You awaken to a deafening silence; the bedside clock is blank, no hum of the air conditioner and no traffic noises. The silence, is unlike any you have ever heard before. Habit makes you reach for the coffee as you enter the kitchen and you have the filter basket full of grounds before it sinks in you have no power.
You grab the cell phone and it’s off. Pushing buttons, removing and replacing the battery has no affect. You are shut off from the world. The inside of the refrigerator is damp and has that peculiar smell that only the insides of refrigerators have, when they are warm. Condensation is dripping off of everything.
The power goes out from time to time and it will only be a few hours, you convince yourself, and yet something nags at the back of your mind. When the power has gone out in the past people still raced back and forth along the US highway that is a quarter mile from your house. Whether the traffic lights work or not traffic always moves along the highway.
You picked this house because it’s remote and yet you found that even at a quarter of a mile away you could always hear traffic. The nearest neighbor is two miles north. Now you feel the need to talk to someone, anyone, and it has only been a few hours.
It just dawns on you that you are trapped as your car is in the garage and the overhead door is electric. You have no idea how to open it, all you know is it cannot be operated by hand. Something must be done first is all you know, and what that is, is a mystery, something about springs, disconnect levers and balance and tracks. You did not pay any attention when they installed it; now you feel trapped, and it is quiet outside.
Two Hours Later
You need coffee so you fire up the gas grill and just as the pot of water you filled from water bottles is beginning to bubble, you run out of propane. The kitchen faucet, when you open it, delivers a hiss of air and the rest of them give up nothing. You pour the hot water through the filter of coffee grounds as it rests in the machine and let it slowly drip into the pot. It’s a slow process, the coffee took an hour to make and it’s horrid.
Now you begin to worry about the lack of electricity. You are not sure how long it has been out because it went out while you were sleeping. Not normally a breakfast eater, you are now hungry and you have no way to make anything.
Fear of the Unknown
Was there another 911 type of attack, who hates us today? No storms, not any flooding or high winds that you could see, so what happened? You had heard somewhere that the power grid could be shut down by remote control or some such thing, and some people even have devices that could destroy all of the electronic components by some type of electrical pulse. You were never one to give into the propaganda about doomsday or the Mayan calendar; however, now you are getting worried because it has been close to five hours and it’s getting hot inside the house.
Dusk the First Day
You pace around for hours munching on whatever you can find. You pull every drawer out but cannot find a manual can opener, and stabbing the top of a can of soup with the butcher knife almost cost you a finger. Warm and soggy celery and carrots with some sliced cheese is all you have that does not require opening a can or cooking.
You drink at least three bottles of water out of nervousness before you realize you need to slow down, what if the power and water never come back on. It has been 12 hours and you feel panic welling up.
You do not dare use the bathroom all day because what if it doesn’t flush, so like a criminal you slink around outside looking for a spot because between the water and being nervous you need to go and often.
You rifle through all the drawers and cabinets looking for candles, and you find several along with some obviously ornamental ones that you have no idea where you got them or if someone gave them to you. They’re lit and on the kitchen table and you’re not just hungry you are starving, and someone has stolen your hand operated can opener, obviously this has to be the case because who doesn’t have one of these around the house.
You find a screwdriver and manage to stab a hole in a can of soup big enough to pour the contents into a bowl. Cold soup isn’t the greatest but it helps quell the panic you keep feeling.
You smell sour from nervous sweat and you constantly rub your hands on your pant legs, you want to wash them but do not dare waste any water. You feel trapped and it’s dark outside.
Middle of the Night
The heat is unbearable and the open windows make you more nervous so you pace back and forth and then you flop on the couch. For some reason you don’t want to get undressed and climb into bed. You have the feeling of something; something’s on the verge of happening. The candles smell and they don’t give off much light and you don’t want to fall asleep with them lit, so you are constantly blowing them out and re-lighting them until you realize you might run out of matches.
Outside on the deck isn’t much of a relief because the bugs and mosquitoes swarm around you making it impossible to stay out long enough to catch a breeze. Your stomach is protesting and you decide that first thing in the morning you will figure out how to make a fire and heat some food, surely there is some wood that could be used laying about the property.
Twenty-four hours have passed and it feels like a week. Your teeth are fuzzy and your eyes have a gritty feeling, your clothes feel damp and you smell. There’s no helping it, a bottle of water has to be used to brush your teeth and then food is next.
You change out of your clothes and after that with clean teeth, you feel well, so it’s time to start thinking instead of reacting. You venture into the garage to see if you can figure out how to get the door to open and then realize the radio in the car probably still works and you need information.
The battery is dead, there are obviously no dome lights, no radio, no power at all.
