Apr 232014
This artist's impression of the tens of thousands of people fleeing the 1871 Great Chicago Fire could become a modern day reality after uncontrollable fires break out following an EMP event.

This artist’s impression of the tens of thousands of people fleeing the 1871 Great Chicago Fire could become a modern-day reality after uncontrollable fires break out following an EMP event.

We wrote, just now, about how the director of two congressional advisory boards claimed that it is practical to protect against an EMP attack, and that the cost of this would be only $2 billion.

We believe him to be spectacularly wrong on both points, and you should read our article to see just how far off base he is.

Some of the newspaper reports, all of which uncritically repeat his quote, have widened their article to refer to another self-appointed EMP expert, Dr William Forstchen, who estimates that approximately half a million people would die in the first few moments after an EMP event.

Okay, so maybe he is correct about that.  Indeed, looking at the numbers in the article, if the 7,000 planes in the air at the time of an EMP event crash, and each plane has 150 people on board, then that is over 1 million people without considering however many casualties might also be incurred on the ground where the planes crash (probably not very many, actually, but that’s not the point we’re examining here).

His further point about fires breaking out, and not being controllable, is definitely true.  In the modern high-density city centers, and without any fire trucks or water, even small fires will quickly become multi-block unstoppable conflagrations.

So what is the point we’re seeking to make?  Simply this :  The deaths in the first few minutes after an EMP are relatively trivial and inconsequential, compared to the deaths in the days and weeks that follow.  Any article which talks about half a million deaths immediately after an EMP does the nation a disservice by not pointing out that tens of millions more people will die in the days and weeks after.

Why will so many people die after an EMP?  It isn’t as though an EMP creates any blast or heatwave, or even much nuclear radiation.  The problem is that when the EMP destroys much/most/all of our nation’s electronics, it therefore destroys all our support infrastructure.

Think about the most critical things we need to preserve human life.

Shelter – with no electricity, we no longer can heat or cool our homes.  For that matter, if we live in a high-rise, we can’t use the elevators any more, either.

Water – with no electricity, town water supplies can no longer treat the water they pump to us, and – oh yes, they can’t pump it to us, either.  (Note that the lack of pumping will also cause most sewer systems to fail, too.)

Food –  Many/most trucks and trains will fail due to the EMP.  Those that don’t fail will run out of diesel or electricity, and where will they get more?  The refineries will also be offline – their control circuitry will have been ‘fried’.  Without transportation, and without refrigeration, how will our supermarkets get restocked?

So, somewhere between a few days and a few weeks, people will start dying from lack of water, lack of food, and from general disease due to lack of drinkable water and sanitation.

People in the cities won’t be able to conveniently evacuate out of the cities, either because their cars will have failed (due to their onboard computers) or because they can’t buy gas to drive with, or perhaps because the roads are clogged with stalled/failed vehicles.

On the other hand, the probable complete breakdown of law and order that will quickly follow an EMP (imagine the police with no cruisers and no radios – they’ll be uncoordinated and unable to protect or control the cities and will quickly give up trying) will definitely motivate people to try and flee the cities and go somewhere safe.

Even if they could evacuate the cities, where would they go?  85% of our population now lives in cities, in situations where it is not possible to be self-sustaining and self-sufficient.  Our nation no longer grows enough food to support us, and that which we do grow relies upon mechanical production assistance – that too will have all failed.

So, yes, for sure we’ll see at least a half million people die in the first few minutes and hours after an EMP attack.  But that’s only the very tip of the top of the iceberg – how many more tens/hundreds of millions of people will die in the weeks and months immediately thereafter?

That is the true headline that urgently needs exposing and national discussion.

Now that we have you truly anxious, you can read more about EMP vulnerabilities here.

Apr 232014
A single EMP pulse can cover the entire country with destructive EMF radiation.

A single EMP pulse can cover the entire country with destructive EMF radiation.

There was apparent good news this week.

Peter Pry, executive director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security and also director of the US Nuclear Strategy Forum – both congressional advisory boards – has been quoted this week as warning that the civilian world is not ready for an EMP attack, and describes the effects as catastrophic.

In case you’re unfamiliar with EMP, please see our article that explains EMP to understand how and why it is such a chilling threat to our modern world.

Anyway, back to Mr Pry.  Yes, we agree with both his statements.  So, what is the problem?

