Nice article in the UK Daily Mail about a couple old books from the 1800s providing what are now called “Life Hacks” or in more traditional terminology… practical advice for daily life.

Both of the books mentioned are in the New Additions Category on the Survivor Library site.

There’s a minor error in the article in that the The United States Practical Receipt Book was actually published in 1844 and not 1884. Perhaps there is a later edition than the one one we have but the link they have posted in their article is also to the 1844 edition so I suspect it is a simply typo…. not that I have EVER committed such a typorgaphical error myself.

Always interesting it have such an insight into the lives of our forebears and to realize that their day to day concerns were not really that much different from ours.

The Librarian


A few pictures of the food section of a Walmart stores in the Charlotte, NC area just prior to the winter storm a couple of weeks ago.

That was just a storm… a temporary phenomenon that everyone knew would pass in a few days. Just as everyone knew those shelves would be restocked within in a day or two.

Try to imagine the aftermath of an EMP event that would NOT PASS IN A DAY OR TWO because the recovery time would be measured in years, decades or in the event of a Solar EMP more likely in generations.

Look at those shelves and think about them NOT BEING RESTOCKED because the transportation network is broken and would not be fixed for a long, long time.

Then finally look at your family and ask yourself how you will care for them, feed them and shelter them what those pictures are the reality you face.

The Librarian


The Commission that’s been in existence for 8 years and has repeatedly pointed out the vulnerability of the U.S. to EMP from both Solar and Nuclear sources will be releasing a ruling on standards to protect the grid from an EMP.

But in typical D.C. fashion (i.e. incompetent and purely political at our expense) the ruling will ONLY address Solar EMP protection and will be released on Jan 19… one day before the inauguration of the incoming president.

The Commission has been in existence since 2008 and could have issued the ruling at any point during those 8 years since we’re not talking about rocket science.

The effects of an EMP are well known, much studied and well documented. The steps to protect the grid are also well known, much studied and well documented.

That they would wait until the day before a Presidential inauguration and only do half the job by ignoring Nuclear EMP, which in the current state of the world is becoming more and more possible, is a sad travesty.

Issuing the standards on the last day of an outgoing administration makes the act so blatantly political that it will taint the act in the eyes of the incoming administration and virtually guarantee that it will be simply ignored.

If there ever is an EMP event I hope and pray that the political figures who have played games with the issue survive to face the rest of the survivors and have to explain their negligence.

The Librarian

p.s. Despite the article I don’t actually blame Obama. This type of action has become the norm in D.C. for both parties and all politicians as a breed. It could just as easily have occurred under a Republican as a Democratic administration. Only politics matter. Lives are irrelevant.


Millennials lack even the most basic of survival skills.

The moral here is that if there is going to be an apocalyptic event it better happen while the older generation is still around and healthy or the world is going to be in serious trouble.

Well the Western Industrialized world anyway. The rest of the world will probably do just fine.

Many parts of the world would not notice an EMP event that destroyed the electronics other than perhaps discovering that the community radio (if there is one) stopped working.

The Librarian


We all know that we live in a world of Technology rather than one of Magic.

Don’t we?

Arthur C. Clarke once said “Sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” When you can’t explain a thing by any concepts with which you are familiar or which you can deduce from what you know the only other explanation is… magic.

I grew up as something of a nerd familiar with a slide rule, building and flying model rockets and similar activities. I was not only deeply into technology but, like many nerds, into the fantasy world of D&D and similar pursuits. Perhaps as a nerd you need a break from technology occasionally.

The world of magic such as in D&D and other fantasy worlds is one where the mages, or magic users, possess arcane, occult (which simply means “hidden”) knowledge that gives them the ability to perform wonders. Normal people are limited to the tools of the physical world which they can understand and create for themselves.

The mages of course understand the “normal” world and are subject to it’s rules and limitations but possess a “higher” knowledge that gives them tremendous power beyond that of mere “normals”.

The normal people are at a tremendous disadvantage since so much power is in the hands of the mages. Thus the never ending quest to obtain and possess “magical” artifacts; magic swords, potions, magical shields, crystal balls, staffs of light, etc. Many stories revolve around the quest to obtain such knowledge or a powerful magical artifact or to destroy such an artifact in order to save the world or some part of it.

