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Fragility and how people react to breaking…

Fragility…

No I was not talking about my head the morning after. (I used to have a T-shirt as a young climber that said ‘Does the noise in my head bother you?’ just for Saturday mornings.) or about the delicate tissue-fragile feelings of snowflakes, sent hurtling for their ‘safe space’ and their blanky and the play-do by the possibility of a pico*-aggression.

I was talking of our society and our civilization.

Now, as Somalia, Zimbabwe, Venezuela and North Korea illustrate, societies continue to exist and function – in a fashion – WAY below what most westerners would consider ‘survivable’. The gap between a pretty comfortable society to live in, to one where people die of starvation but the state still exists some form of society continues is HUGE. Humans (at least as a species, rather than individuals) are amazingly tough and adaptable. Even the cockroaches are impressed.

Of course that doesn’t mean individuals – a lot of them — don’t die very easily. They do. I’ve personally seen someone die from an injury that 99% of people would live through, and vice versa. Humans as a species, and their societies can however be really robust…

But that’s really robust to live in too. Death and hardship are very common. You don’t want to be there. A society you DO want to live in… is surprisingly fragile. As an example: most of us, these days, would not want to live in a society where internet access is not an every-day, damn near every second commodity. I live in rural Australia – 90%+ of Australia, admittedly with 10% of the population. For us, internet access has improved and changed lives and ways of interaction, retail banking and things like medicine hugely. Very rapidly people have got used to it, and would find doing without it quite hard.

A lot of us rely on satellite… and one service provider does a lot of that. So: A few Saturdays ago a construction digger – one construction digger – put around 80% of rural Australia off the internet for two days. A few weeks earlier, a construction digger had cut the comms to the mobile network for 24 hours (ordinary phones and internet still working) to most of Victoria and Tassie.

We’re not talking nukes, or a massive solar EMP. We’re talking about a very small machine. The situation was mainly inconvenience, and awkward for the volunteer Ambulance service I am part of.

But the point is, the system is so fragile that a single digger could take out something affecting hundreds of thousands to millions of people.

So: As writers whose start point is often disaster of some sort… it is fragile. No matter how people claim otherwise, really fragile. BUT disaster as in millions of dead and the world as we know it gone… people are ingenious, and while some urban and peri-urban areas are in real strife if the power, water or deliveries stop for 24 hours, for that to happen on large scale takes a little more than one digger. Not an implausibility more, to overwhelm the state’s ability to cope, somewhat more than that to overwhelm a society (because, no matter if the city folk have spent generations pouring scorn on small towns and rural people… those deplorable folk WOULD come to help. They wouldn’t just sit tight. Of course they’d probably come armed and shoot the first looter, rapist or mob that got out of hand.)

But there is a limit on that too. Limits of fear, limits possibly as a result of infrastructure damage that they too had suffered. If the electrical grid has gone, off-grid homesteaders might be able to help a few neighbors, but not the city.

Still, people cope (especially if a disaster is not ‘fast’ but merely deep). I thought it would be interesting – from the writer’s point of view, to talk about something none of us have fully experienced, but some of us may have at least partially. You know, being an idealist and all, and an ambulance officer as well as having volunteered with Mountain Rescue and so on – a disaster anticipated and thought about is one hell of a lot easier and better coped with than something you never thought through. Mental preparedness tops most other kinds – so even if it never ever happens and merely provides fodder for stories, it’s a good exercise. And it might make for better stories too.

So: disaster strikes. The power across… well, you have no idea, is out. What do people do? The phone system appears dead. The internet is dead. You have no idea if it was a solar EMP, a nuclear EMP, a calculated act of sabotage, taking out strategic points (like those construction diggers did, by accident. Doing on purpose, and effectively is anything but fantasy. And assuming that people who can’t catch leakers in their own ranks can catch everything… is optimistic. About all that keeps us safe is that our foes are also not the sharpest pencils in the box.

Anyway, that’s short term irrelevant. The big question is what do you do? I mean, you’ve tried your mobile/cell and it doesn’t work. Now what?

Well, I can’t talk for you, but my first step is to think of my family. (All the other prepper things like filling the bath don’t really apply to me, I have my own water (and power) but let’s talk about them.

