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[How-To] Prep For & Survive An EMP Attack

You’re sitting at work when, all of a sudden, everything goes black. It’s clear the power won’t come back on anytime soon.

It’s then that you get the first inklings of something being wrong. Very wrong.

What happens when the lights go out?

Modern cars won’t start. Phones don’t work either.

“What on earth is going on?”

Such is the beginning of a post-EMP world, and if you’re not ready, it’ll kill you.

PSA AR-V Shooting Car
Cover would be about all your car would be good for after an EMP.

But what can we do to improve our chances? Is an EMP even a threat? And what on earth is an EMP, anyway?

We’re here to answer those questions and more.

So keep reading to learn about EMPs and how you can survive one.

Table of Contents

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What is an EMP?

It doesn’t do much good if we haven’t defined what the problem is? So, let’s start with that.

An electromagnetic pulse is a large burst of energy that overloads sensitive electrical components – thus resulting in their destruction.

AMP72 Padded Laptop 2
Things like laptops would be rendered obsolete after an EMP.

It won’t cause your phone to blow up in your hand or anything like that, but it will silently turn your phone into a brick.

The most discussed cause of an EMP comes from a nuclear bomb attack.

Nuclear Blast
Nuclear Blast

Should a nuclear weapon detonate up in the atmosphere, it would generate a pulse that would take out electricity for thousands of miles.

And not just as some inconvenient form of glitch, either. Permanently.

Other credible sources of an EMP include specialized missiles and non-nuke-directed energy devices (think of that machine from Ocean’s Eleven).

Rocket

Should any of these weapons be used against the U.S., the devastation could be severe, to the point that mass death would be an understatement.

Is an EMP Really a Threat?

Is an EMP even a threat, though? What’s the point of being concerned about what seems to be such a far-off issue?

The U.S. thought the threat of an EMP was so great that in 2009 the EMP Commission Report was drafted.

Its findings?

Estimated Impact of EMP
Estimated Impact of an EMP.

Within a year, 90% of Americans would be dead post-pulse.

That’s a bit of an attention grabber, is it not?

Furthermore, Iran, China, North Korea, Russia, and ISIS have access to EMP-type weapons, and the war plans to go with them.

Russian military journal Military Thought even noted, “American forces may be vulnerable to electronic warfare attacks, in particular, an electromagnetic pulse that is a brief powerful electromagnetic field capable of overloading or destroying numerous electronic systems…”

Red Dawn

Prepping for an EMP

If you’re concerned about an EMP attack, here are the steps that you can take to better improve your chances of survival.

1. Store Food and Water

I wholeheartedly believe that the very best thing you can do to protect yourself and your family against an EMP is to have a properly stocked larder.

As both the EMP Commission Report of 2009 and Dr. Peter Pry’s seminal paper have shown, starvation and lack of access to clean water are going to be one of the primary reasons that 90% of the U.S. population would cease to exist a year post-pulse.

Survival-Water-Filters-for-Preppers-Hero
Access to clean water is a must post-disaster. So, it pays to have the means to purify your water.

By ensuring that you have some of these set aside – as well as the means to harvest more – you’ve already taken a sizeable step to improve your family’s resilience against an EMP attack.

Lost about where to start? Thankfully, we at Pew Pew Tactical are here to help!

We have some excellent articles on food and water storage and prepping for beginners that will tell you what you need to know!

Water Storage, Food, & Ammo
Storing food and water beforehand helps you in the long run.

2. Learn Basic First Aid and Stock What You Need

Improving your chances of surviving an EMP is twofold.

  • Know how to treat basic medical situations
  • Have the first aid gear necessary to do so
CPR Masks First Aid Kit
First aid kits are a must to keep around!

Medical situations will be the primary cause of death post-pulse. When it comes to delivering a baby, treating scratches, or caring for those with the flu, the average joe can help.

But you have to know what you’re doing.

If you’re seeking to improve your medical knowledge, I recommend David Werner’s Where There is No Doctor.

