Prepping for Emergencies


Mike Dwyer

Mike Dwyer is a former writer and contributor at Ordinary Times.

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145 Responses

  1. Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

    Entertainingly, I’m nowhere on your scale.

    I find that hugely comforting.Report

    • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

      “Actually prepared” -> we will maintain an adequate supply of food and water for the family and pets and two additional adult persons for two weeks, have temporary shelter to erect to house said family and pets and two additional adult persons, possess adequate first aid training to provide basic care and support for minor to major non-life-threatening injuries for those two weeks, have the training and supplies ready-at-hand or distributed among willing team members to construct an evacuation center within near walking distance of our neighborhood because first responders will be unlikely to be available in the event of a large scale event, have communications training and equipment to contact the outside world without the use of telephones or the Internet or smoke signals, know how to suppress minor fires and evacuate a building, perform basic triage, have outside-the-local-area contacts who can process our financials so that our bills continue to get paid in the event we’re off-grid for weeks, and generally keep us and our neighbors from getting freaking cholera!”

      I still need the Ham radio bit.  Been busy.Report

  2. Avatar greginak says:

    Good…but  thinking “far left” types trust the gov, that is a swing and miss.Report

    • Avatar Liberty60 says:

      My thoughts also, since mine are more on the lines of “I trust that me and my neighbors can peacefully cooperate and share resources, after a few bars of Kumbaya.”

      But overall, I was expecting more howls of outrage from the Far Righty bitter clingers.Report

    • Avatar Chris says:

      If the internet has taught me anything, it’s that American conservatives think “far left” is precisely the same thing as “statist.” This, I assume, comes from the emphasis on communism during the Cold War (and Soviet Communism in particular).Report

  3. Avatar Christopher Carr says:

    ”A cornerstone of our emergency plan is not planning for indefinite solitude but to expect rescue in no more than 5 days. This decision came from both space and financial considerations. It’s also an acknowledgement that we sort of trust Uncle Sam.”

    Speaking from experience, “trusting” the government is not the operative issue. Despite the sexiness of beating up on FEMA, most disaster management is handled (well) locally at facilities with clean water and generators. That being said, I’d advise to GTFO as soon as possible. Gas is the the first thing to get run on, so get yourself enough approved gasoline containers to get to Chicago as soon as any disaster happens. Stock up on bottled water as soon as the ground stops shaking or there’s a lull in the firerain or you’ve killed enough zombies to make a run for it. Third, have a good map or set of maps. Geography matters. Then there’s the obvious things like first aid.

    My second general skein of advice is to keep your stockpiling as private as possible, especially where your kids friends are concerned. My friend’s parents kept a mini-supply of canned goods in their basement throughout the nineties and the Y2K jokes still haven’t stopped. You don’t want your kids to have to deal with any 2012-related ridicule.

    I thoroughly enjoyed your characterization of various ideological views on prepping for emergencies.Report

    • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

      Oh and get yourself an iPhone, and don’t underestimate the importance of maintaining stress levels.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

      Yeah, I was thinking when reading Dave’s post that you would know better than anyone the importance of all of this.Report

      • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

        I wrote this article shortly after getting back to the U.S. if you’re interested in my slightly-more-comprehensive take. I’d also spent the months September through November 2011 working on an hour-long PowerPoint presentation about my experiences and subsequent recommendations to “NDA-bound-to-secrecy” Government Disaster Management Team which unfortunately fell through when something like this mysteriously and suddenly happened, so now I basically have this whole hour-long PowerPoint presentation on the subject that remains ungiven.Report

    • Avatar Kolohe says:

      “My second general skein of advice is to keep your stockpiling as private as possible”

      And if the worst case does occur, being discrete is probably your ally.Report

  4. Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

    Guess I’m a moderate righty.Report

  5. Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

    Hey, Mike…

    Would you be interested in a app that tracked your food and supplies for you, and notified you say 6 months before everything expired, and generated a donation list for you to have your local church sign off on for tax purposes, and generally made “keeping track of this stuff” not a pain in the ass?Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

      Patrick – I would indeed be interested in an app like that. Alas, no smartphones at our house until we re-up in April.Report

      • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

        How about just a webapp?

        The smart phone front-end could be tied in later.Report

        • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

          A webapp would be good. I suspect there’s plenty of software already out there. My wife relies on the clipboard method. She’s even more Type-A than me and the idea of conducting a PI of our food every six months actually makes her smile.Report

  6. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    The Amish around here have been off the grid for a few centuries now.  Their proscriptions on being connected to the electrical grid don’t prohibit them from generating Amish Electricity with diesel motors.  They’ll make telephone calls for business, from someone else’s phone.   Lots of us give them rides here and there.   They’re intensely interested in how the rest of the world is doing things.

    Talking to the guy who made my oak table, he says their unwillingness to modernize in certain respects is mostly to keep their own sense of community intact.   More than a hoard of food and ammunition, we would need our neighbors more than anything else if the Doo Doo hit the Whirling Blades of Fate.Report

    • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

      More than a hoard of food and ammunition, we would need our neighbors more than anything else if the Doo Doo hit the Whirling Blades of Fate.

      Mostly this.Report

      • Avatar James Hare says:

        Yup, and having a huge stockpile of food for “you and yours” and none for everyone else doesn’t exactly foster neighborliness.  If it’s not just for you, it ain’t going to last long.  Considering the human race has made it so far without this kind of ridiculous planning, anything along those lines is just trying to prove yourself smarter than everyone else.  If it ever comes to be, your house will probably be the first place people willing to do violence show up.Report

        • Avatar Pat Cahalan says:

          Considering the human race has made it so far without this kind of ridiculous planning

          What Mike is describing here is the bare minimum of disaster prep recommended by the American Red Cross, CERT, the USGS, FEMA, and most international disaster first response organizations.Report

        • Avatar sonmi451 says:

          Oh for god’s sake, he’s talking about 5 days worth of food, hardly stockpiling. I bet most people with kids have food sitting around in their fridge and food cupboard right now that could last them 5 days. And when you have children, planning is always necessary.Report

        • Avatar Scott says:


          “Considering the human race has made it so far without this kind of ridiculous planning, anything along those lines is just trying to prove yourself smarter than everyone else.”

          Really?  Why do you think folks canned food, etc., b/c you couldn’t always go out to the store and buy food.  Planning was the only way to stay alive but now folks don’t even think about it since they assume that they will always be able to go out and grab a burger.  I’m sure some of the folks left in New Orleans after Katrina wished they had planned a little bit more.Report

        • Avatar Kim says:

          Mr. Hare, I would like to suggest you take a short trip to Argentina, where they would be glad to enlighten you on exactly how much of the human race “has made it so far without this kind of ridiculous planning.”

          Many lives lost, many people dead.

          Also, sir, I take it you are unfamiliar with Walmart? Perhaps you ought to familiarize yourself with Just In Time.

