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The Sensible Guide to EMP Protection and Preparation

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The Sensible Guide to EMP Protection and Preparation EMP-Strike-copy-1

The Sensible Guide to EMP Protection and Preparation

Author: Diane Vuković
Last Updated: January 29, 2023

[*]An electromagnetic pulse (EMP) could undoubtedly be one of the worst disasters to strike. However, when it comes to EMP protection, much of the information is overly sensationalized.
While prepping for an Electromagnetic Pulse Attack should be taken seriously, I also believe it can be done in a non-panicky way.
This guide aims to move beyond fear-mongering and give you practical and scientifically backed information you can use to prepare.
Protect your home, vehicles and business with EMPSHIELD. Listed by the Department of Homeland Security. $50 Off Coupon for Primal Readers auto-applied at checkout.
Table Of Contents [show]

What Is An electromagnetic pulse?

EMP stands for electromagnetic pulse. There are several types of pulses, and they are tough to understand (there is a lot of physics involved).
In layman’s terms, it can be simplified as a massive amount of electromagnetic energy being released at once.
You must understand three types of EMP: Nuclear, Solar, and weapons.
There are some resources below if you are scientifically-minded and want to learn more about electromagnetic pulse. Warning: None of these are light reading!
  • Difference between E1, E2, and E3 EMP (Future Science)
  • An Introduction to Nuclear Electromagnetic Pulse (Future Science)
  • The Basic Physics of EMP, Beam Weapons and ABM (California Polytechnic University)

1. Nuclear

The Sensible Guide to EMP Protection and Preparation Nuclear-2136244_640-300x200

If a nuclear bomb were to hit the earth, we’d have a nuclear fallout disaster. However, if the bomb were detonated 15+ miles above the earth’s surface, it could cause a very different disaster.
The bomb would cause photons of electromagnetic energy to knock electrons loose from atoms.
The electrons would come racing towards the earth and interact with the earth’s magnetic field, causing a surge of electrical current. This current would result in an EMP.
The Federation of American Scientists describes what would happen during a nuclear EMP blast:
A high-altitude nuclear detonation produces an immediate flux of gamma rays from the nuclear reactions within the device. These photons in turn produce high energy free electrons by Compton scattering at altitudes between (roughly) 20 and 40 km. These electrons are then trapped in the Earth’s magnetic field, giving rise to an oscillating electric current. This current is asymmetric in general and gives rise to a rapidly rising radiated electromagnetic field called an electromagnetic pulse. Because the electrons are trapped essentially simultaneously, a very large electromagnetic source radiates coherently.
The electromagnetic pulse created from the explosion could overload the electrical grid. The grid could be wiped out, and the pulse could also overload electrical appliances. (1)
The good news is that a nuclear electromagnetic pulse attack is improbable.
Not only is it challenging to build a nuclear bomb, but the bomb would have to be detonated high in the air. That means special equipment would be needed to launch the bomb, and there would (in theory) be time to intercept the bomb. (Note: To our knowledge, there is no reliable method to neutralize this kind of missile at the time of this update (March 2019). We will amend as appropriate.) (2)

2. Solar Flare

The Sensible Guide to EMP Protection and Preparation Sun-11030_640-300x169
Even though nuclear EMP gets the most attention, EMP from solar flare is probably more likely.
As How Stuff Works aptly describes, the sun is a vast, hot object with an amazing mass. The sun is so hot that its atoms can’t hold onto its electrons. The gas flows around the sun, carrying these electrons with it. This electrical current can create a magnetic field.
Because hot objects expand, the sun’s magnetic field goes outwards. But the sun is also dense and has a strong gravitational pull, so it usually pulls back the magnetic field. Hot gases get trapped beneath the magnetic field.
Think of it as a rubber ball stretched in various directions. The outside of the ball is the sun’s magnetic field. Inside are gases that cause it to shift shape.
Every once in a while, the gases break through the magnetic field in a giant explosion.
We call these explosions a solar flare.

Solar Flare vs. Coronal Mass Ejection

A solar flare causes enormous amounts of energy to race toward the earth. This energy can temporarily disrupt communication signals and cause blackouts. However, a solar flare doesn’t take down the grid or fry electronic devices.
By contrast, a solar event called a coronal mass ejection (CME) could be devastating. A CME occurs when there is such a shift in the sun’s magnetic field that an explosion of high-energy particles is sent toward the earth.

