Guest Post: A Prepper’s Nightmare

Any prepper worth their weight will scenario plan.   Mental rehearsal is important.  As an educator, I have studied brain-based research as it pertains to education.  In my studies, I have learned that the brain doesn’t distinguish between reality and imagination.  If you doubt this, recall the last time you had a nightmare.  You most likely woke up sweating and your heart beating fast.  It was only when your brain entered the fight or flight response that you woke up and realized you weren’t in your dream scenario.  If your imagination can seem so real in your dreams, it can be helpful for scenario planning (mentally rehearsing) a scene over and over so you can be comfortable to react in a survival situation.

I have mentally rehearsed many survival scenarios.  In all these scenarios, I would love to be in my home when it all hits the fan.  But that would be too easy!  In reality, I realize I won’t have the luxury of deciding where I will be when the poop hits the fan.  And that is the reason why I mentally rehearse my worst case scenario situation.

I am an elementary school administrator.  When I think of scenarios, being at the school, with hundreds of 5-10 year olds, and I mean hundreds as in closer to one thousand, is a scary thought.  On one hand, I have three kids of my own, and on the other hand, I’ll be partially responsible for a bunch of kids and staff.

Now if by survival scenario I mean hurricane, severe storm, economic collapse, terrorist threat, or something like that, I will truly breathe easier.  All these scenarios wouldn’t be fun.  But those wouldn’t be my nightmare scenario….not by far.

My worst nightmare scenario would be an EMP….at school…on a school day…with a bunch of kids.

I know what   I would do if I was anywhere other than the school on a school day.  The minute I realized all electronics were fried, I would grab my get home bag and huff it home and hunker down.  I would do this while everyone else is looking at each other trying to find out what just happened.

But back to the nightmare…  The school is out in the suburbs of a big metroplex.  Parents work all over the place!  Even if they could get a grip on what happened, and weren’t waiting around for the “power” to come back on, it would take hours…long precious hours for them to get back to the neighborhood and school!  And that is a best case scenario.  What am I going to do with all these kids?

The district isn’t prepared for this.  I had a chance to talk to the head of security for the district a while back.  I casually asked about standard operating procedure for emergencies situations.  He mentioned that the district and each school have plans in case of emergencies.  I know the handbook that he is talking about.  It deals with hurricanes, tornado’s, lock-down, etc…  The fact is, there is no plan for an EMP.

Let’s say that I still have kids a couple of days into this scenario.  My school is in an affluent neighborhood.  However, a few miles down the road, the demographic changes drastically.  Because I have attended meetings that detail gang activity in our district, I know that they have guns.  What is going to happen after a few days when there is no electricity, no food (for those who haven’t prepared) and no water, because the pumps aren’t working?  They are going to move towards the more affluent neighborhoods looking for what they don’t have.

So what am I going to do?  I got into elementary education for a reason.  I care about kids. That, coupled with my Christian faith, pretty much means that I can’t just leave these kids to fin for themselves.  I would have to stay until students got home.  My family knows to make it home and hunker down until I get there.

What can parents do to prepare for this worst case scenario or something like this?

  1. Ask a trusted stay-at-home mom/neighbor if you can add them to your child’s emergency contact list, allowing them to pick your child up from school in case of an emergency.  Most schools have backup paper copies of emergency contacts in case computers are down.  If you get caught far from home, at least you will know that your child is picked up from school and with a trusted neighbor.  This will take a little bit of stress off your mind as you make it back home.
  2. Teach your kids how to walk home from school.  What if the administrators at your child’s school freak out and leave all the kids by themselves as they make it back to their homes or child’s school to pick them up?  Kids today are playing too many electronic games or texting.  They are not paying attention out the car window and have no sense of which way to go home.  Also, make sure they know how to get in the house if you are not there.
  3. Teach your kids the signs of an EMP attack.  Of course, I wouldn’t go into the whole End of the World As We Know It speech.  But I would make sure that they know that if all electronics are not working: lights, cellphones, electronic games, etc.. that it is an emergency and they need to get home.  Be careful to distinguish between a storm kicking off the power and EVERY electronic device being down.  I believe average 3rd – 5th graders could understand this.  Some of your more gifted younger students can understand it too.
  4. Ask an administrator about what would happen in a scenario like this.  You would need to know the administrator very well so that you are not labeled a kook!  Or, blame an article that someone passed along to you about schools during an EMP attack and that  it got you thinking! J  At least it might get the conversation started.
  5. Lastly, mentally rehearse your plan for yourself and your family in this or any other survival situation.  Knowing what you would do in a given situation might give you the edge to survive and save your loved ones.

