20 Things The Paranoid Dad learned from One Second After

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The Paranoid Dad will be the first to admit he’s more of an action man than a reader.  However, once he started reading One Second After, he was transfixed.  I asked him what he learned from the book, and here is his list.


  1. You cannot totally prepare for every possible disaster.  There are too many variables: weather, where you are at the time it occurs, who you are with.  You never know how those around you have prepared or how they will react —  where will they be mentally, emotionally, and physically.  Being prepared, at whatever level, just gives you better odds of survival.
  2. Eventually you will have to kill somebody.
  3. Eventually someone will find you no matter where you are.  All you can do is pick the most strategic location possible.
  4. Disease will become a part of life.
  5. You’re going to run out of bullets, eventually.
  6. If or when the government comes to help, they may not be very helpful, and you won’t be anywhere near their top priority.
  7. Any gun is better than no gun as long as you have ammo.
  8. Having an understanding of military battle tactics would be a good idea.
  9. Children need to learn how to shoot and defend themselves early on.
  10. Some medical training and knowledge would be beneficial, even if it’s just first aid.
  11. Big cities will become kill zones.
  12. Build a privy in your yard and use it for a week.  See how bad it can get!
  13. Buy an extra dose of medication whenever you can.
  14. Evil people without any fear of authority or restraint will become more evil.
  15. If you have more food than everyone else, stay on near-starvation rations so you don’t appear to be more healthy and become a target.
  16. Be one of the first ‘looters’, but pay for what you can, however you can.
  17. Having to move from one safe location to another safe location, remember you’ll be in danger the entire way.  Movement is dangerous.
  18. White collar skills will be worthless.  Blue collar skills will be more valuable.
  19. People who rarely or never do any strenuous work will be in big trouble.
  20. Survival will become a fulltime job.

Learn more about EMP (electromagnetic pulse)

44 thoughts on “20 Things The Paranoid Dad learned from One Second After”

  1. In a TEOTWAWKI like "one second after" the author did miss one tiny point. Most nuclear power reactors and the waste storage cooling pools are not emp hardened. All the pumps and computers would be down. You would have about 2 weeks before the rectors go critical and the waste storage pools dry out and burn. Still all in all, a great book!

    1. Nuclear reactors don't work like that. There are multiple failsafes on every system and everything is hardened or shielded to some extent. There are mechanical means of cooling the plant after it trips off-line. All this is required by law and is incorporated into the design before a license is granted.

      I don't know where you got your information, but it's not accurate.

      Spent fuel pools will not dry out and burn. That's part of the volume calculation. Even if they could, they're inside sealed buildings. Again, this is by design.

      When a reactor is "critical" it means that the neutron population is stable in a chain reaction. This is a good thing. I'm sitting at work looking out my window at a critical reactor right now. For a modern US-style reactor to spontaneously reach criticality is prohibited by design. There's danger from retained and decay heat, but the cooling systems are required to be sufficient to prevent catastrophic failure with multiple redundancy. You see, there's this thing called the ultimate heat sink…

    2. During an EMP scenario the nuke plants are not going to be a problem. Even with a total loss of power they can be maintained subcritical and cooled. Even with no operator action the worst case scenario (at a distance) would be plumes of short-lived gas from the reliefs lifting. No Chernobyl-like catastrophe is possible in a US plant. They're just not built the same way.

      I hate to take a shot at your post. I just don't like my career to take knocks based on bad info. I stood watch on the power plant on two nuke subs and now work in commercial power generation.

      1. There's a big discussion about this around the blogosphere, apparently. I'd like to believe we are safe, but some experts believe otherwise.

    3. You are correct in that assumption. In one life-after-humans documentary I saw, it mentioned that there are over 50 nuclear reactors east of the Mississippi River, all of which would "go nuclear" and melt down within a couple weeks (at most) following shut-off of the normal electrical grid. For a nuclear bomb, the contamination lasts a few days or a few weeks, but for a nuclear melt-down, the contamination lasts a few centuries, as in Chernobyl.

  2. You're not the only one who got a lot out of that book. I read it back to back with Alas, Babylon and was in full paranoia mode for a few days.

    It's definitely on the "must read annually" list, along with Alas, Babylon, Atlas Shrugged, and FM 21-76 "Survival."

    Just thinking about the places OSA took me has me queasy inside. It's the right response to have, but not pleasant at all.

    1. It's definitely not a book to read before you go on a vacation. You start realizing that wherever you are is where you would be stuck, maybe forever. Scary thoughts.

  3. Not sure I'd agree with white collar skills being useful. Medical training, for example, would be quite useful in a SHTF scenario.

    1. Medical training is a biggie. I think Paranoid Dad was thinking along the lines of construction workers, linemen, people who have the skills to begin putting civilization back together again. An insurance agent isn't going to make the cut!