Having a good IFAK or first aid kit in your car is a wise plan but you also need to carry a tourniquet on your body. If you have an EDC you can also have an EDC TQ.
It’s not just about gear…you gotta know how to use it!

Widely touted as the most-used healthcare reference in the world, the book is fantastic. I highly recommend picking up a copy.

It wouldn’t be a bad idea to seek actual training as well. See our recommendations over at the Best First Aid Training Courses.

CPR Face Shield Breathing
Knowing how to render help is essential too!

Just knowing what to do isn’t very beneficial if you don’t have the equipment necessary, though. So, you want a ready supply of medical equipment on hand.

If you’re looking for more information on medical gear, check out our articles on the Best EDC Medical Kits and Essential SHTF Gear.

3. Generate Your Own Electricity

While generators are most certainly one form of producing electricity, I’m not a huge fan of them.

They broadcast your position, are cumbersome, and once they run out of gasoline (which wouldn’t take long post-pulse), they’re useless.

Solar Panel
A solar panel is handy!

I believe that solar provides the best option for generating enough electricity to meet your daily needs — whether that’s powering medical equipment, keeping a freezer cold, or recharging various devices.

Having an emergency panel and solar generator is worth its weight in gold post-disaster, and there are a number of great options available out on the market.

Solar Power Generator
Solar Power Generator

If you’re interested in discovering what they are, check out our analysis of the Best Solar Panel Setups.

4. Protect Electronics with Faraday Cages

If you want your electronic equipment to survive an EMP, then protect it with a Faraday Cage.

Faraday Cages act as barriers to keep EMP radiation from destroying the circuitry within electrical equipment.

HAM Radio (1)
There’s lots of choices when it comes to outdoor communications.

Whether we’re talking about ham radios, laptops, red dots, vehicles, or just about anything else electrical…if it’s not protected against an EMP, odds are it’ll become an expensive piece of junk post-EMP.

While you can most certainly build your own Faraday cage, there are commercial options available on the market as well.

In my opinion, the best of these come from Mission Darkness.

38
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

I’m personally a fan of their Dry Shield Phone Sleeve, as I can easily stuff a handheld ham radio inside of it and forget it.

(And if you don’t have a ham radio, honestly, you need to get one.)

You probably won’t be able to fit your vehicle into a big bag, so you’re going to want some other means of protecting it as well.

Carjacking
Can’t really fit a car in a bag…

Modern vehicles use hundreds of onboard computers, and if you don’t protect them, your car will be useless post-pulse.

The best means of protecting your vehicle against an EMP that I am aware of is by installing EMP Shield.

349
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

EMP Shield

Prices accurate at time of writing

EMP Shield is a little gray brick that you install under your vehicle’s hood. It protects your vehicle from the effects of an EMP.

I’m not sure how you could ever test this thing, but it should still work if there was an EMP.

Conclusion

While it doesn’t carry the same probability of happening as a hurricane, an electromagnetic pulse is most certainly a weapon of war you should prep for.

Be Prepared
Listen to murderous lion, he’s right about this one.

By taking the following steps above, you’ll have done just about everything you can do to mitigate your risk from such a disaster.

And even if an EMP never does happen on U.S. soil, the items that you’ve stowed away and the knowledge that you’ve accumulated can still be used for other disasters as well — think tornadoes, floods, wildfires, and the like.

Tornado Damage Tennessee 2020
Prepping supplies can be used for other disasters too, like after a tornado.

Are there other aspects we should have covered? Let us know in the comments! Dive into prepping with Prepping 101 and read up on how to keep your loved ones safe with a Family Bug Out Bag and Emergency Plan.

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15 Leave a Reply

  • Commenter Avatar
    Ryan

    I'm sure someone may have already raised this question... but Faraday boxes, solar panels, anything electronic- wouldn't it just become obsolete after an EMP pulse? I mean the pulse would kill the grid that all your electronics run on, so kind of pointless trying to save your phone. Just a thought.

    October 2, 2021 6:12 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Howard

    Consider getting an automatic (self winding) watch. Or two of them. Because one is none...

