I’m about halfway through “The Pulse; A Novel of Surviving the Collapse of the Grid” by Scott Williams and it’s an excellent read. Besides being a great read it has also made me think a bit more about several aspects of Prepping (which all good survival books should) one in particular that I can’t quite get a handle on. That is, How exactly am I supposed to know when the S*** has Hit the Fan?
The novel focuses on two groups of people who are in different locations, one in a city and one on a sailboat in the Caribbean. The earth is hit by massive solar flares which cause an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) that knocks out the power grid as well as most electronic devices, engines, cell phones, radios, GPS equipment, you name it. The group on the boat is almost totally isolated and has no idea how far reaching the EMP’s effects are. Even the group in the city (New Orleans) really has no idea how widespread the damage is either. And without radios or any means of communication how could they know? Both groups struggle with this total information vacuum. I won’t go any further and ruin the book for those of you who want to read it (it is pretty good), but I think you get the picture.
In an event like the one described in “The Pulse” how am I supposed to know whether it’s time to really batten down the hatches or bug out all together or whether help from regions that were not affected is already on its way? Think this through for a minute. It would really be a terrible thing to find that you had overreacted to what turned out to be a temporary blackout thinking the entire grid was down and the Crunch was upon us.
Furthermore, I believe it is critical that in an emergency situation you act quickly and decisively in order to keep yourself and your family safe. Waiting around for a few days or even a week before making a move could be a costly mistake. On the other hand you can’t go running off screaming into the woods every time the lights flicker.
For me there are a few things that I would watch for in a situation like this where there is clearly something wrong, I’m not sure how far reaching it is or how long it may last, and there is a total absence of news.
First of all I would monitor local public services. For instance, are the local police maintaining a strong presence or do they appear overwhelmed or absent all together? Second, how is the general public holding up? Are people calm and orderly or is panic making people act out in dangerous ways? If your local grocery store looks like a scene from a zombie movie it’s probably time to hunker down. Finally, am I seeing familiar faces in the neighborhood, or are troublemakers starting to come out from under their rocks?
By maintaining a strong situational awareness you should be able to determine your own personal “Defense Condition”. Just like the government keeps a constant DefCon Status, so too should you. It’s important to know when to invite the neighbors over for a barbecue to use up food that may spoil vs. boarding up the windows and releasing the hounds on anyone who comes close to your property. However in a news vacuum it could be a tough call. I’d love to hear your thoughts on how to determine just when the SHTF in the comments section.