    2. Engineering skills – civil, mechanical, electrical – will also be valuable. Obviously, in this scenario, we'll be back to using hardcover references and slide rules (of which I have two – one in my GOD Bag, and one in my home office).

  4. I also plan on getting big bags of dog food (if possible) at the last minute, even though we don't have dogs yet. Barter, future dog, helping our neighbors – it definitely sounds like it could be A Good Thing, even without a dog.

    1. A couple of years ago our family watched a new version of "Little House on the Prairie." In one scene the Ingalls family comes upon a stranded couple, and Pa remarks, "They don't even have a dog." Dogs require food and health care, but I think they could be a vital part of a family's survival. And not just for a nice meal, either!

  5. That was the scariest book. With a current population of 300 million, suddenly turning the clock back 150 years (1850 U.S. population: 23 million) is a prospect horrific beyond imagination. We couldn't even feed ourselves, let alone the nations we now export food to.

    Groceries would be permanently emptied within hours. There would be an exodus from the cities to a countryside that can't sustain them and couldn't fend off the hordes (a DC resident, I'd be among the horde). Civilization would crumble within weeks — two or three.

    Calling Dr. Kevorkian….

    1. IF you're fleeing, here's something to think about: DC would prohibit even thinking about firearms if they could find a way – only criminals and those who require guns for their job (police, military) have them. MD doesn't like firearms. You can get them, but they aren't terribly common. VA, on the other hand, just might consider owning one a requirement for residence if they weren't so darn expensive. JOKING, really, but it is a VERY gun-friendly state (thus the presence of the NRA hq there), with lots of hunters, so it's much more heavily armed. You also have to get across the Potomac to get into VA from DC. Just some more things to ponder when you make your plans.

      1. Well, I think we know how bureaucrats and government thinks when it comes to firearms and disasters. That kooky Governor in North Carolina who proclaimed that guns were illegal if taken outside the house during the aftermath of Hurricane Earl is a bit touched in the head, if I may say so.

    2. The government did a study where they estimated that 90% of the US population would die within 12 months of an EMP event. That would put us back into the 30 million range. The question then becomes, who are the survivors? If it's like The Road where only the sociopaths survive, that's hardly a society worth living in. A society where only the psychos breed, and breed only psychos, would quickly descend into permanent warfare, and within 20 years only a handful of the craziest crazies would still be around. A society made up of the most bloodthirsty (literally!) and insane individuals one can imagine would be tremendously unstable. Not even feudalism would work, since the crazies don't care about agreements. I think that's what would ultimately happen-the only people still left after a few years would be those willing to do ANYTHING to survive, including eating human flesh and killing trusted allies. Such a society wouldn't even be worthy of chimps, it would not even really be a society.

    3. Well, here in the Southwest, it's not much better. The Phoenix area has one main highway north and south and another going east/west. Imagine 1.5 million people all trying to leave at once! During the summer, it would be a dead zone, literally.

  6. We're a good way from major population centers, say 60+ miles to the nearest with a few towns in between. That ought to limit the numbers that make it to us–at first. Then the caravans of refugees will show up and they will pick us clean to the bone. Our town isn't a major target and once the electricity is down the meat packing plant will stink things up pretty quickly, so maybe we'll dodge the worst.

    If, and I mean IF our town pulls together there's enough arable land to feed us all locally. But what if we miss the planting season? What if there's already corn in the ground and it's been sprayed with Roundup? Nothing else is going to grow in that field for a while and that corn isn't growing without the fertilizer and the sprayers to lay it out. Maybe we'd be ok with the folks growing milo (sorghum) if they'd be able to bring it in, and there's a glut of old tractors that'd still run, but even the best case scenario looks damn bleak.

    1. One Second After can really do a number on your head, along with Patriots. It's impossible to say if a complete collapse lies ahead or a slow, grinding descent of the United States. The latter is actually the saddest, to me. All any of us can do is make the best decisions possible right now and prepare as best we can, for the sake of our kids and grandkids.

    2. IF it happens, you might want to e right there at that meat packing plant with plans for a big smokehouse and / or salting so you can preserve that meat for as long as possible.

      1. Maybe, but the looting and lunacy would likely be just getting started. Maybe if the town did it together we'd be ok. The stuff in deep freeze should be good for a while.

        Good call.

          1. They're not the sort that would, mostly the inner-city and south of the border types.

            A better bet would be the canned pet food plants. Most folks wouldn't touch that stuff and it ought to be safe to eat.

    3. Roundup is a post emergent herbicide, it doesn't sterilize the soil. So your corn would be weed free, at least for a while.

