Of all the possible calamities that could befall us, an EMP attack is one of the worst. It easily has the potential to bring everything to a screeching stop, from sales in supermarkets to delivery of fresh water to our homes. The damage caused by that attack could take months or even years to repair.
An EMP attack (electromagnetic pulse) is a strategic use of nuclear arms to shut down a country’s infrastructure. It is accomplished by detonating a nuclear device above the atmosphere, where there is no air to convert the bomb’s energy into a blast wave. This causes the energy to leave the blast as pure electromagnetic energy; essentially super-powerful broadband radio waves.
When that electromagnetic energy hits electronic devices which are not protected from EMP, it literally burns them up. Specifically, it burns up the input stage of any devices which is designed to receive radio waves and burns up microchips in all stages of the equipment. Power lines would catch the EMP, transferring it to electrical energy which would travel down the lines, entering into homes and businesses. Unprotected electronics would receive a massive surge, many times higher than a lightning strike, burning up the components from the power supply end as well.
Surge protectors offer some protection from an EMP, but depending upon the strength of the EMP and the quality of the surge protector, may not offer enough. If the EMP is powerful enough, it could bypass the surge protector, burning it out in the process, and then attack the electronics in the devices connected to it.
The standard way of protecting electronic devices from EMP is by putting them in a Faraday cage. This is a metal box which is insulated on the inside. The electronics stored in the Faraday cage must not touch the metal of the box, hence the insulation. Radio waves cannot penetrate metal, so the cage would stop the EMP from hitting the electronics hidden inside.
Grounding a device offers some protection from EMP, especially if it is a metal cased electronic device. The earth itself is the best electrical ground there is, so putting in a ground stake and attaching ground wires from electrical devices to that stake would protect them; assuming that the devices being connected were truly metal cased and not plastic.
The Impact of an EMP
Much of our modern society depends upon electronics and computer controls. Except for military electronics and a few other government applications, those electronics aren’t protected from EMP. So, a large part of our consumer and commercial electronics would be instantaneously destroyed by an EMP.
Without the electronics that control them, most of our essential services would disappear. Water treatment and pumping, telephone, radio, television, the Internet, cash registers in stores, gas pumps and sewage treatment would all stop working. The devastation to our infrastructure would be worse than any hurricane or natural disaster that we could experience. It would also be much more widespread, hitting a large portion of our country, rather than the regional devastation caused by a hurricane.
With so much of the infrastructure incapacitated, survival will drop to the most basic level. This will be the ultimate test for preppers, as they are faced with a true collapse of society. Between the loss of the services that we all depend upon and the ensuing confusion and panic that is caused, it is impossible to predict how people will react.
This will become a good time to stay hidden. Those that have a prepared bug-out location within walking distance would probably be better off leaving right away. I say “within walking distance” because their cars may not function. For the rest of us, who are bugging in, we need to make our homes look like they are abandoned.
With such wide-range damage, repair to infrastructure systems won’t be the work of days or even weeks, but most likely of months or even years. Even prioritizing the necessary repairs will be a monumental task, starting with repairing the factories to build the products which will be needed to repair the rest of the system.
Is an EMP Coming?
There is no real way of knowing whether an EMP attack is eminent. Any one of our enemies could suddenly launch a high altitude missile, claiming that it’s a satellite launch, but in reality being a nuclear device to produce an EMP. Even if Cheyenne Mountain caught the launch and knew it for what it was, they would only have 30 minutes to get the warning out.
While high-altitude nuclear explosion is the normal scenario for producing an EMP attack, it isn’t the only way that one can happen. NASA scientists have put out a warning of increased solar activity, including extreme solar flares, for the last half of 2013. Part of that warning was a warning about potential EMP from the sun.
As our sun burns, it produces a lot of types of radiation, including electromechanical radiation and radio waves of all types. With the expected increase of solar activity, this level of radiation will be increased as well. The only question that remains is how much it will be increased and what effect it will have. While the possibility of EMP from the sun is quite real, there is no guarantee that it will happen or that it will happen in severe enough a form to cause us problems; nor is there any guarantee that it won’t.