          (If it’s not for you, it’s not going to last long: 50 lb. sack of flour lasts for at least 50 loaves of bread, each of which is enough food to feed two people for a day (more if there’s butter/fat/bacon). So, that’s what, feeding ten people for ten days? I’d say that’s a pretty decent amount of food. And I tend to buy flour in 50lb bags. Sugar too. And 20lb. bags of rice. Plus my 15 lbs of cornmeal in the house. I may not be able to feed the neighborhood, but I could at least feed my block. And that’s just the silly drygoods!).

          Yes, sir, and that’s why you get a good set of friends, and have a few fireworks for company.Report

  7. Avatar North says:

    Minnesota here and Nova Scotia before. The worst the environs can sling in this charming state is a snow storm or a tornado so I don’t fret very much. Well I suppose there’s the supervolcanoe in Yellowstone but hell, if that puppy pops I’d be dead of asphyxiation before I started worrying about food.Report

  8. Avatar James Hanley says:

    Heh, I actually have the land in B.F. Montana (oddly, bought when I was still best classified as a lefty); but it’s not yet prepped for survivalism.  Hope I don’t get my real-true-libertarian identity card yanked.Report

  9. Avatar Laura says:

    If it helps relieve your mind about all those dates on cans, they are extremely conservative.  As long as the food is not exposed to temperature extremes, you can safely eat it for quite a while after the date.

    You may want to check out and a posting we did a while back

    Despite our blog entirely on the topic of preparedness, we don’t fit on your scale either.  We live “regular” lives (probably like yours), but we are very focused on not becoming victims of anything if we can possibly help it.  Interesting stereotypes, though.Report

  10. Avatar Will Truman says:

    “I’m already off the grid in BF, Montana. I live emergency prep every day bitches.”

    I still haven’t forgiven the Free State Project’s choosing of New Hampshire as a landing ground over Wyoming and Montana.Report

  11. Avatar Lyle says:

    Actually the disasters one needs to worry about are regional ones, which IMHO rules out the Tornado. If you consider both Joplin and Alabama last year, help was there within several hours, as a tornado cuts at most a one mile wide swath thru a town.  So shelters and the like will be set up and likley within a day or so food will come in. Now an earthquake or a hurricane are different beasts as they cause regional damage, and destroy regional support infrastructure. In a sense a blizzard applies also, but a generator and a good fuel supply take care of most of this.

    For a tornado, the big thing is having critical documents in good places.Report

    • Avatar James Hare says:

      Name one earthquake or hurricane that led to a situation where the sort of planning described above was necessary.  How many folks died in Japan from starvation after the 9.0 earthquake and tsunami?

      It’s hoping for doomsday, and it’s sick.  This kind of thing should be discouraged.Report

      • Avatar Pat Cahalan says:

        Name one earthquake or hurricane that led to a situation where the sort of planning described above was necessary.


        How many folks died in Japan from starvation after the 9.0 earthquake and tsunami?

        Not a good analogy.  If you like, I can print out a couple thousand pages of disaster response literature (citations, from reputable journals and everything!) and mail it to you.

        It’s hoping for doomsday, and it’s sick.  This kind of thing should be discouraged.

        You either don’t live in Southern California, or you don’t stay current with geological research, or you’re frighteningly uninformed.

        Read this.  Particularly this and this.

        Overall the rupture will produce more than 100 seconds of shaking throughout southern California. As shown in the large ShakeMap at left, shaking will be strong along the fault but also further away where soil type, thickness of sediments, and other factors amplify earthquake shaking. In some areas, the ground will shift violently back and forth, moving nearly 2 meters 6 feet) in each second- shoving houses off foundations, sending unsecured furniture and objects flying.

        The overall shaking in this earthquake will be more than 50 times the shaking produced by the Northridge earthquake (see zoomed-in map). In addition, large earthquakes create earthquake waves that are never created by smaller earthquakes like Northridge. These long period waves can cause damage very far from the fault, and are especially damaging to tall buildings or certain infrastructure.

        If a major earthquake hits the southern reach of the San Andreas fault (and such an earthquake is geologically speaking very overdue), Southern California is going to have real problems.  Such is about 95% likely to occur in the next 30 years.  I am, at the moment, planning on living that long, so I’m very likely to have to live through it.

        If said earthquake is in the 235% percentile of likelihood, you’re looking at widespread disaster that would make Katrina look like a picnic.  All the major waterways and roadways and highways and rail lines into and out of the Los Angeles basin are destroyed.Report

        • Avatar Michelle says:

          Thank you for giving me yet another reason to be happy we left L.A.

          We sometimes discussed what we’d do should the big one hit while we were living there, given the likelihood that any escape route would be cut off (unless you wanted to hike out) and that criminal mayhem would ensue. My husband, being Russian, is expert at laying out worst case scenarios. He thought we should stockpile food and water (not easy when you have three people living in a small, over-priced space in Santa Monica), but that our best bet for survival would be an AK-47, plenty of ammo, and a willingness to loot the Whole Foods located across the back alley from us.Report

          • Avatar Kim says:

            Yeah, he’s right about the looting. But your best bet is to have enough friends to keep you safe while you sleep, and a decent hideout already thought of.

            Gun’s are mostly for bluffing, anyhow. Just enough to make people stop and think.Report

            • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

              If you are thinking of using a gun to bluff, you shouldn’t be owning a gun.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                I’d go one step farther on this one: if you haven’t ever actually shot at someone with the intent to kill them, you ought to be very careful you’re not bluffing yourself about your ability to do so… because you’re very likely doing so and this leads to very bad outcomes.

                And if you’re not willing to shoot at someone with the intent to kill them, you should never touch a firearm outside the range.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Take it from someone who’s had to do it.   Don’t threaten anyone with a weapon and leave him alive.   Don’t even threaten him.   Just shoot him.  Twice.   Once to knock him down, the second to ensure he never gets up again.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Furthermore, don’t let anyone you have to shoot get within ten feet of you.  He’ll grab your weapon.  And for god’s sake, don’t shoot anyone at point blank range.   It’s messier than you can possibly imagine.Report

          • Avatar Lyle says:

            I suspect that the feds would make use of the supply of marines at Camp Pendelton  to patrol, at least until the airborne units could get there. Using some of their equipment they could buldoze the downed intersections to get the freeways open for emergency traffic in a couple of days. Likely one would want to get I 5 open first, doing on a larger scale what was done in both 1971 and the northridge events. Then concentrate on getting the railroads thru Cajon Pass and then I 15. (these would be routes for emergency use only for a while).  You might also use Fort Irwin and the 29 Palms MCB as staging areas.Report

            • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

              If an earthquake like that modeled in the Great ShakeOut occurs, the I-15 will pretty much cease to exist in its current form, as will the main train line through the pass.

