In this scenario, some kind of field encompasses the city, causing anyone inside it or entering to fall unconscious with nothing able to wake them up.

I already imagine that the direct consequences would be quite a few people dying from being in dangerous positions, such as driving, as well as indirect results like out of control fires.

I been trying to figure out what would be the proper government response to a city falling unconscious. I know they would send aid after the fact, but what about before then? Would they even notice in time to react?

  • $\begingroup$ Interesting question. "Notice in time to react" to what, exactly? $\endgroup$ – BMF Jul 11 '19 at 19:04
  • $\begingroup$ To the fact that an entire city of people is unconscious. $\endgroup$ – Herbertsnick Jul 11 '19 at 19:17
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    $\begingroup$ Would all visitors coming into the city fall unconscious too? $\endgroup$ – Alexander Jul 11 '19 at 19:18
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    $\begingroup$ Actually a plot element in "The Midwich Cuckoos" by John Wyndham. Hard to imagine an entire city being uncontactable for 48 hours and no one noticing - I would think "minutes" might be more in order. But by definition of the problem all they could do after a few attempts that fail is wait. $\endgroup$ – StephenG Jul 11 '19 at 20:38
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    $\begingroup$ @StephenG This would definitely count as extenuating circumstances and because of that most of the tickets would be thrown out of court pretty easily which might make the issuing officer not even bother, that is of course assuming they're even paying attention to parked cars with everything else that's happening around them, like the fires, or the screaming people. Those things. ;) $\endgroup$ – Muuski Jul 11 '19 at 21:31

The following is a likely timeline of government's response. Assuming the city in question is moderately sized (under 100,000 population), without a busy commercial airport or industrial facilities that may be a cause of a significant accident. The city is located in American backcountry, with a number of smaller towns around, but no significant metropolis nearby. Falling unconscious is a momentary event, which has happened during the day. Everyone crossing into the city after that moment keep consciousness without problem.

1st minute: Cars driving in the city and out of it lose control. People on the phone stop responding. First fatalities. People driving into the city observe car accidents, people on the line start worrying about their relatives.

2nd minute: People who just arrived in the city and those on the line try to contact others in the city, 911 line or other emergency services. There's no response. More people are crossing into the city by car.

5th minute: Law enforcement and emergency services outside the city are notified about the situation. While the scale of the event is not clear yet, first responders are being dispatched.

10th minute: First responders are reaching the city. Wider range of authorities are notified. In the meantime, people staying in hospitals or injured in accidents are dying.

30th minute: All news outlets are notified of the situation. People are livestreaming from the "ghost city". President is notified as well. Massive help is being dispatched.

1st hour: Emergency responders are taking situation under control. The city is cordoned off. Unconscious people are being transported to hospitals, just in case.

2nd hour: Army units are engaged and taking over control. Investigative teams are trying to do their best.

4th hour: All unconscious people are either transported to hospitals or otherwise placed under supervision.

47th hour: City is cordoned off, situation is fully under control, but no one has a clue about the situation. News outlets all around the world are covering the situation.

48th hour: Everyone wakes up, and no one still has a clue.

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    $\begingroup$ It's quite likely that a strong quarantine would also be enforced upon the city. An event like this could be interpreted as having been caused by a contagion, so the government will likely treat is as such in the absence of any other evidence. $\endgroup$ – Arkenstein XII Jul 11 '19 at 22:46
  • $\begingroup$ @Arkenstein XII yes, it will likely go beyond 48th hour. $\endgroup$ – Alexander Jul 11 '19 at 22:48

If the city is Nordunwich in the wilds of western Maine, Population 30, then people might not notice. If it happened to Manhattan, it would be noticed immediately.

It might take the government (NYC, State, Federal, County, UN) a few hours to understand what was happening. First responders sent into the city and falling under the spell might take a few tries before the pieces where put together. Then, I think several things would happen in parallel or series

Contact Center for Disease Control and Department of Defense. They’d activate best plans for dealing with the scenario as they understood it

Local Police Department and Fire Departments would probe for the edge of the phenomena. Since animals don’t seem to be affected, they’d have to use people. Probably with ropes tied around them so they could be pulled back for examination.

DOD and PD might use robots used for bomb disposal to drag people near perimeter of effected area clear of zone.

CDC/DOD would coordinate sampling air and water using drones and searching for chemical or biological causes.

They’d start working on plans for better robots and drones to recover people

They’d try to enter the field using stimulants, and different shielding like lead or copper.

About the time they reached that stage — people in the zone are at risk of dying from dehydration — the ‘event’ would be over and people could enter the city.

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