Well, after these comments, he then goes a bit off-target.  He is quoted as saying :

The problem is not the technology.  We know how to protect against it. It’s not the money, it doesn’t cost that much. The problem is the politics. It always seems to be the politics that gets in the way.

If you do a smart plan – the Congressional EMP Commission estimated that you could protect the whole country for about $2 billion.

Sounds very good, doesn’t it.  But, let’s actually think carefully about his two claims and see if they stand up to even some simplistic investigation.

1.  Protecting Against EMP Effects

First, let’s consider his claim that we know how to protect against EMP effects.

Well, that is sort of true, but it is true in the same manner, perhaps, that we ‘know’ how to protect against teenage pregnancies.  But, just as the ‘solutions’ to the problem of teenage pregnancies, while perfect in theory, have always colossally collapsed in reality and have proven to be completely impractical, so too do the ‘solutions’ to EMP effects have little application in the real world that the rest of us wish to live in.

Essentially, there are five possible solutions to EMP.  You choose the one you wish to adopt.

1.  Place every piece of at-risk electronics inside Faraday cages.  A Faraday cage is basically a metal box (ideally of iron or steel so as to protect against both electrical and magnetic energy), and electromagnetic energy goes around the box rather than through the box.  This therefore protects the items inside the box.

But, you can’t have wires going in or out of the Faraday cage.  If you did, then the wires provide pathways for the EMP effects to enter into the cage.  So, no external antennas (and internal antennas will be blocked by the cage) which effectively makes all radio type gear useless.  Plus, yes, where will power come from to power the devices inside the cages?  And so on and so on.

Faraday cages can indeed fairly protect some types of electronics, but not everything.  Have a look around your home and your office.  Everything from your phones (wired or wireless) to your calculator to your digital clock and watch, to your oven and stove top and microwave, to the thermostat that controls your heating – yes, pretty much everything – is at risk from EMP effects.  How much of all of this can you put in Faraday cages?

2.  The next ‘solution’ is to ‘harden’ your electronics to make them less vulnerable to EMP effects.  Hardening will reduce the certainty that your electronics will get fried by EMPs, but does not zero it out.  Think of it a bit like making your watch water-resistant, or your jacket ‘showerproof’.

Hardening is essentially something that is done in the design and construction of something; it is not something that can be subsequently added on.  Hardening requires adding various types of filters and chokes, separating out components, and using special components that have been designed to be more robust when confronted with EMF induced voltage spikes (ie from an EMP).

Hardened equipment is unavoidably bulker and heavier than regular equipment, and so is seldom ever encountered in consumer grade electronics, which place a premium on being as small and compact as possible.

3.  You could replace all your high-tech gear with low tech gear.  Instead of fancy digital phones, you could use old-fashioned rotary dial phones – well, maybe you could, if your phone exchange still supports rotary dialing (and if the phone exchange itself will survive the EMP event!).  You could replace your new transistorized digital radio with an old vacuum tube powered radio (which will be much more dependent on mains power than your low current low voltage digital radio), and again, what use is a radio if there are no surviving radio stations.

We’re not quite sure what you could replace your iPad or computer with, and what point would there be, when the entire internet will collapse.

4.  You could adapt instead to a life with zero technology.  But in that case, is the ‘cure’ worse than the problem?  Imagine a life with no electricity, no cable, no internet.  Oh yes, also without water or sewer, too.  This isn’t really a solution at all, is it.

5.  The fifth approach is to keep a spare set of everything essential you might need in a future ‘grid down’ scenario.  But if you do this, you need to store them inside Faraday cages.  Just leaving them switched off is not sufficient – the on/off switch in anything merely controls the flow of electrical power, it doesn’t physically disconnect circuitry from itself and from potential antennas that would collect and feed/funnel the EMP energy into the unit.

There is another problem with this strategy.  While it is great good sense to keep spares of everything essential, it also begs the question – how many spares do you keep?  What happens if an EMP occurs, and you smile to yourself, break out your spares, and are back to normal functioning (albeit without any external support resources such as electricity or the internet), but then, a couple of hours later, a second EMP event occurs.  Do you have a third set of everything also kept as spares for the spares?  A fourth set for another layer of spares?

