So, How Long Does an EMP Disable Electronics?

Out of all of the many super disasters that preppers are getting ready for, probably one of the most probable is that of a powerful EMP event.

Baofeng HAM radio, walkie-talkies, flashlight and two chemlights
communication devices inside bug out bag: a Baofeng HAM radio, walkie-talkies, flashlight and two chemlights

An EMP, or electromagnetic pulse, could be created by a nuclear detonation, naturally occurring cosmic phenomena, or even specialty EMP generator weapons and completely disabled or even totally destroy power grids and many electronics in the affected area.

Since society is completely reliant on electronics these days, and many of our own preps are vulnerable, we need to know how long to expect our gear to stay out of action.

So, how long will an EMP disable our electronics?

Although EMPs are typically over in just a second or two, the effects of the EMP could persist for hours, days, or even permanently depending on the vulnerability of the affected device and the severity of the damage.

Trying to get prepared for a powerful EMP is a bit like roller skating in the dark: theoretically doable, but a whole lot harder than you might first believe.

There are many factors that will influence both the power of an EMP and your gear’s vulnerability to it. I’ll tell you everything you need to know about trying to prepare for an EMP, and figure out how long your preps might be down in this article…

What Exactly is an EMP?

An EMP is an electromagnetic pulse, which is nothing more than a burst or wave of electromagnetic radiation.

Although popularly imagined to result from the detonation of a nuclear warhead or other specialized weapon, EMPs are actually all around us, every day, as a consequence of generating and using electricity and operating electronic and other equipment.

But, for our purposes today the EMPs we are talking about are indeed those most powerful types, the ones that have the potential to inflict massive damage and disruption on a localized or even regional area.

What Gets Destroyed in an EMP? (And How to Protect)

How Does an EMP Affect Electronics?

An EMP will affect electronics, conductive materials and other vulnerable or sensitive vehicles, gear and other devices by inducing dangerous voltages that can overheat or short out these technologies.

Many common electronics are vulnerable to disruption or damage by EMPs that are far, far weaker than the energy levels expected from one’s created by a nuclear blast, EMP generator weapon, powerful solar storm or coronal mass ejection.

Depending upon the intensity of the event and inherent vulnerability of the affected items, they might be knocked offline temporarily and require a restart, require troubleshooting or minor parts replacement or even need a total overhaul or replacement in order to be made operational again.

Some items, like personal electronics and computers will be outright destroyed by an EMP if not protected.

Larger systems, like our power grid, will be overloaded resulting in many fires and a cascading failure that will be nothing short of catastrophic.

But what you can depend on is it any of your affected gear that isn’t shielded will be knocked offline. The only question is, how long?

What Influences How Long an EMP Will Last?

Practically speaking, the vast majority of powerful EMPs it can inflict significant damage on our preps and our electrical infrastructure are over in a fraction of a second.

A nuclear EMP, non-nuclear EMP generator, lightning strike and similar events are all blink-and-you-miss-it duration as far as the EMP itself is concerned.

However, other naturally occurring phenomena like geomagnetic storms and other cosmic activity can it last significantly longer than these sources.

What’s important to know is that an EMP that’s powerful enough can inflict tremendous damage in the blink of an eye, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be sustained in nature in order to cause damage.

The Effects of the EMP Will Last Much Longer than the EMP Itself

As mentioned above, the real “time sink” associated with the EMP is not that the event itself lasts a very long time, but the effects of the event will last a very long time, or at least as long as it takes to fix them assuming they can be fixed!

Imagine having to swap out critical components fried by an EMP that might be on your vehicle, or having to replace all of your personal electronics including your phones, GPS systems and so forth.

The second and third-order effects of the EMP might take weeks, months or even years to rectify assuming that men and materials could even be effectively tasked to do so.

A total wipeout of the power grid, especially one as vulnerable as America’s, would take who-knows-how-long to fix.

The subsequent offlining of critical computer control interfaces and task management, refrigeration, medical care, navigation equipment, and so forth would result in an ever-increasing wave, almost like a constellation, of havoc and damage.

Each of these failures is a disaster unto itself and will affect every other dependent system, industry, and task.

Food will spoil, critical supplies will be lost or misrouted, life-support machines for the dependent and sick might go offline. It will be pandemonium.

So while the EMP might arrive and depart in a blink, the damage and devastation it inflicts will be felt and remembered for a very long time afterward.

Some Naturally Occurring EMPs Could Last Hours or Days

Now, the assumption is that any EMP capable of doing this to our country is going to be over very quickly, and I’m referring to the event itself.

However, it isn’t out of the question that certain naturally occurring cosmic phenomena could persist for hours, days, weeks, or maybe even months. This means that the actual effects of the EMP could be ongoing and vary in intensity.

For instance, solar storms can result in huge masses of electromagnetic energy drifting across the void of space and, comparatively, slowly showering the planet over time with damaging or potentially destructive results.

The intensity of this EMP effect is in direct proportion to the intensity and nature of the solar event.

And this is not conjecture or science fiction either: look up the Carrington Event of 1859 for a well-documented example, and imagine how much worse and even more powerful and longer lasting such an event would be today now that every level of society is so much more dependent upon electricity and electronics.

Is There Anything You Can Do to Prepare and Protect Vulnerable Systems?

Yes, as a matter of fact there is. Any device that is vulnerable to the effects of an EMP, whatever size it is, can be protected by an appropriately designed and constructed Faraday cage.

A Faraday cage is nothing more than a conductive barrier, typically made of fine metal mesh or solid metal sheets, that completely enclose the vulnerable item, allowing the energy of an EMP to circulate around it and eventually dissipate harmlessly.

The principle behind the protective factor of the EMP is easy to understand, but a thorough discussion of Faraday cage construction and implementation is beyond the scope of this article.

It is easy enough, however, to build your own with the right materials and a little bit of DIY ingenuity, and commercially available options are available.

One thing is certain: a properly designed and implemented Faraday cage is one of the only protective measures you have against an EMP!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *