OK, you wake up tomorrow morning and the SHTF has actually happened. People have gone crazy and there’s been a surprise EMP blast. Phones are down, your power is “iffy:” and you don’t know what will happen next…
You whip out your EMP Emergency kit – and what’s in it?
Good-quality shortwave radio. A couple of FRS radios for neighbors. A couple of 2-meter ham handhelds – preprogammed with local fire, sheriffs, police and EMS. NOAA Weather Radio? Yep. Tons of batteries in the Fridge? Check.
Night-vision gear still working? IR illuminators?
What else would be in the :”dream kit?”
Well, for one thing, a small generator – something on the order of 1,000 watts and enough gasoline to give you 20+ hours of run time. Stabilized gas, naturally!
This metal monster has everything you’ll need to recover at least your “mission critical” electronics. Comms and NVG – check with anyone who’s got “sandbox” time – these things matter.
There’s no point with trying to fix surface mounted micro-components short of a microscope and experience. A de-soldering station is a must, also, but at #200 a whack, how many people have them?
Are You Toast?
Maybe not: In the garbage can are a bunch of general purpose diodes at ratings up to 10 amps. And you have that trusty electronics workbench where you’ve been tinkering…. You’ve been using it for things like electronics ham radio perhaps, and maybe robotics – the Raspberry Pi 2 has been a hoot…now if the GPIB could just drive a linear actuator and…
What’s going to work?
Probably, most of it since you had the brains to keep your bench equipment on a single breaker or power strip. You bench also happened to be in a part of your home with foil insulation, as well…no? Basement, then? This may not be a bad place to set up shop helping people with electronic recovery efforts.
But you’ll need to have thought well-ahead since overnight parts will be a thing of history books for a while…
Most electronics can be fixed with fairly simple tools IF you know what you’re doing. With jobs shut down, you’ll have time to figure things out. Let’s look at a few of the major pieces of test gear that will be useful: Curtain #1?
On our bench, these are all old-school tube-type pieces of test equipment that have a place in fixing almost anything electronic. (Left to Right) An old vacuum-tube voltmeter (VTVM) which in our case is an elderly RCA VoltOhmyst Senior. Center, we find an old Heath-Kit signal tracer. Plug the ground lead onto a piece of equipment under test and turn up the amplifier gain. You can hear both audio as well as radio-frequency energy. Just remember to flip the switch on the probe tip. On left unit is an AC Voltmeter. This one (optional) is used for peaking (aligning) old radio equipment. You plug the audio output of something in and instead of “tuning by ear” – what hams call the “Golden Screwdriver Approach” you are actually able to measure the change. The meter is accurate to withing a fraction of a decibel. The human ear? People with studio engineering experience can nail 2.6-3.5 db – with lots of experience. Absent that, average humans are good for about 6-decibels. Not so hot…
The US Government operates a ton of time and frequency standards, the most accessible (low tech) are the shortwave standards at 2.5, 5, 10, 15, and 20 MHz shortwave. In addition to geomagnetic conditions and forecasts, other useful emergency information might be found there.
Just uno problemo: If the SHTF involves a glowing atmospheric mushroom, the HF bands may be out of commission for a long time. You may find a local frequency standard useful. Something like what we keep behind curtain #2:
That, my friend is a useful piece of equipment and yes, it’s kept unplugged when not in use. Rhode and Schwarz, 9 KHz to somewhere up near daylight…this is ideal for the kind of communications which will prevail after EMP. Say hello to FRS, CB, and ham radio.
Sure, cell towers will still be physically present, but remember how much of that infrastructure depends on central office, power grids and working cell phones.
You can pick one of these up for several hundred dollars if you’re diligent shopping.
So, how good is a Rhode? Well, let me tell you a story.
I was recently working on a piece of equipment – an old TenTec 540 Triton SSB transceiver. Traced the trouble back to a 40-year old cold solder joint on the RF Bandpass board (the group of four silver coil cans in the foreground here:):
When I put it back together again, the Rhode said the sensitivity was only -98 dBm..it worked, sure, and for an emergency it would have been fine. But it just wasn’t right, if you know what I mean.
