In the next several posts, I want to explore the feasibility for radio communication during an actual SHTF situation. I’m not talking about a tornado or hurricane event. Ham radio operators are already well-equipped to help out in those kinds of transitory situations and newspaper headlines point this out daily. What I want to discuss is a zombie apocalypse. You know, a full-scale military invasion by some enemy, or perhaps worse, all-out cyber warfare. An EMP event or another global pandemic. Etc. While some of these may be difficult to imagine, imagine this - there is a possibility that the next US presidential election in a few months could drop a shape-shifting Nazi with delusions of Theocracy and revenge into the Oval Office. Or maybe worse, he loses again setting off another season of “Rigged!” that precipitates a second War Between the States.

Let’s Begin

Anyone who spends time and treasure preparing for painfully sustained emergencies reveals at least some pessimism about the manner in which we have organized our world. You have enough concern about existing means of communication to at least think about it. Good for you! There is ample evidence that we’ve built a world with far too much tech to maintain without inevitable failures.

Bitcoin has been getting a lot of press recently as it exploded in value having exceeded $70,000 per coin. Cryptocurrencies can be scary as they don’t really exist. They reside inside the digital realm where nothing really exists except bits. It’s not like a bar of gold or a jar of silver coins in your attic. It ceases to exist whenever the server is turned off. Or as James Howard Kunstler wrote this morning on his blog:

“Imagine: Bitcoin shoots up to a million dollars. You’re a zillionaire! Uh Oh. . . somewhere outside Zanseville, Ohio, a squirrel takes a final chaw through some old insulation on a wire coming out of a transformer. His head blows up in a blue arc flash, and in a few seconds all the electricity goes out from Chicago to Boston. It turns out that seventeen substations in ten states have blown relays, transformers, and switchgear. Some of those components were forty years old and are now manufactured twelve thousand miles away in a country that doesn’t like us anymore. The replacement parts get held up in a Chinese port. The power doesn’t come back on for weeks. Nobody who lives in the eastern USA can get to his Bitcoin wallet, which is just a virtual entity made of computer code residing in a digital “cloud,” i.e., nowhere real.”

The aging power grid in the US will quickly become a major problem in any SHTF scenario that can be conjured. The cost to replace it is enormous and I’m not even certain with $34 trillion of debt the US could afford to revamp the entire power grid system even if it really, really wanted to.

Even if the grid doesn’t technically fail, control of it may fall into the hands of jack-booted thugs who could benefit from pulling the plug on select regions. However that turns out, assuming that power will always be available is a terrible assumption. And the lack of basic power impacts everything…

In 2005 Central Indiana experienced a once in a lifetime ice storm. Power lines were down everywhere and power wouldn’t be restored at my house for eight long, agonizing days. But that was the least of our problems during the first 72 hours. With power off the internet was down. Gas stations had fuel and kerosene in their tanks but without electricity, no way to pump it out of the ground. Portable generators got those pumps running by the 3rd day of the crisis, but with no internet connectivity anywhere in town gas stations and other retail outlets (grocery stores) couldn’t take a credit card. And since power was down on a broad scale, ATM’s were out of service. You got a suitcase full of cash at home and you might do okay, you got ten bucks in your pocket, and you were effectively “broke”.

I’m an engineer, I know how a lot of things work. But that ice storm experience gave me a different perspective about the way things work and believe me, we’ve built most things wrong. I mean, unless you believe in magic, miracles, and a lot of good luck, then just over the hilltop lies an ominous future.

Access to power is the number one concern for surviving the zombie apocalypse. You may disagree, but power generation needs to be very high on your list. Remember, if the power and internet are out broadly, no one will be able to let QRZ know you’ve become a Silent Key. Best you solve the power problem first, long before worrying about stockpiling ammo and MRE’s.