I think my first step is to start worrying about my family. Common sense, if they were all there, would be to hunker down a bit. Living where I do, I expect neighbors to come around to find out if my power/phones were off. (Neighbors where I live are the better part of a mile off.)

If the family weren’t home… I might take my shotgun (and who knows what else) for a drive and bring them home. At the same time I’d be finding out what anyone else knew. Here – and I suspect in many smaller places, not sure about cities which would be chaos – any problems would take time to manifest. Panic would come, but not immediately.  I think where people were densely packed that spark of panic might take flame faster. I don’t know. I’ve never been there.

But what do you do next? What do you think people would do?

And how do you react?

*A micro-aggression is, by SI unit definition: 0.000 001 of an aggression, or a millionth of an aggression. We’ve long moved past that. We’re past the mere nano-aggression whinging stage. A nano-aggression is a billionth of an aggression, almost visible under SEM, and just whizzed past as the level at which it is possible to be offended. We’re now on pico-aggressions – trillionths of an aggression, 0.000 000 000 001 of an aggression. Best defined as less serious than someone on the far side of the solar system, that they will never meet or know existed, who did not instantly agree with the offended. We’ll get to yocto-aggressions yet!

81 Comments
  1. It can be a curious thought experiment. There’s a few articles out there about how fragile civilization is. A UK paper published a story called “9 meals from famine” about how a transport disaster would put most people into dire straits. I ran across an American trucking association PDF that talked about what would happen if trucks weren’t running at the same levels that are needed. Fuel shortages, food shortages, and boil water advisories within a single week. What could cause such things? Frightening when you start digging down and discover what a teetering tower we are living on.

    May 28, 2018
  2. 23skidoo

    May 28, 2018
  3. Where I live, a major power outage in two places would cut off water to about 750,000 people. Not instantly, but once the water in the water storage towers was drained, that’s that. The major urban areas have no reliable surface water close at hand. Have it happen in mid-summer and you’ve got a serious problem. Mid-winter we’d do a little better because overall consumption is lower, but still. And without water pressure from the pumps, flushing away waste quickly becomes very difficult.

    Yes, I spent time thinking about all this when I was researching the hydrology of the area.

    May 28, 2018
    • Draven #

      there are a couple spots where a long-term power outage would, once the head pressure wears off, but off water to a large chunk of the City of Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley. (The San Gabriel Valley uses ‘groundwater’ that is actually pumped in from the Colorado)

      May 28, 2018
      • The California Water Project is frighteningly vulnerable in some ways. (I speak as a native Northern Californian who resents the transfer of water to the southern half; there are some things too frightening in terms of life lost to contemplate.)

        May 31, 2018
    • BobtheRegisterredFool #

      Yeah, water was one of my early thoughts. And not something I could do much about in an emergency for the place I live in.

      May 28, 2018
    • hence: first thing, fill the bath :-).

      May 28, 2018
  4. There’s the example of South Australia a year or so back where a combination of factors meant they didn’t have electricity for a while. They got it back before things went really bad but I don’t think it would have taken too many more things going wrong for the state to have been out of power for a longer time (say a week). That would be “interesting” because just about everything from fuel (gasoline, diesel) to water is delivered using systems that have electrical pumps and the like somewhere in the process. No electricity. no water and no fuel to buy. And of course no refrigerated/frozen food, no cell phones or internet and so on. Losing power for a week would be deadly to a lot of places.

    May 28, 2018
    • Yeah, from what I hear, since then a LOT of people have gone solar and SA is one of those places that solar works great because they don’t have typhoons and such. Lots and lots and lots of sun though…

      That, and the electricity prices are so high (so I am told.)

      May 29, 2018
  5. Echoing TXRed

    There’s the example of South Australia a year or so back where a combination of factors meant they didn’t have electricity for a while. They got it back before things went really bad but I don’t think it would have taken too many more things going wrong for the state to have been out of power for a longer time (say a week). That would be “interesting” because just about everything from fuel (gasoline, diesel) to water is delivered using systems that have electrical pumps and the like somewhere in the process. No electricity. no water and no fuel to buy. And of course no refrigerated/frozen food, no cell phones or internet and so on. Losing power for a week would be deadly to a lot of places.

