the event it is that close, it’s likely no one will ever even notice the resulting effects.

      1. A nearby nuclear explosion would suck up the old reactor cores in the pool outside–the ones econazis don’t want stored underground where we got the uranium in the first place. Those unprotected reactor cores shot full of neutrons would ruin large areas of farmland downwind for decades. This is ordinary physics, known to all but technophobe cognoscenti and intelligentzia and widely covered in the literature.

    2. Not much would happen. Nuclear power plants these days are passively safe; that is, when the control systems fry, they simply shut down by themselves.

    3. Nuclear powerplants are vulnerable. The problem is not the direct system. It’s that most depend on electrical pumps to continue the cooling process. The plant would have time to shut down in most cases. Unfortunately, much of the nuclear waste is also kept at the plants (rather than deep underground in specialized facilities). This waste also has to be cooled continuously. Unless there is a pure gravity-fed cooling system, the cooling will eventually fail, and a waste meltdown will occur. A similar problem is what happened to Fukushima.

      Anyone who tells you there is no problem at nuclear plants is either lying or deluded.

    4. our nuclear plants are designed with passive control and cooling measures. No “China Syndrome” or Fukushima catastrophes.

      1. Not true. Palo Verde in Arizona, for example, scrambled after the Fukushima incident to find a way to get the nuclear waste cooled by ‘passive’ means. Haven’t read a recent report to see if they remedied the situation yet.

        Where would I find information on how each nuke plant in the US has its waste covered by so-called passive measures? The DoE?

        1. A lot of existing nuclear plants were designed many years ago, without passive cooling in the design. But do you not think they have any effective backup power?

      2. Looks like the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission is one source of information. Check this:

        http://www.nrc.gov/waste/spent…../faqs.html

  15. We survived 10 days without power when tornados hit Grand Island, Nebraska. What we missed most wasn’t electricity or water. It was the lack of sewer service.

    Everybody misses that one.

    1. Time to know how to build an outhouse…..

  16. Long term loss of electricity would, of course, be catastrophic. But what puzzles me is how few people make preparations for relatively short term loss of electricity and water.

    Assuming one is not living paycheck-to-paycheck (too many are, granted), then storing food and liquids sufficient to last a couple weeks would seem to be just common sense. We have at least a month’s worth of food and drinkable liquids on site, and rotate the stock so that it doesn’t get too out of date. And guns to keep what’s ours.

    BTW, a Jacuzzi properly treated can be a source of water for weeks, though high sodium can be a problem. Great excuse for putting one in!

    1. Pools using a salt system for treatment are also an excellent source of water. The only problem is you have to have a distillation system to separate the water from the salt. A relatively inexpensive item, though.

      As you pointed out, food storage isn’t much of a problem.

      Your biggest problem is going to be defending your food store from all the idiots who had nothing in reserve. Your neighbors could become a big problem.

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  19. To get a grasp of the EMP threat,people need to read One Second After by William Forstchen.
    it’s fiction based on the US Commission on EMP’s report.
    It will wake you up,if you have any sense.

    another good reference;
    http://www.futurescience.com/emp.html

    1. http://www.empcommission.org for the original report.

      And just googling ‘electrical grid emp’ will get you lots of info from government and other sources.

  20. This is a valid concern that is getting more and more media coverage. Ultimately, we all need to be prepared to protect ourselves and our families for short-term interruptions in electrical service. Such interruptions could occur from a host of reasons; EMP, cyber attack, solar activity (CME) or the more likely source, storms. For families that rely on a well for their water, lack of electrical service is a serious problem since well pumps won’t work without power. However, there is a backup tool available that allows water to be drawn from a well without power and without having to remove the pump called the Emergency Well Tube (www.emergencywelltube.com). Hopefully none of us ever experiences a worst case scenario as described in this article, but it is a good idea to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

  21. The industry spends billions on cybersecurity. There’s no way for an outsider to hack into the control systems, they say. Cyber-security experts seem rather less sanguine. Hackers always find a way?just ask Target, or Sony Pictures, or the Office of Personnel Management or countless other major institutions that have the resources to guard against cyber-infiltration, but couldn’t stop it.

    This is doom-mongering on the level of Jeff “Life finds a way!” Goldblum in Jurassic Park.

    I have multiple power companies as customers. The way they structure their networks is entirely different than the way Target, Sony or even the OPM structure their networks. The “air gap” between power control networks and the public internet is real at companies I’ve worked with. You can’t so much as stick an unauthorized USB drive on even the non-control network. The threat isn’t new and the power companies aren’t idiots.

