An EMP strike has been on everyone’s mind lately. Many conversations have been about how to prepare before one occurs. That’s good. But what if you’re traveling when an EMP occurs? How are you preparing to get home after an EMP strands you far away?
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A Reader Wonders How They Would Get Home After An EMP
One of the most haunting emails I’ve received this year is from Mallory:
I recently started reading your blog (love it!) and have your EMP First 15 Steps info. I have a couple more business trips planned for the rest of 2015, and some are quite a distance from home. I wondered if you could give any advice at all on what I should prep for, gear-wise or even mentally?
The thought of an EMP happening when I am NOT at home, maybe not with my spouse and children, it scares me. I just want to be as prepared as I can be, because who knows when something like this could happen — 2 minutes from now or 2 years from now?
Once you’re aware of a power grid failure due to an EMP, cyberterrorism, or a solar event, you can’t help but share Mallory’s worries. Not to mention, readers of One Second After, become paranoid about being even a few miles from home.
What is the state of our critical infrastructure according to the government?
Frankly, when I read Ted Koppel’s book, Lights Out, it did nothing to ease my concerns. In fact, in this book, he clearly lays out how our nation’s leaders have done virtually nothing to protect our power grid from any type of attack, nor are there effective plans in place to help the millions of citizens who will be completely unprepared.
He knows because as part of his research, he interviewed those who should know, such as Janet Napolitano, Leon Panetta, and Admiral William Gortney, who spoke during a Pentagon news briefing in 2015 on the topic of power grid vulnerability.
When the Commander of NORAD says the fragility of our critical infrastructure “causes me great concern,” well, I think we’re not out-of-line to also be concerned. Especially when events like this attack on a California substation occur.
You can never get home, or can you?
One memorable example from Lights Out that might provide at least one solution for Mallory and others in her position is Craig Kephart’s plan.
Craig is an avid bicyclist and a prepper. They live in an upscale area of St. Louis and his business required that he make frequent business trips around the country. From the book:
“Craig worries that he may be trapped out of town and that all conventional forms of travel could be shut down. He always carries enough cash so that, no matter which city he’s in, he would be able to buy a bicycle, biking shoes, and whatever other equipment he would need to take him back to St. Louis.
Craig assumes that he could ride 150 to 200 miles a day. He’s thought about this a lot. “Last place I want to be is in a major metropolitan area during a time of national crisis.”
Craig’s plan might be a very effective one for him, in the case of a cyber-terrorist attack. This type of attack on our power grid would disable the grid itself. However, it wouldn’t be as devastating as an electromagnetic pulse.
Craig has realized that getting home from hundreds of miles away when the world has erupted into chaos won’t be easy. So ,he’s come up with a plan and is training for that possibility. If this should happen, there will be countless scenarios that he may not have anticipated, but at least he has a plan for getting home. Next, we’ll talk about what your plan should include.
Create Your Plan To Get Home After An EMP
You must plan how you’ll get home after an EMP attack BEFORE you travel. It’s important that you assess your particular circumstances. Don’t follow some generic list or you’ll be ill-prepared for the obstacles you’ll face. You’ll want to create a Get Home Bag that you always carry with you when traveling.
Six Variables to Consider In Your Plan
- Transportation. Planning on hoofing it home? Better start getting into super shape now and invest in an excellent pair of walking shoes/boots and multiple pairs of socks. If they’re waterproof, that’s even better. Tuck some Shoe-Goo in your emergency kit for quick repairs and for a quick waterproofing job. Also, include a small first aid kit with moleskin to protect against hot spots on your feet. Having blisters is like having a leaky tire you can’t keep the air in. If you know how to ride a motorcycle, an older one (if you can also find fuel) could be an option.
- Water. Where you are stranded at and the terrain between you and your home will determine if you’ll be able to find a plentiful supply of water on a regular basis. If you’re not sure you can, stay where you are. Water weighs 8 pounds per gallon, but something like this water straw weighs next to nothing. However, having something that allows you to filter larger quantities and carry some H20 until the next water source would be invaluable.
- Food. Can you set traps? Hunt and fish using alternative methods? Can you identify edible and medicinal wild plants? Do you know which parts are edible and which are poisonous? Do you know how to start a small fire for cooking and purifying water, and, if so, what will you use for a cooking pot? Consider a tiny, lightweight campstove, for example. These are just a few of the issues to consider.
- Shelter. Putting up a lean-to is one thing, but surviving the elements within that shelter is quite another. A small, lightweight tent in your emergency kit would be a smart idea.
- Security. You may be surrounded by people more desperate than you. More fit, more strong than you. Can you survive on your wits alone? What self-defense skills do you have?
- Weather and terrain. Those will both change as you travel. Are you ready for all possibilities? Do you know of alternate routes that might be easier or would allow you to avoid populated areas?
Learn what you absolutely must do in the first critical hours following an EMP or other massive power grid failure.
Make every second count.
My EMP Survival e-book and 4-email mini e-course show you how.
5 Ways to Increase Survival Chances
In my view, being stranded from home in a post-EMP world would leave you with few options. However, it’s not entirely hopeless. As part of my own research into EMP survival, here are a few viable options in case the worst really does happen and you are dozens, if not hundreds, of miles from home.
- Head home regardless, carrying with you the basics for survival, or whatever you can acquire. Survival novels are full of tales of determined men, making their way home to their families over hundreds of miles. This option might work if you are in good physical shape, have no health issues, and are blessed with an enormous amount of luck. It wouldn’t hurt if the terrain between you and your family has multiple supplies of water. Forget it if you have more than just a few miles of desert to traverse.
- Stay put and lay low. If you have the skills and knowledge, set up a wilderness camp and use your ingenuity and Boy Scout skills to live off the land. You’ll end up dying a pretty quick death, most likely, but this is an option.
- Stay put and try to become an indispensable part of another household or group. If you have a bank of life-saving skills, such as knowing how to grow and preserve food, medical training, or can help guard your new group of fellow survivors. When the infrastructure begins to be rebuilt, you can then begin heading home.
- Stay put and start a new life. This option isn’t necessarily pessimistic. Given the circumstances, you may have no other choice.
- Do a little bit of both. Combine stints on the road, always heading homeward, with time spent staying with a community or with a family. They might be grateful for the additional help with physical labor and whatever practical skills you possess may help get them through a difficult time until you’re able to travel again.
Whether the new awareness of a very likely event of a significant cyberterror attack on the power grid is because of a book or a weather balloon, these are potential realities we should all be considering. Sadly, our comfortable lives are built on a very shaky foundation, and the very government we pay taxes to has no plan to save them if the worst happens.
Therefore, travelers need to consider an EMP strike that can leave them stranded far away from home, making it a challenging and often difficult journey back. However, with the right planning and preparation, you can increase your chances of finding your way back to your loved ones. It’s important to have a solid understanding of your surroundings, stay alert for danger, and always have a backup plan in case things go wrong.
Remember, the road ahead may be long and difficult, but with the right mindset and resources, you can get home safely and start rebuilding your life.
Originally published November 1, 2015; updated and revised by The Survival Mom editors.