EMP 101: Part II—The Aftermath

The Aftermath

Yesterday we discussed the reality of an EMP attack on the U.S. and today we will bring the aftermath of an EMP attack a bit closer so that we can mentally go through the various ramifications.  If you mentally prepare, even little by little, you will be significantly better off.

Ford Bronco photo c/o bringatrailer.com

Ford Bronco photo c/o bringatrailer.com

The Aftermath Reality #1: Since an EMP essentially fries anything electric, this means most automobiles post-1970 will be useless.  This may explain why my husband’s dream car as of late is a 1967 Ford Bronco. :) As early as 1970, key components of automobiles were made with electrical parts.  You’re well aware that some models today brag about being completely electrical.  This will be problem with an EMP.  If you’re driving your beautiful Cooper car when an EMP strikes, you won’t feel the road rattle.  You won’t hear a noise.  Your automobile will simply stop dead in its tracks.  Be prepared mentally for alternative transportation.  For me that’s “hoofing it” so I have a couple pairs of good shoes in storage, and made sure that my bikes have several tire repair kits to go with them.  You may also want to consider having a “li’l red wagon” or something that you can easily push and pull with supplies or your passengers therein.  This is not to say that you will have to flee where you are when an EMP hits, but as the aftermath becomes a way of life, you will have to travel at some point even if it’s just a mile or so.  Personally, I will want to be able to travel so that I can check on other individuals and deliver any aid I may be able to.

HAM Radio photo c/o blind.org.uk

HAM Radio photo c/o blind.org.uk

The Aftermath Reality #2: The most vital services that will be destroyed in an EMP attack are communications.  Telephones, radio, walkie-talkies, etc.  Can you imagine what life will be like in the aftermath without these luxuries?  And to think we mock individuals who don’t have texting abilities nowadays. :) This is yet another reason why you will want to make sure your walking shoes or your bike are ready for use—delivering messages.

While your challenge will be wide scale, without proper communication you’ll feel like you’re on you very own little planet.  One of the recommendations I make to prepare for the aftermath is to take the time to get your HAM radio license, appropriate equipment, and THEN be sure that it’s kept out of range of an EMP strike.  This can be accomplished in different ways, but the most popular is a Faraday cage.

Faraday Cage photo c/o scientifica.uk.com

Faraday Cage photo c/o scientifica.uk.com

You can easily create a Faraday cage which will protect most electronics from an EMP attack.  We’ll talk more about Faraday cages later in this series. (Sorry, I haven’t found a contractor yet who can do this to my whole house.)  You can actually obtain a Faraday cage from a business that’s going under that has been using one for their server room.  I’ve even found decent sized Faraday cages on E-bay.  Then again you can also use materials of your own for such storage with aluminum foil, mesh copper or brass sheeting, a cheap “space blanket” made of Mylar, or even an oversized stock pot!  There are Faraday blankets available as well.

The Aftermath Reality #3: The banking industry will be destroyed with one pulse.  No ATMs, folks.  You will be unable to buy any goods without cash.  (We’ll see how long human nature allows such civil transactions to take place before burglary and looting commences.)  You will be unable to fill your car with gasoline, even if it is an older model.  Gas pumps are operated electronically nowadays.  Your home security system will be useless.  You won’t be able to rely on the television and video games to entertain your children.  And you’ll have to be sure to have an alternative way to cook your meals—as well as the knowledge necessary to cook in such a manner.  There will be no refrigeration.  So either keep your freezer and refrigerator closed for as long as possible, or start canning meats and such and eating the foods in the freezer first.

Medication ©2006 Publications International, Ltd.

Medication ©2006 Publications International, Ltd.

The Aftermath Reality #4: Lastly, consider the medical implications of an EMP attack.  Obtaining medications that we are accustomed to using will be virtually impossible.  Those individuals who rely on medical technology to survive in their homes will be at the highest risk in the aftermath of an EMP attack.  Unlike our food supply which relies on a three day delivery cycle, our medical supplies largely rely on a one day delivery cycle.  So what can you do to prepare?  First make sure you have as many medical supplies on hand that you can obtain such as pain relievers, cough and cold remedies, anti-bacterial creams, hydrogen peroxide, rubbing alcohol, cotton balls, heat packs, essential oils, and your own medications.  (Just so you know, since I use coupons, I get the majority of these items really cheap or for free!)