    There is a reason I only visit Tokyo and will never ever live there. When the big quake happens very bad things are going to occur in Tokyo and a big chunk will simply be down to no electrical power

    May 28, 2018
  6. According to Drudge, this is happening this week in Brazil. There is a trucker’s strike, and food/fuel/water are running out all over the country.

    https://www.yahoo.com/news/week-long-brazil-trucker-strike-leaves-food-fuel-213215715.html

    As disasters go, this one is very low-rent. The truckers are pissed off about something, and they are blocking the roads with their rigs.

    What’s interesting is that this has been going on for 7 days now, and nobody seems that upset about it. Therefore the general populace supports the truckers. Otherwise the rigs would be removed from the road by whoever was handy. 50 guys can push a truck, or pull one. A couple of tow-trucks can pull one off the road.

    The thing to notice in the article is what has become scarce, and it only took a week to get that way.

    What I find rather alarming is the North American push for just-in-time delivery of -everything- makes us amazingly vulnerable to this type of failure. Companies and retail stores do not carry inventory. At all. Part of the reason is the inventory tax in the USA and similar taxes in Canada. Inventory is taxed as an asset, even though it is actually a cost. The other reason is accounting and loan financing, keeping costs and taxes down is business survival 101.

    Thus, nobody out there has more than the minimum they can get by on until their next scheduled shipment. If the truck doesn’t come they’re out of needed product. They send all the workers home and shut the door until the truck gets there.

    This is also true of fuel. Gasoline and diesel doesn’t get made and stored. It gets made and shipped out as fast as possible. Inventory is bad, they don’t keep any on hand.

    Electricity generation companies don’t keep fuel on hand either. Same reason, inventory is bad. If they miss a coal ship because of ice or similar, the power goes out.

    If the power is out, nobody can pump fuel, or make more.

    Fragility.

    May 28, 2018
    • Knowing this is why we began stockpiling pantry staples a couple of years ago, as well as keeping the chickens for eggs … and a couple of other things. In the event of the grocery stores being emptied, we could get by on what we have stashed for at least a couple of months – maybe longer.

      May 28, 2018
      • We’re generally good for about a couple weeks here.

        May 28, 2018
      • Mike Houst #

        Still have to feed the chickens, although they can usually free range for a while. Problem with free range is you lose a percentage to predators and accidents that way; so need a larger base flock to absorb those losses.

        May 30, 2018
    • Aimee Morgan #

      A prime example of this was my neck of the woods last year. Two days before Irma hit, the freezers and coolers in the grocery store died overnight. They had some stock in the coolers and freezers in the back, but a lot of their stock was on the floor, so to speak, and with a storm churning our way, they were low on stock to begin with. They had power the day after Irma, but it was three days before they had milk in the store, and 5 days before they had any frozen food. The combination of just-in-time inventory, opting to load up on bottled water instead of ice cream (good call!) and the delivery disruptions caused by fuel scarcity provided a good example of what can happen when disaster strikes.

      Next time, I’m filling the freezer with ice cream ahead of time.

      May 29, 2018
      • Bottled water! Oh yes, I always have a case or two on hand if I can manage it. Many cases in the event of an Event. Water bottles are such an excellent tool, you can do a lot with them.

        Hilarious that the Greenies keep trying to ban them, when they’re the one thing that stores keep in large inventory that are indispensable in an emergency.

        May 29, 2018
    • Mike Houst #

      Just in time: a recipe for suicide.

      May 30, 2018
      • Just-in-time is really great if you are running a car factory. That’s what it was designed for, streamlining the work and material flow of car factories. Works awesome, because everything sitting in the yard is costing you money, and having inventory of almost everything on hand does not help you if you are missing a shipment of screws. JIT reduces costs and speeds factory production. A lot.

        The problem with applying industrial models to something like a grocery store or a hospital is that THEY ARE NOT A FACTORY. In a factory, if you miss the fastener shipment by two days, the worst thing that’s going to happen is you send four shifts home. Costs you money, which you will get some back from the defaulting fastener supplier. He broke contract, you get a discount.

        If the hospital misses an insulin shipment by two days, people are going t die. That you get a discount on your next pallet of insulin ampules doesn’t really cover it.

        People in charge of government things never seem to learn from disasters though. They just take advantage of them to steal more stuff.

        May 30, 2018
        • We have the unfortunate recent example of Puerto Rico after the hurricanes to show what happens when hospitals run out of inventory and power.