Which brings us back to whether we live in a world of Technology or Magic.

Growing up in the 50s and 60 we all understood the technology that existed around us like cars and electronics. While some of it was advanced like the race to the moon we still understood the fundamental concepts upon which the technology was based. Pretty much everyone knew the basics of auto mechanics of had a friend or family member who knew even more.

In school we were all taught the basics of how planes flew, how rockets worked, how electricity and radio functioned. So we lived in a world where the technology was familiar, comfortable and always knew that if we really put our mind to it we could learn all about any specific technology.

Which again brings us back to whether we live in a world of Technology or Magic.

Look around your own personal world today. Look at the computers, the TVs, cell phones, GPS in your car, the car itself. How much of it do you actually understand? Do you know the fundamental concepts of how an LCD TV works? Do you know how your computer works? Do you understand how the cable box that brings television to your LCD TV functions or how the DVR works?

If your car stops running do you have any idea what to check before calling the tow truck?

Are you a Mage or a Normal?

It strikes me at times that some of the items I see people using in their daily lives are quite like the “magical” artifacts of fantasy stories. The cell phone that teenagers use to send pictures to strangers all over the world are actually quite a bit more powerful than many of the magical devices in stories.

In Lord of the Rings Saruman the White Wizard had a magic crystal ball that allowed him to see things at a great distance. By comparison today’s webcams and drones make his crystal ball look rather primitive.

Yet they bear striking similarities…

The person using them didn’t make them. They not only didn’t make them but actually have no real idea of how they work. They almost certainly can’t repair them if they stop functioning. They have to take it to a local “mage”, i.e. someone possessing arcane, occult knowledge, to restore the magic in it.

We might as well call it magic because most of us do not understand the technology we use. The schools don’t teach that knowledge. Oh they teach you how to USE the technology, keyboarding (instead of typing), programming instead of woodshop, browsing instead of library science. But the reality is that few people outside of the technical professions really have any idea how most of the technology around them works.

I know people with cars with so many functions built into them that the User’s Manual is an inch think. The owners have given up trying to figure out all of the controls and only use the few functions that they can grasp intuitively. They aren’t stupid people but the level of complexity is such that it’s difficult to retain the complex procedures when the car is not used constantly.

So despite what we call it most people today don’t live in a world of “technology”. They live in a world of “magic” where the mages provide the magical artifacts which they use and which they do not actually understand.

More worrisome is that even many of the “mages” don’t truly understand the technology they use. Few of the people working in the IT world could actually build a computer if they had to. Oh sure they could assemble components, motherboards, power supplies, cpus, ram, graphics cards into a case to build a functioning computer but could they build the cpu or the motherboard themselves? No they couldn’t.

Few of the engineers who actually design the motherboards or the cpus could build one either. They know circuity but they know little or nothing of the materials science required to create the cpu chip.

The world we live in today blurs many of the lines between the terms “technology” and “magic”.

The ability to be self sufficient grows further and further away from us everyday. More importantly our dependence on the “mages” and their magical artifacts grows every day.

The Librarian


Interesting article on the “Resilient Community” movement which is a trend towards shifting communities from being totally dependent on outside resources and towards becoming more self sufficient.

One of the weaknesses and great vulnerabilities of modern society and the one which makes disasters like an EMP so potentially catastrophic is that most parts of modern society upon which we rely come from sources well beyond our control.

Electricity comes form distant plants supplied with fuels form even more distant sources. Food comes from distant warehouses in turn supplied by farms around the world.

Any interruption of the infrastructure in the world leaves most communities powerless to adapt to changes.

At one time food, water and most necessities of life came form local sources which were under the control of local communities or were at least subject to influence by the community. Water came from local rivers,lakes or wells. Food came form local farms and ranches.

As communities have become increasingly aware of how vulnerable they are some are working to reverse that trend.

It’s a good thing to see.