Next, do all you can do now to get as healthy as possible without medication.  When I started out this year I had a stark moment of realization.  I looked at my nightstand and saw 7 prescription bottles.  I knew that such reliance would hinder me dramatically if we were to encounter a true emergency, so I made the goal to get healthy so that I could eliminate all of them.  It’s been 6 months and I’ve eliminated all but one of them by focusing on the use of high quality nutritional products.  I may not be able to store a year’s worth of medications properly, but I CAN store a year’s worth of nutritional products that help me replace the chemical alternatives.

To recap, prepare your mind and your body for the aftermath of an EMP attack, and you won’t end up being the star of your own Armageddon story.

EMP 101 Series

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One more idea for a Faraday cage that I have heard - microwave ovens are natural faraday cages because they are deigned to keep electromagnetic radiation contained. Anything you have in a closed microwave oven should be protected from an EMP attack (admittedly that's a very limited space).

Not only do you have to worry about the Nuclear EMP, but you also have to worry about the natural EMP caused by Solar Flares. They are very real. A serious one happened in the late 1800's that blew transformers and telegraph lines all over the northern hemisphere. There have been other minor Solar Flare EMPs in the 20th Century that caused minor damage, and even cities to lose power. It's not a question of if, but of when another major Solar Flare EMP or Nuclear EMP will occur.

I'm thinking (hoping) you misunderstand.

Which is more likely to happen: a successful EMP attack taking out the entire infrastructure of the country - or that I lose my job and have some trouble finding a new one? Obviously, the latter. Given limited resources with which to prepare, which should I prepare for first because of the increased likelihood? Obviously, the latter.

The same with natural disaster. If I live in a tornado-prone area, or a hurricane-prone one, or an earthquake-prone one, those are what I should prepare for first. For that matter, in the current economic climate, a Weimar/Zimbabwe/Argentina hyperinflation scenario is more likely than an EMP attack.

To turn your proposition on its head, if I prep for those more likely situations first, I'll have a large portion of the prep work for a more esoteric disaster done.

An EMP attack would require a great deal of precise planning and monitoring. Contrary to Forschen's scenario, you can't just chuck a SCUD or three up into the air somewhere over America and trigger it. The speed, altitude, longitude, latitude, yield, etc. all have to be near-exact. It's questionable if even the US has the ability to do this today (there have been media reports that we can't). The full cascade effect also requires several assumptions that physicists debate the possibility of, much like they debated whether the first atomic bomb would destroy the entire world.

My concern is that your advice (combined with sensationalism from certain media outlets) will have people running out to buy expensive and obscure equipment (manual tools, pre-1980 autos, etc.) before the essentials that apply in all emergencies: food, water, personal protection. I don't think that's your intent, but it's always good to remember to prep for the more likely and more general BEFORE the less likely and more specific.


I do agree that an EMP or Solar Flare is probably less likely to happen to my community today than a tornado or hurricane or econonic collapse (I live in Florida).

However, when (not if) an EMP or Solar Flare happens and takes out the entire infrastructure of the country, there will be no Nanny Government coming to bail you out, and the people who have not prepared will quickly try to take what you do have prepared. And an EMP disaster could last a year or longer, not just a couple of days.

Most of the preps for an EMP are the same for a hurricane, tornado, economic collapse, super volcano, nuclear war, etc. - store food, water, and medicine, and have guns/ammo to protect it. The only extra steps for an EMP are to use your knowledge of the possible consequences to shield the electronic devices that you think you might need.

True, David. But here's the snag. It's VERY unlikely that we will get any warning about an incoming EMP. Also, I wouldn't bother taking up space with a microwave when a box and some foil will work great. We'll get into that in the subsequent article though. Thanks a bundle for your comment! Glad you're aware!

If an electronic item is turned off at the time of an EMP will its circuitry still be fried?

Fascinating. Can't wait to hear about that!

I would note one thing: the "cascade effect" that many posit and that is in Forschen's book is just theoretical at this point. It's never been tested before, obviously.