It seems reasonable to assume that if a foreign nation chooses to attack us with an EMP, they would have the resources, sense and willpower to do the equivalent of a double-flush – first one EMP to do as much damage as possible, then a second event some hours later to destroy all the reserve equipment now being pressed into service.

US DoD doctrine says to expect multiple EMP attacks, not just one (see the Field Manual, referenced below).

No Man is an Island

One more thought on this point before moving on to the second fallacy in Mr Pry’s strange statement.  Even if you reduce your own vulnerability to EMP-effects, what good does that do you?

Maybe your own electronics are intact, but if the power grid is down, you have no electricity to power them.  Maybe your car’s several dozen computers also successfully made it through the EMP event, but if the gas pumps at the gas station don’t work – both due to no electricity and also due to their own electronics being fried – how much use is your car to you?  And how would you pay for the gas, even if you could get it?  The banking system will be down, card readers won’t work, and you probably only have a day or two of cash in your pocket.

Oh yes, the roads will probably be blocked anyway, with less fortunate cars just stalling in the middle of the lanes they were in at the time.  Think of the chaos from a sudden winter snow-storm, then multiply it, to get an idea for how driveable the roads will be.

The EMP risk is not just a risk to ourselves personally, it is a risk to all the infrastructure about us that we rely upon in our lives, but which we can’t control.

2.  A $2 Billion Cost?

Mr Pry says it would cost $2 billion to protect the whole country against EMP effects.  Now, to me, and probably to you too, $2 billion is an unthinkable amount of money, and we could do many enormous things with such a huge sum.

But, to the government, $2 billion is nothing.  It represents little more than $6 per person in the country.  The government’s total budget for 2013 was $3.5 trillion, 1700 times more than $2 billion.  Sure, this suggests that the $2 billion is affordable, but it is also negligible.  We spent $8.2 billion on the Army Corps of Civil Engineers, $18 billion on NASA, $35 billion on the Energy Department, and $673 billion on defense.

Two specific examples.  California is currently planning to spend almost $100 billion on a fast train service between San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Sacramento.  A new air traffic control system for the country is projected to cost somewhere between $40 billion and $120 billion (no-one seems quite sure exactly how much).

So tell me, if you can, how we can’t build 1,000 miles of train for less than $100 billion, and we can’t redo our country’s air traffic control system for less than a similar cost, but we could protect all the gazillions of vulnerable pieces of electronic equipment for a mere $2 billion?

A $2 Trillion Cost to Fix just Part of the Problem

Oh – we forgot to mention, and apparently Mr Pry forgot this, too.  One of the biggest vulnerabilities to EMP is our national electricity distribution grid (click the link for one of our articles on this topic).

If the grid failed, it could take years to restore (if for no other reason, due to the lead times to get new transformers made and delivered).  The cost of hardening the grid?  According to this 2012 article, probably $1.5 – $2 trillion dollars.

So, please, make a case – if you can – for how, with $2 trillion to harden the electrical distribution network alone, we can harden that and the rest of the nation’s infrastructure too, for only $2 billion.

This $2 billion claim is beyond unbelievable.  Why does Pry make this claim?  For that matter, why does he also say that EMP attacks can be defended against in the first place?

Both claims seem to be total utter nonsense.

A Useful Reference Guide

The US Army Field Manual 3-3-1 has a useful appendix in it (Appendix C) that gives information on EMP.  You can download it here.

Unfortunately, the manual is twenty years old and there is no sign of an updated edition having been released.  Much of the material in it is based on studies and ‘state of the art’ design that is even older still.  While the nature of an EMP effect has of course not changed much in the intervening 20 years (there are some suggestions that the former ‘limit’ on the maximum power of an EMP, caused by over-saturating the atmosphere with radiation, may have now been resolved, allowing for even higher powered devices with more severe effects) there have been enormous changes in technology.

The FM appendix repeatedly refers to the frequency of EMP radiation and ties that to being of greatest risk to radios that transmit/receive on the same frequencies, but understandably fails to consider the implications of one of the biggest changes in the last 20 years – the ever greater miniaturization of our electronics.  As our chips get smaller and smaller and more densely packed with components, the separation between each part of the components gets smaller and smaller, meaning that the voltage level needed for a ‘flash over’ between one component and the next has gone down and down proportionally.

