Safecastle | One Shop For All Emergency Essentials

There are two ways to sleep well at night ... be ignorant or be prepared.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Bailout Buggered

The U.S. House of Representatives has defeated the controversial $700B bailout bill. At the last minute, the vote was politicized (Pelosi's closing speech before the vote), skewering the outcome of the vote.

Whether that bill's defeat was for better or for worse, what is now before us is what we are going to have to endure. In terms of being prepared for consequences, expect some extreme polarization going forward in D.C., so effective solutions are going to be a long shot coming out of our federal government. Of course, that won't stop them from continuing to roil the waters.

In the business and financial world, expect sudden seizing-up of the wheels of commerce. At the very least, we may soon see all available credit dry up.

On Main Street, look for increasing hardships to touch all of our lives. Yes, we were going to be impacted one way or the other, but it is clear that the sheer precipice of the fall is upon us and we will be going over the edge together in short order.

An immediate concern for all now is how we react as a people. I believe that is key. Panic is a possibility. Runs on banks and/or on food, supplies, and fuel are what many are thinking today.

Will it happen? I won't speculate on that.

But this is one reason why many of us have chosen to prepare ahead of time, in case of widespread crisis. Today very likely qualifies as an initial milestone in a genuine national (and indeed global) crisis.
Get Ready ... Seriously -

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Market crash this week?

Up against such dire, apocalyptic warnings with regard to imminent consequences if the bailout effort does not pass immediately, I can't see as how these politicians would have the guts to stand fast against it.

Bailout failure 'will cause US crash’

The US stock market could suffer a devastating crash with shares losing a third of their value this week if Hank Paulson’s financial bailout plan fails, US Treasury officials have warned.

By Tim Shipman in Washington and Edmund Conway
Last Updated: 10:14AM BST 28 Sep 2008

The financial system could face a meltdown of 1929 proportions unless US politicians succeed in their efforts for a $700bn rescue scheme, experts added.

The warning came as Republicans and Democrats met in Washington for a rare weekend debating session to attempt to seal agreement on the contentious plan, aimed at preventing a long-lasting recession in the US.

Officials close to Paulson are privately painting a far bleaker portrait of the fragility of the global economy than that advanced by President George W Bush in his televised address last week.

One Republican said that the message from government officials is that “the economy is dropping into the john.” He added: “We could see falls of 3,000 or 4,000 points on the Dow [the New York market that currently trades at around 11,000]. That could happen in just a couple of days.

“What’s being put around behind the scenes is that we’re looking at 1930s stuff. We’re looking at catastrophe, huge, amazing catastrophe. Everybody is extraordinarily scared. It’s going to be really, really nasty.”

Investors fretted about contagion into Europe, where Fortis, which was part of the consortium that bought ABN Amro last year, fired its chief executive after liquidity concerns pushed shares down more than 20pc to a 14-year low. Holland’s ING and BNP Paribas are looking at buying the bank this weekend.

London investors have warned that the FTSE could suffer falls of as much as 1,000 points - a fifth of its value, if the deal falls through.

Peter Spencer, economic adviser to the Ernst & Young Item Club, said: “This is the time you have to bail people out and ask questions later. It is very difficult to see how the US banking system would survive without that.This has the potential to make 1929 look like a walk in the park.”

Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, said: “We hope sometime [Sunday] evening we can announce some kind of agreement in principle. We may not have another day.”

Rebel Republicans - who see Paulson’s proposals as socialism by the back door - were warned they will be responsible for causing an “amazing catastrophe” if they continue to oppose the plans, which would see taxpayers buy up the bad debts of failing banks. Instead they want an insurance scheme for banks, which would spread the cost to private enterprise.
Get Ready ... Seriously -

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Confluence of Events Focusing Social Angst; Rage Not Far Off

I try hard to keep this blog from becoming political. It's about crisis preparedness for all, regardless of stance or background.