    July 7, 2021 2:45 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    RSTolen

    Our sun is a very real threat that can affect us like an EMP, but worse. Learn yourself about the carrington event, the earth's changing magnetic field, and space weather.

    July 4, 2021 9:43 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Chuck Biskits

    The total number of worldwide nuclear detonations is 2,476. No mass EMP damage has ever occurred from any of them.

    Mass EMP destruction is a fraud. But go ahead and be afraid if you want to.

    July 3, 2021 6:34 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Alternator

      The EMP damage done by them is how we learned about EMP damage in the first place. You are totally ignorant.

      July 4, 2021 4:50 am
      • Commenter Avatar
        Chuck Biskits

        You're not much for actual facts, are you? Too difficult. I understand, simpleton.

        July 4, 2021 3:17 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Jack

      Not a fraud really. Something to fear? Its good to be prepared in case disaster strikes, its not good to waste resources on things that do not work. Do you need to lay awake at nigh thinking about it? Probably not.

      The last thing you will need when a nuclear weapon goes off over your town/city is a cell phone - that area and for probably hundreds of miles around it are not going to have cell service again for the next 50 - 100 years, you will most likely not be dialing up grandma to say good buy once that weapon goes off. Of all the survival things in the article it leaves out the two most important things and those two things are time and distance - get away from the area quickly and put a lot of distance between you and the area. Do not hunker down some place in or near the affected area thinking you can ride it out with all your prep gear and food - its likely not going to happen, even if you survived the blast every piece of dust and dirt floating around in the air, most you can not see, is going to be highly radioactive and exposure to it is going to kill you in a few days to maybe a few weeks. Even if you do not get exposed directly you will at some point inhale some of this radioactive fall out dust and dirt. Gas masks are not going to stop exposure to the radioactivity from happening, every time you inhale its going to bring the radiation in the particles closer to your face even though the particles may not get through the filter. Even the so called "anti-radition" suits you bought will be useless overall. The best thing you can do is get out before the fallout starts falling, or if you had some advanced warning drop everything then and grab the go bags and the wife and kids and grandma and leave the area.

      For EMP due to nuclear weapon to have a widespread-area effect the detonation has to be an air burst 30 miles altitude or more. The largest area is covered by a detonation greater than 100 miles altitude. The weapon yield matters also.

      The reason your 2,476 nuclear detonations have not resulted in "mass EMP damage" is because none of them were air bursts at the altitudes needed.

      A nuclear weapon detonation at ground level would have a limited effect for EMP but the greater the detonation altitude the greater the area the EMP can affect. A nuclear weapon is also more effective for physical destruction and immediate deaths if its detonated at high altitude. The terrain also matters, mountainous areas provide better blocking of EMP effects even though those areas depending on detonation altitude would be affected too.

      People think that an ICBM or sub launched missile, or aircraft delivered, nuclear warhead hits the ground and detonates, that's not true. The EMP effect is the reason that "modern" nuclear warheads are designed for high altitude detonation so that both the physically destructive force and the EMP can have effect. After that happens the danger basically becomes the radioactive fall out which will pretty much kill millions more of initial survivors within a few weeks.

      Forget about placing your cell phones and comm gear in a Faraday shield at ground level, either commercially made or a DIY like that trash can thing linked in the article. Its not going to help like you think it will. There is a reason the government builds bunkers and structures with comm gear inside with re-enforced steel-concrete walls several feet thick with three inch thick copper plating grounded to several hundred feet of metal plate buried 100 feet below the bunker.

      That stupid DIY trash can "faraday cage" thing linked in the article will not work. They put this radio inside and it looses signal so she declares victory and claims it worked. She is ignoring that nuclear weapon EMP is an electromagnetic field with a lot of energy that encompasses frequencies from very low frequency to a few hundred megahertz and most metals will actually conduct some of the wide band frequencies from an EMP pulse so the frequency pulse will go right through it at the energy levels of an EMP pulse. But basically its not the frequency that's damaging as its the energy of the pulse, and this is where her trash can DIY faraday shield creation fails and it fails because its not grounded and not properly constructed and will not metal-metal-seal properly (sealing has to be bonded electrically 100%). Basically to dissipate electromagnetic energy at a point you have two options, you provide it a very very low resistance path to ground or wait for the energy to dissipate. In the DIY video she thinks that because the trash can stop broadcast frequencies (which in terms of EMP energy are thousands of times weaker). The DIY trashcan thing is not actually going to do anything to protect whats inside from a nuclear weapon EMP.