When the manual was written, typical distances inside chips were in the order of 750 – 1000 nanometers (a nanometer is one billionth of a meter).  Today, distances are 15 – 20 nanometers – 50 times smaller.  Densities of components are even more staggeringly enhanced – in 1994, a Pentium chip had something slightly in excess of 3 million transistors on it, today, an Xbox One main chip has 5 billion transistors on it.

All electronic devices are therefore massively more vulnerable than they were in 1994.

It is also important to realize, as the manual itself hints at, this is an unclassified manual written with an eye to who else will be reading it, in both friendly and unfriendly places.  The manual is therefore more likely to put a positive spin on things, rather than say ‘If an EMP occurs, we’ve lost the battle before it starts’.

So, by all means read it, and learn from it, but appreciate its limitations and how the world has changed since then as well.

Feb 072014
Simply shoot a few holes in this enormous transformer's radiator and you've disabled the transformer.

Simply shoot a few holes in this enormous transformer’s radiator and you’ve disabled the transformer.

In April 2013 an unknown group of people disabled 17 transformers at a PG&E substation in California by shooting holes in them from a safe distance away.  This almost caused a regional multi-state blackout, and only the low rate of power consumption at the time enabled the utilities to reroute power and keep the grid up.

An investigation has revealed this was not a casual random act of vandalism, but a carefully planned and executed attack.  The perpetrators have not been identified, and some experts speculate this was a ‘test run’ prior to conducting a larger and more devastating attack on our national power grid.

A classified report prepared in 2007, and recently made public, warned that it would be easy for a group to knock out the power grid in a way to “deny large regions of the country access to bulk power systems for weeks or even months” and which they speculated would lead to “turmoil, widespread public fear, and an image of helplessness”.

Congress passed a bill in 2010 designed to compel utility companies to harden their infrastructure, but it died in the senate.  The utility companies lobbied against it.

This excellent article tells you more about these issues.  Sure, we’ve been saying for a long time that our power infrastructure is enormously vulnerable to many different forms of attack, and, perhaps much more importantly, that recovering from a large-sized outage would not take the few days we normally experience.  Neither would it take a few weeks, and not even a few months.  Due to the lead times and limited manufacturing capabilities of the companies that make transformers (none of which are in the US any more) it could take years to recover (a minimum of three, possibly much longer).  See in particular our 2012 article, ‘Why Our Electricity Grid is So Vulnerable’ (and note also vulnerabilities that relate to our natural gas distribution too).

Our earlier article didn’t even mention simply shooting holes in the ‘radiators’ of these large transformers (that’s what these people did last year), which has to be the simplest and easiest way of disabling them.

As the article observes, this is a very difficult threat to guard against.  Worse still, in the almost one year since the attack, we’re unaware of any steps being taken to protect against this threat – even a simple curtain to hide the transformers from view would be a great start, so terrorists couldn’t see where to aim their shots.

Our point of course is simple.  Most of the country mindlessly assumes that every time they flick a light switch, power is guaranteed to flow.  Some people will accept that an occasional super-storm might rob themselves and other people in a small limited area of power for a few days, and even fewer will prepare for such short-term losses.

But what happens if much/most/all of the nation loses its power for three, four, and more years?  Who is prepared for that?

Oct 182013
A Topol-M ICBM parading through Moscow's Red Square.

A Topol-M ICBM parading through Moscow’s Red Square.

Chances are you can come up with a long list of things that might go wrong so as to cause TEOTWAWKI.  But do you have ‘computer mistake’ on your list of things to worry about?  If you don’t, you should.

This article concerns the little known events on 26 September 1983, when Russia’s (well, back then, it was the Soviet Union) early warning system reported multiple missiles, launched from the US, and headed towards its territories.  The early warning system further rated the probability that this was a real bona fide first strike attack on the USSR at its highest level of certainty.

The duty officer at the monitoring station was supposed to urgently telephone the country’s leadership in Moscow, and there was close to a certainty that the leadership (Yuri Andropov had recently taken over the General Secretary position from Leonid Brezhnev) would respond by ordering a reciprocal strike on the US, launching their own missiles before the incoming missiles could destroy them on the ground.

But the duty officer suspected that, no matter what the computers were telling him, the warning was false rather than real, and saw some inconsistencies in the raw data.  So he disobeyed his instructions and instead of calling the leadership to report an incoming missile strike as he was supposed to do, he reported a system malfunction to the people responsible for maintaining it.