That said, I sense that we are at a point in America where, if you want to be positioned for game-changing events, you need to be looking very carefully at what is happening all around us within our nation right now. In a nutshell:
  • The potential for a Great Depression is at best a coin-flip proposition for the near-term. An immense bail-out in the works is merely an overly optimistic patch to delay an inevitable catastrophic blowout. Yet, even this emergency rescue effort is seen mainly in D.C. by those players as political and/or financial opportunity.

  • The highest-level political-campaign fray is on the verge of going fully off the reservation. The mainstream media have stopped covering campaigns objectively, candidates' families are in the crosshairs as fairgame for cruel and baseless public attacks, and now even governmental and law enforcement personnel are openly using their authority to intimidate political opponents.

  • Racial and class distinctions are increasingly front and center in public discourse, needlessly being brought to bear in order to deflect attention from relevant issues.

  • The old-standard hot button issues of religious freedom, abortion, gun control, and the relatively new issue of illegal immigration are finding more zealous proponents willing to push the envelope to further their causes.
The overall mix is growing more volatile. Many political figures of the liberal persuasion are purposely stoking the fires of discontent and anger in their ranks, as well as goading the opposition. Conservatives are becoming very frustrated with the partisanship evident in areas where the common good has traditionally precluded such activity.

What happens next?

Anger and frustration is elevated in the population. Where anger is yet absent, fear about our economic instability is prevalent.

Editorials at established media outlets openly talk about the possibility of revolution, race wars, and societal collapse.

These developments are impossible to ignore. One incendiary event could indeed now throw our world into total chaos.

The outlook is bleak. Yes, we could conceivably find cause to reunite if for instance we are attacked from outside our country. But at the moment, I believe there is more potential for a divisive crisis within that could destroy what we recognize today as the basis of our country and way of life.

Not at all a pleasant thought, I know. But this possibility is forefront in many well-placed experts' overviews today. Are the consultants saying it WILL happen? Not outright as yet, but there is plenty of advice circulating that folks should not be surprised and that they be ready for anarchy if it comes about. And yes, the government is ready, but how ready is the question.

As a family man, I am as reluctantly prepared for this as I want to be.
Get Ready ... Seriously -

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Putin Says Russia May Initiate Nuclear Cooperation with Venezuela

According to Breitbart, Russian Prime Minister Vlad Putin is saying today that Russia may launch nuclear energy cooperation with Venezuela.

Say what? Hugo Chavez with nukes? Ahmadinijad with nukes? Did we turn left instead of right back there when the exit said "Road to Nowhere?"

This is of course a meaty little test for the would-be presidents ... something to chew on at one of the debates.

This will not happen without bloodshed--probably a whole lot of it.

Unless, that is, President Obama decries it to be wise and fair. Hmmm ...

Say, did I mention that we sell the best fallout shelters in the world for your dollar?
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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Is Social Upheaval in the Official Plan?

There are telltale signs out there that not only has the current financial crisis been planned for at the highest levels (this was seen coming over the horizon a long time ago), but that actions are being taken to deal with growing social tensions.

Nope--this is not out of Conspiracies 101. I have a very strong aversion to fringe imaginings.

Today's column by Todd Harrison at CBS MarketWatch is a nice example of some of these thoughts, put into the big-picture context of the current financial crisis (please click on the title to read the entire column) ...

Shock and Awe
Commentary: Five things you need to know about our current state of affairs

By Todd Harrison
Last update: 12:01 a.m. EDT Sept. 24, 2008

Excerpts ...

The free market system officially broke last week and the ramifications are profound. A new world order is upon us, one that will forever change the construct of capitalism.

... angst is palpable and tension is high as we edge toward what promises to be a very tenuous election. See related MarketWatch column.

Indeed, anticipation of social unrest may be the catalyst for the decision to transfer troops back to the states. Beginning Oct. 1, a military army brigade will be an "on-call federal response force for natural or manmade emergencies and disasters," the first time an active unit has been given a dedicated assignment of this kind. See related Army Times item.
Get Ready ... Seriously -

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

There's No Crying in Preparedness

This month has been a particularly challenging month on the homefront, wouldn't you say? The fact that it is National Preparedness Month is fitting.

