One Second After by William R. Forstchen is a really scary book. Not scary like a Stephen King book, but more like a wake up call to how fragile the world we live in is. This is the book that prompted my first post, and really pushed me to start thinking of myself as a prepper or a survivalist. If you stay dependent on today’s way of life, you will die quickly when it is all taken away from you.
This post is a review of One Second After and assumes you have read the book. If you haven’t already read One Second After, then be warned that there are a lot of spoilers in this post.
John Matherson is the main character and lives in the small college town of Black Mountain, North Carolina. One Second After deals with an unexpected electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack on the United States and how it affects the people living after.
Here is my list of lessons learned:
- If you currently depend on medicine to stay alive, you will be one of the first people to die. John Matherson’s daughter was a Type 1 diabetic. When the insulin was out, she died a painful sad death.
- The elderly that depend on others to take care of them will also die quickly. People forget about taking care of others when it is a struggle to take care of themselves.
- Back up generators are useless when they’re taken out by an EMP. None of the important generators in the town of Black Mountain worked after the EMP. The hospital and the nursing home specifically. If they had worked, many lives would have been saved. The town would have been more prepared before they ran out of fuel.
- Tend to any kind of open wound immediately. The small cut on Matherson’s hand almost killed him. His stubbornness to have it looked at was dumb.
- Old cars are more reliable than today’s modern cars. A 1950s era Studebaker, a 1964 Ford Mustang and a whole fleet of old VW buses and bugs didn’t notice the EMP attack. When so much depends on computer motherboards today, it is really easy to render them useless.
- Don’t be afraid to be a leader when you are the most knowledgeable and experienced in the group. Someone had to take charge of the town. The major was slow to take action because nothing like this had ever happened. Matherson was hesitant to take charge of the defense of the city, even though he was the most experienced.
- Teach your way out of a job. When everyone around you knows what you do, you no longer have to be the one that people depend on. This is what Washington Parker did with the college kids. He taught them as much as he could as quickly as he could. When the attack from the Posse came, the town was ready and performed well even after Washington died.
- Learn how things were done before electricity. Have good training material for this available in something other than electronic format. Books and magazines were eventually found in the basement of the library. But having this ready from the beginning would have been great.
- Having electronic versions of training material on a laptop that was in a Faraday cage would have been even better. Not a single time was a Faraday Cage mentioned in the book.
- Communication is really important. Having a way to talk across town would have saved lives.
- Why is it that in every prepper book the local first responders are screwed after an EMP? Couldn’t a fire truck or police car be hardened against an EMP?
- Everyone in your family needs to know how to use a gun safely. But you also have to train and practice how to protect your home. When Matherson’s home was invaded, the children were not useful. They had never trained for that situation. Gun training is not enough.
- Having neighbors who you know and trust is so important. Immediately after Matherson’s home was invaded, his neighbor came over to assist.
- It doesn’t matter how rural you are. If everyone is hunting the woods to survive, the animals will all be killed. Why didn’t they do more fishing?
- Working together is the only way for a group to survive. The town of Black Mountain became organized and everyone participated in the defense and food for the city.
- Don’t be afraid of strangers. Just make them prove themselves. They may be able to provide skills or advice to help everyone. Makala was and outsider who’s car was stalled on the highway like many others. But she was a gifted nurse who ended up running the hospital.
- Pets were looked at as protein. A last desperate means of feeding starving family members.
If I was the mayor of a small town and read One Second After I would:
- Have a room specially built onto the municipal building that would serve as a Faraday cage.
- Add a HAM radio for long distance communications. Also add a dozen short distance (25 mile) walkies talkies to the room.
- Add nightvision goggles to the room for defense.
- Encourage solar panels for homes in the city, stores, schools and municipal buildings.
- Create school and city food banks. Stock up on MREs and freeze dried food.
- Create a seed bank with crops that grow well in your area. Encourage people to have gardens and have free classes on gardening.
- Encourage and fund homesteading and Renaissance festivals. Old world skills like blacksmithing, farming without electricity, tanning hides and foraging would be valuable and it’s good to know who has these skills.
- Encourage chicken and rabbit raising. Have free classes on these topics too. Eggs and rabbit meat would have made a huge difference in Black Mountain.