The Librarian


In Parts 1-3 of Why 1800’s Technology I laid out the primary, secondary and tertiary effects of an EMP event which would leave the survivors 6-9 months later in a world where the technological and industrial infrastructure upon which they had depended their entire life was inoperable.

The majority of that would be the direct consequences of two things:
1. The loss of the power grid and thus electrical power, the primary power source for the Industrialized world.
2. The damaging or destruction of electronic circuits which are required for the overwhelming majority of transportation, communications, power generation, industrial processes and services such as water treatment
The destruction of the power grid’s transformers alone would require years of manufacturing to replace assuming the factories which manufacture them (and the requisite supply and transportation networks) remained operational which is unlikely in a solar EMP which affects the entire world.

The production of food which using current technology requires motive power such as tractors (along with their requisite supply chains of parts and fuel), fertilizers which are the product of a sophisticated industrial supply and transportation chain. It relies on electrical power and seed, insecticides, fungicides and a range of chemical products which would no longer be available.

Water sources would be limited to wells and open sources requiring treatment. While mechanical windmills and pumps can be built water treatment on an industrial scale to supply a town or community relies on electrical power and industrial chemicals which would no longer be available.

Manufacturing of almost all goods relies on a worldwide supply and transportation network as well as computer controlled machinery and a virtually unlimited supply of electrical power all of which would be unavailable.

In short the existing industrial and technological infrastructure would be rendered completely inoperable.


Without a massive and sustained project to replace all damaged circuits while maintaining vulnerable equipment that is not designed to sit idle for extended periods of time such a generators, steam plants, refineries and machine tools the available window to restart that industrial and technological infrastructure is relatively short, years and in some cases mere months.

The insidious Catch-22 is that replacing millions of damaged circuits and transformers requires a functional industrial infrastructure which would be inoperable. You can build a plow with a furnace, an anvil and hammers. You can’ build computers circuits in a workshop.

It is extremely unlikely that the existing infrastructure can be restarted within the window of opportunity available by the small percentage of the population which survives such an event.

Once the equipment such as generators, electrical equipment and machine tools begin to deteriorate beyond a certain point it is no longer feasible to put them back into operation. They would require replacement.


If the survivors of such an event cannot restart the existing infrastructure what options do they have?

That last viable infrastructure which existed prior to the widespread availability of electrical power was that of the 1800s and early 1900s.

At the time of WWI much of the rural United States and much of rural Europe lived without electricity. Even at the time of WWII in the late 1930s and early 1940s large areas of the US and Europe had very limited access to electrical power.

My grandparents, living in North Carolina did not get their first electrical power until a few years before WWII. That was within an hour’s drive of a major North Carolina city.


The other aspect of 1800s technology that is very different from modern technology is that very little of it is totally dependent on industrial production. Almost all 1800s technology can be produced in small workshops by a few individuals. Industrial manufacturing in virtually all cases requires simple machine tools which can, themselves be manufactured by a small number of individuals in workshops.

Keep in mind the first airplane in the United States was built in a bicycle shop, the first automobiles manufactured in the U.S. were built in blacksmith shops, carriage shops and other workshops equipped with simple machine tools familiar to any home mechanic or craftsman. Many early automobiles were powered by steam engines which a number of hobbyists build today using simple machine tools.

Once industrial scale production began for many types of items in the 1800s the facilities were simply scaled up workshops in many cases using either scaled up standard power tools or a large number of standard power tools.

In Birmingham, Al the Bessemer Steel Mill used during the mid 1800s could actually be put back into operation with a supply of willing workers and raw materials according to the curators of the plant which is now a museum. The more modern steel mills in other parts of the same city could not be restarted until a functioning power grid was restored.


Yet another aspect of the 1800s that was vastly different from today is the almost unimaginable specialization of technical knowledge in modern industry and technology.

In the 1800s a craftsman building an item such as a plow had to understand steel, how to form the steel into all of the individual pieces as well as how to assemble the pieces into a plow, how it would be used and how it would be hitched to a horse, mule or oxen for motive power. In essence, a simple blacksmith not much different from the blacksmiths of the 1700s, 1600s or 1500s.