          May 31, 2018
  7. Ori Pomerantz #

    Pretty high on the priority list would be to visit my Mormon neighbors and ask if they need any help. Disaster preparedness is a religious commandment for them (https://providentliving.lds.org/?lang=eng). If we had a real long term disaster situation, the Mormon Church will probably be the nucleus society will coalesce around.

    May 28, 2018
    • Smart thinking! If you live in a city plan to band together early

      May 28, 2018
      • Family, friends, neighbors in order of proximity. Talk to people. Help where you can. Lock everything up. Local recon and planning, get the lay of the disaster. If necessary, start securing house and transport.

        Have a plan (got that). Have an exfil plan (in town, just in case). Make sure your people know it.

        If back at the farm, the process would be even simpler. Feed the critters. Weed the farm. Break the ice if in winter. Et cetera. Crank up the HAM. That last one is the only different thing from, oh, several odd years of youth. If the crisis lasts more than five months, plan for longer term. Things like salt might be running low in a couple of years.

        Time was, when I was young, the valley would get closed off in winter for weeks at a time. One year, my father spent close to a month straight helping restore power to a little place about a half a day from here, with only the one power connection that travelled up the mountain to hook up with the main lines. Mostly older folk, no electric heat, frozen pipes and all. Tough, though. Six people died, near as I can recall.

        Bartering networks help, too. Been there, done that.

        May 28, 2018
    • Evenstar #

      Hence the jokes in Mormon culture about disaster striking and having to eat all that food storage.

      May 29, 2018
  8. Draven #

    Easy way to tell if it was a large-scale EMP… is your phone still working, just no signal? then its not EMP.

    May 28, 2018
    • Christopher M. Chupik #

      If it’s EMP, you won’t be talking about it online.

      May 28, 2018
    • Aimee Morgan #

      Heck, does your car start? Is your watch running? Are any planes falling out of the sky? (I’m on the flight path for JAX, so these would be noticeable between 5 AM and 10 PM.)

      May 29, 2018
      • Mike Houst #

        Big kaboom. No sirens. Bad sign.

        May 30, 2018
  9. The thing to remember about microaggressions, picoaggressions, etc. is an old pearl of wisdom: “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” Be sure to pass it on, especially to any snowflakes in a tizzy.

    May 28, 2018
    • It’s BOUMD to make you endlessly popular with them. ;-D

      May 28, 2018
    • Terry Sanders #

      “Small stuff?” THIS ISN’T SMALL STUFF, YOU RASCIST HOMOPHOBE CISGENDERED WARMONGERING etc…

      (Eventually they would reach the end of the sentence, and a few exclamation points would be called for.)

      May 28, 2018
    • Failing to live up to their expectations of savage hatey-hateness? How deliciously evil.

      May 28, 2018
  10. On another note, escaping the nightmare. Once upon a time I lived north of NYC in Westchester. Being a good Canadian boy, I spent quite a lot of spare time at the local gun store. We talked a lot of shit in those days. ~:D

    But, one day we got talking about a true SHTF event in NYC and what would happen. Any large scale event, basically. The cop who hung out with us said the first thing that would happen was gridlock. Traffic in Westchester County was horrible on a clear, dry summer’s day. In an emergency it would be impossible to drive anywhere on a highway, and the back roads would be jammed too.

    The next thing would be all the fuel drying up. Hoarding would empty the gas stations in hours, not days. Hurricane Sandy proved that conjecture to be true, empty gas stations were a big problem in 2012.

    The next thing that would happen: fuel theft. That also happened to friends of mine in suburban Westchester during Sandy. Fuel theft was a very big issue.

    Next after fuel theft, looting. We’ve seen that following hurricanes in Florida occasionally, when large cities get hit. First stores, then homes near the stores, then neighborhoods if it goes on long enough.

    Bottom line, good chance you or one of your family will get hurt in fighting or a car accident, and the family will starve if it goes on long enough. And you can’t escape by car.

    My first thought was to get out up the Hudson River by boat, which would be great in the summer time. But in the winter, it would be really bad. Ice in the water, sometimes the river freezes just enough to keep boats on the shore. Not survivable without dry suits and a bunch of other special kit, old guy like me couldn’t do it.