As it turned out, he did the right thing.  But if he had followed orders, we’d have ended up with an inadvertent nuclear war that would have very likely destroyed most of the US, the USSR, and much of the rest of the world.

Details here.

Thirty years later, could such a thing still happen?  Unfortunately, the answer is ‘yes’.  Indeed, there is less time now for incoming information to be evaluated and cross-checked, and more of an urgent need to respond before any incoming strike takes out our own (or anyone else’s) arsenal.  Furthermore, increased computerization makes it harder to see the ‘raw data’, and we instead have to rely on the computerized, processed, interpretations.

So go ahead and add this to your already long list of potential life-changing events – and put it in the most extreme category, because it is something that could suddenly occur without any warning or any chance for us to transition from our normal lifestyles to our retreats.  Perhaps now is also a good time to read our series on radiation issues.

Sep 182013
500kV power towers like these are unprotected and vulnerable to simple attack.

500kV power towers like these are unprotected and vulnerable to simple attack.

Back in August, a person or persons unknown attempted to bring down one of the two 500kV main transmission lines feeding electricity into Arkansas and surrounding states.

The loss of one of the two transmission lines would have overloaded the other line, causing it to also fail, and plunging a not disclosed region (but potentially several states) into darkness for an uncertain amount of time, and at one of the hottest times of year when electricity is desperately needed for air conditioning.

The FBI now have a $20,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of whoever was responsible.

Details here.

Other attacks have occurred on our electrical grid in the past, and likely may continue in the future.  And whether such events are merely mindless vandalism or indicative of darker forces really doesn’t make much difference when/if one suddenly finds oneself without power.

The interesting thing about this attack is that it was not on a transformer or power switching substation.  It was simply on one of the many thousands of totally undefended pylons from which the power lines are strung.

Our country takes for granted that every time we flick a switch, power obediently flows as we wish it to.  But this is far from a guaranteed thing, as the events in August show.

Aug 272013
The powerful but uncommon .357 SIG in the middle, others are 9mm, 7.62 Tokarev, 10mm and .40 S&W.

The powerful but uncommon .357 SIG in the middle, others are 9mm, 7.62 Tokarev, 10mm and .40 S&W.

We all know about the dreadful ammo shortage that has plagued the country for the last nine months.  Less well-known is the reason for this – sure, a lot of people bought extra ammo after last December’s school shooting in CT, fearing new government restrictions, but the biggest reason for the continuing ammo shortage seems to be massive buying by the federal government.

You may have read about the billions of rounds of ammo being purchased by the Department of Homeland Security, who are buying more ammo than the US Army – and whereas the Army is fighting wars overseas, the DHS has no apparent reason for using ammo at all, other than training.

It is easy to shrug this off as just government overspending – a sad but far from uncommon event.  But then, once in a while, something comes along that makes you stop and wonder.  Here’s one such example.

The Transportation Security Administration has published a tender for the supply of 3.454 million rounds of .357 SIG pistol ammunition.  On the face of it, there’s nothing astonishing about that.  But – stop and think about it some more, and you’ll end up scratching your head until it bleeds, trying to understand why the TSA needs such a large supply of ammo.

The thing is this.  You’ve all seen TSA employees – they’re the people manning the screening stations in airports.  The TSA is a relatively new government department, formed as part of the knee-jerk panic responses after 9/11/2001, under the assumption that a government department could provide better airport security than could private contractors.  The main feature of ‘better’ seems to be ‘more hassle’ rather than ‘more secure’, alas, and the events of 9/11 were not a result of any security failure.  It was legal to take box-cutters on planes; the problem was not the box-cutters as such, but rather our ridiculous policy of cooperating and complying with hijacker demands that caused the problems of that day.

Anyway, here’s the thing.  Almost every one of the 55,000 TSA employees has no law enforcement powers, can not arrest people, and do not carry guns.  Sure, they like to dress up in fancy new semi-police style uniforms, and they wear police style badges, but they are not sworn peace officers.

Which brings us to our question.  What does the TSA need with 3.454 million rounds of .357 SIG pistol ammo, when its employees are not armed?

Can anyone answer that?  In what new way can we expect ‘our government to be here to help us’?

Aug 012013
A solar storm such as this, if it hits the earth, could destroy much/most of all our electronics.

A solar storm such as this, if it hits the earth, could destroy much/most of all our electronics.