You give up on the door, because what’s the use now and you even have thoughts of crashing through with the car, but that was not happening as the car won’t even start. Instead, you grab your mountain bike and maneuver it to the front door. If nothing else, you can always ride to the neighbors’ house but first you must start a fire.
It always looked easy on television when the experts toss a match down or strike a couple of rocks together to engulf a pile of wood into flames. The pile you have isn’t very big, but once you have it going you’ll explore further into the woods for bigger pieces of wood. Some old newspaper and six matches later you have a small fire going just off the back deck.
You gather up a small stainless steel pot, fill it with soup and some soggy carrots and add the rest of the celery, and set it near the flames, it’s not gourmet but edible. Most of the food in the refrigerator has ruined and you spend over an hour digging a pit deep enough to dump the spoiled food in, which smells so bad it almost ruins your appetite.
You have five matches left, so it seems you have to keep the fire going and what happens if it rains. The next two hours after you gulp down three cans of soup are spent wondering what to do next.
Realistic or Not
This is what many will experience if they awaken one day and the power, water, gas and other services are stopped. The utilities interruption and the fact the individuals vehicle didn’t work were caused by an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP). The possibility of this happening is getting more realistic every day for those who do not believe this can happen.
There are an untold number of nuclear weapons unaccounted for in the world today, and a surface or atmospheric detonation of a nuclear device can cause an EMP, whether that was the intent of the detonation or not.
The feelings of panic and frustration that the individual felt are real and anyone in that position will feel them. People like to know what is going to happen so they can prepare for it, but in today’s world preparedness must be a state that is maintained at all times. Always be prepared, do not wait until you think something will happen, or until an alert is issued. Anything can happen to anyone, at anytime, without any warning.
Between 36 and 48 hours either things will completely unravel or you can wake up, grab a hold of yourself and start surviving. The individual in the scenario described had the typical 48 to 72 hours worth of supplies such as canned food and bottled water on hand.
Once you realize you cannot eat you become hungry and once you understand there is no more water you become thirsty, these are real feelings and you will experience them in the same situation. The old saying goes, “you never miss the water until the well runs dry” definitely does apply to emergencies.
The individual had no way of communicating with others. The concept of an EMP was foreign to them, and something they’d only seen on the Science Channel. They would never have guessed it could be the reason for such an interruption, nor would they have known how to prepare for such an event.
Identifying any and all possible threats ahead of time and knowing in advance, how to prepare for them is extremely important. In the case of an EMP attack, they would have known to shield any electronics, such as radios and flashlights, prior to it taking place. Knowledge, skills sets and the belief it can happen will save your life some day.
30 Hours Later
Thirty hours since the lights went out and it feels like it has been 30 days. Your clothes are filthy and from what, you have no idea. You decided that huddling over a meager fire was not getting you anywhere. You do however; have opening soup cans down to a science with barely a scratch from puncturing the cans with a flat-headed screwdriver. Small victories are what keep you going.
You are out of propane for the gas grill but you realized if you removed the tank and couplings you could fill the heating chamber with wood and use it like a charcoal grill. There were only a few matches left so you had to keep the fire going, you do not want to think about what happens if it goes out. If it starts to rain, you could lower the lid you reason.
You talked to yourself about why the seemingly simplest of things took so much thought to figure out, and once you had figured it out you wondered what took so long.
Stumbling around in the wooded lot behind the house, looking for firewood you discovered a seep. By pushing the lip of your metal pot down into the muck slightly, you managed to half-fill it with dirty water. Running the water through a coffee filter cleaned it up somewhat. A few more trips and you now had several gallons of murky water heating over the fire in various pots and pans.
Water and fire, in less than three days, luxury living was now dirty water simmering over an open fire in the backyard. You set the coffee filter basket full of grounds over the glass pot, poured boiling water slowly over the grounds, and let it drip into the decanter.
Coffee never tasted so good though. Maybe it was the fact that the simplest things now required work and thought, no more push button access to anything. No more thoughtless moves based on habit, because life is now different, and new habits needed to be formed. Amazing how quickly a person learns to appreciate the little things in life.
Your cell phone battery was dead. You had left it on in hopes of some sort of signal, some sign maybe of life getting back to normal. Hope against hope that some miracle would happen and you would hear the phone’s familiar ring. It was dead weight now, clipped to your belt but for some reason you would not remove the phone.
The house was sweltering and you were filthy from dried sweat, not to mention smashed mosquitoes. Some of the simmering water would be used for a sponge bath and once you felt the water had heated long enough you were going to filter it again and store for drinking water. You realized that just keeping up with the water was going to be work. You needed enough water eventually to wash clothes if the electricity stayed off much longer.
