The Dangers Of Electromagnetic Pulse

Here at Prep-Blog we try to focus on emergency preparedness for the most likely disaster scenarios you are likely to face. Generally, things like earthquakes, hurricanes, bad storms, localized civil unrest, etc… tend to attract our attention as they are not only “likely” but literally affect millions of people’s lives every year. These are not hypothetical situations that could, maybe someday, result in a TEOTWAWKI situation, they are very real and very likely to affect you. Hence our focus on preparing for them more vigorously than we would for larger (but less likely) events.

That said, there is one major threat to our way of life that has been on my mind quite a bit lately. That is total, or near total, power loss due to an electromagnetic pulse or EMP. An EMP is a burst of electromagnetic radiation that can cause widespread damage to power lines, telecommunications, and electronics across vast distances. They are usually caused by the detonation of a nuclear weapon in the atmosphere and can affect entire continents.


(Map courtesy of RichardCYoung.com)

I’ve written here in the past about how much worse any disaster event is when there is a loss of electricity. Well, when an EMP hits, the lights go out and they stay out. Because the damage to power lines and circuitry is so complete it affects cars, trucks, airplanes, computers and anything else that runs on electric current, not just the electrical supply lines. This means that even if power plants were restored and put back into operation all of the devices you have that require electricity still wouldn’t function. Imagine every item you own that has an electric circuit in it (cars, microwave ovens, TVs, computers, radios, cell phones, everything) breaking at the same exact moment. If that were the case it wouldn’t matter if you had access to electricity, you wouldn’t have any functioning devices to plug in!

This is what we would be facing should a nuclear device detonate in the atmosphere above the United States. Every electric device in the country would die and electricity would stop flowing from our power plants. Not only does this leave us without power, it severely limits our ability to restore power. How do we replace fried circuitry when the factories that make new circuitry can’t run without power? And we’re not talking about a regional event here, we’re talking about something that could affect the entire continent.

Almost any disaster event that is regional in nature (earthquakes, hurricanes, etc…) are of course damaging, but that damage is mitigated by the fact that help for those people affected is at most a couple of weeks away. When hurricanes strike the South East it’s not long before the National Guard and the Red Cross are onsite and helping to pick up the pieces. The damage caused by an electromagnetic pulse would most likely be much farther reaching. When the whole country is in crisis at the same time, we’re all on our own. And when we’re talking about EMP, we could be on our own for a long time.

So how do you PREP for EMP? I’m not sure you can in any kind of Prudent and Reasonable way. Short of moving way out to the boonies and going completely off grid to grow and hunt your own food, which I don’t think is Prudent or Reasonable, I can’t think of anything that gets us through this event unscathed. In an event of this magnitude even if you yourself are prepared, society around you would be so fundamentally changed that we really are talking about a TEOTWAWKI scenario. And it’s all too real. Pick up a copy of One Second After or Lights Out and let me know what you think in the comments section.

~ Butch

2 Responses to The Dangers Of Electromagnetic Pulse

  1. An EMP is the single most destructive event that could ever hit the United States. This event is so horrific, 90% or more of the American people would be dead in less than 12 months. Even a full scale nuclear war would not kill 90% of the population. An EMP would immediately take 300 million plus Americans and drop us back into the horse & buggy days; without the horse & buggy. I pray that we never have to face this event even as our politicians continue to fiddle when they should be impelmenting a plan to harden and protect the electrical grid.

  2. Not everything electric goes away after an EMP. Our delicate, low current, chip-based electronics are almost certainly hosed. And with an event large enough and close enough, even a Faraday cage won’t prevent all electronics from tanking on us (even when the Faraday cage is grounded). Admittedly a rarity, but a lot of older vehicles and implements (particularly those with magnetos) are likely to still work. Older appliances that just need some current would work if power could be generated. Given the overwhelming effects of EMP to all parts of the home and grid, even those who can produce a little electricity (while the fuel source lasts) won’t have much impact. Study up on the electronics that still did work after atmospheric tests in the Pacific. It could be helpful. Two good reports:

    http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/RL32544.pdf

    http://www.empcommission.org/docs/empc_exec_rpt.pdf