In his book One Second After, William Forstchen, paints a grim picture of a post-apocalyptic world in which an electro-magnetic pulse has wiped out the entire power-grid infrastructure of the United States. Utilities like water and electric, transportation systems, cell phones, and even vehicles are disabled by the blast. The book focuses on one particular town and the challenges they face going forward.
One of the key issues becomes what is commonly referred to in the preparedness and survival community as “the golden horde,” a term introduced by James Rawles of Survival Blog:
As the comfort level in the cities rapidly drops to nil, there will be a massive involuntary outpouring from the big cities and suburbs into the hinterboonies. This is the phenomenon that my late father, Donald Robert Rawles–a career particle physics research administrator at Lawrence Livermore Laboratories–half-jokingly called “The Golden Horde.” He was of course referring to the Mongol Horde of the 13th Century, but in a modern context. (The Mongol rulers were chosen from the ‘Golden Family’ of Temujin. Hence the term “The Golden Horde.”) I can remember as a child, my father pointing to the hills at the west end of the Livermore Valley, where we then lived. He opined: “If The Bomb ever drops, we’ll see a Golden Horde come swarming over those hills [from Oakland and beyond] of the like that the world has never seen. And they’ll be very unpleasant, believe you me!”
As the fictional, but quite realistic, crisis in Forstchen’s book grows deeper, and city dwellers spread throughout the countryside looking for essential resources, the people were forced to make hard decisions. They could either share their food and resources with the horde, thereby decreasing their own survival rate, or, they would have to aggressively defend their land. Like most would do in that situation, the town chose to keep what they had to themselves, and send all others packing, by force if necessary.
If the worst were to ever happen – and we’re not talking about a short-term disaster – but, rather, an all out collapse of the world as we know it, including a complete grid-down scenario and a breakdown in food production and emergency services, the majority of the population in the regions(s) affected would likely perish. In a recent report the Center for Security Policy suggested that in such a scenario 9 Out of 10 Americans Would Be Dead Within One Year – a terrifying thought, indeed.
Considering that most people have less than a week’s worth of food in their pantries, no medical supplies, and absolutely no idea how to operate without electricity, one can guesstimate that the die-off would begin almost immediately after the grid goes down. Within several weeks, tens of thousands would succumb to starvation and/or disease. In many cases, dehydration and the elements would also become a key factor. Patriot Nurse recently put together a commentary discussing Who Will Die First, in which she breaks down the highest risk groups into sub-categories, which we’ll discuss, in part, below:
- Physically Disabled
Those with medical conditions requiring daily drug dosing, as well as those who depend on third party medical care, would likely be the first to go. During Hurricane Katrina hundreds of elderly people were left to die in hospitals and care facilities. They had no food, no clean water and no medicine. Their caregivers, in some cases acting immorally, but in other cases simply acting out of fear, left them without assistance. Those who are dependent on others to stay alive in modern society should consider who their caretakers are, because when the SHTF, chances are that an employee working at a nursing home will choose to go home and be with their family, or flee the area altogether.
- Individuals With Drug Dependent Healthcare Needs
In One Second After, the daughter of the main character is a diabetic requiring insulin. Within hours of the grid going down, pharmacies are overwhelmed with patrons attempting to get their prescription medicines. The electronic systems are inoperable, further complicating matters. Even for those who were able to acquire their meds, the supplies were only temporary, because within a week the shelves were empty and no resupply was coming. There are roughly 1.5 million insulin dependent diabetics in the United States. Because this particular drug requires cold storage, in a grid down situation, effective supplies would be depleted within a matter of weeks. In this particular instance, the fatality rate would be nearly 100%. The same can be said for many other types of medications, including oxygen. We urge those with drug dependent medical conditions to treat this aspect of preparedness like water and food. If you will require medicine, try to create a reserve by stocking up some extra medication. For those requiring cooled medicines, do you have an alternative energy plan to keep a compact refrigerator going?