    Next old-guy solution, hovercraft. Impractical, because who has a hovercraft? But, for a government or police force, an ideal solution to emergency preparedness. Notice the complete lack of a hovercraft fleet in New York. Or an ice-breaker ship, another thing that showed up missing in Hurricane Sandy. Fuel deliveries in NY go up the Hudson, as it turns out.

    Also, airplanes. It is fascinating to go to Westchester airport and check out the number of small aircraft and private jets parked over there. There appear to be quite a few rich people who planned ahead for a SHTF event.

    May 28, 2018
    • TRX #

      Note that many of those aircraft – some of them surprisingly newish – will fly just fine after an EMP. Most of the jets and some of the newest prop planes will be DRT, but anything with magnetos will run. Much of the avionics will be toast, but most of that is convenience gear.

      May 28, 2018
      • That is likely true, something I hadn’t considered. Aircraft manufacturers are -extremely- conservative, most of the single engine planes are running carburetor Lycoming engines that haven’t really changed since the 1950s. Important small plane instruments are vacuum, not fly-by-wire. The radio will be toast, but who needs a radio when you’re escaping a nightmare?

        This EMP thing is one minor reason I keep a really old car around too. Unlikely thing to happen, but having one of the only working cars in town wouldn’t be a bad position to be in, come an emergency.

        May 28, 2018
        • BobtheRegisterredFool #

          FAA is pushing, IIRC, a fancy new transponder system. I’m not sure how that would work.

          May 28, 2018
          • How would that work after an EMP? Not at all, unless the whole system was EMP hardened out the wazoo. Including the transponders on the airplanes.

            Faraday cage, buffered electrical connections, dedicated power supply, military grade chipsets, re-settable breakers, protected antenna and redundant cable runs… sounds expensive. And heavy. They’ll probably go for something that would fry like bacon instead.

            May 28, 2018
        • “Important small plane instruments are vacuum, not fly-by-wire.” Many owners are replacing these with electrically-driven or electronic devices, such as the new Garmin G5, which can serve both as an attitude indicator and a horizontal situation indicator (if you get two of them)….has 4 hours of integral battery backup. Tempting, because vacuum pumps and vacuum instruments do tend to fail relatively often, but does increase vulnerability to EMP and similar events.

          May 28, 2018
          • ravenshrike #

            Buy 2 of each, keep the spares in a 8 mill steel box in the back of the plane. Wrap in paper towels and for added protection, copper mesh.

            May 29, 2018
    • My evacuation routes all depend on bikes. Which reminds me that I need to get a new one (and trailer) since mine was stolen a couple of months back. (Right before my birthday, too.)

      May 31, 2018
  11. Battery (or hand cranked?) radio… is anything on the air? Does it seem ‘live’ or automated? That person with the funny antennas and the odd license plate… is s/he hearing anything (assuming some emergency power)? Can they get some sort of message out – or are they getting anything in?

    May 28, 2018
    • One GREAT reason to get a ham license. The more paranoid preppers want to skip the licensing, but they’re missing out on the assistance of the amateur community, and YEARS of experience.
      Assuming it’s not an EMP or other war-type event, the sats will be available to bounce signals off – it allows even the higher frequency signals to travel quite a distance.
      Communications is a way for those of us who are too old and out of shape to contribute in a way that justifies our share of the resources.

      May 28, 2018
      • Seconded. The HAM people are, generally speaking, level headed and nice people.

        May 28, 2018
  12. Water is a huge issue: it is critical for firefighting as well as drinking and other uses. Substantially all the water pumping in the US is done using electric motors; there is some level of generator backup in some places, but I don’t think it’s anywhere near comprehensive.

    There are also worrying ties between the electrical grid and the natural gas system. Although much of the compression on long-haul pipelines is done using turbines which are themselves fed from the gas line, there are also electrically-powered pumps in local areas. And much of the grid is of course gas-powered, so there is a potential deadly embrace between the two systems.

    May 28, 2018
    • Mike Houst #

      Good point. My well goes down 300 feet and uses electrical jet pumps to raise it, and pressurize the house lines too. Add siting and digging a well to my To Do list this summer. And yes, I know about the dangers involved in well digging.

