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The Horror of Escaping a Train Tunnel Post- EMP

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This is one of those scenarios that's so sucky it's hard to even know where to begin. Sometimes it's good though to think of situations that may be impossible or almost impossible to realistically survive, just to learn other lessons that are useful in a broader range of situations. That's kind of where I'm going with this article.

Let's assume your in a train, on an underdround railway line. When I thought of this originally I was imagining an urban kind of tunnel like that which runs under many of our major cities. But it could be any train tunnel. So imagine you're on the train, and an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) goes off. Like the kind that's created from a high altitude nuclear explosion. Assume the electricity grid and any exposed modern technology like silicon-chips are instantly and permanently destroyed. This would also mean the grid water supply is destroyed (since it's powered my modern EMP-sensitive technology). Though that is less of an issue while trapped underground in a train tunnel, since there may or may not be a lot of mains water easily available).

Being underground would shield somewhat from the EMP, I'm not sure exactly how much. In the Soviet Project K Nuclear Tests for EMP, some underground electrical cables were damaged. I believe this was from the slow magnetic component of a nuclear EMP, known as E3, which as I understand things is not really a danger to small high-tech deviced not plugged in to wiring. I'll research this more fully as this article improves, but my gut feeling is that the ground would maybe shield against the E1 component (which is a very short duration pulse of electric field). Which is what destroys unshielded microchips.

To summarise the above paragraph, there's a chance and perhaps a very good chance that your phone will still work. I mean it will power on and any apps and other things stored on the phone itself will work. There would be no more mobile towers or internet or way to make calls or message anyone.

What to Do First

Like in many situations, the first thing to do is sit (or stand) quietly and observe what everyone else does. Don't be the first to light up your Bic lighter, or even turn on your phone. What if you're the only one who has a working light source out of 100 people (or more) around you? Do you want a crowd of people trying to grab it from you - obviously not.

If you're even only very mildly interested in prepping, but enough to be reading this article, you're going to be in a much better frame of mind than the vast majority of "normal" people. Wait and see what the mass reaction is. Perhaps edge back to a corner or somewhere that's out of the way and out of attention.

Issues of Lighting

The good news is though that assuming phones still work, that means there would be some avaliable light. Since what seems to me by far the greatest terror of being in this scenario is the idea that everything might go permanently black. How many people on the average train carry an old-fashioned filament bulb (i.e. non-LED) torch with them? Not many. I would think most likely not even one person even on a crowded peak hour train.

So if phones still worked, by far their main value would be as a light source. Because there would be nothing to charge batteries with once they ran out, conserving battery power would be a priority. Using a "flashlight" app would not be a good idea other than for very short periods if you wanted to see something far away or for some other special reason, since the batteries would drain very fast using a bright flashlight app. Probably the best source of light would just be to use the ordinary screen backlight as if you were browing the phone.

Something I'm now wondering, and will have to look up and research, is whether white pixels use more power than dark pixels. The "flashlight" apps often use the camera's actual LED flash which uses much more power when left on continuously than the screen does. Some of the flashlight apps display a white screen and turn up the screen brightness, and don't use the flash. Those ones would have more battery life but still I think it would be better to have the screen on low-brightness to save battery power even more. My gut feeling here (without looking it up which I'll do later) is that some types of screen technology, perhaps the OLED ones, where black pixels are really black as in turned off, use more power for a white pixel than a black one. And other types of screen technology just have a backlight behind the LCD screen, and it doesn't matter much what colour the pixels are in terms of battery drain. If this is true, then for this type of screen it would be much more efficient to have a plain white desktop background picture, since then the most amount of light from the backlight would shine through the LCD pixels.

I haven't really thought about it in this much detail before. But in the situation where being able to see would be such a huge advantage over not, this would be of huge importance.

Note also that smokers usually carry a cigarette lighter, which is usually a disposable "Bic" style one, and these would be used as lighting. Full size Bic lighters (the brand name ones) have been tested by other preppers and they burn for about an hour assuming they were full to begin with. The mini-size ones last about 20 minutes. Noting that in both cases you wouldn't want to burn the lighter continuously for that long as it would overheat the top part of the lighter. They are only designed to burn for several seconds. I haven't tried this but one person claimed the top would melt after about 10 minutes of continuous burn. Marijuana smokers use them for longer than cigarette smokers, and the top gets quite hot. I haven't tried nor seen anyone burn one for longer than a minute or two. That's not a big problem though, since in any case you wouldn't want it on the whole time, it would be much better to burn the flame for a short time to see where you were, and what you were going to do next (in the dark), and use it as occasionally as possible (as with a phone or torch) to conserve lighter fuel.

So assuming that phones work enough to light up their screen, and/or portable LED torches still work (many people think in an EMP they will be destroyed, but they're not talking about being deep underground when the EMP goes off), and/or there's a few smokers with lighters, there should be at least some light for some amount of time. If none of these are true (i.e. if it's a quiet train with not many passengers, none of them smokers, you don't have a lighter or a filament bulb torch, and the EMP destroys all electronics) things would be a lot more dire and I'll write about that later on also

So the first step would be to get out of the train. At least you don't have to worry about another train running you over (assuming it's really an EMP or other large-scale disturbance and not just a breakdown of the train that you're on). You (or someone) will most likely be able to use an emergency release to open the doors. Presumably these don't require electrical power to work (I don't actually know the answer to this, I'll also look that up later). It's interesting how considering scenarios like this is such a learning exercise, as it raises a lot of questions that most people wouldn't usually think about.

This will be expanded on greatly later, but once out of the train, "all" you have to do is walk along the tracks to the nearest platform, climb up, and exit the station. Probably using the escalators (which would not be moving but you can walk up them like stairs), or by ordinary old-fashioned non-moving stairs if the station has anything that archaic.

The other thing to consider is what will be on the surface when you emerge? You might not want to come up right away. In fact it would probably be much better to locate your exit route (or routes, plural), and then think about things for a while. Like are there crowds of crazies running around on the street? (Any more than there is in the station). The main one would be, if it's a nuclear EMP, have there been any nuclear bomb detonations also? Like would there be fallout? Or, are there more warheads still on the way. An EMP would I think often be the first attack in a nuclear attack, with the ground and/or air burst detonations coming shortly after. Probably quite shortly like in the next 30 minutes though this is not precisely know, of course. So it may be better to wait for a while just in case there are nuclear detonations, or radiation from prior ones.

If you always carry a radiation monitoring device, now would obviously be the time to use it. Note that some devices run on modern eletronics and may not work after an EMP. While others, like the dosimeter pens, are totally EMP proof (and very light weight, not much more than an actual pen like you would write with).

An escape tunnel is a form of secret passage used as part of an escape from siege or captivity. In medieval times such tunnels are usually constructed by the builders of castles or palaces who wish to have an escape route if their domain is under attack. In the case of prisoners, escape tunnels are dug to be free of captivity.

In road and rail tunnels, narrower escape tunnels are provided to enable people to escape on foot in the event of a fire or other accident in the main tunnel. For example, between the two main bores of the Channel Tunnel is an access tunnel large enough to take a fire engine.

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