Hurricanes Gustav, Hanna, and Ike pounded and inundated the south and southeast--with hundreds of casualties, and billions in damages.

In the wake of those storms, a megastorm of a different level of lethality comes swirling through--the threatened meltdown of the global economy--the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, they say.

And ... we can't lose sight of the ongoing or re-emerging issues with Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Russia, North Korea, and Al Qaeda that keep generating all their own dastardly headlines.

As if we need another little bump in our coffee, this is all happening in the midst of a presidential campaign that promises to be one of the most contentious in our history.

No Whining, Crying, or Panic

Has there ever been a better time to check and re-check your preps? How much would it take right now to pull down this whole teetering mess and force Americans to find out the hard way how resourceful and committed to each other we can be? (Or would that be committed to "what's mine"?)

Yes, Virginia, this IS the time to be serious about your preparedness planning.

It's NOT the time to be panicking, locking up with worry, or freezing in the spectacle of the growing headlights of the oncoming tractor trailer loaded with trouble.

One of our favorite slogans at Safecastle reads: "Accusing the times is but excusing ourselves." That means, take responsibility.

Right now, it should be enough to know that things are getting kind of dicey out there in the world. This is no longer a case of imagining what MIGHT happen IF "such and such" was to happen. Fact is, it may just be that a whole lot of "suches" are damming up in the doorway right now, needing just the right jolt to come surging through your livingroom.

So what are you doing about it? Watching it unfold in living color? ... or worse yet, maybe blogging about it? ;-)

How about instead getting that last big project done that you know you really want completed before things get turned upside down? Or topping off the supplies while you can. Can you think of a better time to do it?

Personally, I think it's time.

Stay safe.
Get Ready ... Seriously -

Friday, September 19, 2008

Remember Me

Love and kudos to all who are putting it on the line for the rest of us!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Interest-Free Financing for Mountain House Emergency Food

For Everyone--Buyers Club Member or Not!

This Offer is for Our Two Mountain House Volume Packages Listed in Our eBay Store, Only till October 30

Mountain House cans are once again available after several months of the factory working through towering backlogs of orders.

We also notified you that their new pricing policy requires us to NOT apply member discounts to our Mountain House listings. However, we do continue to ship those orders free anywhere in the continental U.S.

Financing! No Payments Till 2009!

We are working on ways to further maximize the value we can offer you with your Safecastle Mountain House purchases. We expect to be making other great offers in the future.

But right now, we can extend this offer to everyone (U.S. residents)--NO PAYMENTS, NO INTEREST UNTIL 2009, when you make a Mountain House package purchase on our
eBay site.

This offer requires applying for the eBay MasterCard and is good for your first eBay purchase over $50 using that card. (See offer details below.) To apply for the card, click on the eBay MasterCard link on the qualifying listing (under the "Buy It Now" button) or click here.