A modern plow requires a tractor, an engineer to design it on a computer CAD system, a sophisticated steel plant to fabricate the parts and a factory to assemble and ship the completed equipment. Modifying the plows they manufacture from ones designed for tractors into ones intended to be horse drawn is not a trivial task. It requires the engineer to completely redesign the plow, the steel fabricator to replace their molds and retool their machining and the assembler to change their procedures. None of which would be possible once the electrical power was gone and all of those parts of the manufacturing system were rendered inoperable.

Modern manufacturing has devolved into a myriad of small extremely specialized tasks that are performed by many individuals few if any of which know any of the other specialized tasks. No one “builds a plow”. They each perform one or a very few limited and highly specialized tasks.

In many cases the people “manufacturing” items know little of nothing about the item itself and are simply machine operators.

Most 1800s technologies are such that a single individual or small group of individuals can master and perform all of the tasks required to produce the necessary final products or service.


Much of the existing technology which could be salvaged by the survivors would be useless. Being designed to make use of electrical power which was no longer available or motive power such as tractors and other internal combustion engine powered machines they would be of limited use.

For a time older tractors and vehicles which did not have computerized parts would be useable. Eventually however they would break down and there would be no more spare parts and no practical way to make them. A few individuals might be able to machine replacements parts, a few resourceful individuals might be able to refine bio diesel, build wood or coal gas generators or distill ethanol but none of those are viable on anything other than a small local scale. Eventually all of the technology would break and require replacements parts which no longer existed and could not easily be made.

Electrical power could and would be generated on a small scale for a while using things such as windmills, solar panels, and other “renewable” sources. However for anything other than small scale, local and temporary use they require large and extensive battery arrays, which themselves are the product of modern industrial technology. Batteries wear out and are not easily manufactured at home.

Solar panels are quite technologically sophisticated and are not an item one makes in their workshop. Both the materials and the manufacturing process require highly sophisticated technology and machine. Mechanical windmills have been used to pump waters for centuries. Their use to produce electrical power relies on industrial wire production and a source of electrical components to build rectifiers and controllers. Like other “renewable” power sources they require extensive battery banks.

While parts for all these systems could be salvaged for some time, just as with salvaged automobiles eventually parts would fail, the supply of spare parts would run out and there is no practical way to manufacture replacements.


Which means that eventually the survivors would have to start building an infrastructure capable of supplying more than an individual or family. Water treatment and distribution plants would be required in order to build even a moderate sized town. Sewage systems would have to be built. Communications systems would have to be reestablished to build commercial networks between communities. Telegraphs systems, for instance, making use of existing poles and wires could be built quickly and relatively easy. Restarting a telephone systems using extensive computer systems and requiring a constant and reliable source of electrical power could not.

Steam engines to use still existing rail networks requires relatively unsophisticated machining and have been around for about two centuries . Even today steam locomotives are still widely used in many parts of the world even some of the advanced industrialized nations due to their sheer raw power unmatched by sophisticated diesel locomotives.

Cargo and passenger ship powered by sail remained in use well into the 1900’s in some parts of the world.

While the modern infrastructure could not realistically be restarted after a solar EMP an infrastructure making use of the NON-ELECTRICAL technology of the 1800s and early 1900s could be much more easily put in place through the use of simple machine tools, hard work and ingenuity.

The men and women who developed much of the technology of the 1800s were not all engineers, scientists and technology experts. In fact very few of them were any of those.

The Wright Brothers had little education and while they were interested in scientific work on flight neither of them was an engineer, a scientists or any “titled” professional as we would think of aircraft designers today. They were simply intelligent, industrious men who dedicated themselves to accomplishing something. They used the technology of the early 1900s to build a successful airplane.

We often think of the manned flights to the moon at one of the pinnacles of modern technology. Yet keep in mind that the Apollo Moon missions took place before the widespread availability of computers. Computers as we think of them today, even pocket calculators, did not exist in the 1960s. The scientists and engineers who designed and built the Saturn 5 and the Apollo vehicles used slide rules.

i.e. wooden sticks with logarithmic scales printed on them provided the mathematical power to fly to the moon and come back.