      May 30, 2018
  13. Brett Baker #

    Hurricane Ike. Here in NEO, we got hammered by straight line winds. We had to run our generator for a day and a half to get the cows milked, fed, watered and keep the milk cooled. The day after the electricity came back on, I went down to the Farm Science Review. Columbus area had 300,000+ people still without power 4 days later. One guy at a booth told me he had a client with several hundred cows. He lived 1/2 a mile from a power plant. The longest he’d ever been without power was 4 hours, so he didn’t replace his generator when it died. He was starting his fourth day without power.

    May 28, 2018
  14. BobtheRegisterredFool #

    I’ve gamed this some, and am not happy with my current situation.

    It is nice to spend spare income laying away supplies, which can help in a disaster.

    One way of evaluating the scale of a disaster is whether you repair the damage and go back to the old economy, or if you have to develop a new economy.

    You are best prepared for a disaster in your current employment when you have contacts and skills that you can apply to the new economy, whatever it is.

    May 28, 2018
    • Some skills are useful no matter what the economy. Cooking, for example. Everybody’s gotta eat. Hunting, farming, etc to tie in to that. Just *how* useful depends on where you are, and how bad it gets.

      Some things, like the service industry- I mean electricians, mechanics, carpenters, and plumbers are going to be more useful where there are the things they can repair, maintain, build, and so on. Some things can be adapted. Vet medicine is people medicine in many cases for example. Knowing useful skills and being willing and able to teach them? Gold, right there.

      May 28, 2018
  15. Christopher M. Chupik #

    And this morning I got to work and found the power was out.

    Timing!

    May 28, 2018
  16. I read a paper from a power-company conference a few years back in which they talked about potential consequences of a big solar mass ejection. What surprised me was that a) the effects depended a great deal on how close you were to a magnetic pole and b) the damage is probabilistic. That is, Seattle might lose 35% of its transformers but Portland would only lose 20% and LA wouldn’t lose any.

    I haven’t seen comparable data for EMP, but I’ll bet it’s similar. It’s not that all devices will be toasted; it’ll be some percentage of them. I’ve seen a rule of thumb that anywhere that can’t get FM reception enjoys natural EMP protection.

    Anyway, I think a realistic story would include the fact that some devices would still be working.

    May 28, 2018
    • But if there’s a grid-cascade failure when the different power providers try to shift around on the supply side… Something like that happened in New Mexico and it blacked out a swath of southern NM and western Texas for a day or so, as well as taking out the natural gas for heating.

      Agreed, unless it was a really strong two-wave CME like the original Carrington Event, some things would keep working in the far southern areas like Florida. (When you can see a brilliant aurora in Galveston, TX, it’s a heck of an aurora.)

      May 28, 2018
    • Greg, Australia stands in possible danger of Indonesian invasion (I know. We’re not allowed to talk about anyone but the usual subjects going rogue, but it has happened before and may well again. I know it is not PC to mention it, but that’s a nation with an established recent history of solving problems by conquest.) If I was the wholly imaginary bad dictator Bim Bam Bom, and I decided that taking over all that underpopulated land to the south was going to solve my growing unpopularity, that scenario – where the enemy is effectively softened and self-destructing is exactly what I would engineer. They have the technology, and indeed the skills to do that right now. Engineering a power-grid cascade is not that hard if you know who connects to what. Evil Bim might well have his minions give countries that might come to Australia’s aid their own problems – and pose his army as ‘rescuers’. I’m willing to bet the US as well several other countries all have plans to do something like this, in the event of a major war.

      But anyway – my point with this article was that besides the usual: water, gasoline, self-defense, knowledge/information about what you are dealing with, and banding together are probably two valuable survival things to think about, both in writing and as preparation.

      May 28, 2018
      • John Marsden played out that scenario decades ago in Tomorrow, When the War Began.

        We used to get LOT more cool spec fic from the Antipodes. I wonder what happened? Will go look.

        May 29, 2018
  17. sabrinachase #

    In my case, I go two doors down to my neighbor who is the local spy network/gossip maven and ask. She knows *everything* 😀

    It’s critical to know your environment, because there are no universal solutions. For example, I live in the Pacific Northwest and believe me, finding water is NOT a problem. Ever. *Clean* water, now, that might take more work. So I don’t store much water, but I do have an emergency filtration system (large) and I carry a Lifestraw with my gear. Even long term, I am in easy walking distance of a good-sized stream that doesn’t dry up in summer and 2 miles from a really nice public access artesian well. (The well is interesting. There are people pretty much all the time even at night, and what a cross-section of humanity….the fluridation freaks, the nature worshipers, and the home brewers, among others. The water company maintains it and tried to shut it down once but there was so much outcry they changed their minds.)