Offer details:
Thinking about applying for an eBay MasterCard? Great! Here's how the application process works...When you apply, you will first be considered for an eBay MasterCard, which can be used anywhere MasterCard is accepted. If you don't qualify for an eBay MasterCard, you will then be considered for a PayPal Buyer Credit account, which can be used on-eBay and anywhere
PayPal is accepted.If you are approved for an eBay MasterCard between September 3, 2008 - October 30, 2008, and spend $50 or more on eBay, in a single transaction, you won"t need to make any monthly payments or pay any interest for 4 months if the promotional balance is paid in full within 4 months. This offer only applies to your first, single purchase made on-eBay over $50 (the total transaction amount will receive the financing promotion) made between September 3, 2008 - October 30, 2008, using your new eBay MasterCard as the source of funds through your PayPal account. All purchases are subject to credit approval.Under this promotion, no monthly payments are required on the promotional purchase and no interest will be assessed on the promotional purchase as long as: (1) You pay the promotional purchase amount in full by the end of the promotional period, (2) you pay, when due, the minimum monthly payments on any other balances on your account, and (3) you pay any optional Debt Cancellation charges related to the promotional transaction in full by the end of the promotional period. If you fail to satisfy these conditions, all promotional terms may be terminated and interest may be assessed on the promotional balance amount from the date of purchase. This offer does not apply to non-eBay purchases. Standard account terms apply to non-promotional purchases and, after the promotion expiries, to your promotional purchase. This offer will be terminated and the Delinquency Rate may apply if you fail to make a minimum payment when due, you exceed your credit limit or cash advance limit, or you make a payment to us that is not honored by your bank. As of July 1, 2008, variable APRs are 12.24%, 15.24%, 18.24% and 21.24%. Variable delinquency APR is 29.24%. Minimum finance charge is $1.00 USD. See your credit card agreement for standard terms.If you qualify and are approved for a PayPal Buyer Credit Account between September 3, 2008 -- October 30, 2008, and spend more than $50 on-eBay, in a single transaction, you are also eligible to make no payments for up to 4 months and will pay no interest if paid in full within 4 months. This offer only applies to your first, single purchase made on-eBay, between September 3, 2008 - October 30, 2008, using your PayPal Buyer Credit Account as the source of funds through your PayPal account. All purchases are subject to credit approval.Under this promotion, no monthly payments are required on the promotional purchase and no interest will be assessed on the promotional purchase as long as: (1) You pay the promotional purchase amount in full by the end of the promotional period, (2) you pay, when due, the minimum monthly payments on any other balances on your account, and (3) you pay any optional Debt Cancellation charges related to the promotional transaction in full by the end of the promotional period. If you fail to satisfy these conditions, all promotional terms may be terminated and interest may be assessed on the promotional balance amount from the date of purchase. This offer does not apply to non-eBay purchases. Standard account terms apply to non-promotional Purchases and, after the promotion expires, to your promotional purchase. This offer will be terminated and the Delinquency Rate may apply if any required minimum payment is not made when due two times in any six consecutive billing periods. Once the delinquency rate is in effect, standard account terms will apply if the minimum payment is made when due for six consecutive billing periods. As of July 1, 2008, variable APR is 20.80%. Variable delinquency APR is 24.75%. Minimum finance charge is $1.00 USD. See your credit card agreement for standard terms.Financing is only available to U.S. residents over 18 years of age. Subject to credit approval by GE Money Bank.This card is issued by GE Money Bank pursuant to a license by MasterCard International Incorporated.

BTW, we've still got a few hardcover copies left of "
World Made By Hand" by James Kunstler that we'll send to any buyer of these packages, while supplies last (one copy per customer).

Stay safe!
Get Ready ... Seriously -

Monday, September 15, 2008

$6M Cave Home Virtual Tour!

End of the world got you down? Looking for a practical haven in which to invest your hard-earned riches as the financial world comes crashing down all around?

Check out this
380-acre, six-million-dollar Arkansas property, including a home built into a warren of caves.

Get Ready ... Seriously -

Saturday, September 06, 2008

After Months of a Locked Pipeline, Mountain House Cans are Available and Shipping!

It's been several months since Mountain House stopped taking new orders from dealers on their canned foods. They were being socked in with orders from all over the country at a pace five times their previous high.

Now, we can announce that Safecastle has been given permission to start taking orders again, effective immediately!

Note that Mountain House food is now being produced at record levels, and the company has maximized production capabilities. They have worked through their backlog and are in the process of fast building a stockpile for ongoing demand.

Get It Now

As we've learned over the last several years, we cannot take for granted the availability of food of any kind in our just-in-time system. In particular, in an era of rising food prices, long-term storage food is becoming more recognized as not only a hedge against crisis, but an investment that pays off in financial terms as well.

Thus, we expect the demand for Mountain House food to remain very strong. Of course, if and when another major disaster happens, many more folks will again come to realize the need for this kind of critical disaster deterrent.


For something like seven years, Mountain House prices went unchanged earlier in this decade. But then, the world turned. Now supplier, production, and transportation costs are escalating steadily. Mountain House has had to try to keep up and now has a policy of updating prices twice a year. (Hint--prices are not adjusting downward.)