Of all the risks we anticipate and prep for, an EMP event is perhaps the most terrifying.  A single well-placed EMP bomb could destroy much/most of the electronics in the entire US – oh, and in most of Canada too, resulting in an instant collapse of almost everything.

EMP events can come from two different sources.  One is a deliberate act by an aggressor nation or terrorist group, launching a specific EMP causing device and activating it high above the US.  This is, unfortunately, very much easier to do than you might think – an EMP device is nothing more than a regular atomic bomb on a regular ICBM, possibly with some modifications to enhance its EMP yield, and detonated at high altitude rather than close to the ground.

The other source is at least as fickle as the first, and whereas there have been no deliberate EMP attacks by people, this other source has attacked us repeatedly with EMP events.  We refer, of course, to the sun.

The sun is not a steady constant energy source.  Like a regular fire, it has variable hot spots and cold spots, and sort of analogous to a fire sometimes sparking out some embers that might land on our carpet, so too does the sun sometimes eject massive bursts of energy that have the same EMP effects on electronics.  We talk about the dangers of solar storms in a series of articles here.

There have been solar storms in the past that were sufficiently strong to destroy electronics, but they have happily occurred prior to our current total dependence on micro-miniaturized electronics.  The most significant past event that we’re aware of was in 1859, and was so extreme that it melted telegraph wires across Europe and North America.  We can only guess as to how many past events there have been, because prior to about that time, there were no electrical devices for solar storms to affect.

If a solar storm similar to the 1859 event occurred now, it would of course destroy much of the world’s electronics.

In order for this to occur, two things need to both be in place.  The first, of course, is for a sufficiently strong solar storm to erupt.  The second is for this solar storm to intercept the earth in its orbit.

The good news is that it requires an unusually large solar storm to do the sort of damage we need to be concerned about, and the further good news is that the earth is a tiny spec, 93 million miles from the sun.  Most storms pass harmlessly by, and come nowhere near the earth.

But, as we know, sometimes they don’t miss.  Sometimes, as in 1859, they do intercept the earth.  A not so strong smaller storm also hit (but only parts of Canada) in 1989.

Sooner or later, a massive sized solar storm will hit the earth again, and it will destroy much/most of our society’s infrastructure.  When will this occur?

No-one knows the answer to that, any more than anyone can tell you how many times you need to roll a pair of dice before you get a double-six.  But we do know, as this article reports, that just a couple of weeks ago we narrowly missed a solar storm that would have destroyed us, and as we report in this earlier article, experts say there is a 12% chance of being hit by such a storm sometime in the next ten years.

Oh, and as we report in this article, 2013 is a year of greater than normal solar storm activity.

Back to the dice.  We don’t know when we’ll get the double-six, but we do know that it will appear sooner or later.  Similarly, we don’t know when the next 1859 style solar storm will hit us, but we do know that, sooner or later, it will.  Emphasize the sooner, because experts suggest there’s one chance in eight (ie 12%) it will happen in the next decade.  How lucky do you feel?

Tell that to your friends the next time they poke fun at your prepping.  Depending on where you live, there’s more chance of a solar storm induced EMP destroying every part of their lives than there is of an earthquake, tsunami, or volcano.  Many people fear these other types of relatively minor and essentially regional disasters; perhaps it is because the EMP event is so huge that it overloads our ability to comprehend the consequences and we find it easier to ignore it than to confront it.

That’s why we are preppers.  We choose to confront these challenges and prepare for them.  We should encourage our friends and family to do the same.

Aug 012013
Chaotic scenes in emergency warehouse hospitals during the 1918-20 Flu Pandemic.

Chaotic scenes in emergency warehouse hospitals during the 1918-20 Flu Pandemic.

One of the problems we wrestle with is when we should bug out to our retreat.  When does a Level 1 situation become a Level 2 situation, and when should our strategy shift from staying where we are, to abandoning city life and bugging out to our retreat?  We’ve written about many aspects to do with bugging out and when we should do so before.

A major concern when bugging out is to beat the rush of other people, all seeking to abandon the cities at the same time, such as to make safe efficient travel impossible.  Talking about safe travel, we also wish to bug out before travel becomes actively dangerous, with modern-day highwaymen preying on distressed evacuees.