              You’re talking about 20+ feet of ground movement at the fault, and the highway and the rail both cross over-and-back the fault a few times between the 10 freeway and the top of the pass.  Forget the bridges that would need to be rebuilt, you’d have to stitch the freeway itself back together again – it would be much, much harder than the 10 freeway reconstruction after Northridge.

              Now, most of the Port of Los Angeles is well prepped to deal with heavy-duty earth movement, and it is away from the fault, but go watch the earth modeling here:


              All of the central Los Angeles basin is sitting on top of dirt, really… a few thousand years of sedimentary run-off from the mountains.  This part of L.A. will be a giant mess.

              More here:


              More vid info here, too:


              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                you’d have to stitch the freeway itself back together again

                Other than the bridges, that could be done to rudimentary standards reasonably quickly.  Just bulldoze the s**t out of everything and dump tons of gravel on it.   It’s not a long-term fix, but at that point we’re not talking about a long term fix; we just want to get trucks moving across it.

                Forget the bridges; we’ll be doing grade-level crossings for a year or two.

                The rail lines, though…yeah, that’d take a while.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Other than the bridges, that could be done to rudimentary standards reasonably quickly.

                Close your eyes, Jimmy me boyo, and put yourself behind the wheel of your car, and imagine the stretch of the 15 between when you pull onto it at the 10… when you’re all hyped up to go to Vegas… and when you get to the summit.

                Remember how many stretches of that drive have a hillside on one side of the road and a dropoff on the other?

                “Just bulldozing it” would work if it was flat.  It ain’t.  And stitching together two chunks of road with a 20′ gap in the middle and a dropoff on one side and a hillside on the other takes a crazy amount of workarounding, you basically need to blow off enough of the mountainside that you have a real foundation under where you’re going to lay the road.

                Getting trucks across that pass is going to be well-nigh impossible for a long time.  The 5 north and the 10 east will be fixed well before the 15 is passable.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Well, I’ve only done that stretch a couple times.  I may not be remembering the grade correctly.Report

        • Avatar James Hanley says:

          It’s hoping for doomsday, and it’s sick.

          You … don’t live in Southern California,

          Ditto this.  I lived about 15 miles from the epicenter of the Northridge quake.  Since I had that day off anyway, I went with my wife to the grocery store where she worked to help them clean up.  The lines of people coming in for supplies forced the store to strictly ration what each person could buy (and it was all on a cash basis, with the electrical grid down, so keeping some cash on hand is useful, too–no, I’m not arguing for hoarding gold).  Had those people been prepared, everything would have gone more smoothly, including not having so many cars on the road right after a disaster.

          No, we weren’t prepared, either, so, yes, we were a part of the problem (but if you don’t prepare, the next best thing is to be employed at a grocery store within walking distance of your house!) .Report

          • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

            (but if you don’t prepare, the next best thing is to be employed at a grocery store within walking distance of your house!) .

            This is actually a pretty damn fine preparation step.Report

          • Avatar Liberty60 says:

            I was living in Calabasas at the time, about 7 miles away. My memory is that it took a day or so for the water and electricity to return, and the stores reopened before we had to worry about it.

            And again, all our neighbors were overwhelmingly supportive and friendly.

            Don’t think I shot more than one or two.Report

            • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

              The duration of the primary shaking at Northridge was…

              … tell you what, rather than tell you, I’ll let you try to remember and then look it up.  You’ll probably be surprised at the answer, most people are.  For comparison, look up Loma Prieta while you’re at it.

              The Shake-Out scenario lasts about 100 seconds of primary shaking.  Remember how long you think Northridge was.  Now look at the wikipedia site that tells you how long it really was.  Then figure how long you’ll think the Big One lasts when it actually lasts 100 seconds.

              I expect neighbors to be supportive and friendly (the ones that aren’t injured or shocked), not violent.  But the Big One is nothing like what Northridge was like.

              Nothing.  It is beyond the comprehension of most Californians.  Their expectations of what constitutes a “big earthquake” are very, very off base.Report

      • Avatar Murali says:

        It’s hoping for doomsday, and it’s sick.  This kind of thing should be discouraged.

        Its not hoping for doomsday. The most we can criticise it for is wasting food. I’m willing to bet that most of the stockpiled food will expire. (Not unless you rotate. i.e. you replace the stockpiled food and consume it before it expires) There is a bit of deadweight loss, but it is not clear that stock[iling 5 days of canned food is particularly the kind of thing which could be seen as morally problematic in any way.

        What you should have is a first aid kit, a medicine cabinet, face shields and if possible an AED.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


        As people have pointed out, often the best option in a serious natural disaster is to travel to a safer location. Then imagine being stuck in traffic jams lasting 3-4 days (completely possible in a large-scale event like an earthquake). Five days worth of food seems pretty prudent at that point.Report

        • Avatar Kim says:

          Five days of food and giardia? no fucking way.

          (People, water’s far far more important than food.)Report

          • Avatar James Hanley says:

            Any camping supply store will sell backpacker’s water filters.  It’s a good thing to have on hand, since all kinds of things can disrupt the supply of clean water, including spring floods.

            Funny that James thinks preparing for the worst = hoping for the worst. I keep a spare tire and a jack in my car, but I sure as hell ain’t hoping I get a flat tire!Report

            • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

              I suspect that James is painting with a ridiculously broad brush, and is really referring to those that buy gold, go off the grid and hole up in Idaho waiting for the great bashing of teeth.Report

          • Avatar Liberty60 says:

            I was a Scoutmaster for many years, and the single most important lesson I taught the boys was to double the amount of water they thought they would need, and halve the amount of food.

            You can go a few days without a single morsel of food and suffer no more than discomfort, but after a couple days without water you are in serious danger.Report

      • Avatar Liberty60 says:

        It’s hoping for doomsday, and it’s sick.  This kind of thing should be discouraged.

        A lot of survivalist planning is predicated on the End of The World scenarios as discussed in the thread on The Day After. Sort of fantasizing about the heroic aspects of holding off hordes of zombies/darkies/looters with grit and courage.

        Katrina is a particularly good example. At first the hysterical reports were of granny raping cannibals, mostly because it fit the pre-established narrative the media has about Those People, then it turned out it was just a few isolated incidents of ordinary crime.

        Living in Southern California, I have lived through several devastating brushfires, 3 serious earthquakes, and assorted floods. In every single case, the people generally pulled together and behaved honroably.

        The only riot I ever witnessed was a manmade disaster of police misconduct in 1992.Report

      • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

        The reason people didn’t die of starvation in Japan was because supermarkets rationed supplies; Japanese cities are planned specifically to minimize the damage of earthquakes – i.e. there are backup generators and alternate emergency sources of power supplies, independent, emergency supplies of fresh water, stocked non-perishables, etc.; the Japanese government quarantined entire cities between supply centers and the disaster zone so it could use the world’s most comprehensive highway system to quickly and effectively deliver essential supplies; the U.S. military, Chinese, and Russian governments especially plus many other countries delivered food and other aid by sea to the disaster zone; and finally, the population remained calm and orderly throughout the whole affair.

