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

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