Twice you had climbed on your mountain bike, intending to ride into town, and twice you had gotten off it in the last two days. You could not explain why but you did not want to ride into the small hamlet up the road just yet. It was a quarter mile to the main highway, and once there a five mile ride into town. Third time was a charm however and after pulling the water pans from the fire, and propping the lid open so there were a few inches of airflow to keep the fire smoldering, you set off for the highway. Already you are worried about the fire going out.
The US highway was a mess, cars littered the road and a few were off in a rutted field next to the highway. Hoods were up and trunk lids were open on many of the cars. You noticed smashed windows on a few.
You spotted movement and immediately pulled back down the narrow lane. Someone was walking between the cars looking in windows. It dawned on you this may be a looter, you felt sick with fear, and this made you want to turn back home.
You wondered how the looter, if in fact he was one, managed to get here. Obviously whatever had happened affected vehicles, and quickly. You had read somewhere that an electrical pulse would ruin electronic components, so cars had electronics, and now obviously they were disabled because of some occurrence.
After moving back down the road to get out of sight, you positioned yourself so you could still glimpse the highway between some trees. The looter was out of sight but suddenly you heard a noise and after three days of virtually no manmade sounds, it startled you to the point you stumbled over your bike.
You knew that sound and realized it was a lawnmower, a riding mower, and now you could see it creeping along the shoulder of the road. The looter was hunched over the wheel. A wobbling trailer was hooked behind the lawnmower bobbing up and down as if it had square wheels.
Fear turned to frustration and then into anger. This man, this thief and obviously one that lived close by was here looting cars, cars disabled because of some freak occurrence that you still cannot comprehend. You wanted to chase after him, you even went so far as to grab a stone to throw, but realized you would not even come close to striking him. You paced with frustration undecided as to your next move.
He was getting father down the road with his ill-gotten gains. The limping trailer had items poking out. Your face was heated with anger, frustration and once again, fear crept in. What would you find in town?
Here you were dressed in filthy clothes and tennis shoes, with only a set of house keys in your pocket. You had absolutely no way to defend yourself if confronted by anyone. Would you even know how to defend yourself you wondered? The situation you found yourself in was so foreign, so inconceivable that you feared for your sanity and you simply had no answers.
Three days ago, you would have grabbed your phone and called the police to report someone breaking into cars. However, the way the looter went about his business made it seem like it was normal to search cars that were parked hither and yon in the middle of a highway.
The lawnmower man conducted himself as if it was an everyday occurrence. What did this tell you about human nature during a crisis? The man looked normal, middle aged, dressed in gray work pants and a blue shirt with a white tag over the left breast pocket, so a janitor maybe from the local hospital or school.
Is this the new normal after only three days, looters acting as if on a picnic and looting cars is just fabulous sport, a stroll in the park to smash car windows? Here you are without a clue as to what has happened or is happening right now and the looter is out there carrying on as if he is punching a clock and has to get back for the noon whistle.
You suddenly started ticking off reasons why you could not make it to town today. The road was full of cars, more looters possibly. You had no way to defend yourself and the list of reasons was growing. You had enough canned food for several more days, and the stores would be closed, so no point in trying to navigate the maze of stalled cars, right now anyway.
Your house came into view and you decided you were mad because you never gave a thought to what would happen if. The “if” has happened and you feel helpless, cut off and now realize your life was nothing more than pushing buttons and flipping switches, until now.
Now you have to find food, maintain a supply of water and think about personal security. One middle-aged man on a lawnmower should not have scared you. You could almost imagine him whistling off tune as he went about his business, not a care in the world. This is what scared you the most.
Is the Above Scenario Possible?
Quite possible and indeed likely at some point because there are simply too many plates being juggled in today’s world. Eventually some of the plates will fall. Tensions between countries will cause many people to end up in a situation as it was presented above.
The problems in other countries contrary to what many in this country may think will spill over the borders of this country and create untold chaos if they are not resolved. The citizens of the United States will be expected to absorb all of the problems until the country splits at the seams, and it will, sooner rather than later.
The macro problems will become someone else’s problem in a worldwide or national catastrophe however, because you will be busy dealing with situations like the one presented above. Life at the micro level will be gritty and heart wrenching for millions of people. Just getting five miles down the road to town may be impossible for some people during a crisis.
The initial attack, if there is one, will have an effect at the onset, but once everyone realizes the government at the local, state and federal level is incapable of handling the situation you will find people like the lawnmower man going about their business. The business of surviving the only way they know how.
How will you survive? Is having a stockpile of supplies the only way you know how to survive or are you worried about your attitude and the attitude of others during a crisis. How will you react, to looters and seemingly normal people doing abnormal things?
People react differently during a crisis, no one knows how others will react, and you do not know how you will either. You only think you know, but when the SHTF for real all bets are off, and you had better be strapped in with your head on straight.
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