        In short, planning is why 20,000 people died in Japan and 300,000 died in Haiti,Report

        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

          In short, planning is why 20,000 people died in Japan and 300,000 died in Haiti.


          The international community helped in both cases.  The people needed help in both cases.

          Japan had a plan (Japan actually has the best approach to disaster awareness and preparation of anybody, really)… Haiti did not.Report

          • Avatar Liberty60 says:

            Planning made the difference in Japan,  as in the world’s most advanced and rigorously enforced building codes.

            Haiti operates on the caveat emptor building code in a much more business friendly environment.Report

            • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

              I don’t want to belittle Japan’s building codes (or California’s), because building codes are largely the reasons why major earthquakes in the first world kill hundreds and in the third world they kill hundreds of thousands.

              In the particular case of the recent earthquake in Japan, though, the building codes didn’t help much.  All the buildings were knocked over by the tsunami, not the quake 🙂Report

              • Avatar Liberty60 says:

                Very true. And all the engineering didn’t prevent the failure of the nuclear reactors.

                Every earthquake of any large magnitude brings a wholesale revision to the new building codes, as engineers learn what they thought worked, didn’t; I expect the next version will be much the same.

                A friend of mine went to Haiti to inpect damaged buildings as part of an international relief team; their big hope is that someday Haiti will actually have a code, of any sort that is enforced.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Actually, given (when they were built) and how much (beyond spec) they were exposed to, one has to give a hat tip to the nuclear reactors for failing relatively gracefully.

                The odd thing about the F-D plant failure(s) is that they are largely due to one bad engineering decision but a number of poorly thought out process decisions.  Which one can argue is part of the engineering, granted.

                Still, if Japan had a reasonable disposal facility (like Yucca Mountain was supposed to be here in the U.S.,) the total nuclear catastrophe from the earthquake would have been less than Three Mile Island, instead of worse… even with the one (very) bad engineering decision.  And TMI was entirely process-related and avoidable.Report

              • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

                Urban centers like Fukushima City, Koriyama, and downtown Sendai were affected strongly by the quake but too far inland to be affected by the tsunami. You could have easily have had hundreds of thousands of deaths without building codes. The insides of homes in Fukushima City were ravaged, roads were caved in, the water ran brown for weeks, but structurally, the vast majority of buildings survived.Report

  12. Avatar dexter says:

    “I also made the unfortunate choice of buying my wife a tent for LMother’s Day one year” hit very close to home.  My wife and I buy each other camping equipment for holidays all the time.  I am such a romantic that, instead of roses, I buy my wife rose bushes for Valentine’s Day.  I have bought her blueberry bushes and one year I bought her a chain saw for her birthday.  She has never used the saw, but she has gotten more than 20 twenty cords and lots of usable lumber from the saw.  Our redwood floors are from a tree that Andrew blew over.

    I don’t worry much about total societal breakdown and my wife is a very serious planner when it comes to our yearly bout with hurrican season.  We have generators and before the storm hits we have plenty of water, gas, ice and at least two weeks food.

    If a total breakdown happened, we would be in a better situation than most because within a mile in any direction there are at least a hundred deer, two hundred head of cattle, twenty or thirty small gardens, bee hives and enough guns to stop all but the craziest of bad situations.  Plus we have an extremely tight knit family with needed skills, hunters, electricans, air conditioning, mechanics and carpenters.  Can’t go wrong with decent rednecks.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      Ya. You live, I die. Anything truly serious hits here, and we gotta steal/hotwire a car (we’d take a few other folks, probably…). (which probably means we’re dead).Report

  13. Avatar BSK says:

    We got snowed in without power for 5 days.  We didn’t “prep” at all.  We managed.  The only reason we left when we did was because the Super Bowl was starting in a few hours, so we drove the snow-filled streets of Bethesda, MD to a friend’s house a mile away.

    I’m not on your chart either, mainly because, eh, when it’s time to go, it’s time to go.  Though, the real reason is I probably subconsciously know that the various friends and family I have within a few hours drive would probably suffice in getting me through whatever I needed to get through.  And I for them.Report

    • Avatar BSK says:

      I should also say that my favorite part about a predicted “disaster” is watching OTHERS prep, especially with those who have no idea what they’re doing.  With a blizzard approaching, people make a run on the grocery store, buying gallons of milk, dozens of eggs, loaves of milk, and pounds of flour.  Seriously, people, just how much French Toast can you eat in a week?  We’ll usually do a typical week’s shopping plus an extra 15%.  We might pick up some more stuff to munch on and a few extra canned goods.  Since the primary disaster we face in my area is a blizzard, we trust that if the power goeso ut, most of our food will be fine just stuck out in the snow.

      If society goes down?  Well, I’m fucked anyway, because I’d rather not keep a gun in my house.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Criminy. Just keep the gun buried deep in the backyard, or in a real, never opened safe.

        True Conversation: “They took my gun. They took my goddamn gun. And left a Nirvana CD in it’s place?” (and this is why you don’t bury the gun in a Public Park. someone thought they found the geocache. Who The Hell geocaches a gun?)Report

    • Avatar James Hare says:

      Snowpocalypse or Snowmageddon?

      I made it through both with no planning myself.  I even had a Subaru I didn’t drive for the most part.  I just called friends and walked to local markets.  Not so hard.Report

      • Avatar sonmi451 says:

        Do you have kids? I suspect from the way you’re so contemptous of Mr Dwyer’s planning, you probably don’t. Here’s the thing, some people have other little people that depends on them in emergency situations, and can’t afford to be “oh, I’ll just call a friend, duh” casual.Report

        • Avatar BSK says:

          I have no contempt for Mr. Dwyer.  I’m just speaking about my own personal experience which is indeed childless.

          James Hare, I don’t remember which is which.  But I’ve spent every winter of my life in either NJ, Massachusetts, NY, or DC, so I’ve been through them all.Report

          • Avatar sonmi451 says:

            Sorry, that was a reply to James Hare. The nested comment system here is confusing, once you get three or more layers deep, it”s hard to tell which comment someone is replying to. I guess I should be less lazy and mention the name of the commenter I’m responding to at the top.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        I just … walked to local markets.

        Which doesn’t work so well when you live 20 miles from town.Report

  14. Avatar David Ryan says:

    One of the things that was nice about having a passage making boat was that if she was kept in good order, it meant we had a way to get away from and stay away from any sort of major disaster (except an Azores tsunami. It would break on the continental shelf.)

    I will be happy when Mon Tiki is swimming.Report

  15. Avatar Joe says:

    Ha! Great list of stereotypical prepping types! Made me laugh out loud.