The key aspect of 1800s technology to survivors rebuilding after an EMP is that virtually none of it relies on electrical power as a fundamental necessity.

As long as you can turn a lathe it doesn’t matter whether it is turned by a foot treadle, water power, animal power, steam power or an electric motor. As long as you can heat steel to the point it is malleable it doesn’t matter if you heat it with wood or charcoal or coal of electricity. While a steam powered trip hammer makes blacksmithing a lot less work, the human arm and a hammer did the metal working for most of human history until well into the 1900s.

As long as you can burn limestone to produce lime, shape wood and make leather to fabricate a horse collar, find a blacksmith to make you a plow and other farming tools and collect various animal droppings to use as fertilizer you can farm and produce food. If you’re good at it and with practice you can produce significantly more than your own family needs. Once you do you have goods to trade and there is a surplus available to allow others to work on making shoes, stoves, tools, lumber, steel, printing presses and all of the other fundamental necessities to build and continue to expand an infrastructure such as the one that brought us the modern world in which we live today.


Fortunately one of the technologies of 1800s was book production. Many, many books detailing the technologies, skills and knowledge of that period either still exist or were saved by scanning them into digital format before the old books deteriorated from age and use. That gives us a unique opportunity to collect that knowledge, store it and distribute it in a form that can be carried in a small box or bag or even a pocket.

A single flash drive or a stack of optical disks can contain thousands of books. Millions of pages of information and keep it safe until the day it is needed.

While digital technology would not be available to most people trying to rebuild after an EMP there would be enough salvageable computers and printers, enough solar panels and wind generators to last for several years. In that environment a community or even a small group of people could access and print out much of the information they needed to begin serious, long term and sustained rebuilding.

The simple 3 volume set of The Book of the Farm printed out and available for a community to read and reference could provide virtually everything a group of survivors needed to know to successfully operate a farm without the use of modern technology.

A farmer specializing in poultry or horses or cattle could find dozens of books on how to successfully operate and manage their farms.

An individual who wanted to develop a smithy would have access to dozens of books on smithing and metal working.

A community interested in refurbishing or building a simple steam locomotive or steamship, building a steam engine to power a mill or a lumberyard would find invaluable information on steam engines, their design, construction and operation in a collection of 1800s books. Having access to those books would save them hundred perhaps thousands of man hours of experimentation.

The technology of the 1800s is the most recent level of technology that can be recreated:
WITHOUT Electricity
WITHOUT Advanced degrees
USING ONLY simple tools that can themselves be reproduced without either Electricity or Advanced knowledge.


In the end the technology of the 1800s is the best combination of relatively sophisticated technology that can be recreated relatively quickly, does not require a massive industrial and technological infrastructure and which can be mastered by people without advanced education beyond reading and basic mathematics and some mechanical aptitude.

The technology of the 1800’s and early 1900’s gave birth, within a generation, to the technology of WWII, the Space program.

My grandfather remembered the newspaper stories of the Wright Brothers first flight here in North Carolina.

I remember the day in October 1987 when Sputnik went into orbit. We got our first Black and White TV when I was about 5 years old and I remember a decade or so later watching Neill Armstrong set foot on the moon. My children grew up with computers and thought a typewriter (like I used in high school) which I brought home one day was a fascinating and quaint antique.

Within three generations the world went from farming with mules to interplanetary travel, personal computers and instantaneous worldwide communications via smartphones and the internet.

They did it.

The survivors of an EMP event who would be some very resourceful people as proven by the fact they
did survive could do it also.

The Librarian


In Part 2 of Why 1800’s Technology I laid out the second level consequences of an EMP event which takes down the power grid and damages electronics. They include (but aren’t limited to):

No Transportation
No Communications
Millions, perhaps tens of millions, of individuals and families displaced from their homes faced with no simple way to reunite or make it home
Non-Operational government from local through federal level
No Law Enforcement
Military units cut off and isolated with no way to communicate or coordinate
Social Disorder with no effective response

While those sound bad enough the tertiary effects of the above effects over a period of just a few days are far worse.

Most healthy people can survive for 3 weeks without food and three days without water. That’s an old saying that carries enough truth to be a useful guideline.