    May 28, 2018
  18. Having been through a few hurricanes . . . Working water and sewers are really *nice*. If you’ve got drinking, cooking, and cleaning water, and the toilets flush, you can eke other things out.

    Here where I am, I have a water well and that means electricity is needed. Our generator is rated high enough to run the well. Once we’re out of fuel, we’re in trouble. Oh, the Brazos River’s just a few miles away, but it’d have to be carried home in bulk, filtered and boiled.

    A city can’t survive very long without a water system, and us rural types would be hard put to make it for long without electricity . . . but we’d adapt. I don’t think cities, as such, would survive a year without power and water, and enough intact farming and transportation to bring them food. Might be lucky to last a month.

    May 28, 2018
    • Confutus #

      If something were to take out the power supply to Phoenix in midsummer, people would die like flies. Some kind of cooling out here when the temperature routinely hits 112 F (50 C) in the shade, and there is no shade, and water is so scarce that even most of native plants are armed with teeth and claws to protect what they can scavenge, is more of necessity than a luxury.

      May 28, 2018
    • I think about 4 days without major cities starting to go up in flames and death tolls in the thousands within 10 days – and within 2 weeks hundreds of thousands, if you assume it’s not just one city – with the country and indeed the world not trying to assist. The time to get out of the city is ‘soon’.

      Generators have one serious fault: they tell people with ears you have fuel and a generator.

      May 28, 2018
      • Funny thing about this topic. I have a WIP that is based upon a collapse. Starts with things falling apart slowly then accelerating. And that’s before the bad thing happens. Maybe I am too cynical about humans and civilization.

        May 28, 2018
      • TRX #

        That’s why I figure the near-suburban areas are going to be dangerous places for a while, as the wave of refugees comes boiling out of the cities to strip the countryside.

        On the other hand, if we can hold out for two weeks or so, the situation should be much easier to manage.

        May 29, 2018
      • Yeah. I need enough solar to start the pump.

        May 29, 2018
    • Mike Houst #

      Out of fuel for a generator usually means out of fuel for vehicle too. Which means you have to carry by hand the water from the river. At 8 pounds to the gallon, that gets old very fast. Draft animals will become very valuable, if you can keep people from eating them on you.

      May 30, 2018
  19. My school has some requirement for a shelter-in-place plan so we store some food supplies and a blanket for each child. At the end of the year we donate the food to a food bank. I’ve never paid any attention because the whole scheme seemed odd; what were we trying to guard against? Not, for example, an active shooter. Had we really thought about this? I knew the answer was no because they don’t make the teachers bring anything in. Someone was box-checking.

    But clearly this post’s scenario is the issue, to at least a limited degree. If somehow there was a wide breakdown ( a hurricane and flooding? ) we could feed the kids for a day or two. But in a real situation the first thing we would need would be latrines for 200 little kids needing to use a bathroom. And that would be a necessity within TWO HOURS! So we would need shovels. Betcha we don’t have them… Oh and the next thing would be various intestinal troubles from dirty hands.

    Kind of a horrifying thing to think about!

    May 28, 2018
    • Jane – A big bottle of Bleach – cheap and easy, should be EVERYBODY’S first thing to make sure they have.

      May 28, 2018
      • Honest question. Is the bleach for the latrine as well as everything else? I assume I’m going to have to dilute it.

        Oh! Since I’m the science teacher I actually have some bleach … I think.

        May 28, 2018
        • Bleach to kill bad bugs in drinking water. Doesn’t take much to make suspect water potable, along with the other usual applications it’s good for. Using it on the latrines though is a waste of resources.

          May 28, 2018
        • From the CDC, Centers for Disease Control, “If you don’t have clean, safe, bottled water and if boiling is not possible, you often can make water safer to drink by using a disinfectant, such as unscented household chlorine bleach”

          Add 1/8 teaspoon (or 8 drops; about 0.625 milliliters) of unscented liquid household chlorine (5–6%) bleach for each gallon of clear water (or 2 drops of bleach for each liter or each quart of clear water).
          Allow to stand for at least 1 hour before use.
          Boiling for 1 minute is another way.

