2.14.2012

EMP Apocalypse: Why Electricity Is More Important Than You Think


By on 2:16 PM

The Scenario:

So let's say you wake up one morning and after pouring yourself a bowl of your favorite cereal and turn on the television for your morning news only to discover dozens of alien spacecraft are now orbiting earth. Nothing is known about what they want or where they're from and in the midst of some “expert” detailing his theory...the television goes black.

You check the lights, try the surge protector, and eventually check your fuse box, but no dice, it's a blackout. After stubbing your feet enough you decide you need some real light and dig out your old flashlight. You flip the switch and...nothing. A quick battery change and still nothing.

Undeterred you get in your car to go buy some supplies. You turn the ignition and the car doesn't start. You try again...still nothing!

Now the panic sets in. After all, it isn't like every electronic device you own could stop working. That just can't happen.

The Terror

It can. And it's probably worse than you think.

Quick, make a mental list of everything that requires electricity. You probably remembered your computer and your television but did you remember your stove? What about your car? What about your water pump?

And that's just you. Imagine what society uses electricity to do. Water filtration plants, gas station pumps, weather tracking systems, The Internet, all of them gone.

And it's not just temporary either. It turns out EMPs don't work like in the movies and in fact can permanently disable critical electronics parts. Furthermore, while members of the sci-fi community tends to be very good at overstating problems, this is one situation where we tend to underestimate the effects. In fact, I've probably made that mistake myself, so if you think of any other problems that arise from an EMP be sure to let us know in the comments.

Who dies first?
  1. The people on airplanes.
    While smaller, older airplanes might survive(there are theories that vacuum tubes are EMP resistant), larger, more advanced commercial airliners will probably fall from the sky, killing everybody on-board and anybody they land on.

  2. People on life support in hospitals.
    While hospitals generally have a backup energy supply to protect against blackouts this does them little good against an EMP attack unless they're specifically protected.

  3. People on pacemakers.
    There are 3 million people in the world who use pacemakers and while not every pacemaker is constantly in use, it still means many people will die.
  4. Disabled people living in their homes.
    Many people who lives alone yet need some sort of assisted care probably won't last long without the ability to contact anybody.
  5. Many Children.
    Depending on what part of the day electricity fails many children might die. It's not uncommon for a child to take the bus home and arrive an hour or two before their parents. If an EMP attack occurred between the child getting home and the parent getting off work the child might be on their own for days before the parent is able to get home.

It Gets Worse

Do you live in an area protected by levies? Normally the fact that levies leak isn't a big issue. However, in a world where pumps can't keep water from flooding a city things get pretty serious pretty quickly.

Speaking of water, anybody familiar with the American Northeast Blackout of 2003 will tell you that when electricity goes down, water becomes much more scarce. This causes massive problems since water can no longer be pumped into cities, nor can it be purified. Oh, and your toilet stops working so sanitation becomes a serious issue.

How much cash is in your house? Congratulations, that's all the money you get if the computer systems go down. Banks need electricity to access their records, meaning even if the bank is open they probably won't give you any money (willingly at least). That's okay though cause money probably won't mean much after society collapses.

Survival

But let's say you're smart, healthy, don't live near any airports, own a clean source of freshwater, and have a general distrust for banks. You're set, right?

Wrong.

Food, shelter, transportation, everything gets much harder without electricity. Do you even know how to start a fire? I don't mean with matches or a lighter, I mean with flint, or by rubbing sticks together, or even with a magnifying glass. You probably think you do but it's a lot more difficult than it looks. Go ahead, go outside and start one. We'll wait.

Did you try? Did it work? Probably not.

Even if it did you still have to consider what's gonna fuel your fire. If you live in a big city or suburb then your only source of wood is probably your local park.

And how are you gonna stay warm? No electricity mean no central heat which means hypothermia if you live up north. Are you gonna bring that fire you just built inside the house? Fireplaces are becoming less common is households around the country so indoor smoke will be a serious issue. Even assuming you're smart and remember to keep the room ventilated well enough to prevent suffocation you'll have to be careful not to burn your house down.

How many rooms are there in your house? Are you gonna keep all your rooms warm? If so, that means more fires that you have to constantly watch to make sure nothing bad happens. It also means more fuel consumption.

Hope...Kinda

Now, I'm not saying we can't live without electricity, we've done it for millions of years and many people still do today. If all an alien attack consisted of were a couple massive EMPs millions of people would probably die, but humanity as a whole would probably survive. However, the concentration of power around the world would be significantly altered. In fact, its highly unlikely that the western world would still be composed of the powerhouses like today. After all there are two key differences between the present day developed nations and many other cultures:

  1. We as a society generally don't know how to survive without electricity.This is partially because of its presence in our lives. Even flipping your circuit breaker for the day and avoiding the obvious sources doesn't remove electricity from our lives. Everything from our cars and fridges to our toilets and faucets stop working without the modern miracle of electricity.
  2. Most people live in big cities and suburbia.The problem with living in big cities is the fact that basic goods are often produced somewhere else then transported to the area of consumption. Thus, without electricity most of the goods needed to sustain life – primarily food and water – won't be accessible within the city.

Alone each of these cause some fairly serious problems. Combined we get huge swaths of people dieing from everything from hunger to dysentery (just like Oregon Trail). And don't forget, this is all without the aliens actively trying to kill us.

The good news is that this is only possible from an alien invasion or some freak solar event, right?

Haha, the U.S. has been testing EMPs since 1962 and was surprised to find them more effective than theorized. They even accidentally used an EMP on Hawaii, 900 miles away! 

That's not the sun, that's the nuke they set off as seen from Honolulu, 900 miles away.
 
(Library of Congress)

Better work on those survival skills, you just might need them.

Don't forget to leave a comment with any suggestions, ideas, or objections about the value of electricity in our lives. And tell us if you liked this post so we know what kinds of updates you want.




Rusty is the co-founder of How To Survive Alien Invasion Novels, and gets up to all kinds of shenanigans planning for any and all kinds of apocalypse when he's not busy reading, writing, or yo-yoing. Keep up with him and Rachel on Facebook and Twitter to get cool, space related news or click here to read more of his thoughts on the terror of alien invasion novels.

About Syed Faizan Ali

Faizan is a 17 year old young guy who is blessed with the art of Blogging,He love to Blog day in and day out,He is a Website Designer and a Certified Graphics Designer.

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