The primary difference between a solar flare and CME is the scale at which they occur. Sometimes CMEs are called “mega-solar flares.”
As NASA writes,
A CME can jostle Earth’s magnetic fields creating currents that drive particles down toward Earth’s poles…The magnetic changes can affect a variety of human technologies. High frequency radio waves can be degraded: Radios transmit static, and GPS coordinates stray by a few yards. The magnetic oscillations can also create electrical currents in utility grids on Earth that can overload electrical systems when power companies are not prepared.
EMP from a CME is a low-frequency event. Unlike EMP from a high-frequency nuclear blast, a CME won’t fry your electronics. So, your laptops, cell phones, and other gear should be okay – especially if they weren’t plugged in or turned on during the event. However, since the grid wouldn’t work, many of these items would be completely useless.
Damage to the grid from a CME could be massive. As Eric Holdeman and Robert Hanson write at GovTech,
A large CME [which emanates from the sun] is a low-frequency event. To have an impact on anything, it requires a long ‘antenna.’ Our power lines are the perfect antenna for receiving the energy. The big issue is that this can destroy the large transformers. There are no spares of these, and it takes years to get a new one built.
Solar flares and CMEs frequently occur (more on this later), so preparing for this type of EMP makes more sense than a nuclear EMP blast.

3. EMP Weapons (Non-Nuclear)

This is the final type of EMP.  These weapons are not designed to harm people physically. Instead, they are designed to emit electromagnetic pulses to take out power systems or electrical devices.
These weapons aren’t just science fiction.  The US government has already confirmed it has the CHAMP weapon.
For example, the military could use an EMP weapon to take out the power and communications of a specific target before raiding it.
And a Canadian company announced back in 2010 that it had an EMP cannon that could stop cars – potentially helpful in preventing suspects in high-speed car chases. (3)
However, despite many sensationalist headlines, these weapons are still a long way from being useful – particularly since they have to be flown so close over the target to work.
This hasn’t stopped many people from worrying about whether nations like North Korea, Russia, and Iran could harness the power of EMP to destroy our infrastructure. It might be a ways off, but the future of warfare will likely include EMP.

Why Is EMP a Concern?

An EMP event releases a tremendous amount of energy at once. It goes through the earth and everything on and around it.
This energy will not directly harm us. However, the significant surge of energy could fry electronics and take down the energy grid. All of these things could completely stop working:
  • The Sensible Guide to EMP Protection and Preparation Minus-circle-solidThe electrical grid
  • The Sensible Guide to EMP Protection and Preparation Minus-circle-solidGPS systems
  • The Sensible Guide to EMP Protection and Preparation Minus-circle-solidCell phones
  • The Sensible Guide to EMP Protection and Preparation Minus-circle-solidLandline telephones
  • The Sensible Guide to EMP Protection and Preparation Minus-circle-solidThe internet
  • The Sensible Guide to EMP Protection and Preparation Minus-circle-solidCars and vehicles
  • The Sensible Guide to EMP Protection and Preparation Minus-circle-solidRadios
  • The Sensible Guide to EMP Protection and Preparation Minus-circle-solidFlashlights
  • The Sensible Guide to EMP Protection and Preparation Minus-circle-solidPretty much any electrical device

Center for Security Policy reports that SCADA4 control systems are most vulnerable to pulses. These run almost all modern installations, including:
  • The Sensible Guide to EMP Protection and Preparation Minus-circle-solidOil refineries
  • The Sensible Guide to EMP Protection and Preparation Minus-circle-solidPipelines
  • The Sensible Guide to EMP Protection and Preparation Minus-circle-solidTelephone networks
  • The Sensible Guide to EMP Protection and Preparation Minus-circle-solidAir traffic control systems
  • The Sensible Guide to EMP Protection and Preparation Minus-circle-solidNational and local power stations
  • The Sensible Guide to EMP Protection and Preparation Minus-circle-solidCity water supply networks

Additionally, EMP could damage the hardware which controls these systems – including generators which could take years to replace.
It is worth noting that all disaster-relief services rely on these systems. For example, it would be nearly impossible for the National Guard to step in and provide support if bases couldn’t communicate. Our reliance on the electric grid is why many preppers are terrified of an EMP event.

Is It Hype or Legitimate Concern?

When you read about how the entire grid could be taken out from EMP, it is hard not to get scared.
For example:
  • Peter Vincent Pry of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security believes that an EMP attack could disable the power grid for up to a year, take out 90% of the US population, and lights would be out for anywhere from 18 months to 10 years.
  • In 2004 a congressional commission reported that a single EMP unleashed high above Omaha, Nebraska, would cripple half the nation’s economy.
  • Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich declared an EMP attack “one of the three great threats to our survival,” and a knockout of as few as nine “nodal points” on the US grid could result in “catastrophic” blackouts from which “conceivably you couldn’t recover for years.” (5, 6, 7)

We’ve also seen the potential effects of an EMP attack in popular culture. It was the theme of the 1995 James Bond film GoldenEye. Lex Luther uses EMP in the 2006 film Superman Returns. And the 2011 novel One Second After shows an apocalyptic view of America after a strike.
Recommended Reading:
  • Best Post Apocalyptic Novels
  • Best Movies For Preppers