    Thanks for the link back to our blog.



  16. Avatar Stillwater says:

    I also made the unfortunate choice of buying my wife a tent for Mother’s Day one year.

    Heh. One winter when I was living in Steamboat I bought my girlfriend-at-the-time a fishing rod for her birthday.

    I spent most of the summer fishing alone.Report

  17. Avatar dhex says:

    on the downside, living in nyc means that you don’t have anywhere to store two weeks of canned peaches.

    on the upside, outside of a hurricane or two the only other disasters we deal with are of the explodey type and even that’s more rare than the hurricanes.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      NYC is called “where to die” if a disaster hits. Manhattan has 1 day of food in it. One bloody day. The rest of the city isn’t much better, if a bit easier to reach by land.

      Where I live is pretty bad, but it could be a lot worse (i could live in some poor neighborhood)Report

      • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

        Disaster scenarios for Manhattan are pretty unique.

        New York is unlike most other cities in the world.  Even big cities in other parts of the world have different exception scenarios than New York, particularly Manhattan.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        The Really Big One is going to come in St Louis, Missouri.   Forget California.  Those poor saps know what’s coming.  Ukiyo-e, the floating world, they know they’re living on a northbound barge.

        The 1811-12 earthquakes snapped the North American continent like a saltine cracker.   Huge sand blows, volcanoes of water and sand erupted from the ground, the course of the Mississippi River changed hugely, Reelfoot Lake was formed in a few hours. Kept on shaking until 1817.Report

  18. Avatar James Hare says:

    I just moved to Vermont and the extent of my disaster prep is having plenty of booze.  My coworkers went through massive flooding and whatnot last year and none of them ever needed survival gear.   It seems like most of the disasters that are likely to strike in the continental US either involve plenty of time for planning (snow storms/hurricanes and the like) or are unlikely to seriously disrupt the supply chain (earthquakes/tornadoes and other sudden events).  Failing that, I’m not as worried about food as I am potable water.  You can survive on limited food quite a bit longer than you can without potable water.

    I also question the “planner” mindset.  Is it really going to be all that wonderful to survive a catastrophe that lays waste to everyone around you who didn’t plan accordingly?  Is the “I told you so” moment really worth that much effort?   I’ve made jokes about planning for the zombie apocalypse, but I really can’t imagine feeling good about planning for a serious catastrophe for only “me and mine.”  I’m not going to pack enough for the neighbors, so am I just supposed to watch them starve to death?

    Perhaps I don’t have the proper libertarian mindset, but it seems a bit ghoulish to plan so my family will be taken care of while others starve.  I’m reminded of The Simpsons when Ned let the whole town in his shelter and went out to die on his own.  Is anyone here willing to make that sacrifice, or is “planning” another way of saying you’re more worthy of protection than others?Report

    • Avatar Scott says:


      Why is it ghoulish to plan for ones own family and expect others to do the same for theirs? Sorry but your thought process strikes me as a bit off, the I can’t help everyone so I won’t take care of mine attitude? Do you also refuse to buy any type of insurance for your family? To me there isn’t much difference between prepping and buying insurance for your life, house, car, etc.Report

      • Avatar James Hare says:

        The only insurance I pay for is car insurance and health insurance.  I actually really hate paying for car insurance because I don’t drive.  My wife owns a car and I have to have insurance because they can’t believe I live 4 miles from work and take buses when my wife can’t pick me up.  I pay for health insurance because I don’t want to make my health expenses other peoples’ business.   I don’t purchase life insurance.  I pay for renters insurance because my landlord wants me to.

        Regardless, there’s a big difference between buying insurance for my property (which would be inoperative in the disaster scenarios envisioned by this post) and setting up food storage for my family and my family only.  Insuring my property against damage except for acts of God doesn’t leave anyone starving to death at my doorstep because they didn’t plan properly.

        Planning for bad events in your own life that impact only you isn’t ghoulish.  Planning for events that lay waste to everyone around you and hoping you and yours will be okay while everyone else starves/dies of disease/whatever is.Report

        • Avatar sonmi451 says:

          “Insuring my property against damage except for acts of God doesn’t leave anyone starving to death at my doorstep because they didn’t plan properly.”

          So if Mr Dwyer doesn’t buy that 5 days worth of food to store in case of disasters, no one would be starving to death because they could have planned properly by buying that food Mr Dwyer has cruelly taken off the market? Or is your reasoning here because there will be people who don’t plan properly and end up starving, for egalitarian and equality reason, no one at all should plan, so that we all would starve in solidarity? This is talking the concept of fighting inequality too far, no?Report

        • Avatar Kim says:

          I assume everyone else leaves, actually. Why wouldn’t they? I’m the shmuck without the car. And I assume that if it’s really that bad (weeks without anything — groceries gone first), they wouldn’t mind a bit of civilized looting (food only, make sure to make the place look looted so someone else doesn’t come through to take jewels, and break as little as possible).Report

    • Avatar sonmi451 says:

      “I just moved to Vermont and the extent of my disaster prep is having plenty of booze.”

      Yup, obviously spoken by someone with no children. You might want to cut Mr Dwyer a bit of slack if he’s not as casual in his attitude about disaster planning as you, he has children who depends on him and his wife during an emergency. I mean, I’m sure it’s fine for you to be all suicidal if there’s a disaster coming (“if the world is going to be laid to waste, I might as well die too!”), but the calculation is a bit different when you have children.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:


      Fer Christ’s Sake, my survival gear is my general food supply, my general camping supplies, and my general “I use this everyday”

      I’ve had power out in my house for five days before — to the point where they were setting up shelters and news crews showed up.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      it seems a bit ghoulish to plan so my family will be taken care of while others starve

      Others will starve, so I might as well let my family starve, too…


      is “planning” another way of saying you’re more worthy of protection than others?

      No, it’s a way of saying “I’ve prepared.”  Others can prepare, too.  But when some people haven’t prepared and need help, they sure as fish aren’t going to find it from those who haven’t done any planning!  The only place they would be able to turn are to those who have prepped.

      And why are you assuming that all the preppers are selfish?  Nobody here has said, “I’m prepping for myself and won’t help anyone else.”  Jesus, what a nasty mindset you have.  I think you need to do some soulsearching, because I think you’re projecting mighty strongly here.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

      I should probably let this go, since a). I think you might be a troll, b). your assumption that we’re all libertarians assumes you’re from BJ and read the post titles and then decide for yourself what the content of a post is, and c). everyone else is piling on you.  But…

      I find two things particularly disconcerting about this comment.  The first is that you assume that the emergency that you need to be prepared for is the apocalypse.  It seems not to have occurred to you that it is far more likely to be, say, a bad freezing rain storm that cuts off power and leaves you stuck where you are for a few days.

      The second is that you assume that people who live in areas where preparation for such occurrences might be considered wise do so only so that they can say “I told you so.”