          Not for toilets – but (at slightly higher conc, good for cleaning hands, and a slightly higher conc. for washing utensils, where water is limited.

          May 28, 2018
          • The blankets and such at school are most likely for something like icy road situations, where the buses can’t run and the parents can’t get there to pick the kids up.

            May 29, 2018
            • I’m just saying… In that situation why don’t I need something too? That’s why I think the directive isn’t well thought out.

              May 29, 2018
              • Also, around here the PTB spend enormous energy closing schools at a hint of ice. But we had a two hour power outage when someone wrapped a car around a power pole and the bathrooms were a disaster area immediately. We had to close for the day.

                May 29, 2018
  20. g2-56799a4506744a20844ec1aba9f974c4 #

    Recently I was re-reading (listening to, actually) John Ringo’s last centurion. He has the plague AND dramatic cooling and a really bad president almost take the wheels off civilization, but here’s the thing: I was thinking for a really bad mess you don’t even need that. You need a GENUINELY bad virus that floors people for a couple of weeks so they can’t do their jobs. I’ve been that sick that all you can do is sleep and moan. THAT even if it didn’t kill anyone, would get us in a world of trouble.

    May 28, 2018
    • g2-56799a4506744a20844ec1aba9f974c4 #

      And sigh, this is Sarah Hoyt. This stupid computer won’t take my wordpresslogin.

      May 28, 2018
      • Condolances, WPDE. Still sounds like you, though. Distinctive voice.

        May 28, 2018
      • TRX #

        “WordPress delenda est!”

        May 29, 2018
    • Mike Houst #

      Think of a really contagious version of mononucleosis. Most people are floored for at least a couple of weeks, and not at the top of their game for 6 weeks.

      May 30, 2018
  21. The post got me thinking about the Rule of Three in survival
    (Here: http://www.backcountrychronicles.com/wilderness-survival-rules-of-3/)

    Which reminded me that a few years back a YA writer decided to extrapolate it to civilization, specifically (IIRC – I mightn’t be) suburbia East of Seattle. With one but of (not too unlikely) handwavium it was a pretty fun read about people building something cool together. It had the same scenario Mr. Freer posited.

    The scene with the teen protagonist driving his still-functioning beater past all of his richer peers modern cars to get his kid sister from middle school was memorable.

    May 29, 2018
  22. Mike Houst #

    Dave, just a question. You live in Australia if I remember correctly. How is it you have a “shotgun (and who knows what else)”? I thought the Aussie government confiscated everyone’s firearms.

    May 30, 2018
    • Mostly because the government technically initiated a mandatory buy-back (confiscation with a smiley face) on certain types of firearms, not all firearms.

      May 31, 2018
    • Dave is also a farm owner. IIRC, depending on where and what feral animals they have in the area, what animals are being raised and how much land is involved, farm owners can have what firearms are required or deemed necessary; that includes shotguns, and in some cases, AR-15s. I mean, we have feral razorbacks, dogs as well as dingoes, and feral camels. There are also loads of feral livestock – cows, sheep, goats, etc, whose populations need culling.

      There are also farmers who don’t want the bother of having to deal with gun registration, so contract out the work to gun owners and rifle owners who are associated with Conservation Australia’s various branches. We were looking into joining such a group, but transferred out of Queenland before we’d made a solid decision.

      May 31, 2018
      • Mike Houst #

        /sigh
        We have some seriously feral people in this country that in a sane world ought to be culled too. You know, MS13 and other lethal gangs, child traffickers. The ones that excuse and enable them I’m undecided as to whether to do the same to them, or just try to horsewhip some sense into them.

        Dead means they’re no longer a problem. But it’s really hard to reeducate/rehabilitate a dead person.

        June 1, 2018
        • There’s the third problem of whether or not certain individuals are rehabilitatable.

          Goodness knows, from their POV, we’re better off lined up against the wall and shot en masse.

          June 1, 2018
          • RAH compared some humans to rabid dogs, and prescribed similar treatment. We can feel sorry for the dog, and postulate that maybe being rabid was not its preferred state of being, but for the welfare of the general population, the only sane thing to do is put it down. Bad Juju happens to good people all the time. Sad maybe, but so is a kid born with a fatal birth defect. That’s life.

            June 2, 2018

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