There are dozens of SHTF (S*** Hits The Fan) scenarios that people are preparing for. Some of them are quite silly and very unlikely, but most of them have at least some legitimacy. When getting started, ALWAYS 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 actually come to fruition.
What should I prepare for...
So, what is the worst-case scenario? If you were to ask most threat assessment experts, without a doubt it 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. The three largest nuclear nations, including the US, have amassed a nuclear arsenal that could destroy the entire earth a hundred times over.
What keeps nuclear war in check? Mutually assured destruction. In other words, if China were to fire on us, we would fire back and both countries would be completely destroyed. If an all-out nuclear war were to happen, the earth would likely be destroyed and would be mostly uninhabitable afterward. Everybody knows this and nobody wins or gains anything by doing this. In fact, everyone loses. Even if they could catch us off-guard, destroying solely our country would in essence destroy their own. China’s entire economy relies on Americans buying their exports. If our economy crashes, theirs crashes right behind us.
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 many places you could go to avoid the massive fallout. The nuclear threats we need to be concerned about are North Korea, Pakistan, and potentially Iran in the near future using a nuclear warhead as an EMP, but I’ll get into that shortly. There is, however, a realistic risk of a small dirty bomb being set off in some major city, but if you’re not near ground zero, you won’t be affected. Even if you are in the vicinity, you should be relatively capable of avoiding the fallout if you know what you are doing. A dirty bomb would be considered a localized disaster and the rest of the country would rally around the affected area(s) and come to their aid within days.
Full-Scale Nuclear War
Before I discuss the loss of the electric grid, which is the next worst-case scenario, I want to discuss some of the other SHTF (S*** Hits The Fan) scenarios. A Massive Pandemic would be third after losing the grid. I don’t mean like the recent Ebola outbreak; I mean a weaponized version of swine flu or some other deadly virus with a low R value. If a large enough outbreak were to occur, you would see society shut down pretty quickly. People would stop going to work, truckers would stop or be prevented from driving cross-country to deliver goods, police would stay home to protect their families from looters, and workers who service the electric grid wouldn’t go into work for fear of catching the disease and bringing it home to their loved ones.
The state governments might actually shut down their borders and restrict travel to prevent the spread of the disease. Suddenly there is limited food at the supermarket, gas stations start running out of fuel and rationing, and rolling blackouts could occur. Our country’s infrastructure is a finely tuned machine, and if a monkey wrench is thrown into the cogs, America could quickly grind to a halt. The positive side of this scenario is that it develops over time. If you see the writing on the wall, you may have enough time to stock up on some of the things you need before everything shuts down. You would also still have electricity (for a time at least) to receive radio and TV transmissions which the government and media will use to help quell the panic.
Other SHTF Scenarios
Just look at what these inner-city populations do when their team loses a Super Bowl or Stanley Cup. Could you imagine the same people hungry, angry, and desperate? It is likely that the government would call in the National Guard to establish Martial Law and enforce curfews to quell the riots, which will only make matters worse. This would likely give the anti-government militias the excuse they need to start their futile fight against “the man.” At the end of the day, it would be a big, scary, dangerous mess and your best bet would be to get as far away from large population centers as you could, be independent and grow your own food.
There are multiple other SHTF scenarios that people fear such as the earth’s magnetic poles reversing, massive volcanoes and earthquakes, biological/chemical warfare, and global warming/cooling/weirding or whatever term the environmentalists are calling it these days. In the end, these are all scenarios that you have no control over even if you choose to drive a Toyota Prius. If your big fear is one of these other situations, that’s fine. Just prepare for a grid down scenario and tailor your preps toward what you fear.
Now, I am not talking about a small stock market crash that is quickly papered over like in 2008. When I talk about financial collapse, I mean a total collapse in the value of the dollar. A lot of people, including the media, will point to the Great Depression and how we worked through things back then. The problem with that theory is that the American people today are fundamentally different than our great-grandparents who lived through the 1930s. Back then we had “working poor.” The poor people were mostly small farmers in rural America who were able to still provide their own food. We didn’t have the huge government-dependent, inner-city populations that we have today. Most people back then (even the city folk) knew how to grow victory gardens, preserve food, hunt, build fires, etc. Today, Americans have very little self-preservation skills, if any. When the welfare checks start shrinking or stop altogether, the poor (black, brown, and white alike) will burn the inner cities to the ground with rioting and looting.
Fourth on my list of worst-case scenarios would be a total Financial Collapse. This is the other scenario that I am pretty confident we will see in our lifetime. Both parties in Washington, DC, continue to spend more money than they have. The stock market is at an all-time high, propped up by trillions of dollars in Federal Reserve funny money given to the big banks. The unemployment and inflation numbers are falsified by dirty politicians to help hide the rot festering in the wound. In my opintion, the only reason we haven’t crashed yet is because everyone else’s economies are worse than ours and there is no other stable currency in the world to replace the Dollar. Should that happen, “batten down the hatches,” because the next collapse will make the 2008 crash look like child’s play.
So, aside from the unanticipated full-blown nuclear war, what is the most realistic worst-case scenario? Without a doubt, it is 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.
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 play pen. 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 going 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 like 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 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 in to the general population and with no help in sight, it will quickly become every man for himself. After presenting the evidence below for losing the electric grid, I am going to try and paint a picture for you of what life would be like after the grid goes dark.
Before I present the multiple scenarios of how the US could lose the electric grid, 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 HV line exiting the Nuclear Power Plant because your toaster would blow up. The high voltages exiting power plants can travel large distances to an 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 from 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. 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 could take out nearly 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.
This is the threat that I prepare for and I recommend you do as well. If you are prepared for the electric grid going down long-term, then you are prepared for most anything that comes your way. The worst part? Losing the grid is a VERY likely scenario to take place in our lifetime as I'll present below.
To Start out with I highly recommend you watch the NATGEO's report called ELECTRIC ARMAGEDON