      That these are the only places you go mentally is a little disturbing.Report

  19. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    What the person above said about going with what you have.  After a normal trip to the grocery store, the typical American household has a couple weeks’ worth of food in the house.  If you’re planning for a week, you don’t need a basement full of baked beans.  Just keep a few extra cans of soup or beans on hand, some jerky & gorp, and otherwise go grocery shopping like normal, but if you’re worried about the unexpected, always go before the shelves start to get bare rather than waiting until they do.  You’ll be able to eat fresh veggies and fruits for the whole week until help arrives.

    Real keys are lots of fresh, clean water, warm blankets or thermal sleeping bags if that’s your thing, powerful flashlights, battery-operated coms including basic AM-FM or weather radio and a decent set of walkie-talkies; extra batteries for forgoing.  If you’re a gun person, then you’ll have your guns and it’ll just be like normal; if you’re not they’ll probably distract you from the business of surviving more than contribute to it (if not get a member of your family shot).  A good survival knife will in fact come in handy when surviving in isolation, though.  If you end up stuck out of doors (in which case your home survival stores will end up being for naught), or if you’re able to go out, you might be happy if you’ve stocked some firewood, kindling, and matches in the basement or a shed.  A big bag of Match-Light charcoal and a sturdy grill could make you just as happy or happier for that matter, however…

    Oh, one last thing: sure access to a couple grand in cash will probably do more to ensure your survival in any but the most remote scenarios than just about any other provisions you could possibly salt away for the unexpected.

    My two cents.  Out of curiosity, when was the last time anyone had to survive in their house for five days in the continental U.S. and was unable to do so?  Realistically, what we’re talking about here is comfort preservation, not survival per se.  In that case, who can say what anyone else needs?  Cold cans of Dinty Moore wouldn’t have much to do with it in my particular case, I can tell you that.  It would be all about having enough of my favored coffee of the moment (water, a heat source, and filters), a few days’ worth of canned herring & crackers, and plenty of good beer and brandy.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew says:

      …It occurs to me that the uber-libby craze for home vegetable canning/pickling actually dovetails with survival prep quite nicely, and likely makes for a more nutritious and delicious experience of isolation than industrial canned goods (which I have nothing against – soup out of a can augmented with fresh veggies is a basic staple of mine year-round).  Perhaps parts of the anti-industrial/anti-consumer far left, while they might not put it in such terms have it all over the center and right when it comes to certain aspects of disaster preparedness.  I’m actually rather sure they do.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        …Neo-traditionalist far-left, perhaps is the best erm for the folk I’m talking about.  And obviously, plenty folks are out there just doing the canning while not partaking in any variety of leftism.  Didn’t mean to deny that at all.  Tasty Armageddons all round!Report

      • Avatar Michelle says:

        We took up canning over the last couple of years. Living in the Seattle area, we had plenty of access to u-picks and blackberries (which grow everywhere and in abundance), as well as farmer’s markets. We have plenty of fruit preserves and pickles if the apocalypse comes.Report

  20. Avatar DBrown says:

    Don’t forget getting caught in the weathered (read snow!) in a car; water/ heavy coat/gloves/hat are bare mins (A small shovel might be useful, too.) Also, a way to quickly inflate a tire so changing is not needed is something EVERYONE should always have (so getting hit is less likely when pulled over.) People, first plan for those things that occur more often (loss of power for a few days, flat tire or broke down on the side of the road (phone in car.)) Then worry about enough ammo so when your friends/family members or a pack of wolves come to kill you for your food, you are ready… .

    Come on, have enough ammo? Really? A little far out there, aren’t you? Guns/ammo for an emergency kit – that is really pointless advice (I have no issue with owning them but needing one or even more for an emergency, that is just pointless – sorry but that just is really not good advice – just paranoia on your part.)Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      Don’t forget the sand or kitty litter in the car.Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

      What I keep in my car is fodder for a whole other post. I’m actually a lot more serious about that type of prep. Getting stranded somewhere is a far more liekly scenario.

      Looting happens in natural disasters all of the time. I don’t stockpile ammo. I just keep a healthy supply for hunting and if we ever need it for self-defense it will be good to have.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        If you don’t have enough friends to watch your back, and enough space to police your shit (trans: not live in the city), the guns won’t do you much good. Sniping is a lot easier than “self-defense” with a gun. Now, knowing how to build good bunker defenses… 😉

        [also: what happens when they loot the local Armory?]Report

        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

          Violence during disaster scenarios is actually a very well-fleshed out area of study.  Turns out, it doesn’t really happen all that much.  Usually people band together after large-scale events.

          Mob behaviors are pretty rare.  Even when mob behaviors occur, mobs are funny things.  It only took a couple of guys on the roof of their store with rifles in Koreatown during the King riots to make groups of rioting people go across the street.

          Generally speaking, for a mob to seek out and engage in directed violence with armed opponents, those armed opponents have to be the police and the mob has to be rioting because of pretty severe political oppression, enforced by the police.  Otherwise a single dude with a double-barreled shotgun and only two rounds can make 50 people go elsewhere.Report

          • Avatar Kim says:

            *nods* mobs aren’t gangs. Mobs go to the easy targets, because it takes actual talent to direct a mob (and nobody’s gonna have men in place for that, after a Natural disaster).

            Gangs do too, but their valuations are different. If you have a lot of guns or goodies, you may be on their hit list. A gang’s likely to get some experience, and be able to pick you off.

            People banding together Sounds Like a good thing, doesn’t it? Sometimes it’s the good people banding together, sometimes it’s the bad. The loners, the rejects get culled (and nobody’s a loner like the survivalist gun nuts).Report

          • Avatar BSK says:

            I would also venture to guess that most acts of “violence” (or, more precisely, criminality) are not directed towards individuals.  People break into stores out of necessity (food) or stupidity (TVs), but it is rare for them to go after homes.  Most of them are either needy or opportunist and breaking into an occupied home with a possibly armed and definitely defensive homeowner doesn’t suit either of those two groups well.  Which is why I’m not too worried about not being armed.Report

            • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

              My thinking is more along the lines of we are fleeing to Indianapolis and drive through a looting scene a la Reginald Denny.

              It’s a moot point. I’m going to have the guns either way. It would be a boring hunting season without them.


            • Avatar Kim says:

              you’re forgetting a few other natural urges. Like rape.

              And that the natural people to have guns in a city are already assembled in gangs.

              The problem is rarely getting killed in your home… it’s getting ambushed while you’re out getting water/food.

              ((n.b. natural disasters are different from manmade ones. Natural disasters have a horizon of a month at most, before people can pour enough money at the problem to at least get food and water running. Manmade disasters can take a year or more to fix.))Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Kim, respectfully, you need to read more on this topic.

