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Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Effects

An electromagnetic pulse (EMP) is defined as a brief surge of electromagnetic energy and it can be the result of either man-made or natural disturbances. Electronics can be affected and in some cases an EMP can result in physical destruction of things such as structures and vehicles. After a nuclear explosion, the EMP will radiate abruptly, and is likely to cause unspeakable damage to electrical systems as unnaturally high voltage surges through valves and transistors.

What Causes It?

While nuclear weapons are destructive enough to level entire cities, the resultant EMP from one would likely be its most devastating effect. In 2001, in response to concern that crucial infrastructure and even the U.S. military would not hold up against an EMP strike, the EMP Commission was created by Congress.

In 2008, the Commission delivered a report on the possible effects that an EMP strike would have on national infrastructures, recommending ways that the US could prepare, protect, and restore these if this kind of attack were ever to take place.

What is an EMP Attack?

An EMP attack results when the enemy launches a nuclear bomb – from land or sea – into the Earth’s atmosphere, rocketing to a height of more than 25 miles. The detonation causes gamma rays to interact with air molecules, producing positive ions while recoiling electrons in Earth’s atmosphere.

The positive ions take over the electrons and a gigantic pulse bursts out towards the Earth below. Simply put, an atomic reaction takes place and the electromagnetic pulse that is created scorches all the electrical devices within a vast radius, including batteries.

a) Man-made EMPs

An EMP strike is actually more likely to occur than a nuclear bomb or a war because of money and power. Why spend billions on war, manufacturing weapons, training and dispatching soldiers, when you can discharge an EMP attack, wait a few months, and then survey the inevitable damage?

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By simply launching a few SCUD missiles (a storable-propellant, single-stage ballistic first developed by the Soviets) from a ship anchored off the coast, you could unleash a silent, quick, and clean attack on an enemy, without so much as a single bullet. Human nature and the force of evolution will take care of the rest, as populations become defenseless, weak, and increasingly desperate.

Although the US is rich in natural resources, without anyone to harvest these, there will be very little access to the abundance the land has to offer. Following an EMP attack, finanancial and communication systems would fail. Transportation systems would derail. Our population would be barely able to cope with the basic needs of daily survival.

Because we rely so much on modern conveniences, our sudden deprivation will mean that we’re thrown into a state of panic and disillusionment. Nothing will work, no cars, no Internet, no phones. We’ll be faced with a huge void in our lives and be afraid because we won’t know what’s happening in the outside world. The bottom line is that an EMP assault is cheaper and less messy for our enemies than anything else.

b) Solar Storms

The effects of a solar (geomagnetic) storm are often attributed to that of an electromagnetic pulse. While an intense solar storm could potentially damage huge segments of the country’s power grid, it would not impact ground-level electronic equipment that is unplugged. While the effects of a solar storm do match the scientific definition of an EMP, the response it triggers is much slower than the expected speed of a ‘pulse’.

It is untrue that an EMP has limited range because it follows the inverse square law. This law is, in fact, irrelevant for most nuclear EMP occurences. This is because, while the detonation of the nuclear weapon may be occur at a great distance, the E1 EMP is produced within the atmosphere, 12 to 24 miles directly above, in the stratosphere region, referred to as the source region by scientists.

A Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) is a huge burst of gas released from the Sun. It won’t cause damage to cars or radios (unless they’re plugged in). This is the organic, natural form of an EMP and it brings the might power to fry electronics along with it. It targets the power grid, blasts power plants, and sends surges of electrical current along the lines, damaging household appliances and any devices that happen to be plugged in.

A CME lasts only a few hours, but if the Sun emits many of these in several directions, there’s more chance one could collide with the Earth. A CME will have global consequences, disrupting radio transmissions, blasting satellites, and endangering people travelling in airplanes and spacecraft at high altitudes.

The power grid would only be temporarily disrupted by a solar storm, computer systems and unplugged radios wouldn’t be damaged and only satellites would be permanently affected. However, geometric currents, triggered by a solar storm, could eradicate much of the biggest transformers worldwide and recovery could stretch over decades. It’s only a matter of time before nature unleashes a solar storm. And next time, it could be a big one.

What EMP Effects Can We Expect?

While an EMP doesn’t harm the human body, one strategic strike launched over Kansas could cripple U.S. electrical operations. Basically, all telecommunications would fail and the country will be plunged into a 19th-century-era darkness that will make the Amish envious. Cellphones, internet, lan

dlines, radios, ATMS, televisions – obliterated. Not to mention nationwide blackouts, since the power grid will go down too.