Imagine a small city such as the one near where I live. Roughly 70,000 people would have:

no power
no clean water other than what was on hand in their homes when the event occurred
no food other than what is on their shelves since the refrigerated food would have to be eaten within a day or two or be lost.
no fuel with which to cook beyond a few backyard grills, perhaps a some charcoal or a bit of firewood

Even assuming that people were extremely stingy with what they had on hand they would still begin to run out within a few days. Once they do run out of water they can still probably get by for a few more days on the liquids in canned goods, perhaps a neighbor’s swimming pool. Eventually, after 2-3 or 4-5 days, the majority of people would run out of available water.

As thirst sets in they will start leaving their homes in search of water and food. The city government, if any remains, would be overwhelmed by tens of thousands of people seeing help. Local Law Enforcement would be totally ineffective and no real help would be available.

The nearest higher level government presence of which most people would be aware would be the military base about 40 miles north on a secondary highway. Many people would hope that the federal government would be able to help them and they would head in that direction. Others would head in different directions hoping to find help in other smaller towns or the farming communities in the area. A sizable percentage of those 70,000 people would be on the road heading for what they hope would be help.

In reality the number would likely be a lot higher since people from surrounding areas would have likely already headed towards the city looking for help and while the population of the city itself is about 70,000 the suburbs and surrounding residential areas are probably two to three times that.

Imagine 100,000 people, and perhaps twice that, on the roads, highways, side streets all desperate for water and likely food as well. Many not knowing any better or perhaps no longer caring would drink from streams, creeks and the local rivers. Even worse some would drink from the uncountable pools of water since the area is home to a lot of swampy ground. While some would a large percentage of the people would not ensure that the water was filtered and sanitized before drinking.

It wouldn’t take more than perhaps 48 hours after the migration starts before disease begins to strike from untreated water. The sanitation problem would become astronomically worse as people began to die, bodies were left uncollected and the effects of widespread dysentery and similar diseases became ever present.

The bottom line is this…

Within a few months (90-180 days) after an EMP event comparable to the Carrington Event 80%-90% of the population in the affected areas would be dead from dehydration, disease, starvation or violence. Some estimates suggest the population loss could be as high as 99% after 6 months. Others place it as low as 75%.

The survivors of such an event would find themselves in a world almost inconceivably different from the world they knew today. With few exceptions their skills and knowledge would be virtually useless in a world where the systems and social milieu which engendered those skills and their knowledge no longer exist.

In Part 4, now that you have an idea of the world with which the survivors would be left, the significance of 1800’s technology will become clear.

The Librarian


In Part 1 of this discussion about 1800s technology I pointed out that the initial and most obvious effects of an EMP are the damaging/destruction of computer as well as other electronic circuits and the failure of the power grid. Keep in mind that with few exceptions it only takes the failure of a single component on a computerized circuit board to render that board inoperable and in most cases the entire system of which it is part.

It doesn’t much analysis to understand that when the power fails and electronic circuits stop working the distribution of food, water, fuel, medicines and all other commercially available material and supplies stops. What is on hand is all that will be available for an indefinite period of time.

The secondary impact of those phenomena are not as obvious until you spend some time projecting the consequences to other parts of life and society.


With the loss of electronic circuits, communications stop. No radio communications such as those used by the Police and Fire Departments. No cell phones or land line telephones. No television or radio broadcasts to communicate emergency information. With the loss of power no newspapers can be printed. There is suddenly no method of communication other than face to face verbal interchanges of information.

Consequently, immediately after an EMP there will be a massive information void. Even if the government (local, state or federal ) is capable of any kind of useful emergency response there is no way to communicate to the People what help is available and where.


If an EMP on the scale of the Carrington Event were to strike during the daytime there is a strong probability that the majority of the roads would be left full of cars that will no longer operate and cannot be started. They would have to be physically pushed off the roadway to allow passage of working vehicles. Look around you at rush hour the next time you commute to or from work and imagine all of those cars suddenly stopped dead on the road and being rendered inoperable.