                Natural disaster duration varies *wildly* by location and type of event, but typically natural disasters of sufficient scope to require people to pull out the emergency supplies resolve themselves in three stages… and while the first stage is typically less than 2 weeks (in the U.S.), for larger scale events (note: Katrina is the only event in this scale in the U.S. in recent history) resolution of the primary phase can take months.  Final cleanup can last a decade.

                While we’re looking at “longer than a decade” to really clean up after BP, at the same time the environmental impact *to people* is nothing like the environmental impact *to people* of even a hurricane.  Unless you’re including “war” as a “man-made disaster”, I’ll take a man-made disaster over a real large scale natural one any day of the week.  Nature kicks man’s ass in total damage when she really busts out the big guns.

                The U.S. has been very, very spoiled in the last 100 years, as we have geographical advantages that limit the amount of infrastructural damage that can occur from the bigger types of catastrophies – unlike Bangladesh, our hurricanes aren’t typically accompanied by large-scale flooding, like their typhoon season.  Hurricanes are bad, but unless they’re coupled with other factors (like the levees failing and flooding in N.O.) most of the damage is effectively cosmetic – you don’t have freeways collapsing or rail yards being completely destroyed by hurricanes.  Lots of expensive property damage, but less infrastructural, which makes first response a lot easier.  Same with blizzards.

                Large scale earthquakes occur on a 100+ year scale.  We’re overdue for some big ones.  Not just in California, the Cascadia subduction zone is due for a big slip.Report

            • Avatar Liberty60 says:

              This is about right-It would take a disaster of Biblical proportions before the ragged mob gets desperate enough to decide to go after your 3 year old packs of Saltines and Fruit Roll ups.

              On the other hand if your house happens to also be a Emergency Supply SuperStore and House of Batteries, well…you’re screwed.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Even then.

                Take the Japanese quake and tsunami double-whammy.  Now, the Japanese aren’t the Americans and there are cultural factors at play here, but if you were in Mr. Carr’s shoes during the whole affair you’d be thinking “biblical proportions”, I imagine.

                Still, not widespread Mad Max territory.  It takes lots of breakdowns in a row to generate that sort of social disorder.  Maybe if you have a major quake on the Cascadia subduction zone at the same time you have a blizzard in Portland and some sort of terrorist nuclear attack on the 2014 Superbowl or something.

                Most people gravitate towards spontaneous social re-ordering during natural disasters, not dissolution.Report

  21. Avatar James K says:

    In New Zealand earthquakes are the major thing to be prepared for.  The government actually recommends keeping 3 days worth of food and other supplies so I’m not sure what that recommendation does to your “trust in government” axis.Report

  22. Avatar James Hanley says:

    Is anyone here technologically savvy enough to comment intelligently on the prospects and actual effects of a high-level EMP?


    • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

      I don’t know the technical aspects but my understanding is that it’s a threat the US military takes very seriously. A lot of countries are developing EMP bombs. Most of them do permanent damage to electronics. Hit an urban area with one of those and you’ve got a disaster of epic proportions. Noo power of any kind, no transportation, no water sanitation, etc. Basically it’s the Dark Ages in the blink of an eye.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        Plus, I have to spring for a new fishing Mac.Report

      • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

        There are “emp weapons” and then there are “geographically widespread EMP attacks”.

        The first is something that lots of countries are indeed researching, but it’s not like you can set off an EMP pulse at ground level and take out all electronics in a 10 mile radius.

        If you want Starfish Prime-style EMP, covering a very wide geographical region, you need to detonate a nuke at very high altitude (basically in space).Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        My understanding is that you don’t need a special bomb, but only need to explode a nuclear weapon at the appropriate altitude?

        And that other countries have the capacity to do this to us?

        My point being that if this is a real threat, then even if unlikely it’s worth keeping in mind in our disaster prep scenarios.  Because surviving that isn’t the same thing as surviving a nuclear holocaust.  It’s a much shorter-term rebuild and the earth isn’t ruined,so it’s definitely worth surviving, but it will be a much longer period of emergency than anything any of us have experienced before.

        This book is a novelistic account of a post-EMP U.S., by a guy who claims to know what he’s talking about (but I have no way of really judging).  I think he underestimates our capacity to cope, but he does emphasize how much of our delivery infrastructure–fuel and food particularly–depends on electronic equipment.  It’s a sobering scenario.


        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

          My understanding is that you don’t need a special bomb, but only need to explode a nuclear weapon at the appropriate altitude?

          I kinda regard nuclear weapons as “special”, but yeah 😉

          And that other countries have the capacity to do this to us?

          China, Russia, the U.K., France, maybe Israel, maybe (but unlikely) India.  Probably not anybody else.

          You have to detonate a ~ megaton device at extremely high altitude to get widespread EMP.

          My point being that if this is a real threat, then even if unlikely it’s worth keeping in mind in our disaster prep scenarios.  Because surviving that isn’t the same thing as surviving a nuclear holocaust.  It’s a much shorter-term rebuild and the earth isn’t ruined,so it’s definitely worth surviving, but it will be a much longer period of emergency than anything any of us have experienced before.

          Hardening all your electronics is really, really expensive.  I suppose you could keep a supply of ham radio gear in a faraday cage, but you’d need a big enough amp to boost the signal 600 miles or so and a whoppin’ big antenna.

          This book is a novelistic account of a post-EMP U.S., by a guy who claims to know what he’s talking about (but I have no way of really judging).  I think he underestimates our capacity to cope, but he does emphasize how much of our delivery infrastructure–fuel and food particularly–depends on electronic equipment.  It’s a sobering scenario.

          I’ll have to check that out.

          Note: detonating a nuclear device over another country is endgame for somebody.  You might as well go crazy with the whole arsenal, because your ass is toast shortly thereafter you launch.Report

          • Avatar James Hanley says:

            Note: detonating a nuclear device over another country is endgame for somebody.  You might as well go crazy with the whole arsenal, because your ass is toast shortly thereafter you launch.

            Probably.  That’s the whole purpose of our submarine-based strategic nuclear arsenal, right?  So if the U.S. is toasted we can still retaliate.

            But in this quasi-doomsday scenario, everything in the U.S. is wiped out, so we can’t track where the missile came from, or if we did, we don’t have radio capacity to give that info to our nuclear attack subs.

            I find that hard to buy myself.  I think it presumes a surprise attack that we didn’t see before it hit us, but I’m not sure it’s possible for someone to launch a nuclear missile toward us without us being able to track it in time to send out the word for a counter-attack.  That’s not exactly my area of expertise, though.Report

            • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

              It is effectively impossible to generate a missile launch anywhere on the surface of the earth without the U.S. Air Force knowing about it basically in real time.

              It would be effectively impossible (barring a number of additional conditions which, technically, aren’t impossible but are improbable enough to put this is crazy conspiracy land) to deliver a high altitude nuclear device without it being immediately traceable to country of departure.

