Book Review: One Second After


Book Review: One Second After

There are few books I have read that are as intense as William Forstchen’s One Second After. The author was originally intending to publish all his gathered facts on the effects and aftermath of Electro Magnetic Pulse (electro magnetic pulse) blast over the continental US as a study, but then he thought he would be labeled as one of those crazy survival types. I know the type.

Instead, he delivered those EMP facts in the form of a fictional story that about what happens when the power goes out and there’s a void of national leadership. Unfortunately, Forstchen’s scenario is all too likely, as military and government gaming strategists have said definitively that it’s not a question of “if” the the US will be struck by an EMP, but “when.”  The read makes you squirm because it feels more like you are reading prophecy, not fiction.

So what is an EMP? An EMP is a very high amp current surge that fries pretty much anything with a transistor, circuit board, or chip as if it has been struck by lightning. If it runs on AC or DC current (with or without power connected at the time of the blast), it will be fried unless it is significantly “EMP hardened.”

Because there is limited nuclear testing going on now, there are obviously limits to what EMP testing is going on. This lack of substantial testing is of great debate on what sufficient hardening means, but a generally accepted test is to place a cell phone in the hardened container and call it. If it rings, then whatever is in the container will be fried during an EMP.

Unlike lightning, it is believed that only an air tight sealed, metal faraday container is sufficient. Chicken wire is not going to do it. It turns out dropping your stuff in a plastic bag inside a lidded paint can does not allow the cell phone to ring, so in theory that would be sufficient hardening. I also performed the same test with the phone simply placed in my Liberty Fat Boy safe, but it rang.

Any gaps or holes at all will leak in a signal, and an EMP makes it tough to run wires in/out to harden things like US Power grids and automotive electrics. The problem is only a very small percentage of our government and military stuff has even attempted to be hardened, and it is said most of our bunkers lack hardening. The budget was canned for hardening our US power grid, so we can expect an EMP to have maximum effect.

We do know even a best case scenario will be devastating, and the “how devastating” question has to do with how big the nuclear explosion is and how far it explodes off the ground.

Generally, a measurable EMP is caused by gamma rays from a nuclear blast, but a solar flare could also have the same effect. For a ground level explosion, unless the nuclear explosion is very large, the earth will absorb the majority of the EMP effects. So for instance, if a ground level nuke went off in Chicago, it would be wasted, radiated, and EMP’ed with fallout carried over the Eastern US, but St Louis would be in relatively good condition and untouched.

Elevate that same explosion to about 250 miles above the earth, and radiation and fallout are not a problem at all, and in fact you might not even see the explosion unless it was at night. But the atmosphere will actually amplify and spread out the EMP effects to the point that that same big ass nuke we talked earlier would now theoretically fry about 80% of the electronics in the US or whatever was in line of sight of the nuke within the horizon line. Technically it would only take one very large, high altitude nuke to EMP the entire US and part of Canada and Mexico, but the book describes a scenario with three nukes that would do a more thorough job.


The aftermath is what One Second After addresses in Tourettes-syndrome-inducing intensity. My dog for some reason freaks out every time Mrs Pandemic or I swear, so he hated the book because about every page my wife or I read we let out profanities. Plus, I keep telling my dog to fatten up because he is officially the other other white meat.

What if everything controlled by electronics in all the US stopped working? Everything… cars, the flight your wife was on, trains, water pumps, tractors that harvest food, all the stuff in hospitals, back up generators, medication manufacturing and distribution, your electronic red dot sight, or you digital lock on your Liberty safe. It would be send us back to the dark ages before steam power, and before even the use of maggot treatments for open infectious wounds.

Sure, we have the farm land, but we don’t have the mules, oxen, or horses, and chances are they would be eaten anyway in the first couple months as most of our meat is confined and feed by trucked in grains. Best case the farmers just open up the pins. Sure we have seeds, but so many of our seeds are genetic hybrids that cannot be reseeded, so we are screwed long term even if we hand work the fields.

We are presently a national and global economy the depends completely on massive trucking and rail distribution, with much of our food imported so that even if one area had excess rotting in the fields, we couldn’t get it to those in need without the distribution network. Re-establishing distribution would take far too long.

Then of course you have potentially massive bands of roving and pillaging parties. Sure, maybe you and your neighbor are skilled Marine snipers, but you don’t stand a chance against the 90,000 hungry, scared people exiting a city and pillaging as they go with your house in their path.

Got penicillin? As numbed and drugged Americans that take a pill every time we fart or sneeze, our immune systems are not designed to handle some of the old standards like cholera, typhoid, or even a the new bread of standard flus without medical intervention. Through massive pesticides we have kept insect plagues at bay. That half a can of Cutter in your basement and last years left over Spectricide will not be able to keep your house and body pest free for long. An EMP is pure and simple the event that even the well prepared may not survive.

If you are serious about preparedness or survival, you owe it to yourself to read One Second After. It will change forever how you think about preparedness and extended survival. It scared the hell out of me and definitely has spurred discussions and new articles in process.

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