So, while the good news is that the food is available again at today's still-reasonable prices ... that means they are definitely not listed at yesterday's prices.

Most significantly for the Safecastle Royal Buyers Club--Oregon Freeze Dry, the producer of Mountain House food, has mandated dealer participation in a strict new pricing agreement. For us, that means we are not permitted to permanently offer discounts on Mountain House canned foods (pouches remain discounted). We WILL be allowed to offer members up to three short-duration sales in the course of a year, and we will certainly do that.

But be advised that from here on out, there can be no standard member discount on the cans. That fact is posted prominently on each of our MH can listings.

The Premier Prep Food in the World

Mountain House freeze dried food , is universally recognized as the top emergency preparedness and outdoor/adventure food in the world. Safecastle is proud to have been re-confirmed as a Mountain House dealer, and we will work with Oregon Freeze Dry to provide our members and customers full satisfaction on every transaction.
Get Ready ... Seriously -

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Hurricane Preparedness

Thank God that Hurricane Gustav was not more destructive than it was, and that Gulf Coast residents took seriously the warnings and evacuation orders. Lessons learned all around, obviously, from Katrina a few years ago.

Now, it appears that a few more big storms are in the clip ready to engage the southeastern U.S. and/or locales in the Carribean and Atlantic. Forecasters are saying this looks to be a very active hurricane season, perhaps right into December.

If you're near the coast, stay aware.

It also wouldn't hurt to review NOAA's Hurricane Preparedness pages.

Get Ready ... Seriously -

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Gustav to be 4th Recorded Cat-5 Hurricane to Hit U.S.?

Hurricane Gustav has the potential to be only the fourth hurricane to ever come ashore the U.S. as a Category 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Scale.

Already today it is at the top end of the Category 4 parameters as the storm enters the Gulf of Mexico. It is expected to become Category 5 shortly. Whether it remains that strong when it reaches landfall is yet unknown, as well as where exactly it will hit between Texas and Florida.

Cat 5 hurricanes wield winds greater than 155 mph and storm surge generally greater than 18 ft above normal.

Damage to be expected includes: Complete roof failure on many residences and industrial buildings. Some complete building failures with small utility buildings blown over or away. All shrubs, trees, and signs blown down. Complete destruction of mobile homes. Severe and extensive window and door damage. Low-lying escape routes are cut by rising water 3-5 hours before arrival of the center of the hurricane. Major damage to lower floors of all structures located less than 15 ft above sea level and within 500 yards of the shoreline. Massive evacuation of residential areas on low ground within 5-10 miles (8-16 km) of the shoreline may be required.

Only 3 Category Five Hurricanes have made landfall in the United States since records began: The Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, Hurricane Camille (1969), and Hurricane Andrew in August, 1992. The 1935 Labor Day Hurricane struck the Florida Keys with a minimum pressure of 892 mb--the lowest pressure ever observed in the United States. Hurricane Camille struck the Mississippi Gulf Coast causing a 25-foot storm surge, which inundated Pass Christian. Hurricane Katrina (pdf), a category 5 storm over the Gulf of Mexico, was still responsible for at least 81 billion dollars of property damage when it struck the U.S. Gulf Coast as a category 3. It is by far the costliest hurricane to ever strike the United States. In addition, Hurricane Wilma (pdf) of 2005 was a Category Five hurricane at peak intensity and is the strongest Atlantic tropical cyclone on record with a minimum pressure of 882 mb.

Gulf coast populations are right to be evacuating now, with landfall expected to take place within 36 hours.

Experience has repeatedly shown that evacuation of coastal areas during serious hurricane threats is the prudent advice to follow. Do not wait till it is too late and do not consider yourself above the laws of physics or human endurance.
Get Ready ... Seriously -

Friday, August 29, 2008

Free Copies of Kunstler's "World Made By Hand"!