There are indirect and direct EMP effects. Direct, physical effects include damaged electrical systems. Indirect effects can be more severe and cause widespread chaos. And, the worst part is, it only takes a fraction of a second to fry all electronics.

The intensity of the high voltage spikes produced by an E1 surge is based on several factors including location relative to the EMP surge, amount of shielding, as well as object size and energy status at the time.

The E2 surge is like lightening, but weaker and relatively harmless. Electronic devices already damaged by an E1 are more vulnerable to an E2. The E3 is similar to a geomagnetic storm, lasting several minutes. Unconnected electronics won’t be damaged. Its primary threat is to the power grid, especially the larger transformers.

Phone, cable TVs and electric lines are the most hazardous when an EMP strikes. External antennas and computer cables are next in line. Smaller electronic devices would be mildly affected and would probably stay intact. A cell phone or wristwatch may be immune to a spike, but only EMP-resistant signal towers will stay online.

With no functioning ATMS, cash will go fast. When SHTF, looting will replace cash transactions. Electronically operated gas pumps won’t work. Security systems will fail, leaving you and your home vulnerable to intruders. You’ll need alternative methods to prepare and refrigerate or otherwise store food. Start canning, stockpiling, and preserving food before it’s too late.

Are We Prepared?

Despite the mild panic, some analysts are more cynical about the effects of EMP. They question the likelihood of a large-scale EMP attack on the US in the near future. Many doubt the extent of potential damage and believe the nation’s critical infrastructure would survive. They believe both military and civilian communications could continue, as these telecommunications technologies have been proven to be somewhat EMP resistant.

There’s another school of thought that maintains that past testing, done by the US military, was flawed and limited, making the resistance of comms equipment to EMP’s uncertain. Modern circuitry is miniaturized, and believed more vulnerable to interference. Recovery from widespread EMP disturbance on the nation’s power grid could take years.

If you’re worried about EMP obliterating your comms, invest in a Surplus PRC77 radio and an EMP-resistant vehicle. Short range comms, that utilize VHF/UHF radios, can be up and running less than an hour after an EMP strike, if protected. Long range comms will take several hours to recover.

To protect your electronic devices, you need to defend against the E1 phase, a surge similar to radio waves that penetrates ground-level devices such as power cords, circuit boards and antennas. The E3 phase, which travels through power and phone lines, is also worrisome. E3 energy travels over longer conductors, flooding connected equipment and causing a destructive power overload.

Formulate Plan B for operating your home and business without electronics or the Internet. How will you manage transactions? Inventory stock? Accept payments? To be safe, prepare yourself now to conduct all operations manually and to do cash only transactions.

How Can I Protect My Stuff ?

To ensure that your electronics survive an EMP spike, they have to be housed inside a Faraday cage shield, preferably several nested cages. There’re many opinions on whether or not these cages will work so… better safe than sorry.The mesh layer of conductive material in Faraday bags creates this protective skin.

During an EMP, electric fields, both non-static and static, are obstructed because electricity is directed around the mesh, producing continuous voltage on all sides but not the space in the middle. Cars and microwaves are NOT Faraday cages. As a rule of thumb, if you can listen to the radio or call your cell phone while inside any of them, they won’t work.

What About Day-To-Day Power Surges?

For day-to-day protection, invest in quality surge protectors for your electronic devices, an affordable and reliable precaution. You’ll need one that’s UL-listed with a voltage of 330 volts or less, as well as a rapid response time. Buy a computer with an Ethernet slot, or get yourself a dedicated Ethernet surge protector. For optimal protection, add an uninterruptible power supply (UPS), an effective but more expensive option.

The UPS should be a double conversion supply tested to meet UL standards. While 60-90% of today’s vehicles are designed to withstand electromagnetic pulses of up to 25 kV/m, it’s always best to be prepared for the worst case scenario. If you know your way around cars, consider buying back-up modules for your vehicle’s key electronics.

Final Word

An EMP attack is a strong possibility in today’s economically-strained, weaponized world. It is a swift, deadly, and silent force that relies on the deterioration of civil society into chaos and darkness. While it may appear to be a perfectly normal scientific phenomenon, its effects on humanity will be crippling. How prepared are you for an EMP strike?

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