Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Federal Logic?

I've written about the big National EAS Test coming in November -- and you readers, darn it, have been largely uncooperative about donning tinfoil hast over it; it's almost like you've got common sense or something -- now I find out that FEMA has been busily providing the key AM stations in the system with complete backup transmitting facilities, to be kept offline but ready, just in case.

These setups are EMP-hardened. It's being done with biggo Homeland Security dollars, hot off the printing press.

Update: Notice the big solar coronal mass ejection that slammed by last night, lighting up the Aurora as far south as Indiana? Those FEMA transmitter-in-a-can installations are looking smarter with every passing...solar flare! /Update

Speculation in some quarters (see comments at the link) has run rampant. (Oh, dear.)

Me, I figure FEMA is still smarting over past events; this is something they can do, something consistent with their actual mission, and they are getting whatever they can get while the checkbook is out. An offline transmitting setup in a shielded enclosure will survive nasty lighting hits and downed powerlines with ease. It's overkill but not as much as you might think. And if the Feds are gonna throw money at things (and they are), this is one of the more benign.

However -- assume the most paranoid folks are correct and The Pulse hits. I have only one question: who's gonna have a working radio receiver after a bigtime EMP? They'd all get fried! (Or the solid-state electronics in them would. FM and TV, fuggeddaboutit, the fonky blast of RF is right in their frequency range, but I don't see the front end of your pocket transistor having much better luck.)

It's like the original problem with the telephone: who'd the first guy to get one call up? Only worse. So FEMA might wanna bury a few tin cans fulla radios while they're at it. And a Diesel truck to drive around throwing them out of.


JohnMXL said...

Oooh...maybe I ought to foil wrap that baggie of germanium diodes in my junk box...after the Zap I can start cranking out crystal radios.

Wonder if I can still find GEM razor blades any where.

Probably on the same shelf as the Ohio Blue Tip Strike Anywhere wooden matches.

Stranger said...

Per the Radiotron Designers Handbook, second edition, "The signal provided by an aerial is proportional to the capture area of the aerial."

Post Regency transistor radios have a small capture area, and may survive. But wrap the thing in aluminum foil and the chances of survival improve by several magnitudes. Drop the package in an ammo box with the strike anywhere matches and survival odds increase again.

Even a typical transistor ham rig can be hardened with a bit of thought. Remember, an EMP attack is just a very rapid change in magnetic flux. It is defeatable.


New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

I keep some BoB electronics in a faraday cage. Don't YOU, Bobby?

Carl-Bear said...

[rampant paranoia]
This is obviously a ploy to detect evil, wicked, hoarding preppers. Only survivalists would have their receivers stored or hardened against EMP, so all the feds have to do to round them up is broadcast innocent sounding instructions after TEOTWAWKI, and see who responds to something no one else can pick up.

To the FEMA camps with them!
[/rampant paranoia]

(I'm not sure what it says about me that I know several people who will believe this really is the primary plot/purpose.)

Anonymous said...

My Hallicrafters SX-28 will survive; my c-phone, not so much. And I still have a small stock of 6L6's to build transmitters. :)


og said...

I still have a crystal set in a round oatmeal container. it's pretty well EMP proof. And anyone with three brain cells can build one.

Jake (formerly Riposte3) said...

"Wonder if I can still find GEM razor blades any where."

Amazon has 'em. Waterproof matches, too.

@ Roberta X: This got me wandering around ebay, and when I found this I immediately thought of you. Pretty neat!

Bubblehead Les. said...

What? You don't have your spare Electronics set up in your EMP Proof .50 Cal Ammo Can? All the Cool Survivalists do. See Rawles site for details on "How To".

So FEMA is Backing up the Ministry of Propaganda's Radio Transmitters with 'Hardened" Secondary Systems? I though that Civil Defense was "Provocative", and might set off a Arms Race?

Or so I've been told for DECADES by the "Peaceniks" in the State Dept.

Joanna said...

