What Is EMP?

(You can also listen to the podcast on EMP and EMP Protection.)

Be sure to check out the videos I did that demonstrates shielding against a 50,000 watt AM signal, and the Surviving EMP Mini-Guide:

You can’t be a prepper for long without hearing about what an EMP attack could do to this country, but is EMP?  Here’s a primer on what EMP is.

An EMP, or Electromagnetic Pulse, is generated during the detonation of a nuclear weapon. There are other ways to create EMP, including non-nuclear high yield explosions, but the one we’re concerned with is that which is caused by a nuclear detonation. This highly energetic pulse can destroy sensitive electronics and even damage electrical systems instantly.

In 1962, during the Starfish nuclear test, an EMP pulse damaged a significant amount of military and civilian electrical systems over 800 miles away in Hawaiian islands. Though EMP was known to be caused by these bombs, the wide-ranging effect was underestimated.  Street lights burnt out, electrical power failed and TV sets and radios failed, some of which was vacuum-tube sets.

How can a “little” bomb create so much damage? In summary, when the gamma radiation from the bomb hits the upper atmosphere, it strips the electrons from the atoms that are present in the air. These electrons travel downward at nearly the speed of light. This creates the electrical current that makes up the Electromagnetic Pulse. It’s interesting to note that if the detonation is too high, no EMP is generated, because the gamma rays dissipate enough where they don’t have the energy to strip away the electrons.

Why is EMP something we need to worry about?

Nearly everything we do today requires, not only electricity, but some form of electronics to run. Computers are in nearly everything and they play a bigger and bigger role in the things we do everyday.  Below is just a few of the things that would be effected by a major power loss:

  • Electricity – the power grid runs everything: refrigerators, freezers, air conditioning, TVs, radios.
  • Communications – cell phone, landline phones, satellites, GPS, the Internet, texting, faxes, radio comms like Ham, police, fire, EMS.
  • Health aspects – surgery, medicines, pacemakers, diabetics, nebulizers.
  • Transportation – cars and trucks, airplanes, helicopters, Just-In-Time inventory, food deliveries, fuel deliveries, gas stations unable to pump gas out of the tanks, imports from overseas.

Just think of millions of people stuck in the cities with no power – and not having that power come on again – ever.

Worse, while a CME (Coronal Mass Ejection) would pretty much only affect the power grid, an EMP would destroy the electronics that are required to operate billions of items.  So, even if you were able to generate your own electricity, unless you had protected these electronic items, they’d probably be fried.

How does EMP Damage electronics and electrical equipment?

Basically, the EMP pulse fries the electronic components due to high voltage and current.  Electronic devices are designed to run on small amounts of electricity, but during an EMP they receive a much higher level than they are designed to withstand and they fry, pop or burn.  The pulse that does this damage is so fast and powerful that regular lightning and surge suppressors cannot stop it.

HEMP – High-Altitude Electromagnetic Pulse

This is detonating a nuke high in the atmosphere.  When a nuclear weapon is detonated in the range of about 300 miles above Kansas or Nebraska, it will produce an EMP across the entire United States.  While there is a lot of talk about specially designed nukes that are calibrated for EMP, it really doesn’t matter. A simple fission bomb is enough to create the EMP that would take out the whole country.

While there would be EMP for a nuke that’s detonated at or near ground level, the effect would be highly localized.  It’s the HEMP that we are mainly concerned about, because it has the ability to wipe out much, if not all, of the power grid in the US.  Unfortunately, the damage done to the grid isn’t something that can be simply restarted or reset and turn back on the electricity.

The damage done melts the very large transformers that are needed for electrical power transmission.  Without these, we can’t have a power grid.  Worse, these transformers aren’t made in the States, they have to be ordered from other countries and it can take years to get just one delivered.  Trying to have several hundred transformers fabricated, shipped and installed is going to take more than a few months.  Probably much more.

It’s this reason alone that you should be planning to survive an EMP attack by planning your retreat area to be in farm country.  Food and water distribution will quickly become a faded memory and you’ll only have what you can provide for yourself.

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3 Responses to What Is EMP?

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