I recently finished reading James Kunstler's 2008 best selling novel, "World Made By Hand." The book is a very well-written story of life after technology ... post global catastrophe.

I savored it so much, I decided to buy the book in bulk quantities and give them away.

In recognition of National Preparedness Month, the books are going to folks who buy a new lifetime Safecastle Royal Buyers Club membership for $19. The hardcover books are valued at $24, so DING-DING-DING--it's a no-brainer.

Of course, the membership gets you at least 20% off everything we sell and free shipping to the lower 48 all the time! Food, gear, everything. My wife hates to hear it by now, but I still like the sound of it--"Safecastle has the best prices on crisis devices!"

And oh yes--those who are already members get the book for free with any new purchase of at least $170 (after the member discounts are applied).

There's no coupon code--the books automatically get sent with every qualifying purchase (limit of one book per customer).

If you've already read the book, then you know that they make excellent holiday gifts--for the motivated prepper on your list, and even for those who might need their eyes opened a little wider, if you know what I mean. Everyone can enjoy this excellent book.
Get Ready ... Seriously -

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Russia Now Warning West of "Declaration of War"

What days these are, in which we toil ...

Military help for Georgia is a 'declaration of war', says Moscow in extraordinary warning to the West
Last updated at 16:47pm on 27.08.08

Moscow has issued an extraordinary warning to the West that military assistance to Georgia for use against South Ossetia or Abkhazia would be viewed as a "declaration of war" by Russia.

The extreme rhetoric from the Kremlin's envoy to NATO came as President Dmitry Medvedev stressed he will make a military response to US missile defence installations in eastern Europe, sending new shudders across countries whose people were once blighted by the Iron Curtain.

And Moscow also emphasised it was closely monitoring what it claims is a build-up of NATO firepower in the Black Sea.


Click to read entire article.


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September is National Preparedness Month


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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Why Is It That "Survivalists" Are So Easy To Make Fun Of?

Crisis preparedness is about life and death.

It's about being equipped to get through the biggest challenges a person can be called upon to fight through.

Best case, preparedness delivers a personal sense of well-being. That comfort arises out of a readiness to deal with whatever life throws at you.

Really, there's nothing funny about preparedness.

But it's so easy to laugh at us

Two words--"Burt Gummer." (Or is that one name?)

Actor Michael Gross created what is probably THE classic stereotype survivalist in the 1990 "Tremors" movie (and capitalized upon in three follow-up portrayals in Tremors II, III, and IV, not to mention a TV series of the same name). Funny movies ... and of course most of us just plain love the Gummer character--especially in the first film in the series.

1. Why was the Gummer character a hit?
2. Why do "normal" folks chuckle and roll their eyes when the term "survivalist" comes up?

Two different questions, one answer: Because there are really people among us who live for disaster.

Do I intend to beef again about balance in one's life? I don't think so. Suffice it to say, being ready for life is not the point of life.

What I do want to mention here is that, just as it is easy to go overboard on the whole prepping lifestyle, it is also easy to get overly focused on one disaster scenario that you prepare for.

Two up-close and personal scenarios that get some of "us" really juiced up--

a. All-out nuclear war
b. Total societal breakdown (brought on by say, economic collapse, pandemic, peak oil, or civil war, etc.)

Pick your poison.

Of course, this is the stuff of situation comedies. Overspecialization can never be good. Train the telescope on one tree and the rest of the forest may burn down around you.

Those who are seriously into preparedness ... in other words, those who understand that major crises come in all shapes and forms ... do NOT zero in on all-out nuclear war as being THE threat that drives them.

Why? Numbers. More specifically--odds.

Disaster happens all the time. Just about every month, year in and year out, large numbers of people somewhere in the world are victimized by disaster and a subsequent inability to take even small steps toward recovery.

But how often does thermo-nuclear war erupt? Or how often do Western nations collapse?

Sure--the possibility for either one or both catastrophes exists, but true crisis preparedness is a far sight more comprehensive than embracing the caricature role of Burt Gummer.