It could be that the effect will be no more than a few hundred miles at most from the detonation point (possibly not even reaching the ground). Even if there's something to it, it would also require near pinpoint precision to pull off to the degree Forschen depicts.

That doesn't mean it's impossible. It just means that on a scale of 1 to 10 likeliness, right now it's much closer to a 1 than a 10. An apocalyptic scenario is scary, but a Hurricane Katrina one is infinitely more likely, and a personal emergency (like losing your job) is much more than that. Don't cast a blind eye to the possibility of an EMP attack, but prepare for the more likely scenarios first before you worry too much about a specialized and less likely scenario. Put first things first.

JDB, after reading countless congressional reports and commissioned articles, I couldn't disagree with you more. An EMP is VERY likely, and the cascade effect that I've read of in fictional books is incomplete in that it's just the tip of the iceberg. In fact, I believe an EMP is MOST likely because it's caused by evil men, not Mother Nature. (that's not to say that God won't have his day either) I'm concerned that anyone would dismiss the likelihood of an EMP attack after reading your post. It would be an egregious error in my opinion. I can assure you that if someone prepares themselves for a 90 day quarantine or an EMP attack, then they would also be very prepared for a personal emergency as well, including a job loss.

JDB, you are most correct in that prudence needs to be implemented in ANY emergency preparedness plan. And you certainly do not want to sacrifice that which is rational for that which is unlikely. I doubt though that my words would actually cause individuals to take irrational action. (How I wish I was heeded to that closely. We'd all be a lot safer.) However, I firmly believe that the loss of a job is easier to overcome than an EMP attack. Thats' my point of reference, not the frequency of either event.

Scientifically, you err in presuming that an EMP attack must be exact. Think of it as buckshot. The effect spreads out.

More importantly I still stand on what I shared previously. If you prepare for a quarantine for example, ideally you will have 3 months of financial reserves, food, water, housing, etc. This is also ideal for preparation in the event of a job loss. Preparing for an electric or technology interruption is an extension of that.
My article did not prioritize an EMP as the ultimate preparation. Rather it stated that it was the most likely NATIONAL crisis.(with an economic collaspe as a close 3nd place.)

Just to clarify to all readers, in order to be sensible, you should prepare month by month, not in 5 year increments. *wink*

Excellent series on a often overlooked area of concern!

Just an FYI, another book about an EMP attack on the US is Light's Out. It's available free online and gives you a lot to think about as far as the mindset needed and the possibility of what may happen.

Hey TND,
I haven't been able to find that one yet. Do you have a link? When I look for it I get all kinds of junk. Thanks.


I think most people who freqent this blog show evidence already that they are intelligent and alert to what is going on in the world, and therefore aren't the type to go to run out and buy a 1960's Mustang (although what a great excuse for one!). And yes, I did just totally complimented myself ;-)

In all seriousness, a working car in that scenario would bring far more harm to the owner than help. The scene the the recent War of the Worlds where the mob fighting over the only running vehicle in the area is scarily accurate I fear.

LOL, I joke about my own intelligence and then see typing/grammatical errors. Ah pride! ;-)

Thanks, McNamys :)

I'm glad I stopped over because this is just fascinating. I've always been preparation minded but had not heard of an EMP. I think I'll have to get me a Faraday cage.

I have a wind up radio with short wave bands, I left it in the box and covered the box with foil, I am hoping that this will provide Farady protection, will it?

If you had asked me this a year ago, I would have told you yes. However, I've done a lot of research in the Faraday protection method and now know that the foil method won't work for something as significant as an EMP or solar flare scenario. The foil is too thin to protect you from that. I'd create a mini-faraday instead if it were me.

What about a larger ammo can wrapped with copper mesh and grounded?

Only if the inside can were insulated from the outside copper mesh.
If so, that would work fine.

"According to the Report of

"According to the Report of the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse Attack, published by the EMP Commission in April this year, 37 cars with vintages between 1986 to 2002 were tested using an EMP simulation laboratory. Given the worst case scenario our simulator could replicate—with engines running and an incrementally increasing field intensity of up to fifty kilovolts per metre—only three of the cars were seriously affected. The motors of these cars temporarily seized up. In a real world scenario, these cars would merely glide to a stop and could be restarted by the driver."

From the book I'm writing. Source is verifiable; the report can be found online.

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