What would an EMP attack really look like on United States soil? How bad could the destruction be? What are your EMP protection and survival options? What’s the best EMP Emergency Management Plan? What the heck is an EMP anyways?
Electrical Magnetic Pulse…seems technical. Seems complicated. Doesn’t really sound all that scary. Seems more like something you used to hear your boring physics professor talk about…right?
So today I want to discuss the following:
- What An EMP Is
- What Weapons Can Cause An EMP Attack
- How Much Damage and Chaos An EMP Attack Could Cause
- What Will An EMP Aftermath World Look Like
- What Your Only 2 Options Are For EMP Preparation
Electrical Magnetic Pulse
When a conductor moves through a magnetic field it produces an electrical current.
This is how the generators work at your local power plant. Likewise, when a moving magnetic field passes a conductor, it creates current.
But what if the magnetic field created is very, very strong when it passes the wire? What if the magnetic pulse is immeasurably strong?
The voltage and current generated will be extremely large. Perhaps large enough to damage the wire, especially if that “wire” is microscopic and lying on a printed circuit board.
Given a strong enough magnetic field, microelectronics can be destroyed by this electrical burst. Completely burned out.
So How Are These Large EMP Pulses Created?
The phenomenon is called Electro-Magnetic Pulse, or EMP for short. One way to create a wide scale EMP pulse is to detonate a nuclear weapon like a hydrogen bomb.
During the initial energy release from a nuclear blast, a large electromagnetic field in the form of a “pulse” radiates outward. This pulse from the explosion will travel in a line of sight fashion. Any electrical wiring in the path of the pulse will burn out.
The nuclear explosion does not have to be very large to generate a dangerous EMP. At least dangerous for our computer friends, not so much for us.
Unlike the radiation released during the nuclear explosion, EMP is not particularly dangerous to people. Unless you have a pacemaker installed. But it will destroy most unshielded electrical components.
High Altitude Detonations
Since an EMP pulse travels line of sight, it can cover a very large area if the nuclear detonation occurs high in the atmosphere.
Most nuclear military weapons are not intended for high altitude detonations. This is because those detonations do little damage to the enemy and cause very little fallout. However, if one were detonated at high altitude the EMP would travel outward crossing everything in its line of sight. Covering perhaps thousands of square miles.
Though the EMP magnitude diminishes with distance, it may still be strong enough at thousands of miles to fry most microelectronics.
This makes the nuclear EMP a near perfect weapon for a terrorist, rather than a conventional military force.
Here’s an interesting question. If you are a terrorist organization and could only lay your hands on one nuclear weapon. Would you want to blow up one city or detonate it high enough to wipe out the electrical systems for thousands of cities?
Aside from nuclear weapons, there are EMP-generating devices called “explosively pumped flux compression generators.” These devices use a combination of electromagnetic physics to generate large pulses of electromagnetic energy.
The basic concept is to generate an electromagnetic pulse in a coil surrounding a metal core using current from a capacitor bank. While at the same time compressing the coil into the core using explosives.
This change in core geometry causes a compression of the electromagnetic field momentarily before the whole thing shorts out and is destroyed.
So What Kind Of Damage Are We Talking?
Any devices not shielded against a large EMP attack is likely to be damaged or destroyed.
We’re talking damage to the following:
- Power Grids
- Smart Phones
- Cell Phone Towers
- Desktop Computers
- Mainframe Computers
- Automobile Engine Management Computers
- Jet Aircraft Systems
- Air Traffic Control Systems
- Banking Systems
- Hospital Diagnostic Machines
- Internet Servers
- Plus Anything Else With A Micro Chip
Which is damn near everything these days.
Can you imagine everyone within a thousand-mile radius losing the electrical grid and all technology at one time?
How about a city like New York or Los Angeles, with 8-10 million people suddenly finding themselves in a pre-industrial world without power?
Things that will still work, however, are mechanical systems (i.e. guns and bullets).
So we’re talking instant anarchy.
EMP Protection: So Is There A Way To Protect Electronics?
Is there a way to protect your personal electronics or your home electrical systems?
There are several ways to protect against an EMP attack. One EMP protection technique is simply known as electrical shielding.
If an electrical cable has a grounded external braided shield, the electromagnetic field will not penetrate the shield. It will induce a current in the shield and release that current harmlessly into the ground.
This is great, but what about devices, such as microelectronics?
Introducing The Faraday Cage
You can shield entire devices using something known as a Faraday Cage. Named for Michael Faraday, one of the early scientists in the field of electromagnetics.
Faraday discovered that electromagnetic fields will not penetrate a metal cage made of copper or other good electrical conductors. The fields impinge on the exterior of the cage. Since all sides of the cage are electrically connected to each other, there is no induced electrical current.