Get Ready ... Seriously -

Friday, August 22, 2008

MSN's Markman: Worldwide Wipeout this Fall

Put this in your pipe and smoke it:

Warning: Worldwide Wipeout Ahead

Think US stocks are on a life raft? Look around the globe, where seas are much rougher. This is serious, folks. Brace for a brutal riptide of more economic upheaval.

By Jon Markman, August 22

It barely seems possible that anyone is more pessimistic about corporate earnings prospects than American shareholders right now, with the U.S. stock market down almost 15% for the year and the banking system coming unglued before our eyes.

Yet if you take a moment to look around the world, you may be surprised to learn that U.S. stocks are the picture of health compared with their counterparts worldwide. And measured against the gloom in bonds, U.S. stocks are like a sunny day in spring.

Time to gloat? Not on your life. For if there's one thing we know about global markets these days, it's that they seldom diverge for long. So while it might be tempting to look with pity at investors across the seas and in other asset classes, it's more likely that U.S. equities will plunge than that foreign equities will float higher toward our perch.


Get Ready ... Seriously -

Thursday, August 21, 2008


All my sources indicate the EMP threat, in practical terms, is NOT a viable, widespread terror risk to modern civilization. But in theory, from a well-armed enemy such as Russia?--OK, very scary. Here's a WSJ opinion piece ...

The EMP Threat
August 9, 2008; Page A10

Imagine you're a terrorist with a single nuclear weapon. You could wipe out the U.S. city of your choice, or you could decide to destroy the infrastructure of the entire U.S. economy and leave millions of Americans to die of starvation or want of medical care.

The latter scenario is the one envisioned by a long-running commission to assess the threat from electromagnetic pulse, or EMP. The subject of its latest, and little discussed, report to Congress is the effect an EMP attack could have on civilian infrastructure. If you're prone to nightmares, don't read it before bedtime.

An EMP attack occurs when a nuclear bomb explodes high in the Earth's atmosphere. The electromagnetic pulse generated by the blast destroys all the electronics in its line of sight. For a bomb detonated over the Midwest, that includes most of the continental U.S. Few, if any, people die in the blast. It's what comes next that has the potential to be catastrophic. Since an EMP surge wipes out electronics, virtually every aspect of modern American life would come to a standstill.

The commission's list of horribles is 181 pages long. The chapter on food, for instance, catalogs the disruptions up and down the production chain as food spoils or has no way to get to market. Many families have food supplies of several days or more. But after that, and without refrigeration, what? The U.S. also has 75,000 dams and reservoirs, 168,000 drinking water-treatment facilities, and 19,000 wastewater treatment centers -- all with pumps, valves and filters run by electricity.

Getting everything up and running again is not merely a matter of flipping a switch, and the commission estimates that many systems could be out of service for months or a year or more -- far longer than emergency stockpiles or batteries could cover. The large transformers used in electrical transmission are no longer built in the U.S. and delivery time is typically three years. "Lack of high voltage equipment manufacturing capacity represents a glaring weakness in our survival and recovery," the commission notes.

Many industries rely on automated control systems maintained by small work forces. In emergencies -- say, during a blackout -- companies often have arrangements in place to borrow workers from outside the affected area to augment the locals and help with manual repairs. After an EMP attack, those workers would be busy in their home regions -- or foraging for food and water for their families.

The commission offers extensive recommendations for how industry and government can protect against the effects of an EMP attack and ensure a quicker recovery. They include "hardening" more equipment to withstand an electromagnetic pulse; making sure replacement equipment is on hand; training recovery personnel; increasing federal food stockpiles; and many others.

If not, our vulnerability "can both invite and reward attack," the commission's chairman, William Graham, told Congress last month. Iran's military writings "explicitly discuss a nuclear EMP attack that would gravely harm the United States," he said. James Shinn, an assistant secretary of defense, has said that China is developing EMP weapons. The commission calls an EMP attack "one of a small number of threats that can hold our society at risk of catastrophic consequences." The threat is real. It's past time to address it.

Get Ready ... Seriously -