Posted by: Jeff Rhodes | June 2, 2011

Doomsday Planning – Are You Prepared for the Worst?

I just finished reading the book, One Second After, by William Forstchen. It is a novel about the aftermath of an EMP weapon attack that wipes out everything electrical in the United States.  Electromagnetic Pulse, or EMP, is essentially the detonation of a nuclear weapon high in the atmosphere or in space. Rather than a destructive pressure wave or radioactive fallout, this high altitude detonation produces an electrical “pulse” that can damage delicate electrical circuits within the line of “sight” of the detonation – potentially hundreds of miles in diameter, if the blast is high enough.  The theory is that several strategically placed weapons could permanently disable power transmission grids and generating facilities, computers, communications, internet, cell phones, radios, modern transportation systems (since approx 1980, cars and trucks have computer controlled ignition and fuel delivery systems), etc. throughout the United States.  If there’s one thing this book makes you do, it’s think through “what if it really happened” scenarios – usually in the middle of the night, when you should be sleeping! 

Just think about it – everything’s normal and all of a sudden the power goes out.  If you are driving, the car engine quits and you coast to a stop.  There’s no radio, TV or other communication, so you don’t really know what has happened – possibly for many days.  Rumors and speculation are the only news. 

The first few days are like a bad snowstorm or hurricane.  You’ll be using candles and flashlights and cooking on the grill or Coleman stove.  After a few days, your perishable foods will have spoiled.  The grocery stores are picked clean.  No new inventories can be delivered.   Does your drinking water depend on pumps for delivery?  Most do.  If so, you will no longer have running water at the house.  With no communication or transportation, how do you get home from work?  How do you get the kids home from school?

Beyond the first week, what will you eat and drink?  Do you take important medications? Are you dependant on regular insulin injections?  Do you or someone you care about depend on regular lifesaving medical procedures – pacemakers, dialysis, chemotherapy, breathing machines, or feeding pumps?  If your car does still work, or you have access to low tech transportation, where will you get fuel?  How will you cook, once the propane runs out?  Where will you get food, once you exhaust your pantry’s supply?  How will you defend yourself and your home, when people are starving and desperate?  How will governments and communities function, with no communications, and few tools with which to enforce the law and provide services?  Without electronic record keeping or communication, money is meaningless and wealth is represented by posession or control of tangible items that can be used or traded. A gun, a gallon of gasoline, or a carton of cigarettes may be more valuable than a million dollar stock portfolio.    

It is certainly food for thought.  Hopefully, nothing like this will ever happen, but the mind exercise that this story encourages is valuable to all of us in our personal households and in our roles as business managers.  What would happen if a fire ravaged my facility?  What if my business partner or key employee died or was incapacitated?  What if we had to shut the business down for a month and my staff was forced to look elsewhere for work?  What if my key clients left and never came back? 

Once a month, business managers should run a disaster drill – at least in their own minds.  Envision a scenario and plan your hypothetical response.  Identify the areas where you have a problem or lack a solution.  These mental drills will strengthen your business and help prepare you for a disaster. 

… I’m going to buy a few extra canned goods and batteries on the way home!


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