Pop culture is obsessed with the apocalypse, and with good reason: Mad Max just wouldn't play out the same on the placid streets of modern-day Delaware. Dreaming about the end times makes for exciting stories with high consequences, but that's all it really is: dreaming. Right? Right. But somebody should tell that to these otherwise down-to-earth organizations, who are bizarrely serious about planning for a real-life doomsday ...
Area 52 Advertising Inc/Moment Mobile/Getty Images
In the event of a civilization-erasing attack on the United States, we know exactly what the most important question on your mind will be: How can I get in contact with the IRS to remind them of my tax obligations?
Well, that's what the IRS is wondering, anyway.
Pierre Crom/Getty Images News/Getty Images
"With a missile launcher" is not an appropriate answer.
During the Cold War, the IRS was most eager to figure out how to resume normal operations immediately after an apocalypse scenario. So in 1989, they updated their employee manual with a new chapter entitled "National Emergency Operations," which specified that any and all employees of the IRS, from accountants to janitors, could be reassigned as wasteland tax collectors in the event of an apocalypse, to ensure you're paying your dues within 30 days of our world going full Fallout.
The U.S. Postal Service also had a nuclear apocalypse plan dating all the way back to the '50s, and it was better than the one Kevin Costner came up with. Revised again in the '80s, the USPS Emergency Planning Manual instructed postal employees on how to check mail for radiation before processing, and in the event of a full-scale invasion, to burn all the stamps so that they wouldn't fall into enemy hands. Our vicious, stamp-collecting enemies.
CamEl Creative/The Image Bank/Getty Images
The Reds aren't winning this game of capture the flag.
The USPS also stockpiled a massive number of change-of-address forms in case of an emergency displacement of the population, so citizens could still get jam-of-the-month deliveries in their new residence, hiding in the burned-out husk of a 7-Eleven. In 1982, Congress called on the USPS to defend the efficacy of the plan, questioning the necessity of a postal service when there's not many people "left to read or write letters after the nuclear bombs explode." To which the United States Postal Service replied: "But those that are will get their mail."
Overstock.com is the weirdly sterile but more respectful version of Amazon.com. It's like the Canada to Amazon's USA. Which is why you might find it surprising to learn that Overstock is actually run by survivalists dedicated to providing you with below-wholesale prices on all of your chainsaw-hand needs well after society explodes.
A box of 100 costs just $15.49.
Executives Jonathan Johnson and Patrick Byrne have predicted that a total banking collapse is inevitable in the next few years, which will spiral America into a second Great Depression. In preparation, the company claims to have over $10 million in gold and silver squirreled away in Utah bunkers so that they can still pay their employees' checks in the event that we go back to basic pirate-age currency.
Travel Ink/Gallo Images/Getty Images
Joke's on them. We'll be trading in aluminum.
They're also stockpiling enough food and water to sustain their 2,000-odd employees in the event that the U.S. economy suffers a catastrophic collapse, forcing most Americans to crack open each other's skulls to feast upon the protein-rich innards of their fellow countrymen, while Overstock subscribers maintain premium access to surplus iPods at low, low prices.
Lyle Leduc/Photolibrary/Getty Images
EMP weapons are a popular staple of science-fiction stories, like in The Matrix, War Of The Worlds, and NBC's Revolution, but they aren't generally considered a real threat, mostly because EMP weapons don't currently exist. But that doesn't stop the state of Arizona: In 2014, Arizona passed a bill launching a statewide public education program on EMP preparedness that requires local government to inform citizens about how to survive when food, heating, and Netflix stop getting piped magically into their homes.
So why the sudden interest in preparing for a disaster that, uh ... doesn't exist? The author of the bill, Senator David Farnsworth, admits that he learned of the concept after reading a novel. If he'd read Harry Potter instead, Arizona would probably be building a wall to counter the threat of an invasion of Dementors.
It would be as effective as any other border wall Arizona built.
As for the realistic threat of an EMP apocalypse, military advisers and scientists agree that, although the technology is plausible, it's no more a threat than terrorists developing working lightsabers. In fact, it would be much easier and a million times cheaper for someone to achieve the same effect by blowing up a power plant. With current technology, the only known way to create an EMP blast is via a nuclear explosion, in which case, citizens would have slightly larger problems than the new season of House Of Cards being a bit disappointing.