Reminds me of a Far Side cartoon, with the husband and wife in a fallout shelter full of cans: "Don't forget the can opener, I said! Not much good without a can opener!"

BobG said...

"I have only one question: who's gonna have a working radio receiver after a bigtime EMP?"

I still know how to rig a foxhole radio. I've made them from galena, old razor blades, and corroded pennies when I was a kid, with a tuning coil wrapped on an old tube from a TP roll.

Anonymous said...

Okay, then, next question: who's gonna have time to make a crystal set or whatever? I expect the first 48 hours would be...full.

FWIW, it's gonna be staicky for a while afterwards and you will be trying to pick a 5 kW AM signal out of the noise. I'm not saying a razor-blade radio won't do it but it won't be fun or fast. Nearest PEP-1 to me is in Cincinnati, next after that is in Chicago.

(Yes, I do have a rado-wrapped-in-tinfoil, just in case. But the batteries will have to take their chances; I keep a good stock in the kitchen. I outta get a version with a hand-cranked charger, and so should you. Any tube radio you have connected to an antenna when there's a fat EMP, the tubes might survive but the RF coils probably won't.)

og said...

The first 48, there won't be time to listen to a radio anyway. After that there will be a lot of sitting around, i spect.

BobG said...

I think Og has it right.

Anonymous said...

What, you don't have a bomb-shelter-in-a-faraday-cage burried in your backyard?

FEMA (well, someone) has actually dusted off some of the 70s data Oak Ridge Natl Lab (and others) did reguarding "imporvised bomb shelters" including the blast-gates for the air-vents. (Blast over-pressure will kill or deafen people close to a nuke.) http://www.scribd.com/doc/40430684/Nuclear-War-Survival-Skills-Oak-Ridge-National-Laboratory Appendix D gives instructions for building your own bomb-shelter (not just fallout shelter). They built a few of things near the old atomic "tests" and proved you could survive.

So I guess someone is paranoid. That and the number of bomb shelters being sold seems to be on the rise.

Loose Gravel said...

OK, so I do actually have a few important electronical things carefully placed in a Faraday cage - but... Let's face it: electrical guru I am not. I've always heard that building a simple receiver was easy, but my electronic projects in the past have generally been made of fail. So, how about a challenge/plea to those of you that have more understanding of the electronics world to show the rest of us how to put such a simple-sounding little receiver together out of commonly available materials?

Jake (formerly Riposte3) said...

@ Loose Gravel: I found this one today. I don't know how accurate or how good it really is, but it looks useful.

Loose Gravel said...

@ Jake (formerly Riposte3)- That looks doable, maybe even for me. I see some experimenting in the future. My uncle was an electronics/broadcast engineer, but I always stuck with pulleys and levers that I could see and understand...

Roberta X said...

Jake's link is spot-on, with only one caveat: the teeny little coil in the early going is an illustration ONLY. The nice big one wound on a plastic bottle is the way to go.

In general, in a "need signal" situation, the more antenna you can give a crystal set, the better. 50' to 100' of wire, high and in the clear, will usually be amazing. Lower/shorter give less signal.

Assuming -- big if -- Something Bad knocks North America, or the planet back to 1921 levels of radio signal density, a crystal set would be a contender.

"Something Bad?" I'm sure your local news covered the big CME that blew by last night -- or at least the Northern Lights it powered. Turn the power of one of those up a little more and you'll get your EMP, all right. FEMA's sheilded standby transmitters are lookin' smarter every day.

Loose Gravel said...

Thanks Roberta. I've always tried to build my skill set, doing everything from living in the Alaskan bush and learning (sometimes the hard way) skills attendant with that experience, to machining and woodworking, but the electrical end always stymied me. Time to deal with it and start learning. I probably will never NEED all those skills, but then again I also hope I never NEED my CCW handgun... but I still carry it. Just in case.

Skip said...

Hey, it is really cool to be old for once.
SHTF, we don't need no steekin coms.
Get offa my lawn!

BobG said...

Those pictures bring back a lot of memories of my childhood while I was learning the basics of electronics.