      The same for that "Mission Darkness Dry Shield Faraday Phone Sleeve" in the article, in terms of a nuclear weapon EMP its snake oil. Who ever came up with the idea this would be good to use with a nuclear weapon EMP, or tries to imply its good for a nuclear weapon EMP, simply does not understand what a nuclear weapon EMP is. It does not become a faraday anything until its suitably grounded and even then its not going to help because its not thick enough in terms of the the effects of a high energy EMP pulse. If it were thick enough, at its physical size, it would weigh hundreds of pounds, and it certainly would not have those flexible "neolock" magnet closures at the top. Because you can put your cell phone or comm device inside it and have no signal does not mean it works against a nuclear detonation EMP. If you want to use it to kill your cell phone signal for privacy reasons, fine, but for a nuclear weapon EMP nope not gonna work.

      July 4, 2021 10:26 am
      • Commenter Avatar
        JimL

        Thanks for this Jack -- it all sounds very reasonable, particularly that none of these light, inexpensive devices could possibly take the full force of a nuclear/EMP blast. But could they have marginal value? The intense energy would dissipate over distance, so it seems to me that certain kinds of practical shield devices might reduce risks for people at the further edges of a blast radius, even if it does nothing at the center. What do you think?

        July 5, 2021 8:04 am
        • Commenter Avatar
          Jack

          It depends on a lot. The type of device, the nuke yield, and detonation altitude, and several other factors. Two 10 megaton nukes detonated at 230 miles altitude above the U.S.. one right after the other, would blanket the U.S., Canada, and Mexico with emp and devices like cell phones and most hand held comm devices are likely to be rendered inoperable.

          Shielding helps for some devices, yes, but its not a cure type thing for every device. All three components of the nuclear detonation emp would need to be defended against to be sure. Also the distance from the emp origination point needs to be taken into account. For example, one component generates a charge thats up to 50,00 volts per meter at ground level. And another can generate 1 mev at ground level. And it travels fast too, for example, the E1 component is traveling at basically speed of light with the gamma radiation.. But the point is there is a lot of energy in an nuclear emp and the only effective way to deal with it is actual Faraday cages construction and shielding.

          July 5, 2021 9:34 am
      • Commenter Avatar
        Jack

        Also. For the Mission Darkness Dry Shield Faraday Phone Sleeve" - and the trase can thing each comm device has a threshold at which it will detect a signal. But because your device in one of these may not detect a signal it does not mean there is no signal present. It just means for that device for its tuned frequency that its tuned frequency is below the device detection threshold. In reality there could be a wide spread of frequency signals electromagnetic energy passing through the bag or trash can.

        So putting a cell phone or radio in one of these and then saying its good for protection from nuclear emp is a false.

        These two things, bag and diy trash can, are not reliable nuclear emp protective methods for your electronics.

        July 5, 2021 11:02 am
        • Commenter Avatar
          John

          Hi Jack;

          Thanks for all this. I'm not really worried about an EMP attack, but I have a few questions about this "faraday cage" thing.

          1. Is the construction material important - what I mean is can any metal be used or can it be wire mesh or does it need to be metal sheeting? Can aluminum foil be used?

          2. Is it necessary to insulate the inside of the "faraday cage" thing to keep the electronics from touching the "metal"?

          July 5, 2021 12:59 pm
          • Commenter Avatar
            Jack

            John;

            Construction material is important. It has to serve two purposes. First it has to provide shielding and second it has to provide what is basically an electrical path to ground for 100% of the faraday cage (there can not be even the slightest break in the bonding of the metal).

            Metal shielding does not mean its a faraday cage device. On the internet you can find thousands of examples of what people claim would be "faraday" ("cage") protective "containers". Most of them are 100% wrong because they make the mistake of not grounding, like that bag and trash can thing.