              There is a possibility that you could do it if/when SpaceX tourist flights get cheap enough and popular enough that they outnumber U.S. domestic airline travel in frequency.  That’s… uh, not tomorrow.

              You can do it with surface-delivered nukes, but there’s no EMP to note off of those turkeys.  You could blow up the port of Los Angeles with a low-yeild kiloton device and it would be hard to track to country of origin… although nuclear devices have fingerprints, themselves, when they go off.

              So we’d at least know who built the thing, if it was Chinese, Indian, U.K., France, or Russian *in origin of construction*.

              This is why the “Russians are selling surplus nuclear devices after the fall of the Soviet Union” hysteria makes no sense.  Anyone with access to those devices knows that if they go off, they’re traceable to the guys that built them, which means they’re traceable eventually to the guy that sold them.  You cannot take enough precautions to protect yourself from this level of investigative scrutiny.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                That’s pretty much my understanding.  I guess the only real question is, assuming an ICBM launch for an high atmospheric detonation, would the location of the launch be communicated to our missile subs before communications systems were wiped out?  And how much of the answer to that would rely on human decision-making at the moment as opposed to an automatic sequence of actions.

                Or another question, just for fun’s sake, if the missile subs learned the U.S. had been nuked, but didn’t know by whom, what would they do?Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                I guess the only real question is, assuming an ICBM launch for an high atmospheric detonation, would the location of the launch be communicated to our missile subs before communications systems were wiped out?

                I would regard this well inside a 99% confidence interval.  ICBMs show up with giant red flags.  Long range ICBMs travel at about 7 km/s (15,700 mph).  Total flight time due to ballistic trajectory is about 30 minutes.

                It would take USSTRATCOM/AFGSC (I’m guessing) well less than 10 to confirm the likelihood of an inbound nuclear attack, given the location of the launch site, the trajectory, and the projected target.

                Note: military communications are hardened against EMP, so while civilian communications would be eff’d up, the people that shoot back would be talking probably just fine.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                military communications are hardened against EMP,

                I was wondering if that was the case.  It’s an obvious thing to do, and most of those folks aren’t idiot.  But then there’s always bureaucracy and costs, so I wasn’t sure.  Or more precisely, I wasn’t sure how far advanced the project of doing this was.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Most of it was done in the Cold War.  You’d think that a lot of it would have been undone since then, but the military doesn’t take threats back off the table very easily.  Okay… mostly at all, ever.

                My officemate is an ex-Air Force communications and security specialist.  He can tell you about setting up a EMP-hardened comsec station in the Aleutian islands in full NBC war gear as part of training exercises well after the wall came down.

                They are still good to go, for this scenario.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                You’d think that a lot of it would have been undone since then,

                Actually, I wouldn’t.  It seems like good basic precautionary procedure to me, not (yet, at least) outmoded.

                My officemate is an ex-Air Force communications and security specialist

                Thanks, I like hearing that (not that you sound like you’re BSing).Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                He’s got some stories, let me tell you.  Security clearance and classifications are funny things.  Some of his stories, he can tell you where he was, but not who he was with or what he was doing.  Other times, he can tell you what he was doing, but not where he was.  He’s got a few, “I can’t tell you that” stories, too.

                Hearing him describe trying to type X words per minute, without error, on a terminal inside a wire grid when wearing gigantic chem-proof gloves and sirens going off and a base commander shouting in his face are pretty funny in lots of ways.Report

        • Avatar Kim says:

          some folks over at calculated risk were writing a book on what might have happened if we didn’t do the bailoutsReport

        • Avatar dexter says:

          Patrick, Why would you need fuel if the computor in your car is fried?  How would you even buy it if the local quik mart’s computor is fried?Report

          • Avatar James Hanley says:

            Why would you need fuel if the computor in your car is fried?

            A) Some people have old cars still.

            B) I think a good mechanic could figure out how to bypass a car’s computer.

            How would you even buy it if the local quik mart’s computor is fried?

            We’d move, temporarily, to a cash/barter economy.  The quickie mart has gallon jugs all over the place (that milk’s going to spoil anyway), so they can calculate how much they’re selling.Report

            • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

              Motorcycles are a better bet, anyway.  Easier to avoid those traffic jams.Report

            • Avatar dexter says:

              How long would the gasoline last if the computors that ran the refineries were fried?  Most gas stations have two or three days fuel on site.  If all the computors went dead it would be a matter of days before America would be walking.

              I have seen the lines at gas stations when the electricity goes out for half of them for only four or five days and I think it would take much longer than that to get Exxon back up to speed if all the computors crashed. 

              I am not saying that the problems are insurmountable, only that it would not be an easy fix and that things could get very bad before they got back to normal. 

              Question:  If your bank’s computor crashed, does it have the ability to find out how much money you have in the bank?Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Question:  If your bank’s computor crashed, does it have the ability to find out how much money you have in the bank?

                Regulatory requirements for financial data are pretty high.  It might take them a while to get systems back up and running if the event is big enough, but backup tapes are not susceptible to EMP.

                You probably won’t be able to get cash from an ATM for a long while, and there would be bitch-ass long lines at the bank, but your money is unlikely to disappear in smoke.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Exxon? ROFL. Dude, do you read the news? Exxon ain’t doin’ gas stations no more. Ol Esso’s been leasin the name. Know who you’re doing business wif.

                And know which ones are off the oil economy early.Report

              • Avatar dexter says:

                Patrick, Thanks for the reply.

                Kim, Roll on the floor all you want.  There are three Exxon gas stations within five miles of my house.    Plus, the biggest refinery around here has a huge sign out front that says Exxon.  Exxon is the parent compnay of Esso.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                never said they got out of the refinery business, did I?Report

      • Avatar BSK says:

        Isn’t that how “Escape from LA” ended?Report

      • Avatar Liberty60 says:

        No power of any kind, no transportation, no water sanitation, etc. Basically it’s the Dark Ages in the blink of an eye.

        I, for one, welcome our new Amish overlords!Report

  23. Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

    For all of you:

    I STRONGLY urge anyone even remotely interested in disaster prep to contact their local Fire Department &/or Emergency Management Office (most cities & counties have one), and see if they offer the C.E.R.T. basic course.  It’s 24 hours (mine was 3 hours a class, one night a week, for 8 weeks) of basic information regarding storing food & water, 1st Aid, safety, fire fighting, etc, and focuses on the disasters prone to your geographic area (up in the Pacific NW, we got earthquakes, tsunamis, wind storms, flooding, blizzards, and volcanoes).

    Every cop, EMT, & fire fighter who taught and helped with the classes was a true believer in making sure we were ready.Report

    • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

      Seconded.  I finished CERT training a while ago, and I was already adult/child first aid/cpr certified.

      The advanced stuff is on the plate.  Urban S&R is my next priority, personally.