Surviving an EMP

The modern world depends on electricity to power our computer-based international

communications systems. If something happened that interrupted all the electronic signals in a large area that disabled regional networks in charge of everything from traffic lights to public assistance debit cards, civilization as we know it would quickly collapse, some analysts believe.

An electromagnetic pulse (EMP) is one thing that could take down vital systems in a big way. As its name suggests, an EMP is a short burst of intense electromagnetic energy. A lightning strike is a familiar (and sometimes lethal) EMP event.

Other sources of EMP are usually broadband, fanning out rather than targeting a person or a tree, like lightning tends to do.

An electrostatic discharge (ESD) happens when two objects, charged with static electricity, come near enough to each other to transfer charges, from more conductive to less conductive. This is the “shock” you feel when someone touches you after walking across a carpet while wearing socks.

Believe it or not, meteors can discharge EMPs on impact or during their explosive breakup passing through the Earth’s atmosphere.

Better known to science fans is the coronal mass ejection (CME). These happen when the sun’s corona emits a burst of plasma which is accompanied by a magnetic field. The solar wind then carries it in the direction of force. If a CME faced our planet, it would travel to Earth. The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) says “the average time it would take a CME to get to the Earth is 98 hrs.”

Electric motors can pulse and power lines can surge, inflicting more localized damage than a CMEwould cause.

But probably the best-known source of an EMP is a nuclear explosion. There is the plain old nuclear electromagnetic pulse (NEMP), the high altitude nuclear EMP (HEMP) which sets up a secondary pulse, and the non-nuclear electromagnetic pulse (NNEMP) – all modern weapons of war.

The threat of a military EMP attack is clear and present enough to warrant a group called the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack. The purpose of this organization is to “monitor, investigate, make recommendations, and report to Congress on the evolving threat to the United States from electromagnetic pulse attack resulting from the detonation of a nuclear weapon or weapons at high altitude.”

So fellow survivalist, what would you do to survive an EMP event, no matter what caused it? Let’s compare notes with emergency preparedness writer P. J. who shared his thoughts on what to do right after an EMP strike. The fact that your car won’t start, your phone doesn’t work, and the power is out everywhere will tip you off that an EMP shut vital systems down for an unknown amount of time.

Use the first hours and days after a complete power outage to your advantage. First and foremost, don’t sit around and wait for official instructions like most uninformed people will do. Don’t wait for the power to come back on. You have made a plan (because you don’t plan to fail) and now it is time to spring into action.

1. If you are at work, go home. “Your boss no longer has authority over you, your co-workers no longer are a priority.” Head for your car and don the survival clothes you cached there. Then, make your way home on foot.

2. Spend your cash at the corner store, not big retail stores. Approach the store owner who may want to move unprotected merchandise from prospective looters. Offer an extra $100 to shop for supplies like “medication, candy bars, water bottles, pop tarts, lighters, hand sanitizer, etc” and dump your soon-to-be-worthless paper bills before the vandals clear the store of goods.

3. Fill all your bathtubs with water. Use the stopper you picked up ahead of time. Also, fill any other water storage containers on hand and set up your water purification and filtration devices. Adding eight drops of Clorox laundry bleach to a gallon of water and letting it stand for 30 minutes will provide emergency disinfection when you can’t boil water for one minute to make it safe to drink.

4. Organize your neighborhood. Go door to door and talk to people who live close to you about the EMP, even if they don’t believe you. “Explain to them what is going on and that time is critical, let them know a worst case scenario means that there will be no help coming for quite a long time.” Share your ideas on how to protect the local community from roaming, hungry human predators expected to arrive in the coming days or weeks:

– Recommend starting a neighborhood watch group with assigned shifts to define, patrol, and protect your area’s boundaries.

– Set a regular time every day (at sunrise or sunset, for example) to host a meeting in your garage. Prepare information to pass out and expect the number of attendees to grow as others realize the SHTF.

– Advise them to use their cash just like you did.

– Encourage them to list all their supplies – prepare an inventory – and start rationing everything. Expect to share food and supplies with each other. It will probably “take a village” to endure prolonged hardship.

– Build a neighborhood contact list and communications tree (where person A informs people B and C who, in turn, each inform two others, etc.) Note the special skills neighbors have so you know the whereabouts of doctors and nurses, as well as soldiers and law enforcement personnel.

– Figure out waste management right away. The neighborhood needs to designate places to dump trash before burning or burying it. Dig outdoor latrines and lime them religiously to prevent an outbreak of disease. Dysentary is no laughing matter. It is extremely painful and debilitating, sometimes lethal.

– Listen for news about how widespread the power outage is and when to expect help to arrive from the NOAA Weather Radio Frequencies channel on the solar or hand-crank weather radio you prepared beforehand to survive an EMP. You did this, of course, by using a Faraday cage to route the destructive electromagnetic energy away from the electronic device.

A Faraday cage is a “conductive casing that prevents the electromagnetic radiation from reaching the electronic circuits contained within.” You can store your radio in an old microwave oven tucked away somewhere in your house or a metal trash can lined with cardboard. Or you can wrap the radio in paper or a plastic bag, several folded layers of aluminum foil (the conductive material), and an outer plastic wrap to protect the foil from tearing.

– Above all, put your safety and that of your family first. “Remain suspicious of all activity and never walk around unarmed. Never allow your family members to venture out alone and remember to stay in after dark.” Use force as a last resort for self-defense. Eventually, the power will come back on and “people will be held accountable for their actions.”

Unlikely as an EMP strike may seem, the preparedness steps outlined here could be useful in many other emergency or disaster scenarios. Everyone increases their chances for survival by having a plan, supplies, skills, and the ability to inform and organize community cooperation.