In 1859, what became known as “The Carrington Event” stemmed from a Solar Mass Coronal Ejection or CME coming from the sun. The Carrington Event was powerful enough to destroy the telegraph systems throughout Europe and the United States. It may be easy to laugh off the idea of losing the telegraph, but it should be noted that there was no electrical grid in existence at the time … had there been, it would have been completely destroyed as well.
“The Great Geo-Magnetic Storm of 1921” is considered to be one of the five worst recorded events of solar storms, it disrupted communications traffic from the Atlantic coast to the Mississippi River. On May 15, it not only disrupted but knocked out of operation, the entire signal and switching system of the New York Central Railroad below 125th street. This outage then was followed by a fire in the control tower at 57th and Park Avenue. The same storm burned out a Swedish telephone station and interfered with telephone, telegraph and cable traffic over most of Europe.
1958 – In the last century, there also have been other events such as the Feb. 11, 1958, solar storm which resulted in nationwide radio blackouts. According to various reports, auroras were visible in Boston, Seattle, Canada and Newfoundland. The storm reportedly was so intense over Europe that newspaper reports at the time said that there was concern for fires and the fear that war had broken out again.
1989 – The entire province of Quebec was blacked out from a glancing blow from a passing plasma storm. (The latter portion of the “tail” of the storm was likely the only portion that passed through the atmosphere of the earth … had the storm hit directly, the damage would have been substantially greater.
2012 – A geomagnetic plasma cloud resulting from yet another CME, barely missed the earth. This one was deemed to be larger than both the events of 1859 and 1921 which adversely impacted vast swathes of Europe and the US. The estimated damage and financial impact of a direct hit was estimated by the US government to be over two trillion US dollars … but that would not be the worst of it these days. This is also added to by some accounts, of vast rioting, looting and incessant violence in the years it would take to repair such damage, that would presumably include the loss of some hundred million lives or more.
Imagine either the East or West coast of the USA struck by such an event. Major population centers would lose power completely. There would be no ATM, no credit cards, no EBT cards, no banking and financial trade would effectively be brought to an immediate halt. The new generation, having grown up surrounded by electronic devices, many to a point of addiction, would be left without these devices. (It may be easy for some of us old farts to laugh off such a seeming farce, but the reality and the devastating psychological impact at the sociological level would indeed add to the chaos and mayhem that ensued) It is very likely that rioting and chaos would rapidly ensue. Add in the loss of large swathes of Europe and the chaos would inevitably spread around the globe.
While such a nightmare scenario may seem “unlikely”, according to a NASA Report authored by Dr. Pete Riley, there is a twelve percent chance of just such a scenario throughout the current decade and extending out to about 2024. Furthermore … and even worse still, scientists differ on exact numbers, but depending on the storm, there would only be anywhere from fifteen minutes to at best, fifteen hours warning of such an impending catastrophe. If the government would try to warn the people, the resulting chaos would likely begin the death and destruction as part of the immediate panic. Thus, it is very unlikely that the government would issue any real warning at all to anyone outside of those individuals deemed to be necessary for the continuation of government.
The Paranoid Prepper
When the subject of a Faraday comes up in discussions about homesteading, I am often reminded that my clients are not “the proverbial paranoid prepper” but rather, merely people seeking to live more in harmony with nature. While that may be all fine and dandy, the fact remains that each and every day we wake up, there is roughly … just better than … actually … a one in ten chance that today will be the day that Coronal Mass Ejection spits out an angry cloud of plasma directly at the face of the earth. If I only have a one in ten chance of getting a deer, I am still going hunting. If I only have a one in ten chance of catching a fish, I am still going fishing. If there is a one in ten chance of something really bad happening and I can be easily prepared for a very small investment … rest assured I am going to be prepared … even if some people will call me crazy for doing so.
The Faraday Cage
The faraday cage does not have to be any fancy contraption. There are ample examples online wherein even everyday storage containers can be converted to faraday cages with nothing more than aluminum foil and/or some metallic tape. A faraday cage can be built inexpensively and used to store anything and everything that will be necessary to re-power the homestead … which has probably always been off the grid anyhow. We had numerous boxes that were used for little more than storage, and since we rarely had occasion to dig into them, wrapping them in well-sealed and interconnected pieces of aluminum foil and sealing them up with some metallic tape did as much to keep the parts clean and safe, but also allowed us to rest assured that even in the event that something bad did happen, we could be back up and running and fully powered in only a day or two.
What to Store in your Faraday Cage
Probably the most expensive item we stored in a faraday cage, was a smaller wind generator that we had purchased new for about six hundred dollars. We had one in operation and we had purchased an additional wind generator as a spare. Since it was to be stored anyhow, storing it in a place that protected it from virtually any threat just seemed to make sense. We also had four or six deep cycle marine batteries that we had, again as nothing more than spares. Add in a couple of car alternators and some speaker wire and toggle switches or light switches, and light bulbs, and everything needed for the basic creature comforts of home off the grid were readily available and easy to put back together.
My dad and I both also had an affinity for shopping in second hand stores, auctions, flea markets and other bargain basement shopping places for the homesteader. As such, we had a fairly good selection of spare electronics. Among these were two ham radios … as we could never see any need to operate more than one at a time anyhow … a few CB radios that were good enough for local communications, a few spare laptops that we had picked up at an auction, car stereos and speakers and other “luxury” items. If better equipment and better deals were come across later on, old stock could be sold, generally at a profit, and the proceeds would be used to build up the homestead even more.
Being Prepared is Not Paranoia
Being prepared for what many claim is an abject inevitability is not, as far as I can see anyhow, being paranoid in any sense. It is merely exhibiting common sense. According to Professor Paul Cannon of the British Academy of Royal Engineering; “Our message is, don’t panic, but do prepare – a solar superstorm will happen one day and we need to be ready for it.” Having a faraday cage is simply very little other than common sense. If and when this day does occur in our lifetimes, while everyone else is in full panic mode, you will by and large, be able to go on as if nothing had ever happened at all, and indeed, if your homestead off the grid is properly implemented, you should never have to worry about such an event at all.