Solar proton flares appear to be fairly rare. The last ones to
cause severe injury to life on Earth seem to have occurred 12,900
tears ago, producing what some call the Rancholabrean (or Labrean
for short, for the La Brea tar pits) extinction, that wiped out
most megafauna, such as mastodons, mammoths, and giant ground
sloths (megatherium) from North America, Northern Europe, and
northern Asia. It was not a complete, worldwide, extinction event.
It is discussed in a companion article,Earth
The focus in this article is how to survive another such event.
The threat is from a solar flare that delivers intense proton
radiation that breaks through the Earth's magnetosphere. Most of
the radiation would come almost straight down, and consist not
only of protons but of secondary radiation such as neutrons and
gamma radiation, both of which can penetrate several feet of
shielding, with up to 3-10 sieverts of radiation. 3 are usually
fatal. This is not like the radiation that would be produced in a
nuclear war, which would include radiation from dust (fallout).
There may be little or no warning, and such warning as might be
issued might be only about an hour in advance. Flares can be seen
by solar observatories in time to warn astronauts of a proton
storm, but it does not appear that the Emergency Warning System is
prepared for an event of this kind for the entire nation. If it
came in the middle of the night, most people would probably die
Most modern homes will not provide enough shelter. You need to get
under at least three feet of concrete, stone, or soil. The
basement of a three-story office building might work, if the
floors are concrete. A concrete bridge or drain pipe might work.
Be on the lookout for shelters.
Try to identify anything that might provide shelter near where you
live, work, or travel regularly. You may not find much. If you get
warning in time, you may have some time to look, but it is best to
have already spotted some.
Carry a radiation detector.
There are some nice ones available, but the most practical is
likely a radiation badge, that needs no power, and can be carried
around at all times. One I like is theRAD Triage 50. It can be worn every day for two
years, and one can keep a backup in a freezer for another ten
years. One would use it to determine which locations have the most
Keep a supply of water.
You will probably need water for a week, Use the radiation
detector to determine when it is safe to come out of the shelter.
Might want to keep a LifeStraw Personal Water Filterfor
each person in your party.
Keep a firearm.
You may have to fight for use of a shelter. Even nice people can
become dangerous when they think they are about to die.
Get emergency power.
A proton flare is likely to cause the same kind of damage as a
coronal mass ejection or EMP attack. Even if theShield Act is passed and implemented, it
will only protect the electric grid. Unshielded will be millions
of other electronic devices, including phones, radios, and motor
vehicles. You need to get photoelectric panels and emergency
generators (assuming you can get fuel for them). Buildings with
solar roof panels may become essential. Older vehicles that can be
stripped of complicated electronics may be critical.
Establish emergency communications.
It is likely that most communication systems will fail, either as
a direct result of the proton storm, or from the disablement of
operators. The best alternative is likely to be ham radio
transceivers. A good kind areportable handheld units or a GP-5 survival radio that can operate
for a long time on batteries. You may also need portableFaraday bags andFaraday cages you can buildto
protect electronics from EMP, CMEs and proton radiation. You can
also provide Faraday shielding forbuildings but most of these won't provide
proton radiation shielding for people.
You will need to use a kind of triage system that separates those
who don't need help from those who are beyond help, with a middle
group that can benefit from help, even it only buys them a few
years before they succumb from cancer. Look for preppers and
militia activists. Some of them imagine living in the wilderness
for extended periods of time, but wildlife and livestock may also
not survive, and small isolated groups are likely to be
indefensible. Communities of a few thousand individuals are more
likely to survive long enough to repopulate the country.
The U.S. military has an extensive system of underground bunkers
and tunnels, for themselves and a few senior officials, if they
can get to them in time. When they come out they are likely to
need the help of other survivors, and it is important to ally with
them, and not become competitors.
The first level of government to be established is local, counties
or small towns. New law enforcement personnel may need to be
elected and trained. Their priority may need to be to get supplies
of food and medicine delivered from where they are produced to
where they are needed.
The proper legal basis for doing all this is theUS.
Constitutionas originally understood.