Millions of people, perhaps tens of millions would find themselves a significant distance from their homes and have to travel, on foot, from their workplace to their homes. Parents with children in schools would have to travel, on foot, to the schools to collect their children then travel, again on foot, back to their homes.

While that sound like a small matter imagine an average family with both parents working 20-30 miles from home, their two children attending schools another 10-15 miles away from the home and the parents trying to find their children, each other and to make it home with no way to contact one another and coordinate their actions, no food or water between work and home, no transportation other than walking, no currency other than unusable credit or debit cards.

Now multiply that one family’s situation but thousands, tens of thousands, millions…

When was the last time you hiked 20 miles in your work clothes?


The Police and other Law Enforcement will have no method of communication, not transportation other than walking. No way to receive information of problems to which they would normally respond and finally… family, children, spouses and homes of their own which they would realize are also under threat.

The military, with very few exceptions would be in a similar situation. In the past during the Cold War most military communications equipment was shielded and hardened to survive on a what could potentially become a nuclear battlefield and thus were relatively safe from EMP effects. The “Tempest” standard that was once common in military equipment has become increasingly rare to the point that most current military personnel do not even know what Tempest hardened equipment is, much less how to identify it. The end result being that most military units and bases would just as isolated as the civilian community. Most modern military transportation equipment relies on computer as much as civilian equipment and would likely be rendered inoperable just like their civilian equivalents.

While our military is trained to improvise and overcome obstacles they still have always relied on a supply system that provides food, water and other supplies to keep a military unit operational and effective. Most military units and bases would find themselves in about the same condition as their civilian counterparts. i.e. no power, short on water, food, fuel and all other supplies. With no ability to communicate with government authorities or to coordinate their actions with other units they would be completely reliant on the local commanders for cohesion and coordination.

Growing up in a military family myself I’m reminded that the families of many military personnel live off base and in the local civilian community.


Within the past year we have seen multiple scenes of looting and social “disorder” over political issues, community disputes with Law Enforcement disputes and sometimes for what seems like no other reason than simple opportunity.

After an EMP even of a sufficient magnitude Law Enforcement would be effectively neutralized by the inability to communicate and a lack of transportation. Even if they were informed of social unrest such as looting they would have no way to communicate that information to the Officers of the department and no way to respond to the location other than walking. Essentially governmental law Enforcement would become non-existent.

Every individual and family would become wholly responsible for their own safety, security and well being. Personal Responsibility is something that is not taught as an important concept in today’s world.

So to summarize, the second level effects of an EMP which damages or destroys electronic circuits and takes down the power grid include:

No Transportation.
No Communications.
Millions, perhaps tens of millions, of individuals and families displaced from their homes faced with no simple way to reunite or make it home.
Non-Operational government from local through federal level.
No Law Enforcement.
Military units cut off and isolated with no way to communicate or coordinate.
Social Disorder with no effective response.

Once you begin to understand the second level effects of such an event the magnitude of the situation begins to sink in. As bad as the second level effects are the tertiary or third level effects start to become clear after a few days and are worse… much, much worse.

I’ll touch on those in Part 3.

The Librarian


The issue of why 1800s technology matters is one that was discussed a lot in the early days of the Survival Library. That was several years ago and the subject probably needs to be revisited.

First let’s address EMP as an event and it’s consequences. Whether we’re talking about an EMP event which occurs as a result of a Solar event or a Manmade EMP event caused by high altitude nuclear bursts doesn’t really change the results other than the geographical scope of the effects.

In the event of a solar sourced EMP the affect (i.e. the EMP destruction of electronic circuits) will be pretty much worldwide. The effects of that destruction however will vary greatly depending on the particular region or country’s reliance on a technological infrastructure.

The Industrialized World will bear the brunt of the destructive affects. (North America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Industrialized Asian countries like Japan and South Korea, some South American countries like Argentina and a few African countries like South Africa)


The basic effect of an EMP even that is the great danger is that an EMP large enough will essentially destroy pretty much all unshielded computer circuits. Destroy in the sense of burn out the circuits inside the chips themselves and potentially even the macro circuits themselves. The Carrington Event of 1859 was strong enough to start fires in telegraph offices and the wires used in 1800s telegraph circuits was more similar to what we think of today as fence wire than what we use in electronic devices. Such an event occurring today would destroy virtually all unshielded electronic circuits from computers (including those in automobiles, planes, ships and locomotives) to televisions to phones to radio to the control systems in power plants. They would need to be completely replaced before the equipment containing them could be used again.