  22. Who knew Koppel was still alive?

    Still, sounds like an interesting book …

  23. The obvious solution is to deregulate electrical service, *including* the grid. It bugs me that one of the most obvious government monopolies almost everyone suffers under is as close as their utility bills, including electricity. Let electrical companies compete, and not only would we have better electrical service at lower prices, but we’d have decentralized electricity that would be harder for terrorism or catastrophe to destroy.

    1. Your theory is outstripping reality. So-called deregulation is really a different set of regulatory rules, generally the power becomes a commodity that anyone can buy or produce. Generating companies sell into a wholesale market. But everything made of wires is still a monopoly, and definitely less expensive than any number of redundant competing companies. The industry calls it the “wires company” and you may know it as a distribution utility.

      What you want to see is smaller and smaller grid systems, of which some may fail and some may survive this type of disaster. Those are generally not illegal in states like Texas, Pennsylvania, etc… but they are uneconomic under normal circumstances.

      I am in favor of lots of competition. But with electricity there are huge economies of scale, being grid connected is normally far cheaper than being off the main grid.

      1. I am in favor of lots of competition. But with electricity there are huge economies of scale, being grid connected is normally far cheaper than being off the main grid.

        I wonder how much of that is due to a lack of investment in research of smaller, more efficient electricity production (like piezoelectric dance floors…).

        It is almost like the monopolies don’t want people to be independent from their current distribution model…

  24. What seems more dangerous is entertaining an idea that some nuclear attacks are not nuclear attacks.

  25. My last pay check was $9500 working 12 hours a week online. My sisters friend has been averaging 15k for months now and she works about 20 hours a week. I can’t believe how easy it was once I tried it out. This is what I do..

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  26. My last pay check was $9500 working 12 hours a week online. My sisters friend has been averaging 15k for months now and she works about 20 hours a week. I can’t believe how easy it was once I tried it out. This is what I do..

    Clik This Link inYour Browser….

    ? ? ? ? http://www.Workpost30.Com

  27. Thanks for the technically accurate and highly relevant article. With econazi victims of Cold War brainwashing still programmed to knock out power sources, and Republican bigots motivating their jihadist bretheren into deliberately attacking the grid, it’s reassuring to see Reason hasn’t forgotten that real scientist Prof. Petr Beckmann served on the Editorial Board.

  28. just before I saw the receipt that said $7527 , I accept that my mom in-law woz like actualey making money in there spare time from there pretty old laptop. . there aunt had bean doing this for less than twentey months and at present cleared the depts on there appartment and bourt a great new Citro?n 2CV . look here…….
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  29. just before I saw the receipt that said $7527 , I accept that my mom in-law woz like actualey making money in there spare time from there pretty old laptop. . there aunt had bean doing this for less than twentey months and at present cleared the depts on there appartment and bourt a great new Citro?n 2CV . look here…….
    Clik This Link inYour Browser.
    ??????? http://www.Jobstribune.com

  30. The premise of the book is farcical and only demonstrates Ted Koppel’s complete ignorance to the hardening and robustness built into our utility infrastructure.

  31. Um, Israel and Ukraine have already been subject to more or less successful “cyber” attacks on their electricity infrastructure.
    http://arstechnica.com/securit…..ck-attack/

    A sniper knocked out a power substation in San Jose a few years ago.
    http://www.wsj.com/news/articl…..1941621778

    Hard to say the risk is minute given that it is uh, happening…

  32. Well, I was raised Amish so believe me you can survive a long time without it.

    1. My last pay check was $9500 working 12 hours a week online. My sisters friend has been averaging 15k for months now and she works about 20 hours a week. I can’t believe how easy it was once I tried it out. This is what I do..

      Clik This Link inYour Browser….

      ??????? http://www.netjoin10.com

  33. post emp, no, you are not warming up in the car unless you own a classic car form the 60’s or earlier.

    anything from the last 30 years is utterly fried.

  34. If you’re going to write a scary article, why not do the research into how scarily easy it would be to accomplish this articles’ doom-and-gloom scenarios mechanically, no exotic doomsday weapons or hacker wizardry necessary? It doesn’t have to be some exotic “cyber” thing or as-yet-untried attack. The choke points on the grid are laughably unguarded.

    It would be intelligent, imho, for utilities to increase video security of substations, conduct additional drills that incorporate law enforcement response to coordinated attacks to the grid, increase liason with law enforcement for same, etc. Law enforcement should definitely train for a coordinated assault to the grid, and just to blow people’s minds on this board, I’d like to see the national guard training for same as a possible clear and present danger scenario. It’s too easy a target as it sits; it’s possible for a very small force to take very large sections (states, regions) off-line for long periods while long-lead-time and hard-to-transport devices are replaced.

    1. my roomate’s step-sister makes $68 an hour on the laptop . She has been out of a job for five months but last month her pay was $12476 just working on the laptop for a few hours. read this post here

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