  7. Pool shock + acetone = chloroform. I looked it up after reading the book (and yes, that's a bit simplified). (The doc comments that he wishes someone had it / knew how to make it.) That's not the only use pool shock has, so I'll be trying to get neighborhood pool owners to NOT use theirs so it can be used for other longer-term-important uses.

    I've also started putting things in EMP-resistant containers. I have a gallon paint bucket with walkie-talkies, a solar headlamp w/charger, and one or two other things. I have another small metal tin with a currently-unused iPod and plan on using other metal holiday tins to store more mostly-unused things. We have parts to build a computer. They're old, but I'm going to store a bunch of them so we can build one if needed. Clearly, it won't be up for regular use or internet surfing, but the computing power and ability to read data from cds could be priceless.

    1. Hmmmm…the mad scientist in me likes pool shock + acetone = chloroform…. LOL Surely that information might come in handy someday!

    1. Wow, I guess this type of scenario is on a lot of minds. I think we need to put pressure on our Senators and Congress people to make our power grid as safe from the effects of an EMP as possible. Apparently, it's not even on the radar of most of the people we send to Washington. Considering the fact that it's a very real threat, they should be making it a top priority, but they aren't.

  8. Wow, the one that stands out the most to me is #17. If I have to hoof it 120 miles to my Bug Out Location, movement is bad? I may have to move at night. I didn't think about daytime vs. nightfall movement…

  9. I am constantly hearing about population numbers and how an area will not support these numbers. Shops will empty and this and that will not be available. I don't know what it is like where you are, but here the apathy is sky high. By the time the average person in the nearest city to me has worked out what is happening, I will have emptied the shelves myself and be long gone. Most people will not survive out bush, they will in fact not even attempt to. Chaos will reign in towns and cities, but out in the country we will be mostly alone.
    Yes soooner or later some may try to find food etc out of town, but these are not country people, and they are not trained. I do not think there will be too many problems, but yes we are ready just in case.

  10. Disease is a part of life. So is death. I have been a nurse for 20 years, let me assure you that disease is with us. In this country we are not accustomed to seeing it. People go to the doctor and the hospital and either get better or dont. But they are sheltered away from the rest of us. In other parts of the world that is not the case. But in a crisis situation things have to be kept clean. When prepping dont forget bleach, hydrogen peroxide (has fallen from favor but I still swear by it) and lime (to cover icky things).

  11. This was so compelling! I kept trying to get on with my stuff and couldn't stop going back to read a few more of the list.

    I love #2 – you will eventually have to kill somebody.

    Even in the big city of Houston, we'll probably stay here. Of course, I haven't read the book. Maybe after I read it, I'll sing a different tune.

    We have over 30 firearms in the gun safe, though, and about 100 cans of spam so staying is indeed an option.

  12. I read Alas Babylon ages ago and still have my tattered copy. Lucifer's Hammer is another 'what if this happens' scenario if you can find it elt2jv. It is descriptive about cannibalism in the roving gangs. Decades ago, these were 'just novels'. Today, I feel they're instruction manuals.
    Physical hard work has kept husband and myself lean and much stronger than we look. (Try lifting 50# frozen tarps onto a semi all winter and ladies, vacuuming does wonders for those abs) And we're older too, 55 yrs, which, I think, helps to make us more mature in our thinking, plus, we don't have young children to look after.
    After all of my prepping, I would have no bones about protecting my stash best I could at home or on the road.

  13. re. #12: get “the Humanure Handbook” by Joseph Jenkins before you start. This will make it much safer and odorless if done as he recommends.

  14. You might consider CANNED dog food, as the bagged kibble will, after some time, turn rancid, and not be edible (or trade-able). Also the cans are harder for animals to get into (ie. mice/rats. Bears, well not so much!) Don’t forget a can opener. I wonder what the price (barter etc.) of a good dog will be? Or the availabillity? We currently have 5. I try to buy canned dog food each shopping trip, just to store up. My husband says we can eat the dog food, it need be!!.
    I think also it may be hard to know when the “last minute” is!
    I like your ideas for emp proof containers- I need to check that out- “Faraday Cages” are whats safe. I need to see if your ideas (paint cans, etc) are truely emp proof. Boy, if so, you got a great idea! I read if you put your cell phone in a microwave, call it, and it doesn’t answer, it is safe from emp, that is the microwave in impenatrable.

    1. I recently read that humans CAN NOT eat dog food, as it has an ingredient that we CAN NOT digest. It will shred your insides and you will slowly bleed to death internally. I believe it’s bone-meal.

  15. I got a popcorn tin at the thrift store and that is what I am using for my faraday container. I put my kindle and other things in plastic bags so they won’t touch the metal sides. On a different blog it said the way to test is put a cell phone in a plastic bag then inside the metal container. Then have someone call it. If it doesn’t ring the container will work.

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