Unfortunately computer manufacturing itself is an advanced technology and requires extensive computer support to operate.


The most profound of those effects is the destruction of the electrical power grid in Industrialized counties. When the computers go down, the power plants stop producing electricity. The other effects of an EMP of the scale of the Carrington Event is that likely destruction of most electrical transformers used in modern power grids.

These transformers are expensive and are only produced in a few European factories with a lead time of over a year for the larger ones. Few spares are kept by modern power utilities because of the expense and the low failure rate of transformers UNDER NORMAL CONDITIONS.

In the event of an EMP like the Carrington Event it’s a safe assumption that 99% of the transformers in modern electrical grids would require replacement in order to restart the grid even if the plants could produce power.

Let’s look at some of the immediate ramifications of the loss of electrical power and the destruction of computer circuitry.


In the industrialized countries the vast majority of the population is completely reliant on modern technology for even the most basic of services. Water for most people is provided by a large water system which relies on electrical power. Without that power the water stops. Those folks who receive water from a water tower would have gravity fed water until the tank is dry because no more water will be pumped into it.
Those whose water comes from wells on their own property rely on water pumps powered by electricity. Very few well owners have additional manual pumps installed. Once electrical power is no longer available the pumps (and the water) stops. Those with shallow wells and a bit of mechanical skill could probably rig up a manual pump. Those with deep wells (i.e. deeper than 20’-25’) won’t have as easy of a time of it.
Once any stored water in the house is exhausted, including what is in the water heater, the pipes, toilet tanks, etc , there is no longer a local source of clean water.


The food stores in most modern industrialized countries only have a few days of food on hand in the store. They rely on constant deliveries of additional stock from regional warehouses brought by truck. That few days supply is measured assuming “normal” purchases levels. In the event of an emergency the food in stores can be sold out in a day or even a few hours. When the most recent hurricane threatened to make landfall her in North Carolina earlier this year by the day before the storm it was virtually impossible to find batteries, candles, generators, gas cans, and similar items. Many types of food were in short supply or unavailable. With the power out in some areas for several days after the storm many of these stores were closed. They all started receiving stock again within a couple days.

With the destruction of computer circuits which are in virtually all modern trucks those trucks are large piles of scrap metal. The locomotives which would move large quantities of food and other good from one part of the country to another would be dead. The ships which bring food from other parts of the world would be simply dead in the water.

Most importantly the trucks, the ubiquitous 18 wheelers that surround us but which we take for granted, would be idle. Most people don’t realize that the vast and overwhelming majority of the goods and supplies are delivered by a flexible and fluid trucking industry. It is the circulatory system of modern industrialized society and a system upon which virtually all functions rely.


Pipelines and rail carry the majority of liquid and gas fuels but only from its point of origin to the general area where it will be used. Trucks carry I from distribution points to retail and commercial locations. Few gas stations have more than a few day’s supply on hand. Coal is used almost exclusively in power generation and is delivered to the user by rail.

With the destruction of electronic circuitry and the power grid which distributes electricity the trucks stop. The rail locomotives stop. The power plants stop.
The local supply of fuel will be quickly used up and that is assuming someone is enterprising enough to work out a way to pump gas/diesel out of the underground tanks at a gas station which has stopped working with no electricity to power the pumps.
People who keep emergency supplies on hand or perhaps run a farm and maintain a large supply of fuel for operational reasons will have a fuel supply until it is used up. Once it’s gone there is no more.

Liquid fuels have a limited shelf life, generally not more than a year to two. Coal has an indefinite storage life but requires modern technology to produce and a modern transportation system to distribute.

Those are just a few of the immediate effects of an EMP.

They are enough to ponder for the moment.

In Part 2 I’ll address the second level effects of the primary effects described in Part 1.

The Librarian