But, if EMP is so disastrous, how come nothing is being done about it?
Part of the problem with EMP preparation is that there is little information about what would happen. Any large-scale test of the effects of EMP could potentially take down the grid, so experts can only theorize.
Further, we also need to consider that sensationalist accounts are more likely to make the headlines.
For example, a report from the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) didn’t nearly get as much attention. It found that “an EMP weapon would have a marginal effect on bulk power transformers.” (9)
A Wired article featured many experts who contradict the doomsday scenarios of EMP. Philip Coyle of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation says,
“I don’t know how the proponents of EMP get such huge results…There just isn’t a scientific basis to get these huge results, these huge numbers.”

Sharon Burke, former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Operational Energy, says, “There’s no actual proof that this would happen.”
And Frank Cilluffo, director of George Washington University’s Center for Cyber and Homeland Security, explains why EMP gets so much attention even though the real risks are unknown:
The threat is perhaps best characterized as low ​probability but ​potentially ​very high consequence​. For this reason, the prudent course is to prepare in advance.”

Actual Incidences of EMP

What we do know about the effects of EMP mostly comes from past events. You’ll hear these events mentioned in many sensationalist headlines about EMP.
Often, these past events are exaggerated and put into apocalyptic terms. This doesn’t mean that any current EMP event wouldn’t be catastrophic, but I want to repeat that we don’t know the real effects of EMP since there haven’t been any tests.

Starfish Prime Nuclear Tests

The Sensible Guide to EMP Protection and Preparation Starfish-Prime-aurora-from-Honolulu-300x203
The US government began testing nuclear bombs in the 1950s and 1960s. They weren’t even aware that EMP was a threat until these tests.
During the Starfish Prime tests in 1962, the US launched a 1.4 megaton nuclear missile about 900 miles southwest of Hawaii.
Those tests knocked out power in Hawaii – even though it was 900 miles away!
Note that those sensationalist headlines would have you believe that all of Hawaii was in complete blackness. In reality, the bomb “knocked out a few streetlights.”

Less than 1% of Oahu’s streetlights went out, which could be due to the low-quality electrical work on the island.
The Soviets also launched their own EMP nuclear tests in the 1960s (see here for details). In the aftermath, there were consequences, including a massive fire in an electrical plant, telephone lines being knocked out, and over 600 miles of underground power lines being shut down. There are also reports that the EMP destroyed the cars by knocking out their internal operating systems – even though they didn’t have any electrical components.
On the flip side, though, it has been argued that these tests are poorly documented and are very hyped-up. David Hathaway, in his book EMP Hoak, writes,
The total number of worldwide nuclear detonations is 2,476. No mass EMP damage has ever occurred from any of them. Yet, we are still required to tremble at the thought of a nuclear EMP.
(10, 11, 12, 13)

The Carrington Solar Storm

On September 1st of 1859, astronomer Richard Carrington observed sunspots with his telescope. He watched as blinding white light appeared over the sunspots.
The Sensible Guide to EMP Protection and Preparation Sunspots-of-September-1-1859-as-sketched-by-Richard-Carrington

[*]Sunspots as sketched by Richard Carrington

The light was a huge coronal mass ejection that sped towards the earth. The following day, NASA reports,
“Skies all over planet Earth erupted in red, green, and purple auroras so brilliant that newspapers could be read as easily as in daylight.”
In telegraph centers, the systems went haywire. Sparks flew, and papers caught on fire. The telegraph machines were so alive with current from the flare that they continued to transmit messages – even after being disconnected.
The Carrington solar storm took out telecommunications systems around the world. Luckily for people then, the only telecommunications system was the telegraph, so it didn’t disrupt most people’s lives.
That wouldn’t be the case if a Carrington-sized event were to occur today. Francis O’Sullivan, director of research for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Energy Initiative, told CNET,
An event of that scale could be catastrophic if it happened tomorrow. It’s not just the lights going off now. It’s bank accounts disappearing… If you think what would happen if the stock exchange was taken offline for a week or month or if communications were down for a week or a month, you very quickly get to a point where this might be one of the most important threats the nation faces, bar none.
O’Sullivan isn’t alone in his fear. Daniel Baker of the University of Colorado’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics told National Geographic that the big worry is what would happen to the electrical grid.
Power surges from solar flares can blow out the transformers, which take a very long time to replace. Baker warns, “Imagine large cities without power for a week, a month, or a year.” (14, 15)

The Sensible Guide to EMP Protection and Preparation Svg+xml;base64,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

Other Solar Events:

No recorded solar event is as significant as the Carrington event. However, there have been numerous solar flares that caused damage to power and telecommunication systems. These are just some of the notable ones:
  • 1921: An intense solar flare caused blackouts, blown fuses, damaged equipment, and stopped telegraph services. Most electric lights were not affected by the flare, though. (17)
  • 1989 Quebec: The entire province of Quebec in Canada lost power when a solar flare overloaded the utility grid. The whole region – of 6 million people — was without power for 9 hours. The surge also caused more than 200 power grid disruptions in the US. (18, 19)
  • 2000, Bastille Day Storm: This eruption was given the highest class of solar flare (X-class). It didn’t cause any reported damage down on earth but damaged some satellite equipment monitoring it. (20)
  • 2003 Halloween Solar Storm: The storm caused aircraft to reroute, disrupted satellite systems and communications, and caused a power outage in Sweden for approximately 1 hour. (21)
  • 2005: X-rays from a solar flare disrupted satellite communications and GPS systems for about 10 minutes.

The Sensible Guide to EMP Protection and Preparation Aurora-during-a-geomagnetic-storm-that-was-most-likely-caused-by-a-coronal-mass-ejection-from-the-Sun-on-24-May-2010-taken-from-the-ISS

[*]Aurora during a geomagnetic storm that was most likely caused by a coronal mass ejection from the Sun on 24 May 2010

EMP Options and Products

Considering that a significant EMP event could wipe out the grid and fry all electronic devices, it makes sense that you’d want to take steps towards EMP protection for your electronics.

It’s Mostly Out of Your Hands

Unfortunately, even if you shield all of your own devices (laptops, radios, phones, etc.), most of those devices rely on local or national systems. Without those systems functioning, your devices would be useless.
As Popular Mechanics reports, some utilities take steps towards EMP protection by shielding control rooms, power cables, and transformers.
These steps are not required by utilities, though. As GE reports, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has no mandatory standards. Further, mandatory standards will not be set unless they would “mitigate the EMP threat effectively and at a justifiable cost.”
Since Homeland Security didn’t include Electromagnetic Pulse Attacks as one of its “planning scenarios,” it’s unlikely that any standards will be initiated soon.

What About My Devices?

Since many devices rely on a local or national network to be useful, it might not make sense to protect them against EMP. However, some devices might warrant closer attention.
  • Emergency Radios: A massive EMP could take down radio communications. However, it might only affect local systems. Shielding your emergency radio from EMP means you can still access national networks.
  • Generators: Since generators are meant to be used as an emergency power backup, you’d want to shield them from EMP.
  • Your vehicle: If your vehicle is part of your bug-out plan, it should be protected against EMP. (more on this later)
  • Off-grid systems (such as solar panels): A great thing about solar power is that it gives you independence from the electric grid. To keep it functional after an EMP event, you must safeguard the circuitry connected to the panels and possibly the panels themselves (more on this later).

Faraday Cages

The Sensible Guide to EMP Protection and Preparation Flash-113311_640-300x225

[*]A Faraday cage protects these people in an experiment with a Tesla coil
A Faraday cage is a sealed enclosure with an outer layer made from a conductive material and an inner layer made from a non-conductive material.
It provides shielding in two ways:
  1. The conductive outer layer reflects incoming pulses
  2. The conductive outer layer absorbs incoming pulses

Because one layer reflects and the other absorbs, this results in “field cancellation.”
In layman’s terms, the pulse travels all around the conductive outer layer of the Faraday cage. It meets with other pulses, and they cancel each other out. You can learn more about how Faraday cages work by clicking the link.

Buying a Faraday Cage

Because EMP is such a big concern with preppers, there are now many Faraday cages that you can buy. The large ones are usually sold as kits that you need to build yourself.

For example, you can buy this EMP-shielding copper-coated fabric (Amazon link) to create a Faraday cage.   You could even use it in big spaces – such as by lining your entire garage with two layers of fabric.

Building Your Own Faraday Cage

There is a lot of misinformation on the web, which states that you can just put devices in a microwave, refrigerator, or even a stove.
It’s not that easy. The seal needs to be very tight to provide adequate shielding.
For example, a police department tried to prevent people from remotely wiping confiscated phones by placing them inside a microwave oven. They found that only commercial-grade microwave ovens worked. (23)
However, it doesn’t take much to transform a metal filing cabinet, garbage can, or cocktail shaker into a DIY Faraday cage.
You’ll need equipment like aluminum duct tape and aluminum insulation. In theory, you can use aluminum foil to create a DIY Faraday cage – but it tears easily and is hard to layer correctly, so you are better off with duct tape or insulation.

THANKS TO: https://www.primalsurvivor.net/emp-protection-preparation/?utm_source=mainlist&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=blog&vgo_ee=GSDDXPqt%2B2l868arHrG7ZKyPUFd7JHyq9acdSgULWaM%3D

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