I truly hope that this nation never suffers an EMP attack.  But I don’t want to be caught unaware and uninformed.  Thinking through scenarios like this is a worthy task.  It is even worth it to talk through some of your scenarios with trusted friends.  They might see something that you don’t or vice versa.  Any time spent on walking through, imagining scenarios, will pay-off with an instant plan and what-to-do if it is ever needed.


T in Texas

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  1. T:

    While I agree with you that an EMP would be a major Oh Crap moment and the sheep would freak. If you want to sell a doomsday scenario to the peoples you should probably start with a more realistic type of emergency, something that has happened recently or is likely. Riots or a terrorist attack forcing the shutdown of a city center. A major earthquake or tornado (I was in Nashville, TN in the late 90’s). These are the things that the uninformed public can get their heads around. Prepare for these kinds of disasters and you are 80% of the way there and you won’t be butting your head against a wall.

    Best of luck to ya my friend. No one ever said that being the leader of sheep would be easy.


  2. T,
    I have been thinking of this same “nightmare” for some time now and can only see bad things if it happens. I am praying that a EMP / solar storm will not happen. If our enemys do even a little homework the perfict time for a EMP will be middle of the day and the middle of the week.
    My 8th grader just gives me the preteen eyeroll (that she learned from her mom) every time I bring up the emergency plan/stuff. I just keep talking and hope that some of it will sink in. You have to hope and pray that when the time comes they will know the signs and remember what there crazy old man told them.
    I am praying for you and all those that are in charge of our young ones for strength and wisdom, and those who are still in the dark to wake up and see the great risk befor them. Thanks for the post, Joe

  3. An EMP attack on the USA is absolutely the last thing any prepper should be concerned about. It so unlikely simply because it is extraordinarily technologically challenging. That is not to say a nuclear device (low level air burst or ground level device) would not cause local EMP issues, but to create a nationwide EMP catastrophy is beyond the abilities of any organization except a very few nation-states. And, if they were lobbing EMP events at us we would have a whole lot more worries on our plates than lack of electrical service.

    In military terminology, a nuclear bomb detonated hundreds of kilometers above the Earth’s surface is known as a high-altitude electromagnetic pulse (HEMP) device. Effects of a HEMP device depend on a very large number of factors, including the altitude of the detonation, energy yield, gamma ray output, interactions with the Earth’s magnetic field, and electromagnetic shielding of targets. To create a massive electrical overload across the USA an appropriatly sized device (read: large bomb in the multiple megaton range) would have to be detonated approximately 400 to 500 km above the central US (use Kansas as a target example). This would create an electromagnetic pulse across the Earth’s magnetic field when the gamma rays impact the atmosphere at an altitude between 20 and 40 km leading to an electrical overload event across 90% of the country’s grid. This overload would then cascade across the nation leading to a total electrical grid failure.

    The height of the explosion is critical insofar as the area of effect is concerned. For instance, if the device were detonated within the upper atmosphere (say 50 kilometers, or about 4 times the height most commercial airlines fly) the area af effect would be less than 200,000 square miles (about 6% of the contiguous US). This would certainly be bad for the 5 or 6 states under the pulse, but it would not shut off toaster ovens across the remaining countyside.

    For reference, the ISS orbits at approximately 300 to 400 km. There are simply not very many entities who have both the launch capabilities and the nuclear armaments necessary to attack the USA using EMP methodology. As I noted above, if they launch an EMP assault we will have a lot of other immediate worries.

    Hey Rourke, sorry for the physics lecture, but I believe we should focus on high probablity events (social unrest, food shortages, hyperinflation, weather events, etc) rather than Star Wars fantasies.

  4. Very well said. I am glad to see a school administrator who understands the need to have a good plan in place for even the worst of emergencies. I was in education for years and saw several emergencies. Fortunately these emergencies were either minor or turned out to be only precationary. I say that because I never felt like any of the so called safety plans made any sense and most people ran around in circles not knowing what to do.

    I have an elementary age child who goes to school 8.75 miles from our home. I have attempted a conversation such as this with her school headmistress who simply couldn’t grasp any situation out of the ordinary. I have also mentioned to neighbors about how best to get our children home in an emergency and suggested we could work together. Nobody was interested. I have plans and backup plans to get my own child home. She has water, food, a map and directions in her backpack, just in case.