- Physical Handicaps
When faced with a survival situation, in general, the old adage “survival of the fittest,” applies. Those with physical handicaps, especially those requiring external locomotion, like those little scooters we see people riding at Walmart, will be at a disadvantage. They’ll be easy targets for looters, and will likely be incapable of foraging for food and resources. For some, the handicap is self-manifested, such as in the case of excessive obesity. In these cases, an emergency preparedness plan should include getting physically fit. For others, however, conditions can not be treated easily. Physically handicapped individuals should take steps now to determine their action plan in the event of SHTF. Do you have a caregiver who you trust to get you out of a bind? Perhaps looking to relocate to an area where extensive travel post-SHTF will not be required is a good idea.
- The Government Dependent Welfare Class
Patriot Nurse refers to the individuals in this group as those with a “stereotypical” cradle-to-grave mentality. Of course, not everyone in this category is stereotypical, but we can certainly understand what she’s getting at. The majority of these people live on government subsistence, therefore they likely have no ability to procure resources before a disaster. At the onset of crisis, they will likely be looking for help from the same organizations that have provided it in the past. But those organizations will be unable to assist. Many of those within this category will die-off from lack of food, clean water, disease and violence. Given that, in general, within this category is the highest violent crime rate in the country, it will be from within this group of people that we’ll get our first taste of looters, gangs, and violent thieves. Some criminal elements will certainly survive, but violence begets violence, especially in a battle for resources, thus a good portion will be killed off by those defending themselves.
- Yuppies and Neo-Hippies
Another name we can give this category is the urban and suburban city dwellers. Though they may be different politically, and possess different skill sets, the majority of those within this category simply do not have the necessary survival tools to make it. Neo-hippies, as defined by Patriot Nurse are those who may be capable of small-scale agriculture and raising micro-livestock, but their ‘peaceful’ nature has not prepared them to handle aggressive and violent behavior aimed at taking the resources they produce. The Yuppies, generally defined as those who live in suburban McMansion style homes are simply ill-prepared. Rather than preparing for a crisis, they spent their hard earned money on new cars, TV’s, fashion and dinners out. When the SHTF, they will simply not be ready and their pantries will be empty within a week’s time, at which point they, like the looters from the welfare class, will be left with no choice but to head into the streets looking for supplies.
There are, of course, other sub categories, but the above covers the majority of the populace. A good portion of those with the capability to travel, be it on foot or in a vehicle, will eventually head out of the cities. The realization that the system has broken down will not take long – perhaps a week or two – before they hit the highways.
Their destination of choice will likely become National or State parks, lakes and coastal regions, or small towns, where they expect to find food. Most will have no more than a tank of gas, giving them a range of roughly 300 miles from their home city. If you are located near an interstate highway, or even a state highway, within 300 miles of a major city, then you may very well see a golden horde of cars. Those without cars will go on foot. As they get further out of the cities, they will begin to perish due to lack of food and potable water. On foot, their range while lacking in resources will be maybe 50 – 150 miles.
Safety in the Country?
For those living in exurbia or rural surroundings the situation will certainly not be as dire as for those bunched in the cities. However, it will likely be just as dangerous. Eventually, elements from the cities with both, good intentions and bad, will reach you. If you are in a small town, and the town fails to implement defense strategies, then it can be easily overrun by organized and heavily armed gangs.
You’ll also have to deal with those of your neighbors who failed to prepare. Even though people may have gardens or livestock, their ability to maintain these will be threatened as traditional feed stores and tools will no longer be readily available. In One Second After, the story revolved around a small town in the middle of nowhere, yet a large portion of the population died off simply because there was a lack of resources. Even hunting became difficult, as game ran thin because everyone in the area was looking to have squirrel for dinner. The additional threat in the country is that, generally, people in the country are well armed with long range hunting rifles, a situation that presents quite a bit of peril if that person is aware you have resources and they are lacking.
The Die Off is a worst case consideration, and one you should be familiar with before any such event occurs. It will occur only in a complete collapse of the world as we know it and would include a complete breakdown of our electrical and utility grids, communications infrastructure and food transportation systems.
Yes, it’s unlikely. But given that our entire way of life is dependent on modern day technology, such a disruption would have severe consequences for all involved.
Author: Mac Slavo
Date: February 23rd, 2011
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