For current to flow there must be a differential in electrical potential.
When all sides of the cage are connected as one—there is no electrical differential potential. It’s as if there is a short-circuit before the current even begins to flow. Devices held inside the cage are protected from induced currents which can damage components.
Nested EMP Faraday cages are even better for EMP protection. Essentially, nesting is a cage within a cage.
You can build a simple Faraday cage by covering a box in aluminum foil. If you want to protect your devices, wrap them in a layer of aluminum foil. But take care, they must be completely covered with no gaps in the foil.
Also, if you wish to use multiple layers of foil, place a layer of insulation between them, something that won’t conduct electricity.
Just adding the thickness of foil means nothing. The only reason to double wrap is to better prevent gaps in the foil.
A galvanized trash can with a lid will work in a pinch. If you know something bad is coming, place your valuable electronics inside a sealed cardboard box and place that inside the trashcan. Ensuring the lid closes completely and seals.
Imagine An EMP Attack – Disaster Strikes
Now that you have all your devices protected when the terrorist EMP event strikes you’ll be ready. Assuming you knew in advance it was coming and took these defense precautions.
So let’s say you did.
The “Event” Happens And The Lights Go Out
You quickly retrieve your fully functional cell phone from your foil lined trash can, a.k.a. Faraday Cage. And presto, you have one of the very few functioning cell phones in the Northern Hemisphere. Congratulations!
- Did your EMP protection plan pay off? Hopefully…
- How many bars do you have? None?
- Can you hear me now? No?
- You pull out your protected laptop or IPad and boot up. Internet connection? Nope.
You’ve got a four-hour charge on the device, great. Now, where are you going to plug in your charger (assuming you placed the charger in the Faraday Cage in the first place)?
- No sweat. I have a home generator – nope – it’s fried by EMP.
- Oh, but I have home solar panels – nope – fried by EMP.
- I have a windmill – nope – the inverter is fried.
- The utility distribution system has been fried.
- Cell phone towers are fried.
- The water company’s filtration and pumping systems are fried.
Food will quickly begin to spoil and we just lost a war without firing a single bullet.
So the way I see it, we have 2 EMP protection options:
EMP Disaster Prep Option 1 – Plan for an Amish survival skills future. Plan to revert to an 1860 agrarian society with same survival skills our great-great-grandparents lived but, our modern society has since forgotten.
EMP Disaster Prep Option 2 – Store a complete, disassembled home electrical power generation system inside very large Faraday Cages. Solar and wind are your best bet – since you won’t be able to get gasoline or natural gas. Box up everything electrical in Faraday Cages.
Most People Will Have To Take EMP Protection Option #1.
Why? Because most people can’t afford to drop $10,000-25,000 on a home generation system. Especially one they do not plan to use immediately and then take extraordinary precautions to store it all.
Most people don’t have the resources for grid-independent electrical systems that work today. Let alone ones they keep stored in Faraday Cages.
However, if you do end up going with EMP Preparedness Option #2, you’d better be prepared to defend it. You’ll be the only one on your block, maybe your town with any kind of electrical power.
By the way, you EMP disaster prep Option #2 guys, I would wait until long after the attack before assembling your system. Any good terrorist or even a state-sponsored enemy threat will be smart enough to allow us time install our spare power system to bring things back online. Then pop us again to destroy the rest of it.
An EMP blast from a single nuclear device at 20 miles altitude will cover a large portion of the US with an EMP.
An enemy doesn’t have to destroy the entire nation to destroy its society and kill off large portions of the population.
Even the US Government admits as many 9 of 10 Americans could die within one year of a crippling EMP attack on our homeland.
There are simply too many people, and too few with survival skills, for a majority of our nation to survive with no electrical power for a year.
This means near the end of that year looting and rioting will be rampant – everywhere. It’s time to take EMP protection seriously and learn some real survival skills.
Your Best Defense Is EMP Disaster Prep Option #1
EMP Protection is similar to most other emergency disaster preps in many ways. You need to have a large food stockpile, a water storage, and replenishment plan, and skills to constantly replenish your food stocks. Throw in some defense skills to protect your resources and some basic medical supplies.
Food, water, and medicine. You need regular amounts of food and water resources to survive and you need to be able to defend these precious resources from others.
Yes, it’s really as simple as that, but just because it’s simple doesn’t mean it’s easy. The best way to describe the survival skills you need to learn to prepare for an EMP attack is this:
The skills our great-great-grandparents called everyday life we now call survival and prepping.
So look backward in time for inspiration.
And the closest modern day example is the Amish. By choice, they live without power.
They don’t use it today and won’t miss it after an EMP attack. However, will the Amish be willing to defend their resources to the death? To me, this is the biggest challenge the Amish face, but we can still learn from them.