    I agree with you that an EMP would be the absolute worst case scenario. If the EMP were an act of an enemy attack, the perfect timing would be during a weekday when people are away from home and children are separated from their parents.

    Good luck to you and I pray that our worst fears never become reality.

  5. This is one of my favorite posts so far. I have kiddos and thankfully I only work a 20 minute at most walk from both of thier schools. They can also walk hoome in less than 20 or 30 minutes. Don’t let Harry discourage you. This is a great article! I have spoke with my kids about why we prep but have never brought up what they need to do in an EMP. It’s a great idea to tell them that they should ignore the confusion and head straight home (that is, if teachers will let them out). But even if they are at a friends house or something like that they will know what is happening and head straight home. GREAT ARTICLE!

  6. Harry,
    I know the laws of probability are against a nation-state launching a nationwide EMP strike however…
    Harry your not looking at the larger interconnected picture.

    I want to put some facts (you can look them up, these are not my opinion) on the table before I start.
    -The Scud-C can reach altitudes of about 300 km (about 180 miles) straight up.
    -North Korea alone has exported between 300 and 500 Scud-C missiles.
    -The Scud-C is very able to be truck launched (or ship launched, my opinion)
    -Cascading power spikes/undervoltages down connected power infrastructure reach farther than just the first affected area (2003 NE Blackout in America)

    All that is needed now is the “gadget”. Starfish Prime showed us that EMP is very potent. An EMP event off the coast of North Carolina (in international waters) at about 200 miles altitude will affect Norfolk, DelMarVa and some areas inland of the outer banks. In addition to instantly killing “all electronics” (and I don’t think that is so as well, some computers will survive) this will put a huge pulse of magnectically induced voltage into the powerlines of Norfolk and radiate outward until enough systems fail. When I say fail, I mean fail permanently in the eastern half of Va, NC and all of Delaware and parts of PA and NJ. This means all (exposed and not military hardened) substations and neighborhood transformers will have to be replaced.

    What does this mean? DC, Richmond, Baltimore, Norfolk and all metros in between have no power till new equipment is installed. Equipment that must be trucked or shipped in over weeks and months.

    Far fetched? Maybe.

    All you need is the “gadget.”

    And we all know that enough money can buy anything…

  7. Great post… lots to think about.
    For those who believe it’s an unlikely event – just remember, the Mid Atlantic coast just had an earthquake and hurricane in the same week. How random is that?

  8. I incourage everyone to take a look at the video link in my last post i will shed a lot of light on what our goverment is and is NOT doing about this threat. Mr. Beprepaired it will confirm and expand your points. It may be a bit boring but if your concerned about this point then it is worth the time and watch. They coment in the vid that they feel they need to rise awareness on EMP and it deffenetly did that for me.

    Thanks again, Joe

  9. BePrepared,
    First off, maybe shutting off DC’s power would not be such a bad thing after all – said in jest.

    I sincerely thought I was looking at the big picture, worry about the high probablity events as oppossed to those which are less likely than winning the lottery.

    I would think you would be most concerned with either the Al-Hussein (Iran) or the Rodong-1 (N Korea). My military background was not directly concerned with these beasties, but I spent a lot of time dealing with cross over intell. The R-17 Elbrus extended range version, the SS-1d (commonly called a Scud C), was first deployed in 1965 and was quickly replaced by the TR-1 Temp in the early 70’s due to major accuracy flaws. More than 7,000 were produced by the USSR and 4 countries made better or worse copies. In any event the maxium apogee of a Scud type missle is less than 200 km, with a range of less than 1,000 km. Additionally, the payload is about 1,000 kg – leaving a physics package in the kiltoton range, not the megaton range necessary for a significant EMP event.

    Conversely, Starfish Prime was initiated at an altitude of 400 km after a ballistic re-entry from 1,100 km and its physics package was about 1.5 megatons. It also used a Thor lift system which could not possibly be launched from a sea borne platform.

    The Scud-C’s payload is only 600 kg (1,300 pounds). The theoretical maximum yield to weight ration for fusion weapons is 6 megatons per metric ton (1,000 kg) of bomb mass (though no single blast yield has ever exceeded 5.2). Typically, the physics package for Scud’s is 10% to 20% of the total payload weight. Using 20% of 600 kg gives a theoretical yield of 0.72 megatons. So, half the yield of Starfish Prime at half the height is the scenario we have at hand. It is all theoretical at this point (and I really don’t want to test it), but based on the published data I don’t believe that would cause as large of disruption as you have noted. A bad day – most certainly, a total collapse – not unless some diety was really pissed off that day.