A not so commonly stated concern, but surely one which must be of equal importance, is beating any travel restrictions that might be imposed on people by county, state and federal authorities.

How likely is it that there would be travel restrictions imposed in an emergency?  Although it would seem that the right to travel is a derivative right from the First Amendment’s right to peaceably assemble (ie anywhere), the reality may be different and there is no end of examples of our rights being trampled on, both in the normal course of day-to-day living, and of course, in special situations which the authorities seem to believe allow them to suspend the Constitution and its protections.

Of course, the reactions by the authorities will vary depending on the emergency, but a new research paper by three researchers at MIT would seem to encourage such travel restrictions, at least in the case of epidemics and other biological type emergencies.

The study shows that even only a moderately contagious disease could see the rate of infection decrease by 50% if the authorities were to restrict where people could travel.  That’s a strong argument in favor of imposing travel restrictions and you can be sure that it has been well received by the people who might wish to act in such a way in the future.

One could even argue that in this particular case, restricting people’s freedom to travel as they wish and choose is a fair and appropriate thing to do for the greater good of everyone, but that’s not going to be very comforting to you, is it, when it prevents you from escaping a disease-ridden city and making it safely to your rural retreat!

Restrictions on travel could be enacted very quickly and with no warning.  A decree, possibly by state governors and almost certainly by the nation’s President, is all that would be required, and of course, the very nature of a travel restriction is that the authorities would not want to give any warning or allow a grace period, because that would encourage and accelerate people’s travel plans.  We saw restrictions on travel and public assembly during the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918-20, so the precedent is already in place.

It is foreseeable, in any future disruptive emergency, that one of the first things the authorities will attempt to do is ‘freeze in place’ the current situation.  That is understandable, because currently they have a reasonably accurate understanding of population distributions and therefore, the population based issues and needs and potential problems, and if people started moving every which where after an emergency, the authorities would fear they were becoming even less able to adequately and appropriately respond.  It seems only too likely that the authorities will decide that so as to ‘better help us all’, the first thing they should do is limit and restrict our abilities to help ourselves.

The bottom line to those of us with remote retreats?  We need to move there at the first sign of problems.

We talk about this need repeatedly in our series on bugging out, and if you were to read just a single one of our articles, perhaps it should be this one which talks about the difficulties we will have and the delays we will likely create in making the decision to bug out.

Jul 302013
A private road to your retreat for sure, but who maintains and repairs the bridge if it fails, and how will you get to/from your retreat if the bridge is out?

A private road to your retreat for sure, but who maintains and repairs the bridge if it fails, and how will you get to/from your retreat if the bridge is out?

Every four years, the American Society of Civil Engineers releases a report card on the state of the country’s infrastructure, giving grades, state by state, to a number of elements ranging from the quality of drinking water to the number of bridges needing repair, from energy self-sufficiency to schools and parks.

Not much of this has any direct relationship to us as preppers.  But there are some very weak correlations between a state that has a good infrastructure at present and it therefore also being a state which might be able to better withstand stresses to its structure during some sort of disaster, being a state which could manage for a longer time with ‘deferred capital investment and maintenance’ during the period of a Level 2 situation, and being a state which is more likely to recover sooner from whatever the problem was.

Furthermore, all other things being equal, a state with good infrastructure is probably a better run state every which way, and a better choice to live in, both now and in the future.

You can see their entire 2013 report card here.  You should appreciate that this is a group with a vested interest in developing infrastructure, because such activities directly result in more work for their members.  But even after recognizing their bias, it remains true that a state they rate as better than another state truly is better, no matter how actually good or bad each state may be.

Unfortunately, it seems the methodology used to grade the states was possibly inconsistent or maybe just plain incomplete, and not all states were given grades.  This makes it difficult to compare state by state, but you can see some basic facts about each state, both by clicking states from the map on this page and by selecting the states by name after clicking the states label from this page.  It seems that both routes give you the same information, but presented in slightly different formats.

Something to consider when you’re considering what state to locate your retreat in, perhaps.

You also of course need to consider not just about an entire state, but also about the county and local area in which you would locate.  Don’t be like one family we know – they proudly told us of their great retreat location, down a country road well off the main traffic routes.  The only problem?  There was no other road access to the property, and the road to their property included a bridge which was washed out unexpectedly, one spring (note – not the bridge pictures at the top of this article!).

It was six months before the county repaired the bridge!