Right around the time President Obama got reelected in 2012, the state of Wyoming decided society was on the brink of collapse, for totally sane reasons, we're sure. According to state Rep. David Miller, the rising national debt and tensions caused by protests could lead to a total political and economic collapse of the United States at any time, and in such a catastrophe, it would be up to Wyoming alone to carry on the legacy of the Union.
To that end, a bill was proposed to create a government task force to look into the feasibility of Wyoming establishing its own currency, as well as its own full drafted military force, including its own aircraft carrier. Those must be some seriously destructive protests, seeing as how Wyoming is currently landlocked.
"We're open to some kind of flying aircraft carrier, like in that Avengers documentary."
Despite it being the legal equivalent of the memes your crazy conservative uncle posts on Facebook, the bill was extremely popular among Wyoming's House members. It was defeated by only one vote. And that's why we don't have an aircraft carrier sailing the Great Plains right now. Sad. America used to be a nation of dreamers.
Ever since CNN was founded by Ted Turner back in 1980 as the first 24-hour-news channel, there has been an urban legend that the network has a "doomsday tape" -- a final, pre-recorded segment that would be played right before the bombs hit, or the comet impacted, or the nation all turned on their microwaves at exactly the same time. But in 2009, CNN journalist Michael Ballaban actually stumbled upon the real doomsday tape in the network's archives. See, Ted Turner's dream of a never-ending news cycle came with the assumption that the CNN network would only ever need to sign off once: at the end of all existence. So he personally produced the final news clip of human history and attached the sobering note: "HFR [hold for release] till end of the world confirmed."
Kris Connor/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
"We don't see confirmation on Reddit yet, but we have our top producers combing Twitter."
Ballaban finally released the tape in 2015, but as with most legends, the reality is much less impressive than anyone predicted. It's just a military band playing a segment of "Nearer, My God, To Thee," in the highest quality that 1980 amateur film could achieve:
The instruction was for CNN anchors to sign off their first and final goodbyes before switching over to the tape, which is supposedly the song that the band on the Titanic played as the ship was going down. It's probably about time we updated that, though. "Get The Funk Out" by Extreme seems like a somber and respectful farewell.
Michael Melford/Stone/Getty Images
The United States and Russia aren't the only nations in the world with the foresight to prepare for the apocalypse. In fact, the U.K. still has a nuclear contingency plan: At any given time, there are four Vanguard-class British submarines patrolling the world's oceans, each carrying 40 nuclear warheads and operating under the so-called Trident protocol -- in the event that the British government is destroyed, the submarine commanders are to follow instructions for nuclear retaliation that are in a sealed letter that each one is provided by the currently serving leader.
Sean Gallup/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
No, not her. Her job will be to rule the ashes.
Every time a new prime minister of the U.K. is elected, the letters are destroyed and new instructions are drafted up. These letters are locked inside a safe, which is locked inside another safe, on board the apocalypse subs. To this day, none of the letters has ever actually been read, as evidenced by the fact that you are not currently fighting super mutants with a pointy stick.
Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images News/Getty Images
"My envelope is just launch codes and the addresses of the bastards that started the pig rumor."
So how do the submarines actually know if their homeland has been leveled in a nuclear holocaust? Unfortunately for those of us who enjoy having skin, the instructions are distressingly simple: One of their cues is losing contact with the BBC radio station. Reportedly, we came within a hair's width of nuclear apocalypse in 2004 when the BBC went down for 15 minutes due to a fire alarm. Sleep tight, everyone!
For more of Cedric Voets' attempts at witticisms or his famous recipes for toilet wine, do follow him on Twitter.
Psst ... want to give us feedback on the super-secret beta launch of the upcoming Cracked spinoff site, Braindrop? Well, simply follow us behind this curtain. Or, you know, click here: Braindrop.
For more end times reading you can hunker down in your bunker to study, check out 4 Apocalyptic Scenarios You'd Probably Survive and 5 Things Every Movie Gets Wrong About The Apocalypse.
Also, follow us on Facebook. Or don't. We aren't the boss of you.