    I am not disputing whether an EMP event is a possibility, only that the effects would be localized and not a nation killer as is commonly thought.

    You are certainly correct in that “money can buy anything”. However, nuclear events leave very pronounced and easily traceable signatures. Furthermore, ships and subs don’t move very fast. An orbital missle launch within 1,000 km of the USA would certainly attract NORAD’s attention. Any group which pops one off over the USA should expect a massive and immediate retaliation. Even Iran and N Korea are not willing to face a MAD event.

    I am not really trying to discourage anyone from being prepared for bad days. In my opinion, playing “what if” is an important survival strategy. My family’s motto is: Plan for the worst, hope for the best, and always know that whatever worst you can dream of will not come close to dealing with every eventuality. I have kids who work in high rise buildings and grandkids who spend their days at public schools. Trust me, I have gone through a lot of “what ifs” dealing with protecting my family. The only intent of my post was to ensure Rourke’s readers understood how very highly unlikely this scenario is and to prevent a lot of hand wringing over how to prevent/prepare/overcome said event. Any number of issues may arise which force a group of people to rely on their personal skills and supplies to survive until “help” arrives. As I stated in my post, an EMP event is way, way down on the list of potential bad day events. I admire T’s concern for his kids and honor his commitment to their safety. He has a lot more patience than I.

  10. Harry,
    Excellent reply! While I admit Starfish Prime was in the megaton range a kilo package is still nothing to sneeze at, even in the lower levels of the atmosphere. The localized event can still be dangerous and drain to this nation while trying to replace every bit of fried gear in range. The point I was trying to make is that in the area affected, there will be little to no power (very likely no power) or the infrastructure to turn the water pumps needed, (outside of truckloads of fuel and generators brought in after). The beastly nature of the urban unwashed mobs will come out after a week or two of no power. Couple this will a serious lack of communication ability with local emergency services until new transmitters are put in place, hospitals with limited to no power and the aforementioned water shortages and you have a serious problem for your local prepper.

    While a nation-wide EMP might not be very probable, I can see a localized event like I described. The delivery systems are able and in place, just need the physics…

    And yes I am worried about the Rodong, more that one than Iran…

  11. I liked the book Preppers Road March that showed a fictional account of how one man delt with a similar scenario

    A solar storm has just hit the world causing a EMP event. A emergency manager visiting Atlanta GA must find his way back home after this electromagnetic pulse has stranded him away from his vehicle and his beloved “bug out bag”. With 180 miles to go to his destination, David must let his street smarts and survival skills kick in as food and water becomes scarce and societal breakdown proceeds at an unrelenting pace. An interesting and often funny cast of characters from the Deep South helps the displaced Prepper on his way, as he shares his knowledge of how to make do with common items in order to live another day. Ultimately, he acquires an old tractor and heads for home on a car-littered interstate. This is book one of the Prepper Trilogy.

  12. You are spot on. A low level, low power device will certainly cause some significant disruptions. Maybe, it is time to start a company to make Faraday cages. I wonder how many folks have off the grid power? At least they could use the protection. Or perhaps, we could start a construction company using old microwave ovens to construct the walls and ceiling components.

    Keep your powder dry and iron sights handy, those high priced electronic sights everyone seems to be hanging on their AR’s might go the way of the dodo bird.

  13. Never try to get a question about EMP answered. You have to dumb it down to, “What is the plan if electricity is out for the entire city/county/5 county/state and the traffic has the road system tied up in gridlock? At what point do we call it an Emergency and enact come plan to get the kids home so we can get home to our families as well??

    If you say, “But what about and EMP event?” you get the “Are you Stupid” look.

  14. I appreciate this article. As I’m fairly knew to prepping, 1-2 years, you rarely see articles on topics like this. I don’t necessarily mean the EMP part, but more along the lines of kids and school in an emergency situation. We hear a lot about BOB’s and BOL’s and Get Home Bags. A lot of the mentality that you read is based on a personal or individual basis. Families, esp. with younger kids, have a lot to think about when it comes to emergency preparedness.

    I think some of the “action steps” are good to put in place for any emergency.

    Thanks for the article.

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