There are dozens of SHTF scenarios that people are preparing for. Some of them can seem quite silly and very unlikely, but most of them have at least some legitimacy. So what should you be preparing for? When getting started, I always recommend my clients apply the age-old philosophy, “Prepare for the worst and hope for the best!” At the same time, balance the worst-case scenario with what is most likely to happen.
If you were to ask most threat assessment experts, the worst case scenario would be a full-scale nuclear war with Russia or China. On the flipside of this threat is the fact that it is unlikely to happen in the near future. While I know that many people who lived through the Cuban Missile Crisis may vehemently disagree with me, most experts say the possibility of that happening in today’s political climate is very slim. Besides, there isn’t much you can do to prepare for a surprise nuclear bomb being dropped on your head and there wouldn’t be very many places you could go to live and still avoid the worldwide radioactive fallout that would ensue. The next worst case scenario would be the electric grid going down for an extended period of time as a result of a massive solar flare, EMP (electromagnetic pulse) attack, or physical/cyber attack. Most Americans have never even heard of the EMP threat and almost every American assumes that electricity will magically flow into their houses without interruption forever. You can’t really blame them, that’s all they have ever known. Without the homesteading skills of the last century and no way to transport food around the country, most Americans would die within a year of losing electricity I know that some of you are planning for a massive financial collapse, major pandemic, and other SHTF scenarios. While I agree that those are very legitimate scenarios in our country’s future, the effect on everyday survival is not nearly as catastrophic as losing the electric grid. In those circumstances, you still have the ability to go shopping, use the phone, and drive your car, etc. (at least for the first couple of weeks/months). I challenge you to research how likely it is we’ll lose the electric grid in the near future. In fact, it’s amazing it hasn’t happened already. Admiral Rogers is the Commander of the US Cyber Command. You need to watch his testimony he gave to Congress a few months ago on our infrastructure’s vulnerability. I will sum up Admiral Rogers’s testimony in a few short sentences for you in the meantime… America’s critical infrastructure (including the electric grid) is completely vulnerable to attack by multiple enemy nations and groups who ALREADY have the knowledge and the ability to literally “flip the switch” on our electric grid at any time. It is his biggest fear as the Commander of US Cyber Command and he fears a traumatic attack in the very near future which will result in a massive loss of life and property….. If you have never looked into the vulnerability of America’s electric grid, I challenge you to do your own research.
So what’s the big deal with losing the electric grid?
When Americans do lose electricity for an evening, it is an irritating adventure in most households with Mom and Dad scrambling to find a flashlight so they can find the candles packed away in some dingy box in the basement. The baby is crying because she is scared of the dark. Little Suzy is trying to comfort the baby but is irritated because she was in the middle of sending an email to her BFF. Little Johnny is angry because he didn’t get a chance to save the video game he was playing. Dad curses as he stubs his toe on the bed looking for the flashlight. Eventually, things calm down and the family votes on a board game to play until the lights come back on. Three hours later, the lights mysteriously come back on and the family scatters from the kitchen table. Mom heads back to the kitchen to finish the dishes while dad plops back down in front of the college football game. Suzy and Johnny run back to their rooms and zone out on their electronic devices, while the baby plays alone in her playpen. Sadly, the board game sits unfinished on the dining room table along with the first meaningful conversation the family has had in months. Unless you live in rural Alaska, this is probably your idea of “the grid going down.” When I tell people that we could easily lose the electric grid for more than a year, their eyes typically glaze over and they nod their head thinking back to the last time the power went out at their house. They have no clue that their ENTIRE life completely revolves around electricity. Most Americans (especially kids) have never even pondered what life would be like without electricity because it’s always just been there. It’s almost unfathomable. They don’t realize the absolute death, destruction, mayhem, starvation, murder, looting, raping, and pillaging that would ensue within weeks after the grid goes down. The fact is, most American’s just can’t connect the dots from Point A to Point C because they don’t understand why this would be any different than 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, The Great Depression, etc…. “This is America! We’ll work together as we’ve always done!” That is typically true in a localized disaster when everyone’s belly is full and FEMA is mobilizing and coming to the rescue. But if the national electric grid goes down, there is no one coming to help because the rescuers, government, and military are in the same boat as you with no electricity to function. Once true starvation sets into the general population and with no help in sight, it will quickly become every man for himself. Before I try and paint a picture for you of what life would be like after the grid goes dark, you need to understand why we could lose it so easily. The electric grid in this country is very vulnerable and its Achilles heel is the HV (High Voltage) Transformer. HV transformers are essential for the grid to operate because they are what step up and step down the power into usable loads. What this means is that you can’t take your toaster oven and connect it directly to the large High Voltage (HV) power line exiting the Nuclear Power Plant because your toaster would blow up. The high voltages existing power plants typically travel large distances to another HV transformer which steps down the power into usable loads. It is then stepped down again at a distribution substation before being sent on your local power lines where it will be stepped down once more (by the smaller transformers you see on the power poles) and sent into your home at usable load. There are currently over 2,200 HV transformers across the United States. The HV transformers are massive, typically weighing between 200 and 400 tons each. They are unique to each substation and must be custom-built to spec. America’s HV transformers are made overseas and take between 6 to 18 months to build and deliver, assuming there are no back orders on the raw materials they need. The transportation logistics are also extreme with special rail cars, cranes, and trailers needed to haul the heavy load. Power lines need to be moved and each bridge they cross has to be inspected before crossing. These transportation logistics can sometimes add months onto the lead time of replacing one of these HV transformers. Imagine the logistics of moving a transformer with no police escort, no one to inspect the bridges and massive traffic jams of “out of gas” cars blocking the roads. Why is this information important? This information is important because most of the threats to the electric grid could easily take out 300+ transformers at once. A Super EMP attack would likely take out all of them. If the electric grid were taken down in the US, then the few manufacturers in the US that technically “could” produce the HV transformers wouldn’t have electricity for their factories and all the transformers would still have to come from overseas. Even if ramping up production, electricity wouldn’t be restored before 6 months at the earliest and most of the country would still be without power for more than a year. Most government and media reports acknowledge that looting and rioting would be rampant but choose to focus on the “trillions” of dollars it would cost in commerce and the cost to repair the grid. The problem with this scenario is that social order would break down within a week of losing the grid and a total societal collapse would be inevitable within a month once people really started to starve. Most experts believe between 6 and 9 out of every ten Americans would die the first year due to starvation and sickness. America as we know it wouldn’t survive six months without electricity, so who’s going to be around to fix the grid and who are they fixing it for? I predict the government would focus on getting the power restored to important cities and military bases first and most of rural America could go years before seeing power.
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