The threat of a large scale EMP strike on the United States is something that has the potential to be one of the worst disaster scenarios we can think of. It could literally set us back 200 years, and for a very long time.
Historically, the threat of an EMP has been thought of as a Hollywood fantasy, and a hyped-up conspiracy that gets over exaggerated by crazy preppers…like me. The truth is, it’s a real threat, and it’s a threat that’s getting more attention in recent years.
An EMP would have devastating consequences that I don’t think the average person even thinks about. Not only would it mean that every switch and plug in our homes would be useless, and our beloved cell phones wouldn’t work, the United States infrastructure would be brought to a screeching halt.
What Exactly Is an EMP?
I have a free download that goes into quite a bit of detail about EMP’s in general. You can download the PDF by filling out the form below if you haven’t already, and here is a quote from the guide…
At its basic level an EMP occurs when a nuclear explosion happens above the ground, and because these are line of sight weapons, the higher it is detonated, the better…or worse.
When this explosion occurs, three types of electromagnetic pulses occur. These are the E1 (Early Time), E2 (Intermittent Time), and E3 (Late Time). Each one of these emissions have different effect on electronic systems.
E1: This could affect smaller electronic systems like televisions, radios, automotive systems, and home appliances. The E1 component of an EMP is unlikely to affect transformers and circuit breakers.
E2: This could do additional damage to the E1. The E2 component can couple with electrical lines and damage anything connected to those lines. Basically, this means anything plugged in.
E3: This is when you start thinking about the national power grid, transformers, and communications systems. The damage this could do is dependent on the magnitude of the nuclear weapon.
Again, this is a very basic description of what an EMP could do, but I recently did a 2 part interview with Matthew Stein that goes into much more detail. Another great resource is the book “EMP Attacks & Solar Storms” By Arthur T. Bradley.
How Possible is an EMP?
The discovery that an Electromagnetic Pulse could be created and do damage to electronics dates back to 1962. This was called operation Starfish, where a 1.4 megaton nuclear warhead was detonated about 250 miles over Johnson island outside Hawaii.
While the EMP effect had been predicted by scientists, it had unexpected consequences. The strength of the electromagnetic pulse was so large that it affected electricity hundreds of miles away from the blast. In Hawaii it blew out streetlights, caused telephone outages, electrical surges on airplanes and disrupted radio communications as far away as California and Australia.
Some people claim that the effects of an EMP would be far less devastating and would do no more damage than a large lightning storm, while some agree that it would be far worse.
My guess is that this will continue to be debated until there is concrete proof of the damage an EMP would do. At the very least, we know it could do damage, and just like anything else that can be weaponized. Countries are fighting to see who can be the biggest, strongest, fastest.
Because an EMP could have such devastating consequences, and because we know every country is always trying to gain the military advantage, this threat is on my preparedness list. Are there other threats and disasters that are more likely? Sure. But the threat of an EMP could do so much damage, it can’t be ignored.
What Impact Would an EMP Have?
Like I said earlier, the impact of an EMP could be completely catastrophic, and everything we do on a daily basis would change. If several transformers in the U.S. power grid were destroyed, it could take up to a year to get replacements. This is assuming that the place they are made still has electricity.
A number that get’s thrown around quite often is that 90% of the population would die within a year. I’m not sure what that number would be, but 90% doesn’t sound far fetched at all.
People would be drinking dirty water, supply lines would be cut off, meaning no food and starvation, and sanitation would become a major issue. Here are a few things that could happen if the power grid were to go down for an extended period of time.
Cars: It’s not exactly known what the effects of an EMP would have on automobiles, but it’s possible that around 25% of cars would be damaged to some extent.
Communications: Our ability to get news and contact our family could be severely hampered. police, firefighters, EMS, and our military would also have a hard time coordinating.Critical Infrastructure: There is no end to the damage an electromagnetic pulse would do to our infrastructure. Power lines, streetlights, sewage treatment, water treatment, and first responders would all be affected.
Military Capabilities: My hope is that the military would be the first to be hardened against an EMP strike. An EMP would hamper mobility, command & control, communication, and slow resupply logistics.
Supply Lines: These days everything we buy and eat comes from hundreds of miles away. If oil refineries didn’t function, gas wouldn’t be made, and there would be no trucks taking food to the grocery store.
Food Shortages: Not only would there be no food at the grocery store, most people don’t have the first clue about growing their own. Food shortages could be the leading cause of secondary events such as civil unrest, martial law, and violence.
Sanitation Issues: After only a short period of time sanitation would become a huge issue. Sewage would become an issue, people would be drinking dirty water, and trash would build up. All of this would cause sickness, disease, and infection, most likely leading to death.
No Electricity for a VERY Long Time: Because the expense of hardening the electrical grid is not “cost effective” for power companies, the EMP threat is basically ignored. It could take up to a year (or longer) to get everything up an running again.
The Different between a CME and an EMP?
It’s a common misconception that the effects of a CME (Coronal Mass Ejection) and the effects of an EMP are the same. This is both true and false. While some of the same things would would be impacted, some things would not.
The main component of a CME is the E3 effect (mentioned above). A CME is a low frequency event, meaning it would need a long antenna. I don’t mean “antenna” in the typical sense, but power lines would be a perfect antenna.
All of this means that a CME that was large enough could do major damage to the power grid, but may not have the same impact on smaller electronics and cars like an EMP would.
While the CME itself may not impact radios, cars, and televisions, it would affect your ability to use them. Without gas, your car is useless, and without a broadcast network sending you a signal, you would be staring at static on a T.V.
Some Myths About EMP’s
I wrote about a few myths in the EMP Facts PDF (above) such as all cars will just stop, batteries will be fried, and airplanes will fall from the sky. Here are a couple more myths that I didn’t add to that PDF.
Grounding Protects Against an EMP: Have you ever heard that you should drag a chain behind your car to protect it from an EMP? Well first of all, you would eventually get pulled over, and second, an EMP has different properties than a lightning strike.
Tin Foil Will Melt: At about 40:25 into this video with Arthur Bradley, he talks about why this myth is a little crazy. By the way, if you have a little free time, watch the entire video. Arthur Bradley goes through many other EMP myths.
Vacuum Tubes Are EMP Proof: The truth is, vacuum tubes aren’t EMP proof, but the reason people like to use the old style radios is because they are easy to replace, and can be stored in a Faraday cage.
A Microwave Oven Faraday Cage: This one seems a little far fetched to me, because who has a few extra microwaves laying around. While a microwave would provide some protection to electronics, it wouldn’t do enough to call it a true Faraday cage. This article goes into more detail.
I guess if you look for the positive side of an EMP strike VS a nuclear ground detonation it’s that people will not initially die from the strike. However, this is only positive for people who have prepared. For anyone unprepared for a long term grid down event, this could mean a slow agonizing death.
Since we are going to be alive (initially anyway) we might as well try to protect some of our important supplies, and a Faraday cage is an easy way to do that. Here are some supplies you might want to store in a Faraday cage.
- Radios (ham, shortwave, weather)
- Battery Chargers
- Laptops, cell phones, tablets, flash drives (stored Information)
- Solar Equipment Componants
- Automotive computer/electronics
- Medical Electronics
- Or whatever you might need
What you store in a Faraday cage all depends on your needs, and the size of the Faraday cage. Arthur Bradley has quite a bit of information about Faraday cages on his YouTube channel, and the video below is the one I am going to make (or have made depending on when you read this) in the near future.