A little “something” gnawed at the back of my mind. This was not what I was expecting – after all, I’m an electronics expert and no way in hell should it have been -98 dBm…should have been -120 dBm or better.
Sure enough, I hooked up the EMP Kit radio (A Kenwood TS-430) and tested it. Again, the radio showed sensitivity of only -95 to -100 dBm.
“Hmmm…what the hell gives?” I thought to myself. As a former Porsche owner, my faith in German engineering is intense.
Suddenly, it dawned on me: Could the test lead itself be bad?
Sure as hell…took off the low-end cheap lead and put on one I’d made up myself out of RG-58 cable and better-quality crimp connectors. Suddenly, the Kenwood was heading -134.7 dBm – about perfect on 40-meters.
Lessons learned? If the SHTF, and you have any kind of skills in electronics, don’t just pack the garbage can with EMP goodies like new style equipment. There’s a reason for the brisk trade on eBay in ham radio circles for 30-80 year old tube-type equipment. Most of the components (*like tubes and capacitors) can still be found at reasonable prices.
And, if you’re addicted to a particular brand of equipment, you’ll quickly find sources like www.hayseedhamfest.com where you can find the same “can type” capacitors (with modern guts to ’em) and it really makes for first-class restorations.
The discussion doesn’t stop with ham gear. What would be the potential after-EMP value of a few dozen Raspberry Pi‘s and some old laptops with fresh batteries that are able to load code and maybe converted over to Linux and a couple of spare power supplies? Fortunes have sprung from more humble beginnings.
See it? People plan for the “One Second After” but it’s the two months after that scares us. We plan on being able to field (out of the blue) for our surroundings, a whole low=frequency emergency system that will be comprised of GMRS, CB, and ham radios. The antennas are easy, but the comms could be critical.
One Last Hint
If you’re planning for the Great Recovery, then it makes sense to enjoy electronics as a hobby long before you’ll need it as a life-skill. For Mr. ADHD, the biggest problem with electronics is the billions of small parts. Here are two simple ideas how to cope with “parts overflow”
Elaine doesn’t take any medicines and I only take 2-pills a day. BUT, if you catch the people at the pharmacy in a good mood…the larger pill bottles serve as perfect small parts containers.
Since we recommended a label printer as a “second printer” long ago, it’s simple to keep things nearly organized and it makes the troubleshootizing and restorification (we like the sound of those two words) a lot easier and more enjoyable.
You can get component kits (resistors, capacitors, inductors, zener diodes, and all manner of goodies including, oh, alligator clips of assorted sizes, in nice plastic boxes if you shop around a bit. Here in the upper left (above picture) you can see part of my “stash.” End label them so you know what you’re pawing through.
Most used kit so far? The assorted pre-cut different diameter shrink-wrap tubing.
BTW, got 50 propane lighters in your SHTF kit? They ought to go for many favors and such because he who has fire…well, you read history, I assume. Paraffin waterproofed stirke-anywhere matches are good, too. Plumbers candles, 24-hour oil lamps…oh-=oh…off the beaten path again…
Back to Resilient electronics to wrap up: Yes, you can beat the shit out of the piggy bank and toss a Fluke 115 Compact True-RMS Digital Multimeter in your EMP Can, Case of batteries, too. But you can spent a lot less to measure things, and get yourself into serous learning mode. Whether it’s robotics, ham radio, or just collecting a few old low–memory slow laptops to play with, there’s no substitue for learning which is what hands-on electronics is all about.
Any damn fool can toss $150 in the garbage can. Takes advanced fools like us to figure-out a way to learn and enjoy the process while doing so…
An idiot with a Fluke, manual, not parts and no experience? Or the old-school that got us this far? Doesn’t seem like a hard bet to place, does it?
Write when you get rich,
de AC7X George@ure.net