You've prepared for natural disasters like droughts, earthquakes, hurricanes, and flooding. You've stocked up enough food in case of food shortages. Heck, you might even be prepared to weather some civil unrest. But are you prepared for an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack?
Non-lethal as it is, a strong EMP can very well end life as we know it. Congress was recently warned that an enemy can possibly cause severe disruption--- not by firing a single bullet, but with the help of a particularly strong electromagnetic pulse.
But what is an EMP, and how can we prepare for it?
What Is An EMP?
An electromagnetic pulse or EMP is a strong burst of electromagnetic energy that causes surges in currents and volts in a surrounding electromagnetic field. Most electronic devices are not equipped to handle these electric surges and as a result, they get damaged. Think of a pretty strong lightning strike and how it fries your electronic devices--- that’s a perfect example of a natural EMP.
Solar storms can also induce natural EMPs.
The EMP emitted by the solar storm of 1859 (aka the Carrington event) reportedly took out the world’s telegraph stations--- the most common form of electronic equipment at the time.
Another solar storm occurred in 2012, but it luckily missed the earth by a mere 9 days. If the 1859 event managed to disrupt the telegraph systems, imagine what an EMP of similar magnitude could have done back in 2012, or what a large-scale, deliberate man-made EMP attack could do to today’s technologically dependent society.
How Real Is The Threat?
Man-made EMPs are usually caused by the detonation of nuclear weapons, although they could also be produced by highly advanced electromagnetic bombs (E-bombs). The higher the detonation altitude, the more widespread the damage an EMP could create.
Unlike an actual nuclear explosion, though, the electromagnetic pulse itself is not radioactive and is non-lethal in nature. This inability to kill a person directly or physically destroy infrastructure is what makes it a perfect military weapon: it can significantly cripple any army that relies on modern technology with minimal loss of life.
Effects of EMP
EMPs travel at the speed of light, so its effects are instantly and simultaneously felt over the area. The pulse itself doesn’t last for very long, but its residual effects can be felt for a very, very long time.
EMP attacks vary in strength. The damage can range from small signal jams that can go away in a few hours to busted transformers that could take months to repair. A large-scale EMP attack is capable of shutting down power grids over a large area, severely affecting thousands, if not millions of lives.
Communications, industries, logistics, and basic services like healthcare, water and transportation would be crippled. GPS and everything that relies on the internet? Gone in a blink. Anything that relies on a chip would cease to function. Satellite communications will also be compromised. Even radar and telegraphs aren’t safe from an EMP.
Long-term power outages could be expected. EMPs can even damage cars, trains, and planes. And this is to say nothing of the people who are dependent on electronic devices for their very lives: patients on respirators, incubators, pacemakers and the like are at very high risk. A well-placed EMP attack could very well send us back to the dark ages in more ways than one. It would be like cutting off a limb.
What with North Korea threatening to launch a weapon that can produce an EMP strong enough to reach the entire country and go as far as Mexico and Canada, it’s only prudent for preppers to be ready for this scenario, because it’s not science fiction anymore. The threat is very, very real and you have to be prepared.
What You Can Do To Prepare
A strong EMP could send society back to the pre-industrial age. Here’s what you can do to mitigate the effects of an EMP:
- Since an EMP could potentially trigger a large-scale blackout, you have to learn how to live without electricity. Bushcraft and survival skills will come pretty handy during this time.
- Prepare a survival stockpile, since your fridge will be nothing but a fancy storage space then. Stock up on non-perishable food items. If you can shell out some extra funds for freeze-dried survival food and MREs, do it. These supplies can last for several years and will see you through some tough times.
- Learn food preservation techniques to extend the shelf life of your food supplies.
- Take the extra step and consider growing your own survival garden. It’s a good backup plan when your stockpile runs out. It will also supply you with fresh produce that you can use for food, bartering, and medicinal purposes.
- Water supply could be compromised after an EMP, so make sure you have a way to store clean water, or at least purify them. The easiest way is through water purification tablets; they’re very cheap and easy to store. If you have your own well or generator, all the better.
- Stock up on alternative fuel sources for light and warmth. We wrote about those here.
- Make sure your vehicle is impervious to an EMP attack. If it’s one of the newer models, you might want to look into getting an older make and model.
- Anything that runs on a chip will practically be useless--- including debit and credit cards. Don’t rely on cash. Instead, make sure you have items that you can barter with other people. Liquor, unexpectedly, is one good barter item you might want to keep around.
- Get physically fit, because post-EMP means a whole lot of manual labor. You’d need good, strong muscles to chop firewood, collect water and the like.
- Since an EMP practically fries anything electronic, it’s prudent to keep manual mechanical tools--- and know how to use them. Hand-crank flashlights, grinders, solar ovens, can openers, shovels and multitools can go a long way.
- On that note, take steps to protect your devices from an EMP by making a Faraday cage. Named after the scientist Michael Faraday, the cage is made of continuous conductive material that protects your electronic devices from electromagnetic pulses. Here’s how to make one on the cheap.
- Store a lot of batteries, as they are safe from EMPs. If you can protect your battery-operated devices, they’d need some juice.
It's astounding how technology affects modern society. Only a couple of hundred years ago, man comfortably existed without electricity. These days, a year without it can harm millions of people and cost millions of dollars in business losses.
The threat of EMPs have been present before, but their effects were not as detrimental then as they would be now. Technology has lead to breakthroughs and advances, but our dependence on it might just lead to our downfall. With tensions brewing abroad, it's only sensible for every prepper to be ready for this kind of event. It's important to equip oneself with tried-and-tested survival skills that would work, regardless of the situation. Increase your chances of safety and survival by being prepared.