My personal EMP survival preparation challenge

Having just celebrated July the 4th, our national day of independence, it brought to mind just how utterly dependent we Americans have become on a society of systems precariously held together unfortunately by a mostly vulnerable infrastructure.

William Forstchen wrote a compelling novel titled “One Second After” about the unexpected and complete devastation caused by a small nuclear weapon that was detonated miles above the United States. The resulting Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP) blankets much of the country and literally “fries” all unprotected micro-electronics and semiconductors which are built into our cars, trucks, aircraft, mobile phones, computers, internet, generators, transformers, televisions, radios and all electric generation and transmission capability.

In the book every major component of that ubiquitous electrical and electronic infrastructure we depend on in the United States simply stops working: transportation, power generation, raising and transporting food, purifying and providing water, lighting, sanitation and any kind of equipment needed for refrigeration and medical support.

American cities, hospitals, stores, factories, airports, power plants, railroads, subways, and seaports all cease to function. The military, government, fire protection, emergency medical services and law enforcement are similarly disabled so there are no responders to come to the rescue.

More than 80 percent of American’s die in the story because they lack clean water and enough food. Those stricken first will be millions of elderly, sick, disabled, disease sufferers, and patients whose lives depend on climate controlled facilities, life saving medicines, and medical devices and services.

While the book is a work of fiction, the author accurately describes the very real immediate and long term effects of an EMP attack on the U.S. The devastation we are anticipating has been calculated and studied for decades, and is well understood by the federal government.

The intent of this article is to help promote awareness about the threat and to help others to understand the immediate and long term impacts of trying to live through an EMP disaster: going without many of the “necessities” such as running water, TV, phones, radio, electric lights, air conditioning, refrigeration, computers, internet, or traveling in powered vehicles. Think of it as returning to rural American society about 100 years ago.

This summer I’m challenging myself to survive at home unassisted for five days as if an EMP device had exploded 150 miles above the U.S.

The idea would seem to suggest enjoying a week of backpacking or camping. However, the intent of this “challenge” is to practice various practical aspects of short-notice survival: an opportunity to use up any “soon-to-expire” food in my personal survival kit, pantry, or car emergency kit; living for days under simulated stress (mental and physical); taking a closer look at home defense against roaming bands of looters; practicing “short-notice” home survival (as if I was away from home visiting friends or family); and, discovering “work arounds” and trying some innovative solutions that might apply to other survival situations.

In the military we say, “Train as you fight!” So, here are my basic rules to make the challenge as close to a real scenario as possible:

• Use no household electric current, natural gas, running water or generator power.

• Use only flashlights, lanterns and candles already available at home.

• Use camp stove, grill, or campfire (well away from the house) to boil water and cook.

• Walk or ride a bike. Take no motorized transportation.

• Limit food to 1,200 calories per day (simulated food shortage) using foods normally found at home. Do not use my actual emergency food supplies.

• Use nothing from the freezer or refrigerator.

• Use only whatever drink is normally on hand at home. Use no tap water. Collect water as needed from local streams or collect rain water in a basin of sheet plastic.

This survival “forcing function” will also provide two very important benefits: 1. Physical exercise from the labor required for every survival task, and 2. Revealing (with very little risk) how well the average person might survive on just what they have at home.

Later this summer I’ll post my “lessons learned” at In the meantime you can learn more about wilderness survival and primitive skills being offered this summer at