            People put cell phones and radios in their creation and claim its a "faraday" cage because the device can no longer detect a signal. That's a false assumption because just because the signal level for the device frequency drops below the device detection threshold does not mean there is not a bunch of energy passing through, or in, their faraday cage device.

            Basically, in broad strokes, what we are interested in for nuclear EMP protection is the dissipation or redirection of all electromagnetic energy that is contained in a nuclear EMP, not just at the frequencies the electronic devices detect. And that energy is massive and very wide band in frequency from very low frequency to a few hundred megahertz and most metals will actually conduct some of the wide band frequencies from an EMP pulse so the frequency energy pulse will go right through it at the energy levels of an EMP pulse. Its not the frequency, its the broad band energy pulse we are interested in and that has two components (fields). What you want to create is an electrically neutral area inside the farday cage. Simply surrounding something with metal or metal foil is not enough.

            Basically any solid metal can be used. But wire mesh can be used also but not just any wire mesh so don't run our to the hardware store and get some "chicken wire".

            For solid metal plate or foil, where ever the metal touches any other part of any of the metal used (e.g. seams) it has to be bonded mechanically and 100% electrically meaning there are absolutely zero gaps. When the EMP hits the cage you want the electrical energy to flow around the cage then to ground. If there are any gaps in that flow that energy is going to find that gap.

            If you are using wire mesh, the mesh has to be sized to not allow resonance at any of the nuclear EMP frequencies. If there is any resonance its not going to be effective.

            There is no need to insulate the entire interior of the "faraday cage" "container" if it is 100% constructed properly - but none of the electronic items in the container can be allowed to touch any part of the "faraday" cage. However, its best to provide some type of insulating material, not temperature insulating but rather electrically insulating.

            You see people on the internet use cardboard and Styrofoam and other materials. Well, those are non-conductive but what we are interested in is a substance which does not readily conduct electricity at the energy levels of a nuclear EMP. A thing that is a good electrical insulator at say, for example, 120 volts may not be such a good electrical insulator at the initial E1 50,000 volts EMP energy at ground zero but may work fine 100 miles away and then again it may not work fine. Electrical insulation has limits that can be overcome, so select a proper insulator based upon the max possible (cardboard ain't gonna cut it).

            Good quality faraday cages are not easy to make without the proper materials.

            Basically how a faraday cage works is; There are two fields to an EMP - an electric field and magnetic field. The electric field is diverted (around the cage - this is what the ground is for) on the metal used. The electric field causes the electrons in the metal of the cage to rearrange thus neutralizing any electrical charge within the cage. When the magnetic field of a nuclear EMP come in contact with the Faraday cage, they create a current in the conductor (the metal or wire mesh used for the shielding) known as an eddy current. A moving magnetic field always generates a current in conductors (the fardaday cage metal), this is called electromagnetic induction. These eddy currents in turn create magnetic fields that oppose the field of the (energy) waves so that those waves are blocked from the interior of the faraday cage.

            In this way, by handling both of the fields of the EMP an electrically neutral zone is created on the inside of the faraday cage. If both of these fields are not handled the faraday cage will fail to protect what ever is inside.

            There are absolutely zero trash cans or "bags" which are actually faraday or nuclear EMP protective. They might shield enough to drop a signal level enough below an electronic device detection threshold or prevent a signal from escaping the "enclosure" container - but that does not mean its a "faraday cage" type container or enclosure.

            July 5, 2021 2:15 pm
          • Commenter Avatar
            John

            You posted earlier there were three components of the nuclear detonation emp nut now you seem to be saying there are two of them?

            July 6, 2021 4:16 am
          • Commenter Avatar
            Jack

            There are three components. The parts we are interested in are two fields of the entire pulse because these are the electromagnetic based fields the do the damage to electrical and electronic devices.

            July 6, 2021 4:24 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Daniel L

    That EMP shield is a very intriguing concept. I've never heard of such a thing.

    July 3, 2021 4:02 pm
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